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Healthy Living

I subscribe to a healthy living magazine each month and look forward to reading articles about wellness. I have noticed over recent months how the features on tea and the benefits of drinking tea have started to increase, which is great to see. This month there were two Local Tea Company favorite herbs mentioned which prompted me to share a bot more detail about both here.

The first is Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) which makes an amazing iced tea with a lovely red color and unique, bright, tart taste. Research tells us that this tea is said to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It is also a very good source of Vitamin C but is best know for the cooling effect drinking this tea has on your body.

Hibiscus

Imagine that, a natural body refrigerant which came in very handy this summer at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market! It is perfect when garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.  I have written a lot about Hibiscus in this blog, including last summer, but this time we have a picture!!

Boil four cups of water and infuse with ½ cup of leaves. Leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes. If you leave for longer the liquor becomes darker and more flavorful. Leave to cool before pouring over ice. (Be careful when working with Hibiscus as it may stain).

The second herb is Organic Egyptian Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) known for its gentle caressing nature.  We offer a Fair Trade Chamomile grown in the Nile River Valley.  I have written about Chamomile in an earlier post (Cami to Chamomile) when I was not a fan.  I have really grown to not only appreciate, but truly enjoy my “cami” and I hope you do as well.

Egyptian Chamomile

A warm tea of chamomile flowers is floral and rich. Chamomile calms, cools and tranquilizes to help you fall asleep naturally. Not only can you drink as a tea, you can use as a gentle spritzer on your skin or in your bath water as Chamomile relaxes tension in your muscles and softens the skin. For you blondes out there Chamomile will highlight your hair when used as a rinse!

For the spritzer use a tablespoon of dried flowers per 8 ounces of water. Cool before pouring into a spray bottle or soak a clean cloth in the liquor and use as a cooling compress.

These are two beautiful tea treats for your body and soul.  Stay well with Hibiscus and Chamomile.

Cheers,
the TeaLady

High Tea or Afternoon Tea?

Our sister company, Local Catering has seen an increased interest in tea parties at Selby Gardens including an intimate wedding last month.  I hear the term “High Tea” used as a reference, when in actual fact; “Afternoon Tea” is a more accurate description.

Tea Service

I will attempt to explain the differences between “High Tea” and “Afternoon Tea”, as well as a bit of history on how these very different meals got their specific titles.

“High Tea” does not refer to fancy sandwiches and small cakes served with elegant table settings, but rather a meal served in working class households as the main meal of the day, usually early evening.

At the height of Victorian times lower and middle class families were only able to afford one meal per day.  Served at the end of the working day, the meal typically consisted of bread and cheese, potatoes, vegetables, maybe cold meat and pickles or for the more affluent, fish.  Black tea would be served along with the food. This is the meal most families would now refer to as dinner.

Growing up, this was the main meal at house and was called “tea”.  Today, I still refer to our evening meal as tea and often ask myself “What are we having for tea today?” As I am more sensitive to caffeine, we now will drink Rooibos or Honeybush or another herbal tea.

Why is this meal known as “High Tea”?  Very simply, the meal is served on a dining table, in contrast to the much lower table on which “Afternoon Tea” is served.

Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) is credited with creating “Afternoon Tea”. The evening meal was often served after 8pm, and the Duchess would get a ‘sinking feeling’ (low blood sugar levels associated with hunger!) in the afternoon hours.  She instructed her staff at Belvoir Castle to make up small sandwiches and cakes, and invited friends for tea and conversation. The meal was served on lower tables in the drawing room, allowing for intimate conversation. The tradition of “Afternoon Tea” is still very popular.

There are many variations of “Afternoon Tea” with small sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and a huge variety of teas to choose from.  “Tea” can be a sophisticated, dressy and special occasion or a simple, casual and relaxed meal at the end of the day.

Whichever “Tea” you choose, the idea remains a wonderful way to spend quality time with friends or loved ones, enjoying some food and conversation. We should all do this more often!

Cheers,
The TeaLady

Tea and Relaxation

August 15th is National Relaxation Day and we are celebrating at Local Tea Company!

In all of our lives it seems that stress has become a major part of every day and we have simply forgotten how to relax. Stress is also leading to more obesity, heart problems and blood pressure to name a few.

