The Definitive Guide to Tea Cocktails

The following is an interview I conducted with my good friend, Tyler Fry. Tyler is a bartender at Chicago’s famed “The Violet Hour.” The bar was the recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s 2015 award for Outstanding Bar Program. In this article, Tyler shares with us his knowledge surrounding tea cocktails. Is there any history to using tea in cocktails? Absolutely! There certainly is old, historical precedent for tea in booze and mixed drinks, dating as far back as 1727. While we don’t necessarily see tea in old cocktails or being used in the mixological sense that we think of today,
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Tealet's Michael Petersen took this photo of tea sun drying

Drying in Tea Processing

In all of our talk of tea processing thus far, we’ve been dealing with tea leaves that contain some water. In order for processed tea leaves to be shelf-stable, they must be dried. There are two reasons for drying tea though, to dry the leaf, making it shelf stable, and to enhance the flavor. At times, these can be two distinct steps in processing and at other times, it can be seen as more of a continuum, and sometimes teas are only dried for shelf-stability. For our discussion here, I’ll explain each separately. Most common drying methods: Commercial dryers: where
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tea science

Chemical Compounds in Tea

Tea chemistry is complex. Just how complex? Well, on the bush, tea leaves contain thousands of chemical compounds, when they are processed, these compounds break down, form complexes and form new compounds. When we steep tea leaves, our senses are tingled by the thousands of volatile compounds (collectively known as the “aroma complex”) from the tea liquor and the thousands of non-volatile compounds and the complexes between them, not all of which are water soluble, and the ones that are water soluble are soluble at a function of the properties of the water used for steeping like temperature, total dissolved
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World Tea Expo 2015 Highlights

World Tea Expo here in Long Beach has been a blast! From the moment James Norwood Pratt cut the ribbon, it’s been an action packed expo. There were a few stand-out exhibitors and sessions that are worth mentioning but the best part about these events is being together with thousands of fellow tea-lovers. I cover some of my favorite things from the expo below. To see more photos and happenings, check out my Instagram feed. The Need for Standards in Specialty Tea A much anticipated panel moderated by Austin Hodge starring Dan Bolton, Kevin Gascoyne, Jennifer English, Elyse Petersen, and Anshuman
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Tea Processing Chart

Tea processing is the most important quantifier when determining or producing a tea type. Green tea, yellow tea, white tea, oolong tea, black tea and post-fermented teas all begin as fresh camellia sinensis leaves and go through different processing steps. While there are an infinite number of variations that result in an infinite number of tea styles, the same underlying processing methodologies largely define the tea’s type. There are many tea processing charts that attempt to accurately depict the tea process, but many of them add unnecessary levels of complexity, or skip steps. The goal here was to depict very
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How to Store Tea

The Six Immutable Laws of Tea Storage

Storing tea can be very simple. If you keep your tea in an airtight container and then store your container in a dark, cool, dry place free from strong odors, you will likely consume it before you begin to notice any degradation in aroma or taste. Looking a bit deeper into tea storage opens up a bit more complexity and in this article, I break it down for you. When we talk about a tea deteriorating, what do we mean? Mostly oxidation. For teas that are prevented from oxidizing during production (see tea processing chart here), or that are not
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Guide to Tea in the Bay Area

Since I recently moved to the Bay Area (for a job in tea), it’s only appropriate that I post a guide to the area’s rich tea culture. You may not be aware, but the Bay Area is a hotbed of tea culture, nowhere else in the states can seem to support such a slew of high-end tea shops. What set the stage for such a great tea-scene? Well nearly a quarter of people in the Bay Area are of Asian descent and in the 1990s, David Lee Hoffman and Roy Fong began importing Chinese teas, the likes of which Americans
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Wedding Tea

How We Used Tea in Our Wedding Ceremony

Because tea is what brought Katie and I together, we thought we’d use it in our wedding ceremony. Let me explain first how tea brought us together because some people seem to think this kind of thing just doesn’t happen. Geoffrey Norman aka “Lazy Literatus” has a “standing ‘scientific’ theory that tea and dating don’t blend.” I asked him what he thought of our relationship and he said that it “seems to exist in stubborn defiance of my theory” and that Katie and I must have “sold our souls to Guan Yin… or something equally plausible.” All joking aside, Katie was working
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Engineer's Guide to Tea

