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Pu Erh Teas

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

Pu'Er Tea

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! Pu'er Tea

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!

Cheers,
the Tea Lady

Who was Earl Grey?

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?

Earl Grey

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.

Organic Loose Leaf teas
Loose Leaf Earl Grey

Also, consider an iced Earl Grey, (Me thinks the Earl would not approve!)  Delicious, so be sure to try for yourself especially cold brewed, as explained in a previous blog post.

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.

Cheers,

Your Tea Team

Tea Quote – Three Men in a Boat

 

A favourite book of mine offers an interesting quote or excerpt about tea, and I would like to share it with you.  Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome was first published in 1889, and was intended as a serious travel guide about a boating holiday on the Thames between Kingston and Oxford.  However, it turned out to be a very humorous account detailing the adventures of the three friends Jerome, George Wingrave and Carl Hentschel along with a fictional dog called Montmorency!

When I read this excerpt today, it seemed so clever and witty, evoking powerful thoughts about the beverage I so love…. tea.  Enjoy.

‘It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs.  We cannot work, we cannot think, unless our stomach wills so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions.  After eggs and bacon, it says “Work!” After beefsteak and porter , it says “Sleep!”  After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup and don’t let it stand for more  than three minutes), it says to the brain, “Now rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with a clear eye, into Nature, and into life: spread your white wings of quivering thought, and soar, a god-like spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming starts to the gates of eternity!”

Jerome K. Jerome, Three men in a Boat.

What type of tea does it take for you to rise and show your strength, be eloquent and deep or indeed spread your white wings of quivering thought?  It would have to be a good strong cup of Yorkshire Harrogate for me!  Here is a earlier post about Yorkshire.  Please share your comments and take time for tea.

Cheers,

the Tealady

Toast and Tea

“BREAD AND WATER CAN SO EASILY BE TOAST AND TEA’
This is a lovely quote (author unknown) that came to mind this morning.  I was actually making some Lemon Curd at the time but I also had a visitor in the Carriagehouse Tea Room at Selby Gardens that told me he would not drink tea because his mother always made him have toast and tea when he was sick!  Of course she would, mothers know what is good for you.

I also felt sorry for him!  Toast and Tea is a custom most of us have such good feelings about and I for one can sample this pairing at any time of day.  There is nothing as simple or as tasty as toast and tea, unless you add a little lemon curd that is!

Lemons are in abundance here at the moment and as they keep arriving by the bagful at my house I just keep churning out the Lemon Curd!  I got myself a cup of jasmine tea and Lemons at the ready.  Want to have a go too?

This is a very easy recipe and method to follow.  You will need preserving jars which have been sterilized in boiling water.  I put the lemons in same water as it makes the juice release easier.  I usually double up the recipe, but to make one batch you will need:

Juice and Rind of 1 lemon (I have been adding rind of an extra lemon too!), 2 eggs, 2oz unsalted butter, and 3oz sugar.

  1. Place sugar and rind in large bowl.
  2. Whisk eggs and lemon juice together.  Add to bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small chunks.  Add to bowl.
  4. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until butter melts and whisk lightly over heat until mixture thickens.  (It may seem like mixture is never going to thicken but it will.)

Place in jar and refrigerate.

It tastes delicious and is so worth the effort.  I love giving to friends and of course, the suppliers of all my Lemons!  Lemon Curd is also the perfect accompaniment to scones, so maybe next time we will make scones.

I recommend putting on the kettle and making a pot of Yorkshire tea and sit down to enjoy some toast and tea.  Mmmm!

Cheers,
The TeaLady

Easter Wishes with Chocolate Honeybush

“The Spirit of Easter is all about Hope, Love and Joyful living.” -Anonymous.

Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead and is Christianity’s most important holiday.  As with Christmas, over the centuries various folk customs and pagan traditions have become a standard part of this holy holiday (whether you agree with it or not!) and includes Easter eggs, bunnies, baskets of candy and CHOCOLATE.  There are lots of stories about the connection of eggs (re-birth) and bunnies (originally hares actually and a symbol of new life in ancient times) but I am not sure how the chocolate connection came about.

Most of us have no problem with chocolate being included, reason or not!  At Local Tea Company we cannot offer chocolate eggs or bunnies but a very special tea we call Chocolate Honeybush.

Chocolate Honeybush

Honeybush is an herbal infusion or ‘tisane’ grown in the Langkloof Mountains of South Africa.  Read more from a previous post on Honeybush to learn all about this lovely tea.

