Iced… Iced… Baby

 

 

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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.)

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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

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Iced… Iced… Baby

Sakura Sencha “Cherry Blossom” Tea

the Jefferson Memorial during the Cherry Blossom Festival
The Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial

If you haven’t made your way to Washington DC during Cherry Blossom Season, put it on your bucket list. It’s such a beautiful time of the year here and often the weather is pleasant: not too hot – not too cold. This year was unusual in that we had a very warm Jan/Feb and then it dropped to freezing in early March. The Cherry Blossom bloom time was moved up and then moved again. It’s a reminder that Mother Nature is always in control. The National Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for 2 weeks and there are activities and events almost every day. Not only is it a fun time, the entire city is glowing with pink and white blossoms!

Cherryblossomtin
Cherry Blossom Tin!

We have Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City to thank for giving Washington DC its first cherry trees on March 27, 1912 as a gift of friendship to the people of the United States. These flowering cherry trees are called “Sakura,”  and is a symbol of the “evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.” You can read a bit more about this here.

 

To celebrate this time of year, (which happens to be my favorite), I source a very small amount of Sakura Sencha. It’s a very refined blend of premium Sencha green tea and cherry blossoms, but this years blend has added Matcha  and a few rose petals for added visual appeal. This is one of my all time favorite teas and what makes it so special is that you have to wait a whole year before you can enjoy it again!

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Sakura Sencha with Matcha

Here are some tasting notes on this delightful healthy, flavorful green tea. You can purchase 2oz of this tea on our website – and it comes in a lovely cherry blossom tea storage tin! I hope you will give it a try.

• Overview:   Yabukita Species Green Tea from Shizuoka, Japan
• Dry Leaf:    Smallish, long and slightly flat
• Liquor (liquid):    Gorgeous bright green
• Aroma:   Fresh, green, cherry fruit
• Flavor notes:    Subtle notes of cherry show up at the finish. The matcha powder added is not overpowering, but compliments the blend nicely. A very easy green tea to drink.
• Brewing recommendation:    170° Fº / 1 minute / At least 2-3 infusions
• Caffeine: Yes

 

Purchase tea now.

ありがとうございました Arigatogozaimashita!

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#sakurasencha
#cherryblossoms

Sakura Sencha “Cherry Blossom” Tea

Gong Xi Fa Choi! Happy New Year!

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Gong Xi Fa Choi! Happy New Year!

25 Days of Tea: Day 22 (Matcha)

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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)

25 Days of Tea: Day 18 (Longjing Dragonwell)

dragonwell_long_jing_webKicking this Sunday morning post off with a Legend.

Longjing / Dragonwell is from the Hangzhou region of China, and has been one of their 10 famous teas since the Song Dynasty (960-1279). If you have not had any drops of this elixir touch your lips, you are missing out on one of the most glorious green teas ever made. It dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), and continued through the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties. That’s a very long time.

It’s one of those Chinese teas with a great history filled with legend. This one begins with Emperor Qianlong. While visiting Lion Peak Mountain he saw local ladies picking tea at the base of the mountain. He was enthralled by what they were doing and decided that he would try it himself. During his picking adventure, it came to his attention that his mother was sick. He stopped what he was doing, put the few leaves he had already in his hand up his sleeve and left for Beijing. Upon his arrival, he went directly to see his mother (the Empress Dowager). She smelled the aroma of the tea leaves wafting from his sleeves and wanted to taste them. The Emperor ordered servants to take the leaves and make some tea for her. She sipped the curious concoction and immediately started to feel better and refreshed from her illness. From that moment, Longjing tea became what is called a tribute tea for Empress Dowager.

The production of this tea is elaborate. In general, the best of the best Longjing is picked before the Qingming Festival, with a very strict selection process. The leaves are baked by hand using specially made iron pans. Its characterized by its beautiful and distinct flat-leaf shape; its glorious green leaf color and its mellow, nutty flavor. It is said that the best Longjing/Dragonwell tea comes from from the West Lake District in Hangzhou, with these 5 main production regions: Lion Peak Mountain, Longjing Village, Five Cloud Mountain, Tiger Running Temple and Meijiawu due to its superior water quality around the West Lake and the terroir. Just like how Champagne comes from one specific region of France, Dragonwell grown anywhere other then Zhejiang Province, is considered fake.

