Monday, April 29, 2013

Ceylon Teas


Fresh, citrusy aroma, sweet juicy notes like mandarin peel or grapefruit, refreshing texture and balanced astringency.

 Camellia sinensis is a robust shrub, able to tolerate a fairly wide range of more or less tropical climates, altitudes and soil conditions.
 It flourishes happily in the wild, in China (whence it originates), in Assam and elsewhere. 
 Untended, the bushy shrub that covers the hills of central Sri Lanka in manicured, contour-planted swathes becomes a shaggy, gnarled tree that can grow up to 9m (30ft.) tall.
 It was from such trees that the original seed-stock of Ceylon tea. 

Sri Lanka is the fourth largest producer of tea.
 Sri Lanka was the world's leading exporter of tea, but it has since been surpassed by Kenya. 
 The humidity, cool temperatures, and rainfall in the island especially the country's central highlands provide a climate that favors the production of high quality tea.
 The British introduced tea plants from China in 1824 for non-commercial purposes.
In 1839 tea plants from Assam and Calcutta, India were brought introduced.
1867 the first 19 acres tea plantation and introduction of the tea 
industry was established by James Taylor.
The first production from this tea plantation yielded 23 lbs and was sold in London.

Sri Lanka produces 3 types of tea:
  • Ceylon Black Tea - it is their specialty - has a crisp and citrus aroma


  • Ceylon Green Tea - made from the Assamica tree stocks. Has a fuller body, more pungent, malty and nutty. 

 
  • Ceylon White Tea - - know as silver tips, a delicate, very light liquoring with notes of pine and honey, a golden coppery infusion










Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nilgiri Tea


Nilgiri tea represents a variety of black tea that is grown on the hills and mountains of the Nilgiris district in Southern India. 
The distinctive characteristics include the intense aroma, fragrance and flavor.

This variety of tea is classified according to the sorting method. 
Full leaves that are sorted by hand have the Orange Pekoe grade and are known to be very expensive. The Broken Orange Pekoe grade is given semi-full leaves that are sorted by machines.
 While still of high quality, these leaves are significantly cheaper than the Orange Pekoe grade.
 These are leaves that are produced through the Crush, Tear, Curl technique. 
These represent the greatest part of the Nilgiri tea production.


Nilgiri tea is generally described as being a dark, intensely aromatic, fragrant and flavoured tea.
It is grown in the southern portion of the Western Ghats mountains of Southern India. 
It grows in the hills of the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, though there are numerous other tea-growing districts in South India as well, including Munnar and Central Travancore, further south in Kerala state.

The flavor is caused by the high altitude at which this tea is grown. 
The environment plays a very important role in the growth 
of the tea plant and later in the aroma of the brew. 
The same is the case with the Assam tea, which is grown at sea level. 
Besides the fragrance, there are several other things that differentiate 
the Nilgiri tea from Assam and Darjeeling. 
For example, it is possible to harvest Nilgiri tea the entire year, 
which is not the case for the other Indian teas.
Tea gardens and plantations represent one of the main attractions in the Nilgiris district.
 In fact, there is also a Tea and Tourism Festival that takes place for 3 days each year in the area, in the months January and February.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pouchong Tea - 包種茶 Bāozhŏng chá


Also known as "pouchang", this tea is slightly in-between green tea and oolong tea. 
 It has a darker flavor than green tea, with a slight minty taste and a hint of oolong flavor.

Steep 3 tsp at 212 °F for 9 min.  
Steeping at a lower temperature misses flavor. 

Pouchong - Bāozhŏng chá  is a light oolong.
 It is a lightly fermented (oxidized) tea, twist shape, with floral notes, and usually not roasted.
It is somewhere between a green tea and what is usually considered oolong tea - Black Dragon. Although often classified with the latter due to its lack of the sharper green tea flavours.


 It is produced mainly in Fujian, China, and in Pinglin Township near Taipei, Taiwan.
Its name in Chinese, literally "the wrapped kind."
It refers to a practice of wrapping the leaves in paper or usully bamboo leaves during the drying process that has largely been discontinued due to advancement in tea processing. 
At its best, Pouchong gives off a floral and melon fragrance and has a rich, mild taste.
Usually around the end of March, begins picking of this famous Taiwan "spring tea" (春茶).
Pouchong is usually made into scented teas, rose pouchong being a particular favourite.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Irish Breakfast Tea


Irish breakfast tea is a blend of several black teas.
 The tea most often used is Assam teas. 
Irish brands Lyons, Barry's, Nambarrie's, and Punjana are heavily weighted toward Assam. 

