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Vista Blend from Plum Deluxe. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - 3 hours 22 min ago
There is so much Yes going on with Plum Deluxe! I discovered them when my Sororitea sister sent me a surprise cuppa their Pomme Blossom White tea. It’s a discontinued exclusive so I won’t tease you with too much detail. This was a very colorful blend with some “furry” white leaves. What was so exceptional was that the second steep tastes even better!!! Which is usually not my experience with flavored white teas. I ordered another, not sold out, white tea blend of theirs called Afternoon “High Tea”, which is a peach and pear blend that also held up to Read More

Charge from Wild Leaf Active Teas. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - 9 hours 23 min ago
Around 2pm is when I’m grabbing for something to keep me going for a few more hours.  This little ditty has been saving me from grabbing a sugary snack for the past week and I am completely in love with it. Wild Leaf Active Teas offers a line of teas with a healthy thought behind each tea.  I regularly drink their Slim tea in the mornings and adore that rich jammy earthy flavor.  I’ve found in the mornings that I do have more energy but I do drink a few servings of this tea before hitting the road in the Read More

What is Sustainability for Tea – Solutions

T Ching - 13 hours 17 min ago

Tea is much more than steeping of leaves in hot water. There is much that goes into this product that has become an international symbol of health, art, and business. Regardless of the situation or condition of the industry, the five things that must remain intact in order to sustain the international tea industry are seeds, soil, water, sun, and people. In my past “What is Sustainability for Tea” articles I highlighted the environmental, social, and economic issues surrounding the sustainability of tea, and in this article we will look at possible solutions which I have come across through my travels throughout the tea world.

According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, sustainable means “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed.” Applied to the tea industry it means that the industry will be able to continue operation without being destroyed.

Tea did not become an internationally demanded product until the modern part of its history. Almost 5,000 years since the discovery of tea and it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that the global tea industry has become what it is today. The past 200 years have seen drastic expansion of the appreciation of tea, but its fast growth has externalized many costs that are now challenging the sustainability of the industry.

Prior to the expansion of the tea industry it was a modest and sustainable trade that was very much focused on respecting the five elements of seeds, soil, water, sun, and people. One can look at the future sustainability of the tea industry by looking to the past and how these essential elements were respected. Systems were localized and decentralized, which allowed each stakeholder in the system to focus on how they can best respect these elements.

Tea begins from a seed. Modern tea is not all seed, with the industry dominated by clonal propagation and planting versus the traditional method of seed cultivation. From an efficiency perspective it makes perfect sense to achieve consistency and convenience from a tea field that is one common genetic expression. Seeds versus cuttings promote biodiversity which strengthens the garden for a longer period of time and develops a tap root that will go deep into the earth to collect more energy and flavor and encourage drought resistance. Seeds also communicate with the natural environment to produce what is best for that environment. It would be counterproductive to the commercial tea industry to convert tea fields from clones to seeds, but it may become the only option a small tea grower will have to continue their heritage of tea-making.

Soil is the home of the tea plant. Prior to the (predominantly American) introduction of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, soil was treated as someone would treat their own home and community. If the soil wasn’t happy and healthy than a farmer’s plants were not happy. The modern use of agriculture chemicals and techniques such as monoculturing have eliminated the biodiversity of soils around the world and have reduced the soil’s ability to provide and retain water.

Water is perhaps just as important to the growth of tea as the soil it lives in. The Earth has an abundance to give, but modern agriculture has turned its focus from cultivating natural sources of water to providing a crutch with irrigation. Even the most harsh environments in the world can provide water (I pulled water for my own consumption and use while a Peace Corps volunteer in the Sahara Desert from a 80 meter deep well). Traditional tea growers respected their natural sources of water and worked hard to protect the water they had. A big part of this was encouraging indigenous biodiversity in their community and in the soil.

Although there is not much humans can do to control the sun, there is much that we can do to protect our environment from the extremities of the sun. The sun is our source of energy and heat and is absolutely necessary for the tea plant, in controlled doses. Temperature in our environment is controlled by the sun. In recent times the temperature has become much more volatile than anticipated which has negatively affected farmers by delaying planting and harvesting schedules and affecting the quality (and price) of their products. Although the modern tea industry has not been the culprits of this “global warming”, the same ideologies that were behind the expansion of the global tea industry are behind the expansive industry and development decisions that have culminated to our current climate issues.

People are the effort that bring these elements together. It is their energy and craft that has developed the appreciation of tea. These people need to be protected and respected like heroes because tea wouldn’t exist without them. The modern tea industry that is focused on quantity rather than quality has given less and less value to the people behind the tea. In return, many families of long lineage of tea-making have left the career and left their tea gardens to grow feral. If the market only showed the same value and respect to a tea-maker that they did to the marketers of their electronics, cars, and homes, perhaps the tea-makers would be more motivated to continue making quality tea and caring for their natural resources.

