The tea plant is native to India, but the Indian tea industry began when thousands of tea seeds were smuggled out of China in the 1840’s. Today, India is the second largest tea producer in the world (still trailing China). There are four officially-designated “traditional” tea growing regions in India – Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgri, Kangra, and one officially-designated “non-traditional” tea growing region – Bihar.
Last spring I spent three weeks wandering around northern and eastern India, searching for great teas. This is the fun part of my job.
I had the honor of visiting one of the smallest tea gardens in India: the Doke Tea Estate in Bihar. There I was able to taste hand-made teas which were just a couple of days off the bush.
The Doke Tea Estate is one of the newest and smallest tea gardens in India. Begun 26 years ago by Rajiv Lochan (a life-long tea expert, who managed many of Darjeeling’s most famous tea estates), Doke began with just 25 acres on the banks of the Doke River in the state of Bihar. All the teas are hand-processed in very small batches, supervised by Rajiv’s daughter, Dolly Lochan, using family and local villagers to help.
TeaSource is proud to offer the hand processed Black Fusion and Green Diamond from the Doke Tea Estate in our stores and on our website. Driven by passion and a generation-spanning love of tea, this tea estate is producing some of the most unique and special teas coming out of India. We look forward to welcoming more of these teas at TeaSource!
Our homemade chai is one of my favorite beverages. Ever. Since we make two gallons of it at each store every day, it seems to be one of yours too. It’s the perfect cold weather drink — sweet and spicy with a thick creaminess. Delish. However, many customers can’t have dairy — therefore, no TeaSource Chai (so sad). Recently we received an email requesting a non-dairy chai solution. So I’ve come up with some possible solutions for those chai-deprived souls.
It would be great if it was as easy as using your favorite non-dairy milk, but the consistency of the milk is so important. First of all, it gives the final cup a creamy thickness. Secondly, it helps evenly disperse the spices. We can’t mix the spices straight into milk because they would sink to the bottom. So, I needed to thicken some non-dairy milk.
Bill Waddington, owner of TeaSource (and lactose intolerant) suggested using almond milk. I made a sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below) by adding sugar and reducing it on the stove. After it cooled, I added a tablespoon of spices and stored it in the fridge overnight.
Another popular non-dairy substitution for sweetened condensed milk is Cream of Coconut, which is usually used in alcoholic drinks like Pina Coladas; it’s naturally very thick and sweet. I added a tablespoon of spice mix to 1 cup of cream of coconut and refrigerated it overnight.
You can also use coconut milk. It’s already pretty thick, so I sweetened it up with ¼ cup of honey and reduced it to 1 cup. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of chai spice followed by a night in the refrigerator.
The next morning, I took my mason jars of chai goop into our St. Anthony store and steeped up some Breakfast Assam as the base for my chai experiments.
Let me pause for just a minute and say this: none of these non-dairy solutions will have the same taste and feel as the original dairy TeaSource Chai. It can’t be the same because we can’t use the same ingredients. So, from here on, let’s try not to compare it to the original.
1) Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (made with honey) – I had the most hope for this since it was a naturally thicker milk while still tasting and looking creamy. The reduced milk also had the closest consistency to the dairy sweetened condensed milk. It was creamy and sweet, but the least spicy of them all.
2) Sweetened Condensed Almond Milk (made with sugar) – This one was the first one I tried, and at first it felt thin. But after sampling it and the others multiple times, it grew on me. It was the spiciest and the creamiest of the three.
3) Cream of Coconut – I was so nervous about this one because of the strong coconut smell. However, I was really surprised with how well it cupped. It was creamy and spicy. This one had the closest mouthfeel to the original chai (oops, we’re trying not to compare to the original). Of the three, this one was the sweetest with a fun tropical hint that didn’t annoy me.
In the end, my favorite of these non-dairy chai mixes was the almond milk. Now this is only my opinion and I recognize that we all have different preferences and tastes — I tend to prefer less sweet and more savory things. However, if I wanted to go with the easiest solution (because let’s face it…I am a working mom of young children and have little time) I would make the cream of coconut and save myself from standing over a stove for 45 minutes constantly stirring milk while it reduced.
