As we finally transition from winter into spring, so does our way of enjoying tea. Hot cups of cozy tea blends make way for crisp refreshing cold brew iced teas and tisanes. Typically iced tea is made with water, but this season we’re loving adding anything but water to our iced teas and tisanes. I’d recommend adding flavoured or plain sparkling water, coconut water, coconut milk or freshly squeezed juices to your iced tea or tisane.
Another method to explore when creating iced tea and tisane is cold brewing your tea leaves or herbal infusion. Cold steeping your tea or tisane allows for a longer flavour extraction, leaving you with a lot of flavour and avoiding any chances of over-steeping. Often tea or tisanes are over-steeped at the wrong temperature, leaving you with a bitter or astringent infusion. Cold steeping your leaves in room temperature or cold water allows you to make your iced tea or tisane ahead of time, making the process even simpler. I’d recommend cold steeping your tea or tisane for 6-8 hours or overnight. It’s best practice to double the quantity of tea or tisane, so using around 2 heaping teaspoons/cup when cold brewing your infusion.
I’m including my recipe to creating a sparkling iced hibiscus mocktail, garnished with cotton candy for a pop of colour and an added touch of sweetness. Feel free to swap out the cotton candy for lemon or lime slices, or toss in a few berries.
I started with our Hibiscus tisane, which is packed full of vitamin A, C and beta-carotene. Hibiscus petals have a flavour profile similar to grenadine and packs a slightly tart finish. The petals unveil a deep fuchsia hue, making it the perfect base for a tisane mocktail. The rich flavour profile of hibiscus means it can hold up well to the addition of flavoured or plain sparkling water, non dairy milks or fruit juices. The addition of another liquid will not overpower the flavours of the hibiscus petals.
Step 1: Cold brew your hibiscus petals for 6-8 hours or overnight. Remove the petals and chill in the fridge until you are ready to mix your mocktail
Step 2: Mix equal parts of your hibiscus infusion with plain or flavoured sparkling water of your choice. Feel free to mix directly into glassware or into a larger jug. It’s best to store sparkling water in its original container to maintain fizziness and bubbles.
Step 3: Garnish your glass of sparkling hibiscus with cotton candy and sip away!
One of the questions I most often get asked when serving tea is, ’how much caffeine does my tea have?’ Most tea drinkers either want a lot of it, or none at all if it’s later in the day or if they are caffeine sensitive. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at just how much caffeine is in your favourite cup of tea, and why caffeine free drinkers should opt for herbal tisanes (fruit/floral/herbal infusions such as peppermint or camomile) over decaffeinated teas.
It’s important to keep in mind that the amount of caffeine in your tea depends on several factors like type, leaf varietal, water temperature, amount, steeping time and grade (think tea bag tea vs. loose leaf tea). As there are so many determinants impacting the amount of caffeine in tea, I would recommend not referring to infographics that list caffeine content per category of tea (such as green tea contains xx mg of caffeine whereas black tea contains xx mg of caffeine). While they can serve as baseline amounts of caffeine for the different types of tea, the actual amount of caffeine varies greatly for the reasons listed above.
Every type of tea is caffeinated, because all tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant, which naturally contains caffeine. Caffeine can only be removed through expensive chemical processes or through the use of carbon dioxide, leaving tea leaves with >1% caffeine. When solvents are used, the tea leaves are placed in large vats and exposed to organic liquid solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The caffeine is dissolved by the solvent, and both the solvent and caffeine exit the vat once the process has been completed. The tea leaves are dried and resifted and re-enter the manufacturing process to be enjoyed by consumers. Typically the decaffeination process increases the price of tea by 400-700%.
Decaffeinating tea often strips the leaves, leaving them less flavourful and aromatic. Often this process leaves behind one dimensional tea leaves, resulting in a flat tasting tea. If you are looking for a caffeine free alternative, its best to enjoy herbal tisanes. Herbal tisanes are caffeine free and full of flavour, making them the better caffeine free option. Only herbal tisanes are naturally caffeine free as they do not contain any tea. Some examples of tisanes or herbal infusions are lemon and ginger, peppermint or camomile.
