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What’s The Story Behind Japanese Tea?

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

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.

Why buy Herbal Tea: Part II

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

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.

What Is Gunpowder Tea And Why Is It So Popular?

At ESP Emporium, China Gunpowder Organic Green Tea is one of our most popular blends. But what is Gunpowder tea? And what makes it so popular? Let’s find out!

Gunpowder tea is one of the world’s oldest types of tea. Instead of allowing the tea leaves to spread out, gunpowder tea is created by rolling each leaf into a tight little ball. The term ‘Gunpowder’ tea comes from the fact that each little leaf resembles gunpowder grains. And, after being exposed to hot water, each gunpowder tea leaf ‘explodes’ and expands, furthering the gunpowder metaphor.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907) was the first group to start making Gunpowder tea. However, it was mainly after production migrated to Taiwan in the 19th century that Gunpowder tea become more popular. During this period, gunpowder tea leaves were painstakingly rolled by hand – a process which took a lot longer than creating other types of tea.

Today, most Gunpowder tea is rolling by machines, although it is possible to find some (particularly the higher-grade ones) which are still rolled by hand. Most tea drinkers feel that small, tightly rolled pellets help enhance the flavor, and lower-quality Gunpowder tea blends are distinguished by larger, less tightly rolled pellets.

The best way to assess the flavor and freshness of Gunpowder tea is to look at the shininess of its pellets. In most cases, shiny pellets indicate that the tea is quite fresh.

Advantages of Gunpowder tea

If you’ve looked at our Best Selling Tea page lately, then you might have noticed that China Gunpowder tea is one of our most popular green loose leaf teas. Why is it so popular? Here are a few reasons why people love drinking Gunpowder tea:

-A unique and powerful flavor: Instead of breaking down the flavor in the leaves, the rolling process intensifies the flavor. Rolling the leaves into a tight ball prevents them from experiencing physical damage, which ultimately leads to more flavor retention.

-Can be aged for decades: Unlike other types of tea, Gunpowder tea can be aged for decades in order to unlock different flavors. However, it’s important to note that proper maintenance (like periodic roasting) is required over this period.

-Different varieties and flavors: Gunpowder tea comes in a number of different styles, including Ceylon Gunpowder tea (from Sri Lanka), Formosa Gunpowder tea (from Taiwan), and Pingshui Gunpowder tea (from the Pingshui region in China).

-Worldwide appeal: Gunpowder tea is popular in a wide variety of cultures. In North Africa, Gunpowder tea is used in the preparation of mint tea, which plays a key role at social gatherings. It’s also commonly consumed in China, Taiwan.

-Thicker, stronger taste: Gunpowder tea has a unique taste. In terms of flavor, gunpowder tea has been described as being grassy, minty, or peppery. It’s also thicker and stronger than most other teas, and its texture almost resembles ‘soft’ honey with a pleasant, smokey aftertaste. When brewed, gunpowder tea is yellow in color.