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July 18, 2016

Organic: What is the label telling you?

Filed under: Black Tea,Green Tea,Newsletter,Oolong Tea,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 10:10 am

Much is written and said about the benefits of choosing organic! At the same time, the labeling of commercial products seems to get more and more confusing and it becomes difficult to sort through the various marketing promises and and make healthy choices. That is why I wanted to take the opportunity to take a closer look at what exactly “certified organic” means and to shed some light into the often confusing organic labeling practices

The organic label indicates that an agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods consist of cultural, biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. This means that synthetic fertilizer, sewage sludge, irradiation and genetic engineering may not be used!

The growing of organic tea is relatively new, dating back about ten years. The rules under which organic tea is produced are fairly complicated and tightly controlled. The tea crop must be grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. It relies only on natural organic matter such as compost, plants and trees to provide the necessary nutrients and ground cover.

There are two categories of organic tea production. In the first category, you will find teas that have been certified organic by one of several international agencies. The second category includes teas that are grown according to traditional methods, following the principals of organic growth, but are not validated by a certified agent. These are often teas from smaller tea gardens whose owners simply cannot afford the certification fees, but take pride in the superior quality of their teas.

When a tea is labeled “certified organic”, it has met the conditions by at least one of the regulatory agencies. That does not, however, mean that all non-organic teas contain chemicals and are unhealthy. Some teas have been grown organically for centuries, in spite of codes or set rules.

Tusda organicea consumption worldwide is growing and the demand for high quality, certified organic teas is increasing, yet the production is driven mainly by cost.

For the consumer it is not always easy to decipher which teas are organically grown. Here in the U.S., the certifying agency is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and certified organic products are clearly labeled.

On the other hand, a tea can be grown organically and certified by the appropriate agencies in Japan, England or Germany, yet the consumer here will not be aware of this due to the lack of labeling.

The better known certifying agencies whose logos might appear on products sold in the U.S. are Germany’s Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, Switzerland’s Institute for Marketecology and Japan’s Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS).

With the increasing demand, a wide range of organic teas is now available, but even without organic production methods, tea is actually a very clean product whose cultivation and production is tightly controlled

Some tea growers work in harmony with nature and produce what is called “bio-dynamic” tea. This means that the seasons, the weather, the waxing and waning of the moon and the interaction and interdependency of different species of insects, birds and animals are all taken into consideration when planting. This approach of tea farming links with ancient agricultural practices.

Demeter International is one of the bodies that runs a biodynamic certification program and invests in raising awareness of ecological patterns and sustainable farming activities.

So while the USDA ORGANIC label reflects the quality of the agricultural product you are buying, it is by no means the only seal for organically grown products. If you have questions about the origin and production of the tea and agricultural products you are buying, ask your grocer or tea purveyor for information on its origin and production.

Cheers!

Olivia Wingert is the Owner of Souvia® Tea and holds the Specialty Tea Institute’s Level III  Certified Tea Education Accreditation

January 22, 2016

National Hot Tea Month Part 2

Filed under: Black Tea,Newsletter,Phoenix,Tea and Health,Tea Culture,Tea Enjoyment — wbwingert @ 10:50 am

woman drinking teaTea deserves to be celebrated; after all it is the second most consumed beverage in the world next to water. Over the past decade tea has experienced a renaissance here in the U.S. largely due to the multitude of its health benefits. Research supports what the ancients in China have known all along – that drinking tea regularly may promote overall health and well being and potentially reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Tea may be medicine in a cup, but is also a wonderful drink, complex in taste and aroma and with a selection of over 3000 different varieties, there is much to be explored.

 

Whether you drink tea for health, to sooth you mind, or simply for pleasure, celebrate Hot Tea Month with these ideas:

  1. Try a winter flavor –

Ginger, Cinnamon and Cardamom are delicious and warming, or add orange and lemon peel to a black or green tea for a zesty note.

