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Debunking the Next Five Tea Myths

We’re continuing our countdown from last week! Read on as we debunk the next five myths surrounding tea.

Myth #6: Tea tastes like hot water.

Fact: If you find your cups of tea are tasting like hot water, there are a few different tweaks you can try to enhance the flavour of your cup. Pay attention to the quality of your water – and never boil your water twice. Bring fresh filtered water to a boil, and cool to the appropriate temperature depending on the category of tea. Another way to enhance the flavour of your cup is to try multiple steeping’s of loose leaf tea, using a ratio that calls for less water and more tea leaves. With some teas, you can infuse the leaves multiple times, resulting in a slightly different flavour profile with each cupping. Another method to try is to ‘rinse’ your tea leaves. Quickly pour your water over the leaves and pour it off, allowing the tea leaves to open up. After the initial rinse, you can begin brewing your leaves according to what type of tea you’re drinking.

Myth #7: Tea tastes better with condiments like milk, sugar, and lemon.

Fact: Adding condiments to your tea comes down to preference. Use of condiments should enhance your cup of tea and increase your own satisfaction. However, adding condiments to tea isn’t always necessary for a great tasting cup. You can get creamy, buttery and citrus notes right from the tea leaves themselves. For example, a Silver Needle (white tea) tea from China has stone fruit notes, without the addition of citrus or sugar. Tea picks up subtle aromas and flavours from terroir and throughout the manufacturing process.

 Myth #8: Tea is unaffected by weather, economy and supply/demand issues.

Fact: The tea industry’s ability to keep the price consistent for the consumer is impressive. Tea is a live crop that is just as susceptible as other agricultural products. Extreme weather conditions or drought would impact suppliers that supply the major tea companies around the world. In order to mitigate any possible supply or demand issues, tea companies have contingency plans set up.  If the supplier they use is impacted by drought or any other problem, they will select another supplier that can supply tea with a similar flavour profile. This ensures flavour consistency and does not impact the consumer (you!). For most boxes of teabags, you will not find what countries the tea is from, in the event suppliers need to be changed at the last minute.

The economy also impacts the price of tea, however you would not see the price of tea on your grocery shelf fluctuate often. Majority of tea is still bought and sold through auction houses. The inconsistency of the cost of tea is not communicated to the consumer, with large tea companies ensuring the price of their tea remains fairly consistent.

Myth #9: It doesn’t matter what country my tea is from – it all tastes the same.

Fact: Every tea is as unique as the country it’s grown in. Tea is produced all around the world, with each country’s unique soil, weather and climate influencing the flavours and aroma of their tea. These environmental conditions that impact tea can be described by the word terroir. Terroir along with manufacturing practices influences the flavours and aromas of your cup. A green tea from Japan tends to be a bright vibrant green, with herbaceous and grassy notes. Whereas a green tea from China tends to be a darker green-brown with roasted and toasty notes. The difference in flavours within the green tea category comes down to terroir and how each country manufactures their tea (Japan steams their tea to reduce moisture, whereas China pan-fires their tea).

In fact, some countries protect their tea by applying a Geographical Indication (GI). A GI is used on products that taste the way they do because of the region’s unique terroir and manufacturing methods. Read more about a GI tea, Darjeeling, here.

Myth #10: Tea is boring! Tea reminds me of afternoon tea parties with grandmothers.

Fact: The image tea conjures up in Canada is often gender-specific mixed in with memories of your grandmother and a drink that should only be consumed with your pinky finger extended. Most Canadians experience tea as a dusty teabag served piping hot in a small metal teapot. The truth is that tea is a diverse beverage that can be served both hot and cold, and enjoyed at all times throughout the day. There are thousands of different teas across every category that are a true reflection of a time-honoured craft. Try pairing your tea with food, by complementing or contrasting flavours on your plate and in your cup. A great after dinner tea and dessert pairing is a green tea from Japan (Matcha or Sencha) with white chocolate. The creamy and buttery notes of both items complement one another. It’s also important to note that tea is a social beverage that gathers us to share and socialize. Around the world having tea with friends and family is a social and cultural norm. A great way to challenge your perception of tea is to try having a cup to open your palette before a meal or to finish your meal with tea. Other ways include hosting tea tastings or mixing tea with juices and sparkling water.

Camembert paired with Darjeeling tea (black tea) from India. Switch up your glassware and pair your tea with your favourite cheese for a whole new take on this classic beverage.

