April 22, 2016
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 â€œnoseâ€ is to the perfume industry, the â€œtea tasterâ€ 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- After the steeping, the infusion is poured into tasting bowls and the infused leave is collected on the lid of the brewing mug.
- 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
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 hisÂ 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
January 22, 2016
October 30, 2015
While not quite noticeable here in Phoenix, fall has officially arrived. It has always been my favorite time of year with the brisk morning air, the changing colors of leaves and the overall slowing pace of life. Fall also brings the taste of warming spices such as cinnamon, clove and ginger which find their way into many foods and drinks. It is the time for apple pie, ginger snap cookies and a cup of Chai.
During the past decade, Chai drinks have taken the United States by storm, and there are many blends and recipes available on the market today. Generally, if you order a Chai here, you will be indulged in a cup of spiced black tea, with or without milk – in India, however, you will simply get a cup of black tea.
The reason is that in India as well as many Eastern European countries, Chai is the word for tea. It is derived from the Mandarin word “Cha”, also describing tea, which is still used in Japan and China today. While in India, people refer to all tea as Chai, in the Southern part of the country, a cup of chai is prepared in the British style, with sugar and milk. In the Northern part, however, people like their tea flavored with spices and call it “Masala Chai”.
Legend tells us that it was the chef to the royal king of India who first created this tea by scenting it with exotic spices from his kitchen like nutmeg, cloves and cardamom. The king, entranced by the unique and wonderful taste announced that this drink would from now on only be served in his court and he forbade the chef to divulge the ingredients to anyone. Long after the king’s death, however, the recipe filtered down from the royal family to aristocracy and then to the masses, with each group adding and deleting spices to their taste, including cinnamon, pepper, fennel and more.
Today, the combination and amount of spices varies, but cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper are usually part of the traditional blend. Other recipes may include, ginger, cumin or coriander.
It is a little like a chili recipe – while there are certain main ingredients that are common to every good chili, recipes vary and each chef may have a secret ingredient to create uniqueness. Masala Chai recipes also vary from region to region and the proportion of spices is typically the secret of the preparer. Nowadays there are even blends that deviate from the traditional black tea base and use green tea, a blend of black or rooibos .
If you want to prepare Masala Chai from scratch, choose a good whole leaf black tea from India or Sri Lanka since these teas have the body to stand up to the spices you add. Other ingredients include at least four spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, clove, pepper, fennel, etc.), water and milk. Place the tea and spices into cold filtered water, bring everything to a boil and simmer for 3-7 minutes. Strain the tea and add warm milk and sweetener to taste. For a richer Masala Chai, boil and simmer the spices directly in milk.
To usher in the fall season (regardless of temperatures), visit us at Souvia and ask for a sample of our traditional masala, green or red chai!
Olivia- Chaiwallah at Souvia Tea
July 24, 2015
Yerba Mate is an evergreen shrub that grows in many parts of South America. As a beverage, it is a favorite in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
Most Yerba Mate is green, although roasted Yerba Mate is also available and gaining in popularity. In South America, it is served in a hollow gourd with sweetener and milk. The brew is then sucked up through a filtered straw called bombilla.
With its slightly smokey, vegetal and bitter taste, this brew takes some getting used to as a self-drinker (without adding milk and sugar), but it combines well with other herbs and spices. It can be made hot or cold.
Yerba Mate special properties include many vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. Unlike other herbals, it does contain caffeine. Aficionados swear by the energy boost it gives without the jitters and anxiety often caused by coffee.
To make an infusion, use 1 heaping tsp dried leaves in 1 cup (8oz) of freshly boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes or longer if you like it strong. (no worries about over steeping!)
December 2, 2013
October 28, 2013
The holidays are just around the corner and many of us are already planning meals and family get-togethers. Holidays are filled with many wonderful ceremonies and rituals, some unique to an individual or a family, others unique to a particular culture.
