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White Tea – History

White Tea first appeared in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). It was during this period that the first paper money and gunpowder were used and a standing navy and the location of true north on a compass were first established. White Tea was the choice of the royal court and was given as tribute to the emperor. White tea leaves and buds were ground into a silvery powder, which was then whisked in bowls during the Song Tea Ceremony. This was the inspiration for the famous Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The first mention of White Tea appeared in “Treatise on Tea”, written by the Emperor Huizong (1107-1110).  A tea connoisseur, White Tea was his favourite and his book included highly detailed descriptions and rules for the making and judging of tea.

In 1769, the first Silver Needle Pekoe Tea was developed and in 1857, tea plants were found in Fuding County in Fujian which yielded a superior White Tea. In 1885, Silver Needle Tea was developed and then White Peony Tea in 1922.  In 1968 the first exports of White Tea were made possible by new techniques of growing and processing.

White tea has come a long way in its long history. It was largely unknown outside China and the Orient until recently. Now, with a renewed interest in fine tea and remarkable discoveries about its health benefits, white tea is being discovered and enjoyed around the world.


Gongfu – What is it?

Gongfu (also know and Kung-Fu) is a type of Chinese Tea Ceremony.  It uses a ritualized way of preparation and presentation of tea.  Gongfu Tea Brewing became popular during China’s Ming Dynasty about the year 1500. This method is great for Pu’erh, Oolong and Black teas.

So let’s jump right in. At the basic level, there are 5 variables involved:
1. Quality Of The Tea
2. How Much Tea Do I Use?
3. Temperature Of The Water
4. Brewing Times
5. The Quality and Type Of Teapot

One difference between using the regular brewing method and the Gongfu tea method is in the amount of tea leaves used and the steeping duration of the tea. The Gongfu method involves using more tealeaves, but the infusion duration is shorter. This allows for multiple infusions. This method of brewing requires practice and the term “Gongfu style” literally means using great skill to brew tea.

Serving Pot or Vessel:
Once the tea is steeped for the desired amount of time, then the tea is poured from the teapot into this serving vessel. This is to stop the infusion process.

Chart – Teapot Sizes for Number of People Served

Quality and Type of Teapot

The teapot is another important variable that is beyond the scope of this guide, but touching on the basics is worthwhile. Serious Gong-Fu Cha enthusiasts spend many hours debating the virtues of their teapots, but there is universal agreement on these four points:

  • Any tea is best made in unglazed clay teapots and the best teapots are made from “Purple Clay” (Zisha) from the Yixing (Yee-zhing) area of China
  • Zisha clay has excellent porosity and heat handling properties that significantly improves the taste of tea when compared to tea made in a glass, porcelain or glazed teapots.
  • A Yixing teapot should only be used for one type of tea
  • High-fired teapots with a finer, thinner clay are excellent for use with any tea and a must for Green, White and Oolong teas. Low-fired teapots that use a thicker and more porous clay work best for Black Tea (called Red Tea in China) and Pu-Erh Tea.

Clay teapots of all types and qualities can be ordered from the internet but as with buying tea, this can be difficult for the beginner. The caveats for buying tea apply equally to buying a teapot. If you want to save money or are a traditionalist, you can use the traditional gai wan which is an inexpensive glazed porcelain cup with a lid and base that comes in many sizes and can be used for all teas as it can be rinsed after use.

Glass teapots are often used for Green, White and “blooming” teas as they do not absorb the delicate tea fragrance like low fired clay teapots and you can see the leaves expanding. But a quality high-fired, clay teapot is still superior to glass or porcelain and improves the taste of tea over time.

Selecting A Clay Teapot

Your teapot will be your friend for many years so make sure there are no cracks or chips. It should have a good weight and balance and feel comfortable in the hand. The handle and lid should fit your fingers and the lid should fit precisely in the top opening with the opening just large enough to accommodate the size of leaves you will be using. A smaller opening tends to keep the fragrance of tea in the teapot whereas a larger opening allows the fragrance to escape. So tea with small or rolled leaves and high fragrance (Green, White, Oolongs) will benefit from a smaller opening. A larger opening is better for tea with large leaves and low fragrance (Black and Pu-Erh).