The Engineer’s Guide to Tea Preparation

The bulk of tea produced in the world is commodity tea, meaning that it is actively traded and it’s price is determined by the markets. Commodity tea is relatively cheap, with the worldwide average price of commodity black tea typically in the area of $2.85USD/kilogram. Many of the world’s famous tea cultures1 are famous because they are promulgated by common man and are thus largely based on cheap commodity tea. There is however, a larger amount of high quality tea being produced every year, what some are calling the specialty tea industry. One way to think about the difference between commodity
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Fermented Tea Classification

Fermented Teas China Hunan Heicha 湖南 黑茶 (Anhua) Fu Zhuan 茯砖  “fu brick” Hua Juan Cha 花卷茶 Qian Liang Cha 千两茶 “thousand tael tea” Bai Liang Cha 百两茶 “hundred tael tea” Shi Liang Cha 十两茶 “ten tael tea” Hua Zhuan 花砖 “flower brick” Hei Zhuan 黑砖茶 “dark brick” Xiang Jian 湘尖 “hunan tips” Tian Jian 天尖 “heaven tips” Gong Jian 贡尖 “tribute tips” Sheng Jian 生尖 “raw tips” Qu Jiangbo Pian 渠江薄片 (coin shaped) Sichuan Heicha 四川 黑茶 Nan Lu Bian Cha 南路边茶 “south border tea” Xi Lu Bian Cha 西路边茶 “west border tea” Kang Zhuan 康砖 “kang brick” literally “peaceful brick”
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Übersicht Teeverarbeitung

A German translation of my original tea processing chart. The original processing chart can be found here. German translation courtesy of Thomas Kasper of SiamTeas. Thomas Kasper is known for sourcing pure teas from Thailand. Download a high resolution versions of the chart: [PDF] [JPEG]
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Gráfico de los procesos del té

Gracias a Fernando Enrique Padín Sáez de España por proporcionarme esta traducción al español del gráfico de los procesos del té. Original here. Descargar gráfico de los procesos del té: [PDF] [JPEG] Gráfico de los procesos del té by Tony Gebely is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at
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Romanization of Tea Terms

Romanization of Tea Terms

Surprisingly little is understood within the tea industry when it comes to the romanization of tea terms. This to me is troubling because confused tea vendors result in confused tea consumers. Because the Chinese have contributed the bulk of tea knowledge to the world, much of the romanization issues surround Modern Standard Chinese, though I’ll touch on Korean and Japanese as well. Romanization refers to the transliteration of any writing system to the Roman alphabet. It is important to understand the difference between transliteration and translation. Transliteration tells us how to say the other language’s word in our own language. Translation gives
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Hwang Cha (Balhyocha)

South Korean Balhyocha & Hwangcha

I recently went down the rabbit hole as they say researching a single topic for my upcoming book on tea. This time the rabbit hole was related to South Korean tea: balhyocha and hwangcha to be exact. Some tea merchants selling the same product will call it hwangcha and some will call it balhyocha. There seems to be no single definition of either of these tea terms and even more disconcerting, neither fits cleanly into standard tea classifications. What follows are excerpts from Matt of the wonderful Mattcha tea blog and discussions I’ve had with two South Korean tea experts followed by my own take
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Tea Types and Tea Styles

A New Look at Tea Classification

Throughout history, tea has been categorized many ways: by the color of the finished leaves, by the color of the tea liquor, and by the percentage of oxidation the tea leaves have gone through during processing. The goal of categorizing tea is to provide a clear foundation for education by lumping together teas with similar qualities. Each of the above classification methods fall short of providing a method of classification by which all tea styles can be categorized. Classifying teas by the processing methods that created them however, allows us to achieve this goal as tea styles can easily be lumped
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A flushing tea plant ready to be plucked.

