I don’t think of myself as a tea master, I’m just a long-time student of tea. But I get to hang out with tea masters.
For three days this month I got to be with Ms. Zhang Liumie, who is a co-founder of Yiqingyuan Tea LTD, Changsha China, and a tea scientist respected throughout China. Ms. Zhang and her daughter (aka charming translator) were in the Twin Cities for three days this month to share some new teas, talk opportunities, and teach about Dark Tea.
We had a great visit and had a chance to taste a bunch of new teas and show Ms Z and Joy what tea stores in the U.S. are like.
We started by visiting the TeaSource in Eden Prairie, MN and Ms. Z asked if she could try something she had never had before. To me this is a sign of a really smart person, someone who looks to experience something new and unfamiliar. So we shared a pot of Ceylon Burning Sun from the Lumbini Estate. Ms Z and Joy were very impressed.
The next day we talked a lot about Dark Tea. Then I invited Ms Z and Joy to help us evaluate about 30 Indian teas we had just received from this year’s harvest. This was kind of fun because, despite her brilliance Ms Z. wasn’t that familiar with Indian teas. But it was still a learning experience, cupping teas with her.
The real highlight of their visit was a 30 minute Livestream broadcast by Ms. Z and Joy, talking about Dark Tea. How often do folks get the chance to listen, learn, and interact with the person who actually made the tea they are drinking?
We opened this presentation to folks in the Twin Cities region to participate; so folks could actually listen to a tea master, they could taste (real-time) some very cool unique dark teas, and also so Ms. Z had someone to talk to (Livestreaming by yourself is not as easy as it seems).
Just a reminder to everyone; this Livestream broadcast should be available in the Livestream archives through mid-August 2014.
And please remember we try to do at least one of these Livestream events every month, and they’re interactive.
A lot of people assume the coolest part of my job is playing with tea all day (and that is definitely very cool). But the absolute best part of my job is all the people I’ve met along the tea road.
Dark tea is unique because it is the only deliberately aged tea that undergoes a secondary fermentation process. Because of this additional step, it contains an active micro-organism called Golden Flowers (Eurotium Cristatum). This micro-organism is present specifically in Dark tea made in Anhua County, Hunan Province, China. Golden Flowers is actually visible in some Dark teas and looks like tiny yellow flecks. If you want to experience Golden Flowers up close and personal, check out our Fu Cha brick. Puer, which is a sub-category of Dark tea, contains a different micro-organism called Asper Nigellus. This is due to variation in growing conditions, soil, and geography.
Golden Flowers is a relatively new discovery, having just been identified in the last 30 years. To this day, the process of making Dark tea is a closely guarded secret. Here are some quick facts about Anhua Dark tea for all you biochemistry buffs out there:
- Significant polyphenol content
- Significant L-Theanine content
- Significant thearubigin & theaflavin content
- Significant polysaccharide compounds
Dark tea is a critical source of minerals and nutrients to people in many areas of China. Over the past several years TeaSource has had the opportunity to work with Ms. Zhang Liumei, tea scientist and co-founder of Yiqingyuan Tea company in Hunan Province. Ms. Zhang created one of our most popular and unique teas, Dark Rose, which is pressed into a small heart shape. She describes it as “a spa in a cup” and she’s right. It’s a perfect introduction to this fascinating category of tea.
CON was very fun this year, lots of good costumes, theme rooms, and theme cocktails! TeaSource provided tea for the convention and I gave a Geek Tea Presentation. We had 100 people in the room, but there were another 50+ outside that wanted to get in. (We brought them tea samples!) People asked lots of great questions, took home some fantastic prizes, and sipped some great classic British-style blends.
Here is a list of the teas we tried and the ones we gave away loose leaf samples of.
Teas we sipped:
East India Blend- For Arthur Dent From Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (because he references the E. India Co.)
Scottish Breakfast- For the 10th Doctor from Doctor Who (because David Tenant is Scottish and also the best Dr.)
