Loose Leaf Tea: From The Plant To Your Cup

by Elena Popec 6. July 2012 10:31

When you’re enjoying a cup of your favorite loose leaf tea, you’re probably giving little thought to the process those leaves went through on their way from nature to your kitchen.  The journey of your loose leaf tea, from plant to brew, takes several years and a lot of work.  The family of plants used for tea, Camellia sinensis, grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical regions, where it can be cultivated either by seed or by cutting.  Unlike the plants or flowers in your garden, it takes years for a new tea plant to bear seed, and at least 3 years before that same plant is ready for harvesting.  Once a plant is mature enough to harvest, workers pick the flushes (the leaves from the top 1-2 inches of the plant).  Because loose leaf tea is comprised of the premium quality tea leaves, hand-picking is the only way to ensure that the quality of the leaves isn’t compromised during the harvest. 

Once the leaves are painstakingly harvested and the best of the harvest are selected, the processing begins.  Because most teas (with the exception of herbals) come from the same plant, the processing is largely responsible for determining which variety the tea will become.  For all tea varieties, the process begins the same way; leaves are laid out, often in the sun, for wilting (also called withering).  This important first step allows for the leaves to dry out a bit, concentrating and strengthening their essential oils and flavor.  If the leaves are to become white tea, the process ends here; white tea leaves are then dried, rolled, packaged and ready for shipping.  For other varieties, there is still much work to be done.  The leaves begin the next step, fermentation (or oxidation); the reaction of the leaves when they are spread out and exposed to oxygen allows the leaves to brown.  It is this step in which the leaves will adopt the unique color and flavor familiar to tea drinkers around the world.  Different varieties of tea require different lengths of oxidation; leaves that will become black tea are left to oxidize the longest before moving on to the next step.

Because the length of oxidation is so important in determining the final variety of the tea, oxidized leaves are then heated and dried to stop the oxidation process.  Green tea, which requires no oxidation, skips that step and goes straight from wilting to heating and drying.  Finally, dried leaves are graded; only the finest, most perfect large leaves will go on to become loose leaf tea.  Leaves that have been broken or don’t meet the strict standards of loose leaf tea will be sent for grinding and packaging as bagged tea. 

Throughout the years-long process, tea leaves are meticulously supervised to ensure proper color and flavor.  From the plant to your cup, you can be sure that your loose leaf tea has been carefully cultivated and diligently monitored so you know you’re enjoying only the highest quality loose leaf tea brew.

What Is White Tea? And How Does It Improve Your Health?

by Steven Popec 5. July 2012 08:25

White tea is a popular type of tea originated in southern China. It is only lightly oxidized, which distinguishes it from more heavily oxidized strains of Chinese teas like oolong and black tea.

White tea has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its rumored health benefits. Today, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about white tea. We’ll also show you how white tea can help treat all sorts of serious conditions and diseases.

A basic guide to white tea

As far as teas go, white tea is a relatively new invention. It first came into use around two centuries ago. When white tea started to be shipped abroad, it was mistakenly labelled as black tea by people outside of China due to their similar manufacturing processes.

Eventually, people around the world started to appreciate the lightly sweetened flavor of white tea. The taste itself is not prominent, although there is a slightly malty flavor and a vague natural sweetness. Since white tea is neither bitter nor acidic, its weakened flavor makes it an ideal drink for anybody who’s experiencing tea for the first time. It also doesn’t have the strong herbal taste of green tea.

Despite what the name suggests, white tea is not white. Instead, it’s a pale green color. The name ‘white tea’ comes from the unopened leaf, which is covered in distinctive, silvery-white hairs. In China, buds are plucked before they open and then sun dried and lightly fired to make white teas like Silver needles.

White tea leaves have a light green color when dried. Since they don’t spend as much time oxidizing in sunlight, the leaves aren’t as withered as other Chinese teas.

You might notice some of the leaves have a fine, silvery fuzz on them, which comes from the hairs on the white tea plant. When drinking white tea, it’s not unusual to see these white threads floating on the surface of your drink.

Is white tea healthy for you?

