The Mystery Of Oolong

by Steven Popec 9. April 2010 12:25

Oolong

Chinese Wū long or Oolong is a type of tea located between green and black in the Chinese classification. In other words, Oolong is half-fermented tea. Oxidation ranges from 20% to 40%, and the most characteristic feature of this tea is that the leaves are fermented unevenly. Along the edges of the tea leaf fermentation can be quite astringent, almost like black tea with well pronounced reddish rim around a leaf but in the center of leaf fermentation, is very weak, close to green teas. As a result, Oolongs have a wonderful aroma and taste that combines the freshness of green tea and tartness of black tea.

Oolong combines the best qualities of both green and black teas. Some highly fermented Oolongs give a fairly dark brown-reddish infusion. However, such Oolongs constitute only a small share of the vast diversity of this type of tea. Basic and famous Oolongs have a gentle light yellowish or greenish tinge honey extract. By appearance of the infusion, they are closer to green teas and by taste - to black teas. A good Oolong is both refreshing and delicious with no trace of bitterness and stronger aroma than any green or black teas. Oolong is a well known type of Chinese tea used in ceremonies. A widely-used ceremonial method of brewing Oolongs in Taiwan and China is called Gongfu Cha. For a complete appreciation of the taste of this tea, tea pairing is recommended: tea bowl and snifter cup used to appreciate the tea's aroma. Tea poured into a snifter cup and a drinking bowl is placed upside down over the top of the snifter cup. Then the two are inverted so that the snifter cup is upside down in the drinking bowl. The final stage is when the snifter cup is lifted and the tea is released into the drinking bowl. After all this manipulations, tea drinkers can respectfully receive the aroma and then enjoy the taste.
 
There are two main types of Oolong that are grown and harvested in China and Taiwan, the mainland and island tea. The next classification is the type of traditional treatment and characteristics of climate and soil. Oolongs grow high in the mountains, shrouded in fog, on the poor stony soils. The quality of tea depends on the orientation of the slope, the number of fogs during the growth and professionalism of collectors, who manually collect and sort out the tea leaves in difficult mountain conditions.  
 
Oolong often resembles the form of twisted lumps consisting of strongly folded and compressed whole leaves. When touched, the lumps are elastic and dense. Fresh tea should be slightly shiny and have a strong fragrant. During the brewing process, the tea leaves unfold, expend and consume the entire volume of the teapot when steeped 2-3 times. Usually, Oolong brewed with water temperature of 176-194º F for 3-4 minutes. A teapot 150 ml takes about one heaped teaspoon. Expensive Oolongs can withstand multiple infusions up to 20-25 times. The fragrance of tea can vary from delicate peach tones to astringent walnut, with a corresponding color change of infusions darker with each subsequent brewing. There are varieties of oolong that color does not change and remains yellow-green, while others, originally given infusions of intense color give a pale infusion each subsequent brewing.

Oolong tea is the most diverse among Chinese teas in terms of taste and appearance . Oolong is tea-perfection conceived by Heaven and Earth. 

The Origins Of British Tea Traditions

by Elena Popec 6. April 2010 21:21

 

Loose Leaf Tea

The origin of tea traditions of England is obliged to one of the most beautiful women in the middle of XVII century. In 1662 Charles II married princess Catherine of Braganza from Portugal. The Portuguese had been the first Europeans that encountered tea, controlled the trade routes from Asia and drank this wonderful beverage. Chest with tea leaves, among other treasures was in bride’s dowry. According to tradition, the new queen’s passion for tea was appreciated in court, and soon became the most popular drink in the chambers of Buckingham Palace. Inventive British replaced the eastern bowls for cups and saucers and used tea spoons for sugar that also entered into vogue in the XVII century.

The British aristocracy recognized only the tea from the youngest and most succulent of the upper leaves, which are called "Orange Pekoe". "Orange" comes from the Dutch word meaning "gold, royal, belonging to the Dutch royal House of Orange-Nassau," and "Pekoe" - from the Chinese word "leaf". Because The Dutch East India Company played a central role in introducing tea to Europe, perhaps, they could have marketed the tea as "Orange" to propose a royal warrant. However, in modern classification of common tea leaf grades "Orange Pekoe" stands for "royal leaf".

The real revolution in the tea business actually began in 1837 with the ascension to the throne of the young Queen Victoria. China was unable to meet the increased demand in Europe and began to supply the market with product of insufficient quality. At the time, relations between Great Britain and China had escalated. In response to the British sanctions, China has imposed an embargo on trade with Britain. But the decisive Queen Victoria signed a decree of establishing the state tea company in the British colony - the North Indian province of Assam. Mayor of the Royal Guard, Robert Bruce and his brother Charles crossed breeded seeds smuggled out of China with local tea trees. Thus was launched a completely new variety with bright color and a strong astringent taste. In memory of those events, one of the types of English tea from Assam is named "Victorian".

