Monday, May 21, 2012

To Tea or Not to Tea?

We are a little nervous about this one. We feel a bit as if we’re pulling back the curtain on the Wizard in the Land of Oz.

But there is something you should know.

Many of you think you have been drinking tea for years and years, but chances are, you’re not. Not drinking a proper tea, that is. You are drinking a tisane.

Tisane is pronounced tea-zahn and it originates from the Greek word for a crushed barley drink. But what is a tisane exactly?

A tisane is best described by what it is not.

All true teas come from the Camellia senensis plant. Camellia sinensis yields black tea, green tea, oolong tea and white tea. A tisane is everything else.

Where do tisanes come from?

Tisanes have a variety of sources, including flowers, spices, fruits, grains, roots and yes, even bark! (Did you know cinnamon was a bark?) You start to realize why these teas are also called an herbal tea, that’s a lot of flora.

And humans have been consuming tisanes for thousands of years. One of the most well-loved tisanes, chamomile, was consumed by ancient Egyptians. Chamomile, which is in the same Astor family with the common daisy, was originally used as a cold remedy. It is a delicious, fragrant tea that is known for its ability to promote relaxation.

A major benefit of tisanes is no caffeine.

For those trying to cut down on the java, there is nothing like a tisane. You can still get a pick-me-up during the day with lively spearmint and peppermint teas. However, it is unlikely a tisane will give you the jitters or keep you up half the night.

Tisanes can pack a wallop of flavor.

A fruit tea is a good example of a tisane. A good German friend introduced us to fruit teas many years ago. A fruit tea is healthful and absolutely bursting with jammy goodness.

Our personal favorite is Berries & Fruit Herbal Tea. This tea is chock full of blueberries, cranberries, apples and fragrant hibiscus flowers.

So remember now – a tisane is an herbal or botanical mixture, which contains no caffeine; tisanes are full of flavor and besides, it’s a really cool word with which to impress your friends and co-workers!

So if you have been drinking tisanes all the while and never suspected that you weren’t drinking a “proper” tea, you have our permission to tell all those tea enthusiasts what they have been missing!

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Water

To make a good tea you must have a high quality tea (loose leaf tea is preferable.) And second, you must have hot water. Of course, you can add sugar, agave nectar, honey or a myriad of things to sweeten the tea when you are finished. Then, you may want to consider a splash of milk or cream, but that depends upon the type of tea and your personal preference.

However, there is no question that hot water is fundamental to every good cup of premium tea. So what do we need to know about it?

The most important variable is water temperature.

It sounds pretty basic, eh? Heat water. Everyone knows how to heat water. It’s one of those life skills, along with how to use a can opener, that your mother teaches you when you are 8 or 9 years old. But the temperature of the water is crucial and is specific to each type of tea you make.

For black tea, you want to add the water when it has just reached the boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius).

For the more delicate teas, such as green tea, you want to add hot water, not boiling. Adding boiling water makes green teas too bitter. We recommend that you experiment with different temperatures ranging from 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit or 71 to 82 degrees Celsius.

Recommended water temperatures come with each tea. So pay attention to them!

And don’t feel that you have to use a thermometer. Overtime, you can get a feel for the correct temperature by boiling water and then waiting a set amount of time before you pour the water on the tea leaves.

To microwave water vs. use the kettle?

There is a debate and we are about to end it here. Use a kettle, that’s our answer! You can get physicists to give you lengthy reasons why, but here’s just one. The kettle precipitates the lime in hard water, whereas the microwave dish does not. So you’ll taste a lot more mineral in microwaved water. Be sure to occasionally descale your kettle, or you’ll notice that clean, fresh taste start to go. You can put the kettle on the stove top or buy one of those slick electrical devices. They can get expensive, but a kettle is small price to pay for an investment that will reap benefits for many years to come.

Water quality effects tea flavor.

Which brings us to water quality. Most tea connoisseurs will tell you, use pure spring water. Finding pure spring water is a whole other question, and even bottled water packaging that claims to be pure spring water can be misleading.

But be advised, tap water varies greatly all over the country in its additives and those additives effect taste. Filtering can improve the situation, but many tea enthusiasts feel that filtering is not enough. Tap water can have chemicals and minerals that detract from the quality of a good loose leaf tea.

So with water quality and water temperature in mind, do what you can, read your directions and don’t blithely throw boiling water on every tea you purchase. And if you ever get the chance, try spring water, you might just get hooked.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why Do So Many People Love Tea?

