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Blast from the Past: Tea at Work

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 12:00

This article was originally posted to T Ching in April of 2013.

After six months of freelancing at home, I recently returned to work at an office. During my time at home, not only was I spoiled by having my own pantry and refrigerator close at hand, but my entire tea collection was within reach as well. Being at home, I could brew water to the proper temperature and steep my tea in any number of vessels. It was nice. Very nice.

At my previous job, I had my own office with a fair amount of space. I brewed my tea in a simple tetsubin, had a dozen or so teas on my bookshelves, and was able to get a pretty good grasp on water temperature. My office became known as “the tea shop” and though I wasn’t exactly hosting gong fu ceremonies, it was a pretty good setup for a workplace.

After a couple of weeks at my new job, I think I’ve found a good setup for most office workers, whether you have a cushy office or a small cube. First, let’s start with the big stuff. I’d recommend a small teapot with a removable mesh strainer, a silicone Tuffy tea strainer (which is nice because it has a top), or, at the very least, a mesh strainer that you can find in most kitchen shops or grocery stores these days. The main thing is to have an easy-to-clean filter that can handle fine teas like senchas, but allow leaves to breathe. Of course, avoid those small tea balls or other strainers that don’t let the leaves unfurl.

If you’re precise about measuring your tea, I recommend the Proscale 222. It’s tiny, inexpensive, comes with a tray, and is precise to 1/10th of a gram. I use this scale at home and when traveling.

The one other essential piece of equipment is a simple instant-read hot beverage thermometer. It costs less than $10, but is important because you never know just how hot that water is coming out of the sink, water filter, or instant hot faucet at work. (Bringing your own water from home is a great option, too, but you’ll still need to heat it and check the temperature.)

Optionally, you can bring something like a utiliTEA or less expensive hotpot to heat your water at your desk, but here’s my dirty little secret: I use the microwave at work. Don’t tell anyone, OK?

One of my favorite things about tea is that it’s easy and inexpensive to get started. The average person doesn’t need to settle for sub-par teabags at work; a few low-cost items paired with some good tea can make tea time something you look forward to and enjoy rather than accept, like bad office coffee.

For other takes on the subject, see previous posts by Nancy Murphy and Tiffany Williams.

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Interview with William Osmont of Farmerleaf, Part Two

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 12:48

This is the second half of an interview article with William Osmont of Farmerleaf, with more on Yunnan and pu’er related tea production. Read part one here.

What tea aspects indicate that a pu’er will age well, or what types of teas would it make more sense to not age?  One sometimes hears that in the original Chinese tea culture pu’er wasn’t intended to be aged to improve it; any thoughts on that?

Good Huigan (sweet and fresh feeling in the throat) will be sustained through the years, and this is one of the main criteria on which pu-erh tea is evaluated.

Make sure the tea you aged doesn’t taste like green tea or isn’t too red when young. This degree of greenness depends on the way the kill-green process was done. An overly green or red pu-erh tea can be very enjoyable when young, and be disappointing after years of aging.

The big tea factory blends are generally intended to be aged, [and] they are not suitable for immediate drinking. Blends can be a safe choice for long term aging, even though they rarely contain high-quality material.

Bitterness tones down with age, but it doesn’t mean bitter teas will necessarily give a better tea once aged. For example, Yiwu tea generally has no bitterness, but it’s a sought after terroir for long term storage; this kind of tea can be unimpressive when young and turn into great sweet and complex teas after a couple of years of aging.

The Pu-erh tea culture is constantly changing; in its most current form, it is considered this tea can be enjoyed young, as it was consumed in Yunnan, and aged, as it was consumed in Guangdong. The Tibetan way of drinking it with Yak butter doesn’t seem to have spread much. In a pre-industrial context of smallholders, it was technically much easier to produce Pu-erh tea than other types of teas. When made in small quantity, the only piece of equipment required is a wok. Sun-drying was used to dry tea, just like it was used to dry fruits, corn or cabbage.

