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After killing myself at the gym this morning*, I needed a little bit of comfort. Black teas are my go-to morning cuddle buddy. They never cause DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). They never make me sweaty. I never collapse after drinking one. * (10 flights on the stairmaster, a mile on the treadmill, then a variety of circuit training nonsense that at one point just had me laying on a mat, reaching for my inhaler.) Comforting though this blend is, it’s still got that black-tea kick. This one’s an eye-opener. It pries your face open, Clockwork Orange style. Are you Read More
I really love chestnuts. They are truly my favorite nut. I love roasting them at home or even eating them out of a bag pre-cooked. (yes they sell them that way in health food stores) The best, though, is going into the city and getting them freshly roasted from a cart. That is totally a Christmas-time activity and it makes me want to skip summer and go right to the Holidays. Alas, here we are. Its springtime and i’m about to drink Roasted Chestnut tea from Tea Source. Lucky for me, this tea is very true to its name. Im Read More
Related to writing a tea blog and helping run a Facebook tea group I talk to lots of interesting people about the subject, recently William Osmont of Farmerleaf. I’ve reviewed some very nice teas from them, different Yunnan Dian Hong black tea versions (here and here), a Moonlight white, and of course pu’er.
This article is about his background in producing tea, and about typical questions that come up related to that area, about sub-regional variations, production and sourcing issues, and pu’er aging/fermentation. In particular vendor marketing claims about Yunnan tea tree ages have been a source of controversy, related to some being disputed on social media, and William offers his opinions on the effect of tea tree age on tea character and about identifying tree ages.
How did you get started on an interest in tea?
It all started on a sunny afternoon in French Provence. With two friends we were hanging out in the streets of our little town, and we stumbled upon a newly opened tea shop. We tried different flavored teas, and I really loved the different tastes. I hadn’t paid much attention to tea until then. I drank flavored tea for a couple of months and then got into Darjeeling, Chinese green tea, African black tea… until I tried a 1998 ripe Pu-erh tea. I clearly remember that first session with Pu-erh tea, and from that time, I knew I would dedicate my life to this beverage.
After high school, I went to Yunnan for a year, in pursuit of better teas. That was the best year of my life, I was 19 and free to explore. I studied Chinese in Kunming for six months and then moved to the South of Yunnan, in Xishuangbanna. I would visit one or two tea mountains every week, learning about the taste of tea and the different processing method.
One day, as I was visiting Jingmai, I met a beautiful Dai girl named Yubai, who had only started her own tea factory that year. We fell in love, and she is now my wife.
In a fair deal with my parents, I would return to Europe and go to university after one year. I was really interested in biology and ecology. I wanted to go back to China as often as possible and start something in tea. In 2012, I opened an online tea shop (www.bannacha.com) in which I sold mainly Pu-erh teas from farmers I had met. A large part of it was made by my girlfriend in Jingmai. This little website allowed me to put a foot into the tea business and I am really grateful to the customers who trusted us for all those years. The profits allowed my girlfriend and me to meet every summer holiday in China, strengthening our love and expanding our tea network in Yunnan.
I graduated in 2016 and obtained a master’s degree in agricultural development. Yubai and I are now married, and we live in Yunnan for good. We have started our Pu-erh brand Jing Yu Tian Xiang, which we retail in China and abroad. We’ve also opened a new website: www.farmer-leaf.com, on which we sell a wider range of Yunnan teas from our tea factory as well as from other farmers.
What do you see is the main differences in selling tea based out of Europe and from China?
Being based in China helps a lot with sourcing. As you know, building and nurturing relationships in the Middle Kingdom is extremely important, and it’s all the more convenient to be present all year-round.
Being based in a tea mountain in Yunnan is a great opportunity to understand the technicalities of tea production, and how the farmers make their choices in terms of agricultural practices. Some aspects of tea can only be understood by having a long term presence in a tea mountain. Understanding the details of tea processing requires making dozens of trials, sharing tips with fellow tea producers and experimenting.
Being online-based, the distance with the tea consumers doesn’t affect the relationship, we exchange emails with our customers every day. It is always great to receive feedback and questions. Our objective is to bring the tea lovers closer to the tea gardens. In 2017, we have decided to close the distance by running a Youtube channel. Some tea fellows even visit us in Jingmai, and it’s a pleasure to take them around our tea gardens.
What are some differences between Western tea enthusiast based tea traditions and the original Chinese traditions, or modern practices?