You can expect your cup of tea to have around 66% less caffeine than your cup of coffee. If you are looking for a caffeine free alternative to your favourite brew, I would suggest steeping an herbal tisane. Full of flavour, tisanes are naturally devoid of caffeine, such as mint leaves. I recommend steeping your herbal tisanes for 3-5 minutes at 100 c, using around 1 teaspoon per cup. Do you opt for caffeine free tisanes after a certain point in the day? Or are the moderate levels of caffeine in tea the perfect amount for you? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
I am a certified Tea Sommelier with the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada. A Tea Sommelier is an expert on tea, someone who has trained their palette to pick up on the subtle aromas and flavours between many different types of tea. A Tea Sommelier knows the process of tea from bush to cup, and can expertly complement or contrast tea with food. Every Tea Sommelier has years of practice behind them and often works directly within the tea industry. For a long time, the term sommelier had been reserved for experts within the realm of wine. However, the origin of the word sommelier points to the latin word sumere, which means to drink or absorb liquid.
I began my journey to become a certified Tea Sommelier in September 2017, taking my final certification exam in January 2019. Classes can take place in person at various colleges or online with the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada itself. Students can take the courses for their own educational advancement or for the purpose of becoming a certified Tea Sommelier. There are 8 courses in total that the student must pass in order to qualify to sit the final certification exam. Personally I took both classes in person and online, as during the latter part of my studies the online option worked better with my schedule. I attended both Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, and Algonquin College in Ottawa, Ontario in person to complete a course. At both colleges, the Tea Sommelier classes were part of the Continuing Education Program.
In person classes met once a week for 3 hours at a time. Classes were held on the weekends or during weeknights. I took the introduction course (Tea 101) at Mohawk, which is the only course that is 4 weeks long. The remainder of the courses are 6 weeks in duration. Often in course instruction connects you in real time to other potential Tea Sommeliers and individuals with a strong passion for tea.
Online courses run for 6 weeks, with two tutorials that allow you to connect and ask questions directly to the instructor. You could choose from two different time slots for the tutorial, allowing for the more convenient option for your schedule. I found that both in person and online courses were flexible and appropriate for those who worked full time or had other commitments.
Tea 101 – Introduction to Tea
Tea 102 – Regions of the World
Tea 103 – Sensory Development
Tea 104 – Tea Types
Tea 105 – From Bush to Cup
Tea 106 – Preparation, Consumption, and Health
Tea 107 – Menu Design, Food Pairing and Cooking
Tea 108 – The Business of Tea
Class participation – 5% (for both in person and online through the tutorials)
Assignment – 20% (presentation, either alone or in a group for some in person courses)
Blind Tasting* – 60%
Final Examination – 50%
*Students must pass the Blind Tasting with a minimum of 51% / Students must achieve at least 60% to pass each course
Each week you complete a lesson, taste teas and complete a full sensory evaluation of each tea. All teas are provided for you when you enrol in the course. For in course instruction, the tasting takes place as a class with the opportunity to make notes on your own. For online instruction, the teas are mailed to you and marked accordingly to taste teas on your own.
The final assignment was often a presentation, or a discussion around your menu or creation. The assignment required you to complete additional research and use the course material to complete.
Undoubtedly the blind tasting portion of each course is the most challenging yet interesting section. As a student you were required to complete a blind taste test of either 6 or 8 teas and identify the category (white, green, oolong, black or pu’erh) and another identifier such as country of origin, specific region within a tea producing country or manufacturing method. You are only presented with the tea liquor, and do not see the package or dry/wet leaf.
The blind taste test is a true reflection of your efforts and practice. During the first course, you start with the basics and progress to tasting the subtle nuances within a single category. In the beginning of my journey, I had to practice over and over to taste the differences between a green tea from China and a green tea from Japan. At the end of my studies, I could visually see the difference without even smelling or tasting the teas. The best way to approach a blind tasting is to compare and contrast the teas from your lesson, accessing what speaks to you directly about each of the tea. I tasted each tea over and over again, and often got my tea buddy to quiz me frequently. Blind tasting teas allows you to slow down and rely on your senses to determine the different aromas and flavours of a specific tea. Tea Sommeliers and students always hear that ‘all tea tastes the same’ when really, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
Final Certification Exam
In order to become a certified Tea Sommelier, you must pass the final exam. Students must score a minimum of 75% in both the blind tasting and course in order to pass.
