Connoisseur Tea? Adventurous? Conventional? What’s with the tea categories?

If you’ve ever had some of our tea, experienced our Purcellville Virginia Tasting Room, or explored our website you may have noticed one of the icons below associated with our teas. Or maybe you just stumbled across these terms while looking for tea by experience on our website. Either way, we figured it was probably about time to clarify what these mean and why you will see them on our teas. Most tea drinkers are familiar with browsing teas by country or by tea type. But we wanted to offer an alternative way to search for great teas based simply on your experience with tea. In short, the idea is to group teas based on your preference for blended and/or flavored teas, something a bit more traditional, and something truly special in the world of tea. Each path offers great tea but is another way to help zero in on the perfect experience for you.

Connoisseur Tea, Adventurous Tea, or Conventional Tea

An alternative way to find new teas.

Conventional Tea

We categorize our conventional tea options as great tasting teas which are less traditional and are generally blended with other great ingredients like hibiscus, jasmine, ginger, or a host of other great additions. These teas may also be flavored to help add some pop to the aroma or flavor.

Adventurous Tea

For those who want to explore a bit more, or have an adventurous streak, we offer our adventurous teas. These teas generally step away from the added ingredients and flavorings and explore higher quality teas coming from unexpected or nontraditional regions. While most adventurous teas are not blends or flavored, there are some, especially with a base tea from named estates or geographic regions, or unexpected flavor combinations.

Connoisseur Tea

Finally our connoisseur tea selection is for those looking for some of the best tea available. You will find named teas (like Dragonwell, aka Longjing Tea) linked to a specific region or estate. Of all our tea categories, our connoisseur tea group reflects the best for experience tea drinkers, typically features teas of a premium pluck, and those that can be particularly difficult to obtain.

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Hojicha: Japan’s Roasted Tea

Loose Leaf Hojicha

Hojicha Organic

Hojicha (also spelled Houjicha) is a truly unique tea from Japan. This roasted green tea was supposedly created by a tea merchant in Kyoto,sometime in the 1920′s, who decided to roast bancha tea outside of his tea store to attract customers in to look at his tea wares. This rather humble beginning hides a tea that is actually a staple in Japanese tea culture today. The roasting lowers caffeine in the tea when compared to its fellow green teas, so the Japanese frequently use hojicha as an evening tea or tea that is given to anyone who may be sensitive to caffeine, like children or the elderly.

How Hojicha is Made

Hojicha is made from bancha tea, or later harvest tea. The leaves are typically on the plant longer, making them bigger and imparting a more dry grass flavor. Bancha is processed just like Sencha, so it is steamed to stop oxidation. Hoijcha comes from adding an additional step to the bancha process of roasting the leaves at around 200°F for just a few minutes. This roasting process imparts a roasted chestnut or hazelnut aroma and flavor. If it is roasted for too long, just like nuts, the leaves will quickly burn.

Hojicha can have tea stems in it, but this often dictated on whether the stems are kept in or removed as part of making bancha. Having stems in your hojicha is not a bad thing, it can actually intensify the nutty flavor from roasting.

How to Brew Hojicha

Hojicha is brewed in Japan just like other green teas. The water temperature should be in the range of 175-185°F. You will want around 3 grams of tea to 8 ounces of water. Generally hojicha leaves are larger and quite lightweight, so reach for tablespoon to measure out this tea if not using a kitchen scale. It can be steeped for up to 3 minutes. While it might be tempting to treat this green tea like a black tea because of its color, boiling water will eliminate some of the nuances found when the lower water temperature is used. It can also be brewed by doubling or tripling the amount of tea to water and dropping the steep time to 30 seconds-1 minute. This often results in a very intense nutty flavor.

This beautiful tea is worth exploring whenever you are in the mood for something nutty in your tea.

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5 Teas to Try Iced or Cold Brewed

Two great teas over ice.

Iced Ti Kuan Yin and Nilgiri

There are many teas that we associate with drinking hot that actually make great iced teas. It all comes down to getting your brewing time and amount of tea correct. Below are just five teas that people may overlook in trying to find new and fun iced or cold brewed tea options.

  1. Irish Breakfast - Yes, your favorite cup of black tea in the morning makes a perfectly good iced tea. You can thank the Assam tea from India that makes up the largest portion of this tea blend. Assam tea’s strong and astringent flavor holds over ice. This makes it a perfect tea for an Arnold Palmer(link to recipe).
  2. Sencha – This staple green tea from Japan is truly tasty cold brewed. If you not familiar with it check out an earlier post on cold brewing tea to find out how easy it is to have tea waiting for you first thing in the morning.
  3. Ti Kuan Yin – Also known as Iron Goddess Tea, this toasted oolong remains smooth and sesame in flavor over ice. It is a nice alternative to typical bold black tea used for iced tea. It also pairs nicely with strawberries or peaches, so feel free to add some to the pitcher or cup to change things up a bit.
  4. Moroccan Mint – This fragrant green tea is just as refreshing cold as it is hot. This one can be prepared either iced or cold brewed.
  5. Nilgiri – This beautiful black tea from India brews crystal clear and remains clear when cold, even after three days in the refrigerator. It also keeps its smooth woody and floral tea taste while cold. Lemon and sugar can be added with no problem. If you want to learn more about this beautiful tea and the region of India it comes from, check out this blog post.