Since white tea is derived from the same plant as black and green tea (the Camellia sinensis plant), it has similar health benefits. Here are just a few of the reasons why people love to drink white tea:

-Anti-inflammatory properties

-Reduces cholesterol

-Decreases blood pressure

-Boosts the immune system

-Reduces the effects of aging

Several official studies have been performed on the health benefits of white tea. A 1984 study at Pace University suggested that white tea has powerful anti-bacterial qualities that slow the spread of viruses and fungal growth. That study also concluded that white tea improves the strength of our teeth.

Further studies also reinforced the belief that white tea boosts the immune system. In 2009, a study at Kingston University proved the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties of white tea. That study concluded by stating that white tea is a healthy way to treat conditions like arthritis and heart disease. The antioxidant properties also make it a great anti-aging drink.

Conclusion

Some people like the light, unobtrusive taste of white tea, while other people appreciate its health benefits. Check out ESP Emporium’s full selection of white tea.

Loose Leaf Tea: The Oldest Health Food

by Elena Popec 3. July 2012 10:56

Tea, which comes from the plant Camellia sinensis, is well known around the world for its health benefits.  Although no one knows for sure how it was first discovered (one tale asserts that wayward leaves were carried by wind into the Emperor’s cup of hot water), there are records of tea being consumed in Asia as early as the 10th century BC.  Even then, it appears that tea was highly valued for its medicinal properties.  Early European explorers, interested in this new beverage, quickly spread tea cultivation west.  By the late 19th century, tea had become an important daily ritual across Britain and Ireland.  It spread with European immigrants to America, and its popularity around the world continues.  Today, peoples all over the globe have put their own unique stamp on tea, and it remains an important part of many cultures. 

Modern science proves that the ancient belief was right; tea does, indeed, pack a healthy punch.  Tea leaves contain over 700 compounds that contribute to and support a healthy body.  With cancer of all kinds running rampant and no cure, many people have turned to a more healthy and natural lifestyle as a form of defense against the devastating disease.  Tea, particularly green tea, contains a number of known anti-oxidants, which have proven to help protect against many cancers (including breast, prostate, skin, and lung cancer).  Several types of teas aid in the prevention of other chronic diseases, too.  Because it can help to moderate blood sugar, regular tea consumption can help protect against type 2 diabetes.  Green tea can also help lower cholesterol, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

The abundance of vitamins and amino acids found in tea are essential in maintaining good health.  It can help boost your immune system and improve intestinal microflora (crucial for proper nutrient absorption, metabolic function, preventing conditions like IBS, and repressing microbial growth).  Catechins, a flavanol found in tea, provide anti-inflammatory properties, and can help to suppress uncomfortable sensations like pain and nausea.  Another powerful compound in tea, L-theanine, has been shown to encourage a calm yet alert mental state in the human mind. 

Perhaps the greatest concern, at least for many Americans, is maintaining a healthy weight.  Dozens of fad diets come and go.  Some are effective for a short time, some are ineffective, and some are even proven to be unsafe.  One safe, effective, reliable weight loss tool is tasty, convenient, and inexpensive:  green tea.  Numerous studies have shown that regular consumption of green tea stimulates fat oxidation.  Additionally, tea is an almost calorie-free way to indulge in warm, rich flavor without compromising your diet.  While green tea won’t miraculously take off those extra pounds, it will certainly contribute to your healthy diet.  With its ability to help you maintain a more fit body, not to mention its delicious flavor, a few regular doses of this ancient Asian medicinal wonder is the natural addition to a healthful lifestyle.

Why Loose Leaf Tea?

by Elena Popec 29. June 2012 10:46

Tea is the second-most popular beverage in the world, so the chances are good that you’ve enjoyed a hot cup of this soothing brew.  Maybe it’s even one of your favorite drinks.  Given the global popularity that tea has enjoyed for the past few hundred years, it’s not surprising that it has evolved into a quick, convenient option.  For many people around the world (including most Americans), brewing tea is as easy as steeping a store-bought tea bag in a cup of boiling water.  In fact, since its inception in the early 1900s, the tea bag has become extremely popular for its convenience.  A trip to nearly any grocery store will reveal the immense success of the tea bag; in an aisle full of various flavors, styles, and types of tea available in bags, you’ll scarcely find a serving of the tea bag’s predecessor:  loose tea leaves.

