The Secret of Peppermint Herbal Tea

by Elena Popec 28. February 2013 23:11

As more Americans become interested in a more natural and holistic lifestyle, many are turning to herbal tea remedies instead of pharmaceutical options for treating minor ailments.  With its aromatic and health properties, as well as a pleasing flavor, peppermint is a popular and readily available herb.  One of the most common preparations is peppermint tea, although peppermint tea isn’t a true tea.  This herbaceous plant is completely separate from camellia sinensis, the plant that produces all varieties of true tea.  The more accurate name for peppermint tea would be peppermint infusion, or peppermint tisane. 

A peppermint infusion is made by steeping the dried leaves of the peppermint plant in boiling water.  The essential oils in peppermint leaves provide a wealth of health benefits; for the strongest concentration of these oils in your peppermint infusion, cover the cup while it steeps.  A cover traps more of the essential oils in the cup, creating a healthier and tastier infusion.  These essential oils are packed with compounds that have a relaxing effect on the digestive system; the peppermint tisane is effective in, and perhaps best known for, its ability to calm an upset stomach.  Regular consumption of peppermint tisane has been shown to reduce the symptoms of certain chronic digestive conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome.  The analgesic properties of peppermint aid the associated discomfort, while the relaxing effect is calming and soothing.  Peppermint also has some anesthetic properties that may be effective against a number of other conditions and disorders.

Menthol, a main component of peppermint, is a powerful compound with multiple benefits.  Its strong and refreshing aroma has an invigorating and energizing effect; it can help to increase mental alertness and fight fatigue.  The physiological impact of menthol can bring welcome relief from the symptoms of allergies and the common cold.  The menthol in peppermint thins mucus; the steam from a hot peppermint tisane can be inhaled to clear the nasal passages, and ingested to break up congestion in the throat.  It also acts as an expectorant, and can soothe the pain of a sore throat.  In fact, frequent consumption of peppermint infusions may be more effective at easing the suffering of a cold or allergies than pharmaceutical remedies.  It’s also safer, gentler, and presents with far fewer side effects.

A peppermint tisane is also a great source of antioxidants, which can keep you healthy.  It’s hot and comforting in cold weather, and can be served over ice for a refreshing summer drink.  If the flavor and aroma of a pure peppermint infusion is too strong for you, there are plenty of options out there.  Peppermint is nicely complemented by a variety of other herbal flavors; berries, vanilla, cacao, and earthy herbs like jasmine taste great when blended with peppermint.  It’s easy to find a blend from the many brands on the market, or to create your own favorite combination with loose dried herbals.  Treat yourself to great flavor, energizing aroma, and countless health benefits with a refreshing and invigorating peppermint tisane.

Embrace Fall With Autumn Tea

by Elena Popec 30. October 2012 20:52

The days are growing shorter and the nights are becoming cooler, and summer is coming to an end once again. Fortunately, autumn tea will help you usher in the next season with joy. It will have you embracing the cooler weather to come and have you pining for the golds, oranges and reds of the autumn season. Autumn Tea is the perfect drink to usher in the cooler weather. It’s easy to make and even easier to enjoy!

Harvest your ingredients:

-5 cups apple juice, unsweetened

-5 cups boiling water

-5 teaspoons loose leaf tea

-2 cups cranberry juice

-1/3 cup sugar or honey

-5 tbsp lemon juice

-1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Start by placing the tea into your filter or strainer, then place that filter into a pitcher (make sure this pitcher is heatproof). Add the hot water and allow the tea to steep for approximately 5 minutes. Then, remove the tea leaves and/or strainer.

Add your apple juice, cranberry juice, sugar (or honey), lemon juice, and the pumpkin pie spice. Stir until the sugar or honey is fully dissolved. The Autumn tea is ready to be served and enjoyed!

This recipe should make about 3 quarts, which serves about 12 people. However, after you have a sip of this drink – 3 quarts might not seem like enough! The notes of spicy chai will warm you inside and out and delight your senses with a warm aroma and flavor. The mixture of the tea with the cranberry, pumpkin pie spice and lemon will make you feel sunny and happy even as the temperatures begin to drop.  Just cuddle up with your mug of Autumn tea and some friends and relax.

