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
On the label of Goji Green tea from Local Tea Company, after sharing the ingredients and describing the subtle sweetness of this glorious tea, the label states, “live a long healthy life drinking this tea.”
Recently someone asked me about the phrase. I mentioned the story of the Chinese herbalist Li Qing Yuen who was said to have consumed gojiberries daily and lived to the age of 252. I smiled after sharing these minor details and moved on with my day. Later, I thought about the idea of living that long and it got me thinking more about this story. What would I look like at 250 years old?
His birth year was either 1736 or 1677, though his true date of birth has never actually been confirmed. Li Qing Yuen was born in the Sichuan province, in Qijiang County. He was an apprentice to elders who gathered herbs in the mountains. He went on to have a military career and then returned to life as an herbalist on Snow Mountain.
A New York Times article from 1930 mentions Imperial Chinese Government records from 1827 congratulating Li Qing Yuen on his 150th birthday. And then again in 1877 on his 200th birthday! An earlier correspondent reported many older men in his village claimed their grandfathers knew Li Qing Yuen as a grown man when they were boys.
The 1933 Time Magazine article asked for his secrets to a long life. Li Qing Yuen is quoted as saying,
“Keep a quiet heart,
Sit like a tortoise,
Walk sprightly like a pigeon, and,
Sleep like a dog.”
He spent most of his life in the mountains collecting and selling ginseng, gojiberries and other herbs. Along with his diet, Li Qing Yuen mentions drinking rice wine as another secret. He claimed to have survived 23 wives and had more than 150 children. He died in Kai County in May of 1933. His 24th wife said he died of natural causes.
No mention of a daily dose of gojiberries could be found in the official reports, and I really don’t know what sitting like a tortoise might look like.
I am going to leave the story in our product page because I think our Goji Green tea is phenomenal. As phenomenal as the legend of Li Qing Yuen.
Enjoy Goji Green as a hot tea to start your day, or as a refreshing iced tea (or try it as a Cold Brewed Tea) as it is served most days as Secret Garden Green Tea at the Selby House Café operated by Michael’s on East at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
While you are savoring a cuppa this wonderful green tea, contemplate your secrets to a long life. And then please share them with me 🙂
“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.
I like this quote. When I went to find someone to attribute this quote to, I couldn’t find anybody so I’m claiming it for myself. That may be right, wrong, maybe morally questionable, but the truth is, life is way too short to drink bad tea. And there is no reason to drink bad tea when so many great options exist, everywhere.
Perhaps the quote should be, “Life is too short to drink anything except loose leaf tea” Loose tea is the better tea, fresher and allowing for the best flavor, the deepest, resonant, complex and any other word you can think of to describe awesome flavor. There are superb teas in bags or sachets, seek them out and stop drinking bad tea. The difference is immense.
Tea is an emotional beverage. What other drink conjures memories, alters moods and makes you a better person. Yes, there is a similar quote, “Life is too short to drink bad wine”, but tea is healthy and can be drunk every day. And you should drink tea every day. We all want to extend our time on this planet, and get the most out of each and every day. So drink tea and drink great tea.
Motivating? I’m not sure, perhaps I’m just trying to get to the end of this blog post. But how about this?
“Make the most of every day” I won’t try to claim credit for this adage, but if you are going to drink the world’s most popular beverage after water, make the most of it and drink a great tea.
Drink great black teas. A robust, strong Assam or Darjeeling with a splash of fresh almond milk or a rich cream. Drink a great breakfast blend like our Organic Sarasotan Breakfast Blend, Or a mild, sweeter Nilgiri. Or if you want more flavor, a spicy chai might be the perfect option. I almost forgot to mention Oolongs! Especially our ‘milky smooth’ Dung Ding Oolong.
Drink great green teas. Froth a pinch of a matcha green tea, or gently steep a pure Organic Sencha. Add a touch of flavor, maybe strawberry or gojiberries or any other subtle sweetness that brings out that cool wonderful green tea flavor. Yes, white teas too. Drink them!
Drink great rooibos teas. Drink a lot of rooibos. This is wonderful in the afternoon when there is no fear of caffeine stealing sleep from you. Drink Rooibos or Bush Tea when faced with solving a mystery ☺☺ This is not only a lovely, mild flavor, rooibos takes on other flavors like vanilla and orange peel (Selby Select) or Lavender or Rose (Mable’s Rose Rooibos). Drink Honeybush, and Chocolate Honeybush and the list goes on.
Drink great herbal teas, peppermint, Yerba Mate or hibiscus or tulsi. I just saw this weekend that Roselle blossoms were available at the Sarasota farmers market. They are they’re blooming in Florida and they make incredible tea as well as a gorgeous jams and jellies. Drink a fabulous chamomile tea from Egypt and dream of Cleopatra or floating down the Nile.
Drink great fruit teas. Share them with a young person. Introduce a child to the joys of tea. Start with the anticipation of the kettle boiling, then take a moment to select a tea to fit the mood, watch when hot water meets tea leaves and the flavors release. This called the ‘Agony of the Leaf’, what does it conjure in your imagination. Heat the mugs with hot water while you wait for all the flavor to extract, and then pour two mugs full, and blow cool air over your brew.
