When I got to work this morning (if you call going to Selby Gardens, sipping, talking tea all day work!) I decided to crack open our Young Pu-erh. Pronounced Poo-Air, a special broad leaf tea, pu’er tea takes its name from the Pu’er county in the Province of Yunnan of China.
This is not a tea I reach for often. Maybe I should not call myself a dedicated tea drinker because of this, but I was given a newspaper article about an area called Menghai in China. NYTimes Jan 2009
Farmers and citizens got rich investing and selling the bricks of Pu-er tea produced in Menghai. Some buyers promoted it as liquid gold and when the value hit record levels they dumped their stock and disappeared. Now it is less than a 10th of the peak price and the tea traders are no longer buying, leaving the farmers and citizens broke.
What is Pu er tea? Let’s talk about this tea that people are willing to pay huge amounts of money for. Pu Erh goes through an additional oxidation process much like composting where bacterial and fungal fermentation takes place. Many refer to it as pu erh fermented tea.
The tea can then be aged for many years. Aged Pu Erh tea leaves are often compressed into cakes or bricks and then wrapped in tissue paper to absorb moisture. The bricks are then left to mature in dark, dry places enhancing the already earthy flavor.
Pu Erh is said to lower cholesterol, cure hangovers, help with digestive problems, aid metabolism and tends to be low in tannins. Our Young Pu Erh at Local Tea Company is loose rather than compressed. The flavor is very pungent and earthy, smells like a compost heap and looks like tar so I know it’s going to be good for me!
I finish the first steep and continue with four more steeps. I like the later steeps better than the initial steep and find a lovely sweet beet tasting dark golden liquor with the fourth and fifth steep.
By this time, late in the afternoon I am thinking Pu Erh should be brewed more often by me and shared with visitors to Selby Garden as well as the Sarasota Farmer’s Market. I’m not sure I would invest pots of money in Pu-erh but it is definitely worth experiencing. What a fascinating thing this drink called Tea!
the Tea Lady
“Tea, Earl Grey, Hot… and whoever this ‘Earl Grey’ fellow is, I’d like a word with him..”
-Jean Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation
This week one of our glorious customers ordered some Garden Grey Black Tea. This is a tea we blend ourselves with organic lavender grown in the wilds of Tibet. What an aroma! While this is not one of our more popular teas, it did get me thinking about Earl Grey in general.
Most tea lovers are familiar with Earl Grey. One whiff of this tea reveals the distinctive aroma on the nose and in the cup. This is a very traditional black tea with the addition of oil extracted from the rind of the bergamot orange, a very fragrant citrus fruit.
What about the man behind the tea?
Charles Grey (1764-1845) descended from a long established Northumbrian family seated at Howick Hall and was educated at Eton and Trinity College and Cambridge. He became the 2nd Earl of Grey, was a politician in the Whig party (Democrats) and he became Prime Minister at the ripe old age of 22! His first parliamentary address as PM was in 1787 and concerned a recent free trade agreement made with France, to which he was very opposed. He was involved in four years of political reform, the author of the Reform Bill of 1832 (which saw the reform of the House of Commons) and had an enormous impact on the development of democracy in Britain, abolishing slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833.
The Whig historian T.B. Macauly wrote in 1841,
‘At an age when most of those who distinguish themselves in life are still contending for prizes and fellowships at college, he had won for himself a conspicuous place in Parliament. No advantage of fortune or connection was wanting that could set off to the height his splendid talents and his unblemished honour.’
Outside of his political achievements Earl Grey enjoyed the life! He was said to be tall, slim and strikingly handsome, had 10 sons and 6 daughters with his wife and fathered at least one illegitimate child! Earl Grey enjoyed gallivanting around the country, breeding dogs, playing cribbage and also found time to have an affair with the Duchess of Devonshire.
There are several tales as to how the tea was named after such a noble and colorful figure! According to the most popular legend a grateful Chinese mandarin whose son was rescued from drowning by one of the Earl’s men, first presented the blend to the Earl in 1803. This legend seems to have little basis as the Earl apparently did not set foot in China and the use of bergamot to scent tea was then unknown in China. Jackson’s of Piccadilly claim they were the originators of the recipe, which was given to them by the Earl himself.