The way tea is brewed in China varies widely, depending on the province and the interest of the tea drinkers. The most common way is to brew tea in a large glass, what is sometimes called “Grandpa-style” in the West.
Just like in the West, Gongfu brewing is reserved to the “hardcore” tea lovers and the professionals. It is more prevalent in Yunnan, Fujian and Guangdong, because these provinces have a long history of tea drinking. In the last decades, China has experienced a revival of the tea culture; this is a luxury few could afford in the past. Gongfu-brewing spreads along with high quality leaves, just like in the West.
Your website mentions producing pu’er; do you also actually make any other types of teas? Do you produce shou / shu?
Yubai, my wife, has run a small tea factory in Jingmai since 2011. We now operate it together and produce white, oolong and Pu-erh tea. Our teas are hand-processed, which mean we cook the leaves in a wok instead of using a machine. That allows a finer control over tea quality and opens more possibilities. We’re developing a line of semi-oxidized tea that is unique in Jingmai, and we’re always trying to improve our Pu-erh tea processing. We do not produce Shu Pu-erh; the extra fermentation process involved requires special skills, big infrastructure and a lot of tea. Usually, the large factory productions consist in batches of dozens of tons. Nowadays, it is possible to ferment the tea in micro-batches (as low as 100kg), we’re considering making such a production, but it still has to be outsourced. A lot of the fermented Pu-erh tea is made in Menghai , Southern Yunnan.
Can you share a short summary of the character differences in teas within different pu’er producing areas?
Pu-erh tea features a wide range of tasting profiles. That diversity is due to differences in aging, processing, and producing area. Just like the terroirs of wine, tea tastes different according to the genetics, location and management techniques of the tea gardens. It would take a whole book to detail the subtle variations between each mountain and their underlying factors.
Jingmai is famous in the world of tea for its orchid and honey fragrance. Some bitterness is present; astringency is more present than average. In young teas, the mouthfeel is generally light and sweet. The Jingmai profile is accessible to the beginners and makes a great introduction to the world of Pu-erh tea because it has a bit of everything. In comparison, Bulang tea is generally more aggressive, featuring more bitterness; Yiwu tea is soft and mellow, with a thick mouthfeel. Menkgu is renowned for its complex fragrance and sharp sweetness.
However, there are many exceptions in each terroirs, and the result in the cup can be very different depending on the processing. In Jingmai, old-growth tea that received a high-temperature kill-green process will feature the typical high-pitched orchid fragrance, with fast-changing bitterness and a light body; while tea that went through a low temperature kill-green process will have a thicker body, more sweetness and a honey-like aroma. There’s a lot of possibilities in-between.
Some tea gardens are known to produce more bitter leaves, while others grow particularly fragrant leaves. It is indirectly influenced by the soil type, garden design and agricultural techniques. For example, tea that grows on sandy soil will receive less water and nutrients than tea grown on clay soil, and that will influence the physiology of the tea tree and therefore the taste of its leaves.
A second part of this article covers pu’er aging and fermentation issues, about producing tea from a single tree versus mixing plant sources, and about the effect of age of tea trees and about evaluating ages.
The post Interview with William Osmont of Farmerleaf, Part One appeared first on T Ching.
I drank three cups of this before I wrote this review because I read that there were chocolate/cocoa nibs in here — but I could never find them. I’ve never given up on locating Waldo, so I don’t know why I’d quit on this tea. But friends, despite the delicious chocolate smell in the dry leaf, I cannot pinpoint any chocolate flavoring in this tea. Which is not to say the tea is bad. It’s a lovely Assam-y bread-y malt-y mix. A dark blend of sultry Eastern European men telling fortunes and learning to box. Like, if the Winter Soldier Read More
I’ve mentioned at least a million times that I love Chai tea. It’s one of my favorite teas ever. When I saw the words chocolate and chai together, my heart skipped a beat. Chocolate is really the only thing that can make chai better in my opinion. I could smell the chocolate and spices through the bag and it just made me want a cup right away. This is an herbal chai, so no caffeine which makes me super happy, and makes this a suitable tea for any time of the day or night. I brewed myself a cup, and the Read More
Sweet Slo-Sippin’ SimpliciTEA Raspberry Rhubarb is a blended Green Tea and Black Tea Duo! The funny thing is I was thinking it was Strawberry Rhubarb but that’s because that used to be my favorite type of pie and I must be hungry for it. Raspberry Rhubarb is just as good and plus I have been gobbling up raspberries like they are going out of style lately! Enough blabbing and on to the tea, eh? Sweet Slo-Sippin’ SimpliciTEA Raspberry Rhubarb is from Cup of Love. And I’m truly LOVING it! The Sencha Green Tea is of medium strength and delicious! The Read More
Trying the literary collection has been fun because it gives me a chance to not only try the tea but see how they compare to their namesake. However, Jane Eyre is the one novel of the five ( the others in the collection being Sherlock Holmes, Pride & Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Alice in Wonderland) I have not read. Obviously I have heard of it and know the basic premise, but I have never looked into it in much detail or cared to give it a read. So to me, this is a tea that I have no preconceived Read More
They say that tea tastes different depending on the soil, weather, elevation, location, etc. Which always sounded silly to me, until I started really getting into tea. And now I’m all “this has a kick, probably a Darjeeling” or “malty! Assam, maybe!” My husband thought I was joking at first. It’s not a joke. It’s DEAD SERIOUS. This tea is AMERICAN tea. U-S-A! U-S-A! It has a raisin-y underbelly that I find a lot in black teas, usually Ceylon. Is South Carolina like Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in weather? To do some really rudimentary research, I pulled up a world Read More
The internet has been lighting up over an article about one scientist’s claim that microwaving your tea was the best way to make tea. …Excuse me, what?
