You may have noticed our new mantra, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”. We have tried it on for a few weeks and think it may be time to provide some details about what we are trying to do at Local Tea Company.
During the course of a typical week we sample teas to many visitors at Selby Gardens and the Downtown Farmer’s Market here in Sarasota. We talk tea, and find many tea drinkers thrilled to engage us with their favorite tea tales. Yes, we love our job.
It comes as no surprise that many people use tea bags. But shocking is how many people have never tasted loose leaf tea. Sad to think so many people are missing out on the wonderfully unique experience of loose leaf tea.
And so, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG” our campaign to encourage people to choose loose leaf tea in place of tea in tired old bags. The sub heading is, “Loose leaf tea is fresher, hipper and just darn better for you”. Our intent is to convert tea bag users to loose leaf tea drinkers through tasting, educating and advocating loose leaf tea one sip at a time.
There are several reasons to choose loose leaf over tea bag tea, and we offer them here. If you, our fellow tea lovers have other reasons we failed to mention, please share…
There is absolutely no comparison. Most bag tea is the lowest grade of tea (dust or fannings) that comes out of the production area. There are of course some exceptions but generally the tea is very small particles and holds little flavor. Every step in the processing of loose leaf tea is designed to enhance the flavor and taste.
There are also some exceptions and just because you buy loose leaf tea does not mean it will be excellent quality. We, and all of our fellow tea enthusiasts search for teas with exceptional freshness, quality and taste, and you should to. We call this our “tea journey”. Loose leaf tea allows you to examine, smell, listen and sample for maximum quality.
Despite what you may assume when first exploring the loose versus tea bag conundrum, loose is more economical. Tea bags are created for one time use! Nearly all varieties of loose leaf tea should be steeped at least twice and some loose leaf teas can be steeped many more times. Work out the math and you will be surprised how little loose leaf costs you per cup.
Loose leaf tea is perfect for brewing a pot of tea to share with others, the starting point for a meaningful conversation. Offering a cup of properly steeped loose leaf tea is a wonderfully kind gesture, hard for anyone to refuse.
Just think how much packaging and bits of string you would save!
Whilst you may still gain some health benefits from tea bags you will gain many more from loose leaf tea. My theory is that you will like the taste better and will WANT to DRINK MORE therefore giving yourself the gift of good health.
Lastly, and for us one of the most important reasons to drink loose leaf tea is the sheer enjoyment it brings into your life. Brewing a pot of tea for one is relaxing and contemplative, watching such majesty. Sharing a pot of tea with a friend is a nod to a more civilised era. The leaves gracefully dance in your pot and tantalize your taste buds with their fresh and fragrant bouquet.
Make time in your life for loose leaf tea and join Local Tea Company in helping all tea lovers to “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”
the tea lady
We love oolong teas and find the flavors so incredibly unique. They say no two oolongs are alike, and that may be what we like best about oolongs, always a surprise.
Oolong means “Black Dragon”. The Chinese tea growers thought the complex character of Oolong tea was similar to the spirit of this mythical creature.
The crafting of Oolong is an art form and the growing areas limited. Conditions have to be exact and great care is taken to maintain the surrounding environment of the tea plants. Like wine growing regions, the soil and humidity levels definite impact on the taste and complexity of the finished product.
Oolongs are referred to as semi-fermented or semi-oxidized teas. (see earlier post on oxidation / fermentation) They follow a similar process to black tea but with up to 60% less oxidation. This results in a tea with characteristics of both black and green tea.
Fujian province in China is the home of Oolong varieties of tea but production began in Taiwan during the 1850’s when tea planters from Fujian immigrated to the small island nation called Formosa. The Dung Ti Mountains in central Taiwan have very fertile slopes where some of the finest tea plantations produce excellent Oolong tea. Both of our Oolong teas are from Taiwan.
Our Dung Ding Oolong is entirely hand made and has a stunning rolled leaf producing a taste which is smoother than black tea but not as grassy as green. The result is a very well balanced tea with orchid like aroma and taste.
Steep the leaves multiple times and give your taste buds an exciting journey along the way. Examine the leaves and you will see the oxidation that has occurred around the outer part of the leaf leaving the inside quite green. We highly recommend this tea which is easy to drink. Don’t forget that Oolong teas are great for raising your metabolic rate.
