Loose Leaf Oolong Tea: The Process Of Fermentation

by Elena Popec 24. September 2010 12:39

Oolong or Wu Long means "Black Dragon". Oolongs are half-fermented (or semi-oxidized) teas that are in the specialty tea family. Half-fermented because the processing of Oolong tea requires only a partial fermentation (oxidation) of the leaves. Oolongs occupy an intermediate position between non-fermented green teas and fully fermented black teas and are the most diverse and interesting loose leaf teas. Oolongs can have varying degrees of oxidation that ranges somewhere between 10-35% in classic Chinese Oolongs to 60-70% in classic Taiwanese (Formosa) Oolongs. Oolong specialty tea is often made from mature leaves, collected from older tea trees.

Processing Oolong is considered the art of tea, where the character of tea is created. Tea masters participate in Oolong tea processing competitions to demonstrate their professional skills at this fine art.

Let’s take a look at Oolong manufacturing process.

There are no standard recipes on how to manufacture oolong tea; it is up to the discretion of each tea garden or tea master to decide on processing and the level of oxidation.
 
Immediately after gathering, the tea leaves are spread in a thin layer on special bamboo mats under direct sunlight for withering that will let most of water evaporate. The withering process time varies depending on the ambient temperature.
 
The next step of processing is very peculiar, withered leaves are placed in a large bamboo basket and put in a shady area. Approximately every hour, the tea leaves are shacked and gently tumbled in order to bruise the edges of the leaves to start an oxidation, at the same time avoiding breaking or crushing them. This procedure has to be done several times, until following effect will be reached: bruised up edges of the leaves due to the fermentation become brown blush (like 'rusty'), while veins and parts of the leaves should remain green.

Once the desired level of fermentation is reached, the oxidation process should be stopped immediately. This is achieved through the heat drying phase of raw materials in scorching air called "panning". The pan roasting of the leaves requires extensive experience in Oolong tea processing.

Most Oolongs are dried in two stages: first is partially, primary drying and rolling of tea leaves, then a final finish drying. Some highly fermented Oolongs undergo an additional stage of wetting and softening.

The partially drying process is carried out manually. This stage is necessary to stop the fermentation. Partially drying can be done in 2-4 steps, when the raw material is taken out of the oven, quickly cooled, then rolled. Then again dried in the oven, rapidly cooled, then rolled again, and so on. Afterwards, the leaves go through a final drying phase, ending oxidation and often followed by baking (roasting). Several kinds of Oolong are not rolled just dried after panning. With such a "multistage" technology, taste and degree of fermentation of Oolongs differentiate. Although, manufacturing Oolong is very intensive and meticulous process, unique aroma and flavor profile of this specialty tea makes this tea worth the trouble.

Good quality Oolongs are only loose leaf teas, not tea bags!

The most widely known and actively exported Oolongs are Chinese (Fujian and Yunnan) and Taiwanese (Formosa). Among the most well-known are Formosa Oolongs. Grown and manufactured in Taiwan, named after the province in which grown, these teas are considered the best in quality and affordability among Oolong the loose leaf tea family. Taiwanese Oolongs are often called "Champagne of Teas". Typically Taiwanese Oolongs are specifically labeled that indicates the quality of tea:

1. Fanciest or Extra Fancy
2. Fancy
3. Extra Choice or Extra Fine
4. Fine
5. Fully Superior
6. Superior
7. Good
8. Standard

Chinese Oolongs are famous for the fact that are used in a Chinese traditional procedure named Gongfu Cha and withstand up to 7 steepings.

Brewing Oolong is a very delicate process because it strongly depends on the type of oolong, more precisely, the degree of its fermentation. A lightly fermented Oolong is closest to the brewing of green tea with 190-195 degrees water and the brewing time 1-3 minutes. More fermented Oolong (such as Formosa) is brewing a little longer 4-5 min in hotter water 203-212. After brewing a quality Oolong has pronounced specific characteristics that cannot be mixed with any other kinds of tea.

