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Tea Production in Africa

Even though Africa is relatively new to the tea growing industry it has become one of the largest tea producing regions in the world and for good reason. African countries have had the benefit of being able to build on the experience of other producers.


Because of this, Africa produces teas of high quality and excellent bright color which are used for blending all over the world. The tea producing countries in Africa include Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, which produce about 32% of the world’s exports, amounting to some 424,000 tons of tea a year.


Kenya

Kenya is the largest African tea producers, with a history of tea that dates back to 1903. This is when tea seeds from India were first planted on a two acre farm. Today, Kenya has 69,000 hectares under cultivation by smallholders (shambas), under the protection of the Kenya Tea Development Authority, along with tea producing companies in both the private and public sector.


Kenya exports over 349,000 tons of tea per year, which is 22% of the world’s exports. The equatorial climate in Kenya allows tea to grow all year round. Teas from Kenya are very bright, colorful, with a reddish coppery tint and a pleasant crisp flavor.


Malawi

Malawi is the pioneer grower of tea in Africa, with production that first started commercially in the 1880s in Mulanje. Today, Malawi exports over 43,000 tons annually. This equates to a 3% share of the world exports and is mainly responsible for the spread of tea cultivation in Africa.


Malawi was the first African country to adopt the cloning method of estate refurbishment. However, Malawi teas are not well known as speciality teas, they are mainly used in the blending of leading British tea brands because of their superb color and brightness.


Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe commercial tea production could only begin after the successful establishment of irrigated tea estates. With only about 50% of the usually required rainfall annually, irrigation is essential to continuous growth.


Zimbabwe now exports over 15,000 tons of tea per year. Today, tea is a “controlled” commodity in Zimbabwe so that its quality and industry growth are protected.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


The Very Cool History of Iced Tea

Iced tea accounts for about 85% of the tea consumed in the United States, where it is very popular as an alternative to soft drinks, especially in the hotter southern states.


The oldest printed recipes for iced tea were from the 1870s. Two of the earliest cookbooks with recipes for iced tea are the Buckeye Cookbook by Estelle Woods Wilcox, first published in 1876, and Housekeeping in Old Virginia by Marion Cabell Tyree, first published in 1877.


Iced tea had started to appear in the United States during the 1860s. At first, it was seen as a novelty and during the 1870 it became widespread. Not only did recipes appear in print, during this period, but iced tea was offered on hotel menus, and was on sale at railroad stations.


Iced Tea’s popularity really took off after Richard Blechynden introduced it at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. As the story goes, it was unbearably hot at the fair and the last thing the fair goers wanted was the hot tea that Blechynden, the India Tea Commissioner and Director of the East Indian Pavilion was selling.


So, with necessity being the mother of invention and Blechynden having an entrepreneurial mind, he found a way to cool the tea for the parched patrons. Even though Mr. Blechynden didn’t invent iced tea, however, his brewed and chilled India tea was so popular that restaurants were scrambling to offer the beverage to their customers. And as they say the rest is history.


Today, iced tea is so popular that it has its own month! June was National iced Tea Month, even though this is an impressive accomplishment, people would be completely happy naming the whole summer in honor of the refreshing drink.


Iced tea with a punch


Early iced tea recipes had a lot more in common with the alcohol infused favorite, Long Island iced Tea, which is all alcohol and no tea at all. Americans were drinking iced tea with booze added at least as far back as the Colonial era.


The classic Philadelphia Fish House Punch, first created in the early 1700s, was usually diluted with a small amount of tea. In his book Punch, liquor historian David Wondrich writes that the recipe for Regent’s Punch, dating to 1815, also packed a very significant punch.


Not only did the punch call for green tea and arrack, a rum like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum. This makes it understandable how one of the early drinkers described the Regent’s as imparting a “mad, delirious dizziness,” as Wondrich wrote. These early iced tea creations had very little in common with the light, fruity drinks served today.


As you can see, iced tea has had a long and robust history. Even though the recipes have changed dramatically over the years, one thing has held true, iced tea is still an American favorite during the dog days of summer and all year round.


And iced tea has come such a long way. No longer do you have to settle for the same old fashioned tea. ESP Tea Emporium offers a wide selection of amazing, flavorful and robust Iced Tea Blends to satisfy anyone’s taste.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


Tea Harvesting Times of the Main Tea Producing Countries

The harvest time for tea leaves largely depends on the region in which they are being grown and can also vary from season to season in regards to the fluctuations in weather.


