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The Perfect Cup Of Yerba Maté Tea

South Americans have been enjoying their favorite brewed, caffeinated beverage since long before the first coffee bean landed in north of the Equator.  Native to the rainforests in the northern countries of South America, the yerba mate plant has provided indigenous peoples with a jolt of caffeine and energy since the 1500s.  It is a hardy plant that matures from a lush shrub into a towering tree and produces leaves that can be harvested, cured, and steeped into a tasty and energizing beverage.  While Brazil is the largest producer of processed yerba mate leaves, yerba cultivators can also be found in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. 

Yerba mate leaves are cured by drying and/or smoking (which imparts a more complex flavor), and then crushed and packaged for sale.  Mate drinks, the beverages made from dried yerba mate leaves, are available in a number of preparations.  After being steeped in hot water, they may be enjoyed hot or cold, plain or sweetened, pure or flavored; its versatility and popularity mirror that of coffee drinks in the United States or Europe.  Plain mate has an earthy and slightly bitter flavor; many prefer the less bitter and spicier flavor of a toasted mate beverage.  Drinking mate is a social construct in South America, and people can often be seen gathering in mate shops, where a group of friends will pass and share a communal mate cup.  It is common to see individuals toting their personal mate cups as they travel around town. 

In addition to its unique flavor, mate has been popular throughout northern South America for centuries because it provides an energy boost thanks to a caffeine measure equivalent to coffee.  While mate delivers the same lift as other sources of caffeine, a slightly different caffeine composition makes mate less likely to cause the jittery effects and addictiveness so common with large quantities of coffee.  It is also packed with a variety of vitamins.  Regular drinkers of yerba mate also claim that the herb increases mental alertness, decreases fatigue, and helps to relieve anxiety.  Perhaps thanks to these energizing effects, many mate fans also assert that the beverage aids in weight loss.  Certain bioactive compounds in yerba mate have been isolated and studied for their curative properties; preliminary evidence suggests that yerba mate could have a hand in killing colon cancer cells. 

While some early research is promising, it is important to remember that yerba mate is a newcomer to the nutrition market in the United States.  Continuing study could discover many more health benefits of this South American favorite.  In the meantime, it seems like yerba mate continues to gain popularity in the United States for its distinctive flavor, versatility in preparation, and natural energy boosting properties.  It is readily available in natural and health food stores across the country, as well as from a wide variety of reputable online distributors.  More and more tea and coffee shops are adding mate drinks of all varieties to their menus, and popularity is growing.

What’s The Story Behind Formosa Oolong Tea?

While browsing the ESP Emporium website, you may have come across a special type of tea called Formosa oolong. What is Formosa oolong? And where does it come from? Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about Formosa oolong tea.

What is Formosa oolong?

Formosa oolong refers to any oolong tea that has been grown and produced in the country of Taiwan. It is also referred to as Taiwanese oolong. In years past, Taiwan was called Formosa (meaning ‘beautiful’), by Portuguese and Spanish sailors, which is why tea from the region is known as Formosa to this day.

Tea trees do not grow naturally in Taiwan. Although the history of Formosa tea is not 100% certain, it appears that tea trees were planted in Taiwan at the beginning of the 18th century. Evidence suggests that Chinese settlers brought tea plants over to Taiwan and planted them in the Taiwanese highlands.

Over the past 300 years, Taiwan has perfected tea production. Today, the country is known mostly for its oolong tea, which comes in a variety of blends.

Types of Formosa oolong tea

At ESP Emporium, we offer several types of Taiwanese oolong tea. Here are the blends that we have to offer:

Oolong Tea Lemon Basil: This blend is flavorful and serves as a perfect dessert to end a dinner. Some have also suggested using Oolong Tea Lemon Basil as an iced tea by mixing it with a pinch of lime and honey.

Flower of Asia (Mango) Oolong Tea: This blend is more complex and combines the flowery soft notes of the Lotus Oolong with the soft, spicy flavor that accompanies many Chinese teas. In short, it combines a pleasant mixture of different Asian flavors into one single blend.

Formosa Butterfly of Taiwan Oolong Tea: Creating this tea requires a strict adherence to quality standards. The blend can only be produced in the Taiwanese highlands, and fermentation must be stopped at the critical moment. During the fermentation process, the edges of the leaves darken while the center of the leaves remain green, giving this blend a pleasant sweetness and a fleshier drinking sensation. 

Formosa Oolong Tea: This is the classic Formosa Oolong Tea. Produced in the Taiwanese highlands, the leaves in this blend are fermented until about 50% wilted. During this process, growers use bamboo baskets to dry the leaves, which ultimately leads to a light-tasting tea with hints of flowery and spicy flavors.

Formosa Superior Fancy Oolong Tea: This is our finest quality Formosa oolong tea blend. Creating this blend requires a careful fermentation process. Once the blend is complete, it offers a noble taste that tea connoisseurs will appreciate. Formosa Superior Fancy Oolong Tea also provides an intense flowery bouquet and highly aromatic scents.

Ultimately, Formosa oolong tea tastes similar to oolong teas from nearby China. This makes sense, since the leaves were imported from that region in the first place. If you’re looking for a unique oolong flavor appropriate for any occasion, then we have a number of Formosa teas waiting for you to try.

Rooibos – What is it?