   2. Use good quality tea- Ask a Souvia Tea Consultant and find out why loose leave tea trumps tea bags! Learn    how to make the  “perfect cup of tea”  – water quality, temperature and steeping time are important factors      in preparing tea the right way.

  1. Expand your horizon

Always stuck with your good old favorite blend? This month, try something new- a silver needle white tea or a Darjeeling oolong. If you usually drink flavored teas, try something non-flavored and if you prefer iced tea, give hot a chance.

4. Create your own blends – be creative and try blend your favorite flavors for a new taste experience

  1. Cook with tea

Tea is not just for drinking. There are many ways you can incorporate tea in cooking or baking. Add a nice jasmine flavor to rice by boiling it in jasmine tea instead of water.

  1. Hold a tea tasting

Invite some friends and have them bring their favorite tea, then sample each other’s selections and maybe you’ll find a new favorite!

  1. .Nurture yourself

Take some time for yourself with a nice cup of herbal tea. Rejuvenate with peppermint or relax with a blend of chamomile and lavender

  1.  Read a tea book

With a cup of tea by your side, lose yourself in a good book

  1. Tea with a twist

Need something a little stronger, take your afternoon tea in a “Mar-tea-ni”.

  1. Take a tea class

Sign up for a class at Souvia and explore the world of tea during a fun and hands-on “infotainment” session.

No matter when and how you drink your tea, celebrate National Hot Tea Month with us at Souvia and be sure to make tea a constant companion during 2016!

December 14, 2015

How is tea decaffeinated?

Filed under: Black Tea,Tea and Health,Tea preparation — wbwingert @ 10:10 am

 

This question comes up in just about every one of our tea tastings and even more often at the store. So I thought it was time to address it here in the blog.

Fact is that all decaffeination processes use a solvent to dissolve the caffeine and then remove the solvent from the tea. All methods leave some small amount of caffeine behind

Two different methods are commonly used decaffeinate tea:

  • Chemical (Methylene chloride or Ethyl acetate )
  •   Super Critical Carbon Dioxide (CO2 method)

Many commonly available teas are decaffeinated with chemical methods. These methods involve extracting the caffeine directly or indirectly with methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. In both cases, the tea leaves are moistened to allow the caffeine to be removed and then the non-caffeinated water is added back to the leaves. Methylene chloride is reported to be the most effective but in very high doses studies have shown it to be a carcinogen.

Ethyl acetate is another compound used to extract caffeine from tea. Ethyl acetate occurs naturally in tea leaves, coffee, bananas, and other types of produce. For the purposes of the decaffeination process the Ethyl acetate is synthetically produced. While ethyl acetate effectively removes caffeine from tea leaves, it can also extract other chemical components as well. Studies on green tea decaffeinated with ethyl acetate have shown the potential for up to 30% of epigallocathechin gallate (EGCG-considered to be the primary beneficial component in green tea) and other beneficial antioxidant compounds to be extracted along with the caffeine.

Highlights of the Chemical Methods

  •   methylene chloride is very effective at removing caffeine
  •   At very high does it is a carcinogen (no carcinogenic effect at low doses)
  •   Tea leaves are moistened to remove the caffeine
  •   According to studies, Ethyl Acetate removes up to 30% of the antioxidants in green tea

CO2 Method

Uses highly pressurized carbon dioxide (CO2) the gas that adds bubbles to mineral water to dissolve caffeine from tea leaves. At high pressures CO2 makes an effective solvent. In its pressurized state, CO2 is pumped into a sealed chamber containing tea, where it is allowed to circulate to remove the caffeine. From there, it is pumped into a washer vessel where water or activated charcoal is used to separate the caffeine from the CO2. The purified CO2 is recirculated into the pressurized chamber. This process is repeated until the appropriate amount of caffeine has been removed.

Highlights of the CO2 method

  • does not leave a chemical residue
  •   has a minimal effect on the flavor and beneficial compounds in tea. (For example, CO2 leaves
  •   intact approximately 95% of the original EGCG content of green tea)
  •  Generally costs more than the Chemical methods

Our Souvia Label decaffeinated teas use the CO2 method. We believe this to be the best method for you and for the tea. If you have to or would like to abstain from caffeine, we also offer a large selection of herbal teas, all of which are naturally caffeine-free.