While the truth is not known, like the very popular Earl himself, this tea is one of the most well known flavored teas in the world. Many people who I chat with over the years claim not to care for the very distinct flavor of Earl Grey. I have found by offering samples of Earl Grey, that most people have never experienced a good quality, loose leaf tea and the quality of both the tea and the bergamot is paramount! Any deviation can result in an unpleasant tea with a residual taste on your palate.
When brewing a hot cuppa Earl Grey, we infuse for only 2 minutes or so, and then enjoy multiple infusions from the same leaves. It is the perfect accompaniment to tea sandwiches and cakes (Mmmm!) but just drinking alone is fine too. ‘Gallivant’ with your Earl, and find your favorite way to enjoy.
Along with the Garden Grey, we offer two version of Earl Grey Black tea, one is our premium blend Earl Grey and we also offer an Organic Earl Grey. Our Organic Earl Grey is the tea we offer in the silk tea sachets and can be found served from nearly all of our serving partners.
You may be surprised to find you like the Earl, now that you know a bit about the man behind the tea.
Tea is a wonderful way to show your love, appreciation, respect or that you are thinking about someone. Perhaps the universal gift, as age, gender, geography, time of year, relationship status or any other boundary can be crossed safely, without confusion. While the gift of tea can be personal, the truth is everybody has a tea they like or love, some just don’t know it yet.
We recently added a Tea of the Month program, either 3 months or 6 months. That got us thinking about “gifting” tea. Here are a few thoughts to consider when giving the gift of tea…
1. Caffeine or Herbal (caffeine-free)
Caffeine is an important consideration, especially sensitive as we are here in Florida. Caffeinated teas are a great way to begin the day or a superb lift in the late afternoon, but to the novice or the beginning tea drinker, caffeine can create problems. A wonderfully flavored black tea like our Organic Strawbango might not be the best tea to drink after dinner. I always ask the server for their home number, when ordering herbal or caffeine free beverages, so if I am awake at 2:30 in the morning, I know who to call. When in doubt, go with an herbal, rooibos or fruit tea. You can’t go wrong with our Organic Peppermint, Selby Select Rooibos or Siesta Tea (fruit tea)
2. Loose leaf tea or teabags
We are quite partial to loose leaf tea at Local Tea Co, tea lovers and experienced tea drinkers tend to prefer a loose leaf tea. The tea typically will be of a better quality, fresher and a much better value. It cost money for the convenience of bagging tea! Loose leaf teas also provides more flexibility in how much tea you might want to brew; tea for two or three or a big pot for your sewing circle. That said, teabags especially biodegradable ones we offer, SOILON sachets, are very convenient for anyone traveling or those interested in trying a new tea. Check out the many options of our tea samplers available in loose leaf or in sachets. If they don’t love the tea, it can always be served to guests when they come over for a cuppa.
3. Flavored tea or and pure blends
Would you rather a gift of Organic Sarasotan Breakfast blend (an unflavored pure blended tea) or our Organic Earl Grey (flavored with the oil of Bergamot), this may be the easiest comparison. Though there are so many spectacular blended teas from our Goji Green or Jasmine green tea with flowers to our Cochin Masala Chai or our many rooibos blends. What is better than a strong cup of pinhead gunpowder green tea or a pure Organic Sencha. Maybe a pot of our ruby Organic Red Berries that you can share with the kids or enjoy as an iced tea later in the day. Tough one, but that is why you are an expert gift giver, and you really can’t go too wrong!!
Is the gift for a serious tea drinker, someone loaded with tea accessories? Do they really need another tea ball with an elf Fob? Go with an expensive porcelain mug with painted flowers. Our cat mugs sold incredibly well at our Selby Gardens Tea Shop, and they still sell floral mugs in the Garden Shop. Or for a more modern gift, one of the newer steep-in-one traveling mugs. There are lots of options for tea lovers, and for the newbie just starting their tea journey, a box of tea bags or a few mesh balls of different sizes or tea spoons will spark a conversation. Or get them an inspired gift, maybe a bamboo tea basket and challenge them to figure it out! And there is also the whole category of things that can be added to tea that make for a wonderful gifts, honey or jams are always welcome.
