Malawi Tea and Satemwa Estate

One of many flags of the world, in this case the flag of Malawi

Malawi Flag (Public Domain)

We’ve recently added three specialty teas from Malawi to our growing tea collection so it only felt right to provide a bit more background on this land locked African nation.

Profile of Malawi

The country of Malawi is located in Africa, south of the equator near Madagascar and is about on the same latitude as Brazil and the northern part of Australia. Given that it isn’t too far south of the equator it should come as no surprise that agriculture is a large part of the economy of Malawi. According to the CIA World Fact Book, this country which is about the size of Pennsylvania, exports tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, and peanuts in decreasing order.  Indeed tobacco is the largest by far making up more than 50% of exports from the country.

As countries go, Malawi is relatively young. It was created as a British protectorate in 1891 and only became an independent nation in 1964. While it is a democracy now the people of the country experienced many strict laws under the one-time “President for Life” Hastings Banda.

Today Malawi continues to experience some challenges as it grows and develops including a poor reputation for environmental production, low education rates, and high rates of HIV/AIDS. As recently as January 2015, the country experienced severe flooding which left hundreds of families in the south of Malawi homeless in the southern part of the country including nearby Thyolo and Bvumbwe and Satemwa Estate. As recently as mid-February the area still recovering with 4,500 families impacted by the flooding.

Malawi Tea from Satemwa Estate

Satemwa estate is in Southern Malawi near Thyolo and Bvumbwe

Map of Malawi with insert of Southern Malawi and Thyolo.

Located in the southern tip of Malawi, Satemwa Estate has been producing tea and coffee since 1923, long before Malawi became an independent country. It produces a wide variety of tea products including specialty orthodox tea. The tea estate is located in the southern highlands of the country well south of Lake Malawi and a mere 35 minutes from the countries highest peak, Mt. Mulanje.  The Satemwa Estate actually has tea fields spread around the city of Thyolo extending up to Bvumbwe  including a field at higher elevations along the slopes of the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area.

The Satemwa Estate tea plantation employs a large number of people in the region. While Malawi struggles in many areas, the plantation features numerous programs to support the well being of its staff. Programs include a health clinic which provides medical care to all employees and their families along with students from the Satemwa Primary School. Its health efforts even include work with the United Nations International Labour Office (UN ILO) to increase awareness and protection around HIV/AIDS. It is supporting national efforts for community policing and even has sporting activities for its employees. Finally, the estate maintains a primary school to combat education challenges in the country, providing schooling for about 900 students.

Satemwa Estate is also committed to reducing its impact on climate change, protecting the environment, and sustainable farming demonstrated through training programs for workers and community members. It is Fair Trade Certified as well as holding certification by both UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance.

Dominion Tea’s Selection of Specialty Tea from Satemwa Estate

Dominion Tea offers three teas from Satemwa Estate:

  • Treasure Variety Satemwa EstateThis handmade black tea from Satemwa Estate in southern Malawi features caramel and floral notes. The beautiful large leaf unfurls when steeped to release a bright golden liquor. 
  • Puerh Leaf Satemwa EstateProduced in the modern style (cooked vs aged), this leaf puerh produces a mild, earthy, and woody experience. Although China is known for its Puerh, this leaf puerh from Malawi shows that it can be done in other parts of the world.
  • Bvumbwe BSP Satemwa EstateThis white tea from Malawi features broken leaf of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Grown on a very specific field along the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area in southern Malawi, Bvumbwe BSP is named for a nearby village. The infusion yields a delicious brew with hints of caramel and an aroma that smells a bit of sweet bread and chocolate.

