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Tea

Tea is second only to water as the beverage of choice worldwide.  More tea is drunk than coffee, sodas, milk, hot chocolate and alcohol combined.

Pu’erh Helped Me Lose Weight!

When I started drinking pu’erh tea nearly a month ago, I wasn’t thinking about weight loss.  So imagine my surprise that I’ve lost the two annoying pounds  I typically pack on in January and lug around until May!

It’s not that I hadn’t read about the alleged health attributes of pu’erh, which include weight loss.  It’s that my primary  interests were to learn more about a legendary tea that the Chinese and other serious tea aficionados  spend thousands of dollars to purchase at auction.   A tea from 500- year-old trees tended by hill tribes in southern Yunnan.  A tea that is known to provide energy to those who imbibe it.

Now that I’ve experimented with this tea for enough time to evaluate it, it’s a double-thumbs-up and I will continue to drink it.  Not just because I’ve lost weight drinking it, though that’s a powerful incentive, but because it absolutely boosts my energy without the jitters I typically experience when I consume caffeine.  Oh, and did I mention that it tastes good?

Yunnan, China: Birthplace of Pu’erh

In the process of my Numi Pu’erh tea blogging challenge I have become quite interested in pu’erh, not just because it tastes good, but because it comes from a very interesting part of the world that most of us in the West know little about.

Yunnan Province in Southwestern China, is the birthplace of pu’erh.  It appears that there are few, if any,  early records about pu’erh, but it has been around for at least 1500 years,  as I mentioned in an earlier blog. 

More About Pu’erh

There is something in my DNA that drives an insatiable curiosity about learning.  It’s kind of an intellectual archeology.  I want to uncover information about uncommon or newly discovered treasures.  Naturally, when the opportunity to take the pu’erh challenge presented itself, I wanted to learn more about the tea I was consuming. Now that I have been drinking it for nearly two weeks, I have continued my investigation.

Roy Fong, the founder and proprietor of San Francisco’s renowned Imperial Tea Court, has written a new book, Great Teas of China. Given that pu’erh comes from a tropical region of China, it seems totally appropriate to tell you more about this fascinating black tea.

Pu’erh & Chocolate: What’s Not to Like?

I’ve never been a coffee drinker.  I tried when I was a Freshman in college, mainly because everyone else drank coffee.  They served coffee and doughnuts in the morning in my dorm great room on the weekend.  While I loved the aroma, I didn’t like the taste unless I poured in cream and sugar.  Even diluted, coffee made me jittery.  As I wasn’t a doughnut eater and given that the coffee made me feel strange, I let it go.  It wasn’t until my forties that I started to drink tea in the morning, and more to warm me up than wake me up.

In recent years I’ve grown quite fond of tea, usually drinking green during the day and a decaffeinated tea in the evening such as Numi’s Vanilla Nights decaf.  When I took the Pu’erh challenge I thought it would be an interesting way to learn more about a tea with a big history in China.  I hadn’t expected that I would get hooked.  I am.

The Numi Pu’erh Challenge

Recently I went to the Specialty Food (also known as the Fancy Food) show in San Francisco to see what was new and exciting in the food world.  I also went to connect with companies who are supporting sustainability and ethical trade with farmers as well as selling fair trade and organic products.  I’m happy to say that the number of specialty food companies buying consciously is growing, a hopeful sign for growers and consumers alike.

A company that I am quite interested in is Numi Tea.  We carried Numi’s organic Indian Night Decaf Black Vanilla tea in our gift packages and by the box when we were still doing retail sales in our online store.  The vanilla is delicate and understated, just as it should be so that the quality of the tea leaves are enhanced rather than overwhelmed by the vanilla.

Summer Sippers

SUMMER SIPPERS
Courtesy of Annaliese Keller: www.malabartradingco.com 

Here are some unique and delicious iced beverages created by tea specialist Annaliese Keller.  The teas and tisanes can be ordered from www.malabartradingco.com and affordable are well worth ordering.

Caribbean Cooler
This refreshing beverage is reminiscent of the rose-colored iced drinks served at Caribbean street carnivals. For best results, make the tea the night before serving.

Commonly Asked Questions About Tea

Commonly Asked Questions About Tea
Courtesy of Annaliese Keller: www.malabartradingco.com

Q: How many cups will I get from one ounce of tea?
A: A pound of tea yields between 200 -250 cups of tea. An ounce of tea will yield between 12.5 and 15 cups of tea. 

Q: How much loose tea should I use?
A: Typically at professional tastings, the optimum tea quantity is 1.5 grams per 5.5 ounce cup of water. However, few have a gram scale at home and must rely on common household measures, such as a teaspoon. Start with a level teaspoon of loose tea, and then adjust it up or down according to your taste. It doesn’t take long to find your preferred strength. Keep in mind that using too much tea is a waste of product, and can result in a bitter, unpalatable cup of tea.

Q: Do you sell decaffeinated teas?

