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A New Legacy of Darjeeling Tea

T Ching - 5 hours 32 min ago

 

The Darjeeling tea industry has been going through a difficult three months. Tea business owners and tea lovers read any news article they can find on the situation because their beloved Darjeeling tea stocks have been taken hostage for the sake of Democracy. Although there are some political and philosophical reasons why the Darjeeling tea industry has gone on strike, tea lovers should focus on what is really important if they wish to taste the beautiful terroir of Darjeeling tea again. It is uncertain if the central government of India is ever going to give Gorkhaland to the people of Darjeeling, but what is known is the passion and pride Gorkha people have for making Darjeeling the best it has ever been.

There is much argument about the indigenous origins of the people of Darjeeling. Gorkha people I have met on my travels to Darjeeling tell me that several different Gorkha ethnic groups were inhabiting the area way before the tea industry developed, while all documented history on the subject make claims that the Gorkha population current in Darjeeling was a direct import of labor for the industry. Regardless of the depth of the roots of Gorkha in Darjeeling, one can not deny that Gorkha people have the deepest roots of anyone else that has ever been a part of the area.

The start of the Darjeeling tea industry saw British and European pioneers developing systems to best utilize the skills and efforts of the locals in the area. Although the system was a mimic of the colonial slavery system of America, it has been said by many historians that there was a level of mutual pride between the European tea planters and local people to make a high quality product that was mindful to the condition of the environment and people of the area. When India gained its independence about 70 years ago, all tea estates of Darjeeling were sold to wealthy Indians (no Gorkhas) and the Darjeeling tea industry turned from a pioneering pride into a business. The new owners did not have a hereditary connection to the environment and people, so over time the locals became marginalized.

The current strike in Darjeeling is directly linked to the demand of the local people to manage their own affairs under their own state of Gorkhaland rather than being controlled by politicians in a far away place; Kolkata, as part of West Bengal. When I first heard about the strike and the Gorkhaland movement I simply asked “Why doesn’t the central government make Gorkhaland?” It seems easy enough and would be a great way to uplift the current situation of the Darjeeling tea industry which was already suffering before the strike began with low production profit margins and questionably unethical treatment of tea farm workers.

Over three months of suffering and the central government has not given any sign of Gorkhaland. The internet has been shut down for the area and leaders and activists for the Gorkhaland movement have been arrested and imprisoned, despite the nonviolent nature of the current movement. The government is controlling media and sharing a story that the movement is violent. Due to the politically hostile environment for the movement it is clear that us Darjeeling tea lovers must see beyond Gorkhaland and the current tea industry and look at the only thing that is going to survive this situation; the Gorkha people.

Gorkha people are the most peaceful and community-oriented people that I have ever met. On the other hand, I have heard of the legendary warrior spirit of the Gorkha people that shows their strength and ability to stand up for themselves. There is a pride they have for their heritage and community that I believe is going to make Darjeeling tea better than it has ever been before. Slowly, tea estates have been failing in the area and local people have claimed the leases on the land to harvest their own leaf to sell to the factories. They are employing archaic organic practices through intuition and have a desire to learn to make higher quality tea. With the help of knowledge exchange with other tea makers around the world it is possible that the future of Darjeeling tea, when managed by the Gorkha people, will be something that the tea world has never seen.

Not all hope for Darjeeling is lost. Although the tea bushes of the famous estates have overgrown this season and 2017 tea stocks have run dry, there is still hope for Darjeeling tea because of the local people. The Gorkhas can and will make Darjeeling tea better than it ever has been–we just need to understand their passion and support them as much as we can. Look out for vendors that are sampling and selling teas made by Gorkha small growers of Darjeeling and see the quality of their tea improve and their communities prosper.

