New to teas?

Tea and health benefits for the heart

A new study from China’s Wuyishan Municipal Hospital reconfirms the benefits of regular tea drinking on preventing hardening of the arteries. Arterial stiffening can reduce lifespan and increase risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart failure and stroke.


The study, “A Cross-sectional Study of the Relationship between Habitual Tea Consumption and Arterial Stiffness,” was led by cardiologist Qing-fei Lin and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

More than 6,500 men and women ages 40-75 in the Fujian Province were studied. They were divided into four groups – those who consumed tea regularly for 10 or more years, 6-10 years, and 1-5 years and those who did not drink tea regularly. “Regular consumption” was defined as those drinking one or more cups a day for at least 12 months.

Tea drinking was measured by self-reported survey. Brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity (ba-PWV) was measured which determines arterial stiffness in the aorta and in the peripheral artery of the heart. Those that drank tea regularly for 6+ years had less thickening of artery walls and greater elasticity in the arteries. Stiffening was lowest among those consuming habitually for 10+ years. Those that drank 10 or more grams of tea daily had the best benefit.

The effect of the tea may be related to a chemical reaction in the endothelial cells of the artery that is triggered by catechins. Catechins may release nitrous oxide, making the arteries more flexible.

While the study had its limitations, such as only including people from a small geographic region and relying on self-reporting for consumption, the results are in line with previous studies on tea and heart health.

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According to the American Heart Association Green tea and coffee may help lower your risk of having a stroke, especially when both are a regular part of your diet.

The American Heart Association reports that in a Japanese study, people who drank either green tea or coffee daily had 20 to 30 percent lower risk for stroke than people who seldom drank them. Coffee slightly edged out tea – with a cup of coffee having the same effect as 2 cups of green tea. Also, drinking 4 or more cups of green tea was a bit more beneficial than drinking 2 -3 cups.

Where does breakfast tea come from?

A good friend of mine loves “Scottish Morning” tea. Which is a strong tea, Darjeeling/Assam blend of teas, that when brewed properly can give you a pretty amazing jolt of caffeine. I was wondering what truly determines a “morning” blend, “breakfast” blend, etc. I found that there are a lot of different things that can make up these determinations.

Norwood Platt wrote an interesting article on the topic:

“Breakfast teas are not the only ones designed for a certain hour of the day. Indar, a French brand, describes itself intriguingly as Boudoir Tea-for whenever the opportunity arises, no doubt. British firms like Jacksons sell Afternoon and Evening teas but the apogee of this practice was attained by the now-defunct London firm which only sold six teas: Morning, Lunchtime, Afternoon, After-Dinner, Evening and Drawing Room.

Another “veddy Brit” practice hallowed by usage is to give teas names connecting them, however remotely, to the institution of the monarchy, Melrose, the leading Scottish tea brand, created its Queen’s Tea for Victoria’s use at her beloved Balmoral Castle. It is predominantly Darjeeling, with the addition of black teas from China, Assam and Ceylon. In London it was Thomas Ridgway who catered to the Queen’s tea needs with Her Majesty’s Blend or H.M.B. tea, which is also still sold. Ridgways’ H.M.B. is a delightful blend of rather delicate India, Ceylon, Taiwan and China black teas. This practice spread to the colonies as well. In Vancouver, British Columbia, Murchies’ Empress Blend has been sold for over a century, just as First Colony in Norfolk, Virginia, has sold its Queen’s Blend since the 1870s, both created in Victoria’s honor by Scots who immigrated to the New World. Mr. John Murchie apprenticed at Melroses, in fact. Some fragments of tea history are preserved in certain proprietary names like Boston Harbor Tea, exported by a London firm which was already 127 years old when it changed its name to Davison, Newman & Co. in 1777, only a few years after previous exports were tipped into Boston Harbor, purportedly by Indians. Mark T. Wendell’s Hu-Kwa Tea carries the name of a Cantonese who became a world- famous merchant prince and a household name for half a century. He had actually sold tea to the clipper ship captain whose nephew Mark T. Wendell founded the present firm in Boston. Before the Opium War, the chop, or stamp, of HuKwa (actually spelled Houqua) was a guarantee of excellence. A man who concluded deals on a handshake, he was so highly esteemed that America’s first clipper ship was named for him. Houqua tea made the fortunes of Astor, Perkins, and Peabody, America’s first millionaires, and sustains Mark T. Wendell still.”

History has a way of coloring how we still do some things today. The whole “well we have always done it that way” mantra that drive so many people.

I’m not a big consumer of “breakfast” types of tea but the one quality that I really enjoy from them is the way they can give a dose of, at times much needed, caffeine when starting the day off. A few beverage companies have tried to hone in on the drinking their beverages during certain times to even out the blood sugar during the day. I tend to think that there is something there that can be marketed.

Wishing you an amazing cuppa tea,


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 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.

  • 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?
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.













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




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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