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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Killing the Green

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, 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 an
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Thoughts on American Tea Culture

Or any culture for that matter. I was reading a translation by MarshalN of a Chinese blog post about snobbery in the tea world and it kind of went along with my thinking of late about tea culture here in America, where it seems like there are so many different groups with differing opinions and ideas that made up our “culture” here.  I guess its a social “thing” that happens in a lot of niche industries. Let’s remove tea from the equation and talk about products in general — the masses (the majority) tend to cling to a product of lesser
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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 is a chemical process that results in the browning of tea leaves and the production of flavor and aroma compounds in finished teas, oxidation is also responsible for the browning of some fruits and vegetables when they are cut open including potatoes, apples, and avocados. Controlled oxidation usually begins after tea leaves are rolled or macerated, two processes that break down the cell walls in tea leaves. Chemically speaking, oxidation occurs when the polyphenols in the cell’s vacuoles and the peroxidase in the cell’s peroxisomes come in contact with the polyphenol oxidase in the cell’s cytoplasm. The resulting reaction
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What is Withering?

The moment a tea leaf is plucked from the tea plant, it begins to wither or wilt. The amount of this unavoidable, uncontrolled wither the leaves experience depends on how much time elapses from the time the leaves are plucked in the field until the leaves reach their destination and they are further processed and the quality of care that is given to them during this time. Withering is also a controlled process used in tea production. Tea producers use a balance of moisture and air-flow during a controlled wither to moderate the reduction of moisture in tea leaves until it
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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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