The post A New Legacy of Darjeeling Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Blueberry Vanilla Peach from A Quarter To Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - 5 hours 51 min ago
A Quarter To Tea. . . a tea company we feature quite often on The SororiTea Sisters.  This tea company proves time and time again that they have some of the best flavored teas . . .bar none.   Each tea is lovingly crafted and created with high quality ingredients that always leave you wanting more. And this tea is no exception. Picture this, a bowl full of blueberries and peaches with this heavenly cream that has been mixed with touch of bourbon. That is exactly what this tea tastes like.  This gorgeous flavored green tea has such a lovely fruity Read More

TeaVivre Fuding Shou Mei White 2012

Notes on Tea - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 15:01

The more popular Chinese white teas, I would argue, are bud heavy, whether all unopened buds as in Yinzhen/Silver Needle or a buds and small leaves as in Bai Mu Dan/White Peony. Shou Mei is a third  type of Chinese white tea and it's made from mature leaves. I didn't know this before re-reading the section on white tea in Joseph Uhl's The Art and Craft of Tea, but Shou Mei is considered the lowest grade of Chinese white tea. Luckily for us tea drinkers, TeaVivre has a very good Shou Mei in cake form. I received samples of the 2012 cake from the company this summer. Here are my notes on tea.


The dry leaves are mostly large in appearance and tobacco brown in color. Larger and darker leaves are interspersed throughout as are silver buds. The leaves smelled like paper and dried grass. The sample I annotated for my review was 9.15 grams. I prepared a 3-gram piece and a 6-gram piece separately. For the smaller piece I steeped it in 200F water for 3, 3, 4, and 5 minutes. The liquor of the first infusion was pale gold and tasted like the smell of freshly pressed linen or cotton. The tea was mild in flavor and in body.The second 3 minute infusion produced a honey-colored liquor that taste like honey, flowers, hay, and cloth-bound books. The floral and honey sweet notes reminded me of an oolong. The tea was thicker in body, too. I used too much water for the third infusion (4 minutes). The final infusion (5 minutes) had a hint of sweetness of stale dates.


Using a more leaf, less water, and shorter infusion times yielded the better experience with this tea. I infused the 6-gram subsample in 200F water starting at 1 minute and adding 30 seconds for each subsequent steep until 3 minutes to which I added 2 minutes for the final steep. After infusing the leaves the first time I smelled roasted and burned sugar notes. The liquor was sweet grass, freshly ironed cotton, paper, and creamy tail note. The second infusion was medium-bodied and viscous as it slipped over my tongue. Sweet notes of hay, paper, and nuts lingered on my palate. The third infusion (2 minutes) was fantastic! The tea was sweet and thick with notes of warm hay and linen. A creamy texture lingered and there was a fruity tail note, though I can't tell you what fruit. The liquor from the fourth infusion tasted like a mild dian hong and this smooth, creamy, and cocoa profile carried over into the next two infusion and were joined by a bright, red fruit flavor. The final infusion was a wash.

Bud only and bud + two leaves plucking styles get a lot of glory in the tea world but you won't be disappointed with this mature leaf white tea.

Two samples of Fuding Shou Mei White 2012 were provided by TeaVivre.

Caramel color and bottled tea

T Ching - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 14:31

Caramel coloring in food and beverages is not new and not uncommon. It is the most commonly used food coloring in the world. It can be found in everything from breads to sauces to soda to even steak and liquor. And, unfortunately, a lot of ready-to-drink (RTD) bottled teas.

If you’re a regular viewer of broadcast television in the US, you probably have seen ads for Gold Peak tea and the like. They’re marketed to be like the tea you’d brew yourself at home, just in a bottle. In fact, their slogan is “The taste that brings you home”. So how different from home brewed tea could it be? Quite a bit actually. Let’s talk about caramel coloring.

The coloring used in the food industry is different from what you might make in your own kitchen, in that instead of the coloring coming from cooking sugar down into a caramelized paste, this caramel color can be the result of heating a number of different carbohydrates with or without (usually with) acids, alkalis, or salts. It generally has a bitter flavor when added to foods, and is why many foods that contain caramel color will have extra sugar added.

Caramel coloring is used both as a simple food coloring, but also as a preservative and an emulsifier, which helps keep foods on the shelf longer and prevents mixtures from separating.