Lapsang Souchong- For Sherlock Holmes (because it’s the best tea for Brilliant deductions)
Teas we gave out samples of:
TeaSource Spice- For Jessica from Dune (The Spice must flow!)
(P.S. I am named after this character and will probably dress up as her for next year’s CON! Does anyone have a stillsuit I can borrow?)
Pi Lo Chun, Supreme- For Princess Leia from Star Wars (because the leaf is curled up into a little ball- like her hair)
Milk Oolong- For Princess Buttercup from the Princess Bride (Milk…butter…yup)
Green Dragon Oolong- For Danerys Targarian from Game of Thrones (She has Dragons and one is green)
Strong Assam- For Professor Snape from Harry Potter (because Prof. Snape is awesome…assam)
Earl Grey White Tip- For Captain Jean luc Picard from Star Trek (Earl Grey, Hot…tea of the 24th century)
White Tip Silver Needles- For Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings (elegant, floral, silver, just like a she-elf)
Can’t wait for next year’s event!
Iced tea is the stuff of summer. Everybody knows that. Sweet tea, tea cocktails, tea infused beer, and even tea with ice cream all come to mind as tasty ways to beat the heat. We have regular customers who drink gallon upon GALLON of iced TeaSource Gold in our stores each week, and personally, I don’t know where I’d be without my daily dose of cold brewed Green Mango. I would be hard pressed to find a drink that tastes as good, is actually good for you, and has stood the test of time as well as iced tea. It’s almost as American as baseball and apple pie, don’t you think?
There are so many creative ways to enjoy cold tea that it’s hard to choose just one angle. Here are a few of our favorite recipes to give you some ideas for your next family gathering or get together. Summer is too short to sweat the small stuff, so slow down and enjoy it with a cup of iced tea.
Mix and serve over ice.
Garnish with orange slices.
Dry Champagne (or sparkling water)
4 tablespoons of dry oolong tea (we recommend Green Dragon)
Steep 4 tablespoons of dry oolong tea in 4 cups of cold water in fridge for 6 hours.
Strain, cover, and refrigerate for an hour. Pour half a glass of chilled oolong tea, fill the remainder of the glass with champagne.
Strawberry Arnold Palmer
Take 1 can of frozen lemonade concentrate.
Blend into 1 gallon of cold water.
Cold brew one ounce of Strawberry Oolong in the watered down lemonade overnight.
Remove tea leaves. Serve over ice.
Ohau Iced Tea
8 cups brewed. TeaSource Classic Iced Tea (black tea), at room temperature
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
2/3 cup frozen passion fruit juice concentrate, thawed. Use frozen passion-fruit puree (available at Latino grocery stores), could also substitute passion-fruit juice.
1 cup white cane sugar (if using passion fruit puree only)
Optional: a couple of shots of dark rum.
Combine all ingredients, stir, and serve over ice.
We, at TeaSource, are thrilled to have Ms. Zhang Liumei, one of the founders of Yiqingyuan and one of our great resources in China, in Minneapolis this week. Ms. Zhang is a tea scientist and is known for her botanical expertise. She personally creates new teas and is an expert in the area of Dark Tea, some of which we carry at TeaSource. We are honored to have this close relationship and are excited to learn more about Dark Tea from her.
She will be doing a Livestream demonstration and talk on Dark Tea on Thursday, July 10th at Noon. You will not want to miss this opportunity to listen, learn, and ask questions. We will be doing a short Q&A after the talk. There will be limited seating available at our St. Anthony location during the demonstration. We hope you tune in!
To watch online, go to TeaSource’s Livestream Talk with a Tea Master event page and log in (or create a new account). Enjoy!
Over the last weekend of May, the World Tea and Coffee Fest descended on Long Beach, CA and St. Louis, MO respectively. TeaSource exhibited at both, an exhausting but thrilling experience that we’re still recovering from. Bill, Michael, and warehouse specialist Ryan were in Long Beach while manager Sarah and I went to St. Louis.