 Irish breakfast tea is commonly served with milk, but may also be consumed plain or with lemon or sugar. 
 Irish breakfast tea is often drunk in the morning. 
Being of black teas, it has a strong flavour and higher caffeine content than 
green, oolong, or white teas.
It is also taken throughout the day and evening.


Generally, the best Irish breakfast tea is in loose leaf form.
 Such teas being taken from the best parts of the plant.
When brewed, the tea varies in colour from very dark red to brown. 
Irish breakfast tea can also be bought in tea bags but with more variation in quality.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

English Breakfast Tea



English breakfast tea is a traditional blend of teas originating from Assam, Ceylon and Kenya.
 It is one of the most popular blended teas and the most common form of British tea culture. 
It was initially known simply as Breakfast Tea, and was popularised by Queen Victoria.

English breakfast tea is a black tea blend usually described as full-bodied, robust, and or rich, and blended to go well with milk and sugar, in a style traditionally associated with a hearty English breakfast.
The black teas included in the blend vary, with Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas predominating, and Keemun sometimes included in more expensive blends.


The name "English breakfast" can be misleading to British nationals staying in North America, since many of the most popular brands of English tea bags (including Tetley, PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea) do not contain fermented teas (like Pouchong) and are more often a mixture of Indian or African leaves (often tips) that might be labelled as "Orange Pekoe" in North America.

Friday, April 19, 2013

RECIPE: Green Tea and Tomato Soup


Green tea and tomato soup is one of the easiest tea dishes to cook. 
All you need to prepare is 50 to 150 grams of tomatoes and 1 to 1.5 grams of green tea,
depending on how many people are dining.

Instructions:

1. Peel tomato pieces, chop into chunks and add to pot. Stir.

2. Add the green tea and mix it with the tomato.

3. Add 400 milliliters of boiling water.

4. When the tea leaves are swollen, the dish is done. Easy it is, and healthy it will be, since it functions to tackle high blood pressure, bleeding gums and
low appetite. And really, all you need to make it is a kettle.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Assam Tea


Assam tea is a black tea named after the region of its production, Assam, in India. 
Assam tea is manufactured specifically from the plant Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Masters). 

This tea, most of which is grown at or near sea level, is known for its body, briskness, malty flavor, and strong, bright color. 
Assam teas, or blends containing Assam, are often sold as "breakfast" teas. 
Irish breakfast tea, a maltier and stronger among the breakfast blends, for instance, is a blend of small-sized Assam tea leaves.




The state of Assam is the world's largest tea-growing region, lying on either side of the Brahmaputra River, and bordering Bangladesh and Burma (Myanmar). 
This part of India experiences high precipitation; during the monsoon period, as much as 10 to 12 inches (250–300 mm) of rain per day. 
The daytime temperature rises to about 103F (40 °C), creating greenhouse-like conditions of extreme humidity and heat. 
This tropical climate contributes to Assam's unique malty taste, a feature 
for which this tea is well known.
Historically, Assam has been the second commercial tea production region after southern China. Southern China and Assam are the only two regions in the world with native tea plants.

Assam black tea is known to help the immune system, decrease daily stress, reduce risk of stroke, increase oral health, and drop blood pressure.
Research has shown that theanine can help the body's immune system when it comes to responding to the invasion of infections. 
This tea is connected to the increase in gamma delta T cells, that combat diseases.
 Previous studies have indicated that tea drinkers who normally drink Assam tea showed signs of unusually large amounts of anti-bacterial proteins.
Drinking Assam tea helps to drop your daily stresses by lowering a hormone produced within the body named cortisol which is made post-stressful experience or traumatic situation situation.
Studies have indicated that sipping 3 or more cups of per has been linked to the serious deterrence of the possibility of a stroke. 
This is common to both green as well as the black variety of tea.
It has been shown that Assam black tea benefits the body's creation of anti-bacterial proteins. 
Also, the usual consumption of this special kind of tea can bring down the bacteria that are present inside the mouth, which can stop potential bad breath.
Assam black tea can also prospectively diminish the risk of cardiovascular troubles and reduce arterial stiffness and blood pressure as well.

Monday, April 15, 2013

RECIPE: Tea-Smoked Duck


Ingredients (serves 4):

1 large duck - about 1.5 to 2 kg

1 tbsp salt and 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, pounded together

Salt and pepper

3 tbsp tea leaves (green tea or pu'er tea)

3 tbsp rock sugar, crushed

3 tbsp raw rice

Method:

1. Remove duck breasts and legs. Skin and trim fat from rest of duck and chop into chunks. Reserve for soup or some other use.