We hoped you learned something new as we debunked our top ten tea myths. Coming up next on the blog is why you should entertain with tea!

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Tea Tuesdays: Debunking the Top Ten Tea Myths

Tea Tuesdays is back! We’re switching things up over the next two weeks. On this two part series for our blog, we’re going to be debunking the top ten myths swirling around the tea industry. Continue reading below as we address the first five tea myths!

Myth #1: Orange Pekoe is a ‘type’ of tea

This has to be my all-time favourite tea myth to debunk. A lot of restaurants, cafes and even tea companies have included ‘Orange Pekoe’ on their packaging and labelling of their black tea breakfast blend teabags. This has resulted in black tea blend teabags being referred to as Orange Pekoe.

Fact: Orange Pekoe on tea packaging is in reference to the physical characteristics of the tea leaf after it has been graded. Orange Pekoe refers to the leaves of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) and is used by certain countries (mainly India and Sri Lanka) when grading tea. The definition of Orange Pekoe for tea grading refers to long, pointed leaves that have been harvested when the end buds open into leaf.

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Myth #2: All tea is steeped with boiling water

It’s a common misconception that all tea is steeped at the same temperature using boiling water. Again, many restaurants and cafes will serve all categories of tea with boiling water, often impacting the flavour profile of your cup.

Fact: The temperature of water tea should be steeped at depends on the category of tea (white/green/yellow/oolong/black/pu’erh). As each category of tea undergoes different manufacturing procedures and varies in levels of oxidation, the temperature of water should be adjusted accordingly. The correct water temperature is important when maximizing the flavours and aromas of your brew. For more information please refer to our temperature chart here.

Myth #3: Herbal tisanes like Chamomile, Peppermint, Yerba mate, Rooibos, etc is tea.

Fact: Only tea leaves that come from the Camellia Sinensis plant are considered to be tea. Any blend or herbal tea that does not contain tea leaves from Camellia Sinensis should be categorized as a tisane. It’s very common to see herbal tisanes like rooibos and yerba mate within the tea industry. Rooibos comes from a plant in South Africa, and means ‘redbush’. Yerba mate comes from a plant grown in South America and parts of the Middle East.

Myth #4: Green tea tastes like grass

Fact: While many tasting notes made from cupping green tea include buzz words such as ‘algae’ and ‘herbaceous’ – it is often a combination of steeping time, water temperature and water quality that influences the taste of your green tea. Use fresh filtered water at 80OC and steep your cup of green tea for 1-3 minutes. Ensure you remove your teabag or tea leaves after the allotted time. It’s important to note that different countries produce different tasting green teas. Green teas from Japan tend to be buttery, herbaceous and grassy, whereas green teas from China have more roasted and smokey notes. Try comparing both to find out what you prefer!

Myth #5: Tea has a long lasting shelf life, and is slow to expire. How many of us are guilty of having a tea shelf chalk full of all sorts of boxes and tins of tea?

Fact: Tea is a plant that should be consumed by the best before date. Despite all manufactured tea having its moisture content reduced for storage, it is best consumed as soon as possible. It is good practice to completely finish a box/canister of tea before purchasing more for your collection. This ensures you are consuming fresh tea leaves and are enjoying the maximum amount of flavour from that cup. Furthermore, tea should be stored in a cool area, away from direct sunlight and in an opaque airtight container. Avoid storing tea next to garlic, spices or other fragrant foods! Tea is hygroscopic and will absorb aromas, altering its own aroma and flavour profile.

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Let us know in the comments if you learned something new! Next Tuesday we will be debunking the last five tea myths!

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Tea Tuesdays: Cold Brewed Lapsang Souchong

The summer heat inspired us to feature a cold brew Lapsang Souchong for this week’s Tea Tuesdays post. Lapsang Souchong is a smoked black tea from the Fujian province in China. This smokey tea can be enjoyed hot or cold, and the tannins in this tea complements a creamy cheese such as camembert (pictured above). When cold brewing the leaves, steep the tea leaves overnight for 8-12 hours. Using room temperature water to steep the leaves instead of using hot water ensures your iced tea serves up clear and not cloudy. Lapsang Souchong is made by smoking the tea leaves over pinewood or cypress. The black tea leaves are withered over fires of pinewood/cypress and later placed into barrels to further oxidize. The tea leaves will undergo several stages of pan firing and rolling. The final procedure is reminiscent of the manufacture of Jasmine tea, as the tea leaves are dried over smoking pinewood fires. This reduces the moisture content while allowing the tea to further absorb the smokey aromas coming off of the fire. The origin of this tea comes from a legend dating back to the Qing Dynasty. According to this legend, an army passed through Xingcun and set up camp in a tea factory. The army disrupted the tea workers daily routine, causing them to fall behind on their quotas. The tea workers smoked the tea over pinewood fires in order to make up for lost time. The result was a highly aromatic and flavourful black tea that reminds us of cigars, ash and whiskey. See below for our sensory evaluation of Lapsang Souchong.