 The best quality Oolongs expresses a strong and rich floral aroma and a remarkable peachy flavor with a honey-sweet aftertaste. Oolongs that closer in oxidation to black teas, have a nutty, toasted flavor. Color of brew is very diverse: from light yellow with green notes (like green tea) to a dark red. Oolong specialty teas contribute 2% of tea consumption of all the teas all over the world.

Enjoy a great cup of Oolong, happy drinking!

How to Find a Great Blend Tea

by Steven Popec 11. June 2010 07:34

The choices of flavors of teas can be overwhelming. There are literally thousands of different types and flavor pairings of teas. There are more types of teas in existence than a person could ever possibly try even in an entire lifetime. So, there are some things you should take into consideration when choosing a tea to taste.

The Basics
   
There are four main types of tea: black, oolong, white, and green. Among these there are many varied flavors, but most teas fall under one of these varieties. Another thing to consider is the quality of the tea. Tea that has been processed by hand has the best flavor, much better flavor than teas that have been processed by other means. The quality of the flavor is another thing to take into consideration. Natural flavorings are always the best choice.

Black Tea
   
Among the different types of teas, it’s important to know the main differences to begin trying out which ones you might like. Black tea is the most consumed worldwide but it has a strong flavor and the highest level of caffeine. It can handle strong flavors such as chocolate and strong fruits.

Green Tea
   
Green tea tastes sweet but has a very natural almost plant-like flavor. Most fruit flavors work well with green tea, as do herbs and spices. There are some flavors that could overpower the tea, however.

White Tea
   
White tea has a sweet flavor and aroma but its flavor can be overpowered by others very easily. Certain flower or fruit flavors do enhance the tea quite well. Melon and jasmine are examples which enhance the white tea flavor. Peaches, pears, and roses are also excellent to be paired with this type of tea.

Oolong Tea
   
Oolong tea has complex flavors, and it varies in flavor depending on how it is processed. It can range from being very similar to a black tea, to being very close to green tea. Peaches, apples, or oranges can be paired with this type of tea to enhance its flavor, but almonds or other types of nuts make good parings as well. Some spices and flowers can be paired with oolong tea as well.

The Health Benefits
   
There are many flavors of tea, but the health benefits of certain types of tea may alter your decision as well. Green tea and white tea have the most natural antioxidants of the other types of teas. When pairing these teas with healthy fruits full of antioxidants, you’ve brewed a drink exploding with health benefits. There are many fruits, spices, and nuts which have health benefits of their own that can be deliciously paired with white or green teas.

So How to Choose?
   
Learn what flavor teas you enjoy the most. Take some daring risks and try some flavor pairings you might not think would go well together. There are many different combinations of flavors of tea. Try out some different flavors and see which types of tea and which pairings you like the best. And by all means have some tea adventures and risk trying some bold new flavor pairings.

Flavored Tea: A Guide

by Elena Popec 2. June 2010 06:57

If you're new to the tea-drinking world, you'll want to have some fun experimenting with different flavors. However, at first you may feel overwhelmed. It helps to know something about how tea is grown and processed to start with. There are some similarities in the ways any tea is processed, and it's good when you're choosing a particular flavor to know what the process necessitates.

Tea Harvesting and Processing

First, the uppermost leaves of the plant are harvested and then they're left to wither for a day or so. There are chemicals inside these leaves that need to be released, so then the leaves are crushed. After that, the crushed leaves are rolled and left in the air to oxidize over a few hours. At the end, they're heated so that all dampness is removed. When the leaves have been completely oxidized, the result is black tea, which is probably the most commonly used in the world. Around seventy-five percent of people in the world regularly drink black tea.