2. Wash and dry duck breast and legs thoroughly and rub with Sichuan pepper and salt mixture. Wash hands well after this and do not rub your eyes.

3. Marinate duck meat, covered, for at least an hour, preferably overnight for the best flavor.

4. Line bottom of a sturdy large wok with aluminum foil. Place tea leaves, rice and sugar at the bottom.

5. Place duck pieces on a rack on top of tea mixture. Start the fire and watch carefully. When mixture begins to smoke, cover wok tightly for about 15
minutes. Switch off heat and let it continue to smoke for another 10 minutes.

6. Remove duck pieces, sear skin over high heat in a non-stick pan to crisp, slice and serve with vegetables and rice.

 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Mother of Tea

“It is up to the water to fully unleash the quality of the tea. Superior water is able to bring out the best of tea, making a less-than-superior tea superior. If the water is less than superior, the best tea leaves won’t make excellent tea.”
Zhang Dafu (Ming dynasty) from My Straw Hut with Plum Blossom 


 The ancient emperors of China employed royal springs reserved for use within tea brewing. 
They evaluated the water from different locations. 
Over the centuries, Chinese emperors have been particularly fond of ranking different water sources all over the country. 
Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty, had a set of silverware specially made for measuring and calculating the weight of spring water from various locations in the country. 
He then issued an imperial proclamation announcing his findings.
One of his findings was  that the Running Tiger Spring, located in Hangzhou, the home of the Longjing tea, was given the title “The World’s Number Three Spring.” 
 
Supply of superior quality water was an important part of the tea experience from ancient times to present day.
The quality of the water is the main and most important ingredient to the tea making process.
It will affect the overall flavor of the infusion regardless of high a quality the tea leaves may be.
There is an immense amount of difference between water from different sources, in term of its quality and property.
In the the tea making culture water is categorized as the following:
Water for tea that is considered superior needs to be clear, original, live, sweet, and light. 
 
 The breakdown of what the latter sentence means as follows:
  • Clear means clean, free of any impurities. 
  • Original means the water must be collected from the origin of the stream. This is usually quite a difficult task. You would have to be close to the source of mountain spring. 
  •  Live water means flowing water. However according to tea tradition, the Chinese ruled out  waterfalls, because it was considered to be violent, too turbulent and incompatible with the nature of tea. The best live water is normally naturally flowing spring water. 
  • Water with a natural subtle sweetness is deemed most desirable.  
  • Light means that the water should be relatively light in viscosity and weight. This is quite sensible from the perspective of modern science. Light water has lower mineral content, and it closer approximates soft water.

The best water for brewing tea came from the center of a swiftly moving mountain stream.
- Lu Yu


Natural Spring Water
Natural water from mountain springs is the best and considered to the most
sought after among tea connoisseurs.
 Natural spring water is what is considered very soft water.

 Very soft water has a minimum amount of natural minerals.
Teas brewed with pure, soft water containing small amount of minerals
 produce a clean flavor and is aesthetically enhanced. 
Fresh snow and rain water that are yet to be mineralized
by metal ions and other ground contaminants are also good choices.
A good quality spring water is an optimal bottled water for tea brewing.
  The best spring water for tea should be neutral in pH (about 7) and in flavor.
It should have a Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) content of 30 parts per million (PPM) or less.

Oxygen, Temperature and Water
Oxygen and temperature are important in brewing tea.
Aeration is particularly essential when making fine teas. 
Water needs to be aerated - high in oxygen.
It is an established fact that the presence of oxygen in water
 is needed to improve the flavor of tea.

It is advised that re-heating or over boiling water should be avoided.
Previously boiled water will have lost much of its dissolved oxygen.
When water is boiled, oxygen evaporates.
 The flavor of tea is reduced or lost when aeration in the water is diminished.
 Oxygen is important as it can enhance the flavor of tea.
 Always use freshly drawn water when possible.
Use water that has not been previously boiled or enclosed in a container.
This will maximize the oxygen content of the brew.  
Fresh, cool water has more oxygen, less contaminants.
Hot water from the tap is diminished in aeration, therefore oxygen content is low.
When using bottled water it is best to aerate the water into a container made of glass or ceramic.
This will generate more oxygen into the water prior to boiling.
 
