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Tea Guides

Tea Guides

5 Delicious Tea-Food Pairings

November 24, 2016

We’ve become savvier consumers. We want to know where our ingredients come from, we’re open to trying new ethnic flavors, and basic just doesn’t cut it anymore. We don’t want just any old tea to go with our dish. We want a tea that complements the dish, or vice versa. This demand has sparked the new job of tea sommelier. According to NPR, a tea sommelier is “the hot new thing in tea pairing.” Just like a wine sommelier would recommend a specific wine to accompany your meal, a tea sommelier knows just the right tea to go with your grub. Tea expert Aurelie Bessiere told NPR, “What you want to happen in your mouth is to feel the different layers of taste and flavors of both tea and food.” If you don’t have a tea sommelier on speed dial or the time to take a tea pairing class, here’s five food-tea pairing recommendations to kickstart your knowledge of this new art:

1) Kabuse Green Tea & Chocolate

According to NPR, “The kabuse is a green tea with high levels of umami—a pleasant, savory taste—as well as sweet and salty. The article says that “when these three flavors hit melted chocolate, you unlock a flavor similar to pure cantaloupe.”  Strange, but color us curious.  Kubuse and chocolate, please!

2) Butterfly of Taiwan Oolong & Sheep Cheese

NPR also recommends this pairing because the cheese enhances the fruity (think apple puree and candied citrus) and honey notes of the tea, which seems sweeter. The strong woody notes of the tea are elevated to a lighter and greener tone.”  That description exemplifies what makes tea pairing so special: when done right, it has the ability to elevate and enhance the flavors in both the food and the tea.

3) Earl Grey & Orange Beef and Chinese Broccoli

Bigelow recommends pairing its Earl Grey tea with red meat, duck, or dark chocolate, arguing that the tea’s citrus notes make them a perfect match with these meats and sweets. Bigelow’s recipe for Orange Beef and Chinese Broccoli meets that criteria, with an added bonus of more tea: it uses Bigelow’s Orange & Spice Herbal tea in the stir fry.  Double the dose of tea?  Sign us up.

4) Pu-erh & Mushrooms

Pu-erh, a fermented tea grown in China’s southwest Yunnan Province, goes well with mushrooms, tea sommelier Melani Franks told Fresh Cup Magazine. Pu-erh smells like soil, complementing the earthy tone of mushrooms. Try creating a pu-erh broth and adding mushrooms, or marinating mushrooms in a pu-erh-based concoction.

5) Black Tea & Camembert

Wine and cheese may seem like an unbreakable duo, but pairing tea and cheese works very well, too. Food & Wine recommends pairing black tea and camembert. Heidi Johannssen Stewart of Bellocq Tea Atelier recommends her company’s Gypsy Caravan tea—which blends black tea with rose and chile– to go along with Camembert. She told Food & Wine that this pairing “feels like you’re sitting around the fireplace.” Elaborates Food & Wine, the Gypsy Caravan black tea “features a gentle, smoky finish, which is excellent with Camembert earthy flavor.”

Don’t have the ingredients for these specific pairings?

Here’s a handy dandy chart from the Tea Association of Canada to get your noggin working on some other ideas. With so many varieties of tea on the market, each offering a unique flavor profile, we’re sure you’ll come up with some genius pairings on your own:

tea and food pairing

Tea Guides

How to Host a Japanese Tea Ceremony

November 17, 2016

If you want to infuse a little history and a lot of tradition into your tea party, put a Japanese spin on it. Japan is famous for its long, choreographed tea ceremonies, the most serious of which can last four hours. Paradoxically, Japanese tea ceremonies are meant to encourage an unmaterialistic focus on the present, but were often practiced by members of the elite to show off impressive possessions and social status or reinforce social and political hierarchy. Mastering the ins and outs of a Japanese tea ceremony would take you years, but here are some basics that will give your next tea party a Japanese makeover:

Invite Your Guests:

Traditionally, tea ceremonies were a male affair. In the 1500s, as warlords fought for control over a divided Japan, tea ceremonies doubled as military negotiations for generals such as Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. As Japan modernized, the tea ceremony became less important militaristically and more important as a platform for businessmen to interact. The art form became more female-driven as time went on, so now, no matter your gender, you can be a tea master or attend a tea ceremony. So break out your rolodex and invite whoever you please, political agenda optional.

