Gong Xi Fa Choi! Happy New Year!

628216698_blackrooster
Year of the Fire Rooster

I love that we get 2 New Years. The New Year celebrated on January 1st of every year and the celebration of the Chinese Lunar New Year!

2017 welcomes the Year of the Fire Rooster and according to some some Chinese astrology predictions we can expect a year pushing us towards honorable deeds filled with supreme integrity. I like the sound of that. One of the other things it portends is a year to “temper ones ardor.”  You can have some fun and look up your Chinese Zodiac Sign to see how 2017 may play out for you.

Chinese New Year is a 2 week celebration that begins on January 28th this year and continues all the way until February 15th ending with a Lantern Festival. During this period of time, people are often visiting with family and friends and spring cleaning their homes and offices to prepare for good luck in the coming year.

Eating is a big part of this festival and no menu is complete without the 7 Lucky dishes: Fish (prosperity), Dumplings (wealth), Spring rolls (wealth), Tangyuan Sweet Rice Ball (family togetherness), Good Fortune Fruit (wealth), Niangao Glutinous Rice Cake (higher income), Long Noodles (longevity).

What I was most interested in was learning something about the Chinese New Year Tea tradition, which is evidently, a forgotten ritual. You can read a very nice article by the Tea Guardian on this ritual.

 

To celebrate the Year of the Rooster, Pearl Fine Teas has a limited quantity tea tin filled with a fun and fruity green tea for $8.88.  You can order it here.

The blend is comprised of green tea, strawberry, blackberry, pineapple and rose petals. Fruit is considered auspicious and the red rose petals are for good fortune. Whether or not you celebrate Chinese New Year or not, it’s another reminder of the importance of connection with others and of new beginnings.

Gong Xi Fa Choi (恭禧發財)!
Happy Sipping ! – The Chief Leaf

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Gong Xi Fa Choi! Happy New Year!

Day 26: Boxing Day (Give Back Sale!)

 

day26_saleimage2
25 Days of Tea

If you followed along over the last month during the 25 Days of Tea, you may have read all 25 posts and maybe even took advantage of the sale that was offered each day. Maybe you wanted a tea but missed the time to grab it. Or maybe, you are just now finding the TeaLove Blog. Well, here is a second chance for some tea savings while giving back a little.

Boxing Day is a tradition that started about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages in the UK. A box was placed in churches so they could collect alms for the poor and then distribute what was collected to those in need. What a lovely way to give back after receiving the day before. So, in honor of that unknown holiday that no one here in the U.S. celebrates we’re offering:

boxingdaysale226% OFF all teas on the Pearl Fine Teas website if you spend a minimum of $26.00. We’ll give 10% of sales to our favorite local charity: The Humane Rescue Alliance

Just enter Code: BOX26 at checkout and enjoy the savings. Offer valid Dec 26 – Dec 30th. If you’d rather skip the tea and donate directly, you can click here.

Happy Boxing Day!
Happy Sipping!

-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#boxingday
#teasale
#washingtonrescueleague
#giveback

 

Day 26: Boxing Day (Give Back Sale!)

25 Days of Tea: Day 25 (Dark Rose)

Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucius
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Charles Dickens
“There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.”  – Jane Austen

Wisdom from 3 Wise Men. And 1 Wise Woman.

darkrose2

Happy Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

You made it through 25 Days of Tea and the holiday season. I hope you learned some things and found some teas that made your taste buds and heart soar. Hopefully you are waking up to and are surrounded by love in whatever shape or form that comes in. In my case its, a lovely old home, cherished neighbors, beloved two and four-legged friends, my health, my family, two businesses that I love, superior customers and clients, and the appreciation of being part of the deeply inspiring world of tea that has gifted me with so many amazing connections world-wide. It’s pure TeaLove. So on our last blog-day together, on this heart-filled 25th Day that coincides with Christmas and Hanukkah, I present: Aged Dark Rose.

Oh sweet joy! I can’t say enough good things about this little heart of pressed tea with its haunting notes of rose. I’m not ordinarily a lover of rose scented teas, but this beauty is an exception. Admittedly, it took many years for me to fall in like with Puer teas. I drank some good ones, that’s true, but my taste buds couldn’t get with the program. And then one day, Dark Rose filled my cup and it was true love. Aged Dark Rose is a Dark tea which is a category of tea not common in the West.