I would be curious to hear about what you think of these suggestions. Have you tried any other techniques for adding some sort of non-dairy milk or cream to your tea? What’s your favorite way to make Chai? Tell us in the comments below!
**Something else to note: Because of space and health code restrictions, TeaSource is unable to offer these non-dairy options in our stores. Bummer, I know.
TeaSource “Tech Guru”
Non-Dairy Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 3 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
- ½ cup of sugar (or try your favorite sweetener)
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp salt
Mix in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook (don’t forget to stir the pot occasionally!) until the milk has reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat and let cool.
To make Chai “Goop”: Add 1 tablespoon of TeaSource Chai Spice Mix to 1 cup of non-dairy sweetened condensed milk. Refrigerate overnight (or 8 hours). Add “goop” (to taste) to a cup of strong black tea – we suggest Breakfast Assam. Cheers!
As everyone tends to do this time of year, we are reflecting back on the past twelve months. We have seen many teas come and go, but these teas, were voted your favorites of 2014. We can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring!
Breakfast Assam – This is a great everyday Assam, very hearty and malty, but with a nice clean taste. This tea is our first choice for using as a base tea for Chai.
Roasted Chestnut -This is a deep, dark, rich black tea blend with a delicious aroma. It has a roasty nut flavor with a little sweet silkiness. This is a perfect cooler weather black tea blend. Contains: China black tea, roasted mate, Houjicha, flavor, and sliced almonds.
Dark Rose – This dark tea from Hunan province of China, is medium to full-bodied, very smooth, with a delicious dusty rose flavor and aroma. Contains dark tea and rose petals.
Blue Beauty Oolong – This greener oolong from the Fujian province is a regional specialty tea rarely seen outside of China. It brews up very aromatic, sweet, floral, and slightly spicy with a pronounced silky texture. The leaf is sprinkled with ginseng and licorice root, and then folded many times so you will get many steepings from the same leaf.
Gyokuro – Japan’s finest green tea. Also known as “Precious Dew.” This Japanese tea produces an incredibly luminescent tea with a very intense, complex aroma and taste, with traces of sweetness, a slight bitterness, and the taste of the sea.
Green Tea with Mango – Sweet, smooth, and summery. Those are your first impressions when you sip this sencha based green tea. The aroma of fresh mangos rises from the steeped cup, and the tea itself is smooth, sweet, and silky and brings to mind tropical breezes on desert islands. This tea is wonderful when made hot, and incredible when made iced.
Machu Peach-u – This white tea from China has a prominent peach aroma and a flavor that is very smooth, very very peachy, with lots of body for a white tea. If you’re looking for a white tea that is a little silky, a little sweet, and has a little something extra — this is the tea.
Thanks for a great year!
It’s the season to introduce friends and family to the wonders of tea!
Don’t miss the Chai Spice Meringue recipe at the bottom of this post. Crafted by Georgia at our Eden Prairie location- they’re amazing!
‘Teas the season- All year long!
1. Tea of the Month Club It’s like an advent calendar of tea that keeps coming all year! Every month a 4 oz pouch of tea arrives on your doorstep. Is someone you know new to tea? Tea of the Month Club is the perfect gift for newbie and expert.
Great Gifts under $20
2. You, and a mug of Roasted Chestnut Roasted Chestnut is our own black tea blend and was voted best flavored black tea of 2014. Only $6.59 for four ounces! Try it with a swirl of honey and a dollop of milk (or with a splash of Irish Cream!).
3. Basic Brew in Mug and 4 oz. of Fireside Spice Everything the tea novice needs.. The 11 oz. stoneware mug comes with a built-in stainless steel tea strainer and coaster lid for just $10.99. Fireside Spice is on sale: $7.18/four oz. through December.
