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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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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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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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wte

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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vegetal

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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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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