What makes this so interesting and special is in the processing. Unlike other aged teas, this one goes through a secondary fermentation process which to my understanding creates an active micro-organism called “Golden Flowers” – specific to Dark teas made in Anhua County, Hunan Province, China. Many people think that Dark tea is the same as Puer tea but it’s actually different. Puer (mostly from Yunnan) is a sub-category of Dark tea and has different micro-organisms called “Asper Nigellus.” Puer can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), while Dark tea has only graced us with its presence for about 30 years or so. It’s a youngster in the tea world. It is loaded with minerals and probiotics for the belly. Puer teas are known to lower cholesterol and work like a statin, and I believe Dark teas offer the same benefit.

I wasn’t sure how well received this tea would be at our markets, but we sell out of it regularly. This is truly one of the most spectacular cups of tea you will taste and is the perfect way to start this love-infused day. It does have caffeine so it will keep you a float as you tear through presents, as kids run around the house, as family, friends and neighbors pop by for visits. Pair with Christmas morning breakfast, mid-day lunch or the main feast. It invokes a sense of calm and peace and if the caffeine is of no bother, its a great tea to compliment dessert. The probiotics will keep the belly in perfect balance and working order.

I’ll be waking up this Christmas morning and infusing my beloved heart-shaped tea with the Full Moon Water I made on Dec 13th, before the festivities begin. Here are some notes on these delightful little hearts of Aged Dark Rose tea:

• Overview:   A Dark tea from Hunan province of China not common in the West.
• Dry Leaf:    Smallish dark leaves pressed into hearts. Flecks of gold and rose petals.
• Liquor (liquid):    Golden medium brown.
• Aroma:   Light earthy aroma with haunting notes of rose.
• Flavor notes:    Delightfully smooth, easy to sip and addictive. The rose comes through towards the end and lingers for a while but is not overpowering.
• Brewing recommendation:     Rolling boil / 212° Fº / 3-5 minutes / multiple infusions
• Caffeine: Yes

I doubt many of you are online reading a teablog today, but if you are, I hope you will grab some of this tea while it’s on sale.  If you are interested in giving  todays treat a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS25 at checkout to get 25% of Aged Dark Rose – today only!

Thank you for following along this past month! I wish you all a wonderful, tea-filled, joy-filled day and leave you with this:

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”― Rumi

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#darktea
#agedtea
#darkrose
#hunan
#chinesetea
#christmasday
#hanukkah

#wellness

 

 

25 Days of Tea: Day 25 (Dark Rose)

25 Days of Tea: Day 24 (CHAi CHAi Christy)

img_lg_herbalchaispiceOn this magical night in honor of children everywhere of every age (that should be fast asleep before Santa’s sleigh arrives), we present our very popular and very decaffeinated blend: “CHAi CHAi” Christy.

Named after my niece Christy when she was around 3 years old because she loved a spicy brew, and because we didn’t want her to have caffeine to energize her more than she already was. She’s now 12 and about 2 belts away from achieving her black belt in Tae Kwan Do and still loving a bit of spice to compliment her ninja ways: calm and focused but with the ability to break a wooden board with one: “HIYAAA!”

christyglasses
“CHAi CHAi” Christy (circa age 3)

Rooibos as you have learned over these last 24 days is not tea but a tisane or infusion because only the leaves from camellia sinensis is actually tea–which has caffeine. Rooibos does not. It’s a shrub from South Africa and is a delightful addition to the World of Tea/Infusions.