Choose Your Hardware:

Traditionally, a host used his tea utensils to show off his wealth. Don’t have expensive artifacts from ancient Asia? Don’t worry. Bowls, cups, and teapots that aren’t perfectly crafted, symmetrical, or conventionally beautiful embody the Japanese concept of wabi, or, artless beauty and spontaneity. You should, however, be mindful about the hardware you choose. What kind of mood do they set? What kind of conversation and values do they encourage? Your hardware sets the tone, so be purposeful. Learn more about the various types of Japanese teapots here, and check out some old school hardware courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art here.

Sit on the floor:

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony will take place kneeling on a tatami mat. If you don’t have a tatami mat but you’re really committed to the theme, buy your own set of tatami mats here. Don’t want to spend the dough? Spread a nice blanket on the floor and encourage your guests to kick off their shoes. You can take things up a notch by arranging a series of blankets in the “auspicious” pattern in which tatami mats are typically arranged to bring good luck:

Prepare The Tea:

Surrounded by your guests, prepare green tea or matcha by whisking matcha and hot water in a bowl. Prepare a communal bowl of tea with a thick consistency. Pass the bowl around and have everyone take a sip, marking your bond as a unit.

Serve Something Sweet:

Balance the bitter matcha by serving dessert. Traditional Japanese sweets are called wagashi, and commonly use sweet aziuki bean paste as a base. Other main ingredients include rice, sesame, and chestnuts. Try making these mochi pancakes or follow Martha Stewart’s lead and make your own namagashi candy.

Prepare More Tea:

Treat your guests to individual cups of tea, this time with a thinner consistency. If you want to be authentic, keep conversation (and extraneous body movements) to a minimum. If not, sip and gab away.

Be Showered in Compliments:

Traditionally, the conversation at a Japanese tea ceremony was limited to lots of praise for the host and the hardware that he/she’s chose to show off. Feel free to tell your guests this is very important, and enjoy the ego boost.

Achieve Inner Peace (And Maybe World Peace, Too):

A Japanese Tea Party was meant to spread the values of wa, kei, sei, and jaku (harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility.) Kristin Surak, a professor of Japanese politics at the University of London and the author of Making Tea, Making Japan told NPR, “The claim is that everyone in the world can understand those things, and if everybody sat around and had a bowl of tea, we could create world peace.” Hopefully, by the end of your tea party, you’ve achieved wa, kei, sei, or jaku. And if we’re all lucky, you’ve eradicated war.

Tea Guides

How Much Caffeine Are You Drinking in Your Tea?

March 28, 2016

Although we can estimate how much caffeine will be in your cup of tea, determining this amount never comes down to an exact science. Many factors play into how much of a kick you can get from your daily brew. Caffeine occurs naturally in tea, but the content varies based on growing variances, manufacturing, steeping times and brewing conditions. So whether you’re looking to give yourself a boost for that late night study session or sip on a soothing blend before bed, check out our definitive ranking of tea based on caffeine level to know just how much you’re drinking:

Herbal Tea (0mg)

If you want to relax with a toasty cup before bed, then herbal tea is definitely the way to go. Herbal teas are a great way to enjoy the benefits from tea’s antioxidants while avoiding the jittery feelings that often accompany caffeine intake. Herbal varieties are typically all-natural, made from various plant materials including the leaves, stems, roots and flowers from plants other than the Camellia Sinensis. Another benefit? Herbal teas don’t pose the risk of having addictive qualities, as is typically common with caffeinated beverages. However, if you’re still craving a little caffeine throughout the day, try substituting one cup a day with an herbal blend.

Decaf Tea (2-6mg)

Now you’re probably wondering,”how and why is there any caffeine in decaffeinated tea anyways?” Well, it’s important to note that decaffeinated does not mean the same thing as caffeine-free. Decaffeinated tea typically refers to black or green tea that has had most of its natural caffeine removed through processes that involve either the soaking or filtration of the leaves. But rest assured, the amount is almost negligible – by law, decaf tea must have less than 2.5% of its original caffeine level. So go ahead and brew another cup, it won’t keep you up at night.