These issues are not simple ones to solve. Although, if you look to the simplicity of the past you may see that it could be easier than we think. The element that changed it all and brought tea to the unsustainable fate that it sees now is centralization. This is big business that took responsibility of making tea and sharing large quantities around the world rather than independent people sharing quality. In my opinion, decentralization is the answer. A good example of this is looking at the experience of riding in a taxi versus riding in a Uber vehicle. Taxi drivers work for a centralized organization where the driver doesn’t own their car and may not put great effort into caring for the car (and possibly caring for their passengers). Uber drivers, on the other hand, are decentralized businesses that utilize Uber to connect with their passenger with a car that they own. This encourages the driver to take care of their vehicle and offer premium service to their passengers, because they are responsible for their own business. I believe this will be the solution to tea sustainability, independence and quality. If left on their own an independent tea-maker will take responsibility for caring for their seeds, soil, water, sun, and people.

This is the fourth part in a series on sustainability in the tea industry.

The post What is Sustainability for Tea – Solutions appeared first on T Ching.

Comparing Two Taiwanese Oolongs from #TeaAve and #Teavivre. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - 15 hours 22 min ago
I’m going down the rabbit hole here with two Taiwanese oolongs, like Alishan Wonderland. The first time I visited a “Star-ba-ke” in China, I tried ordering a “tea with milk”. But they said it was too gross, several times, and they wouldn’t make it for me. I thought they had to be joking! They weren’t. My friend later told me I was insisting that “cheese” chai was a thing at American Starbucks. I could have died from the mix of embarrassment and jet lag. Not too far away from that, around 1200 meters up Ali mountain on a foggy island Read More

List of Tea Producing Countries

World of Tea - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 03:13

We have identified the following list of 61 tea producing countries across the globe. To be included, a country must have at least one functioning commercial tea plantation. Argentina Argentina...

The post List of Tea Producing Countries appeared first on World of Tea.

Birthday Tea Party from Oh You TEAse!

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 23:00
I always enjoy a good vanilla blend. Whether its black tea, green tea, oolong…I almost always love it if it includes vanilla. This birthday blend by Oh You TEAs is no exception. It smells like vanilla cake and tastes that way too. When I first opened the packet I had no idea what I was looking at. Upon further investigation (google), I learned that this is a mix of black tea and heather flowers! I didn’t know what heather flowers were so I googled that, too. Once I did I realized I have seen them many times! They are tall Read More

Toasted Maple Green from TeaSource. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 17:00
I don’t know why, but the smell and taste of this blend reminds me of flavored coffee. Maybe that’s because back when I was a coffee drinker I used to drink this blend that was called “maple sleigh” so now I just associate maple with coffee. I’m not sure, either way this blend definitely has a strong maple scent. I steeped this one and it is actually very dark for a green tea, and that is because it is a houjicha blend! I have tried one other maple houjicha blend, and both were delicious but I feel like this one Read More

How Long Have People Been Drinking Tea?

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 16:00

When I got into tea one of the first stories that really grabbed my imagination was that of Shennong. Who doesn't love the idea of a mythical horned emperor accidentally discovering the beverage that changed the world? Some versions say that a Camellia Sinensis leaf fell into his mouth while others say that it fell into some boiling water. This event occurred at the oddly specific time period of 2437 B.C. It is fairly unlikely that a single raw leaf would add much taste, let alone cure the 70+ poisons that he supposedly ingested. Nevertheless, the fable does lead one to wonder, how long people have been drinking tea?


Shennong - "the divine farmer"
The written word is sometimes a good indicator of how long something has been a part of people's lives. A Contract with A Servant by Han Dynasty poet Wang Bao is one of the earliest written accounts. Lu Yu's Classic of Tea, published around 760 C.E., is generally considered to be the first book on the subject of tea. Tea was already an integral part of society by that time period, particularly for the literati. The first mentions in English did not occur until about 1,000 years later. We've got a lot of catching up to do!

What about archeological evidence? Tea leaves have been found inside of the mausoleum of a Han Dynasty emperor. This potentially proves that tea was being consumed as early as 140 B.C. Although they were barely recognizable due to decomposition scientists were able to detect the presence of theanine, a substance only found in tea. Another excavation found Camellia Sinensis roots in a neolithic settlement on China's eastern coast. The plant material was carbon dated to an even earlier period of 3526- 3366 B.C. That would actually pre-date Shennong's infamous discovery.

It's important to keep in mind that ancient people may not have been preparing tea in the same fashion as we do today. It was used for medicinal purposes or as part of a soup-like preparation with spices. During the Song Dynasty, tea leaves were ground into a powder and whisked, not unlike the way matcha is prepared in Japan today. Wine and beer both predate tea by several thousand years but it's still pretty old as far as man-made beverages go. Isn't it neat that we're still enjoying tea in 2017 and that the culture around it is still evolving?

