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The search for the fountain of youth, the magic herbs, the tinctures, tonics, and elixirs with supernatural and unexplained cures has been going on relentlessly for millennia.
It seems many people want to live forever. Many desire immortality, and most people truly want to be healthy. The search goes far and wide and great sums of money are paid for longevity. Most people will try almost anything at least once.
Those of us in the tea industry feel we have solved a bit of that mystery with tea, and with our love and dedication to tea, we “pooh-pooh” many of the herbs that make the news or cause a sensation as merely unsubstantiated hype.
“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.”
~ Lu T’ung ~
Quite a few of our tea friends and colleagues have adjusted their thinking and business practices to include several of the popular herbs and now sell them in their tea shops. Customers ask for these herbs, berries, flowers, and seeds by name. Thus, many shop owners have learned to adjust to the trends, while various others will choose to remain loyal to their tea-and-tea-only beliefs. Such is free will, and such is consumerism.
Hibiscus is definitely one of the “herbs” causing a great sensation for sure!
A few years back there were several booths at the World Tea Expo featuring Hibiscus – scores of us walked right by. I say this because I was one of them.
I’d steeped and served many tea blends over the years that contained Hibiscus but I’d never researched the flower, nor paid attention to the health benefits of it because I considered it an herb, not a tea. Yes, I was a pooh-pooher!
Here is a portion of the Wikipedia definition of Hibiscus:
“Hibiscus tea is a herbal tea made as an infusion from crimson or deep magenta-coloured calyces (sepals) of the roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) flower. It is consumed both hot and cold.
It has a tart, cranberry-like flavour, and sugar is often added to sweeten it. The tea contains vitamin C and minerals, and is used traditionally as a mild medicine.
Hibiscus tea contains 15-30% organic acids, including, citric acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid. It also contains acidic polysaccharides, and flavonoid glycosides, such as, cyanidin and delphinidin, that give it its characteristic deep-red colour.
The drink is sometimes called Roselle (a name for the flower) or Rosella (Australia); Sorrel, in Jamaica, Belize, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago; Red Sorrel in the wider Caribbean; and Agua or Rosa de Jamaica, or simply Jamaica in the United States, Mexico, and Central America. It is also known as Zobo in African countries like Nigeria.”
Are all Hibiscus products the same? Just as tea varies in quality, so does Hibiscus.
For a better explanation of Hibiscus from someone with years of experience with the plant, I’d like to introduce you to Ralph Kenney.
After receiving an entire pound of organic and truly a superior product from Ralph, owner of IMMORTALITEA, I am thrilled to share my experience.
For over two years, I’d succumbed to the hype of Hibiscus. I purchased it in bulk from a local upscale grocery store, and I’d been preparing and enjoying it in various ways, but avoiding the last two sips in my cup.
I learned the hard way that the last two sips contained grit. I can only describe it as such – I’m not entirely sure what it was but it felt like dirt or sand – whatever it was – it was NOT pleasant. The cup was brilliant and tasty until you got to the last two sips. It certainly leads one to wonder about the growing, cutting, and drying processes of whomever, from wherever this product was obtained. I continued to buy it because it was labeled as organic. Silly me!
Here is a video from Ralph Kenney of IMMORTALITEA which perhaps explains why other products are, or could be, inferior.
Is it truly a prolonged life sought,
or is it a longing for life that keeps one searching?
Stay tuned for part two of my IMMORTALITEA Hibiscus tasting experience, along with all the health benefits of this amazing flower!
I’ve not written about non-standard tea sourcing before. A blog post citation from Cwyn’s Death by Tea identifies the background:
“More and more tea heads on vacation trips are dragging home kilos of tea they tested and bought for friends back home […] The forums are full of people now offering to do group buys from numerous sources, employing their own sets of connections […]”
So, a new wrench for vendors to contend with is non-professionals selling to peers, directing their tea budgets away from current vendors. Furthermore, the line between professional and re-sale is blurry. If honesty and truth are really what buyers want, the non-pros might have an advantage. And who knows when the day will come when tea farmers decide to get into the action themselves, and sell online to the highest bidder.”