It’s no secret that tea is a very popular drink. People all over the world have been enjoying cups of hot tea for centuries, and this flavorful drink has continued to thrive in the modern world. It is grown all over the world to feed the insatiable desires of the many people who love premium tea. What is it about tea that you love?

Quite possibly one of the best things about gourmet tea is that it is versatile. You can enjoy tea when you are alone, as it offers you a quiet moment when you can contemplate things that are going on in your life, or even just a moment to be free of all your worries. Tea is also a great drink for groups, as it is one of those drinks that just brings people together. Sharing a cup of tea with your friends and family is a fun, wholesome way to spend an afternoon.

High quality loose tea also blends well with many different food items, which means you can drink it with meals and snacks at any time of the day. Whether you are having toast and jam for breakfast, a simple sandwich for lunch, or some cookies in the afternoon, tea makes the perfect munching companion. Depending on the type of tea that makes your taste buds sing, you can find a food item to contemplate it well.

Another thing that many people find endearing about loose leaf tea is that it is versatile. You can drink it hot or cold, which makes it ideal any time of the year. You can opt for teas with caffeine, such as green tea, or caffeine free teas, such as the many herbal tea options. People of all ages enjoy drinking tea, so stock up on your favorites from and start sipping whenever the mood strikes you.

Techno Tea 101

As you have by now no doubt figured out, there is a lot of lingo specific to loose leaf tea. If you pay attention to the technical terms and learn a bit about the process of making tea, you will start to understand a good bit about loose leaf tea quality.

With info in hand, you can make better loose tea selections, ones that fit your palate and your pocketbook.

We’re here to help.

All true tea comes from the plant, Camellia sinensis. This plant yields black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and white tea.

With rare exceptions, tea trees need a tropical or subtropical climate to survive. At a higher elevation, loose leaf tea grows more slowly, which intensifies and improves the flavor.
Tea trees take about 3 years to start to produce leaves that suitable to prepare as tea. Left to its own devices, the Camellia sinensis tree will grow over 50 feet tall. But plants involved in tea production are pruned to approximately waist height to make it easier to harvest.

So what is a flush?

No, this is not a high scoring hand in poker.

Basically, harvesters only pluck the top one to two inches of the tea tree. The harvested buds and leaves are called a flush. During the growing season, a tea tree will produce a fresh flush every 7 to 15 days.

The first flush (first harvest of the season) occurs around April to May when the recently dormant plants push out their first leaves of spring.

How does a flush relate to tea quality?

The earlier the tea plucking, the more flavorful the loose leaf tea. The first flush is harvested before summer heat and while the rain is still plentiful, so it is considered a real prize. In fact, in ancient times, the first flush usually was reserved for royalty!

As the season progresses, the tea leaves take longer to replenish on the plant and as they sit out in the summer sun, the flavor of the tea changes. Harvesters should include information about which flush of tea is produced (first, second, and so on). And the flush definitely affects price. You’ll pay more for a first flush tea.

But you’ll notice a difference in taste as well.

So as you select your green teas, your oolongs and your black teas, keep your eyes open for information about the flush. It’s important to note: all white teas are first flush, by definition.

If your pocketbook cannot afford the first flush teas, don’t despair. There is a plentitude of really good drinking gourmet teas out there for every price range.

And you know what they say about being "a cheap date". A woman in the office here spent her dating days eating hot dogs and going to the ball park (That’s love!) You might just find that your prefer a 5th flush Assam, which is terrific!

But don’t be afraid to experiment. There may be a first flush just waiting for that special occasion.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Drinking Tea Can Bring Friends Together, What Do You Do To Provide that Tea Drinking Experience?

It's funny what a cup of tea can do for busy loved ones. A simple cup can slow time down, get everyone to relax and can help to provide the perfect refreshment for a conversation between friends or family. If you are a tea drinker, then you know what a wonderful experience a cup of loose leaf premium tea can provide. How do you use tea to connect with the ones that you love?

What is it about tea that makes it ideal for connecting with people that you enjoy? Maybe it is because tea is a more low-key drink, as opposed to alcohol or heavily caffeinated coffee. Throwing back a few glasses of wine at a club can be fun, but often you are distracted by loud music and the alcohol can really cloud your mind. Yet, unlike those other drinks, a cup of chai tea, rooibos tea, or any other kind of this tasty drink can slow your pace down and help you to form stronger bonds with your friends and loved ones.