Green tea, on the other hand, is heated before the leaves are rolled, so it is not oxidized and stays green. That green tea accounts for the other twenty-five percent of the tea that people drink. It's less common, but is becoming more popular as its health benefits are being realized and its taste is being appreciated. There's a vast array of tea flavors, so you'll probably want to focus on those within the category you prefer the most. If you like black, or green, or white teas, select from within that category to make it an easier choice.

A Question of Quality


Select loose tea that's been picked early in its growth to really get a great taste. You can go for cheaper teas, but you'll be glad if you don't stint on quality. It's always best to use teas that have been grown in gardens without chemicals and that have been processed manually over time without the aid of chemical additives that are meant to hurry the process along. Artificial flavors are also to be avoided as they take away from the tea's flavor, giving it a more harsh taste. If you like strong flavors, like licorice or blackberry, a black tea is your best bet. Its robust quality can withstand the addition of stronger flavors.

Flavors to Your Taste!

Coffee drinkers often take to black teas that are well flavored. Green and white teas are more delicate, so choose them if you enjoy more subtle flavors such as pear or mango. Green tea is so subtle and delicate that it really goes well with light fruits or herbs such as mint or ginger. That's especially true of white tea, also. It has an aura that you take in almost as if you're inhaling the sweetness of roses or strawberries as you drink. You can be sitting in your kitchen and feel as if you're lounging in a tropical garden. However, for total well-being, don't just opt for the flavors you like.

...But Remember to Try New Things Too!

Look into the health benefits of particular teas, also, and find those that help you deal with your own particular set of health issues. There are so many to choose from, and you can find out more online or at your local health food store. Green and white teas especially are filled with anti-oxidants that can prevent cancer and help lots of other physical issues you may have or want to prevent. If you haven't fully explored the world of flavored teas, this is the time to begin your adventure. Body and mind will be glad you did!

White Tea Benefits

by Elena Popec 25. May 2010 10:19

Many people around the world, including chefs and even scientists believe that white tea has numerous benefits towards everyone’s health. But do you really know what exactly white tea is and how you could benefit from white tea leaves? The immature tea leaves are alternatively called white tea. These loose leaves are picked from the tea plant just before the plant has fully bloomed. The name ‘white tea’ came from the fine silvery fuzz covering the tea leaf and making it white in color. The four distinct varieties of white tea include the White Peony, Silver Needle, Long Life Eyebrow and Tribute Eyebrow. The difference between them is the proportion in which the tea leaves are blended with the tea buds.

Harvesting White Tea

Usually buds turn into tea in two days after they are picked. When two tea leaves are mixed with one tea bud, it forms the White Peony and if the mixture is made completely of buds, it is termed as the Silver Needle tea. The low quality tea variety called Long Life Eyebrow is made by mixing up the left over leaves after the White Peony and Silver Needle harvest. Tribute Eyebrow is processed using a special tea bush and is also a lesser quality tea. All four white teas can be purchased in loose leaf forms. On the other hand, teas available in bags have comparatively less quality and flavor than white tea. Tea bags are generally tea leaf dusts that remains at the bottom of tea bins after harvesting, reducing the desired quality and flavor.

White Tea Research

Scientific research has also shown that white tea provides additional protection against skin cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer and even prostate cancer. Studies on the effect of white tea extract on skin exposed to direct sunlight has shown improved protection and reduced cell damage. A partially repaired immune system was also observed in some test subjects that consumed white tea leaves. Scientists found a wealth of antioxidants present in white tea and they suggested it may have anti-aging effect. Some compelling evidence has also been found in the direction of disease prevention using white tea leaves. It is shown that the white tea leaf extract may have the ability to stop pneumonia and the bacteria that causes Staph infection. It is also used to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, plaque and even bad breath.

What Else Can White Tea Do for You?

