Aged White Tea History

Aged White Peony Tea Cake

If you’re a more adventurous tea drinker, you may already be familiar with compressed tea, which is tea that has been processed and pressed into a brick or a cake. Durable, shelf-stable, and easy to store, these cakes are typically Chinese puerh teas that are fermented and designed to improve with age. In recent years, however, a new type of compressed tea has been moving into the market: white tea cakes, first innovated during the early 2000s in Fuding, Fujian Province.

To better appreciate the role that white tea cakes have come to play in the aged tea market, we must first step back for a look at contemporary Chinese history. In the late 1970s, after the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping assumed leadership of the People’s Republic of China and began a series of sweeping economic reforms designed to modernize the country. To provide a sense of stability and cultural connection amidst such changes, Deng and the Chinese government encouraged citizens to consider the values and doctrine of classical Chinese thinkers. Ancient literary and philosophical masters such as Confucius and Lu Yu (see Notable People in the History of Tea), previously condemned by the Communist party, were looked to as a source of stability and national identity. With this change in ideology came a renewed appreciation for all things traditional, historical, and aged – classical texts, classical education, classical tea.

Aged White Tea Manufacturing in Fuding

Aged White Tea Manufacturing in Fuding

The next few decades saw a surge in demand for compressed puerh. Savvy merchants emphasized the value inherent to aged dark tea or thousand-year old cultivars, and puerh cakes sold briskly in both domestic and foreign markets. Inspired by the ongoing trend, white tea growers began to experiment as well. Their hope was to produce a tea that, while not fermented, could withstand aging and even improve in flavor over time. By the early 2010s, Bai Mu Dan (White Peony) tea cakes had begun to sell across China and were moving into Western markets. As it turned out, the floral and delicate characteristics of this white tea matured beautifully over time, gaining a woody complexity and sweet, muscatel finish. What had begun as a gamble to take advantage of market trends had actually produced a complex and high-quality tea unlike anything that had been seen before.

As the world of white tea cakes continues to expand, more and more varieties are appearing in Western tea stores. In addition to Bai Mu Dan, Bai Hao Silver Needle and many other white teas are beginning to become available in aged cake form. As tea producers look to history to inspire new innovations, many cite an ancient Fujian proverb: “One year a tea, three years a medicine; seven years, a treasure!”

Here at Dominion Tea, we are excited to currently be carrying 2014 Bai Mu Dan tea cakes, 2019 Moonlight White cakes, and perfectly travel-sized aged White Tea Buttons. Stop by today to explore this new and innovative corner of the tea world yourself!

By Jen Coate

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Tea Cocktails

Tea cocktails are perfect for any occasion! Here are a few cocktail recipes that we have developed to showcase some of the darker, richer flavors that tea has to offer. Perfect for both holiday parties and cozy nights staying in.

 

Hazelnut Puerh Old-Fashioned

Hazelnut Puerh Old Fashion

Hazelnut Puerh Old Fashion

  • 2 tablespoons Hazelnut Puerh tea
  • 4 oz boiling water
  • 2 oz Kentucky bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 3-5 dashes chocolate bitters
  • A few tablespoons cocoa powder or coarse sugar for garnish (optional)

 

Steep hazelnut puerh in 4 oz boiling water for 5 minutes before removing leaves; allow to cool. In an iced-filled mixing glass, combine simple syrup, bitters, tea, and bourbon. Stir strain into an old-fashioned or rocks glass with a large ice cube or sphere. Optionally, rim glass with cocoa powder or coarse sugar for a festive flair.

 

Big Red Robe Cocktail

Big Red Robe Cocktail

Big Red Robe

 

Steep Da Hong Pao in 4 oz 195º water for 4 minutes before removing leaves; allow to cool. In an ice-filled mixing glass, combine cooled tea with amaretto and bitters. Stir and strain into a chilled martini glass.

 

Merry Matcha Cocktail

Merry Matcha Cocktail

Merry Matcha

 

  • 1 tablespoon Matcha Infused Sencha tea
  • 4 oz dry gin
  • 2 further tablespoons Matcha Infused Sencha tea
  • 4 oz 175º water
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3-5 dashes Embittermint Liquid Gold bitters
  • 2 oz sparkling mineral water

 

Begin by making an infusion of tea and gin, adding 1 tablespoon to 4 oz dry gin and allowing to sit for 2 hours before straining out tea leaves.

Steep 2 tablespoons of Matcha Infused Sencha in 4 oz of 175º water for 3 minutes before removing leaves. Combine tea in an ice-filled shaker with gin infusion, honey, lemon juice, and bitters. Shake and strain out into a martini glass, topping with mineral water. Garnish with cranberries.