Yes, indeed. Food scientist Quan Vuong, PhD says that microwaving your tea instead of the traditional (correct?) method of pouring “kettled” water over leaves and steeping for a few minutes. How and why does this work?
Vuong says microwaving is actually better at pulling nutrients out of the leaves. A lot better in fact. Steeping tea the old fashioned way nets you around 60% of the catechins in your tea and 76% of the caffeine, whereas nuking your tea in the micro nets you 80% and 92%, respectively. Vuong’s method calls for steeping your tea for thirty seconds with hot water and then sticking your mug of tea in the microwave for one minute. So, to be fair, this is technically “microwave-assisted” and not simply putting a mug of water with a tea bag in the microwave. But if speed’s your thing, this is the way to go.
This research resurfaced after a recent episode of the British television program Broadchurch shows one of its lead characters microwaving his tea. Cue the internet’s tendency to explode into heated debates over what amounts to hot leaf juice.
Color me skeptical, but it’s hard to argue with a food scientist with a PhD. This research is from back in 2012, so the fact that it hasn’t caught on yet means that either his team’s science is wrong and we’ve been doing it right this whole time, or the idea of making your tea in the microwave is just so abhorrent that to do so is anathema no matter how healthy it is for you or how tasty it is. Vuong also claims it tastes better from the microwave. I can tell you right now that is false, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
With home brewed tea consumption slumping in the UK, the place where tea was introduced to the West, I personally don’t give a darn how people make their tea as long as they are drinking it and enjoying it. Use a kettle, a microwave, or, heck, wrap your mug in an electric blanket. Whichever way you enjoy your tea is the right way. Unless you mix your iced tea with soda. That’s just gross.
How do you make your tea? Do you use the microwave to make your tea? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!
French Toast Tea. I’ve had a few. The ones I have tried I have adored. More than one of the French Toast flavored teas have been from 52 Teas whom I also adore. Today I want to tell you about Coconut French Toast with Cardamom Maple Syrup from 52 Teas. The name in itself is a thinker. Coconut French Toast with Cardamom Maple Syrup. My dyslexic brain converted the name to Coconut French Toast Cardamom with Maple Syrup. Either would have worked, I suppose. But I guess the Maple Syrup was Cardamom Flavored and not necessarily the French Toast. Regardless Read More
Do you like Fig Newtons? The answer to that question will determine whether you will like this tea. It’s like a Buzzfeed quiz, but with just one question. Because this tea is Fig Newtons in liquid form. 100%. The tea even has notes that I *swear* taste like the graham cracker. Growing up, my dad loved Fig Newtons to the point where it was a family joke. They were pretty good, I guess, but I couldn’t understand how they’d be a thing a person would SNEAK when no one was looking. Or a treat that somehow trumped cookies. In addition Read More
This is another one I picked up on my trip to the motherland (aka High Garden Tea in Nashville) recently. From the few I’ve tried thus far, I’ve been super impressed by High Garden’s blends, particularly their herbals. This one, a blend of chamomile, rose petals, hibiscus, schisandra berries, orange peel and lemongrass, is a spot-on match between flavors and the name. It evokes that warm, mulled tea goodness that I’d associate with a cozy apple blend in the autumn (with surprisingly no apple to speak of in the mix), but a bit more sophisticated. There’s something… elevated about this Read More
Silver Needle courtesy of Art of Tea, 1teaspoon = 0.85 grams
Long Jing courtesy of ITEI, 1 teaspoon = 0.57 grams
Gyokuro courtesy of Arbor Teas, 1 teaspoon = 1.96 grams