The first time I tried Longjing/Dragonwell, I remember thinking: “This is going to become an addiction” – because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing. The appearance of the leaf had me mesmerized, but when it was brewed and that delicious liquid hit my tongue, I was smitten. My favorite green teas include Dragonwell as one of them. It’s a very easy, non-offensive green tea and I encourage you to try it, if you haven’t already. Here are some more notes on this famous tea:

• Overview:   One of the 10 famous teas of China – specifically from the Zhejiang Province.
• Dry Leaf:    Distinctively flat and green
• Liquor (liquid):   Glorious emerald green color
• Aroma:   Nutty, fresh, sweet
• Flavor notes:    First drops wake up taste buds having them clamor for more. The nuttiness is upfront, but lingers as does a sweetness on the long finish.
• Brewing recommendation:     175˚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: 25TEAS18 at checkout to get 25% of Dragonwell– today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#longjing
#dragonwell
#chinesegreentea
#greentea
#famoustea

 

25 Days of Tea: Day 18 (Longjing Dragonwell)

25 Days of Tea: Day 14 (Genmai Matcha)

img_lg_genmaichaYamitsuki ni naru!

Beware of a new tea addiction. If you have not tried this hearty green tea from Japan, I encourage you to give it a chance. It’s Umai! You may have sampled it without even knowing if you’ve had tea at a sushi restaurant.  It’s a classic Japanese green tea, blended with toasted and popped rice. (Genmai means roasted rice and Cha means tea.) Ours contains added Matcha (green tea powder used in Japanese tea ceremonies). Traditionally Genmai was made with Bancha, but Sencha is often used nowadays as in our blend. It can also be made with Hoji Cha and Gyukuro but that seems to be less common. The combination of popped and roasted white rice along is delightful and is one of my all time favorite green teas to sip in the morning to start the day because of its distinctly “nutty” flavor, and that it almost feels like breakfast my cup. With the addition of matcha, it increases my energy level.

I’ve read a few different stories on how this tea originated. One being that a man from Kyoto dropped his mochi rice cake and instead of wasting it, he broke it into small pieces and added them to his tea. Another is that it originated in Korea given that they drink a roasted brown rice tisane. And still another is that rice was added to green tea during at time when tea was in short supply, thereby making it more affordable and last longer. The most legendary story dates back to the 15th century when a samurai met with warlords. Since green tea is the customary drink served in Japan, the samurai had his servant serve the beverage to his guests. As he was pouring the tea a few bits of a rice snack he had stored in the sleeve of his robe fell out and into the samurai’s cup. The samurai was so angry, he took out his sword and beheaded his servant. Then without hesitation, he sat back down to drink his “ruined” tea. To his genuine surprise, he discovered that the flavor of the Bancha was made better with the addition of the popped rice. He felt remorse and guilt for his cruelty and demanded that this new style of tea be served each morning to honor the servant whos life he took and named it after him: Genmai (rice) Cha (tea).

If you made the Full Moon Water last night, try using that water to infuse this beauty. If you didn’t get a chance, you can also still make the water tonight (Dec 14, 2016). Here are some notes about this green tea.

• Overview:   Easy to drink green tea that feels filling in the belly. A great morning send off, which could turn into a daily addiction.
• Dry Leaf:    Flat green sencha leaves, popped and brown rice. Matcha powder.
• Liquor (liquid):   Gorgeous deep green, slightly cloudy from the matcha
• Aroma:   Starchy, toasted
• Flavor notes:    Fresh, crisp, toasty, strong taste of rice. Matcha powder adds a slight astringency but there is a sweet finish to this tea.
• Brewing recommendation:     175-185° Fº – steep for 2 minutes
• Caffeine: Yes

25 Days of Tea: Day 14 (Genmai Matcha)