I.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. !!! What fun last night; ending our Steeped Tea Mad Hatter Month with Hostess, Camille Barr and her merry/funlovin' band of 'wonderland' Guests! We even had a Mini-Mexican wrestler and and white-gloved Dame! Oooh...and the Cheshire cat (or two or three perhaps scurried under feet) These die-hard coffee and grocery tea bag drinkers fell hard - hard for the love of Steeped Tea! They loved the information, the tea-tasting and the best part: They all discovered a Steeped Tea they adored! Consultant: Patti Friday Kennedy
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
True teas—white, green, oolong, black—come from dried and processed buds, leaves, and occasionally twigs of the evergreen Camellia sinensis bush. The best specimens grow in regions of high moisture, a temperate climate, and at altitudes of 3,000 to 6,000 feet. India, Sri Lanka, Japan, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Kenya are the largest producers of high quality teas.The most distinguished teas tend to come from the year’s first buds (first flush), while the twigs and older leaves further down the stem tend to yield the poorest product. The best teas are hand-harvested—some from plants harvested one day a year, others from plants plucked up to three or even more times a year. Up to 80,000 hand-plucked shoots are needed to produce one pound of top-grade tea.The differences between the well-over two thousand types of tea result from soil and climate conditions, the age of the tea bush, and variations in the processing of the leaves. Green teas are briefly steamed or heated in red-hot metal pans shortly after the leaves are harvested. The leaves are then subjected to cycles of rolling and drying. The spectacular and rare white teas are produced mainly in China’s Fukian province from unopened, white, fuzzy buds that are simply steamed and dried. To produce oolong and black teas, the leaves are crushed and/or withered and allowed to oxidize (or ferment) to varying degrees, less for oolong, longer for black. The leaves are heated to arrest the oxidation process, then rolled and dried.
White Teas—During the plucking great care is given to the selection of the leaves. Usually only the youngest leaves, still covered with short white hair or down are used. The absence of withering, rolling and oxidation results in the white down of the unprocessed leaves being clearly visible and gives the final tea leaves their silver-white appearance. When infused, white tea has a pale yellow cup color and a delicate, fresh flavor.
The two most popular white teas are the White Peony (also called Pai Mu Tan) and the treasured Silver Needle.
China & Japan
Green Teas—Hundreds of years ago, all tea was green. Recent research seems to validate long-standing claims about the health values of green teas. Green tea offers a wide range of taste sensations, from the legendary Dragon Well with its wonderful leafy aroma and roasted nutty taste, to the sweet, slightly astringent but smooth on the tongue Gyokuro. Because green tea leaves are barely oxidized they have less caffeine than most other types of tea.
Oolong Teas—These partially oxidized black teas from China and Formosa produce some of the world’s most sought after cups of tea. Yunnans and Ti Quan Yins are the most famous of the Chinese oolongs. Grown in central Fujian’s Shaxian (sand) country, Ti Quan Yin provides a richly flavored tea with the slight suggestion of orchids. With beautifully shaped iron colored leaves that offer multiple infusions, Ti Quan Yin is also known as “Iron Goddess of Mercy”.
Black Teas—Thorough oxidation produces the rich, crisp, black leaf and the deep colored, full-bodied brew characteristic of black teas. India, China and Sri Lanka are the largest producers, giving us the hearty, creamy Assams, grown in the foothills of Northeastern India, the dry, muscat-like Darjeelings, also known as the “Champagne of Teas”, the pure, flavourful reddish-brown Ceylons, the rich Keemuns (the “Burgundy of teas”) and smokey Lapsang Souchongs.
Flavored Teas—The best example is the ever popular Earl Grey, a black tea blend whose flavour is enhanced with oil of bergamot.
Many green, semi-black or white tea leaves are scented during processing by adding fruit peel or flower petals, such as jasmine, lavender and osmanthus.
Herbal/Tisanes—Herbal infusions or tisanes such as camomile, peppermint or nettle, do not contain any real tea leaf, but are prized both for their flavour and for their medicinal benefits.
What Type of Tea Should I Drink?