A friend of mine was a part of blurring that line, buying kilos of hard to get Nepalese tea both to drink and sell. Now there are now more tea suppliers from that origin. My favorite tea farmer, Cindy Chen, in Wuyishan, is part of the last trend mentioned, opening a sales website very recently, selling directly from the grower and processor, her family.
Group buys are another interesting part of the story. Andrew Richardson is part of that, owner of Liquid Proust teas , who is quite active on Steepster. One of his endeavors has been to create and sell very novel blends, like French Toast Dian Hong, or Rummy Pu [alcohol infused pu’er], which is really a separate story. He also conducts a non-commercial group buy for sheng pu’er, the Sheng Olympiad (see more on both in this blog site).
More about that project follows in this interview with Andrew.
Can you say a little about the Sheng Olympiad?
The Sheng Olympiad is a yearly event that I put together for the online community to have an enriched experience and access to rare/exclusive raw puerh. I do this as someone who is passionate about community and I see a huge potential for people to come together over something as complex as puerh. The Sheng Olympiad isn’t just about shared bulk purchase of good teas. For example: During February 2016, I was talking to White2Tea and Crimson Lotus Tea to produce the exclusive material to be ready for that December. At the same time, I was working with Bitterleaf Teas to help provide some awareness as they were quite new to being an online puerh vendor. Lastly, to provide that rare aspect, I secured the last of Tea Urchin’s 2012 spring Bang Dong cakes so it could be enjoyed by many before disappearing. There will always be a theme focus because The Sheng Olympiad is to be as educational as enjoyable, and while it may be curated by me the discussions that revolve around the tea are the end goal.
Sheng is known as one of the least approachable teas due to adjusting expectations and preferences to the style, finding good versions, and also being touchier about brewing. At the same time it is commonly experienced as an endpoint tea type preference. How does this work out related to participants experiencing a learning curve?
Actually, it’s quite beautiful how this handled. Since this project has a lot of support from those participating, I end up answering almost no questions because people are connecting with one another as they share tips, give suggestions, and ask questions of one another. With that being said, I myself am constantly learning as I read the conversations happen and that brings joy.
Sheng pu’er is actually a diverse version of tea related to styles, regions, aspects, and types, isn’t it? How do you address that in the buy?
Each year I have an educational goal in mind. For 2016, I decided I wanted a solid production of a specific region spanning over years for participates to taste the differences. What ended up being used was a 2005, 2009, and 2015 spring material from YouLe; the 2005 and 2010 are both from Hai Lang Hao and 2015 was the first time in 10 years that they pressed a YouLe cake. For 2017 I chose the Bang Dong and in 2018 it will be Jingmai. Eventually I would like to do some ‘storage wars’, but for now focusing on harvest time and region seems to be working wonderfully.
Is there a core message you would like to pass on to a non-tea drinker?
There’s no better time than now. First thing I always tell someone is to join the community. There’s no requirements for how long someone has been drinking tea or how much tea knowledge they have. Tea is like any other passion or hobby; it’s a journey.
In a recent Steepster forum post Andrew explained why he will stop selling teas (the Liquid Proust blends brand) but would continue ventures like this one:
“I recently got a promotion at work […] This alone will eat up my time […] so I decided that when I do tea it’ll be pure community, pleasure, or education, and never business. I will continue to host the Sheng Olympiad […] Group buys will continue with the main purpose to provide education or experiences […]”
So due to becoming busier in the future he will only be a tea evangelist, instead of a vendor; cool enough.
The post Tea group buying & the Sheng Olympiad: an interview with Andrew Richardson of Liquid Proust Teas appeared first on T Ching.
My association with drinking tea goes back several years. I have a collection of some favorite memories of tea that I find myself going back to often, and it helps to instantly refresh my mind. Surprisingly, each of these recollections now seems to convey a unique emotion depending on the people or the place surrounding them.
For instance, during my days as a student in a business school, drinking tea at a street side tea shop with a group of friends added a permanent charm to the camaraderie and fun of those carefree times. The image I have in mind of gorging on tea and banana fritters as a teenager while chatting with my cousins and immersing ourselves in the beauty of the rains is a picture that still retains the timeless quality of innocence.