4. New Seascape Gaiwan Gaiwans are the traditional Chinese way to prepare tea. It’s the perfect vessel for teas that re-steep and the ideal gift for the burgeoning tea geek. $13.99
5. TeaSource Chai Tin Minnesotans survive our frigid winters because we drink a lot of TeaSource House Chai. Share this decadent treat over the holidays with our TeaSource Chai Tin. Comes with 2 oz. of spice blend and black Assam tea $10.99
Great Gifts under $50
6. TeaSource Winter Sampler Box Not sure what to buy? This gift contains 1 ounce each of our five best- selling seasonal blends in a gorgeous botanical Camilla Sinensis gift box. Inner lid has basic brewing instructions. $24.99
7. New! Square Beehouse Teapot Think inside the box with our new square Beehouse teapots. The square teapot comes in three colors with a built in steeping basket, metal lid, and no drip spout. $26.99-$28.99
Memorable Gifts for Tea Geeks
8. Eilong Taiwanese Porcelain Stunning, heirloom quality, and exquisitely functional; we love these Taiwanese tea sets. Take one home. You’ll fall in love with them too! $49.99-$79.99
9. Fabulous Indian Teas TeaSource will be featuring the best teas of India throughout 2015 with teas you can’t find at just any tea shop. Green Darjeelings, exotic estates, and awesome Assams! Try my personal favorite: Darjeeling, Giddapahar Estate 2nd flush, Musk. $23.97/four oz.
A Perfect Holiday Tea Party
- 1 part cold brewed Jasmine, chilled
- 1 part Champagne, chilled
Fill a champagne flute halfway with Jasmine, then top off the glass with champagne. Adjust to your personal taste. Cheers!
Cold brew iced tea instructions here.
Hot Toddies were traditionally made with black tea, but this ingredient is often left out of modern recipes. For shame! We are bringing it back with our Fireside Toddy!
- 1.5 oz. your favorite Whiskey (substitute Brandy for a sweeter variation)
- 1 Tbs. Honey
- 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
- Dash of Bitters
- Fireside Spice Tea concentrate. To prepare: use I heaping teaspoon (3-4 grams) Fireside Spice tea. Steep in 4-6 oz. boiling water for 4 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a tea cup, stir, and garnish with lemon peel.
12. Georgia’s Amazing Chai Spice Meringues
Makes Approximately 30 meringues
Takes 30 minutes to prep. (45 if you are distracted singing along with Christmas music).
- 2 egg whites, room temperature
- 2/3 cup White Sugar
- ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- ½-1 tsp. TeaSource Chai Spice Blend (Half a teaspoon makes regular spiced meringues, a whole teaspoon makes them extra zippy!)
- Pre-heat oven to 400
- Separate the eggs so you just have the egg whites in your mixing bowl. In a smaller dish stir together your sugar, spices, and salt
- Add the vanilla to your egg whites and start mixing. Put your electric mixer on the highest setting.
- When the egg whites and vanilla have reached the stiff peak stage, (aprox. 5 min.) keep the mixer going and slowly add in the sugar, spice, and salt blend. Turn the mixer off when everything is fully incorporated.
- Using 2 small spoons, (one to scoop and one to help pry the meringue off the first spoon) spoon bite sixed mounds of meringue onto a well-greased baking sheet. They can be placed close together because they don’t expand or flatten much.
Put your baking sheet(s) in the oven and as soon as you close the door turn the oven OFF. Let meringues sit undisturbed for 6 hours/ overnight. (Save the peaks by taking no sneak peaks!)
“I’ve never heard of that kind of tea before.”
It’s not very often that I say those words. But it happened while I was in India last spring. Almost every tea place I stopped in – street stalls, tea broker’s offices, tea gardens – I would be asked if I wanted tea. Of course I would say “yes.” I would be asked if I wanted “black tea” or “milk tea.”
At first I thought they just meant a black tea served with milk on the side. But it became clear this was not what they meant.
So of course I asked for it. Then asked for it at the next place, and the next place … It’s reaalllly good. It is strong, sweet, smooth, milky (duh), and the method of preparation totally took me by surprise. In the interest of full disclosure, my wife did not like it but EVERYONE at TeaSource did.
Watch and learn how this traditional Indian tea is made…
This is the time of year when our big shipments of teas arrive by sea from China, India, and Sri Lanka. Remember, tea is an agricultural crop and, for the most part, follows the seasons. With some exceptions, most tea production areas have wound down production for the year.
We have made many of our buying decisions from this year’s offerings. And we have a whole bunch of wonderful new teas to entice. We have some teas from one of the smallest family tea farms in India, also unheard of teas from Taiwan, and a new Sencha from Japan, and much more.
