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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

June 16, 2016

Sunburn Relief- Naturally!

Filed under: Green Tea,herbals and fruit blends,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 10:10 am

sunburn

We are well into the triple digits and as well all know they will stay with us for the next months. Summer is the time when we have to be extra careful and protect our skin from the damaging UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Unfortunately, getting sunburned is much more common that it ought to be. In a recent survey conducted in partnership with iVillage, The Skin Cancer Foundation learned that 42 percent of people polled get sunburn at least once a year.

So what to do when, after that day tubing on the river, you come home with a nasty burn?

There are several herbs that are well known for their ability to bring sunburn relief.

 

Aloe Vera

This is probably the best known herbal remedy for sunburn. Aloe Vera gel may be used directly on sunburns for immediate relief of sunburned skin and to accelerate the healing process. Because of its high water content (99.5%), it is especially soothing to the skin. Aloe Vera is very mild and can be applied generously to the burned area as often as needed. Add a few drops lavender and chamomile essential oil to maximize healing effects.

 

Chamomile

Chamomile is wonderful for the skin – gentle, relaxing and its anti-inflammatory properties help the skin heal. Use cold chamomile infusions as a compress, or spray it on the affected areas.

 

Green Tea

Green tea is a powerful anti-oxidant, and may be used topically or internally as tea before or after sun exposure. Studies have shown that green tea may reduce skin inflammation and redness, protect the skin cells, and to assist with the adverse affects of UV radiation exposure. It contains tannic acid, theobromine and polyphenols, all of which are soothing and healing to sunburned skin.

 

Lavender

Not only good for relaxation, to soothe headaches and calm nerves, lavender can be used to treat minor cuts, scrapes and insect bites (antiseptic) and helps calm inflamed, sunburned skin. It is beneficial for all skin types even the most sensitive skin, offers immediate relief and may accelerate the healing process.

 

Soothing Oatmeal Bath

2 cups oatmeal

¼ cup Baking Soda

½ cup Chamomile Flowers

½ cup Lavender Flower

2-4 tbsp. Green Tea Leaves

Blend oatmeal in a food processor until it has the consistency of powder. Place all ingredients in a muslin bag or cheesecloth, tie under the faucet and draw a lukewarm bath. Soak for 10-15 minutes.

April 22, 2016

The Art of Cupping

Filed under: Tea and Health,Tea Classes,Tea Culture,Tea Enjoyment — wbwingert @ 10:05 am

Just like wine connoisseurs, tea aficionados appreciate the differences in flavor and aroma of the over 3000 different tea varieties.

While some tea-drinkers prefer the consistency of a blend, such as English Breakfast, others enjoy the fluctuations in character of a single origin tea, which is influenced by seasonal changes, early or late harvest, elevation and soil quality.

Regardless of our preference, the tea quality is very important and experienced tea tasters spent countless hours evaluating the leave style, aroma and taste of teas. What the “nose” is to the perfume industry, the “tea taster” is to the tea industry.

Tea tasting, or cupping, is a very structured process during which the quality of the dry and infused leaf is examined, as well as the color and aroma of the liquor and finally the taste of the infusion.

 

  1. For the cupping process, the leaves are placed in a container and lined up in a long row on the tasting bench. The taster weighs a specific amount of each tea and puts it in a special small brewing vessel. Sometimes this is a lidded mug (Gaiwan) or a small porcelain teapot. The brewing vessels are always white so that the color of the infusion is easier to assess.
  2. Boiling water for black teas, and slightly cooler water for green and white teas, is poured over the leaves which are than allowed to steep for 3-6 minutes depending on the varietal.
  3. After the steeping, the infusion is poured into tasting bowls and the infused leave is collected on the lid of the brewing mug.
  4. Like a wine taster, the tea taster slurps the tea into his mouth which is quite a noisy affair, but necessary because the tea needs to hit all taste buds to unfold its character.

 

Tea tasters taste hundreds of samples of different teas from different estates regions and seasons every day. In fact, it takes a long time to become a professional in this art. At least five years of training are needed before becoming a tea master, however even after many decades of tasting, these tea masters will tell you that they are still learning and honing their skills.

 

 

February 26, 2016

Bottled Tea Vs. Loose Leaves

Filed under: Tea and Health,Tea Enjoyment,Tea in Arizona,Tea preparation — wbwingert @ 10:10 am
Tea brewed with fresh leaves is healthiest

Tea brewed with fresh leaves is healthiest

We all know that the less processed a food is the more nutrients it retains.  Tea, like vegetables, retains much more flavor and beneficial properties when it is closest to its natural state. Research re-confirms this fact. The result?  You’d have to drink LOTS of bottled teas, “some contain such small amounts that a person would have to drink 20 bottles to get the same polyphenol benefit in a single cup of tea” says Bill Hendrick in his article on WebMD.

Yet, many big name teas make claims that appear to state otherwise. Well, the FDA took note of that and sent some nasty grams to Lipton and Canada Dry pointing out their improper labelling. Everything from overstating antioxidants to unsupported health claims. Also keep in mind that many of the bottled teas are heavily sweetened, often with High Fructose Corn Syrup.McDonald’s “Sweet Tea” contains 280 calories from sugar in it’s large size.  Taken with the lack of good stuff in the tea, one definitely would want to consider brewing tea at home.

