Darjeeling: The Champagne of all teas

by Steven Popec 13. May 2010 00:16

 

Darjeeling is the Chinese variations of the Camelia sinensis tea grown on Indian plantations in the province of Darjeeling and considered one of the most exquisite and expensive teas in the world. By the methods of cultivation and production, Darjeeling is closer to the Chinese teas rather than to the Indian teas. This is a small leaf tea, with slightly astringent taste and rich delicate floral aroma. Although Darjeeling is marketed commercially as "black tea", almost all of them have incomplete oxidation (<90%), so they are technically more Oolongs than black teas.
 
This tea has a delicate taste due to the unique natural conditions of the region where it grows: cold and humid climate, high altitude location of plantations and the characteristics of the soil. Depending on the location and time of collecting, the taste, aroma and characteristics of Darjeeling are highly different. The most significant impact on tea quality has seasonal factors. Not everyone will be able to distinguish the differences, for example, between Darjeeling Makaibari and Darjeeling Lingia. The difference between a drink obtained from the leaves collected in the spring, versus leaves from the same plantation, but harvested in early summer, will be obvious. The best varieties of Darjeeling is consider the "champagne of teas". The methods of processing tea leaves are very traditional, it includes withering, rolling, fermentation and drying, which is why this tea is so highly valued. 
 
First of all, today there are only 86 existing plantations of Darjeeling with a total area of about 19.000 hectare. Annual production on average is 11-12 thousand tons. This is about 1% of the total cultivated tea in India. It should be be noted that it would be impossible to obtain the taste qualities if Darjeeling if cultivated outside this region, therefore, making it an exclusive beverage. 
 
The labor on plantations is very tedious and demanding, the normal requires a production force of  about 52 thousand people that are constantly engaged. While in the tea harvesting season, which lasts from March to November, an additional 15 thousand workers are hired. More than 60% of workers in the tea gardens are women.
 
The collection of tea leaves takes place 4 times per year. The first harvest is the so-called Easter (March-May) begins immediately after the winter lull. Leaves collected at this time are light-green color. The characteristics of a good First Flush Darjeeling are a lively fresh, delightful flowery aroma and a honey color infusion. The connoisseurs of Darjeeling tea compare the first collection to tasteful green grapes "muscatel." Perhaps, that is why Darjeeling is called “champagne of teas”. Tea mixture of the first collection is very highly regarded by experts; it consists only of the upper leaves and buds that give this tea such exquisite taste. First Flush Darjeeling is sold at auctions, and prices are several times higher than the subsequent harvest from the same plantation.
 
The second collection takes place during the months of a May - June. Tea leaves collected during this period have a reddish color. Infusion is softer, intense, featuring a bright amber color. Because this tea is collected in the last month of spring and early summer, it has a light fruity aroma and a peculiar aftertaste. Darjeeling from the second collection, also called "In-Between", is considered a tea of high quality and is recommended as an afternoon tea. The leaves and the infusion are already turning darker and the diversity of the flavors varies from full-bodied to slightly aromatic. The "In-Between" is often used as a profitable blend, due to the high demand, the prices are not as cheap.
 
The summer collection takes place from June - July. During this period, the properties of the tea leaves are changing, along with the nature of the infusion. It becomes more robust, but it retains all the traditional characteristics of Darjeeling. The taste is a full-bodied, with a distinctive nutmeg note. The third collection is no less interesting and appreciated by connoisseurs, sometimes higher than the first crop.
 
The last collection, "Autumnal", is October - November. The infusion obtained from the leaves of the autumn collection, has a unique characteristic, the leaves are a light-copper color and has a somewhat milder taste. 
 
All this together ensures the highest quality of the famous Darjeeling. Because of its exclusivity and small production volumes, forgery of this tea was very popular. It is a big problem for world trade, the number of Darjeeling sold each year is more than 45 thousand tons, despite the fact that its official production is only about 11-12 thousand tons. The falsification and blending of tea has led to a drop in prices for real Darjeeling, resulting in considerable losses for the Indian economy. To prevent further tampering, the Tea Board of India jointly with the Darjeeling Tea Association have agreed that only 86 tea plantations, with special certificates, will be entitled to call their tea "Darjeeling".