 

Chocolate Mint Brandy Cocktail

Chocolate Mint Brandy Cocktail

Chocolate Mint Hot Toddy

  • 2 tablespoons Chocolate Mint tisane
  • 4 oz boiling water
  • 2 oz brandy
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup (optional)

 

Steep Chocolate Mint tisane in 4 oz boiling water for 5 minutes before removing leaves. Stir in brandy and sweeten if desired. Garnish with mint leaves; serve hot.

 

Maple Chai Hot Toddy

Hot Toddy Cocktail

Hot Toddy Cocktail

  • 2 tablespoons Maple Chai
  • 4 oz boiling water
  • 2 oz brandy
  • ½ tablespoon maple syrup

 

Steep Maple Chai in 4 oz boiling water for 5 minutes before removing leaves. Stir in brandy and maple syrup. Garnish with cinnamon stick; serve hot.

 

By:Jennifer Coate

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Top 5 Tea Accessories

We get this question a lot from our newest tea converts: what do I need in order to brew myself the perfect cup of tea? While the truth is that, at its simplest, all you need for a good cup of tea is leaves and water, we have a few favorite tools that we think can make the process easier and more enjoyable. These accessories make great gifts for both the beginning tea enthusiast and the longtime connoisseur.

Infuser Basket for Large Leaf Tea

Infuser Basket

1. Infuser Basket: Hands down, baskets are the best option when it comes to steeping your tea leaves. Unlike an infuser ball, baskets do not compress the tea or pack it in too tightly, allowing your tea leaves to expand as they infuse, which in turn leads to a fuller flavor extraction. Tea baskets are designed to fit a variety of mug sizes, and some can fold or collapse for easy storage. Look for stainless steel for easy, dishwasher-safe cleaning, and for fine straining holes to allow for a variety of cuts of tea or tisanes.

 

Teapot with Removable Strainer

Teapot with Removable Strainer

2. Teapot with Removable Strainer Basket: Want to brew more than a single cup? Teapots with a removable strainer make it quick and easy. After your tea is finished brewing, the basket lifts out so you can pour, share, and not over-steep. (we’ve got these in our Purcellville, VA location)

 

3. Paper Tea Filters: Looking for an easy way to brew tea at the office or on-the-go? Paper tea filters let you leave your infuser basket at home. Simply fill the packet with your desired amount of tea, then fold down, infuse in hot water, and discard when your tea is ready. Our favorite brands are biodegradable, so that you can compost both bag and leaves when you are finished.

 

Matcha Whisk

Matcha Whisk

4. Chasen (Matcha Whisk): Sometimes, traditional tools are far better than modern equivalents. Unlike a metal kitchen whisk, the fine bamboo tines of a chasen will easily mix up your matcha green tea powder without leaving clumps or residual powder behind.

 

5. Glass Gaiwan: Extremely popular among Chinese tea connoisseurs, the clear walls of a glass gaiwan allow you to watch your tea leaves unfurl and “dance” as they infuse. This is a beautiful and meditative way to enjoy your loose-leaf teas!

 

Glass Gaiwan

Glass Gaiwan

 

By: Jen Coate

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Holiday Cookies with Tea: Maple Chai Cookies & White Chocolate Frosted Matcha Cookies

Holiday season is upon us! With Thanksgiving just around the corner and holiday parties not far behind, we thought we’d share a couple of our favorite recipes for cookies that are made with tea. These treats are a delightful way to show off your love of tea to friends and family – or maybe try out a new flavor for yourself! We find that maple chai cookies offers a wonderful contrast to darker, smoky teas like Dominion Caravan, while the matcha cookies pair excellently with Japanese greens like Shincha.

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

Maple Chai Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup real maple syrup (Grade B syrup will give you a darker, richer flavor. We sourced ours from a local producer, Vale of the Blue Ridge Maple)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons maple chai tea

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  2. Grind maple chai tea to a fine powder in a spice grinder or food processer and sift out any remaining large particles.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together. Add egg, syrup, and vanilla. Mix until blended.
  4. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and powdered chai. Stir into wet mixture until well combined.
  5. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool on wire rack.

 

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

Matcha Cookies with White Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons matcha
1 large egg
1½ cup bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 cups white chocolate pieces or chips, as needed
Red sprinkles or decorative sugar

 

 

 

  1. In a small bowl, sift matcha until smooth and free of clumps.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together softened butter, sugar, and matcha about three minutes until smooth. Add egg and mix until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed throughout.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Add dry mixture to wet and mix until a uniform dough forms, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  4. Cover dough and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease baking sheets or line with silicone baking mat.
  6. Using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-inch balls. Place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart and flatten slightly.
  7. Bake 13-15 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are set, but not brown. Rest on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
  8. Melt white chocolate in a double boiler, then generously dollop over each cookie, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Top with sprinkles or decorative sugar as desired.

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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