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July 25, 2016

DIY – Calendula Salve

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

calendula salve

This is my all-time favorite salve and perfect to keep the desert skin looking and feeling great.  I was first introduced to it by my grandmother who always kept it on hand for us grand children’s “boo boo’s”

Infuse organic olive oil with calendula, following one of the recipes of  previous blog on infused oils.

For the salve you will need:

8 oz calendula  infused oil

1 oz beeswax

10-20 drops essential oil of choice (comfrey would be complementary)

glass jars or tin containers.

Place the herbal infuse oil and wax together over a double boiler, and gently warm over low heat until the wax melts. Remove from heat and add the essential oil. Quickly pour into prepared tins or glass jars and allow to cool completely.

Store the salve in a cool location and it will last for several months.

 

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

July 11, 2016

Fair Trade – Fast Facts

Filed under: Tea in Arizona — Kwingert @ 10:07 am

 

Have you ever wondered what this certification is all about? There certainly is enough promotion of Fair Trade Products these days and we are often asked for teas that are certified in this way.

Here are some quick facts about what Fair Trade is and how it works.

What is Fair Trade

Fair Trade certification identifies teas produced by gardens  and cooperatives in the tea production. Fair Trade standards  are:

  • Guarantee fair wages and decent working conditions
  • Establish a Fair Trade premium, managed by the workers for the benefit of their community
  • Promote the use of sustainable farming methods that are safer for humans and the environment

How Fair Trade Works

The best tea gardens and cooperatives understand that specialty teas depend on the people and the environment that produce them. Fair Trade Certification verifies and acknowledges the commitment of these producers to meeting internationally recognized standards. For tea, the standards, include:

  • Wages that meet or exceed legally established minimums
  • Absence of forced or child labor
  • Freedom of associations and organizations
  • Safe working conditions, including protection from exposure to harmful agrochemicals

While it is great that there is a label that helps the consumer purchase products that align with their values, it needs to be said that this certification is not inexpensive and smaller tea gardens simply do not have the funds to pay for it. In order to pay proper wages, they have to make a choice to get certified or spend the money on their workers. A tea estate owner in Sri Lanka once explained to me that he provides housing, schools, health care and retirement benefits for all his workers, but chooses not to have his teas Fair Trade certified since the true benefactor is the in most cases the retailer who marks the tea up because of the certification – yet none of those funds ever reach the source.

Trust your tea purveyer to buy from respectful tea growers and ask questions about the origin and production circumstance of the teas offered.

 

 

July 5, 2016

Hibiscus

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

 

hibiscus

Latin Name:  Hibiscus sabdariffa

Parts Used:  Flowers

Contra Indications: none known

Hibiscus is a beautiful red flower native to Egypt and North Africa. There are over 200 varieties of this plant, most of them are of the “garden” variety and the only species used for tea is the Hibiscus sabdariffa.

Hibiscus has long been valued by Egyptians for its refreshingly tart taste, its cooling effects and is said to have aphrodisiac powers. It is rich in Vitamin A, C and beta-carotene, therefore making it a  good antioxidant.

Medicinally, hibiscus is used in form of tea to treat loss of appetite, to ease symptoms of colds, flus and couhgs. Externally used it can help reduce bruises and swelling.

Lately, hibiscus has gotten much attention because clinical research studies showed that drinking hibiscus tea can lower high blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol levels, thereby helping to maintain overall cardiovascular health.

But aside from its benefits to your health, hibiscus makes a wonderful thirst-quenching iced tea and the ruby red color provides a dramatic effect to many herbal blends and  lemonades.

For an extra cooling summer iced tea blend, mix equal parts of hibiscus and mint (either spearmint or peppermint). Pour boiling water over the leaves, steep for 5-8 minutes and pour over ice – Delicious!