By the middle of the XIX century, Britain became the largest tea supplier, capable of providing not only the needs of the empire, but also neighboring countries. The Assam black tea from the Indian colony of Great Britain, Russians merchants carried by caravans and sold in the capital's shops, "colonial goods" under the name "Indian tea". Taste of Assam for Russians still is the most familiar and traditional.

In XX century, the British voluntarily renounced the former "tea" colonies and focused the effort on improving the quality of tea blends. This act has reflected on a nation-wide British love for tea. Continuing the Victorian tradition, modern tea masters - tea testers - offer demanding connoisseurs of tea a wide variety of traditional and exotic flavors. English tea has long gone beyond the United Kingdom, and in many countries today, tea lovers enjoy impeccable taste, intelligence and respect for people.

 

The Wonderful health benefits of White Tea

by Elena Popec 16. February 2010 20:42

White tea is truly a pearl among the different varieties of tea. These teas are a specialty of the Chinese province Fujian. White tea is the most expensive, and this fact is not surprising because white tea is widely considered the most effective (health-giving). It contains a maximum amount of useful substances and vitamins, which are found in the other varieties of teas in smaller amounts due to fermentation process.

White tea is one of the rarest teas in the world: the buds are picked before they unfurl, which means the tea can only be plucked for a few weeks each spring only in the morning from 5 to 9 AM. White teas have a very strict procedure for the plucking and processing. The tea pickers are prohibited from eating spices, garlic, onions, and consuming alcohol, as well as other strong-fragrant foods in order not to contaminate the aroma of tea leaves. The unopened buds and two young leaves are plucked by handWhite Tea then withered to allow natural drying. White tea is minimally processed, therefore contains the higher level of antioxidants. The main difference of white tea is that it leaves are not broken or twisted, which is why tea looks a little sloppy. The fermentation of white tea is a natural way without the use of any special technological innovations. In fact, the process of drying of white tea is the only process where manufacturers can somehow affect the final product. That is why the drying process is approached with special care.

High-quality white tea leaves remain whole after the drying process despite the fact that they become distorted, the leaves maintain maximum integrity. Another characteristic feature of good white tea is the presence of small silver fibers on the leaves.

White tea requires very careful handling. If you already shelled out for expensive and good product, try to brew it so as to preserve the maximum benefit and enjoy this drink. For brewing white tea, use water at a temperature ranging from 176 to 194 degrees F, and steep it not longer than 2-3 minutes. If water used is too hot it will not allow the unique aroma of white tea to unfold. White tea should be stored in a tin box, so there is no access to different odors, since it instantly absorbs all extraneous scents. The brewed liquid has lightly amber color with a slight greenish tint. It is very transparent with thin unique floral, slightly herbal flavor.

There are few traditions and rules imposed to the consumption of white teas. The fact that subtle and delicate taste of white tea is fairly weak, tea drinkers should not enjoy white tea after spicy, salty or astringent foods, because of strong food aftertaste. Therefore, white tea should be drunk by itself.  For those who prefer to add a fruity accent to white tea, ESP Emporium offers an innovated White Grape Premium Tea blend. It is your turn to decide whether our choice was the correct one. Fresh juice from sun-ripened grapes,  red berries and the blue/violet color of blossoms, set on a bed of rich green (China Pai Mu Tan, China Cui Min), invite you to simply enjoy this excellent blend.

White teas, regardless of grade offer great benefits to our body. They are rich in antioxidants and slow down skin aging process, prevent the emergence of malignant tumors. White tea also has an antiviral effect, strengthens the cardiovascular system, and reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

 

History Of Tea

by Steven Popec 8. February 2010 20:56

There is no place on Earth where you cannot find a love to tea and its history. This drink is second by popularity only after water. Homeland of Tea is South-West China and adjacent areas of Upper Burma and North Vietnam.
 
Interestingly, the word tea has come to East Europe through the Turkic languages from North Chinese “cha”, while the source of the name in Western Europe was the South Chinese “te”. There is no way to establish the exact time of appearance of the drink in different regions.
 