Timing the harvest is of the utmost importance because it can take only a few days for a bud to appear, open up and grow into a large leaf. If the optimum harvest time is missed a whole crop can be destroyed.


This is mainly due to the fact that a specific style of tea may require the use of only the buds, or that only a certain number of buds be picked after the buds open. If there is a period of dormancy, due to cool weather, in the field, the first new shoots after this period are of the highest quality, making them the most sought after and usually the most expensive.


The reason for this increase in quality is that they have been building up nutrient reserves over this period for the new leaves.


Several growing regions have names for the first harvest of tea leaves. In India and Nepal, it is called the “first flush”, in China, these harvests are known as “Pre-Qing Ming” teas, in Japan they are referred to as “Shincha” and in South Korea, Ujeon.”


Each growing region also has a special set of terms for referring to a period of growth in the tea plant. In China, Taiwan and South Korea, the terms used to signify tea harvests are dates in the traditional East Asian Lunisolar Calendar.


Here is a guide to the harvest seasons for the world’s major specialty tea producers:


India, Nepal and Sri Lanka Tea Harvest


Darjeeling, India and Nepal - The Darjeeling and Napali harvest period lasts from late March to early November and is broken up into 4 parts: first flush, second flush, monsoon flush and autumnal flush. Sometimes, the plants will continue to flush past November and this is usually called a winter flush.


  • First Flush: March - April

  • Second Flush: May - June

  • Monsoon Flush: July - August

  • Autumnal Flush: October - November


Nilgiri India and Sri Lanka - Since there isn’t a cold season in the southernmost growing regions like Nilgiri in South India and Sri Lanka, tea plants can be harvested throughout the year.


Assam India - Assam, like Darjeelings, are usually harvested from March to October. The higher quality teas are harvested during the two distinct growth periods of the first and second flush. The first flush begins in March and the second in June.


China and Taiwan

In China and Taiwan, the harvest season varies greatly between the different growing regions and elevations in the countries. However, in general the harvest season can begin as early as April and last until late November.


The harvest season in these regions are:


  • Qing Ming (clear bright): This is tea picked before April 4-6

  • Yu Qian (before the rains): Tea picked before April 20

  • Gu Yu (grain rain): Tea picked before May 5

  • Li Xia (start of summer): tea picked before May 21


Japan

Japan’s harvest season also varies by region, but typically begins in late April and ends in early October.


Japan’s harvest periods include:


  • Shincha (new tea): this is the name given to the first harvest of the year.

  • Ichibancha (first tea): this refers to the whole first harvest season, including shincha and usually occurs from late April to May.

  • Nibancha (second tea): This refers to the second harvest of the year that takes place from June to the end of July.

  • Sanbancha (third tea): The third harvest of the year taking place in August.

  • Yonbanchi (fourth tea): This is the fourth harvest of the year which can take place as late as October in some regions.


South Korea

The growing seasons in South Korea correspond to dates on the lunisolar calendar. It’s important to know that in South Korea, different grades of tea are harvested during different times so the harvest period is defined by the grade of tea picked during that time.


Here are the different harvesting periods in South Korea:


  • Ujeon (before the rain): This is tea picked before April 20 which corresponds with Gogu on the lunisolar calendar.

  • Sejak (small sparrow): Tea picked before May 5-6 which corresponds to Ipha on the the lunisolar calendar.

  • Jungjak (medium sparrow): This is tea picked around May 20-21 which corresponds to Soman on the lunisolar calendar.

  • Daejak (large sparrow): This harvest period refers to lower quality large leaves tea picked during the summer.


Africa

Due to the lack of a cold season in the East African countries of Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Burundi and Ethiopia, tea is able to be harvested year round. Peak tea production coincides with the rainy seasons.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


A Short History of Chinese Tea Drinking

It is believed that Chinese people have enjoyed tea drinking for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that Yan Di, one of three rulers in ancient times, tried many different types of herbs in the search of medicinal cures.


One day, as he was dying from being poisoned by an herb he had ingested; a drop of water from a tea tree dripped into his mouth and saved his life. True, this is legend, but one thing that is backed up by research, is that tea does possess powerful health benefits that prevent or relieve several serious health issues.


During the Western Zhou Dynasty, tea was regularly used as a religious offering. With the popularization of Buddhism from the Three Kingdoms to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, tea’s refreshing effect had made it a favorite among the monks during Za-Zen meditation.


During the Tang Dynasty tea prospered as a common beverage, at which point tea shops became very popular. It was during this time that a major turning point in tea culture happened, the completion of the book Tea Classics, the cornerstone of Chinese tea culture, by Lu Yu.


