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

African Rooibos Tea Facts and Notes

by ESP Tea Lover 7. June 2012 18:21

Rooibos tea (pronounced “roy-boss"), also called red tea for its color is a tea that is sought after by many people, but also something that some tea drinkers do not except. If you are unsure whether this type of loose leaf tea is for you or not the best thing for you to do is give it a try. The fact of the matter is that you will never know whether you like it or not if you do not give it a trial run. The end result could be that you really like the taste and aroma. Many people drink red teas for the first time and quickly become hooked. All in all, red tea is something that you need to know a little bit about, as well as try, before you make a final judgment.


Rooibos Origins

In short, red tea comes from the African Red Bush. It was originally consumed by the people of South Africa but soon made its way to every other continent in the world. Once red tea was introduced to other places in the world it became a major source of income for the towns in South Africa that produced the tea. Since there was no alternative out there the people that wanted red tea had to get it from this area in Africa.

Rooibos Tea Flavor

Rooibos tea has a desirable sweet flavor. Since rooibos is free of caffeine and tannic acid, the preparation is very easy. Larger amount of tea or longer brewing do not have such big effects and the infusion remains perfectly enjoyable. It should be noted that the flavor of red tea is something that is highly regarded by tea connoisseurs. This means that for the most part, people who have dedicated a lot of time to tea and tea drinking find the flavor to be perfect. Rooibos copper-brown needle-like leaf is a great base for creating excellent tea blends using flower blossoms, petals, spices, coffee beans, caramel, chocolate chips and other decorations.


Are There Health Benefits?

The answer to this question is yes, there are numerous health benefits to drinking red tea. In fact, red tea is one of the healthiest beverages that you can consume. Not only is it completely free of caffeine but it also has many antioxidants. These antioxidants are responsible for promoting good health as well as ridding your body of any toxins that may be present. These antioxidants are responsible for helping you to look younger. If you want to make sure that your skin is healthy and you have a young appearance then you should drink red tea!
In addition, this tea is thought to have a very soothing effect. It will help to fight off allergies or even a headache. Your immune system will be boosted which means that you will feel better in general. These health benefits of rooibos tea make it very popular amongst people that take their physical and mental health seriously. Not only do you get the health benefits, but you also get the great taste!

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Rooibos

Japanese Tea Culture

by ESP Tea Lover 2. April 2012 11:01

Believe it or not, most of the tea traditions and rituals that are practiced by the Japanese people today originated in China many, many years ago. These rituals and customs were brought to Japan by monks that were in China studying. Fast forward to modern day and you will see that the main type of tea that is consumed by the Japanese public is green tea in a powder form or oolong tea that originated in China.


It was way back in the ninth century when the first monk returned from China with knowledge of tea. However, it was not until the twelfth century when tea really became somewhat popular in this part of the world. The powdered green tea was placed into a bowl that had hot water added to it. Next, it was mixed together to produce the earliest form of green tea. In addition to that, some of the monks that introduced tea to Japan also brought tea seeds back with them from China. These seeds were responsible for producing some of the best quality Japanese teas of this period.


At first, the powdered green tea that the monks brought back with them was used mainly for religious rituals or medicinal purposes. However, before long it was determined that tea drinking was to become a status symbol amongst the upper class citizens of Japan. Because of this early tea tasting parties developed where the participants could win big prizes just by guessing what the best quality tea was.


The basic Japanese tea ceremony began to evolve and develop hundreds of years ago. Specifically, wabi-sabi is a Japanese tea ritual that is somewhat sacred. The wabi is thought to represent the spiritual experiences of the human life whereas the sabi is thought to represent the outside experiences of life. When you put these two things together you are to have a nice experience that is sacred. Wabi-sabi is supposed to be experienced when drinking tea in Japan as there should be a subdued state of mind along with a spiritual awakening. The whole Japanese tea ceremony is a spiritual practice that is thought to help cleanse the mind, body and soul.


By the 1500’s the ritual of drinking tea had spread all over Japan. It was a ritual that was not only for the rich but also for anyone that had the means to partake. This meant that more and more families were getting involved with tea customs and tea culture. The end result of this involvement was the further development and enhancement of some popular traditions that are still being observed to date. Without the popularity of tea culture during this time period there is a chance that Japanese tea rituals would not be what they are today. For many people this may be hard to imagine as tea is such a large part of the lives of many people in this area of the world.