The tea that is served in glazed clay cups is an unforgettable part of the train journeys that I used take during my years growing up in India. The custom of making guests feel at home with refreshing milk tea and nibbles always set the conversation flowing freely whilst lending warmth to the home as friends and neighbors drop by for a friendly chat.
Dwelling on our visit to the tea gardens of Darjeeling and the memory of the green carpet formed by the tea plantations always has an instantly soothing effect on the mind.
It is not just the taste and ritual of making tea. Even such sweet recollections of the brew help to refresh and rejuvenate the mind. What are some of your favorite memories associated with tea?
This article was originally posted to T Ching in December of 2015.
Whether you ask for matcha tea, matcha green tea, or matcha powder, you are essentially asking for the same thing; matcha tea is powdered tea most often made from Japanese green tea, but can be made from Chinese tea, or any other tea for that matter.
Being that matcha is typically green tea, and green tea is caffeinated, there is some caffeine in matcha teas. The amount of caffeine will have some slight variances depending on the tea used, but it will be there.
The Caffeine Chemical
Green tea caffeine levels are relatively low, especially when compared to black tea, coffee, or energy drinks. Your average steeped green tea will have around 25-45 milligrams of caffeine in it per serving. This makes green tea a bit lower in caffeine than black tea, which averages around 70 milligrams per serving, and substantially lower than the caffeine levels in coffee, which are around 95 milligrams at the low end but is often closer to 200 milligrams a cup.
Matcha tea does have more caffeine than regular green tea, but still less than both black tea and coffee. Matcha powder, due to the fact that the powdered leaves are dissolved into the water, does not have anything “stay behind” in the leaf after brewing, leaving your average 8 oz cup of matcha tea with 45-60 milligrams of caffeine.
However, just because there is more caffeine in a cup of matcha than in a cup of your normal green tea does not make this an unhealthy option. The caffeine that is in tea is much more astringent than that found in coffee, and since the body processes all pure teas like water, you get the pure hydration effects along with the slower release of caffeine through the body. This avoids the common jolt and crash that you might experience with the caffeine associated with coffee while offering a calm alertness that will stay with you, keeping you at an even energy level for a longer period of time.
Matcha tea, much like standard Japanese green tea, comes in a variety of different flavors and qualities. These range from plain to strongly flavored, or from a low quality up to a ceremonial grade quality. The selections that are offered here at the Whistling Kettle offer matcha powders that will appeal to any taste. Here are a few you may haven’t heard of before.
Jasmine is a popular addition to a number of different tea types. When the jasmine is added to matcha teas, the result is a tea that has the flavor of Jasmine coupled with the grassier taste and typical caffeine content that is associated with Japanese green tea.
Matcha Chai is a unique blend of Indian Spices and matcha green tea. The taste of this tea is a strong sample of a mix of cultures, with a strong matcha made as a base with the chai spice added in. This is a potent tea that we actually do recommend for blending with milk or cream and sugar to taste. The caffeine content of this tea is average for matcha tea.
Matcha White Rhino
Mention was made earlier that “most” matcha teas are Japanese green tea. Well, our Matcha White Rhino is derived from Kenyan White Teas. The result is a light matcha that is lower in caffeine than most matcha teas while having a higher level of anti-oxidants.
Matcha Pearl Drop
Grown on the Pearl River, this is a matcha that is actually derived from the Jianxi Province in China. The fact that this tea is grown and processed in China offers a different flavor quality since it originates from higher altitudes and isn’t shaded like it’s Japanese counterpart. The flavor is pure, lightly astringent, and at a relatively low cost for matcha tea, this has the flavor of a true luxury tea couple with slightly higher than average matcha caffeine content.
Matcha green tea (or matcha white tea) is not excessive in caffeine content, and since it is not acidic, but astringent in nature you avoid the potential crash that is associated with coffee. In addition to the healthier taste and feeling from the healthier caffeine levels, you can actually improve your health through the presence of polyphenols, anti-oxidants, and flavonoids. In fact, in matcha teas since the lead is being consumed, you get the highest count of these phyto-chemicals out of any tea, making matcha tea an excellent beverage choice for everyone.
The post Blast from the past: what to know about matcha and caffeine levels appeared first on T Ching.