When drinking tea it is easy to relax. The tea bags must steep in hot water, and during this time you can contemplate life, share a laugh, or simply relish a beautiful sunny day with friends. One important part of your comfortable gatherings with friends is the refreshments that you provide. Try serving wellness tea or another type of tea for your next lovely afternoon or evening gathering with your loved ones. You can find a wide variety of flavors of tea from to suit the tastes of everyone you love, and you can offer a number of different additions for the tea so that everyone can "dress" their cup of tea however they like. Set out bowls of sugar, sweetener, cream, milk, honey and lemon along with a few flavors of tea and you will have created the perfect tea party for your friends.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Depending on the Type of Day You Had, What Types of Tea Do You Drink?

Life is busy and full of surprises and if you’re like most people, every day is filled with new emotions and challenges. Some days are more relaxed and easygoing, while others are filled with work and family obligations. One popular way to cap off any kind of day is to drink a steaming cup of premium tea, brewed to perfection and topped off the way you like it with sugar, lemon, artificial sweetener, or plain.

What kinds of tea do you enjoy at the end of various kinds of days? Many people refer to the relaxation qualities of teas, such as white tea. After a day filled with busy meetings, running from place to place and dealing with the many dilemmas that come up, you can opt for a cup of tea that will help to relax you. A nice cup of chamomile or peppermint tea can help you to shed the stress of your day and to get prepared for bedtime.

Maybe you had more of a low-key day, watching movies inside with your family or spending an afternoon at the spa. What kind of tea would you drink after such a day? Maybe you would choose a cup of flavored tea to add a little spice to your relaxing day. There are many flavors out there that lend themselves well to a little sweetener and cream, such as blackberry, chocolate covered strawberry, berry, apricot, caramel, lime, mint chocolate and so much more. These are great as a dessert to cap off your indulgent day.

Regardless of the type of day that you had, there is a type of premium specialty tea from that can complement the activities of the last few hours, bridging the gap between your full day and your night of rest easily. Take a moment to think about what teas you enjoy after your day and let us know.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Get to know Earl Grey

After English Breakfast, Earl Grey is just about one of the most popular premium teas out there. But what is it? And who is Earl Grey?

First, the what.

Loose Earl Grey tea is a blend of loose leaf black teas flavored with bergamot, an essence of the fruit, Citrus bergamot. This fruit is native to southern Italy, but it is also cultivated in Southeast Asia, the Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in Africa and the Mediterranean region of France. The fruit is not grown for its juice, but rather for the oil found in the peel. Bergamot oil is what gives Earl Grey tea that distinctive, floral fragrance.

Some may ask, is it caffeinated?

Earl Grey can be caffeinated or decaffeinated, depending on the type of black loose leaf tea used as a base. Black loose leaf Ceylon tea is often used, although in the last century Earl Grey tea has also been comprised of fine grade Keemun Congou black loose leaf tea imported from China.

If you take medicines that warn you to not mix grapefruit with your medicines, you sadly, may have to abstain from Earl Grey tea; bergamot has been shown to have similar pharmaceutical interactions as grapefruit juice. However, if you simply must limit your caffeine intake, there is no reason to deny yourself this delicious beverage.

So now, the who.

Earl Grey was actually the 2nd Earl Charles Grey. He was a member of the House of Lords, and consequently, is also known as Lord Grey. He served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland from 1830 to 1834. His political claim to fame was overseeing the passage of the Great Reform Act of 1832, which increased the physical number of people eligible to vote and granted increased representation from urban areas that had exploded during the Industrial Revolution. The passage of the Act was in spite some pretty hefty opposition from House of Lords.

Stories abound as to how Earl Grey tea got its name. Tradition holds that Prime Minister Grey received the tea as a diplomatic gift while in office. And that is likely true. But claims that a Chinese nobleman sent Earl Grey this tea as early as 1803 for his British soldiers rescuing his drowning son are unfounded as bergamot oil was not used in China until much later and Earl Grey never set foot in China!

Howick Hall is the historic seat of the Earls of Grey, in Northumberland, England. It has lovely gardens and a well-preserved tea room. According to its website, Lady Grey had the tea specially blended to “offset the taste of lime” in the water at the estate.

The Howick Hall history goes on to recount how Lady Grey, a prominent society lady, used the tea to entertain in London social circles, and the delicious tea became increasingly popular, eventually being marketed to the population at large.

And thank goodness for that! Here at, we would hate to deny anyone the pleasure of trying this aromatic, delightful loose leaf tea. We feel just a little more ready to take on the day – in style – with a cup of Earl Grey.