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All Tea Comes from the Same Source

All tea (white, yellow, green, oolong, black & pu’erh) comes from the same plant: the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis bush. While there are 3 main varieties of Camellia Sinensis and a multitude of cultivars, the origin of every tea begins with this plant. The categories of tea are different from each other because of their manufacturing and production methods only. It is how they are manufactured that results in what type of tea it will become. Specific types of tea can be manufactured exclusively within a region of a tea growing country, and many countries around the world have their own style when it comes to growing, manufacturing and perfecting their tea. For example, you’ll only find Silver Needle (a premium white tea) coming from the Fujian province of China or Darjeeling tea grown exclusively in Darjeeling, India. Terroir (combination of geography, weather, season and manufacturing methods) explains why a green tea from China, tastes vastly different from a green tea from Japan. Please note that Yellow tea is sometimes not considered its own category of tea, and is exclusive to China. We’ve included our chart below that outlines the different steps each category of tea undergoes.

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L-R: White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, Black tea, Pu’erh Tea

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Tea Tuesdays: Pu’erh

We’re focusing on Pu’erh Tea for this week’s Tea Tuesdays post. Pu’erh is a large leaf tea grown and produced only in the Yunnan province of China. Just like how Darjeeling tea from India has a Geographic Indication, Pu’erh tea from Yunnan is trademarked in order to protect its unique flavours exclusive to the terroir of this south-western province of China. What makes Pu’erh stand out is the fermentation process it undergoes.  The tea is picked, processed and partly fired in order to leave the tea leaves slightly damp.  At this stage, two different fermentation processes can be applied to the manufacture of Pu’erh tea. Sheng (raw) which is a natural fermentation process or Shu (cooked) an artificial fermentation process. Sheng is a natural aging process for Pu’erh tea. The tea leaves are compressed into flat disks and left for a longer period of time allowing for microbial (bacterium causing fermentation) activity. The presence of bacteria (the good for you kind!) along with humidity mellows Sheng Pu’erh over time, normally up to a decade. The result is a light grassy flavour reminiscent of broth, mushrooms and earthy tones.

With the popularity of Pu’erh tea, a quicker production style was created in order to keep up with the demand. Shu Pu’erh uses Wo Dui artificial fermentation in order to speed up the aging process. Wo Dui or wet-pile fermentation allows the natural bacteria on the leaves to create a reaction similar to a compost pile. The finishing step is to age the Pu’erh, often done in underground rooms or caves. Shu Pu’erh delivers a fuller bodied cup of Pu’erh with strong earthy notes. Similar to the aging process of wine, the longer Pu’erh is aged results in a better flavour. Vintages of Pu’erh can go as far back as several hundred years, and are highly prized.  See below for our tasting observations of a Shu Pu’erh.

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Tea Tuesdays: Jasmine Tea

This Tea Tuesdays feature is about Jasmine tea. Jasmine tea is green tea that has been scented naturally with jasmine flowers. China is a tea producing country that also grows jasmine flowers, with the most famous and traditional jasmine tea coming from the Fujian province. Tea gardens producing jasmine tea aims to balance the flavours between the floral blossoms and the tea leaves. Scenting the green tea is a labourious process that can take several days and even weeks to complete. Jasmine flowers are picked during midday at the warmest peak of summer, as the blossoms are tightly closed to protect against the sun. When the jasmine flowers dry and cool off, the blossoms burst open and their aromas are at their prime for the scenting process. The freshly blossomed jasmine flowers are mixed with the tea leaves by hand or machines in a temperature and humidity controlled room.  The fresh floral aromas of the jasmine blossoms are absorbed into the tea leaves at this production step. Depending on the grade of tea, the process of scenting may occur multiple times and fresh jasmine blossoms may be used for each new layer.