The first mention of tea dates back to ancient times. How wild tea was discovered, tell legends of China, India and Japan. One of them, there was tea in the time of creation of Heaven and Earth, it is associated with the name of Sovereign Sun Yan Di. On the other Southern Chinese emperor Chen Nung (III millennium BC) once tried the drink, which accidentally turned out to be tea leaves, accidentally fell into boiling water. The drink was so fragrant and delicious that the Emperor ordered to collect and preserve these leaves and issued a decree on the application of his nationwide.

Historical monuments confirm that tea was known in China in the Three Kingdoms period (220 - 280 years). The growing of tea as a culture plant refers to the year 350. Hindus believe that the tea bush was accidentally discovered by Prince Badhidharma while traveling to Southern China. According to Japanese legend, a tea bush grew in the place where prince Daruma’s eyelids fell after he cut them off, in order not to fall asleep during meditation. From this bush Daruma’s followers gathered leaves and made refreshing drink.
 
In 1763 a Swedish navigator brought the famous naturalist Charles Linneyu from China living tea bush. Scientist, being confident in the uniqueness of this plant, gave tea its name classification thea sineusis – Chinese tea. In the XIX century in the Indian province of Assam, Burma and Laos were discovered tea trees. Botanist had to admit that the tea has a different kind, which was given the title of thea assamica - Assamese tea.

Chinese philosophers said that tea is better than wine, because it can strengthen and invigorates the human soul.  It does not cause intoxication, it is better than water because tea does not transmit infection.
 
At first, tea was used only by rulers and clerics as curative drink, that eliminates fatigue, strengthens force and vision, or in the composition of ointments. The use tea as a drink in its homeland began in the 5th century. The value of tea was very high - emperors awarded their dignitary in the promotion. In the 6th century, tea was a favorite beverage of nobility, by in the 10th century, tea had become the national drink of China and, consequently, the subject of trade.
In Europe, tea was brought in the 16th – 18th centuries, by Portuguese and Dutch. Rooted in the Netherlands, the use of the drink has become a tradition of afternoon tea drinking, and spread across the Atlantic to New Amsterdam.

In 1664 merchants of the English East India Company brought as a gift to the King, two pounds of tea. The gift was accepted, the drink was appreciated, and a triumphal procession of tea began. At first as a luxury item available to the rich and the nobility, but much later - as the traditional drink of broad segments of society. Tea became available to citizens only in the late XVIII century, after reducing the tax on tea, but for most was still too expensive.
 
In 1793, Lord McCartney transported the seeds of Chinese tea to India in the Botanical Garden to explore and cultivate. India, whereas was the former colony of the British Empire, actively developing the production of tea. In 1860 it was sold for around 2 tons. The question of the rate of transport has arisen.
By boundless sea bear tea clipper - high-speed sailboats with valuable cargo. Tea race become a tradition with promise of winning trophy. Known as the case when three-clippers - "Ariel", "Taping", and "Serika" - were all synchronous distance 25,744 km in length and finished along the harbor.
 
In Java, Sumatra, Vietnam tea begin to grow in the first half of the 19th century, in the second half - in Africa and South America, in the early twentieth century - in northern Italy and southern Switzerland. At present, breeding of tea has developed in Australia.
 
The official history of tea in Russia started in 1638, when the Mongol ruler of the Altyn-Khan sent a gift of 72kg of a strange dry leaf to the king, Mikhail Fedorovich. The first acquaintance with tea happened much earlier in 1269 because of the Russian Diocese being located in Beijing.  Russian people visited China for a variety of reasons, Therefore they had exposed to way of life there and had been well aware of tea. Russian traders dealing with Chinese merchants were introduced to tea ceremonies by direct route from Beijing to Moscow. Tea came much later - in 1665, brought by ambassador Perfiliev. In the 1679 Russia develops the agreement with China regarding the permanent supply of tea. Until the end of 18th century, tea was sold mainly in Moscow. From Moscow, the fashion for tea began to spread throughout Russia.

In 1874, imported from Paris, the tea bush was planted in Nikitsky Botanical Garden in Crimea. However, the tea bush did not survived there. Then cuttings were brought to Georgia, where they acclimatized, well developed, and subsequently gave the seeds. Since then, Georgian tea was a delight not only in Georgia and Russia, but also in many other countries. In 1900, small estates have been cultivated in Azerbaijan. In 1936 in the Krasnodar region of Russia, they cultivated three teas, “Georgian”, “Azeri” and “Krasnodarsky”.

To date, the cultivation and production of tea, engaged in Argentina, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malawi, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Turkey, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Japan, Australia. In doing so, they had been recognized by the major producers - China, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Kenya. Lastly, in Europe (United Kingdom, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, France) the widespread of tea packing companies developed as proprietary blenders of tea and tisanes.

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