December 11, 2015

Tea: Stimulating yet Calming

Filed under: Black Tea,Green Tea,Tea and Health,White Tea — Administrator @ 10:10 am

P1014272When people first come to tea, they often arrive from the world of coffee. Many are either trying to avoid caffeine altogether or seek an alternative source for there morning cup. This leads to inevitable questions about tea and caffeine. While I tend to drink tea for taste, the caffeine can be a benefit on early mornings! As this is a topic of interest to many, I always educate myself through reading (remember – Google does not equal research!), obtaining further education through Specialty Tea Institute webinars, the World Tea Expo, and consultations with herbalists and naturopaths.

There is a lot of information on the web, some of it better than others.? A couple of points to keep in mind as you search for answers about tea and caffeine.

All tea contains caffeine

  • How the tea is brewed and the leaves you start with dramatically affect the caffeine in your cup
  • Tea is one of the very few foods that contain L-theanine – an amino acid that can counteract some of the caffeine effects
  • Caffeine in tea tends to be absorbed more slowly than caffeine in coffee

In general, Black Teas have more caffeine in the cup followed by Oolong, Green, then white teas.  This assumes that the teas are brewed properly. For example, leaving white tea leaves in boiling water for 10 minutes will not only make a bitter brew it will also extract a lot of caffeine from the leaves.

L-theanine kicks in 10-20 minutes after consumption.? The net results is a reduction in some of the less pelasnt physiolocial effects of caffeine without a loss of a popular benefit – mental alertness. This is why tea is said to be stimulating yet calming.

So, whether you drink tea for taste, a boosts or both arm yourself with information so that you can make informed choices about tea and caffeine.

Cheers!

September 18, 2015

What’s this caffeine doing in my cup?

Filed under: Black Tea,Green Tea,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 10:02 am
caffeine, coffee, tea, organic tea

Caffien in my cup?

 

It is certainly an interesting topic and one that comes up frequently at the tea shop. Many customers seek to limit their caffeine intake or even completely avoid it altogether. Most consider it unhealthy but it seems there is no real consensus among experts on the answer to the question whether caffeine is friend or foe!

Fact is that caffeine is a bitter substance, naturally occurring in some plants as their protective measure against insects and microbes – a natural pesticide! In the human body, caffeine increases metabolism and stimulates the nervous system, which leaves us more alert, feeling less tired and a little more cheerful – nothing to complain about if you ask me! Negative effects such as heart palpitations, headaches and sleeplessness are typically the result of too much caffeine or sensitivity to it. For most people, though, the moderate consumption of caffeine is not harmful.

Truth is also, that the level of caffeine in your favorite drinks varies greatly and that not all caffeine is created equal. Let’s take a closer look at the makeup and effects of caffeine in your cup of tea:

How much is in my cup?

This is one of the most asked questions we get. The answer is:  A variety of factors determine the caffeine content in the dry tea leaf and in the steeped leaf.

  • Since caffeine is a pesticide, the younger shoots and leaves have more caffeine than the more mature tea leaves. The type of tea plant, soil texture, climate, and elevation all play a role in how much caffeine the tea leaf produces.
  • Processing methods also matter when it comes to the caffeine content in your cup. Green and black teas undergo different processing and the oxidation step of black tea production changes the cellular structure of the leaf in such a way that caffeine is more readily available to dissolve in water.
  • Steeping time and water temperature have a great impact on the caffeine level in your cup as well. Caffeine is water-soluble and the longer it is exposed to water, the more caffeine molecules are released – in short, the longer you steep your tea, the more caffeine will end up with. This explains in part, why your green or white tea tends to have less caffeine than your black tea. The recommended steeping time for most green and white teas is 2-3 minutes, whereas black tea is typically steeped between 3-5 minutes.

How does tea compare with other sources of caffeine?