Our recipe uses a spicy chai black tea blend but you can use any black tea like a darjeeling with its aromatic and mild flavor which would blend well with the rest of the ingredient. Don’t get confused by the chai tea we used. Chai tea usually refers to masala chai which literally means mixed spice tea. In the tea our recipe uses, those mixed spices include aniseed, cinnamon, ginger and other special spices.

Or, you can use a fruit or herbal tea if you so desire! A berry blend or apple tea blend would be a welcome addition and make for a sweeter and fruitier beverage.

Do not fear or dread the oncoming change of seasons! Instead, embrace the short days and long nights and face them head on with a steaming cup of Autumn tea in your hand!

What Is The Best Way To Steep My Tea?

by Steven Popec 1. October 2012 11:29

Experienced loose leaf tea drinkers know that the right brewing process is critical to making the perfect cup of tea. Steeping tea for too long can make it too bitter, while not steeping it for long enough can lead to a thin and watery taste.

Just how long should you steep tea in order to make the perfect cup? What kinds of water should you use? Steeping methods vary around the world, but there are some general rules to follow.

Before steeping

First, make sure you start steeping process of your loose tea with fresh cold water. Cold water has more oxygen in it, and oxygen helps draw out the flavor of tea. To preserve as much oxygen as possible, make sure you pour the water as soon as it starts to boil. Letting the water boil for too long will allow oxygen to escape.

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t have to boil water in order to make a perfect cup of tea. In fact, only black tea should be brewed with boiling water. If you’re brewing oolong tea, try to pour the water just before it reaches its boiling point. For green tea, pour the water when it reaches approximately 180F. At cooler temperatures, green tea tends to release more flavor and less bitterness.

Many tea experts recommend using filtered water to brew tea. Those who live in big cities often have chemicals in the water that can destroy the delicate flavors within complex tea blends. If you want your tea flavor to be as pure as possible, then it’s best to use filtered water.

During steeping

After pouring the heated water into the kettle, timing becomes very important. Different types of tea are steeped for different amounts of time.

Black tea: Steep for approximately 4 to 5 minutes

Oolong tea: Steep for about 2 to 3 minutes or 4 to 5 minutes, depending on stage of oxidation.

Green tea: Steep for about 2 to 3 minutes.

If you want your tea to be stronger, let it steep for closer to the maximum range using more tea leaves. Leaving it beyond that range will cause it to be overly bitter and not as tasty.

Many people believe that steeping their tea for longer will make it have a richer flavor. This is not always true. The best way to extract more flavor from your tea is to add more tea. In general, one heaping spoonful of tea per 6oz tea cup is enough. Add more if you want more flavor.

Other methods

The method we’ve listed above is the traditional method of brewing tea. However, it’s not the only method. Some people brew tea using a special Chinese ‘Gonfu’ method, while others used a Guywan system. Some of these methods require special equipment and unique blends of tea leaves. They lead to slightly unique tea flavors that complement different blends of tea.

Ultimately, you need to choose the tea steeping method that works for you. Some people like their tea flavored using a certain method, while others can’t tell the difference. Test out a few different methods to see which one you prefer most.

What is Matcha tea? And how can it benefit my health?

by Steven Popec 25. September 2012 11:27

You may have heard of ‘matcha’ tea. In fact, matcha comes in a variety of products. There’s matcha ice cream, matcha cupcakes, and matcha noodles. Matcha is found all over the grocery store, and many people have no idea what it is.

Basically, matcha is finely powdered green tea. Normally, green tea consists of a blend of fresh tea leaves. As opposed to other types of tea, which have been left to ferment, dry, and curl up, green tea is usually left unfermented. When green tea is ground into a fine powder, it retains its natural green coloring, giving it a unique appearance and natural food dyeing properties. Matcha has also been linked to a range of health benefits.

Creating matcha

The Japanese word for matcha means ‘fine powder tea’, and that is exactly what matcha is. Matcha is made from tea bushes that are ‘shaded’. 20 days before being harvested, tea plants are covered in order to prevent exposure to sunlight. This stunts growth of the tea and causes the shades to turn a deep, leafy shade of green. In terms of health benefits, shading the tea also stimulates the production of amino acids. Interestingly enough, these amino acids also contribute flavor to the matcha.