Sources Referenced

CIA World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mi.html

Satemwa Estate, http://www.satemwa.com/

Malawi: Heavy Rains Leave 700 Families Homeless in Thyolo, By Sungeni Nyoni, January 16, 2015, allAfrica.com, http://allafrica.com/stories/201501161479.html

Picking Tea and Condoms in Malawi, United Nations International Labour Office, http://data.unaids.org/pub/ExternalDocument/2009/20090402_ilomalawi_en.pdf

Thyolo-Thava MP Reaches Out to More Flood Victims, February 18, 2015, The Malawi Voice, http://malawivoice.com/2015/02/18/thyolo-thava-mp-reaches-out-to-more-flood-victims/

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Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka Cocktails

Adding tea to your cocktails is really easy to do and makes for a unique beverage to serve at your next get together. It seems counter intuitive to blend together tea, a beverage associated with health and mental clarity, with alcohol, which is associated with the exact opposite characteristics. However,opposites can and do blend well together. Keep in mind, the British have been putting tea in their alcoholic punches dating back to the 1700′s.

Loose Leaf Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka

Earl Grey Tea Infused Vodka

History of Tea and Alcohol

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a little bit of the history around tea and alcohol. In China, the two rarely mixed. While the Chinese have been making alcohol, starting with beer from millet for over 9,000 years, it was consumed differently than tea. Beer was produced because straight water could not be trusted for consumption. Tea was consumed as part of a religious and health ritual, it was not really seen as a replacement for water. That may be because it came on the scene much later than beer.

Interestingly tea came onto the wider cultural scene just as alcohol consumption in China was thought to be at its highest. The consumption of tea was thought to be the highest level of sophistication. In order to gain the favor of the emperor, much of the upper class abandoned alcohol for tea. The Tang dynasty (790-835 CE) saw the rise of the tea culture in upper society, replacing the beers,wines and grain alcohols that had been consumed previously. Alcohol became so frowned upon that wine making disappeared from the upper parts of Chinese society until it was reintroduced by the Portuguese and British in the early 1800′s. Tea quickly got added to alcohol by sailors on the trading vessels. Beer would go bad during the trip, and once it did, it was turned into punch with other spices and tea added to hide the off flavor of the beer. As an American, who takes my clean water for granted, it is hard to imagine that beer was the primary drink for sailors, but without clean water, beer was the safest beverage to consume.

Earl Grey Tea Cocktail Recipes

Flavor infused vodkas have become popular over the past couple of years and it is super easy to infuse your favorite vodka with tea. The first rule to remember, if you won’t drink the tea don’t put it in the vodka.

Earl Grey Vodka

1 tablespoon loose leaf Earl Grey tea

8oz vodka

Combine both ingredients together in a container and allow to sit for 8 hours before tasting to ensure you have the flavor you want. If you chose to use a tea bag instead, cut down the time to 2-3 hours,otherwise you end up with bitter vodka. Feel free to substitute other black teas for the Earl Grey. If they are flavored or blended with other spices, you may want to check at the 4-6 hour mark to see if you have the flavor you desire.

So now that we have a nice base for the cocktails, it is time for a few drink recipes.

Earl Grey Vodka Martinis: A delicious experiment.

Finished Earl Grey Vodka Martinis

Earl Grey Martini (Serves 2)

4 oz of Earl Grey Iced Tea

2 oz of Earl Grey tea infused vodka

1 tsp of Agave Nectar (this can be substituted for 1 tsp of Simple Syrup)

Mix the three ingredients together and then serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of orange or orange peel, if you wish.

 

Earl Grey Tonic (Serves 2)

4 oz of Earl Grey Iced Tea

4 oz of Earl Grey tea infused vodka

3 oz Tonic Water

Pour the vodka into a highball glass over ice cubes. Then pour in the iced tea,followed by the tonic water. Stir and serve. If you want something extra special, make ice cubes using earl grey ice tea.

Note:  If you are fine with a little less Earl Grey flavor, you can replace the iced tea with the tonic water.

 

There are many more recipes you could make with your Earl Grey tea infused vodka. So feel free to play and share your favorite recipes with us.

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Tea Eggs and the Chinese Spring Festival

The lunar new year is fast approaching and with it a chance to look into the Chinese culture and find new ways to use tea. The Spring Festival, which used to be the Chinese New Year, was renamed in 1913 when the Communist Party took over China and put the country on the Gregorian calendar (this is our modern calendar which was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII). The Spring Festival corresponds with the lunar new year, which starts this year on February 19th. In Chinese culture, It is considered a time for cleaning, gathering of families and celebrating a fresh start.