White Tea (10-15mg)

White teas are the least processed of all teas, releasing minimal amounts of caffeine from their leaves while giving off a very subtle and silky taste. Though typically lower in caffeine content than its more processed counterparts, there can still be a wide range. However, white teas are usually blended with different herbs which bring down the caffeine level. White tea is a good option at anytime of the day, boasting little to no negative side effects.

Green Tea (20-35mg)

Green tea works as a great midday pick-me-up. Its moderately low caffeine level produces a very steady effect when consumed, causing no peaks or plunges. It is also considered an effective meditative aid, acting as a mild stimulant without causing any insomnia or jitters. The benefits of green tea are also numerous, so if you want to drink two or three servings a day, I’m not stopping you…

Oolong Tea (30-50mg)

Oolong tea is halfway between green and black teas, both in caffeine and oxidation levels. It has the body and complexity of a black tea while still maintaining the brightness of a green tea, making it a favorite among tea connoisseurs. Its caffeine content is both healthy and palatable, so it can provide a nice boost without the risk of crashing later in the day.

Black Tea (40-60mg)

Black tea is the strongest and most caffeinated of all the tea varieties. It acts as the perfect way to awaken your senses and kickstart your day. Chai tea is on the lower end of the caffeine spectrum while more processed blends can release higher levels. If you’re worried about too much caffeine, don’t stress; black tea still pales in comparison to the ridiculous caffeine content in coffee (just another reason why tea will always prevail).

Tea Guides

Loose Tea vs. Bagged Tea: Which is Better?

March 8, 2016

Tea connoisseurs will argue avidly about the superiority of whole leaf (or loose leaf) tea to bagged tea. However, when it comes to choosing between loose tea and bagged tea, there are a few key factors to consider: flavor, convenience, health benefits, and price.

FLAVOR

Loose tea is left whole. This allows the leaves to absorb the water and allow it to move through it. This process creates more bold and dynamic flavor patterns. Each leaf expands to its fullest potential releasing more antioxidants, flavors, and aromas.

Bagged tea, however, is made most commonly from low grade tea dust and fannings. This gives bagged tea a one-dimensional flavor profile, and is the reason over-steeped tea bags often become quite bitter. The finely broken leaves used in bagged tea lose many of the essential oils and aromas during processing, which when steeped release more tannins. The reason for the diminished flavor profile is simple: the dust and fannings are what’s left after the whole tea leaves are processed. However, the strong bitter brew handles milk and sugar well.

CONVENIENCE

The misconception is that it’s “harder” to brew loose tea, but it’s about the same number of steps to brew a teabag and loose leaf tea. However, taking the tea with you can be a little cumbersome. Loose teas are often held in tin containers and you’ll have to bring the steeper with you. Some companies are now making whole leaf tea bags, which allow you to reach almost identical results to steeping loose tea.  [Check out directions for brewing here]

Bagged teas, on the other hand, are individually wrapped and easy to transport. They appeal to the on-the-go lifestyle, which has contributed to its success for hundreds of years.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Generally speaking all teas contain some level of antioxidants. It’s because of these antioxidants the following health benefits occur:

Tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants help neutralize cell damaging free-radicals which in return has a positive impact on some chronic diseases including some types of cancer (skin, oral, lung, ovarian cancer, etc.) and cardiovascular disease.

Research studies show that the theanine found in tea is a distinctive amino acid that preps the immune system to help fight infection, bacteria and viruses. This theanine helps the immune system generate higher levels of interferon. Interferon is a protein our bodies produce and one of its main functions is to build up our immune system.

Libretea.com

The biggest difference between loose teas and bagged teas are the levels of flavonoids that diffuse. Meaning, with a whole leaf tea you get more bang for your buck.

PRICE POINT

When comparing loose tea to bagged tea, the loose tea ends up being cheaper. Even premium loose varieties that retail for about $20 come out to about $0.10 per cup. This doesn’t include the fact that whole leaf tea, because of its more flavorful profile, can be brewed more than once and still make a nice tasting cup.

We’ve given you the pros and cons of each, but at the end of the day, the choice is yours, and its a matter of preference. Whether you’re choosing whole leaf or bagged tea, you’re doing your body good by drinking tea!