A Wonderful Tea Schedule For The Entire Day

by Elena Popec 25. April 2010 16:19

Every profound, self-respecting tea connoisseur has a collection consistent of several teas, where each type is brewed depending on time of the day, occasion, company or just the mood. Typically such a collection of teas includes:

- Teas for breakfast

- Afternoon teas

- Evening teas

In addition, during each occassion, several varieties of teas can be served.

Tea for breakfast - This tea should invigorate and tone the body and mind. The taste of this drink should be rich and strong. In addition, tea for breakfast is often served with muffins, scones, sweet breads, therefore it should be perfectly balanced with flavors. The most popular teas for breakfast are:

English Breakfast Black Tea Blend with a marvellously dark infusion and malty spiciness, best when slightly sweetened with a dash of milk or cream.

Irish Breakfast Black Tea Blend with a deep dark infusion and character spice. A definite “must have” for each tea lover.

Afternoon tea - Such a beverage is usually drank after a good lunch without milk or sugar, so it will help digestion and vigilance. The selection of afternoon tea should be approached with particular care because this social beverage prompts friendly conversations. If we generalize the basic properties and characteristics of mid-day tea, then the tea will have the following form:

Not too strong, must have a rich flavor, with exquisite and delicate aroma, but the main thing it is understandable and enjoyable not only for the host, but also for every guest. The most popular afternoon teas:

Earl Grey  ( black or green tea blend)  lightly flavored with fine bergamot oil that forms a harmonious basis for the popular, fruity, hot drink.

Caramel Black Tea Blend comes up to the highest expectations with its tempting creamy caramel pieces and the sweet, full caramel flavor with an unforgettable vanilla note.

Cinnamon Roll Black Tea Blend with perfectly balanced taste of expressive cinnamon flavor. Quite simple and perfect.

Jasmine Green Tea with intense bouquet of jasmine and delicate taste.

Oolong, White tea, Green tea…pure and flavored, regular and decafeinated… The list of choices are endless, the world of tea is infinite!

Evening tea - This tea is usually chosen using special blends, which include different varieties of teas, they are mostly with little or no caffeine content, not very strong and have a pleasant, delicate taste and aroma.  Rooibos, Honeybush, Ayurvedic, Herbal and Fruit blends are the most popular evening teas. Evening teas offer soothing aroma and taste to relax the body and mind for a better night sleep.

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. 

Ceylon Tea - A Brief History Of Sri Lanka

by Steven Popec 10. March 2010 15:14

Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon (Sri Lanka) tea can also be attributed to "India". This island located close to India which produces the same amount of tea as the mainland plantations, and even more generating roughly $700 million annually. Cultivation of tea in Sri Lanka started accidentally. Up until the 1860’s, Ceylon was only for coffee plantations, but due to sudden fungal disease called “coffee rust” most of the coffee trees have died and brought the downfall of coffee production, then igniting an era of tea. In 1867 the first tea plantation in Ceylon was laid by Scott James Taylor in Kandy. He became the father of tea cultivation in Ceylon. In 1890’s Sir Thomas Lipton visited Ceylon and founded his own tea plantations and factories for tea processing focused on the needs of British consumers. Ceylon black teas are divided into three main types: high-grown (1,200 meters above sea level), mid-grown (600-1,200 m) and low-grown (up to 600 m). The share of high-altitude, high-quality tea is relatively small; it is the finest plantations in Nuwara Eliya that are located at an altitude 6,128 ft. Good quality tea are also harvested on the plantations: Dimbula ( altitude ranging between 3,500 ft to 5,000 ft), Uva province( altitude ranging between 3,500 ft to 5,000 ft) and Ratnapura (low-grown tea).

Indian tea Nuwara Eliya is the highest tea region in the world and considered one of the most important locations for tea production in Sri Lanka. Tea produced in Nuwara Eliya has a very unique flavor. Tea leaves gather year around, but the best yields are in January-March. Tea leaves in this region are plucked at dawn, it is the time when leaf retains its freshness and then displays it in the brewed beverage. Sometimes the tea from Nuwara Eliya  called the "champagne of tea", as well as some teas from Darjeeling province in northern India. This tea gives a tincture of golden color, delicate and refined flavor and slightly astringent taste.