Aside from the quality and property of water, preparing tea also requires the sophistication of understanding about how the difference in temperature and amount of water might make significant differences in a tea infusion.
The Tea Sage Lu Yu differentiated three phases of water boiling. 
Phase One: When the water just starts boiling, small bubbles resembling tiny fish eyes hiss as they float to the surface.
Phase Two: Strings of bubbles rush to the surface like a fountain. 
Phase Three: When the water seethes and spurts like rolling waves.
 If the water is boiled any further, it would be considered old stale or overdone due to loss of oxygen content and is considered inappropriate for making tea.


Pollution in water
Because of air and ground pollution, it is quite difficult to obtain pure,
 unpolluted natural spring water, snow or rain water.
Both river water and well water are usually somewhat polluted and mineralized.
 Neither of them has what it takes to make excellent tea.
Water from rivers, lakes and wells, which usually contains alkalies and iron, is usually considered unacceptable by tea purist.


Hard Water 
 Water that contains high levels of calcium is called hard water.
Tea made from hard water reacts with tannin and caffeine, causing the taste to become bland and reduces aroma.
The brewed tea will also be murky acidic or neutral to alkaline when litmus tested.
Hard water is saturated in dissolved minerals, especially calcium and magnesium.
These mineral deposits accumulate in the water.
They adversely affect the flavor and quality of the infusion.
The mineral deposits become evident and accumulate in teapots and kettles.
Heavy mineralized water will influence aesthetics of  a particular tea by making it dark and dirty.


Bottled Water
High mineral content bottled water gets the same negative affect on tea.
Bottled water has limited amount of oxygenation.
Bottled water is always a good back up to have on hand when hard water is present.
However, bottled mineral water is too hard - mineral-rich - and will
leave the tea flavor metallic or harsh.
 Distilled water is too soft - low in minerals - and will brew into flat-tasting tea.


Well Water
Water with any pH above 7 is best to filter before brewing
to prevent the unwanted flavor of extra minerals.
Well water pH is almost always above 7.
Test all water with a litmus paper.
If the pH is above about 8.5, it is hard water and it will brew into bitter tea.
Always best to invest in a good filter it for such situations.
Sometimes boiling the hard water after filtration may still yield the aroma of minerals.
Then bottled water is your best bet.


Tap Water
Filtered tap water is the best option for brewing tea when live water is not available. 
 Some neutral-tasting tap water may not even need to be filtered.
The water supply in the US generally comes from one of these three sources: Municipal water, spring and well water and bottled water. 
However, due to the presence of harmful nutrients from tap water like chlorine, pharmaceuticals and high mineral content a reliable filtration device should be employed to obtain cleaner and purer water.
If filtration is not available, it is the advisable to put the water in a ceramic or glass container and let it settle overnight before boiling it for infusing tea.


Filtration
 During the Song dynasty,  people were immensely fond of the tea-fights.
These were actually competitions among groups of friends.
The goal was to see who could brew the best tea infusion.
Cai Xiang, a prominent calligrapher and Tea Master during the Song dynasty, attended a competition. He brought with him the best tea and Spring water from Mt. Hui - considered to be superior and excellent water for tea.
 Su Dongpo was a poet and Cai Xiang's friend.
However Su Dongpo did not have a good quality tea but brought with him bamboo-filtered water.
Su Dongpo 
This water proved to be his trump card as he won the competition.
He used the bamboo-filtered water which had been
collected diligently from bamboo trunks.
Bamboo-filtered water is extremely difficult to collect,
rarely has many endeavored to achieve it.


One of the ways to achieve this when a bamboo grove is not available is to use bamboo charcoal.
It is basically more than a simplified carbon filter.
Bamboo charcoal has been used from ancient times in China for "sweetening" the water.
Water has an absorptive quality to it - it will absorb odor over a period of time especially when the origin of the water is contaminated in some form.
This mal-odour will affect the tea infusion.
One piece of bamboo in 2 litres of water will filter water and add minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. 
It also helps to decompose toxic substances in water and releases Far Infared Waves (FIR) into the water which aids in blood circulation. 
Bamboo charcoal can be used for up to two weeks before it needs to be replaced.
Bamboo charcoal can absorb this odor - takes about 6 - 8 hours for this to occur when a piece of bamboo charcoal is dropped into the container of water.

