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Malty Assam Black Tea and Infused Liquor. This crush-tear-curl tea even looks like ground coffee beans.
We get a lot of people in the shop that love tea but will not abandon their morning cup of coffee. This is a shame given all the benefits of tea. So, here are recommendations on the 3 teas to replace coffee, especially that first cup in the morning. We have seen, first hand, their success in converting those whose are willing to try.
- Malty Assam – This bold black tea from the Assam region of India is the only CTC (cut-tear-curl) tea we carry. The CTC method for manufacturing tea gives you small balls of tea leaves. The small surface intensifies both the flavor and briskness of the tea. This tea holds up to milk and sugar, in case that is the real reason you love your morning cup of coffee.
- Ceylon OP – This beautiful tea from the mountains of Sri Lanka features malty flavor and brisk mouth feel to help get the morning started quick. It’s a wonderful tea on its own with no need for milk and sugar.
- Kosebei TGFOP – From Kenya, this beautiful black tea has flavors of currant, malt, and moist earth. It can also handle milk and sugar without losing its flavor.
Yes, all these teas are black. Their woody and earthy flavors accompanied with their astringent/brisk finish is fairly similar to coffee. However, they are easy to drink without milk and sugar, so we recommend you try them straight first. You may be pleasantly surprised that you can get rid of the milk and sugar calories. The other big difference you will notice is that the caffeine doesn’t disappear out of your blood stream as fast, so there is no energy crash an hour later. For those of you who already drink tea in the morning and are looking for new ones to try, take a look at our piece on new teas to try in the new year. Personally, we start our morning with a wide variety of teas, some days green, others puerh and so on. So don’t think black tea is the only way to start your morning.
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Puerh Cakes and Bricks available at our Purcellville, Virginia tasting room just outside Washington, DC.
Here are 5 different teas worth trying in the new year if you haven’t had them before. Why should trying new teas make it onto your goals list? Very simply, it will teach you more about yourself and your tastes than you give the simple cup of tea credit in doing each day. New taste experiences, even if they are unpleasant, help you understand which flavors and mouth feels you like better and helps you appreciate your favorite teas even more. So now on to those teas.
- Puerh – This daily tea in China is not drunk as often in the United States. Puerh (a.k.a. pu-erh) is a fermented tea that comes in two forms: ripe (black tea) and raw (green/white tea). This earthy and vegetal tea is an experience that may open up a whole new world of tea for you. Here are a few more posts to learn about puerh in case you are curious and need more convincing: Intro to Dark Tea and Raw versus Ripe Puerh.
- Bai Hao Silver Needle – This simple and elegant white tea is often over looked because it has a very delicate smell and brew color. But don’t let its simplicity fool you. This first flush tea is made from the bud of the tea plant and is prized for the silver hairs that grow on the outside as a protection mechanism for the plant (bugs have a hard time chewing through the hairs much less standing on them as they try to eat).
- Kukicha – This Japanese tea is made from the stem of the tea plant. It produces a light creamy brew that is slightly salty. It doesn’t have the history of our previous two picks, but if you are a fan of efficiency and using every part this could be your new favorite tea.
- Single Estate Ceylon tea – We are all familiar with Ceylon teas. These are usually beautiful black teas from Sri Lanka. What most people don’t know is that they are made at shared manufacturing plants on the island as most of the farms are too small to support their own facility. So finding a single estate Ceylon tea, like Vithanakanda, is a true joy. Vithanakanda Estate is in southwestern Sri Lanka, and they produce a beautifully complex black tea that has notes of caramel, licorice and a slightly floral nose
Oriental Beauty is just one of many different teas to try in the new year (shown here after infusion).
Oriental Beauty – This beautifully complex oolong from Taiwan is created with the help of green leaf hoppers. The tea leaves are harvested after green leaf hoppers pass through the tea fields and munch on the tea plants, which causes the plant to produce additional polyphenols. These polyphenols give the tea a smooth mouth feel and a complex flavor.