Our Aronia Oolong produces quite a different taste profile. This is also a Taiwan Oolong which is wiry and lively with characteristics that are much closer to black. The addition of some Sri Lanka black tea gives added depth along with chokeberries, mango, passion fruit and rose petals for a delicate floral finish. As we like to say, this tea is easy to drink, hard to resist! And can be steeped multiple times giving a lighter color and flavor each steep.
Brewing Oolong Tea
It is recommended to rinse or flush Oolong leaves, that is pour water over leaves and immediately remove the hot water. We cannot bear to throw this lovely liquor away, and usually add it to a later steep. Then start with a 1-2 minutes steep and add additional steeping time after each infusion.
When preparing Aronia Oolong we actually brew as a black tea, using boiling water, steeping for 4 minutes, then steeping a second time for 8 minutes and combine the two steeps for a multi-fusion.
For Dung Ding Oolong we use water around 194 degrees, steep for 2 minutes and drink! This is way too good to flush away in our opinion. For the next steep add 2 minutes and continue adding extra time till the entire flavor has been released.
As with all teas there are personal preferences so be playful and enjoy the process of discovering how you like your Oolong tea.
the tea lady
I have been puzzling this one for some time!
Why do some tea texts refer to Oxidation and others to Fermentation?
I found an exceptional description of this process on Wikipedia, the link for this tea lovers article is here. The processing chart for the different teas is brilliant.
Here you go…
OXIDATION is a process where the chlorophyll in the tea leaves are enzymatically broken down and its tannins released or transformed. Referred to as FERMENTATION in the tea industry, though no true fermentation happens since this oxidative process does not generate energy or is not driven by micro-organisms; in other steps of tea processing–aging for example–microorganisms might be used to actually carry out fermentation.
FERMENTATION (tea). The term used for the aerobic treatment of tea leaves to break down certain unwanted chemicals and modify others to develop the flavor of the tea.
I am not sure if this clarified anything, I guess it all boils down to the same thing…Keep Sipping.
the Tea Lady
Summer is here!
In case you have not visited us at the Sarasota downtown Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings, we have had some stunning teas available.
White Mischief – a beautiful China tea which is flavored with Guava,
Cochin Masala Chai – a very traditional, authentic chai which has superb iced,
Selby Select – another bush tea honoring Selby Gardens with juicy orange peel and a creamy finish ($1 off in August at our online shop),
Organic Strawberry Smile – strawberry, lychee, rosehips and jasmine blended to perfectino with a sencha style green tea. (also $1 off in August at our online shop)
Every week we brew three teas and make them available for samples or for sale iced to beat the heat as you shop locally.
If you are making iced tea using our premium loose leaf teas or any other tea for that matter, do not be alarmed if your tea goes cloudy. This is a natural occurrence due to the high flavanoid/polyphenol levels in the tea. It will still taste delicious!
Happy sipping and don’t forget to ‘sip locally’.
the tea lady
Let’s start with the Kettle, used only to heat water. There are some great models on the market which switch off when boiling point is reached. There is even one with a thermometer so you can catch the water before boiling point is reached, when making green or white tea.
A Tea pot is the vessel in which the tea is made. You may brew directly in a cup or mug, but I love my tea pots. I always warm the pot with boiling water before adding the tea. After I pour out the heating water, I add the tea to the wet pot and after a minute or so I inhale deeply. As the leaves start to open, the aroma from these warm environs is fantastic and hints at the pleasure soon to come.
Use a teaspoon for each cup of tea you want to prepare. My mum used to say “and one for the pot” and my husband and I still always add an extra teaspoon of tea when we brew a pot. A teaspoon is different for each kind of tea, as teas come in many shapes and sizes. Not to fret, you will soon get accustomed to the amount of tea you prefer, as you brew more tea. Experiment, though it is not an exact science, have fun.
Steep your tea for the recommended time; white and green tea 2 to 3 minutes, black tea 4 to 6 minutes, and tisanes 8 to 10 minutes, though again personal preference is the rule. While I use a timer in the tasting room to bring garden visitors the perfect taste, at home I just look at the color of the liquor and guess!