Guide to Tea Harvest Times

When tea leaves are harvested depends largely on the region in which they are being grown and can vary from season to season with fluctuations in weather. The timing of the harvest is of utmost importance as it can take only a few days for a bud to appear, open up, and grow into a large leaf. Missing the harvest can destroy a crop as a style of tea may require that only the buds be plucked, or that only a certain number of small leaves be plucked after the bud opens. If there is a dormancy period due to
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The United States League of Tea Growers

The United States League of Tea Growers had it’s founding meeting on June 8, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada at the World Tea Expo. The meeting was attended by several tea growers and many influential people in the tea industry. Nigel Melican and Jason McDonald headed up the meeting in hopes to get a group together for: Building up plant husbandry knowledge Developing best practice processing know-how Developing appropriate automation Product and process innovation Trials related to US conditions Access to cultivars specific to US requirements Generic promotion of US grown teas Collaboration and information sharing Access to information resources
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How to Store Tea Leaves Between Steepings

This is a question that I see often on r/tea. After speaking with several people, I believe I can shed some light on this issue. What I think is happening is that the ideals of Eastern steeping methods are mixing with Western steeping methods. This is a huge generalization, but here is how the two stlyes shake out: Eastern Steeping: The tea leaves are steeped repeatedly with very small amounts of water for very short amounts of time, traditionally in a gaiwan or a smaller yixing pot that holds less than 1 cup of water. Also the ratio of leaves
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What is a varietal?

The word varietal is one that is often misused in the tea world (and also in the wine world). It is often erroneously used interchangeably with the word variety. Here’s the correct definition: Varietal (adj) – a varietal tea is one that was made from a single variety of Camellia sinensis. Correct usage: Tieguanyin is a varietal tea made from the ‘Tieguanyin’ cultivar (remember cultivar means “cultivated variety“) of Camellia sinensis. Incorrect usage: Tieguanyin is made from the Tieguanyin varietal of Camellia sinensis.
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Tea Cultivation

Tea Varieties and Cultivars

Plants are classified hierarchically by their division, class, subclass, order, family, genus, and species. They are also classified by variety and cultivar when necessary. Here’s how the tea plant shakes out: Division -> Magnoliophyta Class -> Magnoliopsida Subclass -> Dilleniidae Order -> Theales Family -> Theaceae Genus -> Camellia Species -> Sinensis [Source:] Since we’ll only be dealing with the varieties and cultivars of the genus Camellia and the species sinensis we’ll leave out the higher level classifications and just start with Camellia sinensis for the sake of simplicity throughout the rest of this post. When notating plant names,
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US Grown Tea

Where tea is grown in the United States

Is tea grown in the United States? It sure is! American grown tea is growing in popularity. Tea farms have been popping up all around the country, here’s a run-down of what we’ve got so far (this post will be updated periodically). Also, be sure to visit the US League of Tea Growers: Farms currently producing US grown tea: Alabama Fairhope Tea Plantation – [article] Bob Sims, Andalusia Tea LLC – [Facebook] Robert McArthur, Mobile – [No Link] California Roy Fong of Imperial Tea Court’s Farm – [article] Golden Feather Tea [farmer’s Facebook] Georgia Dunaway Gardens [website] Tsubaki Tea, Savanah
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Tea in Michigan

Katie and I were attending a wedding in Traverse City, Michigan last fall and while heading to Sleeping Bear Dunes, we made an awesome discovery. We happened upon a small tea shop called “Light of Day Organics” – we were surprised to learn that the owner, Angela Macke not only grows 240 different ingredients for her tea blends, but also has been growing Camellia sinensis since 2005! We were able to see the several varieties plants that she had in the greenhouse adjacent to her tea shop, unfortunately we did not have enough time to see her plants in the ground that
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Japanese Green Tea

Beginner’s Guide to Steeping Japanese Green Tea

Did you know that green tea is the most popular type of tea in Asia? It’s the most consumed tea in China, and Japan practically specializes in it. Steeping Japanese green tea isn’t particularly difficult, you just have keep some points in mind. Aren’t Japanese and Chinese green teas the same? There is one major difference: the fixing process, which is known as “kill-green” in China. With a few exceptions, Japanese green teas are steamed while Chinese green teas are pan fired. For this reason, there is a great difference in the flavor, aroma, and color of the liquid. There
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British Tea Culture