Start a young person on a tea journey, drinking tea as a part of a ritual, after dinner, before bed, in the morning, later in the day. There are so many opportunities to drink tea. This ‘Tea Journey’ will last a lifetime and you will be responsible for the the very first steps.
And then there is the perfection that are Mote Beach Tea or Little Monkey fruit teas. Make a cuppa either of these herbal gems before you go to bed. I promise you that your dreams will be finer, they’ll be sweeter and your sleep will be deeper and richer and better. I can’t promise that your dreams will come true, but a great cuppa tea can bring hope.
Share that idea with everyone, a life of sound sleep and fantastical dreams. You are never too old to begin a ‘Tea Journey’. And what a wonderful community to be a part of, drinkers of great teas!
Appreciate all that goes in to a great cuppa tea. Where the tea was plucked, how far it might have traveled, who else might be enjoying the exact same cup at this same moment. How many years or decades or centuries have people been drinking this same tea. Or how much progress has been made in heating up the water. Before electricity, 200 years ago or 2000 years ago, how did they boil water, what was the mug like or bowl or the cup. There is much to consider in a simple cup of tea.
And be sure to steep your tea for the correct time. Not too short, robbing yourself from a fully expressed cuppa. And not too long, for the bitterness or astringency might distract from the beautiful flavors intended for you.
Give the gift of tea. Nothing can be so easy to share, so thoughtful, so considerate for either a tea lover experienced in drinking great tea, or introducing someone to your favorite tea. Tea elevates the idea of a gift to a new level.
Yes, I want you to buy my teas, and we have plenty of options for you. But find a new place to buy tea, a wonderful loose leaf tea. You will recall the moment later, when you are drinking or serving this tea. Tea comes with its own story, you just have to be a bit creative about it. The story is available and there is joy to be had.
Serve a great cuppa tea in a fine piece of China, in a cup that needs a saucer. Take a moment and make it special. You will enjoy the experience even morel, or help someone else feel special. That’s where this big thought started, with living your life to the fullest. Life is too short and so find the moments, the joys to extract a bit more than you may have expected. Surprise someone, delight them. Give that gift or treat yourself. You deserve it.
So drink up, Life is too short to drink bad tea.
Local Tea Company
Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) is a small tree native to the subtropical Atlantic forests of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. This evergreen member of the holly family was introduced to modern civilizations by the indigenous Guarani of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. An infusion, a mate drink is brewed from the dried leaves and stems of the tree, is consumed by millions of South Americans as a healthful alternative to coffee.
What does this yerba drink taste like? Well yerba mate lives up to its name ‘cup herb’, it is very herby or vegetal/grassy but can be very agreeable if made correctly! Water must NOT be boiling as this can cause bitterness. Steaming hot is quite sufficient. This is what Michael drank most Saturday mornings at the Local Tea Company tent at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market.
The traditional way to drink the infusion is from a hollowed out gourd through a straw called a ‘bombilla’, a reusable straw! A yerba mate tea set. The ritual is a common social practice shared with friends and carries a set of rules too. Usually one person, the host will prepare yerba mate and refill the yerba mate tea cup. The gourd is passed around often in a clockwise circle and re brewed many times. You will say ‘gracias’ and return the gourd to your host only when you have had sufficient! I talk to many visitors who have enjoyed this experience when traveling in South America.
I am a fan of our Organic Green Mate, pure clean. And I have tried to persuade others at the Selby Gardens Welcome center to join me, but my work continues.
Another option is our Roasted Mate. As the name suggests when preparing the herb it is toasted as part of the drying process, imparting a slight roasted taste. The leaf is dark and tastes almost coffee-like, and is a good choice if you are trying to ‘kick’ the coffee habit!
Michael prefers our Sweet Orange Mate which is a blend of green and roasted mate along with some citrus and licorice which tends to soften the ‘herbieness’ a little. Either way, you will receive a surge of energy and mental clarity which really gets you on the right track and sets you up for the day!
Like most teas, Yerba Mate is surrounded by legends. First discovered centuries ago by the indigenous people in South America, Yerba Mate has become revered as the ‘drink of the gods’ because people survived drought and famine drinking this tea. It is said to enhance health, vitality, and longevity and is now becoming an alternative to coffee in many other areas of the world too. With 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, high antioxidant levels and naturally occurring caffeine, Yerba Mate is a very well balanced stimulant!
Mate has some amazing qualities which make it a whole body tonic. The stimulation comes to us via 3 components called Xanthine Alkaloids: – Caffeine, Theophylline and Theobromine (found in chocolate!) This mighty combination along with minerals to support the nervous system and B vitamins to relax the muscles produce a balanced and long lasting physical and mental stimulation!
You may find comments about Yerba Mate having ‘more anti oxidants than green tea’ so lets just say Mate contains ‘abundant anti oxidants’ and is low in tannins, so can be brewed very strong without any bitterness which also makes it easier on the stomach. Along with a massive burst of energy, Mate will curb your appetite, raise your metabolism and burn calories i.e. loose weight. Sounds easy if all you have to do is drink Yerba Mate.
As with all teas you can change the experience to suit you. People always ask how to make yerba mate without a gourd? Brew your yerba mate drink your favorite way, whether in your favorite tea pot or a Travel Mug or a Tea Maker or a T sac. Give it a try and let us know what you experience.
British Actor, dramatist & Stage Director
(24 May 1855 – 23 November 1934)
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’.
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
‘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