Since tea culture is so popular in Japan there are actually groups of people that get together in order to study it. These groups meet on a regular basis to talk about the different traditions and rituals that are present. The traditions and rituals are discussed and interpreted with an open mind at these meetings. Believe it or not there are dedicated tea schools in Japan that focus on the study of local tea traditions. Students that attend these schools usually pay a monthly fee that covers the cost of the tea as well as any complimentary equipment or books. The teachers at the schools will always be dressed in traditional Japanese outfits that fit the era being discussed. While most schools allow the students to be dressed casually, in some cases they will allow a student to wear the schools mark. Being granted permission to wear this mark means that you are a high level student that has a deep understanding and regard for the local tea traditions. In general, the newer students start out by observing the practices of the older students. In fact, the newer students may be taught much of what they know by the more advanced students instead of the teacher. These advanced students are the ones that are taught directly by the teacher. New students will learn about tea but they will also be taught about things such as how to enter a tea room in Japan, how to correctly open and close sliding doors and even who to bow to when they enter a room filled with people.

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Tea Culture in Taiwan

by ESP Tea Lover 21. February 2012 21:52

In Taiwan, loose leaf tea was first used as a medicinal plant. However, over the years it has developed into much more than that. The main reasons why tea has developed into something meant for relaxation is mainly because of who inhabited Taiwan in its early days. The Taiwanese tea culture can be traced back hundreds of years and has similarities to Dutch, Chinese and Japanese tea cultures.


The Dutch occupied Taiwan for about forty years in the 1600’s. They used the area as a trade post between China and Europe. Importantly, tea was introduced to Europeans by the Dutch and simultaneously left an impression on the people of Taiwan. Tea was grown by the Dutch on a very small scale in Taiwan during the time that they occupied the area but most of the tea that the Dutch consumed in the area was imported to them. At the time of the Dutch occupation, it is thought that there were a large number of Chinese immigrants that began to move into the area. These immigrants were believed to bring with them a good supply of tea seedlings in addition to their unique tea culture. Mass production of tea did not begin in Taiwan until the mid to late 1800’s. The local Chinese farmers began to grow the tea in large volumes and even established a tea factory in 1868. Believe it or not, shortly thereafter tea was exported to New York in the United States. Because of this, tea was one of the most important export commodities for the people of Taiwan. Tea simply became a daily beverage and way of life to the people. Like in other cultures, it is always offered on special occasions such as family gatherings or birthdays.


Much of the current tea culture in Taiwan comes from Japanese influence. The Japanese occupied the area from around 1900 to the end of World War II. While there, the Japanese organized the production of tea as well as the industry as a while. They were responsible for the promotion of Taiwanese tea to the world and expanding its market. At this time the Japanese inhabitants developed testing facilities for tea that were responsible for developing some of the world’s most popular flavors. To this day many of them are still very popular all around the globe. At the end of the war the Japanese had to give control of Taiwan back to the people of China. The Chinese further developed the tea culture from that point in time until present day. This unique culture is what has helped to make Taiwanese tea as popular as it is today.


In Taiwan, the typical family owns a minimum of one set of teaware that is used at home. In fact, many families own more than one set for use depending on the occasion. The teapots are used to brew tea until the surface area of the pot becomes a bright color. This is raising the teapot, which is all part of the culture. Raising the pot is a tradition that is believed to add beauty to the process. A nice collection of teaware can generally be found at any store in Taiwan. It is important to note that there are many other pieces of teaware that are important in addition to the pot.


Things such as a decanting vessel are necessary and used to make sure that the tea has the proper flavor as well as level of consistency. Other things such as a tray should be present in order to hold spills should there be an accident. All of these items are necessary in order for tea to be served properly. Since the tea culture is so important it is necessary to get the process of making and serving tea correct. In fact, serving tea in Taiwan is thought to be something that is done to show respect to your guests. That said, getting the process correct is of the utmost importance. Depending on who your guests are it may even be necessary to serve the tea with your finest teaware as you want to make a good impression on them.


Tea culture in Taiwan is something that has been influenced by other cultures all across the world. These influences have helped create a totally unique culture that is valued by the people that live in this country. The culture of tea in Taiwan is ever developing and will remain strong for years to come.

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Korea And Its Way Of Tea

by ESP Tea Lover 28. December 2011 19:45

Believe it or not, the first documented tea ritual in Korea was recorded in the year 661. Loose leaf tea was used as an offering to the spirits in hopes that they would provide protection even in the afterlife. These types of rituals were also common with the spirits of well thought of monks all the way into the fourteenth century. The rituals would take place in temples and could last several hours or even days! In addition, most of these rituals were overseen by high ranking officials to ensure that they were executed properly. Over the last several hundred years the Korean tea drinking rituals have been developed and evolving to the point where they are typically used just for special occasions. In fact, the rite to have tea was made a national rite that was made available to all residents of the country. This type of rite is not present in other countries that do not take tea drinking as seriously. Over history there have been periods of decline in the ceremonial tea rituals of Korea. However, each time there was a decline it was followed up with a period of great interest. This fact alone shows how serious the people of Korea are in regard to the tea rituals that they hold so dear. No matter what the circumstances surrounding the decline in tea drinking it has always seemed to make a comeback is it is central to the core values of the people.