But with tea bags so convenient, so easy, so readily available, why make the switch to loose-leaf tea?  You might be surprised to learn that loose leaf tea actually offers lots of benefits over its pre-bagged cousin.  Perhaps the most important difference is the quality of flavor.  Bagged teas contain broken (or even ground) tea leaves, which are usually the waste left over from sorting out the far superior whole leaves to be used in loose leaf tea.  Much of the leaves’ essential oils are lost in the breaking or grinding process used in producing bagged tea.  Whole tea leaves retain their essential oils far longer, resulting in a more true and robust flavor.  The bag itself can compromise the flavor of your tea, as well.  For the tea leaves to properly steep and fully develop their flavor, they must have enough room for water to circulate through them.  The small, flat design of most tea bags restricts water flow, thus limiting the steeping process (and your enjoyment of your tea!).  As an added bonus, buying your tea loose allows you to experiment with different blends and discover the flavor combinations that perfectly suit your taste.

If better flavor isn’t enough to inspire you to switch to loose leaf tea, maybe the nutritional benefits will.  Ounce for ounce, it’s hard to find another natural beverage that packs a more powerful nutritional punch than a cup of brewed, loose leaf tea.  The essential oils are the key here, too; it’s these oils that contain the natural chemical compounds which are so beneficial.  Loose leaf tea isn’t just good for your body, either.  It’s also healthier for your wallet.  When you buy your tea pre-bagged, you’re buying a lot of packaging.  There’s the tin or cardboard container, some kind of inner lining to keep the tea fresh during shipping (which is funny, considering the tea inside isn’t really that fresh to begin with), and of course, the tea bags themselves.  Loose leaf tea is much more economical.  Less cost, less waste, better flavor, and greater health benefits:  loose leaf is the clear choice for a great cup of tea.

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Tea Talk

The Ancient Chinese Origins Of Oolong Tea

by Steven Popec 28. June 2012 10:27

Like many types of loose leaf tea, oolong has been used for thousands of years. It was first cultivated in China thousands of years ago, and to this day, oolong tea plays an important role in Chinese culture. In fact, its name translated to English means ‘black dragon tea’.


Making oolong tea

Oolong tea has a complicated cultivation process. Before it can be used in tea, the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant must be placed in the sun and oxidized. During this process, the leaves wither, curl and twist to form the recognizable shape that we know today from popular blends like the Flower of Asia (Mango) Oolong Tea

The preparation process for oolong tea is known as gongfu tea-making, an ancient Chinese art that originated in the Fujian and Guangdong provinces of China. Its name literally translates to ‘making tea with efforts’, and the entire process of making oolong is very controlled and labor-intensive.

Ultimately, the process used to make oolong tea means that it tastes surprisingly similar to green tea and black tea. Since oolong tea ranges between 10% and 70% oxidation, it can be placed between green and black tea varieties on the oxidation scale. The tea itself has a dark brownish color.

Health benefits of oolong

As with many Chinese teas, oolong tea is rumored to hold a number of powerful health benefits. Here are just a few of the suspected benefits of drinking oolong tea:

Reduce cholesterol build-up: Many people believe that oolong tea reduces cholesterol build-up in the bloodstream, making it a very healthy drink for anybody who struggles with high blood pressure.

Eliminates digestive problems: Oolong tea has been shown to clear up all sorts of digestive problems. As a whole, it’s a very gentle drink for the digestive track to handle, making it a popular tea for people of all age groups.

Healthier bones: Some researchers have suggested that oolong tea can protect people from diseases like osteoporosis. Overall, oolong tea has been shown to promote stronger bones and prevent tooth decay.

Immune system booster: Like other types of Chinese tea, oolong is rumored to boost the functioning of the immune system, making our bodies stronger and helping prevent all sorts of diseases.

Weight loss: Many people drink oolong tea on a regular basis due to its weight loss properties. Along with all of the other benefits listed above, oolong tea has been rumored to increase metabolism and help reduce fat buildup throughout the body.

