Tea Kindness #04: Cinnamon Orange

Cinnamon: Ground and Sticks

In honor of this last Friday before Christmas, and our 4 installment of Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we bring to you the mother of all spices: CINNAMON!

Cinnamon is quite frankly: magic. Aside from the immense healing properties (and there are many) its ability to curb a raging sweet tooth is legendary. But did you know about its rich and interesting history?

  • Cinnamon dates back to Chinese writings as early as 2,800 B.C and is still known as kwai in Cantonese
  • Ancient Egyptians used cinnamon during the embalming process
  • The Old Testament references it as an ingredient in anointing oil
  •  In the 1st century A.D., Pliny the Elder wrote off 350 grams of cinnamon as being equal in value to over five kilograms of silver, about fifteen times the value of silver per weight
  • The West has the Ancient world of Arab traders for bringing it with them when they traveled to Europe
  • Cinnamon was the Arab merchants’ best-kept secret until the early 16th century and to maintain a monopoly and justify its high price, the traders told stories and tales for buyers about how the spice was obtained:

“One such story, related by the 5th-century B.C. Greek historian Herodotus, said that enormous birds carried the cinnamon sticks to their nests perched high atop mountains that were insurmountable by any human. According to the story, people would leave large pieces of ox meat below these nests for the birds to collect. When the birds brought the meat into the nest, its weight would cause the nests to fall to the ground, allowing the cinnamon sticks stored within to be collected.”

Stories like that remind me of the tales told about certain teas like Monkey Picked Oolong and how Monks sent trained monkeys out to the tallest tea bushes to pick leaves. This clearly did not happen, but the idea was to show how difficult it was to obtain this product and that it was a luxury item. (That’s early ancient branding and marketing strategy at its finest.)

In 1518, Portuguese traders discovered cinnamon bark in Ceylon which is known today as Sri Lanka. They took over the kingdom of Kotto and took control of the cinnamon trade for about 100 years. It wasn’t until the Ceylon kingdom of Kandy allied with the Dutch in 1638 to overthrow the Portuguese occupiers. The Dutch ended up defeating the Portuguese, took control of Ceylon and the cinnamon monopoly for the next 150 years. Enter the British in 1784  and their victory in the 4th Anglo-Dutch War, and by 1800, cinnamon was sort of downgraded and no longer a rare commodity.

That’s a lot of fighting and history – over the bark of a tree.

Cinnamon trees are small evergreens that can grow to a height of 66 feet and contain aromatic bark and leaves.  The tree bark is often peeled, dried, ground into powder, or rolled into strips.  It is used in both sweet and savory foods.

There are typically 2 types of commercial cinnamon on the market today: Ceylon (Sri Lankan), Cassia (Indonesian and Vietnamese.) Cassia is the the cheaper variety and what is usually sold in grocery stores to use in cooking, baking etc… The more expensive cinnamon from Sri Lanka is more milder and sweeter and very, very, very good in tea.

The health and healing properties of cinnamon are long, but here are 5 important benefits:

  1. High in antioxidants called polyphenols, phenolic acid, and flavonoids – compounds which work to fight oxidative stress in the body especially as we age.
  2. Anti-inflammatory properties which may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, brain function decline, lowers swelling and inflammation, beneficial for pain management, soreness, and PMS.
  3. Heart Health protection by reducing several common risks to heart disease like high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Cinnamon also increases blood circulation and advances bodily tissue’s ability to repair itself after it’s been damaged. This includes heart tissue which is in need of regeneration in order to fight heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke.
  4. Diabetes management. Helps lower blood sugar levels and also can improve sensitivity to the hormone insulin. It has been shown to decrease the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream after a high-sugar meal, which is especially important for those with type 2 diabetes.
  5. Fights viruses and infections by defending the body from illnesses since its naturally anti-microbial, anti-biotic, anti-fungal, and anti-viral.



xmas time and mug on desk
Happy Christmas! Happy Sipping!

Superfood? Probably! Super tasty? Without a doubt!

And it’s the feature of our 4th week of our Random Act of (Tea) Kindness initiative this month. Just in time for the Christmas holiday which is only (3 days away) please enjoy 22% OFF both our Cinnamon Orange Spice Black Tea and our Cinnamon Rooibos (Caffeine-Free).  No discount code is required. Discount is automatically applied in your cart and is good from Dec 22nd thought Dec 27th!

