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.

  1. A 1 gallon glass container
  2. 6 teaspoons of a LCT loose tea. We have a batch of Pu-erh fermenting and also a Chunmee taipan.
  3. 4 liters filtered water
  4. 320g refined sugar
  5. 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.

There are many informative sites on the web. I thought and were good but you may find others you like.

Watch this space for more Kombucha news, and do keep us posted if you are learning with us or are already an expert.

the Tealady

More Bertha

I hope you may already have taken advantage of the discount being offered this month on Bertha Palmer Centennial Tea at our redesigned web site,  If not, perhaps I can convince you otherwise by sharing a few details of the ingredients in Bertha’s tea.

Bertha Palmer Centennial Tea

I love the taste of the herbs, perfectly blended with Rooibos tea but it wasn’t until I really researched them all that I realized what an amazing combination and marriage they are.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a member of the carrot family, is tall and statuesque (as was Bertha!) with large glossy stems and light, feathery leaves. It blooms small yellow flowers that yield greenish-brown seeds with a licorice flavor and is renowned for digestive disorders since it stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes, calms the digestive tract, prevents spasms and improves absorption of nutrients. That is just for starters! Some others benefits are fluid retention, gum disorders, diuretic properties which help fight urinary tract infections and for strength. It contains calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron, selenium and Vitamins A, C and E.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) A woody perennial which has a bright green stem, dark green oval leaves, flowers shaped like peas and a big tap root with long branch roots that can spread to 3 feet. Licorice is a tonic boost for the adrenal glands which produce our ‘fight or flight’ hormones to help cope with stress. Glycyrrhizin has anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory value so eases and soothes the respiratory tract and arthritic pain.  Licorice also helps in the stomach department, soothing indigestion and reducing acid secretions and contains Iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, lecithin and calcium as well as Vitamins A, B, C and E.

Lemon Verbena (Lippia citriodora) is an aromatic shrub with pale green leaves and pale purple flowers. It eases spasms, settles the stomach, fights indigestion and flatulence, reduces fevers and is a stimulant for the skin. Lemon Verbena is excellent for flavor and synergy.

Cinnamon (Cinnamon cassia) is a warm spice with a sweet calming nature good for colds and chills but because of antiseptic abilities will also help fight bacteria, viruses, fungal and yeast infections. This is a powerful ingredient to have in any blend.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) There are more than 210 species of this aromatic plant which will invigorate with one cut leaf. Menthol has an anesthetic effect on the nerve endings of the stomach so is helpful with nausea, seasickness and pains in the abdomen.  Peppermint will calm you all over!

All these beautiful herbs are blended with Rooibos tea (Asplathis linearis) which is also an anti spasmodic (and used in South Africa to soothe colic in children) along with essential daily minerals and vitamins too.

At Local Tea Company we believe Rooibos is a cure to all ailments and feel that this formidable woman, Bertha Palmer would have been a huge fan of this perfectly blended, soothing tea.

Take a break and try some Bertha Palmer Centennial Tea and check out our Facebook page for more updated details of our activities at Local Tea Journey

the TeaLady

Caffeine-Free Tisanes or Infusions

In our last blog post (Caffeine in Tea) we talked about caffeine and my stand on the benefits of drinking tea with caffeine. I have come to learn from listening and talking to many visitors at Selby Gardens and at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market that for some people it is impossible to drink caffeine, perhaps because of medications (therefore doctor’s instructions) or just a simple intolerance in the body.

So, where does that leave us?

At Local Tea Company we have many fruit and/or herbal infusions or Tisanes to choose from. There is simply no excuse not to drink great caffeine free tea these days.

Selby Select Rooibos from Local Coffee + Tea

Notice I said CAFFEINE FREE not de-caffeinated. Whilst not ‘true teas’ made from Camellia sinensis, there is no caffeine to be removed.  De-caffeinated tea must go through a process to remove the caffeine that naturally occurs in tea leaves.   And no method removes 100% of the caffeine, so the beverage still has up to 5% caffeine content.

I try to stay away from the process of removing caffeine from tea for two reasons, flavor and reduced health benefits.  The two traditional methods to decaffeinated tea use either ethyl acetate or carbon dioxide.  Both are wet processes, so the dry leaves are moistened and then either rinsed with ethyl acetate and then drained, or under high pressure with carbon dioxide and evaporated.  Upon drying, the flavor is reabsorbed into the leaves.