Uva region is situated in the south-eastern part of Sri Lanka in the mountains, which are located on the slopes of the plantation growers an excellent tea. Uva area’s tea is widely used for blends such as English Breakfast Black Tea Blend, Irish Breakfast Black Tea Blend, Morning Tea…etc.  A distinctive feature of tea from this district is a golden-reddish infusion, excellent flavor and a wonderful taste.

In the Dimbula area most tea plantations are located on the south-eastern slopes. The best tea is obtained in January-March, when the weather is dry and cold (for this latitude) and is determining factor of flavor. The main characteristic of the local tea is the aroma of a faint lemon note. The taste of the tea is full, with a little tartness, the infusion is bright and reddish color.

 

The History Of Tea From India

by Steven Popec 9. March 2010 16:48

India Black Tea

Tea consumption in India has a long history, South Asians viewed tea as an herbal medicine rather than as a recreational beverage. Although commercially, tea is being cultivated in India is relatively recently - within the second half of the 19th century. However, in the foothills of the Himalayas in the north and north-eastern regions of country, tea trees grew before the arrival of the British. For centuries, tea has not been cultivated but only gathered from wild trees. There is a legend that British merchants transported a few tea bushes from China and planted them in the plains of India, by the time they occupied and colonized by Britain. From those few bushes, started a global cultivation of tea in India and Ceylon. It happened in the thirties of the 19th century when the British East India Company became concerned about the Chinese monopoly on tea that constituted most of its trade and supported the enormous consumption of tea in Great Britain. After the first successful experience in 1863, the British East India Company brought to India a large batch of germs and after 10 years of hard work, the tea plantations give the first crop. In 1870, over 90% of the tea consumed in Great Britain was still of Chinese origin but by 1900, this had dropped to 10%, largely replaced by tea grown in India and Ceylon. Success has created several companies, many of which still sell tea and are known throughout the world. India's success on the international market is mainly due to accommodating the special English taste for strong tea, adequate for chalky water.

High quality tea in India is growing on mountain slopes which are very steep (up to 70 degrees). Plantations are located on terraces which rings encircle the mountain slopes. These high quality grades of tea gather exclusively by women and only manually. The tea plucking process takes place usually at the break of dawn. Manufacturers are trying to make tea of the highest class, twisted leaf tea and no broken leaves.

There are two main areas of growth of Indian tea: Darjeeling and Assam. Important cultivation areas are, apart from Darjeeling and Assam:

Dooars - west of Assam, mainly production of CTC teas.

Nilgiri - South Indian tea district, fresh teas, similar to those of Sri Lanka

Sikkim - north east of Darjeeling, high-quality teas

Terrai - south of Darjeeling, similar to Darjeeling, somewhat more herb in taste.

India Tea Plantation

Today India is the second largest producer of quality black tea and the first one of the middle and low-grade "bulk" teas, CTC. A large portion of this "simple" tea stays in the country; locals are very fond of drinking tea (a modest 750 grams per person a year), it is quite different in Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Although these countries are close neighbors, the locals hardly drink tea, and the entire Ceylon crop is exported.  A small proportion of green teas are produced in India as well and mainly for Japan that buys simpler varieties to add them to their own production.

Assam is a tea district in Northern India across the Brahmaputra. It is the largest connected tea growing region in the world. The plateau with highly arable rainforest soil contains a lot of humidity due to the prevailing monsoon winds. The local climatic conditions, especially rainfall, create a greenhouse effect which positively affects the quality of tea leaf. Tea plants are cultivated in tea gardens on large cultivatable land of up to 1,000 hectares. There are about 2,000 plantations in Assam. Assam tea is generally heavy and spicy, dark in the cup. It is the main component of the classical English and East Frisian blends which are prepared for water with high chalk contents and are usually drunk with milk and sugar. Since the appearance of the young tea traders on the international market, especially from Africa, Assam was largely driven out of this market by the cheaper tea varieties.
 
Harvesting Periods

Mid April to Late May: First Flush. These qualities are of rather little economic significance for the European or US market. These teas are mostly aromatically fresh, light and of rather tart character. For this reason they do not meet the traditional Assam features.

