Herbal Tea Blends - The different choices

by Elena Popec 27. July 2012 15:39

Although it is most commonly referred to by the moniker “herbal tea blends”, the vast varieties of steeped herbal beverages that are enjoyed all over the world are not really teas at all.  In fact, tisanes (the more accurate term for herbal teas) don’t even come from the same plant as true teas.  Black, white, green, and oolong tea have the same source:  the camellia sinensis plant.  The distinctive appearance and taste of any type of true tea comes from how the leaves are prepared once they are harvested.  Altering the amount of time camellia sinensis leaves are given to dry and oxidize determines the style of tea that will result; the more time tea leaves spend in the curing process, the stronger and bolder they will be. 

While tisanes packaged, sold, and prepared in the same way as true teas, their origins could not be more different.  True teas are made exclusively from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant.  Tisanes can have a variety of sources; the most common sources are the South American yerba mate plant, the South African rooibos bush, and any number of herb plants native to all parts of the world.  They can be made by drying different parts of the plants from which they come.  Tisanes are typically categorized by the part of the plant that is used to make them.  Many tea drinkers would be surprised to learn that a large number of the most common “teas” on the market today are actually tisanes:  mint and lemongrass (leaf tisanes), chamomile and lavender (flower tisanes), peach, raspberry and apple (fruit tisanes), ginger and Echinacea (root tisanes), cinnamon and black cherry (bark tisanes), and fennel and cardamom (seed or spice tisanes).  Unlike camellia sinensis, the plant sources of tisanes are used for much more than their leaves.  Because they come from such a wide range of plants and plant parts, tisanes offer many more options in flavor than true teas.  The wide variety of tisane flavors is often used to create flavored tea blends; true teas are mixed with tisanes to create varieties such as Chai.

Tisanes of all kinds have been steeped for centuries.  The ancient civilizations in Egypt and China left behind documented uses of tisanes for medicinal purposes as well as their general consumption for enjoyment.  Either in pure form or blended from various plant sources, tisanes were thought to have had a wealth of healthy properties that could ease anxiety and help to restore health.  Tisanes continue to be popular for both their delicious flavors and health benefits today.  They are naturally caffeine free (even decaffeinated true teas still contain trace amounts of caffeine), rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and are available in a broad array of flavors and blends.  No matter what your taste preferences are, you’re sure to find at least a few tisanes that satisfy your palate.  Tisane varieties are just as readily available, easy to prepare, and maybe for some even more tasty than true teas.

The History of Ceylon Tea

by Elena Popec 23. July 2012 13:28

As you might know, ‘Ceylon’ is the former name of Sri Lanka, a large island country off the coast of India in the Indian Ocean. But what’s the story behind Ceylon tea?  Some of ESP Emporium’s most popular black tea blends come from Ceylon. Today, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Ceylon black tea.

Ceylon’s tea industry is an important part of its economy. In fact, it’s the country’s largest employer. In total, Sri Lanka’s tea industry employs approximately 1 million people, making Sri Lanka the 3rd largest tea producing country on the planet.

Sri Lanka was once a British colony. Contrary to what you might believe, the first major crop in Sri Lanka was coffee, not tea. However, after the island’s coffee plantations caught a serious disease in the 1860s, Ceylon’s residents were left looking for another productive crop.

Tea swiftly replaced coffee as the island’s number one crop. Ceylon’s residents experimented with tea growing methods, cultivation techniques, and leaf manipulation in order to maximize the country’s output. Ceylon’s tea growing efforts were particularly aided by the efforts of a Scotsman by the name of James Taylor. He called Ceylon the “Pearl” of the Indian Ocean and recognized the island’s natural affinity for growing tea.

Because of the efforts of Taylor and other tea enthusiasts, Ceylon tea was soon being prized around the world. International demand grew rapidly over the years, and tea quickly turned into Ceylon’s most profitable plantation crop.

Sri Lanka’s tea estates

Ultimately, Ceylon’s booming tea industry led to the creation of a number of important tea estates in the central part of the country. During the British period, these tea estates were ruled over by a group of landlords called English Tea Barons, and as a result, many of the estates feature colonial Tudor styling and design.

Today, those tea estates provide valuable foreign exchange revenue and offer a reliable source of employment for approximately one million Tamils. The tea estates are located in both highland and lowland areas and offer a picturesque view of the surrounding countryside. Visitors to the country often visit Sri Lanka’s famous tea estates, and the estates continue to be the country’s most important source of revenue.

Sri Lanka tea benefits

Ceylon tea is rumored to have a number of powerful benefits. Namely, Ceylon black tea is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Like many East Asian teas, Ceylon tea is derived from the camellia sinensis plant, which has been linked to everything from healthy healths to weight loss. Because of all these benefits, Ceylon tea is valued around the world.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Ceylon tea is known throughout the world for its top-quality aroma, flavor, and health benefits. The country has a rich history in tea production that continues to be prominent to this day. Whether you’re visiting Sri Lanka or just drinking Ceylon tea, every sip you take is one steeped in history.

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Loose Tea, Part 2: The Brew

by Elena Popec 16. July 2012 10:16

A visit to your tea shop will probably lead you to a very reasonable question:  what do I need to brew my loose leaf tea at home?  Tea vendors generally cater to all kinds of customers, from the novice brewer to the veteran tea enthusiast.  If you’re overwhelmed by the array of tea pots, kettles, tea service sets, and mysterious gadgets out there, know this:  you don’t need all, or even half, of that stuff.  With a few (wonderfully inexpensive) tools, you’ll be able to get the most flavor and enjoyment out of your loose leaf tea. 

