3 Introductory Green Teas – Where to Start

Loose Leaf Green TeaInterested in green tea but don’t know where to start? Here are our 3 favorite introductory green teas that we recommend to those who are new to the tea or had a bad green tea experience in the past. Each gives a different view into the vast world of green teas without being so green that it shocks your palette. We skipped flavored teas here as they don’t truly represent complex green tea flavors.

We recommend that you brew these between 175°F and 185°F.

  1. Jasmine Green – This scented green tea from China carries the floral aroma of jasmine petals with a lite astringency. This is a good one to try if you like other floral teas that include lavender or rose. It is a softer green tea that also holds its flavor over ice. Applying the jasmine scent is labor intensive but worth the effort.
  2. Gunpowder – The name of the tea refers to the shape of the tea leaves. This is a tightly balled green tea from China. Unlike other greens, this one has a stronger finish that is more similar to an Irish Breakfast or Assam tea. This bite is due to the combined use of steam and baking to make this tea. We generally recommend this tea to those who have been loyal black tea drinkers but want to branch out into green tea.
  3. Genmaicha – This Japanese green tea is a mixture of green tea and toasted rice kernels.  The toasted rice kernels were added to help stretch out expensive green tea. This ancient recipe carries the aroma of popcorn and a lite smooth finish. It is a great introduction to Japanese green teas, which are steamed instead of baked.

Green tea is a very broad category of teas with a wide range of flavors. So if all the articles talking about the health benefits of green tea have you interested, these introductory green teas are a great place to start to help narrow the field to a tea you can drink daily.

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Iced White Tea: Good or Bad Idea?

Iced White Tea - Betsy Ross White

Iced Betsy Ross White

Iced white tea is an oddly controversial topic for tea snobs. This beautifully delicate tea has a very loyal following, most of whom would turn their nose up on icing their favorite tea. Others are willing to be more flexible, stating that Bai Hao Silver Needle should never be iced while Bai Mou Dan is fine to ice. Well, we like to consider all perspectives and equip tea drinkers with the knowledge to play with their favorite beverage. Of course you can ice white tea. Will you like it iced is really the question. So here are 3 hints on how to approach making iced white tea.

  1. Humans are very bad at tasting cold food and beverages. Good quality unflavored white tea is very subtle with a light floral aroma, which is sometimes hard to detect when it is iced. If you want to try Bai Hao Silver Needle cold, we highly recommend the cold brew method. It does a much better job holding in the floral flavors than a traditional iced tea maker or brewing it warm and pouring it over ice.
  2. Flavored/Blended white teas are perfect for ice. The other ingredients, like freeze dried elderberries or star anise, are still detectable in cold tea. The iced white tea we like the best is Betsy Ross White.
  3. Watch your temperatures and cold brew your white tea! If you need to make a batch fast and do not have the 8-10 hours for cold brew, make sure to steep the white tea in water below 185°F. If you brew it above this temperature, it will be bitter as you will have burnt your tea.

So play with white tea iced. You may find you like this lighter alternative to our traditional black iced teas. Let us know about your favorite iced white tea in the comments!

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5 Different Teas for the New Year

An exploration of different teas means puerh is a must.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. Oriental Beauty Oolong Wet Leaf Up-Close

    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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Kukicha: Japanese Stem Tea

Photo of Kukicha leaf and infusion.

Kukicha ‘Stem Tea’ Leaf and Infused Liquor

Kukicha is a uniquely Japanese Tea. Made primarily from the main stem of the tea plant, this tea has a light salty and creamy flavor.

Kukicha History

So the tea industry loves the mythical stories about the creation of tea. Yet, Kukicha doesn’t have one. In fact, this tea is barely reviewed or talked about in the troves of books about teas. It may get a small review of how to brew it and what it is made of but no one talks about where it came from. This is a shame, but it is also an indication this is a more modern tea. So while we too have no origin story, we have a reasonably good idea of when this tea appeared.

Japan started to mechanize the harvesting and production of tea in the early 1900’s. However, it wasn’t until after World War II that this process took off and became the norm in the tea industry for the country. Anyone who has studied business or modern history will have heard of William Deming and his profound effect on the Japanese manufacturing sector after World War II. His focus on quality through consistency of production is often pointed to in the automobile industry as to why Japanese car makers overtook American car markers by the 1980’s. The automobile industry was not the only industry that implemented Deming’s processes, it was adopted everywhere in Japan.

Kukicha makes sense as a product of this era. It uses the leftover materials from the production of Sencha, Gyokuro or Hojicha. The stems are cut to uniform size and blended with the leftover leaf. The uniform size of the stems is a key component to assessing the quality of the tea. The more uniform the stems, the higher quality the tea. A beautiful representation of the care needed in proper manufacturing of any product.

Brewing Kukicha

As mentioned above, Kukicha can be made from the leftover stems of Sencha, Gyokuro or Hojicha. Each produces a slightly different flavor. All must brewed at a lower temperature, like other green teas,between 165-185°F. They can steep for up to 3 minutes, but are quit good with multiple short steepings. Kukicha, like other Japanese teas, is a perfect tea for a Kyusu.

This beautiful tea is often overlooked, but it deserves your attention. So give it a try!

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3 Popular Tea Gifts

Gifts for Tea Lovers - Chinese Gaiwan

Stunning Glass Gaiwan with Dragonwell

Admittedly, buying gifts for a tea snob can be very hard. Beyond figuring out what they like to drink, there is all the equipment, which they may already own. So we like to turn to the experts at giving tea gifts, the Chinese, to find the right tea with the right meaning for our favorite tea snobs. Below are the 3 popular gifts for tea lovers in China and the stories behind why they are so popular.

  1. Ti Kuan Yin – This beautiful oolong named after the Iron Goddess of Mercy is prized for its beautiful flavor and story about its creation. It is also one of the oldest oolongs produced in China, having been created sometime during the 18th century. Giving the gift that came from the Iron Goddess of Mercy shows the gift receiver that you wish them health and prosperity well into their future.
  2. Puerh from Yunnan Provence – Given for its health benefits, Puerh tea is thought of as the fine wine of tea. It only gets better with age. This fermented tea is over 2,000 years old and can be made with a black, green or white tea base. The bacteria that is added to allow for the fermentation creates a naturally sweet and smooth tea with lots of complex flavors. This tea is usually purchased in cakes or bricks and is broken apart to make a cup of tea.
  3. Bai Hao Silver Needle Organic - Classic Chinese Tea Gifts

    Bai Hao Silver Needle – Exquisite first pluck of the newest growth of the tea plant.

    Bai Hao Silver Needle – This prized white tea has been under production during the Song Dynasty (969-1269 C.E.) but did not enter the European literature until the 1800’s. Its soft and floral flavor as well as the silver hairs on the tea leaves are distinctive characteristics that cannot be found in other teas. This is a more expensive tea as it can really only be plucked during the first harvest of the season. This tea was often given as a gift to the reigning Emperor as it was the first tea of the season.

There are a few characteristics these teas share, each one has been manufactured for centuries, given as gifts to Chinese Emperors to bring them good health and luck, and have exquisite and complex flavors.

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