Tung Ting Extra Fancy, McNulty's Tea & Coffee, 1 teaspoon = 2.38 grams
Ruby Oolong from Rishi Tea, 1 teaspoon = 2.86 grams
Thurbo 2nd Flush Darjeeling courtesy of Tea Dealers, 1 teaspoon = 1.12 grams
Diving Duck 2016 Sheng, White 2 Tea, 1 teaspoon = 1.09 grams
Dessert tea lovers take note: this is right up your alley! If you love sweet, creamy berry teas, this will be your… jam. (swish) This tea has crisp and malty notes with a huge butter/honey level over it that’s hyper-saturated with berries. I could, if I closed my eyes, genuinely see how this might be a berry-pancake situation. It. Is. Delicious. I haven’t had berry pancakes in years — probably since my husband and I bought our house. When I first moved into my house, our next door neighbors came over with a welcome-gift: a container of blueberries. We decided Read More
By Paula Geerligs
The wonderful world of tea can be a daunting place for a newcomer, yet it needn’t be. When people ask me for tea advice, I always ask this first question:Caffeinated or non-caffeinated?
All forms of true tea, that is, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant all contain caffeine. While some teas may contain higher caffeine than others, it’s not safe to generalize the caffeine content of tea types. For more info on tea and caffeine, read this.
If you’d like to avoid caffeine, it’s best to stick with an herbal infusion (called a tisane). Herbs steeped like tea, but are not tea, that are naturally caffeine-free are: Rooibos, Honeybush, mints (peppermint, spearmint, catnip), fruit, and flowers (chamomile, lavender, rose petals).
Tisanes that resemble coffee or malty breakfast teas are dandelion root, chicory, burdock, and/or roasted barley. For an energizing kick, perhaps add a touch of ground maca root.
Honeybush is also naturally caffeine-free and goes well with milk and honey.
There are also the options of green or black tea that have gone through the decaffeination process.Health Benefits?
If you are selecting tea for the health benefits, always choose high-quality teas. It’s important to know the source of your tea to avoid environmental toxins.
All teas are abundant in antioxidants, including black teas, yet the minimally processed teas like white teas and shade-grown green teas will retain more antioxidants. Again, while it is easy to generalize, tea is chemically complex, and some of the health benefits are dependent on the way tea is prepared at home (including antioxidant activity!)
Some options to consider are Silver Needle white tea, gyokuro, and matcha.
Shade-grown teas like gyokuro and matcha also contain higher levels of L-Theanine, an amino acid that promotes a sense of alertness and relaxation. L-Theanine also promotes alpha brain wave activity.Tea Flavor?
White teas will have more delicate herbaceous flavors, sometimes with fruit or floral notes.
The flavors of green tea are dependent on the processing style.
Japanese green teas that are sweet vegetal and grassy: sencha, kukicha, gyokuro, and matcha. Japanese green teas that are heartier, with roasted qualities: genmaicha (contains roasted rice), bancha, and hojicha.
Chinese green teas with hints of smoke are Gunpowder and Chun Mee.
The flavor of oolongs differs widely. Iron Goddess (or Ti Guan Yin or Ti Kwan Yin depending on who you talk to) and Monkey-Picked oolongs will have brighter green and floral flavors. In contrast, Big Red Robe is bold, with rich rock mineral, and pit fruit flavors.
Black tea tends to be bold and hearty, yet a first-flush Darjeeling can be delicate and floral.
Citrusy black teas like Ceylon work well as iced teas, as well as smooth black teas with undetectable astringency such as Nilgiri.
Assam black tea is full-bodied, malty, and can set a firm foundation to spices and milk.
Royal Golden Yunnan is also malty, with chocolate and caramel notes, as is Golden Monkey.
Pu-erh is a whole other world of flavors, but if you are new and adventurous, I’ll say go for it!