Many tea pots have Infusers, mesh baskets to hold the loose tea or Strainers, to keep the leaves in the pot and out of your cup. I like to let the leaves move around in the pot, and with glass pots it can be quite a show.
Loose leaf tea holds a lot of flavors and I always recommend multiple steeping. Add more boiling water to the leaves and double the steeping time. Your second cuppa will not be as strong as your first, but I cannot bear the thought of throwing away tea leaves with even a bit of flavor. If you don’t plan to drink multiple cups, put the tea pot in your fridge and enjoy the tea over ice.
This afternoon I am brewing my favorite Oolong and will infuse the leaves at least four times before the leaves are laid to rest in my garden, but that’s another posting.
Sit back and enjoy the perfect cup of tea. Remember the journey is just as important as the destination. I hope this helps.
The tea lady
I was asked again this week about Chamomile tea and as this has never been one of my favorite teas. I thought it was used as a sleep aid, and I just had to find out why it is such a popular beverage.
Well, I found some information that has really perked my interest and I might even be contemplating adding Chamomile to the pot!
The Chamomile plant (Matricaria recutita) is native to Europe, North Africa and the Mediterranean region and has a long history as a mild botanical. It is safe to use for long periods of time without any adverse effects, although you are as always advised to consult your doctor.
Science Daily cites a study where researchers found over a 2 week period chamomile tea drinkers experienced increased anti-bacterial activity in their urine. In simple terms this means that chamomile can boost your immune system and fight illness. The study also found an increase in amino acids that help alleviate muscle spasms and relax nerves.
Chamomile can help people suffering from stress, spasms and cramps as well as intestinal discomfort and the reduction of gas. It is recommended that you drink chamomile tea after meals to alleviate these symptoms.
Can I be converted to a Chamomile drinking tea lady? Perhaps, now that I know how this herbal tea can be used.
The Tea Lady
While sampling our iced Earl Grey, a customer told me she had read that Bergamot was bad for you.
How can the most popular flavored tea in the world possibly have an ingredient that is bad for you, I thought? Wanting to prove that theory very wrong I found some interesting facts. Though I’ll tell you about our iced Earl Grey later.
Bergamot is a small, pear shaped citrus native to southeast Asia but now commercially grown in Calabria, Italy. The fruit thrives in the calabrian coast and is the symbol of the region. Like most citrus, I am sure it makes an excellent marmalade, though my Key Lime marmalade would be hard to top, but I digress.
Used in half of women’s perfumes and in aromatherapy to treat depression and aid digestion, I couldn’t find much negative press. Extract from the bergamot plant was used in sunscreens but was banned in 1995, this did not make sense to me, then I found comments that bergamot blocked absorption of potassium in intestines. Why would it be used as a digestive aid then?
I found that various North American plants of the mint family are also called bergamot due to their fragrance. One was used to make a beverage by the American Indian Oswego tribe and was adopted by the 18th century colonists during their boycott of British teas! We won’t get into that now though!
The worst info I found was that Bergamot has been used in Witchcraft. Maybe it cast a spell on all those people who think it is the best tasting tea ever! Are you spellbound?
The Tea Lady
At our booth at the Downtown Sarasota Farmer’s Market, someone asked for Holy Basil tea. I was not familiar with this tea and did some research that you may find interesting.
Holy Basil or the Tulsi plant is called Holy as it is an important symbol in the Hindu religion. Tulsi means “the incomparable one” and the plant is worshiped morning and evening, a Hindu household is considered incomplete without a Tulsi plant.
Apart from the religious significance of Holy Basil, the plant has many medicinal benefits. In Ayurvedic medicine it is termed “the elixir of life” as it promotes longevity, in other words it has antioxidants which help boost the body’s ability to fight those nasty free radicals which cause disease and aging. It is also an adaptogen that helps the body fight stress by balancing the mind, nerves and emotions and maintains health of the respiratory tract.
Initially I was curious why this customer wanted this tea. When I learned about the spiritual nature of Holy Basil, I could understand the importance of this tea and was thrilled to learn a bit more about another aspect of this beverage we love called tea.
The Tea Lady