There is still uncertainty about how these methods alter the polyphenols and the antioxidant properties in tea.  In my opinion, the health benefits have been compromised and I seek teas with maximum health advantages.  So, I turn to botanicals, that is herbal or fruit infusions also referred to as tisanes.

Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a bush originating from the Western Cape province of South Africa.  Rooibos has an impressive list of vitamins and minerals and is therefore packed with anti-oxidants.  I like to say Rooibos works against ATB or ‘all things bad’.  Great hot or iced, I enjoy Rooibos in the late afternoon or evenings.

Local Tea Company carries 8 unique Rooibos teas and is our most popular category.  Selby Select is our ‘home tea’, and we have added an Organic Red Rooibos as well as an herbal Rooibos to celebrate Bertha Palmer, pioneering Sarasota woman.

Chocolate Honeybush from Local Coffee + Tea

Honeybush (Cyclopia intermedia) is a definite favorite at Local Coffee + Tea especially for evening time. This is a very soothing and calming tea with a unique cedar or sandalwood flavor.  Also, Chocolate Honeybush is a great option to satisfy the after meal cravings for something sweet.

Then there are the fruit infusions like Peach Paradise Organic Red Berries or Mote Beach Tea (created to honor Mote Laboratories here in Sarasota)  Vibrant and refreshing beverages all, especially iced.  Excellent alternatives to sodas or other sweet beverages, especially for children.

Herbs like Egyptian Chamomile, the best loved sleepy tea and Ginger Root, the world’s most used spice or my personal favorite, Hibiscus.  See why in a post from last summer.

There really is a tea for all occasions and personal tastes. Try blending your very own caffeine free beverage with some of these amazing teas. If you discover a winner be sure to let us know so we can share!

The TeaLady

Also, follow us on Facebook at Local Tea Journey

Caffeine in Tea

The debate about the amount of caffeine in tea compared to coffee has been ongoing and does not seem likely to stop any time soon. There are many conflicting reports about dry weight versus brewed, water temp, steeping time, etc. What we know for certain is that there is caffeine in tea and reports all agree the most caffeine is found in black tea.

Harrogate Yorkshire Black Tea

Should you be drinking tea with caffeine? Scientific studies to date have also been contradictory with no conclusive evidence that caffeine causes or exacerbates illness or medical conditions.

I am going to share my theory on the subject. This is my personal view and what we share with our visitors at Local Tea Company, where we showcase teas WITH caffeine.

Caffeine is naturally found in the leaves of camellia sinensis giving the plant a built in defense system deterring insects from eating the leaves due to the bitter taste of caffeine.

However, not all caffeines are equal! I am a great advocate of caffeine in tea because the leaf also contains another very special component called L- Theanine, an amino acid which works in conjunction with caffeine to provide your body with a powerhouse of benefits.

Caffeine alone will enter your bloodstream very quickly and stimulate the beta brain waves (fight or flight!). In tea the L-Theanine follows right behind to stimulate the alpha brain waves (relaxation!) effectively canceling out any negative behavior of caffeine alone. In conjunction, the process unfolds slowly giving you a relaxed alertness that will last for several hours.  Think of the monks alert, but calm and imagine what might happen if they drank coffee all day.

L-Theanine also creates lots of energy (which in turn helps burn calories!). Tea should be used as part of a healthy lifestyle to achieve best results but I can certainly say it has worked for me. Drink a cuppa for some energy.

Here is how my tea day unfolds…..

I like to drink tea with caffeine throughout the day, usually starting with black during the early morning, something bold like Yorkshire Harrogate and switching to the gentler greens like Goji Green.  I have found that black tea is not good for me late in the day unless I want to stay awake all night! Of course we have some amazing caffeine free teas (Yes, caffeine free not de-caffeinated and probably my next post!) for afternoon/evening time for those that cannot tolerate caffeine at all.