Caramel coloring has come under fire for years, especially relating to sodas. California has put it on their list of possible carcinogens, and hence the common label of “This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects”. But is this true of all caramel color?

Types of caramel color

There are four types of caramel colors used in the food industry, each with different chemicals and applications:

Classes III and IV are the reason California has problems with the coloring. The presence of ammonium compounds in the production process creates what is known as 4-MEI, and this has been shown in studies to cause cancer to mice (but not rats. Part of the problem here is that we are not sure which test animal is more like a human in this regard). Laws in California control the amounts of this in products like soda, but having more than one can of pop a day will certainly put you over these amounts.

What about tea?

The important question here is: what kind of coloring is used in RTD teas? The answer: it depends.

A good number of RTD teas use Class I caramel coloring, which doesn’t have any 4-MEI, and which is safe.

But just as many RTD teas use Class IV, which does produce 4-MEI. How can you tell which is being used? Outside of a scientific investigation, it’s impossible to tell.

Bottom line

There is still debate as to whether or not caramel color is bad for you. Some question the amounts of 4-MEI given to the mice in the study and claim that in order to achieve the amounts to give you cancer you would need to drink the equivalent of one thousand cans of pop per day.

Why is it in tea in the first place? Besides the preservative qualities, it is likely the coloring is added to give extra color to an otherwise diluted tea. RTD teas are often diluted in order to counteract the bitterness caused by antioxidants. Yes, that’s right: RTD teas have fewer antioxidants than real brewed tea. So you’re not really doing yourself any favors by drinking bottled tea in the first place.

So whether you’re wary about caramel food coloring or not, if you want the real deal, make sure to read your nutrition labels, even for unsweetened tea. There is good bottled tea out there, you just have to look. And if you’re looking for a good source of antioxidants, just brew at home.

 

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The post Caramel color and bottled tea appeared first on T Ching.

5 Things Tea Companies Need to Stop Doing on Instagram

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 09/19/2017 - 03:23

Instagram is probably the social media platform that I use the most. There's an awesome sense of community there and I love being able to connect with other tea fanatics around the world. It's also a great way to discover new tea companies. That being said, there are some things that tea companies do on Instagram that drive me crazy. I'm writing about it here in the hopes that I can get through to at least a few of the perpetrators.


Using Stock Photography
I see a lot of companies using nothing but the same terrible stock photos that everyone else uses, most often from freeimages.com. This comes across as very commercial and impersonal. It also tells us nothing about what they do or what their products actually are. I'm much less likely to follow back or trust a company that posts this way. Peppering in the occasional "on brand" stock photo is fine but they shouldn't make up the entire feed.
Stealing Pictures
There is nothing worse than having a company steal your picture without permission. This is not ok do, even if it is a shot their product. Permission must be obtained from the person who took the picture and proper credit needs to be given whenever it is used. I'm not the best photographer in the world but a lot of thought and effort does go into everything that I post. On multiple occasions, I have had to ask for pictures to be removed because they were used without my knowledge. If there's a person whose pictures you really enjoy, consider hiring them! 
Automatic Direct Messages
I've noticed a lot of companies using automated "bots" to automatically direct message their followers. It's impossible for me to express just how off-putting this is. It didn't work on Twitter and it doesn't work here. I'm always happy to connect but I want an authentic conversation with a real human. A better idea would be to reply to my stories, forward me something that you think I might find interesting, or even just say hello.
Erroneous Tagging
This! I find my account constantly being tagged in pictures that have nothing to do with me by companies that I've never heard of. It's basically a thinly veiled ploy to gain followers. At first, I would message them privately and let them know that this wasn't ok to do. Eventually, I just started removing the tags and blocking them to prevent it from happening again. One company actually sent me a whiny email afterward claiming that they were "just trying to connect". No, they were just trying to use my larger following to grow their own account.
Playing the Unfollow Game
Speaking of connecting authentically, I'm sick and tired of doing the unfollow dance! While I'm not a fan of "follow for follow", I generally try to return the favor when an account is tea related and appears non-spammy. It's very frustrating to then discover soon after that they have unfollowed me. Now, this isn't an ego thing. What annoys me is that the same account will then do this whole routine over and over again. Why even bother?!?