Brewing tea is really easy at home – even by the travel mug to go.  While i drink tea because i like the taste and variety, many are enjoy teas healthier aspects.  Whichever camp you fall into, be informed and watch out for hype and exaggerated claims

February 12, 2016

Adaptogens – Mother Nature’s Stressbusters

Filed under: herbals and fruit blends,Tea and Health — wbwingert @ 10:10 am

We all deal with stress every day, a hectic schedules, lack of sleep, demands at the work place or in school our world has become increasingly more complex. We are constantly bombarded with information via TV, cell phones and the internet, and the majority of it is negative, fueling worries and anxiety. Assaults on our senses create a physical and emotional reaction, an overwhelming feeling we call STRESS!

While our bodies strive to adapt to the stresses in our live and keep us balanced and healthy, it is the consistent exposure to stressors that eventually leads to physical symptoms such as:

  • dizziness
  • frequent bouts of low blood sugar,
  • mood and memory problems
  • headaches
  • salt and sugar cravings
  • morning fatigue, low energy

In nature we find a category of herbs called adaptogens which can help the human body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes, and restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors and promote normal physiologic function. They can provide a defense response to acute or chronic stress and are unique from other substances in their ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones and strengthen the immune system.

Adaptogenic herbs have been used for thousands of years in ancient India and China. In the past, they have been called rejuvenating herbs, qi tonics, rasayanas or restoratives. Modern research has substantiated what the ancients knew, that many of these herbs are important medicines that can be used for the prevention and treatment of a variety of common ailments.

Astragalus, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Eleuthero are some of the herbs that are considered Adaptogens.

ASTRAGALUS is native to China and it s Chinese name means yellow leader because the root is yellow and the herb is considered the leader among tonic herbs. Astragalus strengthens the lungs and enhances the immune system function. Research has shown that it helps prevent immunosuppressant caused by chemotherapy and has anti-tumor inhibiting activity. More recently, Astragalus has been used to improve cardiac blood flow and to prevent kidney and liver damage.

ELEUTHERO is native to Siberia, Korea and northern Japan. It strengthens the immune system and if used regularly, can reduce incidence of colds. It also increases endurance and stamina and if used regularly, a person will feel better perform better and recover more quickly. It is great for those stressed-out type A people who work long hours and/ or don’t get adequate sleep or nutrition. Eleuthero is also used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, jet lag and adrenal fatigue.

Adaptogens are tonic herbs and they don’t have any negative physical effects and can be taken safely over long periods of time. A tonic supplement strengthens and invigorates various organs and body systems. They help balance emotions and enhance memory.

 

Reference: (Winston & Maimes, Adatptogens-Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, 2007)

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!

November 8, 2015

Matcha – The Imperial Beverage

Filed under: Green Tea,Tea and Health,Tea Culture — wbwingert @ 1:59 pm

Matcha, the finely milled, emerald green tea powder is gaining in popularity among tea drinkers and shows up not only in tea stores, but also in restaurant and bars. In its home country of Japan, Matcha has played an integral part in the traditional tea ceremony for centuries and in modern times it has been used to flavor and color foods such as soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of Japanese sweets. In the west, matcha found its way into smoothies and lattes and is popular because of its rich taste and multitude of health benefits.

How is it made?

While tea is produced in different countries throughout the world, matcha is unique to Japan. It is grown by local farmers using traditional methods from growing to milling.

The tea leaves used for matcha are shade grown and the preparation of this tea starts several weeks before the actual harvest, when the tea plants are covered with bamboo mats or tarp in order to reduce the exposure to sunlight and thereby increasing the chlorophyll content in the plant. It is the high chlorophyll content that gives matcha its distinctly green color. After plucking, the leaves are laid out flat to dry – the crumbled dried leaves make up the base product for matcha and are called tencha. Tencha is then de-veined, de-stemmed and stone milled into a fine, bright green powder, known as matcha. Only ground tencha can be called matcha, powered green teas made from other varietals, like sencha, are known as konacha –literally meaning “powder tea”.

The most famous matcha producing tea regions in Japan are Uji in Kyoto, Nishio in Aichi, Shizuoka and northern Kyushu.

What is so good about matcha?

Matcha is renowned for its many health benefits. It is rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants, fiber, amino acids and chlorophyll.  Drinking matcha exceeds the nutritional value of a regular cup of green tea since the whole leaf is consumed, and not just the tea-infused water. In 2003, researchers from the University of Colorado found that the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) to 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG in other commercially available green teas.

On the other hand, it is not only the nutritional value that is increased, the caffeine content is also higher than in a regular cup of green tea, making matcha a stimulating beverage that will get you going in the morning.

October 23, 2015

Feeling a bit sneezy?

Filed under: herbals and fruit blends,Tea and Health,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:10 am

evil-attack-on-nose

 

The weather Gods are having their fun with us. We are going from unseasonably hot to the wet and cool in just a few days. I am hoping that this is just a fluke, and we will finally get to enjoy fall temperatures. However, we still have many customers come into the store plagued by allergy symptoms.

Itchy eyes, runny nose and sinus headaches are keeping many from enjoying Mother Nature. On the other hand, Mother Nature also offers a natural remedy to nagging allergy symptoms.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), is a valuable herb with many health benefits – alleviating allergy symptoms being one of them.  What herbalists have known for a long time has now been substantiated by modern science.

A study published in the journal Phytotherapy Research in 2009 showed that Nettle leaf blocks histamine receptors, and acts to block prostaglandin production by the COX-1 and COX-2 pathways. It also blocks the release of enzymes from mast cells. All those effects together make this a pretty potent anti-allergy medicine.

Other studies demonstrated that nettle also reduces sneezing and runny nose for people with allergies.

Best of all – unlike other anti-histamines, Nettle (freeze-dried is best for allergies!) does not cause drowsiness!

 

 

 

 

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