Early June/Mid August: Second Flush. The second flush, harvested in June/August, before the large monsoon rain starts, is highly demanded. Assam teas from the second plucking period are of greater relevance in terms of quality and the export business. These qualities are often very “colored” in tips, with a pouring that is mostly very dark and has a typical strong, full-spicy and malty character.
 
The oldest tea gardens in Assam were founded in 1832-33 by English trade agencies. In 1839, the first Assam tea appeared in a London action. The Assam region is bordered by China, Bhutan, Burma and Bangladesh. Assam is one of the most beautiful places in the world and in all respects, is one of the best places for the cultivation of black tea.

Darjeeling is a region in the North-Eastern India, located at the southern slopes of the Himalaya Mountains. Darjeeling is the most famous tea region of India. Tea gardens are located at altitudes of up to 2,600 meters above sea level on an area of 20 thousand hectares and produce the most exquisite types in the world. Darjeeling borders with China and Bhutan. The special microclimate of the region is ideal for growing elite types of tea also called “champagne of tea”. Black Orthodox tea from Darjeeling (Indians pronounce the name with the accent on the second syllable) are considered one of the most delicate and fragrant teas in the world, competing with the best Chinese varieties and very often surpassing them. The unique taste of tea from Darjeeling is highly valued by tea lovers and experienced connoisseurs. The best tea grows in the coldest part of the terrain, at an altitude of 2,600 meters. The color of the infusion is deep burgundy with a green tint.
 
Harvesting Periods

March-May: First Flush is in March, as soon as the weather is good after the end of the vegetation break, the first soft leaves and buds of the first period are plucked. The characteristics of a good F.F. Darjeeling are a lively fresh, delightful flowery aroma and a honey color of the infusion. This tea is sold at auctions, and prices are several times higher than the subsequent charges from the same plantation.

May-June: In between crop – the qualified “trailer” of the first flush season does have a particular connection with the first touches of the second flush period. The leaves and the infusion are already turning darker and the diversity of the flavors varies from full-bodied to slightly aromatic. The In-between is often used as a profitable blend-quality. Due to the high demand, the prices are not as cheap.

June-July: Second Flush. The summer crop is the summit in a crop year. The tea leaves develop more aroma by the longer exposure to sun. The most important quality features of a classical S.F. tea are dark brown leafs with golden tips and the color of infusion is soft amber. Taste is full-bodied with a distinctive nutmeg note. The second collection is no less interesting and appreciated by connoisseurs, sometimes higher than the first crop.

October-November: Autumnal crop. After another period of rain in late summer and until the vegetation lull in November, fully aromatic but somewhat mild teas are plucked.

Nilgiri is one of the major tea regions of India, located in the south of the country, at the foot of the Blue Mountains. The tea gardens in Nilgiri are small compared to plantations in Assam. Tea in Nilgiri is cultivated on altitudes between 800-2,000 meters above the sea level. Tea plantations are surrounded by snow-covered mountains and luxuriant growing jungle. In 1840, the first tea seedlings had been planted, thanks to good climatic conditions, the seedlings became well acclimated and the basis for future plantations.
Nilgiri takes second place in India in volume of black tea production. Frequent monsoon rains, high average annual temperatures, allow the great cultivation of tea all year. Tea gathers unite in Nilgiri twice a year:  in spring (April-May) and second flush in autumn (September-December), the best being the spring collection. The Nilgiri tea is a main component of so-called English blend. The tea of these regions is full-bodied, with a bright infusion, mild taste and can be distinguished by a fresh citrus scent which is reminiscent of the Ceylon high-growns.

Black Tea

Most of the Indian tea is used for mixtures or blends. Different companies make a blend for a large consignment of tea, which is then packaged and sent to consumers. Naturally, the composition of blends from time to time changes, so there is a practice such as a sampling of tea. Similar to the in the selection of wine, tasting is needed prior to purchase of product in order to understand which tea is the best. There are companies (mostly British) that have their own tea testers in the tea factories located in India, whose main task is to monitor the quality and stability of tea taste, regardless of the crop. To do such, they select from several tea plantations and make trial blends, the best of them becomes a model for the party. There are four varieties of Indian tea that is sold unblended: Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri (also used in blends) and Sikkim. Sikkim Tea is a new variety introduced in late 1980, but has already won the position on the market of tea. This delicious and sweet tea is reminiscent to the taste of Darjeeling tea and Assamese tea aroma. One can say that it occupies an intermediate position between these two titans.

