3 Oolong Teas Worthy of Cold Weather

Loose Leaf Oolong

Loose Oolong Tea Leaves

As temperatures start to drop, warmer heavier flavors come to everyone’s mind. It is no surprise Pumpkin Spice Chai is popular in the fall, it contains both spice and the flavor of a vegetable Americans associate with fall. There are plenty of other teas that carry warmer, earthier flavors that can fill the bill for a fall/winter tea, without being a chai. Oolong teas can carry the much needed warmth and earthiness while allowing you to enjoy something other than black tea. Here are 3 of our favorite oolongs for colder mornings.

  1. Ruby Oolong – This darker oolong, meaning it is allowed to oxidize longer, from Nepal is amber in color and complex in flavor. It carries earthier flavors than a typical oolong, making it closer in flavor to black tea yet more complex. It has a heavier mouth feel, with a lingering butterscotch flavor on the finish.
  2. Fanciest Formosa – This oolong from Taiwan carries both floral and woody flavors while also being creamy. If you are paying close attention, you can even pick up stone fruit flavors like peach with this tea. It has a slightly sweet finish that is reminiscence of honey pastries and breads. It is not as dark in color as the Ruby Oolong but still brews a golden orange color that reminds us of fall leaves.
  3. Golden Buddha – While having a floral aroma, this tea carries a heavier mouth feel with a stone fruit flavor, like plum or peach. This brews a light amber color and finishes with a sweet caramel flavor that lingers. If you are not sure you want to try oolongs, this is a perfect place to start.

Oolong teas are often overlooked here in the U.S., which is a shame given their wide range of flavors. So explore and enjoy this category of tea with us.

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Hundred Year Tea – A Modern Twist on an Historic Beverage

Loose leaf hundred year tea.

Hundred Year Tea

The inspiration for Hundred Year Tea comes from the first Korean encyclopedia, published in 1614 C.E. The author, Yu Su-gwang, tells the story of an old man punishing another man who appears to be even older still. When chastised for punishing the older man, he replies that the other man is actually his son despite his appearance. He is punishing him because he did not follow his instructions to drink hundred year wine each day and now has aged to the point where he appears older than his father. This hundred year wine, known as Baeksaeju, is available in many Asian markets, and is made of numerous spices found in traditional Asian medicine. We have taken those spices and added them to green tea for our own version of this beverage

Hundred Year Tea: Ingredients from Traditional Asian Medicine

Some of the ingredients that add the spice in this tea are recognizable to most Americans, like the cinnamon, goji berries, ginger and licorice root. The schisandra berries and astragalus deserve some explanation. Both of these ingredients have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety ailments.

Schisandra berries are also called the five flavor berries. These red berries look like small cranberries because of their color but they pack a complex flavor. It’s salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent all at the same time! It adds a depth to this tea that would otherwise require many more ingredients to get. The Chinese have long used this schisandra berry for coughs, other lung ailments, to regulate blood sugar and assist with liver functions. Schisandra hasn’t been widely tested by the medical community in the United States but the Chinese have derived and use widely liver treatment drugs from this fruit.

Astragalus is a type of legume or bean that is native to Northern China and Eastern Russia. By itself, it tastes like dried hay or wood. Combined with tea, it smooths out the flavor. It is the root of the astragalus plant that is harvested and has long been used in Chinese medicine to boost the immune system. It has been proven to help increase white blood cell counts and assist in decreasing the duration of cold and flu. More recently it has been studied here in the US for its ability to turn on an enzyme in humans called telomerase, which lengths the telomeres at the end of the DNA strands in humans. The US medical community has been studying telmeres in relationship to age related diseases and agree that it is the shortening of telomeres that makes a person susceptible to age related diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. For now, the medical community thinks the shortening comes with the repeated copying of the DNA, but there are several studies looking at how diet, exercise and environment effect telomeres. In the meantime, we are going to appreciate the fact that humans knew several centuries ago that this plant helped and modern science is now telling us how.

Hundred Year Tea: Taste

While it is nice to see modern proof for a centuries old story, we are more focused on how it tastes. This tea is subtle yet spicy with a flavor profile more complex than Indian chai tea. The spice in this tea removes the grassiness often associated with green tea, making it a good introduction to green tea for those who are not fond of the typical green tea flavors. For the routine green tea drinker, this is fun change that preserves all the health benefits while giving you a new flavors to enjoy. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

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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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