Is there something that you would add to this list? Let me know about it in the comments!

Roses are Red, Berries are Blue from Kipers Lil Tea Shop. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 17:00
Roses are red, berries are blue, this tea from Kipers Lil Tea Shop is delicious, and good for you too! Not too long ago, I discovered Kipers Lil Tea Shop on Etsy and I have just been enamored with these hand blended beauties.  This go around, I devoured their Roses are Red and Berries are Blue blend. This particular hand blended treat is a blend of Dao Ren Green Tea, rosehips, hibiscus, elderberry, and bilberries.  To start off with, this tea is just stunning with rich tones of pinks, purples, and greens. Brewed up with water prepped right under boiling Read More

Tora Ceremonial Matcha

Notes on Tea - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 15:01

The image of a tiger roaring out of a forest is an interesting one for a matcha that is as smooth tasting as Tora Ceremonial Matcha. Going back to the tiger again, another reason I was surprised to see a tiger on the package of a Japanese tea is that tigers are not found in Japan. But, they used to be. Tigers from Indian migrated to and established populations in Japan during the Pleistocene but the Japanese tiger subspecies became extinct "at some unknown time".


This ceremonial matcha is made from leaves harvested in Kirishima in Kagoshima Prefecture which is 879 km (546 miles) southwest of Uji, the famed source for great matcha. The Tora matcha is packaged in a brown, resealable, foil lined pouch. On opening the pouch, a sweet, creamy puff of matcha powder was released. It should be a delightful experience, opening up a new package of matcha. This one was. The powder was a lively green though the photo shown here is a macro shot which portrays it more brilliant than it was in reality. I prepared the matcha a couple of times for this review with slight modifications to the given instructions.


Matcha Preparation - Tora's Instruction
  1. Add 1 tsp (2 g) of matcha to an empty mug or tea bowl. I added 1 sifted teaspoon to a warm chawan.
  2. To avoid clumping, add a small amount of cool water and stir or whisk matcha into a thick paste.
  3. Add 2-3 fl oz of hot water (160-175 °F) and stir or whisk briskly until a light green foam appears on the surface of tea.
The taste of the liquor was consistent with the smell of the matcha powder. It has all the elements I crave in a matcha: sweet (but not as sweet as the powder smells), creamy, grassy, and umami (but not as rich I prefer). The umami of this matcha is borderline asparagus. Bringing the bowl towards me to drink, I smelled matcha milk chocolate bar. The bottom of the cup where the thicker liquor resides produced a dark chocolate tail note.


Really look at the photo above. I used too much water to prepare this cup but was still able to get a decent layer of froth. One of the lessons I've learned from whisking matcha is to measure precisely the amount of water. I typically prepare usucha which is thin matcha but too much water even by a seemingly small amount can produce a less than desirable cup. While Tora Ceremonial Matcha is not from one of the better known matcha producing areas, I have been happy drinking this tea and would say it's a good candidate for a daily drinker.

Matcha provided by Tora Tea.

P.S. Looking to read more about matcha? Check out Eater's A Definite Matcha Taste Test.

Where Does Tea Come From?

Walker Tea Review - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 14:00

Where does tea come from? Tea can come from many places, and it can be quite useful to know the origin of a tea. For one thing, knowing a tea’s origin can give you a sense of the flavor characteristics and processing method you should expect that tea to possess. Secondly, knowing where your tea...

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The post Where Does Tea Come From? appeared first on Walker Tea Review.