I have a niece visiting from England and it is apparent even in the young, she is 15 years old! It may not manifest in exactly the same way as in adults but never the less they seem to HAVE TO fill their day with one thing after another and no longer know how to simply ‘live in and enjoy the moment’ or RELAX.

For me there is no better way to help mind and body cope than to enjoy a cup of tea (or several in my case!). That is exactly what I am doing at this moment whilst said niece and husband visit Busch Gardens.

There are very good reasons why tea has such good stress relieving properties. All teas made from Camellia sinensis, black, oolong, green and white tea contain a unique and special amino acid called L-Theanine. Researchers have found that L-Theanine appears to play a role in the formation of gamma-amino butyric acid or GABA, which blocks the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin promoting a state of calm relaxation.

Here is how it works! L-Theanine enters your body through the bloodstream but will also trigger the alpha brain waves (relaxation brain waves) which give us a sense of wellbeing and improved mood. This combines with the caffeine to release sustained energy, focus and mental clarity. It was this amazing phenomenon that first attracted Buddhist monks to drinking the beverage thousands of years ago. They were able to remain alert but felt relaxed enough to meditate for very long periods of time.

L- Theanine’s chemical effect on our brain and body is not the only reason that tea is one of the best known remedies for relaxation. The whole process of preparing the water, warming the pot, the tantalizing aroma from the fresh leaves, anticipation of the first sip and the flavor in the mouth all relax our senses. Even if you are an iced tea drinker you have involved those senses in preparation of your tea. You may decide to enjoy your tea alone or share with loved ones or friends.

Whichever tea or whatever way you choose to take your tea is not really important, just take time to do it!

Cheers,
TeaLady

Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream

July is National Ice Cream Month so with the help of Chef Maryna of Local Catering we used some of our new Matcha Green Tea to make Green Tea Ice Cream.  We are still working on packaging for bulk sales, so our Matcha is only available in drinks at our shops.  But there are many culinary options Maryna and I will be exploring with Matcha Green Tea and ice cream seemed like a good place to start.

Once you discover the wonderful world of home-made ice cream your life as you once knew it will change forever.  Since starting Local Catering, an extension of Local Tea Company, Chef Maryna’s culinary world has continued to expand.  I have introduced her to our menu of teas, and the magic of camellia sinensis.  Maryna grew up in South Africa, so she has leaned towards our selection of Rooibos.  She is exploring ways integrate tea into her dishes and ice cream sounded like a great place to start.

Here is the recipe we followed for Matcha Green Tea ice cream.
Ingredients:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbs Matcha tea powder
6 Egg yolks

Directions:

  1. Separate the egg yolk from whites in a large bowl.  Add sugar and Matcha, then whisk until incorporated.
  2. Heat cream and milk in a saucepan until it comes to a boil.
  3. Remove milk from heat then slowly add 1 cup of hot milk mixture to the sugar-egg mix, whisking vigorously to prevent eggs from curdling.
  4. Add mix back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and whisk to combine.
  5. On low heat (do not boil or it will cook the eggs and you will end up with Macha scrambled eggs!) continue stirring until the temperature reach 170 degrees.
  6. Pour mixture into a clean bowl and let it cool on an ice bath in the refrigerator until completely cold (about 30 minutes).
  7. Follow your ice cream machine directions and spin ice cream for about 20 minutes.
    Pour into a container and freeze until set (about an hour).  Scoop and…..yum!

So what makes Matcha so special?  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 forcing the tea bush to produce more chlorophyll creating 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.

There is no tea that is as celebrated or as famous as Matcha. 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 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 reverence to this power and was practiced by the Buddhist monks who drank the tea for meditative properties during long religious ceremonies. See blog post on Chanoyu – Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Drinking this greenest of green teas, or enjoying Matcha Green Tea ice cream, you are consuming the whole leaf and will drink 100% of the polyphenol nutrients contained in tea leaves.  This gives 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.

Visit our Siesta Key shop or the cafe at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens for a Matcha Latte, also excellent with soy milk and a bit of honey.  Or celebrate the summer by making some Matcha Green Tea ice cream at home.