The interesting thing about Korean tea ceremonies is that they seem to follow along with the seasons.  Because of this, the way in which the tea is served varies greatly depending on what time of year it is. However, for the most part tea is always served with the assistance of bowls and cups. Much of the time the bowls and cups are green with images and designs on them for decoration. There are, however, instances where the cups and bowls are different colors. For example, special situations may call for a bronze or white cups and bowls. In the summer months the bowls that are used are about 5-centimeters high and 12-centimeters wide. These dimensions are important because it allows for quick cooling of boiling water as there is more surface area that is exposed. The boiling water is cooled in the bowl and then emptied into a teapot. In Korea, the water is cooled because pouring water that is too hot over the tea will make the product taste bitter. In the fall and winter the bowls are taller and narrower so that they could maintain the internal heat without cooling too much. The tea would be made the same way that is made in the summer- the water is poured into a teapot making sure that it is not too hot so the taste does not become bitter.


It should be noted that the way in which the tea is consumed is unique and unlike most other tea cultures. In short, the approach to tea is less ritualistic than other places. The emphasis is on relaxing and enjoying the tea. In other cultures the emphasis may be on the technique that was used in making it and even the way in which it is to be consumed.  Because of this, the Korean teahouses are all a bit different in design and styles. For example, some will offer food along with the tea while others will not. The teaware that is used can also vary from teahouse to teahouse as there is not strict guidelines that must be adhered to. The thing that is common in all the teahouses in Korea is that the best local water is used to brew the tea. Some teahouses in Korea even go as far as to develop their own springs where they can harvest high quality water. The water is taken from the spring, boiled and then immediately used in the tea making process. This ensures that the taste of the tea is natural and that it is unique to the area that the tea is being consumed in.


Tea has always been served in Korea on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. The tea signifies the importance of the event as well as makes it memorable. Most often the tea will be served with some other type of cake or pastry for the guests to enjoy. At the party the host or hostess is in charge of making sure that all the guests have the tea just how they want it. This is a sign of showing respect to the guests that you have invited to the party.

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Tea Culture in China

by ESP Tea Lover 30. November 2011 11:56

Tea culture in China is completely unique in the way that it is prepared, consumed as well as presented. The fact of the matter is that tea is consumed on a regular basis in China regardless of if the occasion is formal or not. The Chinese view tea as a major part of their way of life as well as their history. Chinese tea culture has developed over centuries to the point where it is very refined. In today’s day and age there are many customs that are practiced in regard to tea drinking in China.


One of the biggest reasons why tea is consumed in China is as a sign of respect. It is a common practice for a young person to offer tea to an older person in Chinese society. This is done out of respect for the older generation. In a formal occasion a younger person should never expect an older person to pour them a cup of tea. For example, a mother may pour her children tea at home but when out in public the children would pour the tea for the mother. This ritual is well regarded in Chinese society and is always practiced in formal situations. Even though china is becoming more liberal, this is till practiced all across the country.


Another time when tea is served in China is at a family gathering. The tea is the center point of the gathering as it gives families a reason to get together. In china, parents rarely see their children after they grow up and move away. That said, emphasizing tea gives them a reason to get back together. On Sundays most family restaurants in china are crowded as there are families drinking tea together. The tea drinking is a reflection of the Chinese emphasis in regard to family values.


If you have done something wrong that you wish to apologize for it would also be appropriate to pour tea for that person. Tea is seen as a way to apologize for a serious offense. You would want to include tea if you are sincerely apologizing to a sibling or spouse for a misfortune. An example of this is if a child pours tea for the parent. The child is showing that they are regretful of their actions and that they wish to apologize. Without the use of tea the apology can be considered insincere by the person receiving it.


If you are getting married in China tea is used to express thanks on the day of the marriage. In a Chinese wedding the bride and the groom will actually kneel down before their parents and serve tea to them. This is the Chinese way of showing your parents how thankful you are for everything that they have done for you in the past. After the tea is served the bride and groom will say a few kind words and the parents will drink the tea. After the tea is consumed the parents will give the bride and groom a red envelope which symbolizes good luck in the future. In a later tea ceremony you may see the bride serving tea to the groom’s parents. This symbolizes that she has become part of the family. In addition, tea at weddings in china can be used as a way for people to introduce themselves. The bride and groom may serve tea to everyone in attendance in order to get to know them a little bit better. If a family member does not drink the tea that you serve it shows that they do not want you in the family. On the other hand, if they do drink the tea it shows the highest level of acceptance.


