There is no tea that is as celebrated or as famous as Matcha (powdered green tea). The tea first appeared in Japanese tea manuals sometime during the 12th century, making it one of the country’s most ancient varieties and used in the Japanese tea ceremony for centuries. It was believed by the ancient Japanese that tea was a gift of the heavens and held great restorative and spiritual power on earth. The development of the tea ceremony or Chanoyu began as a way for people to show and appreciate reverence to this power and was practiced by the Buddhist monks who drank the tea for meditative properties during long religious ceremonies.
From the unique way the tea is produced, to the important place it still holds in the cultural life of Japan this celebrated tea has taken on a whole new power and meaning throughout the rest of the tea drinking world.
So what makes Matcha so special?
This greenest of green teas is a beverage where the LEAVES are consumed, not strained like other teas. You will actually drink 100% of the polyphenol nutrients contained in the leaf, giving Matcha the label of healthiest natural beverage in the world today. Along with the nutrients, you will receive a good dose of energy for wakefulness combined with lots of amino acids for relaxation. A truly great combination of ingredients which we can all benefit from today. I think those Buddhist monks were very smart in recognizing the power of this tea!
The vibrant, emerald green color of the powder is attributed to some very careful cultivation. The Gyokuro Japanese tea plant variety is shaded by bamboo mats several weeks prior to plucking. This forces the plant to produce more chlorophyll and results in a supple, rich green leaf. The youngest, tender shoots are then hand plucked, steamed and dried. All stems and veins are removed before the leaves are stone ground into a fine powder which resembles talc.
Fortunately there are no demands on us today to drink the tea only in a ceremonial manner. Matcha can be enjoyed many ways such as cold brewed, hot using water or made into a latte type beverage with regular milk or any of the alternatives. In an earlier post, I experimented with Matcha Green Tea ice cream and it was fab.
However, there are some rules for enjoying the tea when preparing hot. Sift the powder through a strainer to prevent any lumps when water is added. Water should be used when around 180 degrees. If boiled, then it should sit for 2-3 minutes. This allows for immediate consumption when the tea is at peak flavor.
In order to brew in a ceremonial manner you will require a bowl, bamboo scoop and whisk.
1. Warm your bowl and cup.
2. Prepare whisk by soaking tip in boiled water for about 10 seconds.
3. Pour out water and dry bowl. Add 2 scoops of Matcha powder.
4. Add 2oz water.
5. Submerge any loose bits floating on surface.
6. Whisk briskly back and forth until surface becomes frothy.
7. Consume immediately.
Enjoy some wonderful matcha today.
the Tea Team
‘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.
Grahame and I have just come back from England and drinking lots of TEA was certainly on the agenda, in part due to the inclement weather we had for the whole 2 weeks! So it was ‘Oh well let’s go have another cuppa’.
Our first tea outing was planned ahead and it was actually a sunny afternoon when we arrived in the city of Ely in Southeast England. Laura had reserved a table at Peacocks Tea Room and it was just delightful. The afternoon tea was excellent, consisting of 3 different sandwiches, scones with your choice of jam, followed by a cake of your choice. I managed to eat the sandwiches and scone but had to take my cake home, there was simply too much to finish. This was all washed down with copious amounts of tea (we all chose different ones!) served in individual teapots.
During afternoon tea (an earlier post explains the difference between high tea) we had a debate about the best way to eat scones. If you were following correct etiquette then you would place your clotted cream and jam on the side of your plate, select your scone, slice in half and break into a bite sized piece. One would then apply cream and jam (or lemon curd from a blog post from the Spring) as each piece was eaten, taking sips of tea in between.
However, I am not talking correct etiquette here. In Yorkshire (a post bit about my hometown Harrogate) we don’t mess about with bite sized pieces! Our debate was ‘Do you put jam on first before cream or cream on first before jam’.
I have always put jam on first and never really thought about changing the habit of a lifetime of scone eating, but it totally changed the taste experience and I loved it. Grahame really enjoyed too! Let us know which way you like your scone. Please post on our Facebook page.