Like every family gathering, no matter which country you live in, there is plenty of food. A typical dish, which uses tea in a unique way, are Chinese tea eggs. These are basically spiced hard boiled eggs. The combination and concentration of spices are unique to every family. So while I use one combination below, feel free to modify for your taste.

Chinese Tea Eggs Spicing

Spicing for Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese Tea Eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of Soy Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of Black or Puerh Tea (traditionally this is made with Puerh)
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • ½ tablespoon anise seeds (3 to 4 Star Anise if you happen to have a good spice shop nearby)
  • 1 tablespoon dried orange peel
  • ½ tablespoon peppercorns

You will need tongs, a bowl with ice and water to cool the eggs and a spoon to crack their shells.

Place the eggs in sauce pan or large pot. You will want the pot big enough to hold the eggs in a single layer and allow you to pour in enough water to cover the eggs entirely. Place the eggs in the pot and fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil and then lower to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water and put into the bowl with ice water. This will cool the eggs enough for you to handle them without burning yourself.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Completed Tea Eggs

Assuming none of the eggs broke during the initial cooking, just leave the water in the pot as you will be putting the eggs back in it. If one did, drain out the water, it will be foamy, wipe out the pot and fill with fresh water. Pull an egg out of the ice water and use a spoon to crack the egg shell. You are trying to make a lot of small cracks without removing the shell. Don’t worry if you lose part of the shell, just crack the entire shell then place the egg back in the pot. Do this to the remaining eggs.

Once all the eggs are back in the pot, add in the soy sauce, tea and spices. Add more water if necessary to get the liquids above the eggs. Turn the heat back on and bring the water up to a small simmer and allow to cook for at least 2 hours, if you want a darker web on your eggs you can simmer up to 3 hours.

This makes a salted and slightly spicy hard-boiled egg that is also colored by the tea and soy sauce.

Enjoy the lunar new year with a new way to use tea.

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Black Fusion Doke Estate and Bihar Tea

Black Fusion Loose Leaf Tea from Bihar India

Black Fusion, Doke Estate, India

We continue to be fascinated by India and a recent addition of Black Fusion from Doke Estate in the state Bihar only feeds our interest in this dynamic and complicated country. In prior blogs we’ve spent some time discussing Darjeeling, Assam, and even Nilgiri far to the south and west of the country. As we add Black Fusion to our offerings we figured it would be great to provide a bit of background to this region which is far less well known for tea.

Doke Estate

Doke Estate, established in 1998 originally for CTC production, is located on the banks of the Doke River in Pothia within the Kishanganj district of the state of Bihar.  The district technically borders both the Darjeeling District of West Bengal and the country of Nepal, though is actually quite flat, sitting about 800 ft above sea level. This is in dramatic contrast to high grown tea estates of Darjeeling ranging between 4,000 and 6,000 ft in elevation. Owned by the well known Lochan family, this estate was built on land previously thought to be useless for agricultural purposes and is now used for hand made orthodox teas. The nearby Doke River, now with water year round, used to be monsoon fed and is now providing water for irrigation thanks to a nearby hydro-electric power dam and making tea production possible. While their Black Fusion has garnered a lot of attention the estate does produce other hand-made teas as well including green and white teas.

Kishanganj and Pothia

Bodh Gaya - Pilgrimage site for followers of buddhism.

Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya by Man Bartlett, CC BY 2.0

Pothia, where Doke Estate sits, and the broader region of Kishanganj in Bihar isn’t nearly as well known in tea circles as its nearby neighbors of Assam and Darjeeling. While it has had tea plantations since the 1990′s it has struggled to develop it into a large industry and still must rely heavily on processing facilities in West Bengal. However, the industry has continued to grow bringing much needed jobs to the region and slowing migration away from the district.  (Prasad)

Tea aside, this district which at one time was part of Nepal, is about the size of the Hawaiian island of Maui with a population about the size of Idaho. It is one of the poorest regions in India with a 30% literacy rate (~18% among women) and has suffered severe floods and high rates of Polio infection leading UNICEF and other organizations to organize large efforts to immunize large parts of the population.