This tea is truly an adventure–and yet warm and comforting at the same time! I brewed it in freshly boiled water (~8-10 oz) for 3 minutes as suggested. I love loose leaf tea, but the pyramid sachets this tea comes in are super cute and convenient. It’s just one less step (putting the tea into the brew basket) but can make a big difference, especially if you’re in a hurry. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Thyme tea before, so this was new and exciting to me. This tea doesn’t seem to have any other herbs/spices besides thyme (the Read More
G’day, tea-ple! It’s time for another foray into the Land of Oolong — a lush valley between the mountains of Black and the rolling hills of Green. (Disclaimer: this is not literal.) Oolong is like Doctor Who: it can travel between green and black at will. You never know where it will be. It will always surprise you. Today’s pick comes from Nunshen, which has a really chic Bauhaus-style logo. The pouch that held the tea sachet was made of a fine matte plastic that felt like a high-end business card. The sachet itself was made of a nice cotton/linen Read More
We've arrived at the final installment of introductory guides to each type of tea. I was worried that these posts might be too "old hat" for seasoned tea drinkers but also felt that they were important to have here for newbies. Thanks for hanging in there folks!
Puerh is a fermented tea, part of a larger category known as Hei Cha (dark tea), that is produced only in the Yunnan Province of China. Most of the tea trees used are of the larger leafed variety, Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. Tea production in this region dates back as early as the Han Dynasty. Puerh is unique in that the leaves are often compressed into flat cakes called bings as well as other shapes like mushrooms, bricks, and birds nests.
Puerh can be divided into two distinct types. Sheng, or raw, puerh has a greener appearance because the leaves are allowed to retain some of the natural enzymes, allowing them to ferment and age over time. This process can be sped up by storing the tea in a carefully controlled, humid environment. Shou, ripe or cooked, puerh has a very dark appearance because the leaves are artificially fermented prior to being pressed into cakes. This process also dramatically affects the taste, making it dark and earthy.
A typical sheng cake, silvery buds mixed with darker greens and browns
A typical shou puerh cake, dark with more broken leaves
Sheng and shou are handled similarly in the initial stages of processing. After harvesting the leaves are withered and pan-fired. The heat level is high enough to bring oxidation to a near halt but it isn't stopped completely. They are then rolled, by hand or machine, and then dried in the sun. The finished leaves are referred to as mao cha, or rough tea. Raw mao cha can be sold and consumed as is but it is most oftenly lightly steamed and compressed into a cake.
Shou puerh then undergoes an additional step of wet piling known as wo dui. The leaves are then sprayed with water and covered in order to maintain a moist environment, effectively creating a tea compost. Beneficial bacteria such as Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp. play a role in this process as do yeasts and other microflora. This artificial fermentation process was invented in 1973 as a way to quickly replicate the aging process that can occur in very old raw puerh.
The two varieties are very different from each other in taste and I find that most people will have a strong preference for one or the other. Sheng is bright and astringent with complex vegetal and floral notes. It can be quite bitter but is also known for hui gan, a comeback sweetness that most people will feel in their throat. I often describe raw puerh as a green tea that punches you in the face, but in a really nice way.
Shou puerh can be described as extremely dark and earthy (think forest floor after it rains) but it will usually have a natural sweetness with very little astringency. Notes of dark cocoa and even dried fruits can pop up if you find a really good quality one. Poorly processed tea can be so unpleasant that it borders on fishy so be wary of buying from unknown sources.
How to Brew It
When using a western method water temperatures are usually around boiling point, 212° Fahrenheit. If you are finding a young puerh to be too bitter, try dialing it back to 175° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 3 and 5 minutes depending on the tea. Puerh can be really hard to measure, especially if it is compressed, but weighing your leaves will help make sure that you are using the right amount. Most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water.
Gongfu is my go-to way to prepare puerh because I really like the way it concentrates the flavors. Gaiwans are a handy tool with any tea, particularly with puerh because you have more control over the heat level and pouring speed. Yixing or Jianshui clay vessels are also very popular. Water temperature will usually be from around 212° Fahrenheit with steep times will usually be about 30 seconds.
Pro Tip: If your shou puerh is too earthy, try giving the leaves a short hot water rinse (10-20 seconds) before making your first cup.
What is your favorite region for puerh? Let me know about it in the comments!
Any Almond Joy/Mounds fans out there? This is what Coconut Dream (black tea) by Tealightful wants to be when it grows up. Amidst the black teas are satisfying chunks of coconut shavings, marigold flowers, and chocolate pieces. This tea without anything added is sweet, coconutty, and just might satisfy your dessert craving (cake for breakfast anyone??). That being said, something in the tea, whether the coconut oil or oil from the chocolate does not emulsify properly in the blend. So what you get is a candy bar-like cuppa with a little bit of oil floating on top. The flavor was Read More