Due to the many factors contributing to the caffeine content, it is difficult to provide exact measurements. On average, however, an 8 oz cup of black tea has 85 mg caffeine and an 8 oz cup of green tea has 40-60mg of caffeine. In comparison, an 8 oz cup of drip coffee contains 135 mg, a 12oz can of Coke 34mg.

Why does tea give me a lift and not a jolt?

  • The caffeine in tea is called theine (tay-eene) and metabolizes differently in the body than the caffeine in coffee. Researchers found, for example, that the high content of antioxidants found in tea slows the absorption of caffeine, resulting in a gentler effect that seems to last longer and does not end with the abrupt let-down often experienced with coffee.
  • Besides caffeine, tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine (L-tay ah neen). L-theanine is relaxing and counteracts the stimulating effects of caffeine by increasing those neurotransmitters in the brain whose overall effect is to quiet brain activity. Instead of getting the jitters, tea drinkers experience a sense of calm with improved brain function. Recent studies also show that L-theanine may help protect the liver, alleviate high blood pressure and improve immune system function.

Are decaffeinated teas better for me?

During the decaffeination process, the tea leaves are first moistened before the caffeine is extracted using a solvent. Ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, or highly pressurized carbon dioxide strips the caffeine from the leaves. To remove any solvent residues, the leaves are steamed and finally dried again. The decaffeination process greatly reduces the amount of caffeine, but won’t remove it completely. On average, a cup of decaffeinated tea still has 5mg caffeine.

Teas decaffeinated with the gentler CO2 method retain most of the health properties, but even here, some of the antioxidant properties may be lost.

In summary, caffeine consumed in moderation, is well tolerated by most people and may even provide benefits to health and well being.

For those, who must or want to avoid caffeine completely, we recommend herbal infusions, such as rooibos, chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm since herbals do not contain any caffeine at all.

Ref. Dr. Paul Holmgren, PhD, www.Drpaulsupdates.org

 

May 8, 2015

Scones with Rose Petals

Filed under: Black Tea,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:10 am

 

This Mother’s Day, forget the pancakes or waffles and instead surprise her with breakfast in bed and these delicious scones. To round up the taste experience, serve a cup of our Rose Marzipan tea!

Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

2 tsp sugar, 1/4tsp salt

2tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda

2-3 pinches cinnamon

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 cup cream

1 tsp. rose water and a good handful of rose petals (dried or fresh)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and blend thoroughly. Cut in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Stir cream with rose water. Rinse rose petals and pat dry. Cut into a chiffonade of about 2 tbsp. Stir into cream and add liquid to dry ingredients and stir to form a soft dough.

Drop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake scones for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Let scones cool slightly and dust with confectioners sugar before serving!

Bon appetit!

 

February 2, 2015

Tea For Beautiful Skin

Filed under: Black Tea,Green Tea,Tea and Health — Kwingert @ 10:10 am

 

We all know that tea, white, green, oolong or black,  is a great addition to a healthy diet. Numerous studies show that the properties in green tea (and other tea varietals) can help you maintain health and well-being and may even ward of disease. Drinking 3-4 cups of tea per day will keep you well and beautiful on the inside.

Did you know, however, that you can incorporate tea in your beauty regimen for beautiful, radiant and healthy skin? The anioxidant ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) in green tea, for example appears to have powerful anti-inflammatory  effects and can help fight damage done by free radicals.

It does not take much time or preparation to make the following recipes. You probably have most of the tools and ingredients at home. Give it a try – not only is it fun, but you can also save some money in the process.

FOR SUNBURN

Take one quart of  water and bring to aboil. Add 1/2 cup of unflavored black or green tea and steep for  10- 15 minutes. Strain the leaves and set aside. Let the tea cool. Soak a piece of cotton in the tea and place on the sunburned areas. Leave on for about 15 minutes, or until the burned areas begins to cool. You can repeat this treatment up to four times a day.  If refrigerated, the tea will keep for up to one week.