The state of Bihar is well known in Buddhist circles as it is home to Bodh Gaya, the most holy place on earth for its followers, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Black Fusion, Doke Estate

Doke Estate, Black Fusion leaf and liquor.

A fresh cup of Black Fusion.

We’ll admit to choosing to add Black Fusion before learning a lot about Bihar and now that we have, we hope to learn more. The 2014 Black Fusion is an exceptional black tea. This tea is unique in that it carries qualities of both assam and darjeeling teas yet is grown at a low elevation on flat land. The flavor is fruity with a clean finish expected of assam.

In appearance this is a large, long wiry leaf which is beautiful to admire both prior to steeping and after infusion. The pluck is two leaves and a bud most of which are fully intact and unroll nicely when infused. Steep 3-4 grams slightly cooler than a typical black tea at about 195°F for a more complex buttery flavor profile or hotter with 205°F for a slightly bolder and more malty taste.  

Sources

Tea City status eludes Kishanganj, by Bhuvaneshwar Prasad, Oct 20, 2010, The Times of India, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/Tea-City-status-eludes-Kishanganj/articleshow/6777156.cms

Evaluation of Social Mobilization Network (SMNet)- FINAL REPORT, January 2014, UNICEF, http://www.unicef.org/evaldatabase/files/India_2013-001_Evaluation_of_Social_Mobilization_Network_Final_Report.pdf

Kishanganj District Profile, http://www.kishanganj.bih.nic.in/District%20Profile.htm

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Yellow Tea: Unique and Rare Chinese Specialty

Yellow tea is China’s rarest tea, due to the extensive manufacturing process to get the yellow hued leaves and liquor. Depending on current trends in China, yellow teas come and go in overall availability, making it more difficult to find these teas here in the United States, but they can be found.

History of Yellow Tea

There are a wide range of stories around the creation of yellow tea and when it occurred, without a lot of agreement around those circumstances. Yellow tea is currently manufactured in both the Anhui and Hunan provinces of China.

Yellow is a favorite color in China.

Xian, China – Temple at Night

It is thought that the tea was produced in honor of the emperor, though which one specifically is not really clear, with yellow being the imperial colors of all five imperial dynasties in China. In Chinese culture, yellow is considered the most beautiful color. It is associated with Yin and Yang and the perfect center of everything. Yellow is paired with red in decorating alters and imperial palaces and is also associated with heroism in China.

With yellow holding such an important place in Chinese culture, it is only natural for tea producers to experiment and ultimately produce a tea that is both yellow in color as a dry leaf and as the beverage.

Producing Yellow Tea

Yellow tea resides somewhere between white and green teas both in flavor and appearance. Like a white tea, it is picked as either only a bud or a bud and single leaf. However, it is steamed during production. Like other teas, yellow tea is picked, withered in the sun and then pan dried. However, at the end of the pan drying, it is then laid back out and covered with a damp cloth and allowed to steam for a few hours. It is then returned to the pan to dry and may then be wrapped again. This process of steaming and drying may be repeated several times until the tea reaches the required color. Keeping the buds and leaves whole while going between the pan and the steaming clothes requires great care, adding time to an already time consuming manufacturing process. The process ends with the final drying in the pan.

All of that work produces a tea that ranges from buttery to floral in flavor depending on which yellow tea you get and at what temperature you steep it.

Types of Yellow Tea

Ahnui Yellow Flower Yellow Tea

Anhui Yellow Flower (Ho Shan Huang Ya) Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is quite rare and there only a few available including Jun Shan Yin Zhen from the Hunan province and Huo Shan Huang Ya from the Anhui province.  Jun Shan Yin Zhen is bud only and tastes buttery with slight floral aroma.  The Huo Shan Huang Ya was originally a tribute tea dating back to the Ming Dynasty and brews with a floral aroma and slightly nutty taste.  These teas can be brewed at temperatures between 165-185 degrees Fahrenheit.

So when you are in search of your next tea experience, keep your eyes open for these teas.  They are worth a try.

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