Thanks to Laura for finding this gem of a tearoom and thanks to Peacocks for the delicious afternoon tea.
This holiday was our second of the summer, we visited northern Michigan in the Spring and here is a link to my earlier post.
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, Cambridge. He became the 2nd Earl 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 in the Carriage House Tea Room at Selby Gardens do not 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.
Contrary to my British tea drinking habits, I have become a fan of Iced Earl (Me thinks the Earl would not approve!) Delicious, so be sure to try for yourself. When brewing Earl Grey hot, I actually infuse for only 2 minutes 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.
We offer two version of Earl Grey Black tea, one is our premium blend Earl Grey and we also offer an Organic Earl Grey. You may be surprised to find you like the Earl, now that you know a bit about the man behind the tea.
White Tea is surrounded by folklore and mystique heralded from ancient China. I am talking really ancient here, as in Tang dynasty 618-907 AD. This delicate tea was proclaimed by the Emperor as “the culmination of all that is elegant” and reserved for members of the Imperial Court. The leaves were picked in early spring when young tea shoots abound and legend has it that the picking was done by virgins wearing white gloves. Well, it is a pure story at any rate!
White tea is thankfully no longer solely the property of Emperors and Kings! Although originally grown only in the Fujian Province in China, due to its increasing popularity it is now grown in other regions such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and India. What has remained the same is the process of making this tea!
White teas are the least processed of all the teas. Leaves are delivered to the factory by hand where they are naturally withered and sun dried, no oxidation takes place.
The new buds are picked before they open when they have a white, silvery appearance (hence the name!). This white appearance is the ‘hao” or hair on the bud or baby leaf.
White teas are subtle, delicate and flavorful and are considered by some to have the most health benefits. The appearance of white teas can vary in color depending on style of tea but all have a very natural fresh look which is also very pure and natural in the cup, devoid of any astringency or grassiness.
With more antioxidants than black tea or green tea, research shows white tea has anticancer properties, is strengthening for the immune and cardiovascular systems, reduces high blood pressure and is calming and detoxifying on the skin(anti-sagging!).
So, what about our White Mischief from Local Tea Company? I thought this a very appropriate name on first tasting this tea with a mischievous play on the taste buds. Take a moment to smell this tea when it will also play mischief with your senses!
White Mischief is a type of tea known as Pai Mu Tan which means “white peony” and is produced in Fujian Province from a variety of tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha where only the “two leaves and bud” are used. The tea is mostly green with silver tips and is quite light and fluffy. The mischievousness is created by blending with a healthy dose of tart pomegranate and juicy guava!
When brewing White Mischief use one heaped teaspoon per cup with water heated to 180-190 degrees (or just under boiling). I find this produces a mellow flavor without scalding the leaves which may cause astringency. The tea can be infused for 2 minutes with plenty of flavor. A second infusion of 4 minutes and a third of 6 minutes will yield great cooling and refreshing character. See our earlier post on multi-steeping tea.
I have infused this tea as many as 6 times, but leave you to experiment with this very exciting and actually quite mischievous tea. Sorry couldn’t resist it one more time!
Thank you to those following my Kombucha side trip on my Tea Journey, as well as those enduring me when I get carried away with Kombucha enthusiasm! Since my earlier Kombucha posts, #1 and #2, I have been busy brewing and continue to learn about the variations, the good, bad and the ugly about this fascinating beverage.
I am not very disciplined about drinking my kombucha when at home but during my working days at the Carriage House at Selby Gardens sip during lunch and the afternoon hours. During the ‘dog days of summer’ kombucha gives me a boost of energy.
Michael and Tray continue to make excuses why they no longer brew kombucha, though Tray drinks as much of my supply as available. I must be doing something right. So, what’s new?