Let us know which you prefer, loose or bagged tea, and why in the comments below!

Tea Guides

How to Store Tea at Home

November 15, 2015

So you’ve fallen in love with the magical world of tea, and now you’ve got more varieties than you can count? Have no fear!  We’ve found a few ways to store tea that help keep you calm, cool and collected, just the way tea connoisseurs intended.

First let’s go over the rules for tea storing:

  1. Tea should be kept oxygen free.
  2. Tea must be kept free from heat.
  3. Tea must be kept away from light.
  4. Tea must be kept away from strong odors.
  5. Tea must be kept moisture free.
  6. Tea is best when stored in bulk.

Keeping these in mind. Below are a few fun ways to store your teas.

Use dividers to organize a drawer, or maybe repurpose an old photo storage box to file away your teas. If you want to invest a little more on the decor side, a tea storage box with compartments, is a lovely addition to any kitchen.

Tea Storage Boxes

Handmade wooden boxes make for great kitchen accents. Check out some other Tea Storage Boxes.

Mason Jars

Mason jars with locking lids are an easy way to store teas in pouches or teas that aren’t individually wrapped and sealed.

Small mason jars are perfect for loose leave teas. You can pack as many dry leaves tightly within them. Keep in mind the rules of tea storage, you don’t want your tea to aerate, small jars allow you to use your teas without worrying of early degradation. If mason jars aren’t your aesthetic, you also have the option of storing your loose leaf teas in decorative metal tea tins, but don’t forget to label them!

I know you guys can come up with more creative ways to store tea. Why don’t you tell us about them below?

Tea Guides

Non-Pumpkin Flavors to Enjoy This Fall

October 16, 2015
tea and mittens

gloves and white tea mug

Now that it’s fall, odds are you’ve encountered the pumpkin craze. But pumpkin spice latte isn’t for everyone. Some people see it as the epitome of the season but there are plenty of other flavors to enjoy this time of year. Here are some of our suggestions for those of you looking to expand your taste beyond pumpkin

Apple

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but who said it couldn’t be apple tea! This tea makes us especially reminiscent of our childhood of drinking warm apple cider, less thick and heavy.  Here’s an Apple Tea that you’ll love and is perfect to cozy up with on a chilly night. 

Chai

You can really never go wrong with chai. There are so many variations that you’re bound to find some type you like. Our personal favorite is Bigelow Vanilla Chai. This flavor has the best aroma every time you make it and has the perfect balance of sugar and spice. If you’re going for more of a sweet drink, add some milk, sugar and/or honey and you’re golden!

Gingerbread

Who says it’s too early for holiday flavors? Gingerbread is the perfect essence if you’re looking for something to awaken those taste buds. This gingerbread spice tea, with a blend of cinnamon and ginger, will satisfy any sweet tooth and it’s naturally caffeine free! (Ideal for an after dinner delight)

Vanilla

We love this vanilla black tea! It’s tasty with some milk and sweetener but still lighter than a latte.

Caramel

This new salted caramel tea from Bigelow is to die for and has a combination of sweet and salty! Like vanilla black tea, salted carmel is best with milk and sweetener and paired with a treat.

Maple

Maple tea has the smoothest flavor for those looking to indulge. This particular tea comes in a wooden box, which can be used for decor or preservation!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon tea is just slightly spicier than chai but still has that cozy flavor perfect for fall! This combination of warm and spicy flavors is best enjoyed outdoors by a campfire.

Earl grey

Earl Grey is a classic tea that can really be enjoyed year-round. But what we love the most is the blend of citrus and black tea, especially in the fall. Bigelow makes a great earl grey with amazing bergamot oil from Italy.

Chamomile

This honey vanilla chamomile tea is our all time favorite variation of the herb. The honey vanilla flavor adds sweetness but doesn’t overwhelm the chamomile flavor. At the end of a long fall day, this too is the flavor to cozy up to.

While pumpkin is the obvious popular trend this time of the year, there are plenty more flavors to “fall” in love with! Cozy-up to some of our flavors by fireside or on a brisk walk — we guarantee you’ll enjoy every sip.

Have any additional flavor suggestions of favorite fall teas? Let us know in the comments below!