It is also believed that white tea leaf has anti-fungal effects. Recent studies have shown that some fungal types became inactive when the fungal drugs are consumed along with white tea leaves. Results of this study also show that white tea leaves might be used to prevent the fungus growth in certain similar conditions. Cholesterol is a health requirement and there are two kinds of cholesterol: good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. It is the bad cholesterol that causes the hardening of the arteries that could lead to heart attack. A type of antioxidants called catechins has been found to reduce bad cholesterol; white tea also helps raise the good cholesterol in the human body. It has been suggested that white tea leaves could lower the blood sugar levels, and thus reduce the occurrence of diabetic symptoms. More scientific research and results can be expected in the near future as the research on white tea continues.

Vitamins and Minerals In Tea

by Elena Popec 17. May 2010 07:31

Due to the variety of minerals, vitamins and other elements contained in tea, this drink improves health, relieves fatigue, strengthens the immune system and has an overall tonic effect on the body.

Mineral substances contain in green tea leaf and in finished products, it constitutes about 5-6% of dry matter. Among them are the following: potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron, manganese, fluoride and others. With the aging of the plant total number of minerals increases, while the most valuable part of the soluble reduces. Only the components of relatively small molecular weights which are infused with hot water give a specific accent to the tea infusion. Between the quality of tea and the content therein of soluble mineral substances there is a direct link.

The potassium content in the tea leaf is 50-60% of all mineral substances and depends on the mineral nutrition of plants. This compound plays a very important role in the livelihood of tea tree; it is given a great importance in the synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins, and in the general metabolism. Potassium is very important to the human body; it prevents muscle cramps and regulates fluid and electrolyte balance.

Another important mineral is located in the tea - phosphorus. Its content ranges from 15-20% of weight of all mineral substances in tea. The properties of the finished product depend on its quantity. The two top leaves and a bud have higher content of phosphorus compare to the lower coarse tea leaves and stems. It is known fact that phosphorus is needed for the human body for normal functioning, as part of the nervous, brain tissue and bones.

Despite the slight content, copper and iron play an important role in plant’s life. They are part of some physiologically important organic compounds, such as enzymes. Another, small in content, but necessary for redox processes, is manganese. Its share is approximately 1-4%. Due to the iron content, tea has a beneficial effect on the human blood, as well as a good means for the prevention of various vascular diseases. In addition, the body needs iron to transport oxygen.

The complex experiments revealed effects of the duration of brewing tea and the quantity of the tea leaves on the degree of content in the drinks of various trace elements. Adding citric acid increased the yield of all elements, except copper. In the end, it was found that  a tea drink satisfies the daily requirement of zinc, copper and manganese at 1, 2 and 50% respectively.

Now let us turn to vitamins contained in tea. This is mainly vitamins B complex and C. The tea shoot has the following B complex vitamins: B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3, and B5 (PP), B6, B12 and P. Since these compounds are very stable, in the processing they are almost completely transformed into finished products. Content of vitamin B1 is small - an average of 0.3 - 10 mg per 1 kg of dry tea leaves. In the body this vitamin (B1) regulates metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, fatty acids, has versatile affect on the function of the cardiovascular, endocrine and central nervous system. Vitamin B2 has positive effect on the skin and mucous membranes, the health of the liver. The most important is the presence in tea of vitamin P. One of its most important properties is the strengthening of the capillaries of the plant. During the technological processing of raw material quality and quantity of the vitamin are undergoing significant changes. Its content is reduced from 20-25% in green tea to 8-15% in the final. Along with others, the tea contains vitamin PP that is important for normalizing the higher nervous activity, the functions of the digestive system. It also affects the cardiovascular system, in particular, expanding the small vessels.

Tea leaves are rich in Vitamin C. Gentle leaves contain approximately 2-3 times more of this vitamin than the coarse. In the process of refining its amount is sharply reduced, especially during the fermentation and drying. This vitamin is essential for strengthening the immunity of a person, it reduces the risk of infections, but also useful for the prevention of osteoporosis and periodontitis (inflammation of the periodontal tissue, i.e. tissue surrounding the tooth root). Tea fluoride also provides the beneficial effect on teeth. This element exists in tea leaf as anion. Fluoride anion produces various fluoride compounds and covers the surface of teeth to prevent bacterial attack. Just wanted to point out that tea is very useful for vision, because it contained β-carotene and other elements, strengthens blood vessels.