The tea culture has been shaped through the constraints of production and logistics. People like wet-stored tea in Guangdong because that is the way tea would turn out in those conditions. Some tea lovers in the West build “pumidors”, while I have never found one in China. It is beautiful to see the tea culture evolve as tea spreads throughout the world.

What is the local (Yunnan) understanding of ideal and problematic pu’er storage conditions?  Is environment humidity the primary concern?

In Yunnan, few people actively control humidity; they typically store the tea cakes in their bamboo wraps in cardboard boxes. When stored in large quantity, the air flow is somewhat limited, which is believed to preserve the fragrance of tea. Some tea professionals limit the air exchange further by wrapping the boxes with plastic sheets.  This technique makes sense as long as the leaves are not vacuum sealed. The aging process does require oxygen to occur, but the air contained inside the box should be enough for decades. A minority advocates for a complete removal of oxygen, this slows down the oxidation process and the tea profile evolves in a very different way.

Aging is the result of enzyme activity, called “enzymatic browning” in the food industry, and the action of micro-organisms. The relative importance of each in the aging process depends on humidity. In wet environments, microorganisms take a large role in tea oxidation, while in dry environments, their action is negligible. This probably explains the difference in taste profile that we can observe between wet and dry-stored teas.

What is the difference between using tea from just one plant to make tea versus mixing it?  Per input related to other tea types (eg. Dan Cong) the range of characteristics would be narrower; is this the same?

Pu-erh tea Single tree productions have been popular for a couple of years. Since only one or a handful of trees are harvested, the result in the cup varies widely. Some can have a very good throat-feel; others can be bitter and astringent, or sweet and fragrant… A big part of the appeal is to have the picture of the big tree and the feeling of tasting something very old. Self-suggestion can go a long way to make your session enjoyable, even though such productions wouldn’t necessarily perform better than a standard “gushu” harvest in a blind tasting.

Such productions are valuable by their limited quantity; you can hardly get more than a kilogram of dry tea from a single ancient tree. They can feature traits that are unexpected in their area of production and tend to change less along the infusions than standard productions that involve thousands of trees.

How much tea (leaf weight and dry weight) can an individual tea tree produce?

It really depends on the size of the tree, frequency of harvest, varietal, nutrient availability, water, sunlight, pest and disease, pruning method… It can go anywhere between 500g and 5kg of fresh leaves per year (about 120g to 1.2kg of dry tea). Some trees are picked three times a year, while other are picked thirty times.

What is your impression of how tea tree age affects pu’er quality or characteristics?

The leaves harvested from ancient gardens tend to have a better Huigan (sweet and fresh feeling in the throat), they can feature more pronounced bitterness that turns quickly into sweetness. They have an oily mouth feel that can remind [one] of chicken soup. Their fragrance can be more complex than tea made from young plantations. Old-growth tea can generally be brewed more times than young plantations tea.

These differences can also be noticed when comparing young and older tea plantations. A lot of great tea comes from 50+ year-old tea plantations.

It’s important to keep in mind that the age of the trees is only one factor among others that makes good tea. The agricultural techniques and the location of the gardens (including altitude, soil, environment…) will have a large impact on the taste of tea. Some young plantations produce excellent tea, while some old tea gardens are not highly praised.

To what extent can tea tree ages be identified?

Following some heated debates on the internet, I have looked into the questions. Interestingly, I have found published scientific articles that discuss the age of specific trees. At best, the circumference of the trunks is measured, and this is only loosely correlated to the age of the tree. According to farmers and experts I interviewed, growth rate of the trunk varies widely, depending on soil fertility and genetics. In some cases, we can know the age of the tea gardens from historical records, but not the age of specific trees.

The tree ring counting method does not seem to be used in the case of the tea trees.

Some vendors use the age of the trees as a selling point, but I would rather recommend using the size of the trees, which is easier to confirm.