A final tea ritual performed in China is the folding of a napkin when drinking the tea. It is believed that folding the napkin is a way to keep bad energy away from the married couple. Since tea was regarded as a daily necessity it was important to do this as bad energy would interfere with it. The other daily necessities that the Chinese observe is firewood, oil, rice, soy sauce, salt, medicine and cuisine.

The use of tea in Chinese society is very important to all. It is consumed whenever and wherever it can be. The bottom line is that the Chinese rely on tea as a way of life- without it there would be a major loss in terms of tradition and culture that has been observed in China for many generations.

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Tea Culture in Europe

by ESP Tea Lover 23. November 2011 10:14

The tea culture in Europe is quite unique and distinct. Not only is it about the way the tea is consumed, but it is also about how it is made as well as the social aspect of it.


In the Czech Republic the tea culture has been evolving and developing for centuries. Recently, the style of tea rooms has been a hot topic in this area as they differ from the more traditional British style tea rooms. The tea rooms in the Czech Republic are very diverse and offer a wide assortment of teas. The most exclusive tea rooms can have up to eighty different types of teas from multiple different countries. The most unique fact is that these different tea rooms have all developed their own style by creating different blends of the teas along with different ways of serving them.


Russia also has a unique tea culture. The method in which the tea is served usually involves an expensive tea glass that is made from silver as well as other alloys- sometimes the tea glasses are even gold plated. Russian tea culture dictates that the tea be brewed separately and then diluted with water that has just been boiled. The tea that is served is usually quite strong. In fact, it is thought that the strength of the tea is an indication of the hospitality of the host. In Russia drinking tea is an event that is traditionally for the whole family. The tea is generally served after a large meal along with things such as jams and pastries. It should be noted that in Russia black tea is the most common and traditional tea bags are not. A traditional Russian tea time consists of loose leaf black tea.


Though not as popular as other parts of Eastern Europe, there is a tea ritual in Slovakia. Interestingly enough, the tea culture in Slovakia is considered somewhat underground by the residents of this region. However, there are numerous tea rooms that have gained popularity in many mid-sized towns. The thing about these tea rooms that have made them popular is the fact that they offer a quiet environment that has relaxing music for the patrons. Of equal importance is the fact that they are almost all non-smoking establishments. This is in sharp contrast to the pubs that are located in the country.
In regard to tea culture in Germany, it is most popular in the eastern part of the country. The eastern region has a very strong to various tea traditions. In fact, tea is so popular hear that it is often drank at all hours of the day. The typical German tea will have three layers to it. The top layer is mostly cream, the middle layer is the tea itself and the bottom layer is a sugary candy that melts slowly. It is against tradition to mix all three of these elements together as it will ruin the ability to savor the tea in general. Tea in Germany is always served with cookies during the week and cakes during the weekend or special events. In addition, the German style tea is thought to cure headaches, upset stomachs as well as relieve stress.


Even though France is better known for its different types of coffee, afternoon tea drinking has long been part of the culture for the wealthy and elite. The most popular tea in France is black tea. However, other types such as green tea and Asian tea are becoming more mainstream.  Afternoon tea in France is usually served with sugar, milk or lemon. Furthermore, when drinking tea it will almost always be accompanied by a pastry. The interesting thing about the pastries is that they are usually of the non-sweet variety.
 Portugal has a growing tea culture that is most dominant on the Azores- a series of islands that are located to the west of the mainland. An interesting fact is that Portugal was the first European country to indulge in tea drinking as well as the being the country responsible for introducing tea to the rest of the continent. The production of tea in Portugal dates back to the mid 1750’s and is still being produced today. The tea production in Portugal is focused on an organic growing process where no pesticides or herbicides are allowed. However, the general production standards for tea in Portugal have not changed for the better part of two and a half centuries- neither has the way in which the population consumes it.

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Traditions

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Tea

by ESP Tea Lover 23. August 2011 08:30

When it comes to tea preparation, this process is as important as the tea being brewed; you do not want to find yourself buying batch of premium teas and not enjoying a full potential of the tea.  The beauty of loose leaf tea is that it is such a delicate substance that in order to unlock all of its flavors you need to be methodical about the brewing process. Like everything amazing, a great cup of tea begins with the best ingredients: your favorite tea, right temperature and time it needs to be brewed in, and something most might overlook, water. After all, every cup of tea is composed primarily of water so it is imperative to use the right kind of water to steep your favor cup of green tea, black tea, herbal tea or many others.