Coffee Fest is a fun show to be at, especially as a tea person. I learned a ton about coffee, especially coffee importing, and got to spread the word about how easy it is to make a quality cup of loose tea. I even got to teach a class on the subject on the very first day of the show.
Over the course of the weekend we met with dozens of people in the coffee industry, from people opening new shops to people who have been importing and roasting for a decade or more. While talking with everyone was great, my favorite conversations were the ones that started with someone saying they didn’t like tea and ended with them taking samples because they loved our tea.
Far and away the most popular tea was Iced Red Berries. People were glad of a refreshing, caffeine-free option after all of the coffee samples! Iced Green Tea Mango was another one that people couldn’t stop raving about. The weather was hot and muggy while we were in St. Louis, so people gravitated toward cold teas.
Even though iced teas were popular, we got many questions about how we make our house chai. Making a fresh and delicious chai is an easy way to impress your customers (or your friends!) and can be very easy to do! You can find our recipe here.
Being in St. Louis wasn’t all work, however. Sarah and I got a chance to sample beverages of another kind, including sake, and drinks at a real, password protected speakeasy founded a few years before Prohibition ended in the U.S.
Trade shows are an opportunity for us to learn from other in the beverage industry and bring our passion and knowledge to new people who are thinking about taking the plunge and opening their own tea or coffee shop. All the work of planning a trip of this kind leads up to being able to do one thing: have conversations with others about how great tea is. It’s challenging, but handing a sample to a new tea drinker makes it all worthwhile.
It is said the Zen priest Eisai brought tea seeds to Kyoto in 1191 and popularized the consumption of powdered tea. It wasn’t until the fifteenth century that a new culture around tea evolved into the modern tea ceremony known as Chanoyu (literally translated “hot water for tea”). The tea ceremony is an extremely structured and studied ritual that embodies many philosophical, artistic, and aesthetic concepts unique to Japanese culture.
Uses For Matcha
Traditionally, a powdered green tea called matcha is used during the tea ceremony, along with an array of traditional utensils. Matcha can also be prepared casually and is often used in recipes for ice cream, chocolate, and smoothies. The tea ceremony is just one way to appreciate the act of making and serving matcha, but it is by no means the only way.
Matcha is made from the tea leaves similar to those grown to make Gyokuro, a high grade tea that is shaded for the last three weeks before plucking. The shading causes the plant to produce more chlorophyll, giving both the leaf and the liquor a brilliant emerald color. These leaves are then stone ground into a powder to make matcha. High grade matcha steeps up sweet and slightly bitter with a taste of the sea. Japanese teas are distinct for three main reasons: they are machine harvested, they are often shaded before plucking (though not always), and they are steamed instead of fired.
How Do I Make Matcha?
It is not difficult to make matcha at home using the traditional utensils. In fact, it affords an opportunity to develop a ritual of your own. You do not have to be a tea master to enjoy preparing matcha.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started.
-Bamboo tea scoop
-Bamboo tea whisk
-Ceremonial grade matcha
- Heat the tea bowl with a small amount of hot water, the same way you would warm a teapot.
- Using a bamboo scoop, measure two heaping scoops (0.75 grams) into your tea bowl. (NOTE: It is important to sift the matcha through a strainer to remove any clumps.)
- Heat your water to a rolling boil and add a small amount of cold water to bring the temperature down to 175 – 185 degrees.
- Measure approximately ¼ cup of water and pour it into the bowl.
- Whisk the matcha vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Small bubbles will start to appear on the top of the liquid. TIP: The whisking action comes from the wrist; your arm should not move at all. Make “M” or “W” shapes with the whisk, careful not to let it touch the bottom of the bowl. This will fully aerate the tea as it dissolves.
If you’d like to delve deeper into this topic, there are many wonderful resources to tap into. The Book of Tea by Okakura Kakuzo is a good place to start. The Tea Ceremony by Sendo Tanaka is also an extremely detailed and beautiful book that talks at length about the history and evolution of the Japanese tea ceremony. It includes many photos that bring the tea room and the tea ceremony to life.