British Tea Culture, we all know it exists, we all know it’s important, but what exactly does it mean? I set out to figure this out by interviewing over 110 people from the United Kingdom about their tea habits. I wanted to see what makes their tea culture unique across all social classes. I deliberately did not ask tea connoisseurs, for we know that the “connoisseur crowd” is a common stripe among all tea cultures. Assumptions made: British Tea is a black tea, mostly a blended black tea. Teas blends are commonly made up of teas from India (Assam), Sri Lanka, or East Africa. The
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I’m speaking at the 2013 World Tea Expo

I’m speaking at World Tea Expo this year, if you are going and you own a tea company or are thinking about starting a tea company, you should probably come. I’m going to be covering the trends in digital marketing for the year. This isn’t 100 level social media, blogging and seo stuff, this is a seminar where I’ll take things a level deeper and give you more action points than you’ll know what to do with. I’ll share insights from my time running Chicago Tea Garden and from my experience from my real job as a Digital Marketer. So
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Tasting Tea: Taking it Deeper than “Vegetal”

One way that people describe green teas (not just green teas, just using it as an example) is by using the word “vegetal” — meaning that the taste reminds them of the taste of vegetables. One quick tip to take your tea appreciation to another level is to see if you can figure out which vegetable it reminds you of. Use this as a guide to help you find the exact vegetable: Does it smell/taste like a leafy green? Spinach Kale Chard Lettuce Does it smell/taste like grass? Fresh Cut Grass Dry Hay Does it smell/taste like a root vegetable?
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tea withering

Tea Business Model: Buying Directly From a Tea Producer

As the tea scene explodes in America, we’re seeing many different business models, both on the wholesale side and on the retail side. One that I find particularly interesting is the small but growing trend of tea farms selling directly to American consumers, whether shipping directly from the farm or by shipping to the states for later distribution. I sat down with Chicco Chou of Mountain Tea to learn more about this business model. Chicco was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1987, his family owns 3 tea farms totaling 600 acres in Taiwan, China and Indonesia. His two uncles Zhi
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Guest Post: Making sense of China’s Tea Harvest

In China the tea plant can be harvested anywhere from once to as many as 6 or 7 times per year.  In addition, the first harvest- the first flush in Indian nomenclature- can occur any time from mid-February to end of May. Let us look at some of the factors that determine when tea leaves are harvested. Geography Where the plant is grown will have a big impact on when it can be harvested. This is dependent on a combination of these factors: Sunlight Heat Rainfall You don’t need to be a botanist to know that plants need sunlight to grow.
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Where is tea grown?

Based on my research, this is a list of countries where tea is a cultivated crop. Did I miss any? Argentina Australia Bangladesh Bhutan Bolivia Brazil Cambodia Chile China Colombia Ecuador Ethiopia Egypt England France Georgia Germany Guatemala India Indonesia Iran Italy Japan Kenya Laos Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Mauritius Mexico Myanmar Morocco Nepal New Zealand Nigeria Pakistan Paraguay Peru Portugal Russia Rwanda South Africa South Korea Sri Lanka Sudan Taiwan Tanzania Thailand United States Turkey Uganda Vietnam Zimbabwe 53 listed as of 10/29/2012
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Guide to Tea in Chicago

The Chicago tea scene is blowing up. If you are visiting Chicago and are super into tea, please make it a point to visit these Chicago tea shops: Todd and Holland (Forest Park) This family-run shop in Forest Park (easy to get there from Downtown via blue or green line El trains) is the gem of the Chicago tea scene. Stop in and talk tea with the very knowledgeable Bill Todd and peruse their selection of single-origin teas that he has curated. Visit their website. Adagio (State Street, Naperville, Skokie) Chicagoans are lucky to have three Adagio shops in close proximity.
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Monkey Picked Tie Guan Yin Oolong

Anxi Tie Guan Yin Oolong

Etymology: “Tieguanyin” translates to “Iron Guanyin,” Guanyin being the “Goddess of Mercy” Other Names: Iron Goddess of Mercy, Ti Kuan Yin, Ti Kwan Yin Origin: China, Fujian Province, Anxi County Taste: Overwhelmingly floral and slightly vegetal. Behind the Leaf: This tea is named after the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (“Guan Yin” in Mandarin), also known as the “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” Tie Guan Yin was first used only as a tribute tea to the Royal Court. The tea leaves from Anxi County are known for their overwhelming floral fragrance and are harvested from a Camellia Sinensis cultivar named Tie Guan Yin. They
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darjeeling tea plantation