Some might say that Honeybush is not complete without the addition of those chocolate and caramel pieces and if you smelled and tasted this version you might agree!

You will find us this weekend serving and delighting our customers with Chocolate Honeybush in the Carriage House Tea Room at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Saturday morning at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.  We can guarantee plenty of love and joy too.  Please join us if you can for a chocolate celebration (without the calories!) but if you are not local then visit our online shop to stock up on your Easter supplies and be sure to share with all your friends too.

With good wishes to you all for the Easter holiday.

Cheers,
the TeaLady

Pear Mu Tan

I am glad to announce that here at Local Tea Company we have added another tea to our Organic cultivation varieties.

Pear Mu Tan is a White tea grown in Fujian Province, China.  White teas are surrounded by folklore and mystique heralded from ancient China when this delicate tea was proclaimed by Emperors as “the culmination of all that is elegant”

White teas are the least processed of all the categories of tea.  The newest leaves are carefully picked when they have a silvery appearance which comes from the hair or ‘hao’.  They are lightly withered which turns them into an artists palate of hues, ranging from silver to green to brown and results in a light fluffy mixture of leaf pieces that yield a subtle and delicate flavor.

Pear Mu Tan White Tea

I had been asked several times about a Pear tea and after using this tea for several days in my travel mug, I knew we had to have it!  This type of White tea is known as Pai Mu Tan which means “white peony” and is produced from a variety of tea bush called chaicha, so it seemed natural to name this tea Pear Mu Tan.

There is evidence that Pear has been used as a food since prehistoric times so is a perfect partner for White tea.  To compliment the pear, there are dried apple pieces, mango cubes and marigold blossoms which results in shimmering golden liquor with a lingering fragrance and sweet, fresh mellow taste.  This is a truly beautiful tea both dry and infused.

Please note, this tea is organically cultivated but has not pursued the requirements to be designated ORGANIC.

White teas are becoming very popular now as they are considered to be the most beneficial of all teas for their health benefits.  With more antioxidants than black or green tea, white tea has anticancer properties, is heart healthy, has a calming (anti-sagging!) and detoxifying effect on the skin and the ability to strengthen our immune system.  An added bonus is that it tastes so good!

There are debates aplenty about the amount of caffeine in White teas; could it be that as the tea is made from young leaves that they contain the most concentrated amount of caffeine? The fact that we infuse for less time and at a lower temperature may mean less caffeine is released…and so on.  We may never know the exact reason and it really does not seem to matter too much!

In my experience I have found White tea VERY agreeable to my body function.  I do not seem to get as overheated or troubled with the caffeine content and therefore have been able to drink later into the day.   See how it works for you!

Pear Mu Tan is a tea that really keeps on giving and certainly wears the title ‘the culmination of all that is elegant’ very well.

Cheers,
the TeaLady

Royal-Tea

How could you not be excited about the prospect of a Royal Wedding?  They don’t come around that often and  we pin all our hopes for a lasting and loving relationship for this lovely young couple.

I plan to lose myself for a day of pomp and circumstance surrounding Prince William (Wills to some!) and the beautiful Kate Middleton (only a middle class girl!)  We could not resist jumping on the Royal bandwagon at Local Coffee + Tea and have created a tea to celebrate the occasion aptly named Royal-Tea.

If you are already sick of all the hoopla (like my husband!) then sit and make yourself a cup of this stately and sophisticated tea, a perfect marriage between green sencha and bancha, orange pieces, slivers of almonds and cream caramel. Tea and fruits fit for a Royal table I think.

The tea, like the Royal couple brings together two different backgrounds.

Chinese sencha (‘Sen’ meaning green and ‘cha’ meaning tea or ‘infused tea’) is a style of green tea normally produced in Japan but here we have a perfect unison between Chinese leaf and Japanese style.

After harvest, the leaves are heated in a wok to prevent oxidation giving the leaves a slightly mellower ‘roasted’ flavor and characteristic thin, cylindrical shape which results in a very light, refreshing and uplifting tea less vegetal in flavor than those produced in Japan.

Bancha or the ‘common’ green tea in Japan is harvested from the second flush of leaves in late summer/autumn. The larger leaf gives a very mellow flavor and contains less caffeine.

The peel of citrus fruit is bitter and not very appetizing when raw but adds great taste and health benefits when dried and added to tea, and it tastes delicious.

Cream caramel is a tasty ‘concoction’ of sugar and fats which are dried and added to enhance this tea.  I try to bring you teas with only all natural ingredients, but sometimes Royal exceptions must be made!