Black tea from India can be brewed in several ways. Brewing methods of tea depends on its type and grade. Chinese method: more loose leaf tea leaves and less time of brewing, English method: 1 tsp of tea leaves per 6oz cup and a long (3-5 minutes) brewing process, or Indian method: very strong tea infusion, hot milk and a lot of sugar. All three methods have their unique characteristics, and each way is good for its type of tea.  The Chinese way is suitable for any Indian tea, but best of all, it reveals aromas of delicate high grade tea varieties such as teas Darjeeling. The English method does not allow steeping the tea more than twice. If you prefer to drink tea, as it is loved in England, with milk or cream, then pour the cream into a cup prior to the tea slightly heated. Fine broken leaf grades are very popular in India, where English tradition of drinking tea with milk has spread in a transformed way. Brewing using the Indian style is a very intense brewing method. Tea leaves are steeped with hot milk, water and a lot of sugar. Then the infusion is poured from one tall glass into another to create the appearance of abundant foam. This very thick drink, with a nice color, can hardly be called tea; however, the Indians are very fond of it and consumed in large quantities. This method is also used to prepare a strong tea with milk and spices called Masala Chai. Some of the chai masala spice mixtures are still in current use are derived from Ayurvedic medical texts.

ESP Emporium
offers an amazing selection of black tea – the most popular drink in the world. Vast selection of high quality tea from India presents all the most magnificent types from Darjeeling and Assam, First and Second Flush, pure and blended. Worth to give it a try!

 

 

Exploring The Art Of Japanese Loose Leaf Green Tea

by Elena Popec 2. March 2010 12:54

Over the long centuries of isolation from the rest of the world, in Japan appeared amazing things: ikebana, bonsai, origami, sumo, kabuki, mange and much more. It is logical to assume that in respect of Japan, tea is not so simple either.

Green Tea

Green tea is very popular drink in the world today, but the Japanese consume tea in quite a peculiar way, starting with the production of special teas and ending with particular traditions of tea drinking. Japanese tea ceremonies (Sado or also known as Chanoyu) cannot be described in gastronomical terms. This is an art of contemplation and meditation, a way to achieve harmony with the world and cognize knowledge of the laws of the universe. Even leaving aside the complexity of a Japanese tea ceremony, we can tell you a lot about the kinds of traditional Japanese teas and its consumption.

The first thing that catches the eye, when studying the varieties of Japanese teas, is that they are all green and non-fermented. There are not that many types of Japanese traditional teas and they are all very unique. Their individual characteristics are not similar against each other, nor anything else in the world. The names of Japanese teas are fascinating: Matcha, Sencha, Genmaicha, Gyokuro, Hojicha, Bancha, Usucha, Kamairicha, Kabusecha, Tamaryokucha and Kukicha. Most of these products cannot be found on the shelves of tea shops outside of Japan. The most popular exception is Sencha and Bancha - the easiest tea to prepare with traditional green tea taste.

Sencha literally means “roasted tea”, a basic Japanese tea and the basis of which many other varieties of Japanese teas are developed. In fact, Sencha is a plain green tea that does not require special knowledge and skills to prepare. Most Japanese green teas are steamed at first to prevent oxidation, then rolled, shaped, dried and finally fired to preserve and add flavor. All lovers of green tea will admire its lightly grassy note. As any tea, Sencha could be a high quality and poor, we should not draw any conclusions about this tea when tasting Sencha of incomprehensible production. Good quality Sencha consists of a flat and long delicate tea leaves with distinctive fragrant of fresh green grass. Even high-graded Sencha contains a large amount of powder or tea dust. When brewed, Sencha gives a very bright infusion with a lively green color, traditionally served in transparent or white cups. The aroma and taste of Sencha are soft, both fresh and slightly sweet and velvety. Sencha tea infusion includes a large amounts of caffeine, vitamins C and B2. This tea invigorates the mind and body.

