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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.

March 7, 2016

Tea Profile: Gyokuro

Filed under: Green Tea,Newsletter,Tea Culture,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:00 am

 

March is all about the color green! Nature is dressing up in its bright spring green and St Patrick’s Day is also just around the corner!

So it makes only sense to focus our attention on everything green in the tea world.

One of the prized green teas is Gyokuro,  produced near Kyoto, Japan, around the famous tea-growing town of Uji. Literally translated, gyokuro means “pearl (or jade) dew and it is considered of  Japan’s highly revered teas.

 

Production

Gyokuro is a very high-quality tea that is processed in an unusual way. In early spring, as the first growth ofthe season is about to begin, Gyokuro is shaded under marsh-reed screens or cloth covers for three weeks.

The deprivation of sunlight increases the tea’s chlorophyll content while mellowing and sweetening the flavor of this steamed green tea. Only the precious top leaves are ultimately used in the making of Gyokuro.  Due to the special handling, Gyokuro tea is quite expensive but well worth the extra cost.

Taste

The dark green leaves of a Gyokuro brew up pale green with a surprisingly vibrant aroma anda smooth, sweetly vegetal note. This tea is less bitter than many of its green tea cousins.

Preparation

In order to obtain the best quality, it is recommended to use a water temperature of only 165 degrees and steep the leaves for a minute or less.  To get to the 165 degrees, simply allow the boiling water to cool for about 1-2 minutes before pouring it over the leaves.

A one-of-a-kind taste experience you should not miss!

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.

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 25, 2015

Jasmine Tea Sorbet

Filed under: Green Tea,Phoenix,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:05 am

margarita

 

Need a tasty and refreshing dessert for your Memorial Day BBQ? Try award-winning chef, Heidi Fink’s favorite sorbet:

Ingredients: 1 1/3 cup sugar

3 cups water

zest of 2 organic lemons

3tbsp loose jasmine green tea leaves

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 lemons)

Combine sugar, water and lemon zest in a medium sauce pan. Heat gently while stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in jasmine tea leaves. Let sit for 4 minutes and then strain into a large bowl. Stir in lemon juice. Place in the refrigerator to cool completely before freezing.

You can serve this as a sorbet, by pouring the liquid in an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions, turn it into gourmet popsicles, or make your own granite.

 

 

April 6, 2015

How To Brew Japanese Green Tea For Best Taste!

Filed under: Green Tea,Phoenix,Tea and Health,Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:10 am

Green tea with leaves

Green tea does not equal green tea just like no two red wines are alike.  Aside from growing region, elevation, climate and harvest time, the processing after the leaves have been picked also determines the aroma and flavor in the cup.

Chinese green teas, for example, are pan-fired which sometimes add a certain smoky aroma while Japanese green teas are briefly steamed. It is the steaming of the leaves that gives them their bright green color and the green/yellow hue in the cup.

The flavor of Japanese green teas is often described as fresh grass, seaweed or spinach. Some are smooth, rich in flavor and others brisk, slightly astringent and refreshing.

Since the leaves are steamed, flavor and color is extracted more easily and therefore steeping times should be shorter. I usually start steeping my tea 1 1/2 minutes but would not recommend to go longer than three minutes. Longer steeping times makes these teas bitter. I also use slightly cooler water than the recommended 175 for Chinese green teas since it prevents the tea from becoming too astringent. 165F – 170F usually produces a delicious cup.

Paying attention to these small details is worth it if you are looking for a superb tea experience!

 

 

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 11, 2014

We’re Back

Filed under: Green Tea,Newsletter — wbwingert @ 10:49 am
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Just like Schwarzenegger and Poltergeist – our news letter is back.  For a variety of reasons, we took a 3 month break from the Newsletter. Rest assured, all if fine in Tea-land.  Hope you enjoy this latest installment.  

 

A couple of tips as we head into summer –

 

In between newsletters, it is easy to stay informed by reading our blog.  New articles are also posted to our Facebook site. 

 

From Teas to Decoctions

 You may have heard herbalists talk about teas, infusions and decoctions and wondered what the difference was and when to chose one over the other to prepare your herbs.

TEA

Technically, only an infusion made with the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), that is white, green, oolong and black tea, can be called a “tea”. All other infusions made with botanicals are called infusions or tisanes. In the world of herbs,however, a tea is a particular method of preparing herbs. In order to prepare an herbal “tea”, you take about 1-2 tbs. of plant material per 8 oz of boiling water; pour the water over the herbs, cover and steep for 5-10 minutes. Because of the relatively short steeping time, a tea is much milder and not all beneficial constituents are extracted. It is great if you try a new herb to see how your body tolerates it or simply to enjoy the taste.

Infusion

An infusion is a stronger version of an herbal tea. They are generally made using the leaves, flowers and stems of a plant. The standard traditional recipe calls for 1/2-1oz of dried herb steeped in a pint of boiling water for 20-30 minutes (or even overnight). If you use fresh herbs, double the amount of plant material. Due to the longer steeping time, more of the healing constituents are extracted making the infusion more therapeutic than a tea. In order to get to the minerals in many nutritive herbs such as nettle, you have to steep the herbs for at least four hours. Of course the longer steeping effects the taste and most infusions tend to be quite bitter. To make them more palatable, use honey, sugar or lemon. Infusions are great when you are sick and need to get the maximum benefit from your herbs.

Decoction

Decoctions are used to extract the medicinal constituents from the harder parts of the plant, such as bark, roots, rhizomes, dried berries or seeds. In order to prepare a, use the same amount of herbs as with the infusion per pint of water. Place the herbs in a pot and add the water. Bring everything to a full, rolling boil, then reduce the heat and simmer 20-30 minutes. Make sure the pot is covered!

Finally, strain the decoction through a fine mesh strainer into a glass jar or cup.

Cheers!

Speaking of concoctions…

Who says you can’t have your tea and margarita at he same time?

We added some green tea with lots of antioxidants to the original recipe for this tangy, tasty “Green Tea Margarita”

In this Souvia recipe, a  Margarita with lemon juice is blended with “green chai’ ice cubes!

For one serving,  you will need:

1 lime or lemon wedge

Saucer of granulated sugar for coating rim of glass

1/2 to 2/3 cup strongly brewed Souvia Green Chai frozen into 6-8 small ice cubes

2 1/2 tbs premium tequila

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

1 tbs orange liqueur (Cointreau) and 2 tsp sugar

Rub the lime wedge around the rim of a margarita glass. Dip and rotate the rim in the saucer of sugar, making sure to keep the sugar on the outside. In a blender, combine the chai ice cubes, tequila, lemon juice, orange liqueur, and sugar. Blend on the pulse setting until slushy. Pour into the sugar-rimmed glasses.

Salute!

Thanks for Reading…

Thanks for reading this month.  Hope you found a nugget or two to take away.  Remember, slow down and enjoy a cup of tea or herbal infusion.  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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