Flowering Pomegranate Green Tea

We are all different and metabolize caffeine at different rates, so work on what is right for your body and lifestyle. No need to despair when an alternative is required.  So let’s drink to ‘true tea’ as often as our bodies will allow and enjoy the benefits of this amazing beverage.

the TeaLady

Cold Brewing Loose Leaf Tea

In Florida we never really experience the depth of winter weather that the rest of the US must endure. Consequently we continue drinking iced tea all year round. According to USA Tea Council, 85% of Americans choose to drink their tea iced so there is still a lot of iced tea drunk this time of year. And as Hot Tea month comes to an end, I want to share a great way to make iced tea that it works really well for us at Local Tea Company. We think you will love it too.

Cold brewing loose leaf tea is simple and yields consistent results with little effort involved. This method of brewing is for true teas, it may work for some herbals but in our experience is not a suitable method for making iced Rooibos as this requires hot water to release flavor.

Jasmine Green tea makes a wonderfully floral iced tea

Do not limit yourself to a particular tea. We cold brew black, oolong, green and white tea with equally good results. You may be surprised at an Earl Grey and even our Lapsang Souchong is excellent cold brewed.

Let’s get started.

  1. Good water always makes a difference. If your local water is heavily contaminated with chlorine this will affect the final taste. Choose filtered water for best results.
  2. Quality loose leaf tea will give you the best taste but this is also a good way to use tea bags you have had in your pantry for too long. Life is too short to drink lousy tea, so mix and match and use it!
  3. Next you will need some T Sacs. Put your tea in the T SAC, but don’t pack it too full to allow room for infusion and flavor to release. Use a second T SAC rather than overpacking. A tea maker such as the Timolina or Magic Filter works exceptionally well.
  4. The quantity of tea will depend on your personal preference but as a guide we use 30gm or around 1 oz of tea per gallon. This works out to a teaspoon for 8-10oz of water in case you are making a smaller quantity. We suggest you try different measurements and times to achieve the taste you like the best.
  5. Fill a sealed container with cold water and place the T sac with the tea in cold water and then straight into the refrigerator for a period of 10-18 hours or longer. The tea will be deeper in color and flavor if infused for a longer time. Take the tea out of the water after 24 hours as we have found leaving the tea in the container will cause the tea to spoil faster.

This slow, gentle process results in a much smoother, naturally clear, clean and sweet tasting tea that will last for 3 days. Do not be tempted to keep your tea too long and risk the possibility of spoilage. We are confident this is unlikely to happen as you will love the taste so much you will want to drink more!

Make up a gallon right now and enjoy it tomorrow.

the Tealady

Astringency in Tea

When we offer samples of tea at Selby Gardens or at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market, many people respond with “I don’t like the taste of tea”.  Our standard cheeky response is, “Because you have never tasted our tea?” After probing a bit, people describe the bitter taste of tea.  The root cause is typically oversteeping, which is why we are so specific with steep times at Local Tea Company.  Loose leaf tea offers so much flavor, and when prepared incorrectly will become astringent.

What causes astringency in tea?

Astringency is that dry, puckering sensation that follows a sip of strong tea, an assertive red wine or a bite into not quite ripe fruit.  Tannins are responsible. They are polyphenols or natural defensive compounds which actually help deter bacteria and fungi growing on the tea leaf. The sensation of astringency is caused by the ‘tanning’ of the proteins in the saliva and mucous membranes of the mouth which in turn cause the surface tissues to actually contract and reduce lubrication.

Tannins tend to get some bad press because they are often confused with tannic acid which is derived from oak leaves and is used to tan leather! When I was young I remember well the threats from Dad that if I misbehaved I would “get a good tannin” and I guess that is where the phrase originated from. Just to set the record straight I do not have a leathery bottom now, the threat served its purpose and I was always a good girl!

The Camellia sinensis tannins found in loose leaf tea are responsible for the wonderful flavor and color in tea and a little astringency is nice, giving your drink some body and briskness (I love that word!) and cleansing your palate after eating. That’s why a cuppa always tastes so good after dinner. You will find tannins very evident in green tea and especially black tea if steeped too long.

I will let you into a little secret now which you may already know about if you drink your tea like the Brits (or was it the French that first stated this custom?). If you add milk to the tea, the tannins attack the proteins in the milk rather than those in your mouth and you have a less astringent taste.

Last but not least, Tannins are said to keep bad bacteria out of your mouth and help impede dental cavities.  So celebrate Hot Tea Month and make your Dentist happy, by drinking lots of tea!

the TeaLady