The local people of the Western Cape region of South Africa have recognized and enjoyed the benefits of the rooibos tea bush for centuries.  In the last few decades, awareness of this plant and its amazing potential has spread throughout Europe and the Americas.  In the mid-1700s, a Swedish botanist observed that the leaves of this bush could be harvested, processed, and steeped into a hot beverage similar to black tea.  Locals would pick the leaves from the bush, which grows exclusively in the mountainous terrain of this small area in South Africa, and then bring them back to level ground for a primitive curing process.  The leaves were chopped and bruised, and then left out in the sun to dry.  Once fully dried, the leaves could be steeped and served in place of black tea, which was in limited supply and very expensive.

While rooibos infusions remained a very popular drink in South Africa, it wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that advancements in cultivation of the rooibos bush made increased production and distribution a possibility.  A special sifting process was developed to isolate the rooibos seed, and thus the bush could be planted and raised under the watchful eye of local farmers.  Further developments in the curing process enhanced the flavor and appearance of the final product, making it even more popular in South Africa and the rest of the world.

When steeped into a tea-like infusion, rooibos has a pleasing, naturally sweet and slightly nutty flavor.  Dried rooibos is graded for quality, with higher grades containing a larger proportion of leaves to stem pieces.  The highest grades of dried rooibos have the darkest, richest, and boldest flavor.  A rooibos infusion tastes great on its own, and also mixes very well with a variety of other herbal infusions and true teas to create a countless array of blends and flavors.  Many people enjoy the taste of rooibos; is it rich and complex like a black true tea, but lower tannin levels leave rooibos without the slight bitterness that many black teas have.

Beyond its pleasant flavor, rooibos contains a number of compounds that make it a healthful drink; its growing popularity is largely due to its health potential.  Rooibos is packed full of powerful antioxidants, which help to neutralize and destroy harmful free radicals in the body.  It also boasts a wealth of phenolic compounds and is completely caffeine-free.  It has long been used to ease tension, relieve the symptoms of allergies, and to combat digestive issues.  Although there is no scientific evidence to support the efficacy of rooibos in these medicinal applications, it is a relative newcomer to the Western world; research is ongoing.  Even if further study proves that rooibos is ineffective in treating anxiety or digestive problems, the antioxidant properties alone make rooibos a valuable addition to a healthful life.  With its health benefits, delicious flavor, and numerous blending possibilities, rooibos is sure to continue to rise in popularity and consumption in the U.S.

Can Tea Ever Be Bad For Your Health?

Tea is widely regarded as one of the healthiest beverages one can drink. However, there are thousands of different types of tea on the market, and some of these tea blends are healthier than others. Today, we’re going to help you determine which tea blends are good for your health and which ones are bad.

Dieting teas – do they really work?

Everybody likes to look for an easy way to lose weight. Unfortunately, losing weight is rarely easy. Dieters tea come in a number of different flavors and varieties. Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings about dieters teas. They often contain very few healthy ingredients and are packed with sugar or artificial sweeteners. In many cases, the only diet-specific ingredients included in dieters teas is caffeine, which temporary increases your metabolism and helps your body burn fat. Aside from caffeine, most of these dieters teas are fuelled by hype and feature minimal results.

Many dieters teas contain ingredients like senna, aloe, buckthorn, and other plant-derived laxatives. The FDA has issued warnings about these ingredients due to their lack of effectiveness.

Instant teas

Many instant teas contain very little actual tea at all. Instead, they are packed with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, sugar, and other unhealthy compounds. While not all instant teas are bad, many of them can be dangerous for your health.

Watch out for these tea ingredients

Both dieters teas and instant teas contain strange ingredients that can negatively affect your health. Specifically, the FDA has warned against taking teas that include:

-Ephedra (used for weight loss)

-Willow bark

-Germander

-Comfrey

-Lobelia

-Chaparral

Teas with those ingredients will often advertise that ingredient prominently. Unfortunately, these ingredients have unknown (and possibly harmful) effects on the body, so think twice before drinking these types of tea.

Herbal teas

‘Herbal tea’ is a broad term for any tea containing fruits, herbs, seeds, roots, and other natural ingredients. Because herbal teas have lower concentrations of antioxidants than green, white, black, and oolong teas, their health benefits can vary.

Here are some of the features that science has linked to herbal teas:

-Chamomile tea has antioxidants that can reduce diabetes and lower the risk of nerve and kidney damage. Some studies have also shown that it stunts the growth of cancer cells.

-Echinacea herbal tea has been suggested as a way to stave off colds. However, research on Echinacea herbal teas has not demonstrated a clear link as of yet.

-Hibiscus herbal teas: Recent studies have found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea on a daily basis can lower blood pressure for those who already have modestly elevated blood pressure.

-Rooibos: Medical studies on rooibos herbal tea have been limited, although rooibos tea does contain flavonoids that could help fight cancer and other diseases.

The healthiest tea to drink?

In general, tea is one of the healthiest beverages in the world. Most tea is strictly derived from the Camellia sinensis plant with only a few different flavorings added to give it a unique twist. Camellia sinensis is an incredibly healthy plant that has been linked to health benefits like reduced cholesterol levels and weight loss.

Any black, white, green, or oolong tea is derived from the camellia sinensis plant, which means that it is geranlly quite healthy. Tea is also healthiest when used in a ‘loose’ blend, as more surface area is exposed to the surrounding water, increasing the nutrients and antioxidants that are released.

Regular Loose Leaf Tea or Chai?

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.