TLDR; it's hard to know exactly but we definitely know that people have been drinking tea a very, very long time!

Tea melange, anyone?

T Ching - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 12:46

As a chef, I approach tea as a flavor that I might incorporate into a food, whether sweet or savory. But with my restless penchant for not wishing to leave well enough alone and perceiving flavors and differentiating them from each other, I enjoy experimenting by blending small batches of fresh whole leaf teas from different tea growing regions with different terroir.

First, it’s necessary to know the dominant flavor personality of each tea before embarking on combining them. Perhaps more than a bit heretical, the blending process nonetheless reveals something new to me about the constituent teas in the blend. When brewed in just-under-the-boil water for about 3 minutes, equal amounts of Dao Ming Keemun, with its slightly smoky character, and Duflating add up to something truly special. The smoky note of the Keemun is followed by the mellowing round sweetness of the Indian tea. That comforting musty aroma of an old library (a good thing here) in the Chinese tea is brightened by a shot of the Indian tea. Do I enjoy each of these teas by themselves? Check. Do I also enjoy them when they are companions in the cup? Check.

Moving farther afield, how about something even more renegade? How about a soupcon of Darjeeling with its peachy perfume underpinned by a high altitude grown Ceylon? Even when blended, the delicacy of the first tea trumpets its identity with the island grown Ceylon lending a lingering bass note to the cup.

Which teas among the favorites in your tea cupboard would you like to blend? Let me know.

In the meantime, here’s a recipe for a spicy molasses-sweetened cookie, a perfect accompaniment to your tea blending explorations.

Many Spiced Cookies

Yield: Approximately 20 cookies

  • Scant 7.5 ozs (1-1/2 cups) All purpose flour
  • Spices in any proportion you favor, totaling 3.75 teaspoons (NOTE:  I suggest using an amount of cinnamon that is equal by volume to the total of the other four spices, as cinnamon mellows and softens the aggressiveness of the others).
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Cloves
  • Allspice
  • Scant 4.5 ozs (9 T,) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2.5 ozs (1/2 c.) dark brown sugar
  • 3.8 ozs (1/2 c.) molasses
  • 1-1.2 t. hot water
  • Granulated sugar, as needed, to coat the scoops of cookie dough before baking

Sift flour with spices and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add brown sugar and molasses and mix to blend. Add hot water and mix in. Add the sifted dries and mix only until the flour disappears.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough into 1 ounce balls, dropping the scoops into a bowl of granulated sugar. Toss to coat and then place the dough onto parchment paper lined sheet pans leaving about 3 inches space between cookies. Chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350° F. and bake the cookies on an oven rack positioned halfway up from the bottom of the oven,  for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned, but still somewhat soft (they will harden as they cool). When cool, transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and store at cool room temperature.

image

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Limoncello from The NecessiTeas. . . . .#desserttea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 11:00
I am so impressed with this tea that I immediately visited the website and ordered more. First of all, it smells DIVINE! I usually like to add sweeteners to my tea, but this tea is perfect just the way it is. Limoncello is a refreshing pick-me-up in the evening. I can also see it as a go-to on an under-the-weather day as a soothing drink for a sore throat. I also tried it as an iced tea. WOW! I will definitely be serving and drinking a lot of Limoncello iced tea this summer (possibly with some fresh mint leaves). The Read More

Gingerbread Rooibos from Market Spice. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 23:00
I was a little nervous about this one. Like I’ve said before, I don’t usually like ginger. So I definitely approached this blend with trepidation. I wasn’t sure if it would be too spicy, like ginger sometimes is. I also don’t usually like rooibos, it sometimes has too much of a woodsy taste, too earthy. My hopes for this tea was more of a gingerbread cookie with icing. My wish was granted! Once steeped, this blend smells like I am baking gingerbread cookies and mixing vanilla icing in my kitchen! I was so happy because the rooibos is basically undetectable. Read More

Bright Eyes from Art of Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 17:00
Although I’ve seen Ayurveda teas around, this was my first experience with the therapeutic style from India, meant to balance my doshas and perk me up without caffeine. It was fairly late but I needed a little energy boost to get me through the rest of my homework. I thought it would be a perfect time to try an herbal. Hello, Bright Eyed. The dry blend gave off a cheerful, earthen scent like a dusty sunrise. I measured half the recommended amount because this had much shorter brew time than I expected. I had a feeling it’d be powerful. The Read More

Apple Crisp from A Quarter To Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 05/21/2017 - 11:00
Well, this blend has me curious because I can see pieces of oats! I mean, come on, we all know the best part about apple crisp is the cinnamon, sugar, and oat topping. I really love fall and I really love fall desserts. I mean don’t get me wrong, spring is great, but right now I am wishing for fall. Especially after drinking this blend. With every sip I am dying to go apple picking and then come home and make a freshly baked apple crisp! I am dead serious when I say that steeped, this blend smells just like Read More