The Gift of Tea

At Local Tea Company we have a great selection of tea to suit many different tastes. Some of our holiday favorites are listed at the end of this post with links to our online shop. Whatever your gift choice, I believe there are many very special reasons to be excited about both giving and receiving of TEA…

  • The anticipation of opening the packet and discovering the appearance of the leaf,
  • Inhaling the special aroma that loose tea releases,
  • Watching the magic of leaves dancing in the pot,
  • The delicious color and flavor in the cup,
  • Sitting down, letting go of all the stress in your body (which we seem to create in great quantities especially at this time of the year!),
  • And finally, enjoying every sip.

Making tea is an act to be shared with someone special, presented to a group of friends or enjoyed completely alone. I cannot think of any other item which is so simple, yet so complex, so cost effective and so enjoyable. You are also giving the gift of health and well being to your loved ones.

If you have no tea lovers in your life, then give yourself the gift of tea. YOU deserve it!

Some of our holiday favorites include Chocolate Honeybush, Organic Red Berries and Cochin Masala Chai. For a more relaxing tea, perfect for evenings there is Organic Honeybush. Also, check out the “Celebrate Sarasota” gift deal, 4 herbal teas which were inspired by Local Treasures: Selby Gardens, Van Wezel, Ringling Museum and Siesta Key Beach.

On behalf of all at Local Tea Company, I would like to wish all our tea followers a Very Merry Christmas and a TEArrific New Year. We appreciate your business and hope you continue to enjoy our teas in 2010.

No matter where you are or what you are planning to do during this special season, please make time for drinking some tea and feel the benefits. I drink to you and yours.

Cheers and all the best to everyone.

Tea Lady

America’s Only Tea Plantation

Last month I vacationed in South Carolina where I had the opportunity to visit Americas only Tea Plantation in Wadmalaw Island. It was a brilliant visit with my family joining and one of the highlights of our trip.

Holiday 09 187

After leaving Charleston we approached the Charleston Tea Plantation, on tree lined roads dripping with Spanish moss feeling as though we were entering some bygone time and era. An unassuming plantation gateway leads to a welcome centre lined with rocking chairs, an abundance of butterflies and absolute quiet.

Breathtaking!

The entrance led us to the gift shop (of course) for some iced tea (delicious!) and to browse tea gifts before we walked through the factory area. TV screens explained how the machines process the tea taking only 20 hours from bush to finish!

A withering bed removes 12% moisture from the fresh leaves. A rotovane machine tears and ruptures the tea leaf exposing millions of cells to the air starting the enzymatic process. The oxidations process now begins.

Black tea is oxidized for only 50 minutes and oolong for 15 minutes. Green tea is lightly steamed and dried only, with no oxidation occuring. Each batch of tea leaves is dried for 25 minutes sealing in the properties of each type of tea.

Finally, all the teas are graded to remove any unwanted stalks or off bits. That completes the miracle process which is all done by one man!

Next the trolley bus took us out onto the plantation of 127 acres. All the 150,000 bushes are Camelia sinensis varietals which originated in China and India. The heat, humidity, well drained sandy soil and 75 days of rainfall here provide ideal growing conditions from April through September. Spring sees the first flush of leaves and harvest begins with 3-5 inches of new growth. Every bush will yield 7 to 10 cutting each season with new growth taking from 14-20 days depending on weather conditions.

The plantation has a custom designed harvester called the “Green Giant”. This machine and one man are able to harvest fields which would take 500 manual workers to pick.

Cuttings are taken from selected varieties which take 6-12 months to develop mature roots. After planting it will take up to 4 years to mature. No pesticides are ever used in the plantation and the plants all looked so healthy and well cared for!

After the trolley ride we sat on the porch and chatted with Bill Fernandez, founder of the plantation and a 3rd generation tea taster! He has 42 years of experience in the tea industry and is one of only 28 professionals in the USA.

We really started to connect when discovering his grandfather was from Yorkshire. His Canadian/American accent with hints of time spent in London soon reverted back to those roots and we had a blast! Needless to say he drinks only the freshest tea.

Holiday 09 239

For me it was very special to see Camelia sinensis growing, to see and touch tea leaves. I may never get chance to visit China, India or Sri Lanka so this experience will always remain with me and add another special dimension to my personal tea journey.

I hope you enjoyed this whistle-stop tour through the Charleston Tea Plantation but most of all I hope you too will visit and celebrate this most amazing of local treasures.

Cheers,
the tealady

Memories

The past month in the tasting room at Selby Gardens we have had many European visitors, especially British. When they hear me speak we inevitably talk about where we are from and the type of tea we drink.