Preparing Sencha is a simple process, even thou the first attempt may fail, don’t be discouraged: warm teapot, put tea leaves in, cover with water remembering that water should not be boiling, and steep for a while ... However, it is impossible to give universal recommendations about the amount of dry tea leaves, water temperature and time of infusion, since the quality of tea and water are always different. Made with hard water tea is not as good because of its active substances that cannot dissolve fully. For green teas (all teas in general) there is a tip: the more delicate tea and softer water, the lower the water temperature should be and less time of infusion. Sencha tea leaves must not steep longer than 2-3 minutes. This means that the entire teapot tea should be poured into cups or into a separate container no later than in 3 minutes. If over steeped, the tea will be bitter, if under steeped the taste will be watery.  Sencha is the only Japanese tea that almost does not change the taste and aroma in the second and subsequent brewing. Other Japanese teas are inconceivable to brew a few times without losing the taste. The first of each new brewing is recommended to take one heaping tea spoon per 6oz serving of tea and infuse for 2 to 3 minutes. If the taste and aroma seem to be weak, hold the second brew a little longer, but next time increase the amount of tea. An indicator of properly brewed Sencha is bubbly foam. If not, that means that the water is too hot, cold, hard or the tea leaves are not the best quality.

Tea Gyokuro (also known as "precious dew" or "jade drops") is a higher grade expensive tea, which is cultivated in a special way. Gyokuro is different from Sencha because it grows under the shade for about two weeks prior to the harvesting period that aims to reduce amount of Catechin in leaves, therefore the bitterness in tea infusion. This fine tea is very rich in aromatic oils, vitamins, minerals, caffeine and other useful and pleasant elements. Splendid Gyokuro is also called "King of tea" and "Tea of genius" because it cheers up (raises) the spirit and stimulates the thinking. The taste and aroma of Gyokuro is similar to Sencha but with light almost imperceptible nuances. Color of dry tea leaves vary from bright green to golden-brown depending on the terrain and weather during the growth and harvest. Tea merchants will recommend a unique method of brewing for Gyokuro which differs from any other tea brewing techniques. Gyokuro tea leaves are typically steeped at low temperature 150 to 165 F for 1 to 2 minutes. Since the temperature of water is low, pre-heating the pot and cups in order to maintain the warmth of tea would be recommended as well. If the water used is too hot, it will destroy the magnificence of taste and aroma.

Matcha is a fine-powder with the consistency resembling talc green tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies and cooking. Matcha is the most difficult Japanese tea to prepare according to traditional techniques and requires specific skills. It was invented in China in the tenth century and was introduced to Japan only in the twelfth century. Being forgotten at home, powdered tea has become a cultural asset of Japan. Matcha is made from Tencha that has very similar cultivation process to Gyokuro. The process of covering tea bushes from direct sun light before harvesting enriches the tea leaves of amino acids and makes it sweeter. Gathered and processed tea lives with removed stems and veins undergo grinding procedure by millstones.  Matcha  is a premium quality and has a sweet taste with a deep flavor.

Matcha

During a Japanese tea ceremony, Matcha powder frothes up into a foam with bamboo whisk and a small amount of water. The advantage of this type of tea is the fact that all substances contained in tea leaves are delivered into the human body completely - in the form of an opaque beverage. Matcha is a concentrate of tea leafs. The taste of this tea is very fresh, but slightly bitter. Matcha can be combined with other types of tea adding freshness to taste and aroma. Lower quality grades of Matcha can be added to various dishes of rice, noodles and tempura to chocolate, ice-cream and traditional Japanese sweets.

Tamaryokucha is a high-quality Japanese green tea. To make it, tea leaves are steamed or fried. Tamaryokucha is rich in vitamins and contains little caffeine. This tea has a berry-like flavor with an almond aftertaste and citrus-grassy distinctive aroma.

Genmaicha is a combination of Sencha with roasted brown rice. This mixture gives a turbid light brown color of infusion and well pronounced rice flavor with hints of sunflower seeds and fish. Taste-wise, Genmaicha resembles soup, after the tea is drunk, you can eat the rice. This drink-dish is a great alternative to dinner or lunch for those who are on a diet. Japanese drink Genmaicha to subside the feeling of hunger without burdening the stomach. This tea contains a large amount of vitamin B1 and a small amount of caffeine.

