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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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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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 worldoftea.org.
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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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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: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=Casi16] 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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The Importance of Doing Research for Your Customers

So many times I meet people that have been told erroneous information about tea. I have met countless people searching for certain teas that will cure certain disorders, from sleep apnea to arthritis. I drink tea because it tastes good, tea is not a medicine to me, and I don’t believe in selling tea as a “medicine.” I believe it is a deceptive practice, and one that many are susceptible to, If you knew nothing about tea and someone told you that it would help you lose weight, you would probably believe them, right? Examples of Bad Information [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/TeaBenefitsCom/status/42229795894988800″] [blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/CraigBaylor/status/44505534375788544″]
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From  Wonderlane's Flickr

Theanine: a 4000 Year Old Mind-Hack

Monks have been drinking tea for thousands of years to maintain a state of “mindful alertness” during long periods of meditation. But only in the last few years have studies shed light on why tea has this effect on the mind. The two elements responsible for this are caffeine and L-theanine, and it is the combination of the two that makes tea unique from any other drink. Spare Me the Science: What L-theanine and Caffeine can do for the Mind Promote a mindful state of relaxation Increase our ability to multi-task, and multi-task well Increase speed of perception Increase performance
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Hacker Monthly Magazine: Guide to Tea

Just wanted to share with everyone a beautiful PDF of my previous “Hacker’s Guide to Tea” that will appear in the January 2011 issue of Hacker Monthly. Hacker Monthly is a collection of the most interesting posts from Hacker News each month. Here it is, enjoy!: Hacker’s Guide to Tea
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Pu-erh Flower Beencha

I’m not even sure what to call this. This is a beencha of pressed camellia sinensis flowers! Opening the wrapper I was greeted by an amazingly fresh, flowery fragrance. When steeped, the flowers basically re-blossom and release a sweet, slightly pungent and nutty liquor. Not sure how to steep this tea, I did a 1:30 infusion @ 195F and it was delicious.
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Camellia

Camellia: Botanical genus to which the tea species and its varieties belong, named for Georg Josef Kamel, a German Jesuit missionary who lived in Japan during the latter half of the 1600s and classified the plants he found in Asia. The Camellia genus includes 81 different Camellia varieties besides tea, like the garden flower Camellia japonica. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here.
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Jame’s Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Kamairi Cha

Kamairi Cha: Special Japan green sometimes called “China green tea” by the Japanese because it is pan-fired and not steamed. After a short withering, the leaf is fired in hot iron pans at 300C with constant agitation to prevent scorching. Rolling techniques employed during firing can produce either leaf pellets or flat leaf. Best Kamairicha comes from Saga Prefecture’s Ureshino district. Rarely Available in the west. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here. If you’d like to try Kamairi cha, we have some here.
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Brazil Green Tea

Tea from Brazil

I recently received a sample of shincha green tea from Stash Tea from Brazil. This is my first contact with Brazilian tea. Stash’s website says: “The Yamamotoyama Brazilian tea gardens are in two highland areas in the central part of the country at an elevation of 2,000-2,500 feet. The climate here is comparable to Japan and optimal for growing superlative green tea. In fact, tea bushes from Japan were carefully selected and transported to Brazil to plant in these gardens.” The leaves, like many Japanese teas are steamed and chopped and they emit a sweet, vegetal smell. I infused the
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Hacker’s Guide to Tea

TL;DR: All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. If you are drinking something that did not come from this plant (chamomile, mint, tulsi, rooibos, etc.) it is not tea. White, Green, Oolong, Yellow, Black and Pu-erh teas all come from the varieties and cultivars of the camellia sinensis plant and the type and style of tea is determined by the processing methods used on the plucked leaves. Tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes mental acuity. The combination of L-theanine and caffeine creates a sense of “mindful awareness.” Tea can be prepared in any vessel by steeping the
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You Decide: Tea and Cancer

There’s been many opposing studies out there about tea and cancer right now. Many are claiming that tea can “prevent” cancer. Some actually say that tea can promote cancer. As always — when human health is involved, there is money to be made. Big brands are just waiting to tack a new label on a product touting the latest health benefits. Take Cheerios for example, if you were to look back at the history of cereal boxes they’ve used you would see messages ranging from “promotes a healthy heart” to “lowers your cholesterol” and “helps prevent cancer.” It seems that
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Jin Xuan Oolong