The choices being PG Tips, Typhoo, Yorkshire, Twinning’s etc. basically all the well known tea bags available. There was also a gentleman who mentioned Brooke Bond which was a real blast from the past! He was married to an American, and lives in Sarasota.  His wife sourced the tea for him and he was very pleased.

Anyway, the name Brooke Bond took me on a journey back to the small village in the Yorkshire Dales where I was born and raised.  Our little grocery shop, run by Mrs. Gosney had a large metal sign displayed outside in black and red advertising Brooke Bond! Mum sent me to buy tea and I remember Mrs. Gosney using an old fashioned scale with real weights and putting the weighed tea in a brown bag. When I got home mum would transfer the tea to our caddy (which I think was a tin that had once stored candy, probably Liquorices’ Allsorts) I can remember inhaling the most wonderful smell of fresh tea in the caddy. I was touched thinking about how we continue such practices, as I use such a caddy even now!

So where did the name caddy come from?  During the early British trading days in Asia, a language called “pidgin English” was created to facilitate commerce. Composed of English, Portuguese and Indian words pronounced in Chinese, “Pidgin” is actually the word which was used for “do business”.  The term “caddy” is from the Chinese word for one pound, which was the standard size for a tea container.

We meet such nice people when talk tea.  Great stories and legends are exchanged, and memories evoked when we talk about this amazing drink called TEA.

Margaret Thatcher comes to tea

Had a lovely week. Worked in the tasting room several days and enjoyed conversations with many visitors from the States and beyond, especially fellow Brits. Everyone is always interested in my story and how I come to be working with tea. What a great life, making conversation and drinking tea.

Talking of Brits I got to serve tea to the Iron Lady herself! (just in case you thought I was being serious, the lady was an actor) Margaret Thatcher was the theme at the afternoon tea which was to benefit the Women’s Resource Center. Our gracious hostess had a magnificent penthouse overlooking the bay and tea and food was served on a collection of exquisite china.

Iced Peach Paradise was set on the table in wine goblets (looked beautiful) When the ladies started eating sandwiches, our Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling was served and with desserts I served Goji Green tea. The tea was very well received. Why am I sounding so surprised, all of the loose leaf teas offered at Local Tea Company are delicious!

There followed some discussion about Margaret Thatcher’s time in office and how it would be if she were in office today. If I had been invited, I could have told a few home truths about my experiences during her ministry but I was there to talk tea so did my short presentation about tea and added a Thatcher quote…

“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done ask a woman.”

Sip Locally with your very own Tea Lady at the gardens. Stay Cool.

Glynis

Tea Party for 110

On Sunday dawned the day I was to serve tea to the biggest tea party I have ever been involved with! This was definitely a first in my tea journey.

The occasion was to celebrate and give thanks to the Associates of Selby Gardens, all 110 of them and a bunch of tea lovers to boot! Not only that, they wanted the “Champagne of tea” Darjeeling. We selected a beautiful tea from the Tukdah Estate which was a first flush TGFOP. I just could not mess this one up!

So, my dilemma. How to serve the perfect tasting, piping hot cup of tea to all these people? How much to make, what time to start brewing? When it boils down to it (sorry!) you just have to replicate what you do best when you are making tea for two. So that is just what I did, along with some helpers of course.

I got together all the containers (one of these was a Silver Samovar which looked fabulous) we were using, weighed the tea in correct proportions and got the kettles boiling! We steeped the leaves twice, first for 3 mins and second for 6 mins which in my experience gives a well balanced taste. It took one and a half hours to complete the process.

We delivered the tea to another building (no easy fete over the brick paving’s in the garden) where it was decanted into very nice Silver teapots owned by some of the Associates. The tables were served tea in turn as the guests were invited to the buffet table. Each server came back for more and more tea!

It was a brilliant feeling seeing all those people slurping Darjeeling (sorry, associates don’t slurp but you know what I mean) which was hot and tasted perfect too! We had plenty for everyone and very little left which is also good.

It was great to receive such good comments and no negatives. Then you start to ask yourself, why did I worry so much?

“If you say you can, you will” is a great motto and one which is working well for me this month, stir in a little love and you have the perfect cups of tea.

So, if you are planning a BIG tea party call yours truly.

The Tea Lady