If you are like me, you have had this experience. You have just brewed a favorite tea and then taken one sip. Inopportunely but invariably, the phone rings or someone’s at the door and you are derailed from that relaxing cup, distracted for just long enough that the perfectly brewed tea has cooled in the cup. Are you disappointed or angered about a potential waste of perfection? For me, quite the contrary. Often, I’m pleasantly surprised by just how different and satisfying the tea tastes when it has cooled to room temperature. All of its flavor notes are intact, the blooming in the cup to be appreciated. It’s as if the tea is saying, “I’m good from the first hot sip to the last cooled-down one. I cannot be devalued.”
And then I think about the hard work of so many people who toil in the tea business all along the supply chain–from planter to plucker, from factory processor to packager, and finally from exporter to vendor–before it reaches my cup. I feel guilty wasting a leaf or a drop of the liquor in my cup. So in fact, at this citrus-abundant time of year, I often brew more tea than I intend to drink and pour the surplus over a colorful medley of supremed citrus for a simple seasonal dessert (“supreme” refers to perfectly intact segments of fruits obtained by peeling them down to the flesh removing all of the bitter pith and then separating the flesh from the membrane that connects them). Here’s how it’s done.Tea-drenched citrus with a drizzle of honey
To serve 4
4 c. of a combination of the best citrus fruits you can find: navel oranges, pink or white grapefruit, Oroblanco low-acid grapefruit, cocktail grapefruit (mandelo), blood oranges, tangerines, and clementines, among others
4 c. just brewed and cooled-down tea of your choice
¼ to ½ cup of orange blossom honey (or other local variety of your choice)
Pinch of sea salt to garnish each serving
Using a small sharp serrated knife, cut a thin slice from the stem or blossom end of each fruit to steady the fruit on your cutting surface. Now carefully remove and discard the peel and pith from each citrus fruit, following the contour of the fruit. You can go back with the same knife to remove any errant remaining pith that you find. To make the process easier, cut each peeled fruit in half, inserting the knife on either side of the segments, taking care not to cut through any of the segments. Now you should have two roughly demispherical pieces of the fruit. Place the halves flat side down on a cutting surface. Again insert the knife between the membranes to extract each of the segments, moving around the fruit until all segments have been removed. (The goal is to remove each segment keeping it intact as possible; some fruits will be softer and therefore more challenging to process in this way.) Divide any juice that has collected on the cutting surface among the four individual serving bowls. Place an assortment of citrus supremes into each of the bowls. Pour the brewed tea over them and drizzle the honey over all. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with a thin ginger molasses cookie.
The Chinese have many words for people who, like myself, have Chinese ancestry but are not from China. They range from the common and innocuous hua ren 华人 or “culture person”, to my personal favorite, the colorful 混血儿 hun xue er meaning “mixed blood son”. Somewhere in between is a fascinating epithet hua qiao 华侨 or “culture bridge”. I like this word, not so much to identify myself with as a Chinese-American person, but as a way to describe a powerful and emergent role that tea culture is playing around the world.
As China comes into its own as a player on the global stage, mutual goodwill and understanding are absolutely essential to harmonious coexistence. The spread of Chinese tea culture means an increase in the number of people who are familiar with and appreciate an aspect of Chinese culture. This goes a long way towards humanizing a people who have historically been thought of as “inscrutable” by those around them. Meanwhile, when a Chinese person encounters a “foreigner” (that’s what non-Chinese are called, even when you’re not in China) who knows how to pour tea, they are generally thrilled, if somewhat baffled. Participating in someone else’s culture is the best way to relate to them – speaking their language, eating their local food, drinking their local beverages. Not everyone is down to learn Mandarin or eat chicken feet, but the simple act of sharing tea with a Chinese person tells them that you think that their culture is valid and worthwhile, and that, far from being an uncultured barbarian, you are capable of enjoying refined and subtle things. In an age of epidemic xenophobia, tea is a powerful medicine.