CHAi CHAi Christy is an herbal riff on our “Naked” Masala Chai without the added stimulation from the black tea base of the later. It’s the perfect tisane to unwind on this sacred night, as one sits by the Christmas tree, mug in hand watching the twinkling lights and waiting for Kris Kringle to make his way down your chimney with bags of tea. Or perhaps as you open a single precious gift in honor of Hanukkah. Here is a breakdown of the mega health benefits in this infusion:

1. South African Rooibos – high in minerals (calcium, iron, potassium, copper, fluoride, manganese, magnesium, zinc), anti-inflammatory, relieves hypertension, aids the respiratory functions, good for bones and teeth, may help prevent type II diabetes, improves circulation.
2. Cardamomcombats nausea, acidity, bloating, gas, heartburn, loss of appetite, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, anti-microbial, anti-spasmodic, detoxifies, aids cardiovascular health, controls cholesterol.
3. Gingercombats nausea, powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, aids digestion, anti-blood clotting, improved immunity and respiratory function, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal.
4. Cloves – high in minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc; contains vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin K; aids digestion, antibacterial, chemo-preventive or anti-carcinogenic, hepatoprotec, anti-Mutagenic, boosts immunity, anti-inflammatory, aids in headache relief, gingivitis and periodontitis.

And here are some notes on this spicy tisane:

• Overview:   Named for another favorite person. A warming blend of spices and rooibos that promotes an overwhelming feeling of comfort and joy, with the added benefit of no caffeine.
• Dry Leaf:    Small pointy red leaves, melange of spices
• Liquor (liquid):    Beautiful reddish color
• Aroma:   Notes of ginger upfront with cardamom and clove wafting through
• Flavor notes:    Spicy but overly peppery. Classic rooibos flavor as the base and a long finish.
• Brewing recommendation:     Rolling boil / 212° Fº / 5+ minutes.
• Caffeine: No

If you are interested in giving this rooibos blend a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS24 at checkout to get 25% of CHAi CHAi Christy– today only!

 

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#chaichaichristy
#rooibos
#chai
#tisane
#herbal
#infusion

25 Days of Tea: Day 24 (CHAi CHAi Christy)

25 Days of Tea: Day 23 (Lovely Lauren)

 

apricot3-850x850TGIF! You made it through another week and the final Friday before Christmas!

How about something fruity, energizing and fun? Welcome Lovely Lauren. A black tea blended with mighty chunks of dried apricot. It’s a wonderful hot tea, and a superior iced tea. It’s another one of our most popular brews at our weekly farmers markets in Spring/Summer. This blend has caffeine, so if you a need boost to navigate the day, start with this cuppa, and you will have a nice even burst of energy to sustain you through the day of last minute work deadlines, shopping, socializing and wrapping gifts.

lauren-tea
Teatime w/Lovely Lauren (circa age 8)

Named after my eldest niece Lauren when she was about 7 years old because she loved having teatime with me, doing tea reviews and videos and because she loves anything fruity and sweet. Lauren was allowed to have small amounts of caffeine and she loved this flavored tea. Shes now 16 years old, drives herself to a job she loves: working in a pet store and rescue shelter to help find homes for many, many abandoned dogs. She still loves sweet things and a touch of sugar in her tea. I believe that’s in part due to her sweet nature. Try this delightful blend. You won’t be disappointed. Here are some notes on this fruity flavored tea:

• Overview:   Near and dear to our hearts and named after one of our most favorite people. Wonderfully fruity.
• Dry Leaf:    Smallish dark twisted leaves, medium brown, golden chunks of dried apricot
• Liquor (liquid):    Dark medium-reddish brown
• Aroma:   Upfront aroma of apricot
• Flavor notes:    Distinctly fruity – specifically apricot. Lingers on the palate. Strong yet smooth and easy going.
• Brewing recommendation:     Rolling boil / 212° Fº / 3-5 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

If you are interested in giving this tasty treat a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS23 at checkout to get 25% of Lovely Lauren– today only!

Thank you for following along this past month and I wish you all a wonderful, tea-filled, joy-filled day!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#lovelylauren
#blacktea
#apricot
#wellness

 

 

 

25 Days of Tea: Day 23 (Lovely Lauren)

25 Days of Tea: Day 22 (Matcha)

545985683
Green tea powder: Matcha

Are you losing steam? Too much to do in the next 2 days to prepare for Santa’s visit down the chimney, gaggles of holiday visitors, cooking, cleaning, shopping, work projects, dog walking, cookie baking, present wrapping, sipping tea, reading blogs… your list is long.

Solution: Matcha.