Farmerleaf tea can be purchased here.

The post Interview with William Osmont of Farmerleaf, Part Two appeared first on T Ching.

5 Reasons Green Tea Is Good for Your Oral Health

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:00
Green tea is already known for its multiple health benefits. It’s brimming with antioxidants, making it one of the magic potions for reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. Catechins, particular antioxidants contained in this plant, can improve brain function, and they also have beneficial effects on neurons, thus lowering the risk of two of the most common neurodegenerative diseases that affect elderly people – Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. But, many people don’t know that this delicious beverage can also do wonders for oral health. Fresh breath

Halitosis, a fancy name for bad breath, is a highly unpleasant problem that plagues an estimated 25% of people globally. It can be a result of poor dental hygiene, but it can also be a symptom of some other health issues. In some cases, this embarrassing condition even leads to social anxiety and withdrawal. Various over-the-counter mouthwashes, dental rinses, gums, or mints usually improve the situation only slightly and temporarily as they don’t treat the root of the problem. The main culprits behind halitosis are volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) produced by bacteria in the mouth. According to a research study, green tea is very efficient in reducing unpleasant odor by eliminating bacteria that produce VSCs.

Cavity protection

Green tea reduces the acidity of saliva and accumulation of dental plaque, responsible for cavities. Apart from drinking it, you should also rinse your mouth with green tea for about five minutes, especially after eating candy, as this can highly improve your oral hygiene and boost your oral health. There’s also evidence for this claim, as a recent study reported that people who rinsed their mouth with green tea had fewer bacteria and their gums were healthier.

Healthy gums

Anti-inflammatory properties of green tea are highly beneficial for periodontal health. As there’s a long tradition of drinking this healthy beverage in Asia, Japanese researchers have conducted a study in order to find out what effects it has on the gums. The results have shown that people who drink at least one cup of green tea a day, have better oral health based on 3 indicators of periodontal disease: periodontal pocket depth, attachment loss of gum tissue, and bleeding on probing of the gum tissues. Again, catechins play a crucial role in fighting gum disease. If we bear in mind that gum disease is associated with heart disease and diabetes, among other things, it’s clear that having healthy gums is important for overall health.

Cancer prevention

As we’ve already mentioned, antioxidants in green tea are responsible for cancer prevention. They can even slow down the growth of cancer cells, and stimulate normal cell growth. EGCG, a type of catechin found in green tea, triggers a process which kills oral cancer cells while it leaves normal, healthy cells intact. Regular dental appointments are essential for oral cancer prevention, and I must say that we in Sydney are lucky as we can consult experienced Australian Dental Specialists who are authorities on all kinds of oral diseases, willing to address any concern that their clients might have.

Tooth loss prevention

It’s a no-brainer that something as healthy and beneficial for the health of gums and teeth can also prevent tooth loss. A large-scale study on 25,078 men and women in Japan, has shown that 19% of men and 13% who drank at least one cup of green tea a day were more likely to have over 20 teeth than those who didn’t have this habit. However, it’s important to emphasize that by green tea, we mean brewed unprocessed, unfermented green tea leaves. Bottled, sweetened beverages don’t contain some important components of green tea, while the sugar in them leads to enamel erosion and decay.

Dental hygiene is a must for healthy teeth, but green tea can additionally boost your efforts and prevent some common diseases.

 

The post 5 Reasons Green Tea Is Good for Your Oral Health appeared first on T Ching.

Something’s brewing but don’t know what it is

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 15:40

It’s fun every now and then to test one’s taste perceptions and challenge one’s ability to appreciate the subtle differences between teas from one region. Lately I have been doing just that by brewing cups of Assams from different gardens and taking notes to compare them—Duflating with its honeyed and malty aroma; Ramanugger with a somewhat Darjeeling-like personality, redolent of orange blossoms and with an undernote of lemon; Akiya, broken-leafed with peachy notes; Halmari, tippy with a honeyed cinnamon undertone and a deep amber/ reddish liquor.