FOR PUFFY AND TIRED EYES

  • Since tea is astringent, it helps get rid of puffy and swollen eys. Simply soak cotton balls in the prepared cold black or green tea and place on your eyes for 10 minutes.

TO BRING COLOR AND SHINE TO YOUR HAIR

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add 1/4 cup of black tea. Steep for 15-20 minutes. Cool the tea to room temperature and rinse damp, shampooed  hair with it. Not only will it darken your hair, but it will also add beautiful highlights.

Simple, inexpensive, yet effective ways to take care of your skin!

September 10, 2014

Summer, Earl’s Sevret and Manly Teas

Filed under: Black Tea,Newsletter,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 10:47 am


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Top Ten Manly Teas

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Summer is Inbound

As school winds down, graduations celebrate new beginnings for many and we turn towards summer activities parties, travel, etc. it means that Summer is almost upon us.   While many people drink iced teas year round consumption definitely increases in the summer months.  An why not?  Tea is healthy, low in calories, and a good hydration source.  Iced tea is easy to prepare and a great way to liven up any gathering.  In other summer news:

  • Father’s Day is June 16th – Check out the manly tea list below for inspiration!
  • We rolled out our new summer tea selection at the start of April with some great new tastes to try.
  • We will be closed Monday, May 26th in observance of Memorial Day
  • While you’re online take a moment to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  We post our specials, links to interesting articles, health news and more.

 

The Secret of Earl Grey

What sounds like the title of a suspense novel, is the story about the beginnings of a tea which can be considered one of the most popular among traditional black teas.

While there are numerous opinions about when and how this tea blend was created, they all center on a political figure of the 18th century – Earl Grey.  Earl Grey, the person, was born Charles Grey II in England in 1764. He spent most of his life in politics and in 1830, became Prime Minister of Britain.

One of the versions of how Earl Grey tea got its name tells that during his political career, the Earl was very taken with a diplomatic gift he received – a chest of flavored black tea. He liked the tea so much that he asked British tea merchant Richard Twining to match the flavor of this mysterious tea. Twining created a blend of Indian and Ceylon black tea and added a bit of smoky Chinese Lapsang Souchong. He also used a special and rare ingredient which lent this tea its unique citrus fragrance and flavor. Since Twining blended the tea especially for the Earl, it was only fitting to name it after him – Earl Grey!

More recently, Earl Grey tea has made a number of appearances in movies: It is the favorite tea of Captain Picard of Star Trek, The Next Generation. If you are familiar with Dan Brown’s book “The Davinci Code”, you know that one of his characters, Sir Leigh Teabing, also liked his cup of Earl Grey!

The secret of Earl Grey – the tea that is, – Keep reading in our blog

 

Top 10 manly Teas

While in many of the world’s cultures tea is consumed by men, in the United States, many men’s tea consumption is limited to ice tea at their favorite Mexican restaurant.

I must admit that I used to be non-tea drinker.  However, after three years in Japan and my experiences with the varieties of teas from around the world, I have a new view of tea.

In convincing non-tea drinking men to try tea I have compiled a list of those teas that seem to appeal to them.  This list is known as the “Manly Tea list”.

  1. Lapsong Souchong – This black tea has a smoky campfire-like flavor from the drying process.   Think single malt scotch or a fine cigar
  2. Green Menthos –  a mild green tea flavored with mint.  It is refreshing hot or cold and requires no sugar.  A great introduction to green teas
  3. Gen Mai Cha – a Japanese blend of green tea with toasted rice kernels.  It has a great full body and served as a coffee substitute for me while living in Japan
  4. Earl Grey – 3 words – Jean Luc Picard
  5. Gunpowder – A great way to try a straight green tea, named for its tightly rolled leaf.  Plus what manly man wouldn’t like something with the word “gun” in it!
  6. Mount Everest Breakfast – A black tea with Assam and Keemun – easier to drink then to climb it!
  7. Pu-Erh mini-Touchas – this tea comes in cake form.  It has an earthy smell, medium body, and a unique taste.  Not for the faint of heart!
  8. Morning After – detoxifying herbal blend with a touch of mint.  Cleanse and sooth your system after poker night!
  9. Tiramasu Marscapone – Ok, I know this does not sound manly but this Rooibos makes a great finish after a meal, it has no calories, caffeine and won’t add to your waistline
  10. Vithanakanda – A Sri Lankan tea that goes great with milk and sugar.  Dark in the cup like coffee… No one will know you have switched!  A stealth tea!