Boiling the water with a piece of this bamboo charcoal will further assist in the process of odour removal as well as infusing the natural minerals that has a closer link to the terroir of the tea.
When water is boiled with the bamboo charcoal it accelerates the negative ion exchange between the charcoal and the water. 
Keep the boiling time to a minimum to avoid loss of aeration to the water.
It is best to use bamboo charcoal on a mineral poor water.
Leaving it longer in the water may cause the water to turn hard - which is counter productive to what needs to be achieved - reducing chemical contamination, odour and imparting minerals that are native to the region tea grows, thereby enhancing the real flavor of the infusion one who get should regional water be used.
"The water that is from the same region as the tea will be its best fit." Lu Yu 
The tea leaves will infuse best when they are re-hydrated with the same water that was used to nourish and nurture their growth.


It is always recommended to filter even the water that comes out of every household tap whether for tea or just normal everyday consumption.
Filtration reduces minerals - that causes water hardness, chemicals that have been added to kill and control microbe growth.
Commercial carbon filters can be purchased that has the ability to reduce chlorine taste as well as odour and chlorine by-products, contaminant metal like mercury, lead as well as up to 99% of trace levels of pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals like Carbon Tetrachloride, pesticides, microbial cysts and natural minerals.
PUR makes a great faucet mount filtration system. Reverse osmosis systems are is a membrane filtration method, a natural process that applies itself through pressure.   
Choose one that is best to your budget and needs.


Every tea aficionado have their own habits and secrets to brewing 
what they consider a good cup of tea.
This adds a better balance of minerals to the water and the final brew.
Aside from bamboo charcoal, oak charcoal from the Yunnan region is also employed for changing and enhancing the flavor of water and tea.
As soft water produces flat-tasting teas, warm soft water with certain types of rocks in the kettle can also change the flavor of the infusion. 
Some even use gemstones and semi-precious stones - like jade, immersed in store water to enhance the potency of tea.
Objects like tea kettles, teapots and water storage containers can also influence the water - clay, silver or cast-iron kettles can also make slight nuances to the water that then influences the flavor of tea.

Heating Source of Water
Fuel to fire to water!
Methods of heating the water is also another factor that can affect the flavor of tea in the most subtle manner and is discerned by the most sensitive of palates.
Traditionally water was heated with a wood burning clay stove.
Charcoal flames provide vital energy - Chi to water.
 The traditional Chinese Tea Masters believe that water can be enliven by certain elements.
Like using natural spring water which in itself is live water. 
Then method of storage - natural substances like ceramic or clay or glass versus plastic containers will further allow the water to stay aerated and fresh.
Stagnant or old water loses its vitality.
Using a clay tea kettle and teapot made from the region where tea is grown will further infuse the water with minerals that nurtured the growth
 of the tea plant will enhance the flavor of the final infusion.
The heating source like a wood burning clay stove 
will further flavor and increase the quality of Chi 
in the water intended for the tea.


It is considered the peak of one's tea making skills when a charcoal clay stove is used.
It takes skill and greater patience.

Boiling water in the microwave is considered unsuitable due to the main fact that being able to control the temperature of the water is crucial in making tea.
Different varieties of tea require varied temperatures for infusing tea.
Technically, freshly boiled water over a quick fire is best for brewing tea.

Green teas and the more delicate the tea leaves are, the lower the water temperature needs to be. 
The most famous green tea Longjing must be infused with water in its first phase of boiling.
 The temperature at this phase is around 85 degrees Celsius. 
For black tea and other types of green tea, the water temperature 
needs to be between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius.
Amount of water used for infusing tea varies with personal taste.
A stronger infusion will require less water and more tea leaves.
A weaker infusion will require the opposite.
However, different types of tea call for different amounts of water. 
For green or black tea a teacup that is 200ml will require about 3 grams leaves.
Water is filled up to 70 percent of the brewing vessel.
 Oolong or Pu’erh, will require more water. 
Tea bags containing broken bits of tea leaves will require more hot water immediately.



Using an electric glass tea kettle would be a suitable substitute.
 Electric kettles have temperature controls. 
Capresso has a new tea kettle with varied setting.


Nonetheless, you are still at the mercy of the kettle's temperature gauge.
 One solution is to heat the water to boiling and then let it cool to the desired temperature. 
For tea purists, using water that has been boiled and then cools even 
if only slightly gives a stale, flat taste to tea.
Therefore, it is wise to follow Lu Yu's advise on boiling water.
 
Phase One: When the water just starts boiling, small bubbles resembling tiny fish eyes hiss as they float to the surface.
Phase Two: Strings of bubbles rush to the surface like a fountain. 
Phase Three: When the water seethes and spurts like rolling waves.
 If the water is boiled any further, it would be considered old stale or overdone due to loss of oxygen content and is considered inappropriate for making tea.
 