Hot Mama from Tea & Tins. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 23:00
Drinking this Hot Mama tea feels like dancing to a Beyoncé song while Ryan Gosling winks a “Hey Girl” at you. If I had to start every day the same way, it would be with this kind of delicious affirmation. I was interested at first sight of the heart decorations and brewed this up hot and also cold because I wasn’t sure if the candy hearts would melt or not and it turned out well both ways. (They didn’t melt, surprisingly!) I generally add a good amount of honey to my tea but this was the first time EVER I Read More

Pumpkin Pie Tea from Tupelo Honey Teas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 23:00
Disclaimer: I did not add pumpkin puree to my tea. While I found the thought of doing so very intriguing, I simply did not have the time to run out and get some. However, I did add pumpkin flavored agave. So I am crossing my fingers and crossing my toes that I enjoy this blend without the recommended-by-the-company pumpkin puree! I will say that I was a little annoyed with the fact that there was no pumpkin flavor in this tea, but that you had to add pumpkin puree. I do find it creative, but not everyone has a chance Read More

Fresh Perspectives Green Tea from Plum Deluxe. . ..

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 17:00
The name of this tea is what caught my attention. “Pour a cup of this tea and sit in the stillness. Consider fresh possibilities.” I thought that was interesting. As a stay at home mom to an 8 month old, it is a little hard to sit in the stillness…but i’m trying. The ingredients here are green tea, apricot pieces, cinnamon chips, calendula, and vanilla essence. I was really excited once I read the ingredient list because the combination of all those ingredients just sounded really yummy. The first thing I noticed once I steeped this tea was that it Read More

An Austentacious Tea with the Storytellers Guild

Barb's Tea Shop - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 13:28

With members of the StoryTellers Guild and winners of centerpieces 
A most agreeable morning was spent with the StoryTellers Guild last Thursday at our "Austentacious Tea". We presented to a most delightful group in one of the elegant "assembly rooms" of The Community House in Birmingham.


BTS An Austentacious Tea program and display
In partnership with The Community House, the StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools with a team of volunteers who visit classrooms and read to young students. They also raise money to purchase and donate books to these same schools.

The StoryTellers Guild promotes literacy in schools
An exceedingly amiable and handsome assemblage, it was an honor to be part of their esteemed company for the day.


Judy Walsh, Guild committee member raffles off prizes
I was invited to present at the Guild's May event by committee member, Judy Walsh. When she contacted me last year, I learned about this wonderful organization and all they do to encourage and support reading in schools. In turn, it was an easy choice which BTS' program to select for this group - I wanted to share my favorite teller of stories: Jane Austen.



In one of the cozy rooms of The Community House, the meeting space was transformed into a fancy tea venue, not unlike the Pump Room in Bath, where society gathered in Jane's day.

Tea Time and raffle greet guests outside the "tea room"
Guests were greeted with a "Tea Time" theme and book drawing in the lobby outside the "tea room".



Each table was set with pretty teacups and a program of the day's event. The centerpieces, which were raffled off to several lucky guests, were an assortment of tea cup planters set on glass pedestals. (something for our pinterest accounts!)


Beautiful tea cup centerpieces at each table.
In Jane's words, "if a book is well written, I always find it too short". To paraphrase, I'd add, "if company is so agreeable, time spent with them is way too short". Such is the case with the Storytellers Guild.  We'd like to thank them for letting us be part of their special May event.

Kalo Chia Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders. . . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 11:00
Kalo Chia Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders is no longer available for purchase on their site but I thought it was still worth a mention as it was pretty fantastic while it lasted. It’s rich, sweet, and woodsy. But it’s more than that. It had a unique flavor of its own and really drew me in and made me crave more. It’s bold and strong but had smoothness to it, too! It wasn’t astringent or bitter at all. There were sweet yet dry plum notes and almost caramel or date like flavor pairings throughout the sip, too! There were Read More

Velvety Vanilla Chai from Twinings. . . . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 23:00
A dear friend who lives in England sent me some teas in the mail, and they’re all teas I’ve never had. The first tea I decided to try is of course Chai. I can never resist a good Chai. With a name like velvety vanilla, how could I not try it? It is a Chai made with black tea, but I threw my caffeine caution to the wind and brewed a cup. This morning was grey and cool so I needed the extra lift anyway. Awhile back I tried a vanilla Chai and the vanilla flavor tasted very chemical-y. It Read More

Saucery

The Devotea - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 22:03

This week marks the passing of the wonderful actor Geoffrey Baylden, who played the eponymous Catweazle in that brilliant TV show from my childhood, but this post is not about that form of sorcery. Rather, it is about drinking out of saucers.   I was sharing a  cup of tea with a friend the other […]

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