The first half of the year has passed and the seventh month of the year is beginning, a time for displaying your independent spirit with a bit of red, white, and blue. Some teas and herbals to help you get things going:

5 very “hot” teas for August. (ETS image composite)

5 very “hot” teas for August. (ETS image composite)

5 very “hot” teas for August. (ETS image composite)

http://www.englishteastore.com/

1 Perfect for Serving with Ice: Lemon Black Tea – Loose Leaf Pouches

A refreshing medium black tea is livened with natural lemon flavor that cleanses the palate. Add sugar and serve iced to beat that August heat! For the best flavor, steep for 2-5 minutes in water that has been brought to a rolling boil. Ingredients: Black tea, Pineapple and Lime pieces, Lemongrass leaves, Calendula and Sunflower petals, and Natural flavors

2 Chill out while you listen to Irish New Age Star Enya’s song “China Roses” and sip: Taylors of Harrogate China Rose Petal Tea

Orange Pekoe black tea, scented with rose petals, is known as “rose congou.” The tea is the large-leaf variety and is fully oxidized. The rose petals are stirred into the tea as it is dried, imparting it with a sweet gentle fragrance. This is a delightful soothing tea, suitable for afternoon drinking. History of Taylors of Harrogate.

3 Stay cool, calm, and regal: Lady Londonderry Tea – Loose Leaf Pouches

A delightful afternoon tea with a malty floral flavor and hints of strawberry and lemon. A fine black tea, dried orange, daisy white and natural flavors combine for that aristocrat feeling, whether served hot or iced. With its light and elegant flavor, Lady Londonderry will be a hit with the ladies and gentlemen attending your special “beat the heat” tea time. Ingredients: Black tea, Calendula and Sunflower petals, Lemon balm leaves, Strawberry pieces, Natural flavors

4 Tastes to Keep You Lively During the Wilting Heat: Exotic Fruits – Loose Leaf Sampler

A sampler pack to give you a chance to have flavor variety in your iced tea and really perk you up during the heat. For the best flavor, these teas should be steeped for 2-5 minutes in water that has been brought to a boil.

Flavors include these (but substitutions may be made according to availability):

5 Blooming was never easier: Flowering Tea – Mystere – Oolong Tea

No need to weed and prune and fertilize and chase away the pests. This bloom only needs hot water and a suitable vessel. Blooms of amaranth and nasturtium are combined with Ginseng Oolong tea. The flavor is intricate and colorful, with hints of peach and rose flavor, and finishes with a pleasing astringency that lingers in the mouth like a fine wine. To steep, place one flowering tea ball in a 3-4 cup teapot, and add boiling water. Infuse until the ball is fully open (about 5 minutes). Be sure to use a strainer when pouring the liquid into your cup. (The tea pot is sold separately.)

Hope you get to try some of these during August to your heat level at a reasonable level!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What should this taste like? (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

What should this taste like? (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

We all like things that are familiar, comfortable, and known. But many of us also like something new. The thrill of trying a new tea is one such experience. It can be like opening that first gift on Christmas morning or taking that first ride in your new car…or better yet, spending the first night in you new home. And part of that feeling is, believe it or not, a touch of fear… a whisper… a light tingle. Of course, with tea you don’t have to worry about something horrid awaiting you under all that pretty wrapping paper and bows or crashing that car or having a burglar break in while you sleep. No, this is the mild apprehension of actually not liking the tea. Horrors!

The Missteep

No, that’s not a typo. It’s when you steep the tea in a manner that is guaranteed to make you grimace or shrug, depending on whether the result is bitter or bland. Using too hot of water to steep a green tea, for example, will give you something quite bitter. On the other hand, white teas need to steep in water a little hotter and for a longer time to bring out enough of their flavors or you end up with basically hot water. Steeping instructions from the vendor can help here for your first experience with that new tea. Read and follow them carefully. You can make adjustments later on to suit you.

The Misconception

Vendor descriptions are written by people who, on one hand, are pretty well trained in detecting the nuances in the flavors of the steeped tea and, on the other hand, by people trying to make the tea sound good so you will buy it. The latter kind are the troublemakers, usually, but both can be a problem, building up a misconception of what to expect, even after steeping the tea just right. Take these descriptions with a grain of salt, as the saying goes. That is, don’t consider them to be how you will experience the taste of that tea. Misconceptions are a bummer (one time I ate what I thought was potatoes but what was in reality boiled turnips – big letdown!).