Almonds are something I try to eat all year round for their healthy heart benefits (they contain monounsaturated fats which are good fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol).

In Ayurvedic medicine, almonds are considered a nutrient for the brain and nervous system and said to induce high intellectual level and longevity. I knew there was a reason I liked them so much! They pair very well with oranges too.  and Walnut adds to the ‘nuttiness’ of our tea.

Back by popular demand!

If you are reading this description and thinking this all sounds familiar, you may have enjoyed this tea over the holidays.  Festivi-Tea was created to celebrate Lights in Bloom at Selby Gardens.  And we have brought it back to celebrate another holiday, a Royal Wedding!

Whatever the name of this tea, enjoy April 29th and celebrate in true Royal fashion with a good cuppa Royal-Tea.

Please join me in wishing Prince William and Kate a long and happy life together.

Cheers,
The Tea Lady

Valentine’s Day – A Time for Tea

Tis the season of Love which brings to mind Diamonds, Chocolates and Roses for most people?

Well, I can guarantee one thing there will be no diamonds in my house for valentines.  My husband would be quick to tell you that he does not need one special day in the year to reinforce his love for me – his excuse not to buy diamonds?  There may be a chance of chocolates or flowers but it is more likely to be something simple, like sitting down together for a pot of tea.

Bet you didn’t know Yorkshire men were so romantic!  But I confess this is a man who knows the way to my heart for sure.

I cannot think of a nicer way to celebrate our love than the process of taking tea together.  Like most people these days we have conflicting schedules and taking time to sit together, slow down and enjoy a spot of tea is a very special gift.

White Mischief

What will we drink?  My husband loves White tea, so perhaps we will start our celebration with a little White Mischief.  Mischievous by name and by nature, this tea will represent our diamonds!  If you have ever smelled guava, you know the skin has a chocolate-like aroma so when you put the tea in a warm pot the smell is tantalizing.  Use water that is not quite boiling, and infuse for 2 minutes only, but make more infusions from the same tea infusing for 4 minutes, 6 minutes, etc. until no flavor is left.  Not only is the taste fantastic but such good value too!

Next, we will drink Chocolate Honeybush and this will represent Chocolates in our Valentine celebration!  Honeybush is one of our favorite herbal teas and this tea is full of romance with hints of chocolate, roses and a good dose of caramel.  Delightfully indulgent the chocolate and caramel blend so well with Organic Honeybush for a delicate flavor and without the calories.  Drink away without having to worry, yummy.

Chocolate Honeybush

For our finale, we will drink some Sweet Sin Rooibos and this will represent our Roses!  You may have read in a previous blog what an impact Rooibos now has on my life but it is also a tea we drink together throughout the year, so is perfect for our celebration of love.

Sweet Sin Rooibos

A simple, yet stunning blend of rooibos, roses, vanilla and dried raspberries this tea blooms with a perky fruitiness, is not too sweet yet has a soft and romantic finish.

And the morale of my tale?  You really don’t need to have diamonds, chocolates or flowers to show your love for each other.  Give each other the gift of time enjoying tea together.  May you continue to celebrate your love throughout the year, and as I often say, TAKE TIME FOR TEA.

Cheers,
the TeaLady

Honeybush

Honeybush or Cyclopia intermedia is indigenous to the cape of South Africa and I like to think of it as a sort of cousin to Rooibos!  Like Rooibos, we make an herbal tea with a pleasant, mildly sweet taste.  Honeybush is very popular here at the Local Tea Company Carriagehouse at Selby Gardens, and we are pleased to offer 2 varieties; Organic Honeybush and Chocolate Honeybush.  I urge you to try them if you are looking for a substitute for ‘true’ tea (Camellia sinensis), though I use honeybush as a compliment to my tea drinking habits!

Organic Honeybush

Like most of the teas, honeybush has a history traced back to the trading of the Dutch and British. Cape Town was established in 1652 as a supply base for the Dutch East India Company trading in Indian tea and Southeast Asian spices. Botanists were soon cataloging the rich flora of the Cape region and the honeybush plant was noted in botanical literature. The native KhoiSan or Bushmen used a tea made from honeybush to treat coughs and other upper respiratory symptoms associated with infections.

The honeybush plant is a shrub of the Fabaceae family and grows in the fynbos botanical zone, a narrow region along the coast bound by mountains. Fynbos is Dutch for ‘fine leaved plantsis’ and is a vegetation type characterized by woody plants with small leathery leaves. The honeybush plant is easily recognized by its sweetly scented, bright yellow flowers and needle-like leaves.