After being harvested, the leaves are laid out flat in order to dry. This causes parts of the leaf to crumble. The veins and stems of the leaves are then removed. Finally, the remainder of the leaf is ground into matcha powder.

In the past, creating matcha was a very labor-intensive process. If the tea producer made an error while grinding the tea, it could become ‘burnt’, in which case the matcha was declared to be of an inferior level of quality. Today, most matcha production is performed by machines. 

Uses for matcha

Today, matcha is used in a variety of food products. It plays a particularly important role in Japanese tea culture. It’s also used to make all of the following food products:

-Matcha chocolates

-Matcha tempura

-Green tea ice cream

-Matcha cookies

-Matcha milk

-Matcha rice

Matcha is even used in Green Tea Lattes from Starbucks, which shows that it’s popular in both Japan and other parts of the world.

Health benefits of matcha

Most people know green tea is a healthy beverage. Like green tea, matcha has been linked to a number of different health benefits. However, since matcha tea is ingested (as opposed to regular green tea just being steeped in green tea leaves), its health benefits are often magnified.

Here are a few of matcha’s most popular health benefits:

-Increases antioxidant EGCG

-Boosts metabolism

-Lowers cholesterol

-High in antioxidants

-Mental health benefits.

Because of these health benefits, you can find matcha tea in health products like cereals and energy bars.

How is fruit tea made?

by Steven Popec 18. September 2012 22:20

ESP Emporium has a wide selection of fruit tea available for purchase. Fruit tea comes in a wide variety of flavors and blends, and our fruit teas include everything from blueberries and pineapples to watermelon.

You might be wondering how fruit tea is made. How is it possible to create such delicious and interesting blends of flavors with only a few pieces of dried fruit? Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about fruit tea production.

Essentially, fruit teas are made by taking and then mixing in blends of dried fruit, hibiscus, rosebuds, leaves, blossoms, petals... etc. The hot water extracts the flavor from all of the ingredients, which is why strong fruit flavors can be experienced when only a small amount of fruit is actually included in the blend.

It’s even possible to make fruit infused tea for yourself at home. Here’s how:

Step 1) Create extra strong tea by pouring 6 cups of water into a pitcher with six tea spoons of loose leaf tea.

Step 2) Select whichever fruit you would like. Popular options include lemons, oranges, strawberries, pineapples, and peaches.

Step 3) Extract the juice from your chosen fruit. To do this, peel it, slice it, and remove the pits or core.

Step 4) Create approximately 3 to 4 cups of squeezed juice, then add it to the tea and stir well.

Step 5) Add sugar to taste

Fruit tea can be served either chilled or hot. If you do choose to chill the tea, simply leave it in the fridge for a few hours. 

Benefits of fruit tea

Fruit tea, like any food with fruit in it, contains high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful compounds that have been linked with all sorts of benefits, including reducing the effects of aging and contributing to a better complexion.

Fruit teas are also high in Vitamin C, which has a number of unique and powerful benefits on our bodies. Vitamin C helps improve our immune system and reduces the risk of infections. It also helps regulate blood pressure and has been used to treat hypertension. In short, Vitamin C leads to a healthy body and a healthy heart. ESP Emporium even offers special Vitamin C rich tea blends to help you unlock all of these benefits.

With so many different types of fruit tea available, it’s difficult to be specific about the benefits of fruit tea. We have a number of different blends of fruit tea, including fruit teas will unique names like Miami Ice or Grandma’s Garden. These tea blends feature a wide range of fruits and truly have to be tasted in order to recognize their unique flavor and powerful aromas.

Whether you choose blueberry, strawberry, or pineapple fruit teas, each blend is delicious in its own unique way.

What’s The Story Behind Japanese Tea?

by Steven Popec 10. September 2012 01:11

Many Asian countries produce loose leaf tea. However, Japan is one tea-producing country that you don’t hear a lot about. Much of the attention is focused on Indian, Chinese, and Sri Lankan teas.