Overall, oolong tea has a number of ingredients that can benefit your health. Its antioxidants will repair the damage done by free radicals, for example, while the high potassium content improves brain functioning and aids your nervous system. Oolong tea has even been used to treat diabetes, as it often contains ingredients that help to regulate insulin levels in the body.

Conclusion

Overall, oolong tea is one of the healthiest types of tea on the planet. It is regularly drunk throughout China and the world due to its health benefits. Today, oolong tea is growing in popularity and is a healthy drink for people of all age levels and demographics.

How Do They Make Decaffeinated Tea?

by Elena Popec 26. June 2012 10:00

Some people like having caffeine in their tea, while others don’t. For those that don’t, ESP Emporium has a wide selection of decaffeinated tea available. But what is decaffeinated tea? And how is it made? Today, we’re going to show you how they remove caffeine from tea.


Caffeine is a natural ingredient that is found in over 60 plants. It can be found in the plants that make coffee (Arabica plant), chocolate (cacao tree), and cola (kola nut tree), for example. Of course, it’s also found in the Camellia sinensis plant, from which many types of tea (including decaffeinated black tea) is made.


Removing caffeine from these plants isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are four different ways to remove caffeine from its natural source:


Water processing: This is the most natural way to remove caffeine from plants. However, it is most often used with coffee as opposed to tea. In this method, no chemicals are used, and the caffeine leaches out of the plant after being soaked in hot water for a period of time. The caffeine is removed from the water solution using a carbon filter, after which the water is returned to the plants in order to reabsorb flavors and oils.


Carbon dioxide processing: Carbon dioxide is a natural part of the air and physically harmless. In this method, tea is produced under carbon dioxide high pressure, one of the most modern technologies existing so far. The suitable selection of processing conditions leads to a very smooth and safe decaffeinated quality. Once the CO2 reaches a certain level of pressure, it effectively becomes a liquid, binding with the caffeine molecules and removing them from the plant.


Methylene chloride processing: While carbon dioxide and water processing can remove caffeine from plants, they’re not as effective as using chemicals like methylene chloride. During methylene chloride processing, tea leaves soak in a chemical-based solution. The caffeine is extracted after binding with the methylene chloride. There is also an indirect method of methylene chloride processing in which the methylene chloride solution never actually touches the tea leaves. 


Ethyl acetate processing: As strange as the name may sound, ethyl acetate is actually one of the most natural ways to decaffeinate tea.  Ethyl acetate is found naturally in many fruits, and when placed in a water solution, it binds with caffeine and removes it from the Camellia sinensis leaves.


Of course, even decaffeinated tea has trace amounts of caffeine in it. While each decaffeination method varies in effectiveness, none of these processes will remove 100% of all caffeine from a plant. American federal law does dictate that any tea product labelled as ‘decaffeinated’ must contain a caffeine amount lower than 2.5% of the total product.


What do they do with the remaining caffeine?


All right, now that the caffeine has been removed from the tea leaves, you may be wondering what happens to it afterwards. After being extracted from plants, caffeine is a bitter white powdery substance. The caffeine powder is collected and then used in medicines or soft drinks. In fact, most of the caffeine used in soft drinks comes from decaffeination processing factories as opposed to being naturally sourced from the kola nut.

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Decaffeinated

Benefits Of Drinking Ayurvedic Tea

by Elena Popec 25. June 2012 09:20

You may not have heard about Ayurvedic tea. However, it’s making waves among tea fans and health advocates as one part of a healthy lifestyle.


Today, we’re going to teach you a few of the most important benefits of drinking Ayurvedic tea. 


Increased energy: Ayurvedic tea has been shown to increase energy levels in our bodies. Since Ayurvedic tea doesn’t contain caffeine, this is a cleaner and more natural energy boost. Say goodbye to jitters and other unnatural side effects!


Better metabolism: Ayurvedic tea also promotes a healthier metabolism in your body, which means that you can digest food more easily. As you might know, a better metabolism leads to weight loss, which is something everybody can appreciate. In fact, one of the main reasons why people purchase Ayurvedic tea is for its weight loss properties.