Both teas have 3 types of cinnamon blended with orange peel and some sweet clove. You won’t need a drop of sugar in either of these teas. They are naturally sweet and 100% sugar free. Pairs perfectly with christmas cookies, desserts and general snuggling by the fireplace. We’ve also “heard” that a shot of brandy in either cuppa takes this to a whole new level.

This is our last post before Dec 25th so for those of you that celebrate… 

Happy Christmas!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Kindness #04: Cinnamon Orange

Tea Kindness #02: Black Vanilla Bean

vanilla tea
Black Vanilla Bean Tea (Caffeinated)

Are you still following us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook? Last week we gave away Rooibos Blueberry to a random tea lover.

For our second week of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness, we’re featuring  Black Vanilla Bean. That old cliche about vanilla being boring is simply, not true.

• Did you know that Vanilla is actually a member of the orchid family?
• That it’s origins are native to the Caribbean, and South and Central America?
• And that it’s only second to saffron as most expensive spice in the world?

Check out this fabulous and fascinating article written by Nat Geo about the History of Vanilla.

For those of you who lean towards the vanilla/dessert on the tea spectrum, this is your cup of tea. The base is a black tea from Vietnam that is balance, smooth and without smoke. The vanilla bean flavor is rich, real, and righteous. The aroma reminds me of a homemade vanilla cake without the sugary sweetness. Brewed correctly it requires no sugar. Should you desire sugar, a literal dot is the right amount.

Flavored black tea blends can be tricky to balance. Not this one. You won’t find a nicer Vanilla Bean Black Tea anywhere.

To take advantage of our Random Acts of (Tea) Kindness Holiday Sale, enter code: RATKVAN at Checkout on our website to enjoy 20% OFF Black Vanilla Bean Tea!

Discount ends on Thursday Dec 8th at 11:59pm.

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

Tea Kindness #02: Black Vanilla Bean

Iced… Iced… Baby



World’s Fair Poster

• Did you know that iced tea was first “officially discovered” in 1904 at the World’s Fair, St. Louis?
• Or that prohibition and home refrigeration in the 1920s and 1930s helped increase the popularity of tea?
• And that approximately 84% of the tea consumed in America is iced?


Welcome to National Iced Tea Month!

The most popular story goes something like this: In 1904 at the World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner was planning to give away free samples of hot tea to visitors. It was so hot in St. Louis that year and no one was interested in hot tea – so he dumped cubes of ice into the drink. The rest is tea history. That said, there is also some information and a story about a Mrs. Tyree and her recipe for iced tea that was published in 1877 (well before the World’s Fair) in Housekeeping in Old Virginia – which is pretty darn cool. (Pun intended.)

Mrs. Tyree’s recipe for iced tea

In fact, many Americans were already familiar with and drinking iced tea in alcohol based punches as far back as the Colonial days. There is reference to the Philadelphia Fish House Punch from the early 1700s which was diluted with tea. David Wondrich, a liquor historian wrote that the recipe for Regent’s Punch (1815) “…also packed quite the potent wallop: Not only did it call for green tea and arrack, a rum-like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.” That’s a significant difference from how we drink iced tea today.


When Prohibition rolled around and took effect in 1920, nonalcoholic iced teas took off. In 1921, The Spice Mill (a book on coffee and tea industry) wrote: “Since Prohibition has gone into effect, tea has been drunk in places not heretofore thought of.” In order for social clubs, hotels and bars to survive, they looked for substitutes for (hard) liquor sales. Enter the birth of virgin fruit punches and strongly brewed iced teas – both packed with flavor and perfectly legal.  The real tipping point arrived with the availability of home refrigeration and freezers which meant that people didn’t have to leave their homes to attend a social club for an iced cold drink.


Classic Iced Tea

This brings us to America and its 84%. We stand almost entirely alone (American, Canada, Thailand) in terms of tea culture worldwide in that we are prefer our tea over ice – while the rest of the tea drinking world drinks its tea hot.  In countries like China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, tea is almost always served hot regardless of the season.

Is it because of our early access to ice? Or that Americans were “forced” to drink a strong nonalcoholic beverages during Prohibition? Perhaps! Regardless of the answer, iced tea isn’t going anywhere.

One of the best ways to enjoy real iced tea is to brew it yourself using loose-leaf tea. The quality and taste are far superior than anything you will make from packaged teabags.  What I find most interesting and also surprising is how many people ask me HOW to make iced tea. I get this question almost weekly at markets. It’s really quite easy and takes little effort.

There are 2 ways to make iced tea: traditional hot brew method and cold brew. I’ve made both. My personal preference is to hot brew black teas and cold brew green teas.