This has given Japan plenty of time to quietly refine the quality of its tea. While Japanese green tea might not be as well-known as the tea of its neighbors, teas like Genmaicha, Bancha, and Sencha remain popular to this day. In fact, Japan has developed a rich tea culture for hundreds of years, and today, ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ plays an important role at social events.

The history of Japanese tea

Tea has not always been grown in Japan. Unlike other parts of Asia, tea does not grow naturally in Japan, which means that the original seeds had to be imported. This didn’t occur until the 9th century, when Japanese explorers began traveling to and from neighboring China to learn about its culture. After these travelers discovered how important tea was to the Chinese, they decided to bring it back to the islands of Japan. 

Tea grew in popularity in Japan from that point forward. Japanese travelers to China continued to bring back different varieties of tea over the next few centuries, and Japanese priests were particularly interested in the beverage due to its healing properties. In fact, some of the most frequent tea drinkers in Japan during this period were priests.

Just how important was tea to Japanese health? One of the oldest tea specialty books in the world was written in Japan in 1211. It was called Kissa Yojoki, which means “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” in Japanese. That book begins by stating “tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” This is quite the spectacular endorsement, and the beverage continued to grow in popularity among all classes in Japan.

Modern Japanese tea

All different types of tea are produced in Japan. However, certain types of tea – like green tea – are particularly popular. The Japanese make several different varieties of green tea, including the popular Japan Sencha green tea.

In the past, Japanese tea was rolled, dried, and steamed by hand. Today, that is no longer the case. Except for the most expensive tea blends, all Japanese tea is produced by automation. However, due to the quality of Japanese manufacturing, automating tea production actually improved its quality as opposed to taking away from it.

Japanese tea ceremony

For hundreds of years, the Japanese have made tea an important part of their culture. ‘Japanese tea ceremony’ is an important part of welcoming guests into the home, and tea must be prepared and presented in a certain way. In more formal settings, hosts are judged by the artistry of the tea ceremony. Zen Buddhists played a key role in bringing tea ceremonies into Japan, as certain types of tea – like matcha and sencha - are important to the Zen Buddhism religion.

ESP Emporium has several popular Japanese tea blends from which to choose, including the Cherry Green Tea Blend and Bancha Green Tea. Whatever your tastes may be, Japanese tea has been refined over hundreds of years, leading to the quality flavor and rich history we know today.

The Secret of Peppermint Herbal Tea

by Elena Popec 7. September 2012 13:26

As more Americans become interested in a more natural and holistic lifestyle, many are turning to herbal remedies instead of pharmaceutical options for treating minor ailments.  With its aromatic and health properties, as well as a pleasing flavor, peppermint is a popular and readily available herb.  One of the most common preparations is peppermint tea, although peppermint tea isn’t a true tea.  This herbaceous plant is completely separate from camellia sinensis, the plant that produces all varieties of true tea.  The more accurate name for peppermint tea would be peppermint infusion, or peppermint tisane. 

A peppermint infusion is made by steeping the dried leaves of the peppermint plant in boiling water.  The essential oils in peppermint leaves provide a wealth of health benefits; for the strongest concentration of these oils in your peppermint infusion, cover the cup while it steeps.  A cover traps more of the essential oils in the cup, creating a healthier and tastier infusion.  These essential oils are packed with compounds that have a relaxing effect on the digestive system; the peppermint tisane is effective in, and perhaps best known for, its ability to calm an upset stomach.  Regular consumption of peppermint tisane has been shown to reduce the symptoms of certain chronic digestive conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome.  The analgesic properties of peppermint aid the associated discomfort, while the relaxing effect is calming and soothing.  Peppermint also has some anesthetic properties that may be effective against a number of other conditions and disorders.

Menthol, a main component of peppermint, is a powerful compound with multiple benefits.  Its strong and refreshing aroma has an invigorating and energizing effect; it can help to increase mental alertness and fight fatigue.  The physiological impact of menthol can bring welcome relief from the symptoms of allergies and the common cold.  The menthol in peppermint thins mucus; the steam from a hot peppermint tisane can be inhaled to clear the nasal passages, and ingested to break up congestion in the throat.  It also acts as an expectorant, and can soothe the pain of a sore throat.  In fact, frequent consumption of peppermint infusions may be more effective at easing the suffering of a cold or allergies than pharmaceutical remedies.  It’s also safer, gentler, and presents with far fewer side effects.