This effect is of course not just limited to Chinese and non-Chinese. The practice of gong fu cha and enjoyment of Chinese tea is worldwide and growing, but still obscure enough to form an instant bond between people who have it as a mutual interest. Not only does it provide a point of connection and discussion, but the very act of appreciating tea involves drinking it with people, providing an opportunity to share time, conversation, and to show off one’s tea and teaware collection to someone who can appreciate it. The power of sharing tea to form a bond, even beyond language and social barriers, cannot be underestimated – it’s like sharing a drink, having a picnic, and doing something really nerdy like having a Pokemon duel, all at once. And it works just as well even if one serves tea to someone who is completely uninitiated. I first experienced the power of tea while living in Japan more than a decade ago, when my housemate was hosting a couch surfer, an American surfer-type dude. He was passing through the kitchen as I was getting my tea set out to serve myself tea. I offered him some and he declined almost automatically as he looked through the cupboards. Upon turning around, he saw my Yixing clay tea set and immediately said “Oh! Well I’ll have THAT kind of tea”. He had never seen anything like it and we sat and drank tea for nearly 3 hours. When we were done I thanked him for having tea with me and reached out to shake his hand. He took my hand with both of his and looked me square in the eyes and said – this is a direct quote – “No man, thank you, it was like a gift”. To sit down and take the time to prepare tea for someone, to serve it to them, is so much more like giving a gift than just handing someone a can or a bottle, especially if you are giving them a totally new experience.
At the end of the day, the tea itself is just a catalyst – something to do, something to share, something to drink, something to talk about, more often than not for hours on end. It’s what happens during those hours, between those sips of tea, that really creates the bond. It’s so rare in the modern world to sit down face to face with someone and just have a conversation – without watching anything, without getting intoxicated, without staring at a phone. When we share tea we build a bridge, spanning culture, class, gender, race, and religion, and we find that what we have in common with each other is greater than our differences.
A short time ago, I received my final K-1 on a business a female partner and I incorporated in 2004. The business plan was tight, the recipes I’d worked on for years were like nothing out there using tea back then..lattes, blended drinks, favorite vendors secured… the whole 9 yards. The company eventually opened a total of three stores under the name The Tea & Coffee Exchange; the concept store in Lake Arrowhead, and two others in Manhattan Beach and Big Bear.
I won’t go into all the details, suffice it to say that it didn’t turn out to be the dream we had on paper that followed for me. It was ten years of pain, emotionally and financially.
With the company recently sold, I can look back and either dwell on the pain, or I can look at all the practical lessons learned about business and life in general and move forward, which is what I chose to do from Day One when things ‘turned’ in the co-ownership relationship, when a third party entered the mix, and I gave up 30% of my 50% co-ownership to prevent prolonged wrangling.
What my husband and I did, my having refused to sign a non-compete, was decide to immediately move on and open another retail business in tea, which kept us ‘in the flow’ and honed our skills in all areas of the tea niche. We also began to think about what we saw as ‘missing’ in the industry, which was a way to brew loose tea quickly but even better than the thousands-year-old method still being used in most tea and coffee stores, hotels and restaurants, and wherever tea is offered, including fast food places like McDonald’s, which are now offering full-fledged specialty beverages due to high demand for this wonderful Camellia Sinensis plant and its many benefits.
During the ensuing years, we saw a number of quick-brew inventions hit the commercial market, but none like what we were working on. We are planning to introduce our commercial one min. by the cup/multi-cup brewer for licensing to an equipment manufacturer or others who see the potential of an industry-disruptive technology which has been thoroughly taste and utility tested. It is difficult to hold back until you are absolutely sure of what you are bringing to market, and not to worry about ‘missing the timing’, but it is also essential to do so. I’m not a patient person by nature and this has been a long journey.
Why am I writing this article? I believe it is cathartic, with the selling of the company bringing an end of some sort to this chapter of my business life. I’m not sure during all those years that people in the industry even knew I was a co-founder or involved in any way because my name was never mentioned when interviews were given to industry trade magazines, that I saw, and I had given up any part in decision-making or managing the business. In fact, I read about things in those publications that I had done, with someone else taking the credit for my hard work.
But the main focus and purpose of this article is to encourage others who have dealt with or are dealing with what seems to be a devastating business/life experience that the best thing to do is ‘keep moving’ if you can, emotionally and physically, stay active in your niche, think positively and proactively and long-term, keep a right attitude, and let hard and painful situations make you better, not bitter!
Check out Diane’s new tea shop, California Tea and Herbal, here.