I’m never more productive, focused and oddly calm then after a bowl of this green wonder. Matcha is gaining in popularity in the West for a heap of reasons with the obvious being its superior health benefits:

  • High antioxidants and EGCg (Epigallocatechin)
  • High in chlorophyll to aid wound healing
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-aging properties
  • Lowers blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar
  • Vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
  • May boosts metabolism to burns calories
  • Protection against HIV
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Cancer prevention from polyphenols
  • Helps Type-2 diabetes
  • Detoxification from high levels of chlorophyll
  • 100% of the leaf is ingested and has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea.
  • One cup of matcha = 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea in terms of nutritional content

and last but certainly not least, my favorite: It enhances mood level, mental alertness AND is calming.

How does it do that? One of the chemical components of this treasure is L-theanine, a heavy-hitting amino acid that has anti-anxiolytic properties which boost alpha brain waves which encourages relaxation, seriously profound mental clarity and an alert state of mind – all while making you feel calm and in control. What else offers that without the need for a doctors prescription? Studies suggest that theanine acts as a neurotransmitter on the brain which is where that sense of calm comes from. It is said to help aid in deep concentration during meditation which Buddhist monks have known about for thousands of years. The anti-stress properties of theanine inhibits neuron excitation which helps lower physiological and psychological stress.

matcha
A nice frothy bowl of Matcha

So what exactly is the wonder brew? Matcha is made from the raw material (leaves) called Tencha. Tencha is grown in the shade for about a month or so before actual harvest. The shading of the tea plant forces a reduction in photosynthesis which creates a higher lever of chlorophyll (resulting in a deep green color), and theanine which is what gives it a very robust yet slightly sweet flavor. Any gardener knows that shade grown plants usually have darker, greener leaves. Same is true for the tea plant camellia sinensis. As is the case with most fine teas, to produce Matcha only the youngest leaves (two leaves in a bud) are used. After picking (which in Japan is often by machine), the leaves are steamed to stop the oxidation process, dried and cut. There is no need for Tencha leaves to be rolled or kneaded like Sencha or Gyokuro because the leaves (no stems or veins) will be ground into a powder using a granite wheel. A lot of work goes into producing Matcha and it is totally worth it once you see the rich, emerald green color and taste its distinct magical flavor.

There is a lot of history around Matcha, and many books and documents have been written on the subjest. A blog post could go on for days just discussing Matcha. Here is the super short version:

pearl_matchadualimage
Matcha tea labels

Tea was thought to have been introduced to Japan in the 9th Century CE by a Buddhist monk from China, where the custom of drinking tea for medicinal (and later pleasurable) reasons was already common. It didn’t take long for the Japanese to become smitten with tea. By the 12th century, Matcha, was introduced and used in religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries. By the 13th century, Samurai warriors got in on the action and started drinking Matcha which laid the foundation for the Japanese Tea Ceremony. It was during this period in Japanese history (Muromachi) that art and architecture when through a transformation to an extreme simplified style used by the Samurai. By the 16th century, tea drinking was widespread throughout all levels of society in Japan.

The Japanese tea ceremony (Chado), which means: the Way of Tea, is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of Matcha, a powdered green tea. It is practice meant to transform with order (rules) and refinement, humility, restraint, simplicity, naturalism, asymmetry, simplicity, and respect for the time and care it takes to engage in the practice of being present and sharing that time and a bowl of tea. Sen no Rikyu, one of the most well know historical figures in tea “introduced the concept of ichi-go ichi-e, (一期一会, literally: one time, one meeting), a belief that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced.”  These principles still in practice in Japanese tea ceremonies today.