Through my tasting, I established that each of these teas has its own flavor personality.  Brewed using exactly the same weight of tea leaf, dosage of good quality water, temperature and  steeping time, it’s tempting to parse which factors can influence (and to what degree) how these teas taste when they arrive in the cup. Cultivation practices, terroir (or should we call it tea-oir) including atypical climatic fluctuations, age of the tea bushes, processing after picking —all of these come into play. And then there is that intangible something that one would have to call finesse—the art of the brewer, coaxing every last nuance of flavor and even mouth feel from the leaves.

Through my tasting, I established that each of these teas has its own flavor personality.  (I did this sequential brewing using the four teas noted above and then turned the task of brewing the same teas according to the same parameters over to another tea aficionado and then we compared results—we found different intensities and subtleties of flavor in the two brewing sessions). I liken this scenario to one in my role as baking instructor: in any given class, I assign twenty-five of my professional baking students the same simple recipe and then find that, in different hands, the results can be startlingly different.

How to account for this? Is it the mood of the baker (or brewer) on any given day? Is it the position in the oven or how precisely the recipe was followed in the smaller details—scraping the mixing down thoroughly, incorporating the dry ingredients gently or vigorously?   In the case of the tea, is it something seemingly less significant such as how the tea leaves float in the water, freely or constrained? I can only attribute this phenomenon to highly unscientific factors and have come to appreciate (and in fact, embrace) that in the hands of one person, the tea will taste one way, and in the hands of another, completely different.

I’m convinced that the personality of the brewer is imprinted on the tea. Traveling through the world of tea is a constantly evolving journey not always completely decipherable, and given the numbers of tea  estates worldwide, staggeringly unknowable.  Does your experience echo mine?

The post Something’s brewing but don’t know what it is appeared first on T Ching.

Illustrated Review: While My Moonlight White Gently Steeps

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 13:09
Inspiration can be found everywhere, music can be very inspiring. I experienced a musically inspired moment while preparing a Moonlight White Pu’erh Tea and listening to a Beatles song written by George Harrison, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and coincidentally the song is from the White Album. Tealightfully inspired by this, I swapped the words ‘while my guitar gently weeps’ with ’while my white tea gently steeps’ and smiled: tea humor from a Beatles song!  I penned the following lyrics, inspired by the Beatles and I dedicate this parody to everyone who loves tea.

 

While My Moonlight White Gently Steeps

I look and I see your leaves sweetly floating While my white tea gently steeps I look at the white tea pur’er ready for devoting Still my white tea gently steeps

I know why this Moonlight White is so lovely as the leaves float with love I know you are aged, someone controlled you the sweet honey finish sold you

I look at the tea and see leaves are turning While my tea gently steeps With every moment there is a deep yearning Still my tea gently steeps

I know you are delicate and smooth you are subtly sweet too I know you are like moonlight, you soothe still my white tea gently steeps

I look and I see leaves sweetly floating While my white tea gently steeps I lovingly wait for your delicate aging Still my white tea gently steeps

Moonlight White Tea Sipping Notes: 

Add one to two spoons per 16 oz/475ml. Use near boiling water and steep the long leaves 4-7 minutes

Enjoy a delicate, smooth, honey finish. The leaves are long, light and dark colors as the white tea is pu’erh aged.

Moonlight White Tea grows in Yunnan Province China and it’s available at Davids Tea.

The post Illustrated Review: While My Moonlight White Gently Steeps appeared first on T Ching.

Blast from the past: we all love tea, we may just see it differently

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 12:55

This article was originally posted to TChing in June of 2015.

If we’re here as contributors, readers or both, it’s most likely because we are fans of tea.   Chef Wemischner loves to be creative with tea in recipes. Ifang Hsieh enjoys traveling and finding new tea experiences.  Michelle Rabin appreciates the health and relaxation benefits of tea.  Rajiv Lochan loves to promote great tea from India and to support small family estates and tea workers.  And so on and so on.  But we all are passionate about tea in one way or another.