The beauty of tea lies in the vast range of tastes that are available. A bright, wintry morning may call for a cup of robust Assam. An afternoon hosting the local book club may suggest a crisp, winey Darjeeling or a heavenly oolong. Whether it be a cup of sencha at sunset, or an earthy pu’erh before the great debate, the point is to experiment with, to enjoy one of Mother Earth’s finest contributions to our quality of life—tea.
Compiled with contributions from: A Flavorful guide to GREEN TEAS (Herbs for Health); Introduction to Choice Rare Teas (Todd & Holland UniversiTea); All about Tea (Tea Council of Canada)
Making a Good Cup
There is both art and science in the making of a good cup of tea. The science is the alchemy that unfolds when leaf and water mingle. The art is the poetry of the soul that each of us brings to the taking of tea with good friends and family. Here are some guidelines to follow to ensure an exceptional tea experience.• Use freshly drawn cold water, preferably spring water, but filtered is also fine. Reboiling water removes the oxygen, resulting in a dull flavour. Avoid using distilled or hard, mineralized water. • Bring water to a medium boil for black teas (200-220 degrees F.), just under a boil (180-200 degrees F.) for oolong teas, and well under a boil (150-175 degrees F.) for most green and white teas.• Warm the teapot and cups with hot water. All teapots, whether metal, ceramic or glass are designed to make tea, however, the aesthetics of the experience may dictate which type of pot to use. Watch the Jasmine Silver Balls unfold like flower blossoms in a glass teapot or use a traditional iron tetsubin or ceramic kyusyu from Japan for green tea. Tea afficionados will often use different teapots depending upon the type of tea.• Add one rounded teaspoon per cup for black tea, one heaping teaspoon per cup for oolong, and two rounded teaspoons per cup for green tea. Adjust amounts to taste. Be careful not to use tea balls or strainers that are too small. Tea leaves often swell to twice their size while steeping, and need room to expand.• In general, the smaller the leaf the less the steeping time, so broken grades of tea leaves and many Darjeelings, for example, only need about 3 minutes to brew. Whole leaf teas may need 4-5 minutes. Green teas seldom need more than 1 ½ to 2 minutes of steeping, and the higher the grade the less time needed. A tightly formed tea pellet, such as Gunpowder tea, will infuse quite rapidly, whereas a tea formed into balls will take longer to unfold (“the agony of the leaves”). Teas become bitter if brewed beyond 5 or 6 minutes. It is important to experiment at first, to discover the best combination of leaf amount, water quantity, and brewing time.• Remove spent leaves from the pot to minimize the bitter taste that results from over-steeping. For oolong and green teas, one may enjoy several potfulls by resteeping the same leaves numerous times.• In general milk works well with black tea, but is not recommended with green or oolong.The important thing to remember is to savour the experience!
The History of Tea*The discovery of tea is lost among the folktales. Chinese storytellers recite the legend of Emperor Shen Nung, the father of agriculture and herbal medicine, who lived almost three thousand years before Christ and taught his people the value of cultivating land and the wisdom of boiling water to make it safe for drinking. One day, while working in his own garden, Shen Nung noticed the leaf of a camellia-like bush floating in his steaming bowl of water. Sipping the concoction, he discovered a drink that was refreshing and exhilarating.For the Japanese, tea had its origin in an act of atonement rather than discovery. Their central character is the missionary monk, Daruma (Prince Bodhidharma), who brought Buddhism from India to China and Japan. In A.D. 520, Daruma began a nine-year meditation in a cave-temple near Canton, but, growing weary after many months of staring at a stone wall, he fell asleep. Awakening, Daruma was so displeased with himself that he cut off his lazy eyelids and threw them to the ground. It was there, according to legend, that the first tea plant grew, providing Daruma with an elixir that kept him alert during the remaining years of his reverie. By the eighth century, tea was being eulogized in literature and legislation. The Chinese poet and scholar Lu Yu wrote the definitive commentary on tea. Ch’a Ching, known as The Classic of Tea, is still read today.With each succeeding dynasty, tea evolved to reflect society. During Lu Yu’s era, the T’ang dynasty (A.D. 618-906), tea enjoyed its golden age. The world’s largest empire was a mecca for traders, and tea was a flavourful commodity. During this period, tea often was brought to Japan by monks returning from pilgrimages to China. Pounded and shaped into molds, tea bricks were easy to transport, and the beverage was made simply by breaking off a chunk into