The spout should be large enough to allow the tea to pour freely. Gong Fu Cha develops the taste of tea quickly with fast brew times so the hole of the spout needs to be as large as possible to not constrict the flow of tea being poured, which would make the brew times longer. Check other sized teapots to ensure the spout is proportional to the size of teapot. Many newer teapots come with a strainer built-in. If your teapot does not have a strainer, ask to have one inserted inside the spout.

The shape of a teapot is said to have an effect on the flavour of the tea, with different shapes of teapots accommodating the different shapes, sizes and expansion rates of tea leaves. Here are some well known shapes:

Chart: Teapot Shapes by Type of Tea

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Taiwan Oolong (High Profile)
Green/White Tea (High Profile)
Tie Guan Yin (Gun Yam, Iron Buddha,
Chinese Oolong, Buddha of Mercy) (Low Profile)
Chinese Black Tea (known as Red Tea in China)
Pu-Erh (Bow Lay) (High Profile)
Da Hong Pao (Cliff Tea) & Phoenix Tea (Low Profile)
A Decorative Teapot (Low Profile)

 

  • Finest quality new high-fired teapots have a clear and distinct ring like a little bell when you lift up the lid about a quarter of an inch and allow it to drop gently on to the teapot (make sure you are holding the teapot on the flat of your hand so it is not damping the teapot in any way). In most cases, the higher the pitch and the longer the ring, the finer the quality
  • Teapots used for Pu-Erh tea are thicker and made from a more porous clay than other teapots and don’t have the distinctive bright ringing sound. These are selected by an examination of the clay which usually has a rougher texture than teapots used for other teas
  • Older teapots have a distinctive patina from the infusion of tea oils and constant use which can dull the pitch. Many new teapots have a similar shine from a wax coating that is applied to protect the clay and make them look nice on the shelf. (see how to remove this coating below in Seasoning A New Teapot)
  • If you like antiques, a Yixing teapot dating from the 1980’s, 1950’s or even late Qing Dynasty is a wonderful thing to own as they are often one-of-a-kind designs and older teapots are made from excellent clay. Some were made by very famous artists and can fetch big prices. Antique teapots have a history (verifiable or not) and have been infused with tea oils over many years. They can give a decided “thunk” rather than a clear ring because of the accumulation of oils in the clay but can still be of the finest quality. But remember, you are in the antique game now so buyer beware!
  • Always pour any extra tea you might have over your teapot and give it an occasional polish with a soft dry cloth. This will help to build up the oils in your teapot, allowing it to contribute its own unique “taste” and gives the teapot a nice shine
  • Unfortunately, just about every teapot for sale is claimed to be a Yixing teapot, so in short, when buying a teapot, deal with an expert you can trust

Aroma Cups and Drinking Cups:
Each person is given an aroma cup and a drinking cup. The tea is poured from the serving vessel into the tall aroma cup. The tea is left in the aroma cup for a couple of minutes and then it poured into each individual’s drinking cup. The emptied cup captures the fragrance of the tea and can be enjoyed by putting the aroma cup under your nose. Finally you can enjoy the cup of tea from the drinking cup.

Gongfu Brewing Steps:

  1. The teapot should be rinsed with hot water. This is done to clean the pot and warm the pot in preparation for brewing the tea. After rinsing, the water should be poured out.
  2. Immediately, place the tealeaves into the teapot. Put in about two teaspoons or about enough to cover the bottom of the teapot. Fill the teapot to the rim with boiling water and quickly pour it out, this is done to rinse the tealeaves and removes the dust.
  3. Add boiling water to the rim of the teapot and let the tea brew. Cover the teapot with the lid and continue to pour boiling water on the outside to ensure equal heating of the tea. You may want to experiment a little to find the perfect brewing time with the specific teas.
  4. Rinse the aroma cups and the drinking cups with boiling water.
  5. When the correct amount of time has passed, pour the tea into the serving pot.

6. Pour the tea from the serving pot to the aroma cups.
7. Pour the tea from the aroma cups to the drinking cups and put the aroma cups under your nose.
8. Enjoy your cup of tea.
9. Repeat step 3 to step 8 for additional infusions. The infusion time should be a little longer for each subsequent infusion.

 

You can take free online lessons on the gongfu tea ceremony at the Teaclass website.

Watch a video tutorial of the gongfu style of tea preparation here on youtube.

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Temperature and Brewing times

One of the more important things to consider is the temperature you steep/brew your tea. There are as many opinions as there are varieties of tea as to the “correct” brew temperature.