This book details the rules concerning various aspects of tea drinking, such as growth areas for tea trees, wares and skills for processing and tasting of tea, the history of Chinese tea and quotations from other records, comments on tea from various places and notes on what occasions tea wares should be included and when some wares can be omitted.


Reflecting the cultural style of the Song Dynasty, tea culture, during this period, was delicate and sumptuous. New skills were learned to create several different ways to enjoy tea. The Ming Dynasty laid the foundation for the tea processing, types of teas and different styles of enjoying tea that we have inherited today.


The Qing Dynasty brought the addition of folk art to tea shops, making them popular entertainment centers. This tradition is still being practiced in Chengdu, Sichuan Province.


In 1610, tea and all of the practices and traditions made their debut in Europe via a Dutch merchant ship and as they say the rest is history. As expected, tea drinking successfully caught on and became just as popular as it was in China.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


The Art of Tea Blending

Properly blending tea is truly an art form. This statement isn’t intended to be taken lightly, nor is it an exaggeration. You can’t just take a handful of different ingredients, throw them into a pot and expect to wind up with a successful blend of tea.


The goal of professional tea blending is to create a well balanced flavor and aroma using different teas, herbs, fruits, spices and other additives from different origins and with different characteristics.


The one most important rule of tea blending that must always be achieved is that every blend must taste the same as the previous one, so a customer will never be able to detect a difference in flavor from one purchase to the next. This is a very difficult goal to maintain but it is what separates the professional tea blending artists from the less skilled blenders.


Tea leaves are able to easily receive any aroma, which may cause problems in processing, transportation or storage, if not handled properly, but can also be an advantage if skillfully used to prepare scented teas.


Basic Varieties of Blended Teas


Breakfast

A Breakfast tea blend is usually a blend of different black teas that are robust and full-bodied, and go well with milk. Some of the more common types of breakfast blends include English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast.


Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea blends also, usually consist of black teas, however, they are generally lighter than breakfast blends. Both breakfast and afternoon blends are very popular in the British Isles. One of the more popular afternoon tea blends is Prince of Wales tea blend.


Russian Caravan

Another very popular tea blend is Russian Caravan. This blend has traditionally remained the same for several years, back when tea was transported to Russia from China on camelback. The blend often contains a bit of smoky Lapsang souchong, though its base is typically Keemun or Dianhong. Some also contain oolong.


Scented Tea Blends


Most premium tea blends are flavored and scented directly with natural flowers, herbs, spices and even smoke. However, some more specialized flavors and scents are produced through the addition of additives or perfumes.


Due to the number of different artificial methods of flavoring and scenting tea blends I am going to focus on premium tea blends that are created using only natural ingredients.


Flowers

A variety of flowers are used to flavor tea blends. The most popular of these flowers used include:


Jasmine flowers are usually mixed into the tea blend while it is oxidizing, and occasionally some are left in the tea as a decoration. Jasmine is usually used to flavor green teas to produce jasmine tea, although sometimes it is also used to flavor light oolong teas.


Osmanthus tea is produced in China by combining the dried flowers with black or green tea leaves in pretty much the same way jasmine tea is. The flower gives tea a mild peach flavor and is the second most popular scented tea in China.


Rose buds are also added while the leaves are oxidizing, while also being left in the blend as a garnish and to intensify the scent and flavor. In China, roses are usually used to scent black tea with the resulting tea being called rose congou.


Chrysanthemum flowers are often brewed separately as a tisane but are also commonly mixed with pu-erh tea to make chrysanthemum pu-erh.


Lotus tea is typically a Vietnamese tea that is made by stuffing green tea leaves into the blossom of Nelumbo nucifera and allowing the scent to be absorbed overnight.


Other Flavorings


Mint is usually mixed with green teas to create blends that are very popular around the world and specifically in the Middle East and North Africa.


Citrus peels are more commonly used in Earl Grey tea which is made by infusing black teas with citrus or bergamot peel.


Smoke, specifically Lapsang souchong, is produced by drying black tea over smoking pine needles, producing a striking smoky aroma and flavor.


Spice tea blends such as Indian and Middle Eastern masala chai are flavored with sweet spices including ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, black pepper, clove, anise, fennel, Indian bay leaf and sometimes vanilla, nutmeg and mace.


When it comes to tea blends the possibilities are seemingly endless for a talented blender to create true works of art. At ESP Emporium you have the ability to sample these truly amazing possibilities.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.