What would Thanksgiving be without the turkey, Christmas without a tree, or Hanukkah without a menorah?
Just like these traditions are kept alive and passed on from generation to generation, tea has a long history as well; and in many countries it makes up an important part of the culture. Asian tea ceremonies, for example, emphasize the use of all five senses conveying the message that the experience of taking tea is meant to be a journey rather than a destination.
This summer, my husband and went on a vacation to China and Japan where we not only explored the many historic places and sights and the great food,we also had the opportunity to spent time at the famous tea village Long Jing (Dragonwell) in Western China and learned all about the Matcha production in Nishio, Japan, where we were invited by one of our suppliers to tour their tea plantation and production facility. Aside from breathtakingly beautiful views, we were reminded of tea’s long history and its important role in celebrations and hospitality.
In China, where tea was first discovered about 5000 years ago, it became so popular that traditions surrounding the preparation developed and special teapots and cups were created to drink tea. The most well known ceremony is the “Gong Fu” ceremony. Gong Fu means skill derived through practice and experience. Using special tea pots and tiny cups, this ceremony focuses on the quality of the tea itself and only the best is offered to an honored guest. We were served Gong Fu tea on several occasions and enjoyed the attention to detail in both, preparation and serving of the tea.
Matcha is prepared using special stone mills under carefully controlled conditions
In Japan, we learned the art of making Matcha, the finely ground tea powder that is used in the Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu. This very artistic and detailed ceremony was developed under the influence of Zen Buddhism and has its focus on the appreciation of simplicity, beauty and harmony – to which tea is merely the vehicle.
Quality is of importance and shows in the intricate and meticulous harvest and production method of Matcha green tea. The tea plants are grown in gradually reduced sunlight over the period of one month. Only the new leaves are picked and depriving the tea plant of sunlight makes these leaves thinner, more tender and produces a fresher, deep green color cup.
While the preparation and serving of tea may vary by culture, the essence, or meaning behind each ceremony is the same. Chado, the way of tea, is about appreciating the simple things in life, about taking time to focus on present moment and about spending time with friends.
We hope you take time during this busy holiday season and create your own tea ceremony – enjoy a cup of Souvia tea alone in reflection, or in the company of friends and loved ones.
March 17, 2013
September 15, 2012
Bergamot is the essential oil found in Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas
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. Â 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. The Earl was very passionate about human rights and used his position to not only abolish slavery in the British Empire, but to also reform the child labor laws. These are the facts recorded in history books, however, what is a little bit more obscure and not so easily agreed upon, is how a very popular tea came to be named after this famous gentleman.
One of the versions I read 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 â€“ Earl Grey!
The secret of Earl Grey â€“ 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 worldâ€™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.
The fruit weighs about 3.5 ounces and is harvested in early spring.Â 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 â€œLady Greyâ€ 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 womenâ€™s minds and hearts. Next to the traditional bergamot essence, the flavor of Lady Grey is softened by the addition of flower and fruit essences.
Whether you prefer Earl or Lady Grey, make sure you are enjoying the true secret of the oil of bergamot in your cup.
June 25, 2011
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We are wrapping up our 2nd day at the World Tea Expo – This event is always a great source of first hand information we can take back to the store –
Yesterday, we attended a panel discussion with representatives of the Japanese Tea Farmers association on the post-earthquake situation and how tea farmers and supplies are being affected – This was current information and helped assuage the fears of many
Kerstin spoke this morning to over 100 tea business owners on ways to improve their operations – here talk was one of the top 5 at this years’ expo
We tasted lots of interesting teas, great pu-erh, marvelous fruit blends, first flush darjeelings, 2nd flush that was picked two weeks ago and (below) an exquisite Korean green tea – we might have to mortgage the store to get this here but it is worth it!
The expo is full of sights , sounds (Taiwanese opera), tastes, and smells
More classes tomorrow and bags of materials to sort through – now If I can just find that sample of Yunnan gold tip…..