I have found that When you use water that is to hot for the type of tea that you are wanting to drink it causes the tea to become bitter. The hotter the water the more likely you are to “burn” the tea. The longer you steep the tea the more flavor that you are infusing into the water. Using a lower water temperature and a longer brewing time will make a better tasting tea.

So how do you know what temperature you should use and just how long do you steep the tea for? The best thing you can do is to find a good general starting point and adapt from there until you find the temperature and time that works for your personal taste.

Here is a helpful chart that I made up and use for brewing/steeping times and temperatures for each main category of tea type.

White tea.     175°      2-3 minutes
Indian Green   175°    2-3 minutes
Japanese Green Tea   160°  1-2 min
Chinese Green Tea. 175°  2-3 min
Oolongs    200°    4-5 minutes
Darjeelings    195°    4-5 minutes
Black Teas.   200°   4-5 minutes
Herbals.      200°    5 minutes

Straight from the Gaiwan into the cupThese are starting points that I use. I live in Colorado at a mile above sea level so my water boiling point is different than someone at sea level. Here our water boils at 206° so the typical 212° for black tea doesn’t work. I found that the first thing that really spoils the taste of a tea is the water temperature. To hot and it will “burn” the tea and not hot enough, the flavors aren’t pulled out of the leaf. Finding your teas perfect temperature will take some experimentation.

I found that 200° works well when a tea manufacture calls for water at full boil.

So now how to I go about brewing my tea?
Gongfu?
Gaiwan?
Clamshell?
Tea Press?

I’ll be going through these different options and I will link up to them soon.


The Origin Of Our Word, “Tea”

calligraphic representation for the word tea.

In English tea is a neat, short word, but through out it’s long history, it has been spelled many different ways. It has been called tea, tee, tcha, chai, and many other variants.

The symbol to the right is the Chinese character for tea and has been used since at least the third century. There are in fact, two families of words that are used around the world, which come from the way that the Chinese character for tea has been pronounced. In Mandarin it is pronounced cha, In the Amoy dialect, which is spoken in the Fujian province and Taiwan, it is pronounced tay.

The two words took different paths in spreading out to the rest of the world, based on trade routes.

  • Cha. In the 5th century, the word cha expanded beyond the Chinese border. Tea went to Japan as o-cha, and to Persia as cha, which later evolved into the Arabic and Russian chai and the Turkish chay. Tea went to Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, remaining as cha. While most of Western Europe uses a variation of “tay”, the Portuguese, who first brought tea to Europe, use cha.
  • Tay. The word tay began its travels later than cha, but spread beyond the Pacific Rim and Middle East to Europe. Xiamen (also known as Amoy), in the Fujian (Hokkien) province, was the port of trade first used by Europeans (mainly the Portuguese) in 1541. Near the end of the Ming Dynasty, in 1644, British merchants set up trading posts there; in the nineteenth century, it was China’s main port for exporting tea.

The pictures below are lists of names, and the languages and the derivative of either Tay or Cha. Click on the pictures to view them full size.

taycha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to “The Tea Cyclopedia” for these images.

 

 


Kuti – Coffee Leaf Tea

Finally got my shipment of kuti coffee leaf in. After reading about what wize monkey is doing with trying to stimulate the economy of Central America using their coffee leaves to make a tea I was intrigued. I have had the Ethiopian tea before but not kuti. I went to the wize monkey site to find that their coffee leaf tea wouldn’t be available for another 6 months.

After looking through a few articles I found a place that had kuti coffee leaf tea and decided to order, I am not disappointed. It reminds me of a tea that you might get in a nice asian food restaurant. One difference is the richness of the kuti is such a nice surprise. I realize tea in a asian restaurant is brewed to enhance and not over power the food you are being served so it isn’t going to be brewed very strong. The coffee leaf tea is a rich flavor, great for an after dinner or late afternoon drink.

I was kind of surprised at the bag of coffee leaves I received. They were all huge not at all like the loose leaf style tea that I am used to making tea with. Close to what I have received when I have purchased Shoumei but even a little bigger than those leaves.

Coffee leaves straight out of the bag before adding water.

Coffee leaves straight out of the bag before adding water.

Fresh from the bag coffee leafs for my tea.

Fresh from the bag coffee leafs to make into my tea.