For Hot Brew: The proportion I use is roughly 1 oz of loose-leaf tea to 1 gallon of water. I use boiling water for black teas, herbal and rooibos. With any herbal infusion or rooibos you can brew the leaves as long as you like without risking bitterness because there is no Camellia Sinensis (tea) in herbal infusions. You could walk away from rooibos (or herbals) for hours and return to perfectly brewed tea. It’s not the same for black teas. Time matters or you end up with a very strong, sometimes bitter brew. Most iced teas in restaurants are often brewed too long, and I believe it’s why so many people resort to sugar in their tea. Quality tea made correctly requires no sugar!


Ice cubes changed everything

For Cold Brew: As mentioned I like greens (and oolongs) brewed cold. The ratio is slightly different in that you need more leaf to water. My preference is 1.5 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of ice/water placed in the fridge over night. When you wake up: Iced Tea!  Depending on the tea, I might even use 2 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of water. What’s great about this method particularly for green tea, is that there is little to no astringency or bitterness. Some research even suggests that the caffeine level is lower and the anti-oxidants are higher with this method.

Our summer iced tea menu at our local farmer’s markets rotates between these 6 flavors:

Black Currant
Calypso (summer only)
Lovely Lauren – Apricot
Pirate’s Nest
Ginger Peach (Summer only)
Moroccan Mint Green

For those of you that follow Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro area, or are one of our online customers, I’m offering 15% OFF these 6 teas for the rest of June during National Iced Tea Month. Enter code: ICE15 at checkout to receive your discount!

Only blog readers will have access to this code which expires at midnight on June 30th! Grab some leaves and brew over ice!

Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

Iced… Iced… Baby

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.

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





25 Days of Tea: Day 23 (Lovely Lauren)

25 Days of Tea: Day 20 (Russian Caravan)

img_lg_boheaDid you know that one of the the oldest written references to tea dates back to 59BC?  And that the oldest physical evidence/remains of tea date back to the Song Dynasty: AD960-AD1,127? There is a study that concluded that tea was consumed by the Han Dynasty as early as 2,100 BP (before present). Tea has been a loyal companion to human beings for a very, very long time.

We’ll fast-forward to “modern” times (18th Century) and the Ancient Tea and Horse Road, where caravans made their way from central China, through Tibet and eventually into Russia–bridging the East and West–sharing and trading goods. The greatest treasure/commodity taken along that route? TEA.

Photo credit: Ancient Origins

The humble beginnings of Russian Caravan begin with romantic stories of mile-long caravans of camels loaded with tea leaves. The journey sometimes took as long at 16 months to endure. According to China Highlights“The Ancient Tea Horse Road rivaled the Silk Road trade routes for importance, and as the longest ancient trade road in the world, at more than 10,000 kilometers in length, but was certainly toughest to travel. Few people in ancient times could finish the whole journey.”

Evidently, the Siberian route offered a “kinder” option for travel, preserving the integrity of the tea due to a drier, colder climate. As the caravans stopped along the frigid, snowy roads they would build campfires to to warm the weary bodies of themselves and their camel companions. With the tea close by the fire, the leaves took on the aroma and taste of the smoke bellowing from the burning wood. By the time they arrived at their Russian destination, the tea had transformed into a heavy, smokey, tobacco-like flavored brew. Though many came to associate this tea with the comfort of warmth from those glowing fires that saved them along the road, others (mainly purists) considered this tea to be “ruined.”  Little did those tea-snobs realize at the time that this route and those campfires were creating a new style of tea.

The proper “Russian” way to drink this tea is to use a samovar to create a strong brew – almost like a concentrate – and then pour into cups and adding water lesson the brew. This way creates one of the strongest brews you will ever experience. It’s no wonder the Russians add fruit (often jam) to their teas to lighten the load. If you are looking for a caffeine fueled day, try Russian Caravan made in a samovar. Some of you will take that as a challenge and want to give it a try, others will run away as fast as the wind blows on the Old Silk Road. Here are some tasting notes on this Imperial blend:

• Overview:   Famous for its distinct smokey flavor and history dating back to the 18th Century.
• Dry Leaf:    Medium, dark brown leaves
• Liquor (liquid):   Medium dark color
• Aroma:   Immediate aroma of smoke
• Flavor notes:    Smokey, but more mild then Lapsang Souchong. Notes of bergamot citrus and bits of chocolate/tobacco
• Brewing recommendation:     212˚F  for 1-2 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: 25TEAS20 at checkout to get 25% of Imperial Russian Caravan– today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf


25 Days of Tea: Day 20 (Russian Caravan)

25 Days of Tea: Day 19 (Earl Grey)

img_lg_keemumhaoyaMention Earl Grey and most people (even non-tea loving people) will know about this  – its one of the most recognizable blends in the world. I’ve noticed there are 2 very distinct camps when it comes to this flavored tea and not much middle ground: people either love it or don’t. I’ve not yet met a person was was ambivalent about Earl Grey. I’m often asked questions about where this tea comes from, what makes it “Earl Grey” and who is Mr. Earl Grey. Good questions. What I found particularly interesting and learned something new when reading up about Earl Grey. The timeliness of it seemed so odd, that I had to include it and post it specifically today: Dec 19, 2016 – when the United States Electors have to cast their final votes for President. Read below to see why this is so interesting.

WHERE: Earl Grey tea doesn’t come from a particular country or region. The black tea that makes up the base for this flavored tea can be made with black tea from India, Sri Lanka, China etc… Often it is a blend of a few black teas to create a specific flavor profile. Earl Grey can also be made with Green tea and Rooibos.

WHAT: It is a tea flavored with oil of bergamot, a type of orange primarily grown in Italy, that makes Earl Grey… Earl Grey.

WHO: Charles Grey, an English aristocrat and 2nd Prime Minister of the UK in the 1800’s inherited the title “Earl” after his father passed away in 1807. He was known for 4 important  achievements in his life:

• The Reform Act of 1832 which set in train a gradual process of electoral change, sowing the seeds of the system we recognise today.
• Reform of restrictions on children employment
• The abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833
• The inspiration for Earl Grey Tea


25 Days of Tea: Day 19 (Earl Grey)

25 Days of Tea: Day 15 (Ceylon)

Ceylon OP1 with tea flowers

You’re in for a special treat as we hop over to Sri Lanka (a small tropical island off Southern India) to explore a black tea called Ceylon. It gets its name from its country of origin before it changed in 1948.

When I first started studying tea seriously in 2007, one of the first single estate black teas that I became smitten with was ceylon. I didn’t know at the time that I would travel to Sri Lanka and stay on a tea plantation and attend the famous tea auction. What a beautiful, rich country with a gorgeous export. A noteworthy distinction and something most people may not know is that ceylon tea is certified ozone friendly. Here is an excerpt from the Sri Lankan Tea Board to properly explain what that means:

“All tea grown in Sri Lanka is now one hundred percent ozone-friendly. This is a distinction of which no other tea-producing nation can boast. Plans are now being drawn up to impose a total ban on methyl bromide use in applications like export packaging and shipping. As of May 2011, all Ceylon Tea is entitled to bear the new ‘Ozone Friendly Pure Ceylon Tea’ logo, certifying that it has been produced without the use of any ozone-depleting substances. The Tea Board plans to register the logo in thirty tea-importing countries by the end of 2012. When you reach for a cup of Ceylon Tea, you’re not just refreshing yourself; you’re also helping refresh and renew an environmental resource critically important to all life on Earth.”

You can read even more about this on the Sri Lanka Tea Board Website. A few months back, I was invited to dinner at the residence of the Ambassador of Sri Lanka where I sat next to a colleague who owns of a very small organic tea estate in Ella. We had run into each other a several times over the years, but this particular meeting proved fateful because we were able to really discuss the teas his estate is producing. A few samples later and we now carry this very unusual, very special OP1 Ceylon Black Tea with addition of dried tea flowers (camellia sinensis). It was a bit of a wait (months actually) but the end result was worth it. When the few precious kilos arrived, I squealed with delight.

When you see letters after a black tea (like OP), its referring to the grade of tea. OP stands for Orange Pekoe (pronounced PECK-O) referring to the highest grade of leaves. OP1 means it’s a slightly delicate, long, wiry leaf with the light colored liquor. Here are some notes on this island gem:

• Overview:   A special, medium bodied black tea that’s also a visual delight.
• Dry Leaf:    Long, delicate, wiry leaves with gorgeous pale yellow dried flowers.
• Liquor (liquid):   Medium golden brown
• Aroma:   Fresh rain, honeysuckle
• Flavor notes:    Strong notes of honey and light notes of citrus fruit on the finish. Crisp and bright. A longer steep yields a healthy substantial brew.
• Brewing recommendation:     212° Fº – steep for 2-4 minutes
• Caffeine: Yes


25 Days of Tea: Day 15 (Ceylon)