Apples, honey and oolong

T Ching - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 12:40

Sometimes the best ideas for cooking with tea come from a complete upending of one’s preconceptions. How’s it done? In my case I often open the tea cabinet and pick out a tea at random and then another without identifying which teas they are. I let them steep for three minutes each using water at just under the boiling point (Yes, I know that each tea likes its own temperature for brewing but I’m throwing caution to the winds here a bit). Then I taste the teas side by side and jot down without self censure the initial impressions of each. Sip each again, take more notes as new nuances of flavor become evident. Let the teas cool, taste and take notes once again. From those notes flows the ideation process of cooking with tea and pairing foods with the teas. The product of that creative outfall of ideas has led me to many inspired, good-enough-to-repeat dishes. Here’s one.

As fall seems to begin, however reluctantly, with summer letting go of its furious grasp, nationwide, I am turning for inspiration to my local farmers markets. Apples in many shades, shapes and flavors are starting to appear and I am drawn to one of those picked-at-random teas, in this case oolong, to use as the basis for a poaching liquid for the fruit.  For the fruit, I chose first of the season Pink Lady apples with their crisp texture and sweet/tart floral notes.  The tea, as many oolongs are, is delicate and fragrant.

Here’s a non-recipe recipe: Brew the tea, sweeten ever so slightly with honey and now tackle the apples. Peel and core them. Cut them into thick wedges. Place them in a buttered baking dish. Now sprinkle them with a very fine dusting of ground allspice and cinnamon. Pour the brewed tea over all, cover the whole thing with foil, and bake in a moderate oven (350° F) for about 35 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced with the point of a small knife. Served hot or warm with a dollop of crème fraiche or softly whipped cream melting into a delicious pool, here’s a dessert to herald the cooler seasons to come. Provide a spoon and a fork for this one. As textural counterpoint, crush some deliciously spicy ginger cookies and scatter over each serving, if you like.

 

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Moroccan Mint Teabags from Simpson and Vail. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 11:00
Simpson and Vail is one of those hidden gems on the internet when it comes to tea.  One of my favorite tea companies online, Simpson and Vail offer amazing customer service, a fabulous line of teas, and the satisfying thought that you are supporting a mom and pop family tea shop. What Simpson and Vail do best is offer their customers a vast array of teas and their new line of iced tea bags is no exception.  Being a huge fan of mint teas, their new Moroccan Mint Iced Tea bag had my name written all over it. Cold brewed Read More

The Spirit of Tea Tour by Spirit Tea & Marco

World of Tea - Mon, 09/18/2017 - 02:52

Tea Geeks, heads up! Sometimes it seems like coffee lovers get special events every week. Festivals, tastings, competitions… But that’s about to change with Spirit Tea and Marco’s upcoming series...

The post The Spirit of Tea Tour by Spirit Tea & Marco appeared first on World of Tea.

Cotton Candy Genmaicha from 52Teas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 23:00
I am a sucker for 52 Teas flavored genmaichas. Their Marshmallow Treat stole my heart long ago and I have yet to turn back. Not to mention, some flavors just call to me when I am ordering teas. Things that scream “sweet” and “dessert” almost always catch my attention and Cotton Candy is at the top of that list. That is why the minute I opened the email advertising this Cotton Candy Genmaicha tea, I started building a cart. I was quick but not quick enough because the large packs of this tea were gone before I even opened the Read More

Chocolate Cherry Latte Oolong by A Quarter to Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 19:30
Steeping at 190 degrees for 4.5 minutes as recommended, I prepared this tea with one tablespoon of leaves and around 10 ounces of water. The high-quality oolong leaves swell and uncurl while steeping–something I always find fascinating (in addition to comforting because I know it means I’m about to drink some excellent tea!) Once the steeping gets going it smells strongly of chocolate and cherry, which I take as a good sign! Actually it smells almost overwhelmingly of cherry while steeping, but after steeping that abates somewhat. The cherry flavor still hits your nose first but as you keep inhaling you Read More

How To Use Imo For PC App For Better Video Calling

Tea Pages - Sun, 09/17/2017 - 17:05

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The post How To Use Imo For PC App For Better Video Calling appeared first on Tea pages.