That is part and parcel of development in the Art of Tea.
 
 In conclusion
The fact to remember is that 99% of tea is water.
Good water makes better tea and water is the most 
crucial ingredient to the ultimate results of tea preparation. 
Brewing tea can be complex and simple. 
For tea connoisseurs the brewing process is an integral part of the tea experience.
It culminates in the preparation of an enjoyable beverage and a method of living.
The very best and superior water for a tea infusion is reduced in mineral content, free of additives, contamination and saturated in oxygen - aeration.

See Also Following Article:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Keemun Black Tea



Produced in Qimen County and the neighboring areas close to Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province, China, Keemun black tea is a competitive type of black tea.
This is attributed to the high yield and excellent quality of tea trees growing in the region thanks to the rich soil and favorable weather.
Tea production in Qimen County has a long history which can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty. The county was initially teemed with green tea and then turned to produce black tea in the Qing Dynasty over 100 years ago.

Keemun black tea, or “Keemun Scent” and “the Queen of Fragrance”, is featured by fine picking and fabricating process, firm and slender figure, dark and sleek color and luster, faint fragrance of honey or orchid, as well as long-lasting freshness.
 The liquor is characterized by bright red as well as sweet and mellow savor.
Keemun black tea can be drunk without adding anything so as to taste its peculiar fragrance, or added with milk, granulated sugar and lemon to obtain different flavor.
Being famous at home and abroad for its excellent quality, Keemun black tea is one of the three major sorts of tea with intense fragrance which are globally recognized.
It is mainly exported to dozens of countries and regions including Britain, Holland, Germany, Japan, and Russia.
Meanwhile, it has been serving as national tea gifts over these years.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Terroir and Tea


What is terroir? 
Terroir is a French loanword.
The exact definition is as follows - A " terroir " is a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.

The term originates from the wine industry however is applied to specific agricultural commodities as well - such as wine, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, heritage wheat, cannabis, and tea.
Terroir has a set of inherent characteristics - geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with the plant's genetics.
Terroir expresses the sense of a place.
This "sense of a place" embodies certain characteristic qualities - the total effects that the local environment has on a certain agricultural product. 
 At its core is the assumption that the land from which the particular agricultural commodity is grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region.
The concept is a crystallization of the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the growth and final yield of the product.

What are the elements of terroir in the tea industry?
 The components of terroir are climate - macro, meso and micro climatic conditions - rain, mist, moisture; soil type - mineral compositions, drainage and temperature; topograhy - altitude, landscape, mountain ranges, valleys, rivers, lakes; fauna, flora - other plants that grow in the surrounding, insects and human intervention - harvesting, processing.

Tea industry's terroir
 Within the tea industry this concepts pertain to teas.
Soil, local climate, altitude, and tree age all affect the flavor of the tea plants. 
Certain teas like the High Mountain Oolongs particularly from the region of Taiwan - Alishan Mountain are greatly sought after among tea connoisseurs.
 Among the puer and aged teas, age of the trees as well as the fauna and flora that grows in the surrounding area greatly influences the final product.
Tea leaves are usually harvested at the break of dawn, when the dew is on the ground and the mist is still covering like a blanket.
At this point is when the tea leaves are budding, awakening and growing.
The flavor is greatly influenced by the morning moisture and the sun has yet to heat up the essential oils on these fine tips.
Tea grows best and always has grown on higher elevations.
The mist, dew - the moisture component shields these tea plants from the sun's heat and causes the growth and maturing of these tea plants to be more slow.
Certain tea gardens in Japan actually cover the tea plants so as to create a special flavor within the leaves.

Tea Growing Regions and Elevations
Tea grows best in misty, rainy regions at altitudes of 2,000 to 7,000 feet in the tropics and lower elevations in temperate regions.
 The best tea is produced in regions that have dry days and cool nights.
Slow growth under some stress brings out the best flavor in tea but yields are lower under these conditions.
  • Assam, a high plateau in northern India which straddles the Brahmaputra River, is the largest tea-growing region in the world.

  • Darjeeling, on the southern slopes of the Himalayas in northeast India, is the tea region par excellence.  Darjeeling teas are cultivated at splendid altitudes of 800–2000 meters, and it is the highest tea gardens that usually produce the best quality tea. Tea gardens are at elevations between 1,200 to 2,000 meters. The average temperature in this region is between 12 and 23 degrees Celsius. Annual rainfall in the area is between 1,000 and 2,000 mm.