Honeybush

Besides great taste, a sort of woodsy, cedar-like flavor, Honeybush has some very special health benefits.  Pinitol is a modified sugar found in the leaves of several legume plants and as an expectorant, it helps with coughs and phlegm. Pinitol can also lower blood sugar levels, and may increase the effects of insulin.  I have read honeybush is being considered as a drug for diabetes! It would be good to have something so natural to help with such a prevalent disease. I have also read that Pinitol helps with acid reflux and we have a few customers who have reported relief drinking honeybush.  The flavones and isoflavones of honeybush are similar to those in soy, another leguminous plant, and have been used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. That covers quite a lot of the population who should be drinking this tea!

Honeybush tea is prepared like all other teas or herbal infusions. Use boiling water and infuse for as long as you want, though at least several minutes. The lack of caffeine makes honeybush especially suited for nighttime consumption and has a reputation as a calming beverage, but I love drinking honeybush while at Local Tea Company, too!   The tannin content is very low, so you will find honeybush a mild, soft, and very drinkable tea.

And did I mention there is a chocolate version? Chocoholics love our Chocolate Honeybush.  Please do not expect a cup of hot chocolate, rather a delicate aroma of chocolate with a definite caramel aftertaste along with a bit of floral balance from the added rose petals.  Desert without the calories, SPECTACULAR!

Chocolate Honeybush

Some customers drink both versions of honeybush with milk.  I find a bit of local honey (from the Sarasota Farmer’s Market) brings out a natural sweetness in Organic Honeybush and when iced is very thirst quenching.  The Chocolate Honeybush seems to be more popular as a hot drink.

Cheers,
the TeaLady

Rooibos

I cannot believe it has taken me so long to write about Rooibos tea.  Maybe that is a good thing though, as I have now reached a stage where my love of this tea is such that I cannot imagine life without it!

As an orthodox tea drinker, black teas and mostly unflavored green teas, you will have heard me say many times that I just love the taste of tea.  However, like many women before me I seem to have reached an age where too much caffeine (even in my beloved tea!!) seems to be disruptive for my body.

Rooibos

Enter ROOIBOS (Aspalathis linearis) a broom like shrub and member of the legume family found in a small area of the Western Cape Province of South Africa.  The word rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is Afrikaans for red bush and has been popular in South Africa for generations.

Rooibos has a huge following all over the world due to the many health benefits as well as Mama Ramotswe, a certain lady detective.  If you are one of the few people not to have seen or read the No 1 Ladies Detective series by Alexander McCall Smith then do so soon.  Like the tea, these books are compelling, very relaxing and worthy of your time.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

So, what does Rooibos have to offer?  Rooibos has very high antioxidant levels (aspalathin), in fact some claim that Rooibos has more antioxidants than green tea.  And I advise anyone not caring for green tea to drink Rooibos.  The tannin levels are low (responsible for causing astringency in true tea) and there is NO oxalic acid which makes this tea good for anyone suffering from kidney stones.  Relaxing and restful, rooibos can assist with nervous tension, allergies, dermatological issues and anti-spasmodic properties making rooibos helpful for digestive problems.

In South Africa, rooibos is used to aid infants suffering with colic and is added to baby’s bath water (and yours) to soften the skin.  Research continues on possible anti-cancer properties and I think we will hear more about the benefits of drinking Rooibos for some time to come.  Perhaps most important, you will find NOTHING about the adverse effects of rooibos, which is quite amazing!

Rooibos is an herb and is NATURALLY caffeine free, which makes it the perfect tea for my sleeping predicament.  This tea quite simply tastes and feels so good and I have become a huge fan.  I have found many tea lovers dislike pure rooibos, though it blends so well with fruits and flowers.

At Local Tea Company we have a wonderful collection of Rooibos teas.  Our best selling (of all our teas) is Selby Select, an orange peel and yogurt blend we created for Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The list continues with Van Wezel with black and red currants (see post), Lemon Sunset with lemongrass and lemon peel, Bertha Palmer with licorice, peppermint, verbena and fennel, and finally Mable’s Rose with cherry and rose.  I hope you agree that is quite a line up and if you are an iced tea drinker, do not despair, all are beautiful iced!

One of our rooibos teas is especially nice too share with a loved one.  Sweet Sin combines raspberry with vanilla and is always popular around Valentine’s Day.

Sweet Sin Rooibos Tea

What a versatile and special tea this is and if you haven’t discovered Rooibos already then I hope you do so soon.

Cheers,
the TeaLady