A peppermint tisane is also a great source of antioxidants, which can keep you healthy.  It’s hot and comforting in cold weather, and can be served over ice for a refreshing summer drink.  If the flavor and aroma of a pure peppermint infusion is too strong for you, there are plenty of options out there.  Peppermint is nicely complemented by a variety of other herbal flavors; berries, vanilla, cacao, and earthy herbs like jasmine taste great when blended with peppermint.  It’s easy to find a blend from the many brands on the market, or to create your own favorite combination with loose dried herbals.  Treat yourself to great flavor, energizing aroma, and countless health benefits with a refreshing and invigorating peppermint tisane.

Can Tea Be A Dish?

by Steven Popec 6. September 2012 06:38

Most of us think of tea as a healthy, flavorful drink to have at any time of the day. However, tea is one of the most versatile beverages in the world, and different cultures view tea in different ways.

As the oldest tea culture in the world, China knows a thing or two about serving tea. However, what many people didn’t know is that tea plays a central role in many Chinese dishes. The Chinese have used tea as a main ingredient in many classic dishes for hundreds of years. Today, more and more Chinese restaurants have adopted that tradition by serving tea-based dishes.

Instead of just being “infused” with tea or featuring similar flavors to tea, many of these dishes actually use tea leaves in the meal itself. This can draw out all sorts of different flavors from the dish.

Which types of tea leaves can be used for cooking?

Chinese restaurants that have started serving tea dishes do so with all different types of tea leaves. The only limit is the chef’s imagination. Today, modern Chinese cuisine uses some of the most popular varieties of tea leaves as a main dish, including:

-Oolong tea

-Jasmine tea

-Pu-erh tea

-Green tea

-And many more

Many of these tea varieties have been made more interesting by adding certain spices and flavors. For example, some chefs infuse chrysanthemum and kuding into their meals.

What kinds of meals can be made using tea?

Why haven’t more people used tea as a main ingredient over the years? Well, tea is a challenging ingredient because even the most experienced chefs find it difficult to extract flavor from tea leaves. In the past, any tea leaves that were added to dishes were purely ornamental. Most dishes do not fully absorb the elusive fragrance and flavor of tea leaves.

Fortunately, things have started to change today. More chefs are unlocking new ways to extract the flavor from tea leaves. One classic recipe involves adding infusing roasted duck with tea leaves. The duck is smoked using black tea leaves and camphor wood chips. The smoke pierces through the greasy duck skin, giving the meat a distinctly smoky taste. This dish is called “camphor tea duck” and it can be found at many restaurants in Sichuan, a province in China. The dish has even started to make its way to other parts of the world.

Chefs have also started using tea leaves in soups. The tea leaves are left to soak in the hot water, extracting their flavor. One particularly popular dish is called Huaiyang-style chicken soup. In this dish, chrysanthemum petals float around the bowl to extract flavor.

Tea also mixes well with seafood. One dish called salted tieguanyin mixes oolong leaves with deep-fried shrimp. Shrimp are fried to a point where they become crunchy, and the crisp tea leaves add to the crunchy texture of the dish.

To learn about more tea recipes and to find out where you can sample some authentic Chinese tea cuisine, click here. Or, if you’re ready to start preparing meals, check out ESP Emporium’s selection of green tea, oolong tea, and black tea varieties.

Why buy Herbal Tea: Part II

by Elena Popec 4. September 2012 09:36

Once you try herbal tea, chances are good that you’ll like them enough to keep drinking them.  Herbal tisanes are very flavorful, almost calorie-free, and packed with so many healthy compounds that many herbals are considered “super foods”.  Any visit to your local supermarket or specialty foods store will most likely result in the discovery that whole aisles are dedicated to true teas and herbal tea blends.  There are all sorts of interesting flavor combinations out there, and blends that combine herbals with similar effects to achieve maximum results (for example, just about every major tea manufacturer offers at least one herbal blend that is intended to soothe and relax you before you go to bed). 