The tea ceremony (and just making an ordinary cup of tea) is a strong reminder to live in the moment, be present, and connect with others and with the earth. I can’t think of anything that tops that, especially this time of year.

machakit_white
Matcha tools: scoop, whisk, bowl

So how do you make Matcha? Its actually quite easy and no need for an elaborate ceremony to enjoy. The classic way is to use a bowl and whisk, but as its gained in popularity many people are just putting the powder into smoothies. I’ve done that on occasion but still prefer to whisk up a bowl in the morning. A Japanese Tea Ceremony goes on for hours and no one has time for that in everyday life, so here is a shorted way to make Matcha with 3 tools: spoon, whisk, and bowl:

Step 1: Take a bamboo scoop (or measuring teaspoon) and scoop the powder into a bowl. A scoop or two is about right.
Step 2:  Heat water to about 175˚ – not boiling – and pour 2-4 oz of water into the bowl.
Step 3: Take whisk, called a chasen, (which ideally has been soaked in warm water to soften the bamboo) and using a back-and-forth motion whisk the tea until it is frothy. Ideally you want to keep the whisk straight and make like you are whisking the letter “W”. There should be no lumps in your final product.
Step 4: Sip your Matcha and enjoy the energy and serenity it will gift you. (If you are feeling cheeky, enjoy 1 simple butter cookie with your bowl of tea. The sweetness enhances the experience.)

Pearl Fine Teas offers 3 grades of Matcha, but below are some general notes on the tea overall:
• Overview:   An ancient tea made from Tencha leaves that are ground into a fine powder.
• Dry Leaf:    Ground, bright green powder
• Liquor (liquid):   Thick and frothy, also bright green
• Aroma:   Vegetal, melon fruit, very slight toast
• Flavor notes:    Intense, crisp, clean, tangy, vegetal, artichoke, strong and slightly astringent, sweet notes on the finish
• Brewing recommendation:     160-70˚F  for 1-2 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

25 Days of Tea: Day 22 (Matcha)

25 Days of Tea: Day 21 (Mao Jian)

img_lg_maojianWe made it!

Today at 5:44am EST, we welcome the Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year and the day that marks the “turning of the Sun.” From tomorrow onward, the days will now get longer as we head into Spring. The first day of Winter is a not a gloomy day, but a celebration of the end of darkness, the dawn of light and the unending cycle of nature. There are so many traditions and rituals surrounding the Winter Solstice, from Pagan rituals to Norse, but the one I wanted to focus on this year was that of  Dōngzhì (冬至). This Chinese Winter Festival that celebrates the shortest day of the year began during the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) and really peaked during the Tang and Song dynasties (618 – 1279). Families came together (and still do) on this most auspicious day to celebrate with a meal made of filling, hearty foods that inspire hope for the warmer days of Spring.

510603358.jpeg
Tang Yuan rice balls

The traditional meal is a  rice dish called  Tang Yuanglutinous rice balls filled with sweet sesame or red bean paste cooked in a ginger broth – an auspicious symbolize of family togetherness and reunion.

What could be better then celebrating the end of darkness by spending time with family and friends eating dumplings and sipping endless cups of tea. And not just any tea, but another one of China’s Ten Famous teas: Mao Jianrevered for its pleasant aroma and refreshing, easy taste. Legend has it that that nine fairies from heaven brought this tea down to earth for humans. It is said that, when you drink this tea, you will see the images of those nine fairies dancing in the steam. The name Mao Jian is broken into two parts to reflect Yin/Yang or “Xinyang” – the words “Mao” and “Jian” refers to the shape of the tea. Mao (hairy) and Jian (straight and pointy/sharp).

Whatever ritual or celebration you participate in today, or even if you do nothing at all, try to remember the bigger message: There is an end to darkness, and what follows is always light. Tomorrow morning when you wake to seconds more of that light, give thanks to nature for providing us with everything we need and one of the most delightful plants on earth: the tea bush! Here are some notes on our Mao Jian:

• Overview:   One of China’s 10 Famous Teas
• Dry Leaf:    Emerald green, sharp and pointy with tiny hairs
• Liquor (liquid):   Gorgeous green, clear and sparkling
• Aroma:   Cucumber, fresh, sweet
• Flavor notes:    Easy on the palate. A green tea for every day. Slight sweetness on the finish after notes of clean crisp cucumber find its way out front.
• Brewing recommendation:     170˚F  for 2-3 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

If you are interested in giving todays pick a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS21 at checkout to get 25% of Mao Jian– today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#maojian
#greentea
#wintersolstice

 

 

25 Days of Tea: Day 21 (Mao Jian)