Jin Xuan Oolong: Properly called “milk oolong,” this is a tea cultivar developed in the 1990s. It yields a lighter Jade oolong-type tea, mildly astringent and very aromatic with a milky character of its own. Jin Xuan is popularly marketed as “milk oolong” because of its remarkable cream like flavour and aroma. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here.
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Rize

Rize: One of the smallest provinces of Turkey. It is located 75km. east of Trabizon, on the border of Georgia, overlooking the Black Sea coast and climbs a mountain slope covered with tea bushes. Since the 1940s, it has been important as the Turkish tea industry capital. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here.
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Baghjan Pruning

Baghjan Pruning: Old method of pruning mature tea bushes, named for Assam estate where it originated. This method is aimed at restricting bush height and delaying medium pruning, but later it results in formation of knots on the pruned “frame” or trunks of bush. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here.
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Fukusa

Fukusa: A square silk cloth used in cha-no-yu for the ritual cleaning of the tea scoop and the natsume or cha-ire, and for handling hot kettle or pot lids. Fukusa are sometimes used by guests for protecting the tea implements when they are examining them. When not in use the fukusa is tucked into the “obi,” or belt of the kimono. Fukusa are of different colours for men and women, for people of different ages or skill levels, for different ceremonies and schools. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click
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James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary: Jade Oolong

Jade Oolong: Contemporary trade term like Amber oolong coined by Thomas Shu in 1996 to describe Taiwan’s greenish type of oolongs. It is also sometimes called “fragrant” oolong because it is so aromatic. Jade oolongs may be made from several different varietals but never from Tieguanyin or Wuyi types used for Amber oolongs. The oxidation is kept down to 25% or less and the leaf is less shotty than Amber oolong due to this minimal rolling. Dong ding is typically made into jade oolong for example. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick
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James Norwood Pratt's Tea Dictionary: Rengong Fajiao

Rengong Fajiao: Chinese manufacturing term in Pu-Er production for the controlled fermentation (not oxidation) essential to production of Pu-Er teas. This accelerated process of Houfajiao uses heat, moisture and microorganisms to achieve Pu-Er and other Heicha teas. If you want to read more about James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary or to pick up  a copy, click here.
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An Introduction to James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary

James Norwood Pratt is best known for his book, New Tea Lover’s Treasury. Considered an authority on tea and tea lore, he has spent much of his life disseminating the way of tea to America and the West. His latest book, the Tea Dictionary includes terminology for the cultivation, manufacture, tasting, trading, marketing, and classification of tea: some of which has not been translated to the English language until now. Pratt collaborated with Dr. Chen Zhongmao (now Honorary Chairman of China’s Tea Research Institute), Devan Shah and Ravi Sutodiya to create this 370-page book. The dictionary also includes a  timeline of
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2010 First Flush Hawaiian Oolong

The long delicate, hand-processed leaves of Mauna Kea’s 2010 First Flush Oolong are something to behold. Taka is getting better and better at replicating China’s Oolong process of olde. The dry leaves have the familiar floral scent of a Chinese or Taiwanese Oolong, but with a wisp of something more fresh, like the smell of laundry left to dry outside in wind blowing over a hay field. The New Zealand Oolong I recently tried also had this fresh scent. After a 1:00 infusion at 195 degrees fahrenheit, the leaves had barely begun to unfurl. Because these leaves have barely unfurled,
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Open for business: Chicago Tea Garden…

I am proud to announce that our company, Chicago Tea Garden is finally open for business. We have 9 teas from David Lee Hoffman’s Phoenix Collection to start and some local tea-ware from Chicago Potter — Chris Chaney. Lainie Petersen has written a wonderful article on us as the Chicago Tea Examiner, see it here. The Little Yellow Teapot also wrote an article about our opening: here. I chose to sell David Lee Hoffman’s teas to start for a few reasons… the man is a pioneer in the tea industry. He has relationships with farmers all over China and has
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Fresh Darjeeling Tea – Rare Pearls Rohini Estate

Just before Christmas I received a beautiful package from India (it had a bit of a tough time in the mail as evidence by the dents in the box, but the tea was safe) from my good friend Sonam of “Fresh Darjeeling Tea.” Inside were 3 beautifully packaged fresh teas from Darjeeling — the likes of which I’ve never seen. Sonam has done a wonderful job sourcing rare and amazing Darjeelings — a quick browse through the image-slider on his homepage can show you this. He has found wonderful full-leaf oolong and pearls – teas not generally renowned in Darjeeling.
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