  •  Yunnan Province - China, tea grows on high mountains that are covered by mist with rich soil. Yunnan province is located in the Southwestern corner of China. It shares borders with Tibet, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. The province is crossed by the Tropic of Cancer. Its elevation ranges from the Honghe River valley at 76 meters to Kawagebo Peak which has an elevation of 6,700 meters.
  • Alishan Mountain - Taiwan, grown in the Alishan area of Chiayi County. The tea has large rolled leaves that have a purple-green appearance when dry. It is grown at an elevation of 1,000 to 1,400 metres. There is only a short period during the growing season when the sun is strong, which results in a sweeter and less astringent brew. It produces a golden yellow tea which has a unique fruity aroma
Teas that grown on mountains covered by mists
  

Wild Ti Kwan Yin Oolong
 Fujian Province 
Grown on the mist-shrouded hilltops in the Fujian Province.
The leaves are plucked once a year during Spring.
 This is a wild tea growth, that is uncultivated.
Watered naturally in part by mist.
The tea is floral, green, fruity, and honey tasting and smelling with a color similar to champagne.
The trees are rather inaccessible and thus spurred the legend of monkeys picking the leaves. 


Cloud and Mist “Yun Wu”
 Jiangxi Province in China
 Mellow taste, and nutritious 
 First cultivated in the 2nd century by Buddhist monks.
Picked from wild plants by locals. 
 130 acres of tea plants scattered in patches on the hillsides. 
Harvesting starts, with only one shoot of one leaf being plucked. 
These are air-dried for 4-5 hours.
Then rolled between the palms of the workers’ hands, roasted, rolled again, and roasted again. 
This is all done very careful to avoid leaf breakage, a sign of a very high quality tea.  


Xin Yang Mo (Mao) Jian 
Dates back to the Tang dynasty, this tea is from Henan Province, the Xin Yang prefecture, China. 
 The leaves are processed into fine, taut strips and steep up a chestnut flavored liquid. 
Hand-processed by skilled workers using practiced motions to roll the leaves while they adjust the heat. 


 
Pi Lo Chun / Bi Luo Chun “Spiral of Spring Jade” or “Green Snail Spring”
  Comes from the Dong Ting Mountains which are often enshrouded in mist, keeping the young tea leaves very moist. 
This moisture contributes to the flavor, has a plum, peach, and apricot flavor as these trees are grown among the tea plants. 


Long Jing 
It owes a lot to the unique natural condition in the growing areas.
 The geography of this area staves off cold current from the north and holds back warm current from the south, thus forming cloud and mist over the tea growing area. 
This keeps the tea trees under diffused light and ultraviolet rays most of the time, and this stimulates synthesis and the accumulation of aromatic substances and amino acids in the tea. 


Formosa Oolong
Steep mountain peaks enshrouded in clouds and mist.
 Has an intoxicatingly fragrant and floral taste. 
They are usually lightly oxidized and retain their signature “green fragrance” (qing xiang).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

White Tea


White tea became priced during China's Song Dynasty (960-1279). 
It was the choice of the royal court.
It was given as tribute to the emperor. 
White tea leaves and buds were ground into a silvery powder, which was then whisked in bowls during the Song Tea Ceremony. 
This was the inspiration for the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.
One Song Emperor was renowned for his love of white tea. 


Hui Zong (1101-1125) became so obsessed with finding the perfect tea that he lost much of his empire.
Over the next several centuries, powdered white tea and the Song Tea Ceremony were abandoned for loose-leaf tea.


In 1885, select varieties of the tea plant were developed for white tea.
Most tea drinkers are unfamiliar with it.
White tea is fairly new in the Western market.
 It is under its own classification.
The best way to understand this tea is through its characteristics, harvesting and processing.

Characteristics
 The processing in this group entails drying in the shade and curing it in the breeze.
  • Made from tender shoots of the tea trees - hand-picked in the earliest part of the growing season
  • Has the lowest caffeine content.
  • It has a furry, silvery appearance - “white” due to the downy hairs on them
  • These tiny hairs, giving the young tender shoots a silvery-gray appearance, is often regarded as a sign of quality
  • The rareness of the tea trees and short harvest time (e.g. high grade Silver Needle is only made from the youngestbuds plucked during two days in Spring)
  •  The taste is refreshing, refined and mild.
  • Excellent to stimulate the digestion after a heavy meal.
  • The price of white tea to be higher than other varieties.   
Harvesting
Made first in China however India and Sri Lanka is beginning to produce white tea.
 It is commonly seen as a specialty of Chinese Fujian province. 
The main white tea producing areas include Fuding, Zhenghe, Songxi, and Jianyang counties. 