Describing Muscatel

Muscatel is an elusive taste found in some Darjeeling teas, most likely second flush teas. It is very hard to describe the taste in words, but it is easy to recognize the taste once you are familiar with it. James Norwood Pratt goes as far as saying that in tea, muscatel “denotes a unique muscat-like fruitiness in aroma and flavour.” Rajiv Lochan, owner of several tea gardens in India and CEO of Lochan Tea Ltd remarked that muscatel is “very difficult to describe but it is something extraordinary and rare.” I asked my tea friends how they would describe this elusive
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Bootstrapping an Online Tea business

How to Start an Online Tea Business

I get a lot of emails from people asking me how to start an online tea business. I’m not exaggerating, I get A LOT of emails. When I closed Chicago Tea Garden the amount of emails I received spiked. Many people in the beginning stages of opening their business asked me if I had any insights to offer or tips for growing the business. I did my best to keep up with all of these emails. I truly want every single person that is passionate about starting a tea company to succeed in doing so. I began to notice patterns and
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First wave of liquidation sale orders

An Homage to Chicago Tea Garden

This is more of a bit of disconnected ramblings that I needed to get out since deciding to close down my company, Chicago Tea Garden. Hopefully you find what I’ve learned useful. Seven years ago I left the United States to spend a month abroad in China. While in China, I learned about the rich tea culture there as I traveled from city to city. This was when my interest for tea began. Upon my return home, I purchased a cubic-meter crate full of Yixing pots and sold them through the coffee shop I was working at during college. I studied the
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Kill-Green in Tea Production

Have you ever wondered why Japanese green teas are so green? And why Chinese green teas are not as bright green, but are typically yellower? The reason lies in the processing steps for each tea and in particular the “kill-green” step of the processing some tea types.  The term kill-green is derived from the Mandarin shaqing (杀青), which means “killing the green.” Kill-green is also referred to as “de-enzyming” or “fixing” and is a process of tea manufacture used to halt the oxidative browning of tea leaves by denaturing the enzymes responsible for oxidation–  polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase. Think of
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What is Green Tea?

The definition of green tea in it’s simplest and most generalized form is a tea that is made up of leaves that were prevented from oxidizing, shaped and then dried. However, green teas are not unoxidized. No tea is truly unoxidized because tea leaves begin to slowly wither and oxidize the moment they are plucked, something that is unavoidable since hours may elapse from the time of picking to the time of processing. So let’s draw a line here and speak only of controlled processes.  The most prevalent form of green tea production involves heating the leaves shortly after plucking (some
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What is Oxidation?

Oxidation refers to a series of chemical reactions that result in the browning of tea leaves and the production of flavor and aroma compounds in finished teas. Depending on the type of tea being made, oxidation is prevented altogether, or deliberately initiated, controlled then stopped. Much of the oxidation process revolves around polyphenols and the enzymes polyphenol oxidase and peroxidase. When the cells inside tea leaves are damaged and the components inside are exposed to oxygen and mix, specifically when polyphenols in the cell’s vacuoles and the peroxidase in the cell’s peroxisomes mix with polyphenol oxidase in the cell’s cytoplasm1 a
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What is Withering?

The moment a tea leaf is plucked from the tea plant, it begins to wilt naturally, a process we call withering. But once the tea leaves reach the processing facility, this process is controlled by the tea producer. The purpose of a controlled wither is to prepare the leaves for further processing by reducing their moisture content and to allow for the development of aroma and flavor compounds in the leaves. Controlling the withering process means closely monitoring humidity, temperature and air-flow over time. A controlled wither can occur outside with tea leaves laid out gently on bamboo mats or
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Chicago Tea Tasting

Had a great tea tasting for my company, Chicago Tea Garden in January. If you live in the Chicago area and would like to attend a tasting, please signup here. Thanks to Flickr user faraocious for taking these awesome photos! view the whole set by foraocious here.
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Wild Orange Pu-erh