“Yet what is truly amazing is that nothing special or extraordinary takes place. The host and guests simply engage in the act of making and drinking tea. But it is this act that is important, for in the smallness of the tea room, the whole universe – heaven, earth, and life itself – can be evoked.”
***Tune in on Friday, June 20th at Noon for our Matcha Livestream! We will demonstrate how easy it is to make matcha at home using the traditional utensils.
More than 20 years ago, I phoned a gentleman who had worked in his family-owned tea business (founded in 1889) his whole life and told him I was thinking of starting a tea company. I had never even met this man.
He spent the next 90 minutes on the phone with me talking about tea and the tea business.
This was the first of a succession of incredibly knowledgeable, kind, and gracious tea mentors. Mentors is probably too strong a word: just people who knew a lot, got excited about, and loved to share their passion about tea .
Oh, btw, Hot, Loose, Cheap, and Easy is NOT a reference to this gentleman. It is the name of a workshop we are teaching later this month on serving loose tea in a coffee-house.
Since then I’ve felt a karmic duty to share my love and knowledge about tea. Folks in the Minnesota/Twin Cities know we do LOTS of workshops and tea tastings at our three retail locations, on all sorts of topics.
But, you might not know we do TONS of tea education elsewhere.
Later this month I will be teaching three classes at the World Tea Expo in Long Beach, CA. This is the world’s largest trade show for the specialty tea business. It’s not open to the public. It’s for folks in specialty tea or intending to get into this business.
I will be teaching the following classes:
Tuesday, May 27 – What Should I Charge?
This addresses the question of how to establish a retail pricing structure that ensures your business is fair, competitive, and sustainable over the long haul.
Thursday, May 29 - How to Source & Select Teas
A primer for people who need help finding teas, and equally important, bringing them back to their hometown/business, and ultimately choosing the right selection for their particular business.
Friday & Saturday May 30 & 31 – Tea Processing: An Experiential Lab
(I will be co-teaching this class with Donna Fellman of the World Tea Academy, one of the best tea educators I’ve ever met).
If you’ve never been to a tea garden before, we’ll bring the tea garden to you. We’re flying in freshly plucked tea leaves and then in a 2 day hands-on workshop we’ll teach you how to make black, oolong, yellow, green, and white teas. Read more about this class here.
If you’re in Long Beach for the World Tea Expo, please stop by the TeaSource booth (#950), say hi, and have some tea.
But wait, that’s not all. Timothy Otte, our wholesale manager, will be doing a workshop at Coffee Fest in St. Louis.
Friday, May 30th – Hot, Loose, Cheap and Easy: The Mechanics of Selling & Serving Great Tea
You don’t need to be a tea expert to have a high quality and high profit tea program. This program will teach you the practical steps you need to take to implement a high quality and high profit tea program in any coffeehouse or restaurant. We will answer questions like: what are the most popular teas, how do I do tea without buying more equipment, how should my counter staff make tea, how should I market tea?
Coffee Fest is one of the leading trade shows for the specialty coffee and gourmet tea industries since 1992. Visit TeaSource at booth #326.
We still have a number of classes through May and June in our retail stores; see our website for more details. During July and August we will be developing the curriculum for our fall schedule of classes/workshops. If you have any suggestions for classes, tastings, or workshops you have never see at TeaSource, please let us know in the comments.
Don’t forget: We’re giving away some free tea! While you follow along on Beyond the Leaf, be sure to read about Bill’s India trip. Leave a comment on any (or all) the posts titled “Travels in Tea: India” and you will be eligible to win a selection of five of our best Indian teas (2oz package each), including some tea from Bill’s trip!
(Each commenter, from every post about Bill’s India trip will be entered into a drawing until April 30th, 2014. You can enter multiple times by posting comments on different “Travels in Tea: India” posts. Winners will be announced on May 1st, 2014.)