We’re excited to offer two exotic teas from the Doke Estate, the Black Fusion and the Green Diamond. The Doke Tea Estate is one of the newest and smallest tea gardens in India. I had the pleasure of visiting this tea estate and its founder, Rajiv Lochan (a life-long tea expert, who managed many of Darjeeling’s most famous tea estates). This estate, as it was made clear to me during my travels to India, is driven by passion and a generation-spanning love of tea. They are producing some of the most unique and special teas coming out of India.
Also hailing from India, we have welcomed a handful of new Assams. The tea growing region of Assam, in the far east of India, is known for producing heavy, thick, hearty black teas with a distinctive malty note to the flavor. While in India this spring, I was able to observe a tea auction in Assam. This tradition is over 100 years old, but has morphed into the digital/virtual age. If Assams are your “cup of tea”, you must check these out!
- Assam, Dinjoye Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFOP1
- Assam, Doomini Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFOP1
- Assam, Halmari Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFOP1
- Assam, Khagorijan Estate, 2nd Flush, FTGFOP1
- Assam, Khongea Estate, Special, TGFOP
One of the more unique teas on this recent shipment of teas: the Makaibari Estate, Silver Tips. I like to say that this tea is “historic.” This was the last tea produced at the Makaibari estate by the Bannerjee family; who founded this garden in 1859 and sold Makaibari in the summer of 2014. I was so fortunate to meet with the owner before the sale of the estate. And TeaSource is so fortunate to have such a remarkable tea available to its customers.
What other new teas are here? (For a complete list, visit TeaSource’s website.)
- Darjeeling, Giddapahar Estate, 2nd Flush, Musk
- Darjeeling, Glenburn Estate, 2nd Flush, FTGFOP1
- Darjeeling, Jungpana Estate, 2nd Flush, FTGFOP1
- Darjeeling, Longview Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFBOP
- 1999 Sheng Puer
- Gunpowder Oolong
- Darjeeling, Goomtee Estate, Green Wonder
- Sencha #20
One more thing: we are expecting a shipment of eight pallets of tea from China. A handful of new teas will be arriving any day! Of course, we will let you know as soon as they are released. What’s the best way to keep in touch with our retail/online store happenings? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
I hope you enjoy these new teas! I know I am.
Congratulations to our photo contest winner, René V. Rosengren!
We had a lot of fun seeing all the entries that used “I know what you steep at night…” as inspiration! René will be receiving an Herbal Sampler – a beautiful box with five of our favorite herbal teas, a perfect selection for winding down at the end of an evening. Thanks for playing along with us and Happy Halloween!
Runner-up photo by R.J. Rugroden
Alright, here it is, folks! We spent the last couple of weeks collecting your nominations for the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and we now have our finalists!
Straight Black Tea: Breakfast Assam
Flavored Black Tea: Roasted Chestnut
Dark Tea: Dark Rose
Oolong Tea: Blue Beauty Oolong
Straight Green Tea: Gyokuro
Flavored Green Tea: Green Tea with Mango
White Tea: Machu Peach-u
So, now what? LOTS!
Saturday, September 27th:
– Join us in our stores to sample all seven teas
– Purchase any of the above teas for 50% off in store or online (maximum purchase: 1 lb)
– Submit a final ballot of the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and receive $5.00 off your next order (vote in store or online).
Wednesday, October 1st: We will announce the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and feature it for one week at 20% off!
We are searching for the TeaSource Customer Favorite tea of 2014! Starting on Tuesday, September 2nd, TeaSource will be accepting nominations online and in our stores for customers’ favorite TeaSource tea. There are seven categories available: Straight Black, Flavored Black, Dark Tea, Oolong, Straight Green, Flavored Green, and White Tea.
Every nomination ballot (one ballot per customer, please) will be automatically entered to win a year of free tea (Premium level Tea of the Month membership). Nomination ballots will be accepted until September 20th.
Nominations are open to any and all TeaSource teas currently in stock. Sorry, herbals/tisanes and decaf teas are not eligible.
Then, join us on September 27th for TEA FOR ALL! We will announce the top nominated teas in each category! These teas will be 50% off all day (maximum purchase: one pound of any individual tea) and will also be available in our stores to sample. Customers will be able to vote for the Customer Favorite of 2014 from these top seven nominations.
Sumbit an online ballot here or visit one of our stores. Let the voting begin!
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.