boiling water.During the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1280), the refinements of tea culture blossomed in both China and Japan. Powdered tea and delicate porcelain came into vogue, and the first teahouses appeared. Many of the rituals used in the Japanese tea ceremony, Chanoyu, date to this elegant period.Prized as a tonic and panacea, tea’s shiny leaves were considered food by early Asian nomads. Some of the world’s first energy bars were concocted by mixing tea leaves with salt, garlic, and dried fish. The reeking but portable result made a handy form of exchange. After the social, political, and cultural upheaval of Kublai Khan and his Mongol relatives, the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644) attempted to revive many lost rituals. The black, green, and oolong teas we are familiar with today were developed during this dynasty, and the teapot became an indispensable vessel for brewing.As sixteenth-century Portuguese, Dutch, and other European traders and missionaries began to visit Asia, word of the beverage spread. The Dutch introduced tea to England in the early 1600s, but it remained the drink of aristocrats until the 1650s, when coffeehouses began serving tea as an alternative to coffee and hot chocolate. In 1657, Garway’s Coffee House in London advertised tea as a cure-all, and rumors attributing Chinese longevity to tea drinking helped spread the gospel. But tea was considered a man’s drink until King Charles II’s consort, Catherine of Braganza, introduced tea at court as the fashionable breakfast drink.Tea came to North America in the mid-seventeenth century, when the Dutch settled on the small island now known as Manhattan. The neighboring British colonies took longer to embrace the drink. In fact, they didn’t drink it at all. Instead, they boiled the leaves and ate the lifeless vegetation with a little salt and butter.Barely a hundred years after its introduction to Great Britain, tea had become an international commodity, but its popularity in America imploded due to an ill-conceived political maneuver. The British government levied a special tax on teas destined for the colonies, and the colonies protested with a boycott. As tea sales plummeted, the British tried to force the colonies to take the surplus, and, in a manner of speaking, they did. In December 1773, participants in the Boston Tea Party, one of the many held in different ports, dumped the tea in the harbour and set the stage for the American Revolution. It was decades before Americans began to drink tea again.The twentieth century proved to be a busy one for American tea enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. In the scorching summer of 1904, the United States was strutting her economic stuff at America’s first World’s Fair, held in Saint Louis. From around the world, countries came to exhibit their wares, and an Englishman by the name of Richard Blechynden set up a booth to promote Indian black tea. But no one was willing to drink his steaming brew in the sweltering heat. Out of desperation the frantic man poured the hot tea over ice and, to everyone’s delight, a quenching new beverage—iced tea—was invented.Four years later, Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea importer, initiated a second major innovation. Deciding to cut his overhead, he replaced the large sample tins of tea he sent to his retail customers with small, individual silk bags. Eventually, filter paper replaced the silk, and it’s safe to say that tea bags are here to stay.With the dawn of the new millennium, tea is more popular than ever. During the 1990s, tea sales more than doubled, reaching $4 billion a year in the United States, and iced tea continues to be second only to cola in popularity. One of the world’s most popular beverages, tea has shown a sophisticated ability to transform itself. Long praised for its beneficial health components, tea is showing up in everything from cosmetics to candies, ointments, and balms.
*Reprinted from “The New Tea Book, A guide to black, green, herbal and chai tea”, by Sara Perry, Chronicle Books, 2001.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
What a 'wonderful wonderland' last night in Wasaga Beach, ON. Hostess, Katy McKay (a.k.a. The Queen of Hearts & Delicious Heart Tarts) created a lovely, welcoming and pampering tea house atmosphere for her guests. Everyone enjoyed their 'Steeped Tea'. This Mad Hatter Steeped Tea Party was trippy good. What fun! You could host one too!
Patti Friday Kennedy, Steeped Tea Consultant #KT100251 email@example.com
A Note from Hostess, Katy McKay arrived this morning!
"Patti, Thank you so much for putting so much effort into my party. I really appreciate everything you did to make my "Mad Hatter's Tea party" so much fun. You're a star! Such a professional, no one would know that you only started your business just a few weeks ago. You are going to be a roaring success." - Love Katy x