 Alright, so I preached the importance of every ingredient involved in the preparation of your favorite cup of tea, and water is the topic of our discussion. Before you worry about how difficult or special the water might have to be for your tea, I want you to take a sip or two of chamomile herb tea (it tastes best with hint of dandelion honey), please stick with me. These days we are surrounded with an immense variety of aqua, from its origin to pH levels and calcium levels; all this fine and dandy but when paired with spoonful of Silver Needles white tea, you do not want to make any mistakes.

So before you put that kettle on the stove make sure of few key steps to prevent from making your tea dull and flavorless. Firstly, make sure you are using the purest water available to you, it might sound silly but many different location have different quality coming out of its tap; if you are not 100% confident that your tap water is best then I would advise to use filtration system, and you do not need to install an enormous water purifier or buy dozen of gallons of filtered water, instead use a simple water filter that eliminates the chlorine, salt, calcium, and any other heavy particles in water; essentially you are trying to make your water as “soft” as possible. While boiling water helps for all those heavy minerals and particles to descend it does not eliminate them. So what is the ideal water for brewing tea? Well, most experts agree that spring water, because of its purity, freshness, and high oxygen level. However, it might be difficult to find your local well or natural spring source in the middle of NYC. So why not give all those bottled waters a try, right? Yes and no, many of the bottled waters might have minerals added to them, or in case of distilled water it's so purified that is considered dead water.

So to wrap this up, be cautious what you prepare your tea with, and if you looking for a safe bet and you can’t get your hands on natural spring water, then use your tap water just make sure to filter out all heavy minerals and others additives that are in it.

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Tea Talk

The Most Healthy Teas - What Can Tea Do For You?

by ESP Tea Lover 18. May 2010 23:51

Whether you’re an avid tea drinker with a cup board filled with exotic smells which fill the air each time you swing open the door, or you just enjoy the occasional cup of tea. It’s important that you understand the health benefits that certain teas can provide.

The big misconception is that tea often is viewed as just another beverage. However this is far from the truth, throughout the ages tea has been used as both a direct and preventative medicine.

Now we have study after study coming out all proclaiming a new health benefit of tea, but which tea’s are the healthiest? We will study the teas group by group so you understand the implications and benefits of all the different varieties.

White, Black, Green & Oolong - Camellia Sinensis

The first group of teas are clumped together because they are all found off of the same tree - Camellia Sinensis. The great thing about all these teas is that they are loaded with antioxidant polyphenols.

What do antioxidants do? Well, antioxidants basically help your body eliminate unwanted bacteria and chemicals which it cannot process on it’s own.

Some of the cited benefits of having enough antioxidants? Less heart attacks, lower cancer rates, longer living and the list goes on.

Keep in mind, that all these teas have an antioxidant count so high that they will match or beat most plants on the ORAC scale, a test which measures the antioxidant potential within plants and fruits.

Since they all come from the same tree, the only actual difference between these teas is when they are picked. To achieve the different colors, tastes and variants of tea. They are all harvested at different times throughout the year, but all with basically the same benefits.

Herbal Teas - Are They Any Good?

The first thing you’ve got to know about herbal teas is that most do NOT contain any health benefits. This is because they are usually an infusion of plants, berries and leaves put together to achieve a particular flavor or brew, but not provide health benefits.

Because most herbal teas substitute the Camellia plant with Tisane (a homogenous root to Africa) they do not contain antioxidants to the same extent. However other benefits such as relaxation have been cited. Further research is still required before we can completely discredit or confirm the health benefits of herbal teas.

Caffeinated Vs. Decaffeinated - The Choice?

A lot of people get antsy about the amount of caffeine they consume and worry about going over the limit. You can rest easy knowing the caffeine count in most teas is about half that you’d get from the same size cup of coffee.

However for those of you who prefer to drink decaf tea keep this in mind. So far it’s uncertain whether the de-caffeination process removes the beneficial antioxidants or keeps them untouched.

So our advice to you?

If you’re looking for tea with health benefits make sure that you pick a variety which originates from the Camellia plant.

Also to receive the full benefits brew your tea for 3-5 minutes allowing the water to absorb up the plant matter, antioxidants and taste.

It’s important you brew your tea properly otherwise you won’t receive the health benefits. Ideally you should be drinking anywhere from 3-6 cups spread out throughout your day.

Always remember to know what you’re drinking but most importantly enjoy what you’re drinking. Enjoy your tea and take care!

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