Enjoy the new year with 5 different teas and learn more about your favorite beverage and yourself at the same time.
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A field of mint plants.
As we head into the holiday season, it is hard not to find a sweet or beverage that does not have mint. So let’s take a moment to learn a few things about the plant that creates this flavor and how it blends with tea.
- Human’s consumption of mint has been around a long time. Sprigs of dried peppermint were found in the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and carbon-dated back to 1000 B.C.E. The name mint comes from the Greek mythical nymph Minthe, who was a river nymph along the River Styx. Hades, the Greek God of the underworld, feel in love with Minthe. His wife, Persephone got jealous and turned her into the plant we know today. So that she would always be remembered, Hades gave the plant the ability to produce the aromatic oil we all know and use today.
- Mint is the first known addition to tea. Through the silk road, tea traveled from China into the Middle East and Northern Africa. It is here that it was blended with the tea to make a localized beverage. Moroccan Mint tea is the name commonly know today in Europe and the United States. However, it goes by the name Tuareg tea in the Middle East.
- Mint has a long list of uses for medicinal purposes. It is no mistake that there is mint toothpaste, mint mouthwash or mint flavored floss. Mint has been used for centuries to cure bad breath. It was also used to sooth an upset stomach and to relieve headaches (through the application of mint oil on the forehead).
- The United States is the largest grower of mint worldwide. Washington State is home to the most acreage with other Northwestern states like Idaho, not far behind. There is a push to grow it in the south, but it does require that nitrogen be added to the southern soil for it to grow properly and produce the expect amount of oil. There are over 71,000 acres of mint currently growing in the United States. The majority of the mint grown is used to produce mint oil, which is used to flavor all sorts of items that humans consume.
- Mint can be steeped alone as its own tisane. If you happen to grow your own, just pluck a few leaves and steep in boiling water for 7 minutes. It will be a minty mouthful. If your mint is not very minty, see the note before about your soil content. Mint needs nitrogen and a dormant period to really produce a strong oil.
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Theaflavin – Just one of many compounds in tea the contribute to taste and mouth feel.
Understanding the science of tea leaves leads you into the vast world of chemistry. It is here in the chemistry labs that we being to truly appreciate the complexity of the plant that produces our favorite beverage. Below are 3 fun facts on what drives the flavor in our tea cup.
- There are over 2,000 bioactive compounds in a single tea leaf. (Higdon, Drake, & Delage, 2005) Bioactive compounds are compounds that will interact with living tissue, i.e. the human mouth and sinus cavity, eliciting a response from us that could be either good or bad. The bulk of these compounds are polyphenols which directly affect the flavor and mouth feel of a cup of tea.
- The twisting and balling of leaves breaks open the cell membranes allowing polyphenol oxidase (enzyme) to combine with flavan-3ols (a type of flavonoid) to produce theaflavins and thearubigins (Higdon, Drake, & Delage, 2005). It is the theaflavins and thearubigins which give black and oolong teas their astringent feel in your mouth (that dry feeling in your mouth after you swallow).
- It is polyphenol oxidase that is the driver of oxidation. This enzyme protects the plant from microbial and viral infections (Wageningen University, 2014). In a tea plant, this enzyme lives in its own cellular compartment. Once the tea leaf is plucked, a set of cellular components have been broken allowing the polyphenol oxidase to interact with the other compounds and water in the plant. To stop the oxidation in tea, heat is used to remove water and inactivate the polyphenol oxidase.
If botany is more your thing, read about terroir to learn about the proper climate for growing tea.
Higdon, J., Drake, V., & Delage, B. (2005, January 31). Retrieved from Oregon State University, Linus Paulling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center: Tea: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/tea
Wageningen University. (2014, August 14). Enzymatic browning. Retrieved from Food Info Initiative of Wageningen University, The Netherlands: http://www.food-info.net/uk/colour/enzymaticbrowning.htm
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