Hojicha is a roasted tea that is set apart from other Japanese teas. This tea is made from Sencha which is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal at high temperature. Tea leaves of Hojicha tea ate brown and shiny with a dominating roasted flavor. Hojicha steeps by conventional infusion for less than a minute. Color of the infusions resembles weakly brewed black tea. Hojicha does not have subtle nuances of aroma and taste. This is a simple tea to quench the thirst or drink during the meal. Because of the process of roasting Hojicha, the amount of caffeine decreases, this tea can be served after the evening meal and/or before going to sleep.

Other Japanese green teas that are characterized as low quality Sencha are Bancha and Kukicha. These uncomplicated teas are made from big crude leaves, stems, stalks and twigs. These types of Japanese teas are collected at the end of the season and are considered as lower grade. Bancha and Kukicha are the simplest and cheapest of Japanese teas and are used for daily consumption of liquid for Macrobiotic Diet, the dietary regimen that is based primarily on grains and plants.  This macrobiotic way of eating is very popular in Japan. There are twenty two grades of Bancha. Kukicha can be added to juice for children’s consumption.

 

Pu-Erh Is The Perfect Remedy For Living A Healthy Lifestyle

by Elena Popec 24. February 2010 20:50

Pu-Erh is a tea of emperors and commanders. In ancient times, soldiers were drinking Pu-Erh before battling to gather strength, find resoluteness and have confidence in victory. Today, this tea is popular among business people. Pu-Erh helps to concentrate on making important decisions and preparing for crucial meetings and lengthy negotiations. Pu-Erh assists to live an active, varied life. You can dance all night in the club and in the morning, appear in the office fresh and rested after an extraordinary cup of tea.

Pu-Erh

Pu-Erh grows in the Province Yunnan, the most southwestern province in China where more than a thousand years, tea is produced. Yunnan is the country of fog, mild sun and tea trees.Today, in an era of civilization and mechanisms, the best Pu-Erh is still being handcrafted by people that possess a special inner sense, processing an understanding of tea, they know the time when Pu-Erh becomes Pu-Erh and pass on their knowledge from generation to generation. In order to obtain a deep color infusions, strong mild taste and long-lasting fragrance, this tea is aged for several years in special conditions. Pu-Erh is the only kind of tea that gets better with time. The optimal storage time for different kinds of Pu-Erh is from 10 to 30 years. A collection of aged Pu-Erh can be appraised higher than the collection of vintage wines.

The beauty of Pu-Erh is not only in its unusual taste and aroma. Despite the fact that this tea contains a small amount of caffeine, it invigorates and improves the efficiency better than coffee. This is the best drink for the morning, but is not recommended for the evening. High-quality and properly brewed Pu-Erh is very beneficial for one’s health. It helps digestion, normalizes metabolism, lowers high blood pressure, reduces cholesterol, improves skin condition, reduces the risk of cancer, removes toxins and facilitates the alcohol withdrawal syndrome or overeating. Pu-Erh is the only tea that may inhibit the growth of peptic ulcers. Regular consumption of Pu-Erh contributes to weight loss and rejuvenates the body. It would be better to say that Pu-Erh helps to maintain the body to be the way it should be.

As all types of tea, Pu-Erh is made from the leaves of the plant Camellia Sinensis. Top grade Pu-Erh obtained from the leaves collected from tea trees, not tea bushes. The older the tree, the more exquisite Pu-Erh brewed from its leaves. In the Pu-Erh county of Chinese province Yunnan which gave the name of this group of teas, grow some of the trees that are about a thousand years old. Pu-Erh made out of leaves from such trees is valued particularly high. In the forests of Burma, Vietnam, Laos and eastern India, found wild tea trees yielding a smaller amount but not less valuable harvest. The leaves of wild trees are gentler with a refreshing "menthol" aftertaste. They do not tolerate rough handling. From the leaves of wild trees the only loose leaf (not pressed) Pu-Erh is obtained.

For the production of Pu-Erh, green tea leaves are used. After gathering, they are dried in the sun, roasted and kept for several months. After the drying process, the leaves are pressed, which produces a "raw" or "green Pu-Erh”, similar to the properties of green tea. This Pu-Erh does not have a delicate aroma and exquisite taste, but is simple to prepare and inexpensive. In China, this tea is not considered a real Pu-Erh and called Mao-cha (coarse tea). This tea has been popular among nomads and Tibetan monks.