“…Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.” – Rumi Fluffy snowflakes dance and float, piling softly one on top of other. In the same moment, the silvery hairs of white tea float and dance, delicate as snowflakes in my cup. Snow is white, yet white tea is not white. The whiteness of snow is a result of light scattered and bounced off ice crystals in the snow, and this reflected light includes all the colors, which, together, look white. White tea, however, is not white; when infused it becomes a beautiful, pale yellow. Its name comes from the young tea buds that have fine white hairs. White tea leaves are plucked and delicately processed and oxidized in a shorter time than the leaves for green or black tea. As you drink white tea, you will see fine white hairs drifting like snowflakes in your cup. This silky, aromatic beverage is perfect for any day including a snow day! Fill your cup with this winter blessing Nan Mei Wild Tree Buds White Tea from Camellia Sinensis Tea House. Camellia Sinensis brewing recommendations: use two teaspoons of white tea leaves, with 80 degrees celsius water, steep for 5 to 7 minutes. I hope you enjoy the last days of winter with the magic of this white tea. Interested in individually designed tea reviews? Weaving compelling visual stories for social media is a passion of mine. I love creating immersive illustrated reviews that awaken people to tea and culture. If you desire an illustrated review to engage your followers, please contact me.
This article was originally posted to T Ching in March of 2015.
Whole leaf enthusiasts know the exquisite difference between a cup of carefully steeped whole leaf – part ritual, part alchemy, part spirituality – and half careful attention to detail. We also know how convenient tea bags are. In desperate circumstances, we will buy a cup of hot water and whatever bagged tea is available and . . . be grateful for it.
Tea bags. We love them and we loathe them. Not all tea bags are equal. At the top of the quality pyramid is Steven Smith, Teamaker. Not too far behind is Mighty Leaf. In descending order, you will find Tazo, Stash, and Good Earth. At the bottom of this caste system dwell the likes of Red Rose, Tetley’s Tiny Tips, and Lipton. These last three share the distinction of being grown in an area where tea isn’t plucked: it is mowed and baled like hay. The dust on the floor is swept up, measured into tea bags, and sold to Americans.
I have found myself in the dusty midwest, waiting at an airport in the middle of the prairie, stressed out by travel (travail), and anxious. Knowing that I need hydration, I peruse the offerings at a canteen beyond the security checkpoint. Sugary soda? Not. Coffee would add to my anxiety. The tea offerings include sugar-laden iced tea or a teabag from the dungeon of fannings mentioned above. If you had photographed my face as I plucked the tea bag from the water and closed my eyes for the first sip, you would have seen bliss.
If tea were a drug, teabags would be the gateway. Rather than disparage those who enjoy the convenience of teabags, let’s embrace them. It is easy to indulge our inner snob. The way of tea, however, has no place for the egoism expressed by many recent converts to whole leaf. Like those newly converted to evangelism, fervent certainty can be quite exclusive in its fundamentalism. Stop it already.
Let the leaf do the talking. Make a cup of the real deal and share with the gratefulness that is the spirit of tea. To paraphrase my dear mum, “you will catch more tea drinkers with a real cuppa than you will with your nose turned up.”
Image courtesy of the contributor.
A former contributor sent me an email today with a link to a most disturbing event. It appears that a tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown sold some herbal tea that sent two people to the hospital.
According to officials at the Department of Health “The tea leaves bought at Sun Wing Wo Trading Company contained the plant-based toxin Aconite.” It appears that this is not an unusual blend in Asia, however correct processing is key to avoid adverse health consequences. Both people affected were treated for critical cardiac responses which could have been fatal.
As I have said many times before, herbs are medicine and need to be respected and treated as such. You need to know where your herbs are coming from and what is the correct dose for consumption. Herbs can heal on a profound level but they can also do great harm when used improperly. Once we understand the powerful medicine they contain, we can use them responsibly and effectively.
Whenever we are buying natural products, which of course include our favorite tea leaves, we need to know where they come from and who is responsible for bringing healthy leaves into our country and homes. Talk with your favorite tea vendors and ask questions that will inform you about the origins and processing of your favorite teas. Please consider going organic, as it’s so unnecessary to be consuming pesticides along with the healthiest beverage on the planet.