So, be a man and give tea a try!

Thanks for Reading…

Thanks for reading this month.  We hope you’ll visit us in the store, at one of our partners or online soon.  If you can’t get in, remember… we ship orders over $50 for free the same day and your tea will arrive quickly!

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July 13, 2013

Independents, Iced Tea, Tea news

Filed under: Black Tea,Newsletter,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 11:08 am

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Take your Tea

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Like Iced Tea?

 Our Iced Tea Kit has

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beverage and can also

used is salves.  It is a

natural antimicrobial.

 

Latest Tea Menu

 

Please visit our

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Independents


It’s almost Independence Day and that means it is time for Independent’s Week (June 30th – July 7th), now a national event celebrating unique, local businesses everywhere.  In Arizona, many local businesses offer special deals during this week.  Souvia is no exception.  Enjoy 20% off of your purchase during Independent’s week with your Golden Ticket.

So, pledge to support the local businesses that make our communities unique.

 

Coming up in July:

 

  • Take advantage of Independent’s Week online – use code Gold2013 for 20% off.
  • Our featured herb this month is lavender, so stop in to find out how to make a natural hand sanitizer!
  • We will be closed July 4th in observance of Independence day!

 

Iced Tea

June is National Iced Tea Month – and for a good reason! Triple digits for weeks and no end in sight! This is the time when we are all looking to find ways to stay cool and hydrated. What better way to accomplish this than poolside sipping iced tea!

 

Iced tea made from loose tea leaves is simpler than ever and may even have higher levels of antioxidants than bottled teas (a recent UCLA study found “no measurable catechins (an antioxidant) content at all” in two popular mass market bottled iced teas.   In addition, when you make the tea you control the sweetness and the freshness.

 

To make iced tea from loose tea, all you need is a pitcher, tea filters (“t-sac”) and, of course, a tea of your choice.  At Souvia®, we recommend two ways to make iced tea: the hot method and the cold method.  In both recipes you’ll need 1 teaspoon (about 2 grams) of loose tea for every 6 ounces of water.  To make 2 quarts you will need just over 10 teaspoons of tea.

  1. Cold brewing method– using room temperature water in a pitcher or our easy to use Iced Tea Maker, add the right amount of your selected tea.  Fill the container with water and allow to steep 2-8 hours (overnight works fine). 
  1. Hot Brewing method – bring water to the temperature appropriate for the tea you have selected (boiling is fine for black and Rooibos but allow the water to cool 1 minute for green tea brews).  Steep as directed by your tea.  Remove the leaves promptly and allow cooling. Enjoy over ice!

Many teas and herbals are great iced. Nilgiri from India is one of the best iced black teas, if you are a purist, and Rooibos (caffeine free) is rich in minerals and, therefore a great way to replenish electrolytes. Rooibos is also very low in tannin, which gives it a smooth flavor that especially children like. To add a little variety, try some of our special summer flavors like Lemon Soufflé, Cranberry Peach, Tropical Sunset or our June Special – Honey Do – a fruit blend with melon flavor”!

 

Regardless which tea, tools and technique you choose, preparing your own iced tea has never been easier.  More and more studies indicate that tea is a healthy drink and iced tea is a great way to enjoy tea.

Read the 4 steps on our blog

News from around the Tea World….