 

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".

Ayurveda is a Doctrine Of Life, Health, Endurance, and Equilibrium Part 2

by Elena Popec 28. April 2010 15:33

Three doshas

As already mentioned, Ayurveda is also the doctrine of the three doshas - Vata, Pitta and Kapha that can be summarized as temperaments (energies). These doshas affect the five elements - ether, air, fire, water and earth. It is not surprising that the term "dosha" is often translated as "influencing factor". Everyone is characterized by individual structure and individual influence of the five defining elements.

Every organism is built from the same "building blocks". Vata is the energy that provides all the movement in the body and is affected by ether and the air. Pitta is the energy that is responsible for the body's metabolism and determined by fire and water. Water and earth form Kapha - the energy that is responsible for the body shape.

There are all three doshas in every person from birth in varying combinations, they interact and change. The combination of doshas determines the shape of the body and temperament of the person. In every person there are all types of doshas, but typically dominating one of them. Along with the "pure" type there are so-called mixed types with two or even three predominant doshas, where all are equal.

Vata - the principle of motion

Responsible for the change in the position of everything in the universe. This energy is accountable for the nervous system, respiration, secretion, blood circulation, the movement of muscles and tissues. In general, Vata is in charge for all motor processes in the body. When this Dosha is presented in the body in the right combination, it brings energy, creativity, enthusiasm and cheerfulness. Quality of Vata characterized with ether and air: dry, light, cool, lively, sharp and clear.

Pitta - the principle of alteration substances

Controls the metabolic processes. Predominant element in Pitta is fire: heat contributes to changing the forms and states. In the human body, Pitta is responsible for the transformation of substances and changes in body temperature. Pitta is also accountable for the flexibility, intelligence, warmth and cheerfulness. Pitta transforms and moves everything, whether it is food or experiences. Quality of Pitta characterized by fire and water: light, hot, oily, sharp, burning, free, changing and sour.

Kapha - the principle of constitution

Is under the influence of water and earth. Through water this dosha carries a connecting function. When there is no water, then there would be only dry.  Water keeps the matters together and makes possible the emergence of new compounds and promotes growth. Kapha gives a person strength, balance, body structure and flexibility. Kapha is responsible for fluid balance, and also provides the body with energy. When Kapha is in the right balance, it gives strength, endurance, good immunity, patience and calm. Quality Kapha can be characterized by the following: heavy, oily, cold, hard, durable, soft and sweet.

How to follow Ayurveda

Ayurveda recommends a balanced diet. This means that the diet should be made of all six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, spicy, bitter and astringent - in accordance with the rhythms of nature and the fact what person would prefer at this time. To do so, one needs to know what dosha predominates in a person and should be strengthened, and which, conversely, should be weakened.

Final words

Of course, you cannot tell you about all the variety of teaching Ayurveda in such a small article. Those who are interested in this topic may learn more about it from many books on Ayurveda. We hope that this article was able to brief you on the principles of Ayurveda.
                                                              
You will find the perfect balance for your energy in Ayurvedic teas. In these herb tea blends, you will find the ideal symbiosis from the Ayurvedic teaching and the Western imagination along with a expectation of taste. The Ayurvedic varieties generally do not consist of any orthodox teas, therefore, are caffeine free. Since the components such as pepper, cardamom, coriander, ginger root, cloves, etc. yield a natural strength and spiciness in the infusion, we suggest to add warm milk. These mixtures are also especially recommended for children and the elderly. Apart from this, you should try the blends pure, sweetened and hot or cold. Perhaps, enjoying "your" dosha tea, you will notice that little things can make a big difference!

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 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!

 

 

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