Regular Loose Leaf Tea or Chai?

by Elena Popec 14. August 2012 08:26

While many Americans are very familiar with the popular spicy Chai tea from India, few people are aware of one of its key flavorings:  cardamom.  A relative of ginger, cardamom has been a valued and widely used spice in Asian culture for centuries.  The cardamom plant produces pods, which contain the seeds.  It is these pods that are harvested so that the seeds can be used in culinary and medicinal applications.  There are two categories of cardamom plants; one produces smaller, light green pods and the other produces larger, brown or black pods.  Both varieties have a warm, mildly spicy flavor that adds depth to both savory and sweet dishes in many Asian cultures, most notably Indian.  Cardamom is the spice that gives Chai tea its distinctive, vanilla-like taste.  In terms of price, only vanilla beans and saffron are more expensive than cardamom; its cost is indicative of the demand for cardamom, as well as the limited areas in which it grows.  Cardamom is indigenous to India and Nepal, although it has been successfully cultivated in other warm, tropical regions.  While purchasing whole cardamom pods is preferred to preserve freshness, it is the seeds inside the pod that yield the health benefits.

Cardamom has a well established history as an important medicinal spice.  Pods can be chewed whole, or the seeds can be crushed and steeped in boiling water to create a bold, spicy infusion.  Cardamom is very high in antioxidants, particularly phenolics and flavonoids.  Regular consumption of cardamom tisane can promote healthy tissue function and fight free radicals.  These same antioxidants help to fight inflammation, so cardamom is a common component of holistic remedies for arthritis.  It is also commonly used as a digestive aid; the same essential oils that give cardamom its distinctive spicy flavor also encourage healthy function in the stomach and intestines.  It has been shown to be effective against all sorts of digestive problems, from nausea to flatulence.  It may also relieve cramping due to antispasmodic properties.  Cardamom is a natural detoxifying agent; it can help to clear out harmful waste compounds and allow your body’s organ systems to function more efficiently.  Its anti-bacterial properties have long been used in dental care; cardamom can help heal infections in the teeth and gums, and can curb halitosis (which is often the result of bacteria in the mouth and digestive tract).  Cardamom may have been the first teeth-whitening agent; ancient Egyptians steeped strong infusions for just that purpose.

The vast collection of health benefits attributed to cardamom is enough reason to add this exotic spice to your infuser.  But an even more compelling reason might be its unique flavor.  The delightful warm spice of cardamom is wonderful alone, and pairs well with a lot of other flavors.  Add cardamom to black tea (true tea) for a morning pick-me-up that is more flavorful than gourmet coffee.  Or, blend cardamom with cinnamon, ginger, or vanilla for a delicious personalized mix.  Cardamom is so tasty you’ll forget how healthy it is.

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Herbal

What Is Assam Tea And Where Does It Come From?

by Steven Popec 30. July 2012 12:00

Assam tea has been popular for hundreds of years. In fact, Assam is widely considered to be the world’s largest tea-growing region. Located in India, Assam is known for its popular blends of black, green, and white loose leaf teas, all of which feature a distinctly bright color and hints of fruit flavor.

Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about Assam tea, from its history to its flavor.

The history of Assam tea

Assam is a region in India. It is bordered by one of the country’s largest rivers, the Brahmaputra. Assam is located in the far eastern side of the country, bordering Burma and Bangladesh. The entire region is prone to flooding and experiences high-precipitation monsoon periods on an annual basis. More importantly, Assam’s unique climate and high-humidity have made it a veritable greenhouse for tea production.

Most tea producing countries of the world cannot actually grow tea natively. In almost all cases, tea crops are imported. However, Assam is one of only two regions in the world where tea plants grow natively (the other region is southern China, which is located nearby).

During the 1830s, adventurers from the United Kingdom began to venture into Assam. They discovered that locals were brewing flavorful, aromatic tea from the wild plants that grew on the hillside. These adventurers informed friends that there could be a market for the crop back in Britain. By the time the English East India Committee had colonized the region, Assam tea had already developed a reputation as being heathy, flavorful, and fragrant.

What makes Assam tea unique?

Assam tea is unique for a number of reasons. Assam tea is different than Darjeeling tea and Nilgiri tea because it is grown in the lowlands, not the highlands. Assam tea grows solely in the valley of the Brahmaputra River, in which the nutrient-rich clay provides ample fertilizer for tea crops.

Both Chinese and Assam teas are made from the camellia sinensis plant, although tea made in China is created from a slightly different strain of camellia sinensis. Assam tea is unique because of its glossy, dark green-colored eaves. The leaves of the Assam tea plant are also noticeably wider than Chinese tea plants.

In terms of health benefits, Assam tea is similar to Chinese teas and other blends. Assam tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, and it has also been suggested to improve the immune system, relieve tension, and soothe nerves.

Assam tea is notorious for being strong, which can make it challenging for beginner tea drinkers. Many people choose to drink Assam tea with milk, which tends to complement its malty flavor. Because of these characteristics, Assam tea is usually marketed as breakfast tea around the world.

Conclusion

Because Assam produces tea naturally, the region has perfected tea cultivation over centuries. Today, tea drinkers can take a look at some of ESP Emporium’s best Assam tea blends under the black teas category.

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