Five Tea Tips To Get You Through Social Distancing

Japanese Teapot and Green TeaIt’s amazing to see how fast coronavirus has changed everything. Across the country, Americans are settling into new social isolation routines, which can be difficult and frightening, especially for those of us who enjoy long conversations with friends and family over a pot of tea. But even though times are stressful, we at Dominion Tea want to remind you to take comfort in the little things that can make it all more bearable: a healthy walk outside, a phone conversation with a loved one, or – of course – a comforting cup of your favorite tea.

Here’s five ways that tea can help while we’re all stuck at home:

  1. Tea can give you a better energy boost than coffee. Struggling to get through endless rounds of virtual meetings? Try swapping out your coffee for a cup of tea instead. The particular combination of caffeine and L-theanine in tea may lead to a longer-lasting period of alertness, without the usual jolt-and-crash experience of coffee or energy drinks.
  2. Switching to loose-tea tea saves both money and the planet. Loose tea is both environmentally friendlier and more cost-efficient, as it uses far less packaging to produce. Many loose-leaf teas are also able to be steeped multiple times, which doubles their value! If you’re new to loose-leaf, check out our post on the essentials you need to get started.
  3. Buying local tea can save you a trip to grocery store. Many tea companies have products available online for either shipping or in-store pickup. You can get your tea while still social distancing and support small business at same time.
  4. Tea has numerous health benefits, including immune system boosters. For maximum benefit, try to drink 1-3 cups per day (an easy task for most tea lovers!). Some of our favorites include matcha-infused sencha, hundred-year tea, and ginseng oolong.
  5. You can recreate your favorite café brews without leaving home. Check out our recipe for hojicha lattes and how to make matcha. In the mood for something stronger? Try some of the tea cocktails we’ve come up with in the past.
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Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

We’ll admit it: tea cakes can be daunting! Although compressed tea is a delightful way to explore unfamiliar traditions and flavors, we know that starting out may be intimidating. Maybe you’ve recently purchased a brick of your favorite puerh or aged white and aren’t certain how to use it. Maybe you’ve been given a handful of tuo cha by a well-intentioned friend. Or maybe you’re looking for a gift for the tea connoisseur in your life. Whatever the reason, we at Dominion Tea are here to help. Here’s a list of our favorite tea cake utensils, perfect for either the seasoned tea veteran or the novice just starting out.

    1. Tea Needle/Pick: These handy tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes designed to help break off sections of tea from your brick or cake without damaging its form. Picks and needles are used by sliding them horizontally between leaf layers in your tea cake, allowing you to gently pry free small measures at a time.
    2. Cha Ze Scoop: Traditionally made from bamboo or wood, Cha Ze scoops are an elegant way to measure out and present your tea after you have broken off the sections that you need. The high walls and long body of this tool make it perfectly shaped for transferring tea into your teapot for brewing.
    3. Cha Jia Tongs: Cha Jia serve a variety of purposes, especially if you are serving your tea traditionally. These bamboo tongs can be used to handle broken-up sections of compressed tea, pick out brewed leaves from a pot or pitcher, and
      Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

      Compressed Tea Cake Utensils

      handle hot cups during a Gong Fu ceremony.

    4. Breaking Tray: Also referred to as a Judging Tray when it is used for evaluation purposes, this small and shallow tray provides an ideal surface for breaking up compressed tea cakes. One bottom corner is always cut out, which allows you to easily pour your dry tea into your Cha Ze, gaiwan, or teapot.
    5. Tea Knife: Just like picks and needles, tea knives are specially designed to help you pry apart your tea cakes without causing excess damage to the leaves. Look for a small, flat, and very rigid blade that can easily slip between the dense layers in your tea cake. A good puerh knife can be a work of art in its own right, and many are designed to be beautiful as well as functional.

 

If you’re feeling intimated by the thought of a tea cake, why not pick up a few new utensils to try with it? (We carry them in our Purcellville, VA store.) Just like any other art, when it comes to tea preparation, having the right tools can make all the difference.

By: Jen Coate

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How to Make Matcha

Matcha is enjoying a surge in popularity these days! This powdered green tea out of Japan is now being seen in all sorts of applications from cocktails to baked goods. Naturally, people are also curious to try matcha brewed traditionally.

Prepared Matcha

Bowl of Usucha

Although the process may seem intimidating at first, it is actually quick and simple. All it takes is a few tools and a little practice.

Traditionally, matcha in Japan was prepared in two different ways. Usucha (“thin matcha”) is prepared with more water and less powder, which gives it a creamy head and a foamy appearance. Koicha (“thick matcha”) boasts a higher viscosity and a deeper, more intense flavor. Both types are worth trying at least once, as both offer an experience vastly different than what we Americans think of when it comes to tea.

 

To brew matcha, you will need:

  • Matcha tea powder
  • A bamboo chasuku, measuring scoop, or teaspoon
  • A chawan or small bowl for mixing
  • A chasen or small whisk
  • Hot water

Steps:

  1. Heat your water to a boil and set aside to cool. To prepare usucha (thin matcha), use 3-4 oz of water. For koicha (thick matcha), use 1-2 oz. The water will need to be between 158°-176°F.
  2. Preheat your matcha bowl by filling it about 1/3 full of hot water, then stirring gently with the tip of your chasen or whisk. Discard the water and dry your bowl thoroughly.

    Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder

    Ceremonial Grade Matcha Powder

  3. Measure out your matcha into your bowl. For usucha, use about ½ teaspoon, or 2 scoops using a chashaku. For koicha, use about 1 teaspoon, or 3-4 scoops. We highly recommend sifting your matcha before proceeding to the next step to remove any clumps from the powder.
  4. Measure your water temperature. Once it has dropped between 158°-176°F, you are ready to begin.
  5. Pour your water into the matcha bowl, directly over the matcha.
  6. Whisk, holding the whisk in one hand and steadying the rim of the matcha bowl with the other.
  • For usucha, whisk in W-motion using your wrist until the matcha is thick and frothy, with lots of pale green bubbles on its surface.
  • For koicha, rather than frothing vigorously, use the whisk to knead your matcha from left to right and up and down, rolling into a thick, syrupy consistency. The resulting tea will be dense, smooth, and dark.
  1. Drink directly from the bowl and pour into your cup of choice. Enjoy!

As you get comfortable with the process, you may wish to experiment with water temperature, amount of matcha powder used, or whisking methods. As current food trends are demonstrating, matcha is quite versatile, so have fun and play around with it!

By: Jen Coate

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3 Unique Uses for Used or Old Tea Bags

Old tea bags

Old tea bags are great for the compost!

Tea drinkers inevitably have old tea bags in their pantry along with their other teas. As we have either given up tea bags for higher quality loose leaf tea or been given them as a gift by a non-tea drinking friend, these old tea bags take up space because it feels wasteful to throw them away. Well, here are 3 easy ways to use those old tea bags around the house without ever having to drink them.

Fertilizer and compost for your plants. You may not like the taste of stale tea bags (if your tea tastes like paper, it is stale), but your plants love it. Break open those tea bags and put the tea leaves around your house plants or out in your flower beds. They will decompose quickly and their nutrients are helpful for any plant.

Treat yourself to a tea bath. The Chinese have used tea for centuries to help alleviate the pain of sun burn or poison ivy. Black tea is best for this, but other teas will work as well. You can place a cool wet tea bag on a burn to alleviate the pain. Brewed black tea also helps to dry out a weeping poison ivy rash. After you have brewed the tea for your skin, allow the bags to cool and use them as a compress for your eyes. Black tea helps to remove the puffiness around tired eyes.

Deodorize your home. There is a reason tea is stored in air tight containers. Tea is hygrosopic, which means it absorbs moisture and odor from the air. The Chinese will leave a small plate of used tea leaves in freezers and refrigerators to remove odor. Put those tea bags in your closets to remove odor. Dried used tea bags also work in removing odor from shoes. The good news here is that the tea doesn’t impart its own smell while absorbing odors. You know when to change the leaves by smelling them. They will smell like the odor they absorbed.

So, clean those bags out of your tea cabinet and put them to work for you!

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Growing Regions of Sri Lanka – Terroir & Tea

Tea bushes in Sri Lanka.

Ceylon Tea Plantation in Sri Lanka.

Most people do not think of Sri Lanka when they think about tea, until you realize that Ceylon tea comes from Sri Lanka. The British East India Company named the island Ceylon and the name Sri Lanka was actually given to the island in 1972, long after the British had gone. So Sri Lanka is Ceylon, but not all Ceylon teas are created equal. This is a mountainous island, so terroir is going to make a huge difference. The island nation of Sri Lanka boasts 7 different tea growing regions, each producing a different flavor profile for their teas. Below we give you a brief description on what to look for from each region.

Uva – This high elevation, remote, mountainous region of Sri Lanka produces the most complex teas. Their mellow, woody, and floral flavors are considered the finest of Ceylon tea, containing both the copper color and smoother flavor. These flavors are a product of the southwestern monsoons and winds of the northeast. So the area is dry during the prime harvest season and wet during other seasons, creating the best growing conditions for the plants.

Kandy – This mid-elevation region produces a strong bodied tea with a copper colored infused. The monsoon winds heavily influence the flavor. The more the wind and rain, the smoother the flavor.

Nuwara Eliya – The most delicate and lightest of the Ceylon teas, this is  generally higher elevation than Uva. It produces a gold colored liquor in the cup and a light floral flavor. This is a Ceylon tea that most Europeans and Americans would not identify as Ceylon. Exposed to cold winters, the tea plants in this area get a dormant period that other growing regions do not get.

Uda Pussellawa – This wet monsoon region is known more for its leopards than its tea. It still produces a tangy, yet pinkish brew that is somewhere between the flavors of Uva and Nuwara Eliya. This heavy rainfall regions produce the stronger Ceylon teas that are known for holding their flavor in milk.

Dimbula – This region averages 4,000 feet high with rugged terrain, lower than Uva. That terrain produces micro-climates at various estates. Some can be dry, while others are rainy. Generally,tea from Dimbula is mellow, missing the finishing bite from other Ceylon teas. It produces a golden-orange cup that is darker than Nuwara Eliya but lighter than Uda Oussellawa.

Ruhuna – This southern coastal region of Sri Lanka is low-elevation. This lower elevation produces the largest tea leaves in Sri Lanka. It also produces the darkest and most flavorful of the blends. If you like your Ceylon tea with a drying finish, this is the region to turn to. Much like Uda Pussellawa, it will more than hold its flavor in milk. In fact, you may want to only drink this tea with milk.

Sabaragamuwa – This mid-elevation region is a mixture of valleys and mountains. It is located on the north end of the island, making it slightly less wet than the other parts of the island. It produces a sweeter, more caramel flavored tea with a dark reddish-brown tinted brew.

While Sri Lanka works to educate the world on the differences of its growing regions, now is the time to learn these differences and to start to explore the different regions of Sri Lanka and Ceylon tea. Ask your tea merchant which region they buy from, that will tell you whether they have taken the time to learn about Sri Lanka and all it has to offer.

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