Wild Orange Pu’er

These tiny oranges, known as clementines in the United States, are typically hollowed out and filled with tea, then aged. I have several that were obtained in Guandong, China, in 2005 and have since been aged in man-made pu-erh caves in the United States. The leaves, when steeped, have a zesty orange smell; the tea is smooth and malty, with hints of orange, especially if you use part of the rind while steeping. I was surprised that the orange notes were not more pronounced, but overall these make for a very interesting conversation piece and a very tasty tea. Here
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Yunnan Black Tea: Golden Bi Luo

Golden Bi Luo

Yunnan black teas come from China’s Yunnan province and can be found in many different forms, this particular tea is comprised of twisted leaves similar to those found in Bi Luo Chun. Golden Bi Luo and other Yunnan black teas are best steeped for 1min at 195 in my opinion as it keeps the astringency at bay and the sweet notes in the forefront. Other Names: Hong Bi Luo, Yunnan Bi Luo, Golden Yunnan, Yunnan Golden Curls Origin: China, Yunnan Province Harvest: Spring 2011 Taste: Creamy with sweet, malty notes of vanilla. Behind the Leaf: Golden Bi Luo is a
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No Bullshit Tea Companies

Someone recently asked me how many tea companies exist right now that have made a commitment to only sell pure tea. I didn’t have an answer, so I started searching, and with the help of my friends on Twitter and Reddit, I came up with the following list. The criteria for the list: the tea company must sell tea in loose or compressed form only, no tea bags or sachets all tea sold by the company must be unflavored, unscented, and free of inclusions with the following traditional exceptions being made: Black tea flavored / scented with bergamot White or
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re-steeping tea

Multiple Infusions: About Re-Steeping Tea

Why re-steep? Why not? Re-steeping tea really brings out the value of a tea, you can get many servings of tea from just one serving of leaves. More bang for your buck, and you get to taste the tea as it develops from steep to steep. Before you re-steep: If you are going to be re-steeping your tea, you don’t want to oversteep it. Re-steeping your tea means that you are going to be steeping the leaves multiple times which means that each time you steep it, you must remove the leaves from your tea and set them aside until
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2011-08-30 18.29.13

What is Tuocha?

Tuocha or “dome-shaped bowl tea” is a compressed tea, usually made of pu-erh. The shape resembles a bird’s nest and tuocha range in weight from 3g to 3kg or more. Tuocha are convex in order to help the tea dry out after processing. “The name for tuocha is believed to have originated from the round, top-like shape of the pressed tea or from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuojiang River [Wikipedia].” While mini tuocha can be steeped whole, most large tuocha are broken into pieces and only small amounts are steeped at a time.  
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What is Yerba Mate?

Yerba mate is a tree. Not a tall one, but a moderately tall tree. In the farms they are not that big because they are pruned to make it easier to harvest, a similar method is used with the camellia sinensis plant for harvesting tea. The natives of this area, the Guaranies, discovered that they could make a drink with the plant, but they had to dried the leaves first. Yerba mate is poisonous if not dried. Not so poisonous that you will die, but you will wish to. It will give you stomach cramps, inflamation, diarrhea, intestinal cramps, incontinence and
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Tea for iPhone, an Interview with the Developer

I recently sat down with Samuel Iglesias, tea-enthusiast (nerd) and first-time iPhone developer to discuss his journey in creating an app called “Tea.” Who helped you with the app? Tea is the result of a collaboration between me (@siglesias) and designer Mac Tyler (@mactyler). I came up with the concept after being frustrated by my scattershot, do-whatever approach to making tea–sometimes it would taste great, other times not so much, and I would never be exact about how long I steeped it, just sort of let it sit there until my intuition told me it was ready. After learning that
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Nuo Mi Xiang “Sticky Rice” Pu-erh

There exists an herb in China’s Yunnan Province who’s aroma closely resembles that of sticky glutinous rice. “Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye” translates to “Sweet Rice Tender Leaves.” This tea in maocha form, is left for months in close contact with Nuo Mi Xiang Nen Ye leaves until the tea leaves take on the scent of the herb. The leaves are pressed into tiny tuochas, which means “dome-shaped bowl tea.” The shape resembles tiny birds-nests, and they are individually wrapped in rice paper. The paper must be removed before steeping. Once steeped, the tea emits a sweet aroma identical to
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