I have found that black tea seems to work best, especially our Harrogate Yorkshire tea. (Not really surprising, this tea has such strength and character like the people of Yorkshire!!) Brewing the tea for 14 days was too astringent for my taste, so I reduced to 7 days. Less fermentation time results in a slightly sweeter taste and more fizz which I prefer. I also started adding new tea on top of the same SCOBY instead of washing out container each time and splitting the mother and baby. The SCOBY has grown really fat, improving my end results.
After reading that more fizz will be achieved if you leave bottles out for 4 days before refrigeration I tried this. The bottles started to grow ‘mini’ SCOBYs (ew!) so I now refrigerate immediately.
I am very much enjoying where this journey is taking me and find new converts or fellow ‘Kombuchans’ in all sorts of spots. You may have heard of retailers removing the commercially bottled Kombucha from their shelves, so there has been growing interest in home brewing. I have been giving away SCOBYs to anyone who wants to try making their own and hope to have more success stories to share. Stop by Local Tea Company to talk tea.
Something new is brewing in the Local Tea Company Carriage House at Selby Gardens. I want to share with you my recent experiences about a fascinating TEA called Kombucha. While we do not sell this tea, or really any of the accessories other than our loose leaf tea, Kombucha is part of my tea journey.
I have been buying and drinking a store bought Kombucha for some time. It is quite expensive to drink in the quantities I would like to enjoy so I wanted to try and make my own. I have lots of fabulous tea available so what’s to stop me making my own, right?
Not quite so straightforward.
Let’s look at some background about the tea and what you need to start up your own little Kombucha factory!
I read some interesting information during my research and like Camellia there is different stories about when it was first discovered but all agree Kombucha has been used as an elixir in eastern lands for centuries. One record goes back to 447AD when a Korean physician named KOMBU very successfully treated a Japanese nobleman with the elixir.
From here the elixir became popular in Manchuria (you may see it referred to as Manchurian tea) and then Russia.
The name is derived from Kombu, the physician and Cha, the eastern name for tea!
Kombucha is a FERMENTED tea which is made using a colony of bacteria and yeast, commonly called a ‘mushroom’. A more correct term is SCOBY which is a ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’.
During the process of fermentation sugar is broken down by yeast and converted into CO2, various acids and compounds which give the beverage a very unusual and characteristic flavor.
One of my main reasons for wanting to drink more Kombucha is of course for the health benefits. I have always felt it brought balance to my digestive system especially, but it seems there are many more great benefits. On a site ‘Benefits of Kombucha’ there were 56 listed! It seems the main ones relate to digestion, acid reflux, and weight loss, more energy in the morning, better sleep, post work out recovery, reduction in severity of hangovers, helping skin and skin tone.
Whether you believe all of this or not doesn’t mean Kombucha is not good for you and besides it is so much fun!
How to get started?
Firstly you will need a ‘SCOBY’ or mother culture. I was given one by a Kombucha maker and I am also trying to start another from a bottle of the store Kombucha (more on that in a future blog!)
Sterile conditions are a must, both hands and utensils.
- A 1 gallon glass container
- 6 teaspoons of a LCT loose tea. We have a batch of Pu-erh fermenting and also a Chunmee taipan.
- 4 liters filtered water
- 320g refined sugar
- 400ml of finished Kombucha. I had this given with my culture but you could try using some of bottled Kombucha as I am trying.
Boil water and dissolve sugar. Brew tea for 15 mins and cool to room temp before adding culture. If tea is too hot the culture will die.
Cover with paper towel, fine mesh cloth and fasten with elastic band to prevent flies etc.
Keep out of direct sunlight but warm. 74-80 degrees is best. Do not move around.
When ready the liquid is drained into clean bottles with air tight tops and allowed to mature for 5 days. This creates more effervescence in the beverage. Keep in a cool place.
Don’t forget to save some finished Kombucha for your next batch or to store your culture. The culture will have grown a baby and can be split at this stage to start another batch.
So there you have it. Please understand at this stage I am complete novice! I will keep you posted on progress as I aim to become really good at this and hopefully we can all learn together.
Watch this space for more Kombucha news, and do keep us posted if you are learning with us or are already an expert.