Straight from the Gaiwan into the cup

Straight from the Gaiwan. 200° for three minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went Gaiwan for the preparation, using filtered water about a teaspoon of the leaves, again they are mostly whole leaves so I kind of just eyeballed it. Used 200° water and let it steep for about 3 minutes. The remainder of the tea I let steep in the Gaiman for another 2 minutes so I had a stronger brew for my second cup.

The liquor is very pleasant, thick, rich, almost sweet. Very nice well rounded taste. Very enjoyable.

I hope you will take the time and try this “tea”.

Happy Lucky’s tea house.

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Coffee plant leaves for tea? Wize Monkey thinks so…

10615352_817983724925162_8095027607135033979_nTea and coffee are two of the most consumed beverages in the world. Many people feel they need to declare themselves in one camp or the other. What if you could have the best of both worlds?

A new trend, well at least new for the majority of the world, a tea made from the very same plant that produces beans used for ground coffee, espressos and lattes. This tisane has been consumed in Ethiopia for over 200 years. Sumatrans also drink coffee leaf tea rather than roasting beans because they believe it to be more nutritious.

One company who is a pioneer in this is Wize Monkey. They are putting together a few different flavors of this new tisane and according to their website these teas will be available in the spring of 2015.
10846221_832933206763547_3219200613703200182_nWize Monkey has found “Because coffee beans can only be harvested 3 months a year, 90% of staff are seasonal. Due to this, many workers move to the cities to find other jobs, but the cities are highly dependent on agricultural exports to fuel the economy. The coffee leaf can be harvested all year round
With a constant flow of income, these farms can now convert seasonal jobs into permanent ones. This helps develop better communities and stronger families with sustainable and organic agriculture since employees have stable work and don’t need to seek off-season income in other cities.”

An added bonus is that coffee leaf tea would require organic farming methods. This agricultural shift would benefit the farmers and their workers as well as the surrounding environment. I believe that we will be hearing more about coffee leaf tea in the future.

That’s all nice and I am all for helping other people but, really what does this taste like, I really like my morning wake-up juice.

To see testimonials that give more detail by watching their video.

There is some caffeine content but only around 12g. That is about as much as decaffeinated coffee. Some studies have shown coffee leaf tea may have an even higher concentration of antioxidants and other healthy components than some true teas. Antioxidants are polyphenols which have the potential to aid the body with removing free radicals. Coffee leaf tea is also rich in calcium and other vitamins. British and French scientists have discovered that coffee leaf tea contains mangiferin, a natural substance normally found in mangoes. It has been shown to fight inflammation, reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels.

I hope to be offering their tea here on my site when it becomes more readily available.

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Tea-BOT

teaBOT is here…

teabotI saw this in an email that someone set to me and so I had to look it up online to see if it was really true. It is a pretty amazing piece of ingenuity. The teaBOT is the brain child of two long time friends, Brian Lee and Rehman Merali.

This video shows the story of the teaBOT. Such a great premise, I wish there was one near me so that I could give it a try.

This Toronto based company was founded in 2013 by two high school friends, Brian Lee and Rehman Merali. Brian’s family has a loose-leaf tea store and he noticed that customers were leaving the store due to long line-ups. He discussed the problem with Rehman over sushi one day and the two engineers started sketching a machine to make a premium cup of tea for busy on-the-go consumers. The idea soon evolved into having the machine create the tea blends on-demand and teaBOT was born!

If you happen to have a teaBOT near you please give it a try and let me know what you think…

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Tea that I enjoy regularly

I am one of those people that enjoys a lot of different teas but there are a few that I regularly go back to. A friend of mine gave me a few samples of tea from Harney and Sons in New York. I liked tea before but those samples ignited a fire inside of me that has made me into the tea snob, as I am regularly called by my friends. I don’t completely disagree on my tea snobbery but it depends on what how you define what a tea snob is.

My all time favorite black tea is “Paris” by Harney and Sons, a close second in the black tea category is their “Black Current” tea. Both are a staple in my life.


My History

1601194_10151849831205998_688400984_nI have lived in Colorado since the late 70’s. My parents up-rooted me from my home town of Eugene Oregon to open a floor covering business in Denver. They have since retired and live in Missouri. Me, my wife and our two kids still live here in the Mile High City.

I have been working on starting up a business that falls in line with my passion for tea. I love white and green tea and I am planning on blending my own flavored white teas. I will have them available for purchase soon.

 


I am proud to offer hand-mixed to order white tea blends.