Afternoon Tea on Onomea Bay

Afternoon Tea on Onomea Bay
Courtesy of Sonia Martinez: www.soniatasteshawaii.com, http://foodiesleuth.gather.com

On a beautiful Spring afternoon not long ago, I was invited to join friends for tea.  Now, I know that many people welcome friends to drink afternoon tea and share scrumptious food, but how many people have the pleasure of experiencing drinking tea at the source? 

My friends Rob Nunally and Mike Longo are the owners of Onomea Tea Company a boutique tea garden located on one of the most beautiful bluffs overlooking Onomea Bay near the Village of Papa’ikou on the East Coast of Hawai’i Island.

The setting for our beautiful tea was their spacious open upstairs lanai with a view of the bay, the ocean and included, just for our enjoyment, a playful mama and baby whale jumping and having fun just off the bluff.  A double rainbow and a ship leaving Hilo Harbor completed the stunning ‘special effects’.  

Tasting Tea

Courtesy of Annaliese Keller: www.malabartradingco.com

 TASTING TEA: Getting Started

Tea tasting is similar to wine tasting: specific methodologies are used for tasting tea and an entire language exists for describing tea characteristics. 

A good way to begin tea tasting is to line up your favorite teas in different categories and start comparing. Or, set up four black teas from different regions, such as Assam, Nigiri, Darjeeling and Sikkim.

As you begin your tasting journey, note how the flavors may differ depending upon origin, soil type (terroir), style of tea and steeping time. Like wine, differences in taste can be attributed to location, climate and how the tea is processed. Steeping times also attribute unique characteristics to tea. Try brewing one black tea at intervals of 30 seconds, ending at five minutes. Or, infuse the same oolong leaves four times, noting the unique flavor profiles from each subsequent steeping.

How to Properly Brew Tea

How to Properly Brew Tea

Courtesy of Annaliese Keller: www.malabartradingco.com

Brewing tea does not require special equipment. You may use a saucepan, a lovely porcelain teapot, or a simple clay teapot. Do NOT use mesh ball infusers or “spoon” infusers. Tea brews best in water with the leaves freely circulating. A small, fine mesh strainer is helpful for removing leaves from the finished infusion. There are also mugs available for single cups of tea with fitted strainers that rest on the rim and can be removed after infusing.

Start with cold, filtered or bottled drinking water. Heat water to the correct temperature for the tea you are brewing (see chart below). Do NOT use boiling water for green or white teas. Boiling water will burn the leaves and create a bitter infusion. The cooler water temperature is CRITICAL for green and white tea.

Iced Tea — The Summer Refresher

Courtesy of Annaliese Keller: www.malabartradingco.com

It’s summer and time to leave behind the teapot, cups and saucers, milk and little finger sandwiches and pastries, and indulge in a long, cool drink of the most refreshing beverage on the planet. Served with mint or with lemon, sweet or plain, caffeinated or not, black, green, white, herb or fruit-laced, or spicy, exotic chai – the possibilities for iced teas are endless.

 

Iced or cold tea has been served since the early 19th century, according to recipes in English and American cookbooks. The development of refrigeration and the manufacture of pure ice in the mid-1880s greatly added to the popularity of iced tea, which was sold at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and again at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

 

The antioxidant properties of tea have attracted many new drinkers in recent years. Almost any tea that is brewed hot can be served iced as well. Tea contains virtually no calories until it’s sweetened or milk is added, so it’s a good summertime alternative to calorie-laden soda and juices.

Tea 101

Courtesy of Annaliese Keller:www.malabartradingco.com

What is Tea?
Tea is the second-most consumed drink in the world, surpassed only by water. An often-surprising fact to tea novices is that all teas come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. How the leaves are processed will determine their final classification as black, white, green, and oolong teas.

Tea flavors are also determined by where the tea is grown (“terroir”) and what is added to the leaves. For example, Assam tea grown at sea level in hot regions of India is malty, sweet and robust while high-grown Darjeeling, with a long, slow growing season and cooler temperatures, is floral and musky. Cave-aged Yunnan Pu-erh has a non-acidic, earthy flavor while Lapsang Souchong, which is smoked over a cypress fire, has a rich and smoky taste. Green tea is commonly grown in cool mountain regions with names like “Cloud and Mist” or “Emerald Dragon.” White tea is virtually unprocessed young leaves and blossoms, the best leaves being the first, downy young shoots of springtime with names like “Snow Blossom” or “Silver Needle.” 

Fascinating Facts About Tea

All true teas come from Camellia sinensis, an evergreen plant that grows mainly in tropical and sub tropical climates. Some varieties can also be grown in marine climates and are cultivated as far north as Cornwall in Great Britain and Seattle in the United States. 

Camellia sinensis originated in northern Asia, specifically around the region of northeast India, north Burma, southwest China and Tibet. The plant was then introduced to more than 52 countries from this point of origin.

China has the earliest records of tea consumption, with records dating back to the 10th century B.C. Yunnan Province in China is considered the birthplace of tea, the first region where humans figured out that eating tea leaves or brewing a cup could be enjoyable. Yunnan Province is also considered home to the world’s oldest cultivated tea tree, some 3,200 years old.

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