Some highlights in the news –

 

Sun Teas Tasty – but Risky – there is no need to stick your tea outside to brew, it will brew just fine in the fridge

 

Tea? There’s app for that – Tea 2.0 is a cool little app that has been updated with a ton of great info for the tea geek in all of us

 

Don’t Drink Bottled Green Tea for Antioxidants – another story on  why brewing fresh is best if you are looking for health benefits from tea

 

Coffee Vs. Tea?  No need to choose but this is an interesting infographic on some of the differences

 

 

 

Thanks for Reading…

Thanks for reading this month.  Our tea loves to travel –  Take Souvia Teas on vacation and send us a picture!   A picture of a bag of tea, travel mug, etc. will work.   Everyone who posts a picture of our teas on Facebook or Twitter (@souviatea) while on vacationgets 50g of any of or fruit flavored tea.   The best picture will get a $25 Souvia Gift card!   Runs through August 1st.

We hope you’ll visit us in the store, at one of our partners or online soon.  If you can’t get in, remember… we ship orders over $50 for free the same day and your tea will arrive quickly!

 

 


May 19, 2013

The Secret of Earl Grey

Filed under: Black Tea,Tea Culture — Kwingert @ 11:19 am

Earl GreyWhat sounds like the title of a suspense novel, is the story about the beginnings of a tea which can be considered one of the most popular among traditional black teas.

While there are numerous opinions about when and how this tea blend was created, they all center on a political figure of the 18th century – Earl Grey.  Earl Grey, the person, was born Charles Grey II in England in 1764. He spent most of his life in politics and in 1830, became Prime Minister of Britain.

One of the versions of how Earl Grey tea got its name tells that during his political career, the Earl was very taken with a diplomatic gift he received – a chest of flavored black tea. He liked the tea so much that he asked British tea merchant Richard Twining to match the flavor of this mysterious tea. Twining created a blend of Indian and Ceylon black tea and added a bit of smoky Chinese Lapsang Souchong. He also used a special and rare ingredient which lent this tea its unique citrus fragrance and flavor. Since Twining blended the tea especially for the Earl, iEArl Grey Jean Luc Picardt was only fitting to name it after him – Earl Grey!

More recently, Earl Grey tea has made a number of appearances in movies: It is the favorite tea of Captain Picard of Star Trek, The Next Generation. If you are familiar with Dan Brown’s book “The Davinci Code”, you know that one of his characters, Sir Leigh Teabing, also liked his cup of Earl Grey!

The secret of Earl Grey – the tea that is, – lies in this special ingredient, the oil of bergamot fruit (Citrus bergamia risso). As secret as the ingredient, as secret is the place where we find bergamot. It is in San Gregorio, a tiny village in the province of Reggio Calabria, the southernmost part of the Italian boot where bergamot grows in luscious orchards that supply 95% of the world’s bergamot – this inedible fruit that gives Earl Grey its unique character and citrus flavor.

While it is unclear how the fruit ended up in Italy, San Gregorio is the only place where bergamot is successfully grown on a larger scale.Bergamot

The fruit weighs about 3.5 ounces and is harvested in early spring.  In the early days, the essence was extracted by squeezing the rind manually and collecting the liquid onto natural sea sponges that were wrung into bottles. This slow and messy work was later replaced by the macchina Calabrese, a wooden grinding wheel with a box to collect the essence. It takes 100 pounds of fruit to make one pound of essence, making bergamot an expensive flavoring agent.

While there are less expensive, synthetically created essences that resemble the flavor of bergamot, the purest and finest bergamot essence can only be found in Calabria and a powerful agricultural consortium, the Consortia Del Bergamotto is responsible for overseeing its production and for making decisions which affect the global tea industry.

The next time you purchase Earl Grey, let your tea purveyor lift the secret of its secret ingredient and make sure you get to enjoy a cup of true bergamot scented tea!

As for the equally well known “Lady Grey” black tea blend, which by the way is only blended and sold by Twining, it is named after Mary Elizabeth Grey, wife of Charles II.

People used to say that Earl Grey was too strong for the delicate female constitution and could cause rather strange impulses. Therefore, Lady Grey was blended to suit the female palette better and to ease women’s minds and hearts.

Our rendition on this lighter Earl Grey is called Grey Duchess, and blended with lavender and vanilla – truly a delight!

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