Tea is able to absorb the aromas of the jasmine flowers easily because tea is hygroscopic. This means that tea is able to absorb moisture from its surrounding environment, changing its own composition. At the final stage of the scenting process, the tea leaves are fired to remove all moisture. It is at this stage that the jasmine flowers are removed, as the tea has entirely absorbed all of its aromas. However, some jasmine teas will be packaged along with the dried jasmine blossoms for appearance only. The dried jasmine flowers do not enhance the flavour or aroma of the tea, and are left for aesthetic purposes only. Due to the fact that tea is hygroscopic, you should always ensure your tea is stored in an air tight container. For example, keeping your tea open in your spice cabinet would alter the flavours of your tea! Continue reading below for our sensory breakdown of a Jasmine tea from China.

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This jasmine tea blend included the dried jasmine flowers

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Health Benefits of Tea

One of the pitfalls of the tea bag industry is how it disconnects the tea drinker with the beverage itself. Open the packet, dunk in a tea bag, and go about your day. Just like our first article, it discredits tea as a healthy beverage. It takes away from the fact that tea (Camellia Sinensis) is a crop, a living organism that contains several health benefits for its drinker. Research on tea has revealed that green and black tea will become one of the most effective beverages to decrease the risk of various diseases (1). The tea plant contains high levels of flavonoids and antioxidants, but what exactly does tea contain? Below we highlight the main components that are found within your cup of tea.

  1. Alkaloids

Caffeine (exact amount of caffeine depends on the type of tea, steeping time, etc): Caffeine is an alkaloid that has a stimulatory effect. Drinking certain types of tea can help to alleviate drowsiness. (2)

  1. Amino Acids

Theanine: Theanine is an amino acid rarely found in the plant kingdom. Theanine helps to relieve stress and promotes relaxation. This amino acid is also responsible for delivering the umami (meaty) sensation when drinking tea. (2)

  1. Catechins (flavanols, a type of natural phenol and antioxidant)

Epigallocatechin Gallate (EPCG): EPCG is a powerful antioxidant & main catechin in green and black teas. It accounts for around 50% of the total amount of catechins and may reduce the risk of lifestyle related diseases. (2) The bitter flavour of gallated catechins adds briskness to the flavour of tea

How to Maximize the Health Benefits of Tea

  1. Refrain from adding sugar or milk to your tea. If you find yourself reaching for black tea bag blends that often are bitter and astringent, try to switch it up by choosing loose leaf. Loose leaf undergoes a longer manufacturing process allowing more refined aromas and flavours to develop. You may find you don’t need to add anything to enhance the flavour of your tea when you reach for multilayered and complex teas. Reach for a buttery Gyokuro (green tea), Jin Xuan Oolong or a loose leaf Earl Grey (black tea blend) if you enjoy the creaminess that dairy oftens add, without actually adding dairy!
  2. Reach for tea picked during the first flush or first harvest of the year (Gyokuro, Matcha, First Flush Darjeeling, etc) or tea that is shade grown (Gyokuro, Matcha). As tea plants store nutrients all winter and the cool weather prevents growth, the first flush will contain the highest amount of amino acids and polyphenols compared to later harvests. Conversion of theanine to various catechins is catalyzed by sunlight, therefore shade cultivation restricts this chemical reaction and results in leaves rich in theanine. (2)
  3. Consume several cups of tea a day – although tea contains caffeine, it averages around 66% less caffeine than coffee per cup. Tea is infused with water, so the more tea you drink, the more hydrated you will be.

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Please note that due to the difference in production between each category of tea, the levels of caffeine, amino acids and antioxidants will vary. For example, green tea contains more catechins whereas the oxidation step in black tea production leaves black tea abundant in theaflavins (antioxidant polyphenols) and therarubigins (polymeric polyphenols)
References
  1. ‘Health Benefits of Green Tea – An Evidence Based Approach’ by Yukihiko Hara
  2. ‘Characteristics of Japanese Green Tea’ by Yoriyuki Nakamura

 