Body cleanser: Research has shown that Ayurvedic tea can remove toxins from your body. In fact, many people use it as part of a full body cleanse diet.


Anti-inflammatory properties: Whether you’re experiencing chronic pain or you just want to lower blood pressure, anti-inflammatory ingredients are good for your body. Ayurvedic tea has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which promote a wide range of benefits all over the body.


Caffeine free: Unlike other types of tea, Ayurvedic tea has no caffeine in it. Caffeine is a drug that can be harmful in large doses, and it’s important to limit your intake.


A collection of healthy herbs and ingredients: At ESP Emporium, our most popular Ayurvedic teas feature a blend of herbs that promote a healthy lifestyle. Our Ayurvedic Balance Herb Tea Blend, for example, contains ingredients like cinnamon, coriander, fennel, ginger roots, rose leaves, and licorice, all of which affect your body’s health in varying ways. Other ingredients – like juniper root – have antiseptic properties that can cure a number of different diseases, including urinary tract infections and kidney problems.


Promote memory retention: Certain herbs in Ayurvedic tea blends promote healthy brain activity and increase memory retention. Licorice root, ginkgo leaf, coriander, mint, and fennel, for example, all contribute to healthy brain activity in a number of different ways.

Ayurvedic holistic healthcare

Modern tea drinkers aren’t the first to discover the benefits of drinking Ayurvedic tea. In fact, people have known about its benefits for thousands of years.
The name Ayurveda comes from an ancient medicine practiced in India over 4,500 years ago. The Ayurvedic treatment system used a number of natural ingredients in order to promote healthy living and a balanced lifestyle. It involved balancing three ‘Doshas’ (energies) within the body.
In that sense, Ayurvedic tea was just one element of a wider range of natural health products. However, Ayurvedic tea remains popular today because of its connection with the ancient Hindu medicine.


Conclusion

In Sanskrit, ‘Ayur’ means life or longevity while ‘Veda’ means knowledge or science. When you drink Ayurvedic tea, you’re not just experience a rich and complex taste: you’re also making changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle.

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Ayurveda

All About The Tea Plant

by ESP Tea Lover 12. June 2012 21:21

What many people do not know is that the tea plant is native to Asia. In fact, many people think that the plant originated in South America which is pretty far off base! That said, there are areas of South America, the Middle East and Africa where you will be able to find the tea plant. It should be noted, however, that the quality of tea will differ in terms of taste and aroma depending when you get it, where it was from and how it was grown. At the end of the day you will be able to determine which teas you like best after you have taken the time to sample a few that are from different regions.


Rainfall and the Tea Plant
One interesting fact about tea plants is that the need to have a minimum of fifty inches of rain each and every year and need to be planted at at least 7,000 feet above sea level. If there is not enough rain then there will not be proper nutrition for the plant to survive and produce the type of tea that is expected. On the other hand, if there is too much rain the tea leaves will grow quickly and this will cause them to lose some of their flavor. All of that said, it is very important that the tea leaves be grown under proper conditions and monitored so that they come out perfect on terms of taste and aroma.


More about Elevation
The tea plants that are grown at the proper elevation produce the desired leaves at the correct rate. This means that they will just end up tasting better in the long run. When the high elevation comes into play the tea leaves are often forced to produce more chemicals internally to compensate for being up so high which can result in different and unique flavors. However, it should be noted that the temperature at these high elevations must also be right. If it is too cold, or too hot, then the tea will not have the desired taste. As you can see elevation is very important. The best tea in the world is grown at the perfect elevation.


Different Types of the Tea Plant
There are over 2,000 different types of tea plants out there. The end result of all of these different plants is that there are thousands of different teas all of which are unique to one another. In fact, each and every day there are new types of tea developed as there are always different variations of the plants being grown. The end result is that tea has evolved to the point where there is a flavor for everyone. There are literally thousands of options when it comes to finding the right tea for you.


Getting to know the facts about the tea plant will allow you to have a deeper appreciation of what you are consuming. Now that you know how much care goes into growing the plant you might want to take the time to think about where a really good cup of tea came from. Odds are it was grown at a high elevation with just enough sunlight and water.

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Tea Plant

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