Tea Preparation – 30%
Oral Presentation – 10%
Final Examination – 30%
Blind Tasting – 30%
The final exam is timed and moderated, so preparation is essential to your success. The blind tasting component comprises of 10 teas that you have studied from any of the previous 8 courses. The Tea and Herbal Association has an exam preparation session available to students who are enrolled in the final certification exam.
Certified Tea Sommelier Designation
As a certified Tea Sommelier, you become a member of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada. Yearly membership fees grants you access to current tea research and data, and connects you with tea professionals across the industry.
Many certified Tea Sommeliers are entrepreneurs and work within the tea industry itself. As the second most popular beverage worldwide after water, continual research, studies, and international conferences help further our understanding about tea.
For more information about tea, the certified Tea Sommelier program and upcoming courses or the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada, please visit their website at tea.ca
Feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions about studying to become a Tea Sommelier or blind tasting tips at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re highlighting the top five places to sit and sip on tea in Kingston, ON! All areas are accessible on foot from the downtown core in Kingston. Feel free to check out one of these stops before or after doing one of our tours. Some of the following places are featured on our Sip Tea and Sightsee Around Kingston Tour and the Kingston Walking Tour with Tea.
1. Springer Market Square
Location: 216 Ontario St
Stop #1: Sip Tea & Sightsee Around Kingston, Kingston Walking Tour with Tea
The start and end point for all of our tea tours also doubles as a great spot to sip your tea from. Sip tea as you weave your way through the stalls or sit by the fountain on a bench to watch the hustle and bustle of the market. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays the market square is bustling with fresh local produce and goods from artisans and farmers around Kingston. On Sundays the market square features antique wares and interesting finds. The market runs through the end of November.
Tour Tip: Browse the market stalls on market days before or after your tour for a light breakfast or snack or pick up some local produce for your dinner.
2. Confederation Park
Location: Ontario St (located directly across from City Hall)
Stop #6: Sip Tea & Sightsee Around Kingston, Kingston Walking Tour with Tea
Once an active train yard, Confederation Park is a go to for visitors and locals alike in Kingston. There are many places to sit and enjoy a cup of tea from. Watch the 1000 Islands cruises or Wolfe Island Ferry cross the waters as you sit in the shadow of Kingston’s famous Martello Towers. Explore every corner of the park! Located throughout the park is informative signs, Kingston’s Tourism Centre or revisit Engine 1095.
Tour Tip: Pose as the ‘i’ in the Kingston city sign!
3. Sit in the Shadow of St. George’s Cathedral
Location: 270 King St E
Stop #9: Sip Tea & Sightsee Around Kingston, Kingston Walking Tour with Tea
Walk around the side of St. George’s Cathedral and rest on one of the benches located on the grass. Find a quiet moment in the city as you sip tea, or enjoy a book. This is a great spot to rest your feet and relax.
Tour Tip: Located around the Cathedral are several historical signs that contain interesting facts and figures. How many can you find?
4. Battery Park
Location: Waterfront Pathway
Take in the stunning panoramic views of the Kingston waterfront as you sip on your tea. Battery Park has a lot of green space and benches to sit on. Enjoy your time in the park or select it as a resting spot as you walk along the Kingston waterway.
Tour Tip: Try and find all the Kingston landmarks highlighted on the Sip Tea and Sightsee Tour. Some Martello Towers, Wolfe Island, the Wolfe Island Ferry and the Royal Military College are all visible from Battery Park.
5. Gord Edgar Downie Pier
Location: Breakwater Park
One of the newest additions to the Kingston waterfront is the Gord Edgar Downie Pier. Located along the waterfront pathway, this spot features stunning water views, a sandy beach, and plenty of places to rest your feet. Soak up the sun while sipping on your tea at the pier!
Tour Tip: On warmer fall days, the Pier is a great spot for a picnic. Take in the panoramic and picturesque Kingston waterfront views from one of the picnic tables on the pier. Looking for a picnic platter for your group? Check out our options here.
Hope everyone is enjoying the fall colours of Kingston! Happy touring through #YGK
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!
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.
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.
Let us know in the comments if you learned something new! Next Tuesday we will be debunking the last five tea myths!
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.
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.
L-R: White tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, Black tea, Pu’erh Tea
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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