One of the most important tools, a decent kettle, probably already lives in your kitchen.  Yes, decent:  not top-of-the-line, not fancy, not high-tech, just decent.  If you can fill it with water, put it on the stove, and pour hot water out of it safely, it’s sufficient.  An electric kettle works just fine, too (in fact, you might find the temperature control on an electric kettle to be very useful).  The only other really necessary tool is a tea infuser; these can be purchased for less than $10.  Popular models include a mesh spoon that rests on the rim of your cup, or a mesh ball (or fun shape like an animal) on a chain that hangs in your cup.  Any model, whether you spend a few dollars or a lot more, does the same thing – it allows the tea leaves to float in the hot water, steeping and releasing their color, flavor, and aroma into your cup. 

Yes, a kettle and an infuser are all you need to make a fantastic cup of tea.  You don’t need the kettle with the built-in infuser, or the decorative pot, or the collection of bamboo tea tools.  And unless you’re hosting High Tea, you don’t need the pretty pot with the matching cups and saucers, either.

Now that you have your kettle and infuser, you’re ready to brew.  Start with cold, filtered (if possible) water in your kettle.  For the best flavor, you don’t want to actually boil the water; ideal temperatures are somewhere between 149° F and 210° F.  Generally, the darker the tea, the hotter the water should be.  Most kettles whistle when the water in them is boiling, so listen for hissing and remove it from the heat before you hear the whistle.  While the water heats, prep your favorite cup; add about one teaspoon of tea to your infuser, and set the infuser in the cup.  When the water reaches temperature, pour it gently over the infuser and let it sit for about 1-3 minutes, depending on the tea (generally, the darker the tea, the longer the steep).  For stronger tea, start with more tea leaves, but don’t mess with the steeping time; increasing the steeping time will make your tea bitter, not stronger.  Finally, remove the infuser and enjoy your soothing cup of perfectly brewed tea.  Yes, it really is that easy!

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Tea Talk

Brewing The Perfect Cup Of Loose Leaf Tea, Part 1: The Tea

by Elena Popec 11. July 2012 11:46

So you’ve decided to make the switch from bagged to loose leaf tea.  Great!  Now what?  With so many options, becoming a loose tea aficionado may seem intimidating.  Don’t worry – with a little know-how and a few good tools, you’ll be brewing and enjoying your loose leaf tea in no time.

The first step is finding the tea leaves to brew.  You may have noticed that they’re not as prevalent as packages of pre-bagged teas, but you’ll be surprised how easily you can get your hands on loose tea leaves if you look for them.  You can start with a look around your area for an independent tea shop.  Finding a local shop is great because you’ll be able to get information, guidance, and brewing tips from the owner.  You’ll also be supporting a local business and contributing to your local economy.  If you can’t find an independent tea shop in your area, make a trip to the nearest shopping mall.  As the popularity of whole, less-processed foods has grown, so has the demand for loose tea.  Tea shops are popping up in malls all over the country.  If your mall doesn’t have a tea shop (yet), and you can’t find an independent shop in your area, there’s one easy and convenient option – the Internet.  A quick search will reveal countless suppliers, across the country and the globe, offering countless varieties for you to try. 

Once you’ve found your tea supplier, your next step will be picking out the type of tea you want to try.  Most teas come from the same plant, and are categorized by the processing (usually a combination of wilting or steaming and oxidization) needed to arrive at the finished product.  White teas are the least processed and the lightest in color and flavor.  Black teas, the traditional alternative to morning coffee, are darker, bolder, and have higher amounts of caffeine than other teas.  Green teas have a pleasant, light but distinctive flavor that pairs well with many fruit flavors.  Oolong teas, which you’ve probably had if you’ve ever ordered tea in a Chinese restaurant, have a bold and unique flavor and are known for their weight-loss properties.  Unlike conventional teas, herbal, rooibos, and maté varieties are made from a combination of dried herbs, fruits, and flowers.  These blends come from plants around the world and have flavors as diverse as their origins.  Their light, fruity flavors (and the fact that they’re caffeine-free) attract many tea enthusiasts to the herbal family.

Loose teas give you the freedom of buying small quantities.  You can sample many types and varieties, without committing to a whole box of a tea you might not prefer.  Most tea shops have samples brewed; many are even happy to brew up a special taste of something you’re curious to try.  Ask your tea vendor how to store your favorite tea to best preserve its flavor (usually an airtight container), and you’ll be ready to brew!

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Preparation

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.

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

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

Celebrating National Iced Tea Month With A Perfect Glass Of Trendy Pu-Erh

by Elena Popec 14. June 2012 18:08

One of the most popular cold beverages in America is iced tea. What can be more refreshing on a hot summer day than a perfect icy glass of tea? Endless varieties of iced tea recipes can keep you cool throughout the hot season and benefit your body. Try a new twist on traditional recipes and experiment with pure and flavored teas, rooibos, herbal blends, fruit teas... Let's enter a world of iced tea together with our trendy Iced Minty Organic Pu-Erh recipe.

Minty Organic Pu-Erh Iced Tea (makes 1 quart)

Ingredients:

8 level teaspoons of China Yunnan Pu-Erh Organic Black Tea
4 cups of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 cup fresh mint
4 tablespoons honey
ice for serving

Directions:

1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil.
2. Combine tea leaves and fresh mint.
3. Pour water and let steep for 5 minutes. We recommend our Iced Tea Maker "Control", which will allow brewing fresh iced tea in a simple way!
4. Add honey and lemon juice
5. Serve in tall glasses over ice garnished with fresh mint and slice of lemon. Enjoy!

 

 

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Recipes

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