Red Suspenders. . .A Torchwood Blend from Adagio Teas. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 23:00
Adagio Teas offers such a unique service for geeks/nerds like myself.  Being a huge Doctor Who/Torchwood fan, I had to check out Adagio Teas Signature Blends to see if anybody had created a blend dedicated to Captain Jack Harkness. . .and was I ever pleased when I saw that someone had created such a blend. Red Suspenders is a blend of Vanilla Green, Orange, Mocha Nut Mate, with Chocolate Chips as an added accent flavor.  Right off the bat, this tea had a strong hazelnut chocolate flavor.  Not being a huge hazelnut fan or really a big chocolate guru, I Read More

Happy Zombie from Design A Tea. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 17:00
This tea accompanied me to this season’s Game of Thrones premiere. I figured that the show is on at night (it’s a rooibos!) and has an army of the undead (the title has zombies!). SPOT-ON. THE NORTH REMEMBERS. This tea’s spicy oranges taste a bit like mulled wine. It’s a little savory, a little sweet, and puts a dash of twinkle in your eye. I don’t know if this is the influence of the show, but I could imagine this being served at a sturdy, rough-hewn wooden table. Maybe a tavern. Plotting to kill your enemies. Amassing a group of Read More

Chocolate Macaroon from DAVIDs Tea. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 11:00
Chocolate Macaroon, part of DAVIDsTEA’s standard collection, is made of black tea, toasted coconut, coconut, pecans, cacao nibs, rock cane sugar, natural flavoring. Now I am not one for teas with sugar or stevia (though I like sprinkles and I blame my love of the colorful and cute for that) and when I tried this tea originally, I had it plain and I hated it. I tried it a second time as an eggnog latte. Why did I give it a second chance? Well, when DAVIDsTEA came out with their eggnog lattes, I fell in love and was having 1-2 Read More

Friday Roundup: September 10th - September 16th

Tea For Me Please - Sat, 09/16/2017 - 04:39
Understanding Gyokuro

I was really fascinated by this post from Florent of Japanese Tea Sommelier because it calls attention to a common misconception I see. Gyokuro is often favored by tea lovers because it is believed to be the "highest grade". Of course, nothing in tea is so cut and dry but he does a really great job of clearing it up.

Momo Tea Matcha Green Tea Mug Cake

I have a major sweet tooth. As much as I love baking, I avoid making big batches so that I don't wind up munching everything myself. This recipe from Katherine at Tea Journey sounds like the perfect solution!

Review: everydayteas 2016 Nan Nuo Shan

I am perpetually jealous of the weekly office tea club that Sara at Tea Happiness hosts. In this post, she shares their experience with an excellent daily drinker along with an epic shot of the tea being poured with NYC as a backdrop.

My tasting notes: Oriental Beauty oolong

Anna at The Tea Squirrel also wrote a beautifully photographed post, this time about one of my favorite Taiwanese oolongs. I'll definitely have to check out the one that she tasted from American Tea Room.

Kiss Me Organics Ceremonial Matcha

Ricardo at My Japanese Green Tea reviewed a matcha that I've often seen advertised online. Like him, I was a bit skeptical of the health claims they use in their marketing but it's nice to know that the tea in the tin delivers.

Golden Monkey from Tea N Joy. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 23:00
Today’s tea sample is from a company called Tea N Joy. I’ve never tried teas from this tea company before, so I’m excited to see how it goes! This should be fun! So I steeped this tea for around 2.5 minutes, using a heaping 1/2 tbsp and 10 oz of near-boiling water. It started to give off a nice malty smell right away. I should describe the tea leaves, too; they’re big, well-defined, long twisty thin leaves with gold tips! Wonderful. They look very high-quality. I love it when my tea has entire tea leaves in it, especially when they’re Read More

Take It Cheesy

The Devotea - Fri, 09/15/2017 - 21:59

It’s two weeks since Lady Devotea and I left Canada, and this blog has been hovering over me. I just don’t want to admit that that particular adventure was over. Despite cranking up the heat and refusing to change the time back on some of my devices, I am unable to pretend to be in […]

The post Take It Cheesy appeared first on Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts.

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