Most important is not to overthink your gift. The person you are gifting is going to appreciate the gesture you are making, and the thought behind this gift. They will love it as much they love you. Find a clever and creative tea, we recommend our Mable’s Rose Rooibos or the tropical fruity Mote Beach Tea. Find a tea that has some meaning, or to be realistic, something that can easily be ‘Regifted’.
‘The naming of teas is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your everyday games—
Some might think you mad as a hatter.
Should you tell them each goes by several names.
For starters each tea in this world must belong, to the families Black or Green or Oolong;
Then look more closely at these family trees—-
Some include Indians along with Chinese.”
T.S. Elliot, The NAMING OF CATS with liberties taken by Local Tea Company :>
The naming of this tea was very difficult too and you have every right to think the name was taken straight from a T.S. Elliot book! We are very excited about our Organic Strawbango Black tea and know many will love this blend as much as we do. Read More
‘I’m a tidy sort of bloke. I don’t like chaos. I kept records in the record rack, tea in the tea caddy and pot in the pot box’
I found this quote from my favorite Beatle very amusing. I also share the sentiment, excluding the part about the pot of course!
The tea caddy was a favorite kitchen item from my childhood and I have memories of opening our caddy and inhaling the rich smell of loose tea when Mum gave me me instruction to “put the kettle on and make a pot of tea”.
A TEA CADDY is a box, jar, canister, or other receptacle used to store tea. The word is believed to have derived from ‘catty’, the Chinese pound. The earliest examples that came to Europe were of Chinese porcelain in the shape of a ginger jar. They had lids or stoppers and were most frequently blue and white.
Later designs used a variety of materials with wood becoming very popular. Tea was very expensive so the caddies were locked and the keys only available to the lady of the house. In the late eighteenth and through the nineteenth century the caddies became even more elaborate often mounted in brass and delicately inlaid, with knobs of ivory, ebony or silver. Read More
November 5th is the perfect time to talk about our Pinhead Gunpowder green tea. For me, this tea conjures up images of Guy Fawkes, a very celebrated and notorious fellow in Great Britain. Born in Yorkshire, I am sure you have seen the mask below on Halloween or in the “V for Vendetta” movies or comic books, but do you know what Guy Fawkes was notorious for besides drinking Yorkshire tea?
“Remember, remember the Fifth of November, Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
In 1605 a group of conspirators including Guy Fawkes attempted to destroy the House of Parliament by filling the cellar with explosives. Known as the “Gunpowder Plot”, the conspirators wanted a Catholic King rather than the protestant King James I. The plan did not work and Guy Fawkes was captured, hung, drawn and quartered for his part in the plot, but his name lives on. Guy Fawkes Night is a festival in Britain remembering the Gunpowder Plot and the King’s survival. Read More
In 18th century England, tea was an expensive commodity, heavily taxed and a luxury for the rich. At that time coffeehouses were popular meeting places for social interaction where news and views were exchanged, though women were banned! Because of escalating drunkenness of the working classes (gin and ale being their drinking options) it was decided to start serving tea to ‘persons of inferior rank’. Many new cafes and coffeehouses opened as alternatives to pubs and inns leading to the Temperance movement.
The Preston Temperance Society of 1823 was started in the north of England by Joseph Livesey to promote abstinence from alcoholic beverages. The movement quickly spread throughout England and to the States. In the village where I was raised in Yorkshire, there was a hotel called the Temperance Hotel. The picture above depicts Christian women in the New York promoting the movement . Read More
“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little
stronger with each year that passes”.
We answer a lot of tea questions at Local Tea Company, and the most popular inquiry is about what makes for a good cup of tea? This tea quote is taken from an essay published in the Evening Standard in 1946 by the English author George Orwell. He directed his keen wit and passion for clarity in language to the topic of the perfect cup of tea.