Processing 
White tea is characterized by heavy withering 
and slight oxidation, very carefully controlled in processing. 
Processing for white tea entails fresh tea leaves are left to wither for up to 3 days.
The leaves are then sunned or oven dried using relatively low heat and no rolling to reduce moisture to 5% or lower.
Whereas green teas is processed where high heat is applied 
to kill the enzymes and stop the oxidation process. 

Varieties of White Tea
White tea comes in several varieties and types.
Here are the main varieties of white tea:
Snow bud (Xue Ya) — More affordable and has the subtlety and delicacy of white tea. 


Silver Needle (Yin Zhen) — Highest quality white tea - made entirely of undamaged, unopened buds. 
Categorized by some Chinese tea experts as one of the 10 Great Chinese Teas. Hand picked during early Spring before the buds develop into leaves. Produced in the Fuding and Zhenghe counties of Fujian province in Southern China.


White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) — 2nd highest quality of white tea. Consisting of a bud harvested with two leaves. It comes from the same kind of tea plant as Silver Needle, and the buds and leaves are covered with the same white down.


Tribute Eyebrow (Gong Mei) — The leaves for this type of white tea are plucked after Silver Needle and White Peony are harvested and so contains mainly young leaves and a small amount of buds.


Longevity Eyebrow (Shou Mei) — The 4th grade of white tea, produced in Fujian Province and Guangxi Province in China. A fruity, furry, chaotic mix of tips and upper leaves that steeps up a liquid with a stronger flavor than other white teas (similar to Oolong). It is plucked later than Bai Mu Dan and may steep a darker color.


Song Yang — A meticulously harvested and exclusive white tea where it takes about 3,000 tea leaves to make one pound. It is handcrafted in the Song Yang region of Zhejiang Province, China.


Other Varieties — The growing popularity of white tea has prompted producers in India to produce a version called Darjeeling White. It is similar in appearance to Silver Needle, commonly consisting of only buds. Ceylon White and Silver Tips from Sri Lanka. Japanese tea growers also have begun producing small quantities of white tea.

Darjeeling White Tea
Ceylon White Tea



RECIPE: Longjing Crystal Prawns


Ingredients (serves 4):

500 g fresh medium prawns (about 16)

1 tbsp Chinese white wine or baijiu

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp corn starch

2 tbsp longjing tea leaves, steeped in 1 cup hot water

Method:

1. Pour hot water over longjing tea leaves and allow to steep until leaves are revived and plumped up.

2. Peel and wash prawns. Rinse in very cold water repeatedly until prawn flesh turn clear.

3. Marinate prawns in the sugar, salt and corn starch and baijiu.

4. Heat up a generous scoop of oil until smoking. Quickly run the prawns through the oil and drain immediately, all of five seconds. Drain the oil and place
wok back on the fire.

5. Add prawns, tea leaves and a little tea and toss well to mix. Finally, drizzle more white wine along the side of the wok to add more aroma. Plate and
garnish with more tea leaves. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Yunnan Black Tea


"Yunan Black Tea" is a general name for black tea produced in Yunan. 
There are two types of Yunan Black Tea: “Yunnan Kungfu Black Tea” and "Yunnan Broken Black Tea". 
First produced in 1939, "Yunnan Black Congou" is characterized by stout and strong sprouts, golden sharp ends, red infusion color and strong flavor. 
When it was produced in 1939, 15 tons of Yunnan Black Congou were sold to the UK.
 As the output increasingly grows, the tea has been exported to over 30 countries and regions in the world, such as Russia and Poland in Eastern Europe, Western Europe and North America. 


Yunnan has a long history of tea planting and is home to big tea trees of over 1000 years and those as tall as dozens of meters. 
The big-leaf trees selected from these big tea trees are ideal breeds for black tea making, thanks to their high content of tea polyphenols, active polyphenol oxidases and strong sprouts. 
The black tea made of these breeds is golden in color and has lots of visible sharp ends. 
 Moreover, the tea’s taste is strong and refreshing. 
It's one of China's best black tea types for export.  

Yunnan Black Tea is best taken with sugar and milk. 
The tea’s taste remains strong after milk is added. 
A cup of infused Yunnan Black Tea is red and shiny. 
And the top-class tea usually leaves a golden ring on the cup at the point of contact and the tea turns turbid like cream when it cools. 
These are indications of good quality.