These five teas are just the tip of the iceburg when it comes to ice tea options. So feel free to try your favorite tea cold, you may be surprised by how good it is.

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Earl Lavender Tea Muffins

Mug of tea and three muffins drizzled in earl lavender glaze.

Earl Lavender Muffins — fresh from the oven with tea.

Earl Lavender tea muffins are easy to make and a tasty breakfast treat. I have prepared these in miniature muffin tins but they can be done in a full sized one, just add about 7-10 minutes to the cooking time on these muffins. If you do not have Earl Grey with Lavender tea, don’t sweat it. It works just as well with your favorite black tea.

Earl Lavender Tea Muffins

Prepares 12 muffins in a regular sized pan & 24 in a miniature pan

1 1/2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of Earl Grey with Lavender tea
16 ounces of water
1 stick of butter
1 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Optional:  1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers, chopped

Earl Grey with Lavender Glaze

1/2 cup of confectioners sugar
2 Tablespoons of brewed Earl Grey with Lavender (You may want additional if you want a thinner glaze on the muffins)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Next, you will need to melt the butter with 2 tsp of the Earl Grey with Lavender tea in it. Start by putting the stick of butter in a pan with the tea.

Bring the 16 oz of water to a boil and put in the tablespoon and half of the Earl Grey with Lavender tea. Allow to steep for 5 minutes and strain off the tea. You will need to reserve 8 ounces for the recipe and possibly as much as 1/4 cup for the icing. So the remaining 3/4 cup is for you to enjoy while you cook.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, and baking powder.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg and slowly add the sugar making sure to incorporate the sugar fully into the egg. Then mix in the vanilla extract. Pour the cooled butter through a strainer, to remove the tea leaves, into the bowl and stir until combined. Then pour in the cooled cup of Earl Grey with Lavender tea and stir. Next pour the wet ingredients into the bowl full of flour. Mix until fully combined.

Next pour the batter into the muffin tins just shy of the top of the tin.

When using a miniature muffin pan, cook for 20-25 minutes and test the center of the muffin with a tooth pick before removing. For a full size muffin tin, start with 30 minutes but you may need as long as 40 minutes to make sure they are done.

Plate of Earl Lavender Muffins

Fresh Glazed Earl Lavender Muffins

While the muffins are cooking, it is time to make your glaze. In a bowl, put the half cup of confectioners sugar and pour in the first tablespoon of tea and stir. Then pour in the second tablespoon of tea and stir completely to make sure there are no clumps of sugar. If you end up with clumps, use a fork to break them apart. If you would like a thinner batter, add additional tea 1 teaspoon at a time until you reach the consistency you want.

When the muffins are done, allow them to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes and then remove. To glaze, put the muffins on top of a cooling rack on wax paper. Brush the glaze over the top of the muffins. The glaze will drip off, which is why you want the wax paper below the cooling rack. It will take a few minutes for the glaze to set. The muffins are then ready to serve. They can also be put in the refrigerator and will be good for about 4 days.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Tea and its History

Yellow Mountains with clouds below.

Yellow Mountains of Anhui Province, China – by Flickr User Chi King – CC BY 2.0

Huang Shan Mao Feng tea is rich in both flavor and history.  This amazing green tea is considered one of the most famous Chinese teas, being prized for its complex vegetal flavor and the shape of the finished tea leaves.

History of Huang Shan Mao Feng

Huang Shan Mao Feng comes from the Huang Shan mountains in the Anhui province of China. Huang Shan means yellow mountains, which they happen to be. These are the famous mountains often depicted in Chinese pictures with the pointy jagged rocks at the tip with trees jutting out from deep crevasses. This region provides the perfect terroir for tea, making it home to several famous Chinese teas. Huang Shan Mao Feng may be the youngest of these teas, becoming popular in the late 1800s CE, during the reign of the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

Most Chinese teas have a myth around their creation that reflect the ancient life of China, and this tea is no different. The story goes that a young maiden on a tea plantation fell in love with a local scholar. The plantation owner wanted her as his wife and forced her parents to give the young maiden to him. The night before the wedding the young maiden escaped and fled into the mountains to find the scholar, only to discover he was killed by the plantation owner. When she went to his grave deep in the mountains she cried over his body, turning it into a tea bush and herself into the rain and mist that covers the mountains almost daily.

Huang Shan Mao Feng Production

Huang Shan Mao Feng is made from the young growth of the bud and first leaf, and often have the noticeable silver hairs made famous by Bai Hao Silver Needle tea. It is shaped by hand into a mountain peak. The term Mao Feng mean furry peak. These needles will range in color from light to dark green and have a slight curve in their shape. This tea, like Dragon Well, is picked before the Qing Ming holiday and baked to stop the oxidation.

Steeping Huang Shan Mao Feng

Yellow Tea Huang Shan Mao Feng Leaf and Liquor

Yellow Tea – Huang Shan Mao Feng

You are going to use 3 grams per 8 ounces of water. If you do not have kitchen scale, use 2 tablespoons to get the 3 grams as this tea is very light and airy. The water should be between 175°-185° Fahrenheit. Allow the leaves to steep for 2 minutes for the first cup. Your second cup should be steeped for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Your third cup should be steeped for 3 minutes. Notice how the flavor changes with the cups, going from a light grassy to a strong vegetal flavor.

If you have not had this tea before, stop into the shop for a tasting or order a sample online.  This tea reflects the skill of Chinese tea masters and the beauty of Chinese green tea.

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