To get a "mature Pu-Erh", the dried leaves are subjected to a secondary drying and post-fermentation, using modern accelerated technology to produce the mature Pu-Erh. The leaves are sprayed with water, collected in heaps or placed in rooms with high humidity with the help of microorganisms, a process called fermentation takes place. The higher the humidity, the faster the fermentation process, but the aroma and taste of tea leaves is much to be desired. In addition, excessive moisture leads to mold development.

By traditional technology, Pu-Erh is aged in dry areas. In the province of Yunnan many factories and private facilities are located where the Pu-Erh is produced by using old recipes. Different bacteria cultures and different organizations of the fermentation process have a major impact on the taste, aroma and healing properties of Pu-Erh. The period of fermentation for high quality Pu-Erh lasts at least 6 months. With the growing popularity, Pu-Erh prepared by traditional technology is becoming increasingly difficult because more and more manufacturers use a quick simplified method of fermentation.

The last stage of preparation of Pu-Erh is pressing. Tea is lightly steamed to soften and skillfully pressed into the desired shape (brick, pancake, rectangular blocks, bird nests, mushrooms or melons) then dried and wrapped in cloth. Bricks and pancakes of pressed Pu-Erh can weigh from 100g to 5kg. Pressed in a flat square, Pu-Erh is suitable material for the creation of embedded pictures, but “bird nests” which are designed for one portion, are more practical for a busy lifestyle.

When buying Pu-Erh, one should pay attention to its fragrance and structure of the pressed leaves. Good quality Pu-Erh tea is characterized by a pronounced aroma of dried fruits with earthy notes. The smell of mold is an indicator of improper storage.  If there is an opportunity to taste Pu-Erh before buying, evaluate the color of the infusion and depth of flavor.  Also pay attention to the leaves remaining after brewing. Well-preserved whole leaves are an indicator of high quality Pu-Erh. A Quality loose leaf Pu-Erh usually has a delicate fragrant and pale color. loose leaf Pu-Erh can be appreciated only by experienced tea drinkers (connoisseurs).

Preparation of Pu-Erh

Tea Pot

Since Pu-erh has a very strong flavor and rich color; it is not recommended to brew this tea in clay teapots. Clay absorbs all smells and any other tea brewed in the same teapot will taste similar to Pu-Erh. The rich color of this tea will look good in a glass or porcelain cup. Quality Pu-Erh can be steeped a lot of times, therefore use a small teapot and small bowls. To maximize the healing effects of Pu-Erh, it should be  drank without sugar and other sweets. A small amount of dried fruits or dark chocolate is quite acceptable.                                                                        

One “bird nest” or “mini tuocha” is good for multiple infusions. To "revive" and clean tea, pour some hot water; let it sit for 1 minute, and then drain the brew. This act will clear and warm the tea because the Pu-Erh has been waiting to meet you for several years, so allow its strong and earthy flavor to unfold softly. The first brew of Pu-Erh should be steeped up to 45 seconds, and then subsequent brewing time should be increased. This tea is an excellent representative of Chinese teas that surprise consumers with the originality and complexity of flavor bouquet.


Boiling is an old method of preparing pressed teas. The most spectacular brewing of Pu-Erh is in a glass teapot when the stages of heating water and the behavior of tea leaves can be observed. When brewing Pu-Erh, the process is very important not to miss the stage called “crab eye”, when small bubbles start rising from the bottom of the kettle. At this stage, 1-2 cups of water should be poured out of teapot and then poured back, this stage is called "noise in the pines"  - the muffled sound prior to boiling. Thus, the water becomes rejuvenated and is ready to accept the tea. Pre-soaked in cold water, the Pu-Erh is introduced to the water prior to boiling. At the first stage of boiling - "string of pearls”, the teapot is removed from the fire and set aside for 30-60 seconds. The boiling process for this type of tea requires experience because of the excessive brewing time which makes the Pu-Erh infusion turbid, bitter and unpalatable. Another disadvantage of this method is that it is not economical. Boiled tea cannot be brewed again.

 

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