These pre-packaged blends are a great place to start.  They give you the opportunity to try out a large variety of flavor profiles and to learn what benefits best fit your needs.  But no matter how big that aisle is, eventually you’ll exhaust all the options available there.  When that happens, skip the supermarket altogether and head for your local tea shop.  If you’re a true fan of herbal tisanes, the tea shop will open up a whole new world of beverage opportunities.  First of all, tea shops generally deal in loose teas and herbals, rather than the pre-packaged varieties.  Loose herbals are much more flavorful, they are comprised of higher quality plant parts, and you have more freedom to experiment and find the perfect proportions in your steeped infusions. 

You’ll also be able to experiment with new blends and adventurous flavor of tea ingredients combinations.  Sure, some combinations are obvious, like lavender and vanilla bean or cardamom and cinnamon, but once you’re familiar with the flavor profiles you love, you’ll have a lot of fun mixing them to discover delicious new blends.  If you’re not sure where to start, ask the proprietor of the tea shop; he or she will undoubtedly have some great blend ideas to get your started.  Are you ready to take your herbal drinking to the next level?  Try growing some of your own herbs.  Many herbs, like chamomile, rosemary, mint, and lavender, grow easily in a variety of different settings.  They’ll thrive in your backyard herb garden, but they’ll also be perfectly happy in an indoor or box garden.  To turn your herbs into herbal infusion blends, simply pick the leaves, petals, or fruits when they’re mature; left alone in an undisturbed area (with little or no direct sunlight), they’ll dry up all on their own.  Different herbs require longer drying times, and can vary from a few days to a few weeks.  You’ll know they’re ready when they crumble easily.  Then, just crush the dried pieces, place them in a labeled, airtight container, and store them in your pantry for up to a year – if they last that long.

The options in herbal tisanes are endless.  Whether you buy bagged blends, mix flavors from your tea shop, or grow your own herbs, you’ll always have several delicious tisanes ready to steep.

The History Of Jasmine Tea

by Steven Popec 30. August 2012 20:02

You may have noticed a lot of jasmine tea blends on the ESP Emporium website. Jasmine is a pretty name, but have you ever stopped to consider what jasmine tea is, or wondered where jasmine tea comes from?

Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about the history and modern usage of jasmine tea.

China Jasmine tea was first produced over 1000 years ago, during the Song Dynasty period in China (960-1279). The tea was crafted from the jasmine plant, which had originally been imported into China in the year 220. Today, China is famous for producing the best blends of jasmine tea, and is widely regarded as the best jasmine tea-producing country in the world.

To make jasmine teas, Chinese farmers simply blend jasmine flower leaves with traditional tea leaves. The picking process for jasmine tea is extremely specific, and it requires the flowers to be kept cool until nightfall before being picked just as the flowers begin to open. Then, the flowers are placed in the tea. After being placed in the blend of tea leaves, the jasmine flowers continue to open, releasing their aroma and fragrance into the surrounding leaves. This can be done several times in order to release the maximum amount of jasmine fragrance into the tea leaves.

For years, jasmine tea has been used in northern China as a ritual welcoming drink. It has played a strong role throughout that region’s history and is seen as a welcoming gesture for house guests.

The flavor of jasmine tea

Jasmine is a versatile flower, and it can be blended with any type of tea leaves. It is commonly blended with green tea, although white and oolong jasmine teas exist as well. There is also black jasmine tea, although it’s often reserved for ‘diehard’ tea drinkers due to its challenging flavor. Ultimately, each type of jasmine tea has its own unique flavor.

The taste of jasmine tea is best described as being ‘fresh’, particularly in green tea blends. The combination of jasmine aromas and tightly rolled green tea leaves makes it taste refreshing and natural. As you can imagine, it also features the distinct taste of jasmine.

The steeping process is critical if you want to make good jasmine tea. Steeping it for too long will cause the jasmine tea to become bitter, while not steeping it for long enough will lead to thinness and minimal flavor.

Jasmine tea – like other types of tea – is also prized for its health benefits. Green and white jasmine teas are rich in antioxidants, which are used to fight free radicals in the body and can unlock all sorts of health benefits. Studies have even suggested that diets rich in green and white tea can reduce the risk of cancer and high cholesterol.

Jasmine tea is tasty, aromatic, and steeped in history.

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