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Tea Tuesdays: Matcha

This week we’re all about Matcha. Matcha has been steadily gaining popularity in Canada, where it has been served both hot and cold, with or without milk. Even with all of the ways Matcha has been re-imagined, it is actually one of the healthiest ways to consume tea. Why? With Matcha you are consuming the entire leaf, rather than infusing and removing the tea leaves.  Matcha is a finely ground powder made from Tencha (tea leaves that are specifically manufactured for Matcha production) leaves. The method of grinding tea leaves into a fine powder was made popular throughout China until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Buddhist Monks from Japan brought this production method back with them when they returned from China. The leaves are deveined and the stems removed in order to prepare them for being stone ground by hand. It takes approximately one hour to grind 30g of Matcha, one of the reasons why Matcha’s price point is a lot higher in comparison to other teas.  Tencha leaves are shade grown for 3 weeks before they are harvested, and never exposed to direct sunlight during their last period of growth. Shade growing the leaves increases their overall chlorophyll levels, and halts photosynthesis. Matcha is available in two different grades: Ceremonial and Culinary. Ceremonial quality is the premium grade, used in Japan’s tea ceremony. Culinary is used in baking, confections, and makes a less expensive cup for daily consumption. Matcha is best prepared in a wide bowl using a whisk until the tea has a frothy appearance. You’ll notice in our sensory evaluation of a ceremonial grade of Matcha that we use the term umami.  Umami is a Japanese word that means ‘pleasant savoury taste’ and one of our 5 senses. Umami delivers a meaty and long-lasing sensation on your tongue. Please see below for our sensory evaluation for a Ceremonial grade of Matcha.

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What’s the difference?

What's the difference?

Have you ever wondered why the price of your favourite tea bag is different than loose leaf tea? Or wondered why your tea bag brew just never tastes the same as that bag of loose leaf tea you picked up? The difference in price and quality comes down to the two different manufacturing methods. Crush Tear Curl (CTC) is used when manufacturing tea destined to be packed into tea bags. Orthodox manufacturing refers to the method used when preserving the whole leaf for steeping.

Crush Tear Curl
CTC manufacturing is a mechanical process that creates a granular leaf particle for use in blends and tea bags. Tea leaves, stems and buds are passed through rotating tooth cylinders that chop up the leaves into very small pieces. This step is referred to as maceration and the intent is to ensure a faster turnaround for the production of tea. Originally CTC was used to process damaged or low quality leaf that was deemed unusable, whereas today it is utilized for an efficient way to process tea for tea bag blends. Not only is this manufacturing method speeding up processing times, it impacts the flavour profile of your tea bag brew. The flavour profile of tea bag blends tend to be one-dimensional, powerful, and astringent.

Orthodox

Orthodox processing focuses on preserving the singular virtues of the leaf, resulting in higher levels of aroma compounds and a better flavour profile. The stronger concentrations of aromas are due to the larger surface area of the leaf. Generally, the larger the leaf size, the more aroma compounds are found in the tea. Orthodox teas are whole leaves that are gently processed and separated into differing grades with specific leaf size standards. The leaf is sorted for uniformity and any stems, twigs and broken leaves are removed. The standard flavour profile for orthodox teas are bright, brisk and multi-layered.

CTC vs Orthodox – Black Tea

Let’s use some samples of black tea to further highlight the difference in manufacturing style

Kenyan Tinderet, Black Tea, CTC

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The smaller leaf particle creates a darker infused liquor colour. CTC grade black teas tend to be bitter and astringent – so they welcome the addition of condiments like milk & sugar to round out the edges.

Darjeeling 2nd Flush, Black Tea, Orthodox

Orthodox

Orthodox manufacturing of black tea spends more time on rolling and oxidizing the tea leaves. Rolling exposes enzymes and essential oils in the leaf oxygen in the air, making this tea more fragrant. Oxidation has the greatest impact in the creation of the tea’s flavour profile.

Do you reach for tea bags over loose leaf? Or do you prefer the longer steeping process of loose leaf tea? Let us know below!

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Tea Tuesdays: First Flush Darjeeling

For the first Tea Tuesdays post I am highlighting one of my current favourites, a First Flush Darjeeling. Teas from Darjeeling, India are often referred to as the champagne of teas. Just like the strict rules protecting Champagne produced exclusively in Champagne, France, Darjeeling tea also shares the same labelling requirements. Darjeeling tea is protected by its GI (Geographical Indication) status due to the regions unique argo-climatic conditions that has afforded Darjeeling tea its distinctive and naturally occurring qualities and flavours. Therefore the characteristics of tea from Darjeeling are attributable to its geographic origin and cannot be replicated elsewhere.

The tea leaves are picked during the first flush, between March and April. The first flush is highly prized, as the tea leaves are coming out of their winter dormancy, leaving them highest in antioxidants and amino acids out of all the harvests. The leaves are light and delicate, with mild muscatel notes and floral aromas. I enjoy the brisk stone fruit notes that come from these less-oxidized and greenish leaves. Please see below for my tasting notes. Let me know what teas you would like to be featured by commenting below or contacting me!
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