Tea is the neutral in all of this.  It allows each of us to build on it whatever we choose to build.  We can steep it, brew it in a machine, infuse it into candy or cookies, and nowadays into cocktails or beer, blend it, grind it to a fine powder, oxidize it (or not), put it in soap to bathe with, lotions to soothe our skin, extracts, vitamins, and so much, much more.  Tea is a leaf and will never be more or less.  It’s what we choose to do with the leaf that has brought about such a huge, multi-faceted group of businesses and people for whom it is the focus.

Tea is white, or green, or yellow, or oolong or black . . . or pu-erh.  Or matcha.  It is delicious to some, a turn-off to others.  It makes some extremely happy, others it just leaves cold.  It has become equal to coffee in foodservice sales, mainly iced and black.  It is an ancient plant with a current surge of trendiness.  As Mintel Global Market Research says:  Tea is hot.

Our grandmothers made us drink it when we were sick, usually with honey.  Now many drink it to stay well and feel good, with great enjoyment.  It has lived in bags for too many years when it would rather be swimming free.  It has been studied by great scientists who have proven what those grandmothers already knew.  Tea is not only good — it’s good for you.

What do you love about tea?  There’s no right or only answer.  A relationship with tea is what you make it.

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Interview with William Osmont of Farmerleaf, Part One

Thu, 04/20/2017 - 17:29

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.

Yu Bai processing tea

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.

Would you microwave your tea?

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 13:44

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!

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Tea 101: Which Tea Should I Drink?

Tue, 04/18/2017 - 12:17

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!

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Store Opened!

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 12:46

At one Southern California shopping center, Peet’s Coffee’s huge floor-to-ceiling “Open Soon” banner hung on the wall for almost two years, during which the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf renovated and moved its kiosk to a better location, and Starbucks opened inside a furniture store. After writing about the Japanese Green Tea Café Project in 2015, I did not closely monitor anyone’s progress simply because I thought it would take years for the venture to materialize. Much to my surprise, the first Japanese Green Tea Café opened last year, and so did the Hello Kitty Café, which was mentioned briefly in the same post.

For the café’s location, the business operators chose Abbot Kinney Boulevard – an over-hyped, parking space-scarce touristy district near Venice Beach. Moreover, the team picked the profound -yet-not-too-catchy business name Shuhari, hoping to convey and execute these missions:

SHU (守): To savor centuries of tradition
HA (破): To shake things up, break the rules
RI (離): To achieve independence and a new sense of creativity

The cup of Saemidori Fukamushi Sencha that I ordered did not disappoint. The staff clearly had been trained well on green tea preparation; however, upon requesting more information about this particular saemidori fukamushi sencha, I was presented with a remark as vague as the menu description that reads “a deep-steamed green tea with robustness and sweetness.” How about show me the tea leaves and powder? How about share a two or three-sentence educational comment on fukamushi cha (深蒸し茶)? Perhaps it was much more critical, during a hectic Saturday afternoon, to take orders from the remaining ten customers standing in line than to answer an inquisitive customer’s questions?
The two friends who visited Shuhari with me enjoyed their matcha latte. At Shuhari’s cozy backyard, one friend commented on how the term shuhari originated from martial art and could be applied to different disciplines, including software engineering. The second friend said we should enlist Lyft’s assistance if we ever decided to combat the area’s traffic and re-visit; yes, we must, the other forms of public transportation did not seem to exist!

Should I write a separate Hello Kitty Café post? Does this picture speak a thousand words?!

Just this week I had green tea three days straight, at three different tea shops miles apart in this vast, cosmopolitan city. The Japanese Green Tea Café Project undoubtedly will strive to reach its “50 Cafés” goal; competition will be most fierce though.

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