When Everything Goes Just Right

Here’s the payoff. The tea is steeped, you’ve sipped and enjoyed. Now it’s time to sit back and relax with a nice cupful of this new taste sensation that has taken a first possible step to becoming one of your new favorites. This is the true thrill… what makes that risk of trying anything new worthwhile. Enjoy it to the fullest!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS image)

Drawstring Tea Filters (ETS image)

There are any number of alleged uses for a used tea bag, including various cleaning tasks, soothing your weary eyes, and fertilizing plants. Tea has also been used in various ways to make art, and the same goes for tea bags. But what about making your own tea bags? Well, I’d have to say this article is the first time I’ve ever run across such an unusual notion. Instructions are included, if you’d like to play along, and the end result is interesting. Although it seems like more effort than I’m willing to expend.

Did you know that boiled lambskin used to be used as armor for Icelandic warriors? Me neither. Not until I ran across this article that notes that nowadays it is being used for more mundane purposes such as sleeves for iPads and teapots. Great stuff – unless you’re the lamb.

I’ve written a number of articles about offbeat tea patents but think I might have overlooked the one that offered a “method of enhancing tea flavor and aroma,” one that makes use of various extracts from fruits such as apricots, bananas, apples, and more.

Tea at its most basic – leaves, hot water, and something to steep it in – seems like a formula that can’t be improved on much but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There’s the tea bag, for example, and more recently there are those single-serving tea pods that are alleged to be an improvement on the basic tea formula. Along the same lines is the Teadrop, which is said to be “a portable morsel comprised of finely sourced tea, natural sugar, and aromatic spices creating a blissful tea blend that can be enjoyed any time, any place, with just hot water.”

Finally, it’s become something of a tradition to mention an exceptional novelty tea infuser in each one of these monthly gadget reports. This time around we were going to present the Octeapus. Which is probably about what you’d expect, given the name. As the manufacturer’s description puts it, it’s a Tentacled Tea Infuser. Sadly, it’s already sold out.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The best type of white tea is Silver Needle. It is a name derived from the basic appearance of the dry tea. The shape is like a needle. And the needles are silvery in color from the fine strands (called “hairs”) covering their exterior. But not all teas labeled “Silver Needle” are created equal. So, it’s time to go exploring.

Hubby and I get tea samples with such frequency that recently we have had to start turning them away and saying we were a bit overstocked. But enough come in that we ended up with several versions of Silver Needle. So we decided to select three of them for a bit of exploration. Two were from China (Yunnan province and Fuding county in Fujian province) and one from Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon).

Map of Silver Needle origins

Map of Silver Needle origins

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Which is which?

When looking at the dry “needles,” it can be very difficult to tell which tea is which. But rather than make you guess, I’ll tell you.

  1. Yunnan Silver Needle – mountain grown and from the part of China that produces pu-erh teas.
  2. Ceylon Silver Tips (for some reason, they don’t call it “Silver Needle”) – mountain grown in Sri Lanka and a fairly new offering as this style of tea becomes more popular.
  3. Fuding Silver Needle – the original from the Fujian province.

For some tea connoisseurs, Silver Needle is only from a certain location, harvested at a certain time of year, and the leaves have certain qualities. Some say Silver Needle is only the one from Fujian province (#3 shown here). It is supposed to be made from a certain tea plant cultivar (the Da Bai, or Large White, cultivar); this is said to be the genuine white tea and that others are really green teas that just look like this genuine white tea which has special properties for your health…blah blah blah… maybe so, maybe not. Sounds a bit like marketing hype to keep people from accepting other versions of Silver Needle.

Of the three teas shown here, #3 is, therefore, the only real Silver Needle. Or so they say.

All three steeped in water heated to 180°F for 3 minutes (and we did 3 infusions from the same batch of leaves). Of the three, the Yunnan (#1) proved most satisfying, while #2 and #3 were fairly equal. All had very light aromas, pale liquid, and light flavors. And that is the key to this and other white teas: don’t expect them to blast your tastebuds. They are very light and meant to be sipped and enjoyed, considered to be dessert teas by some.

Go exploring and try this very special style of tea!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Slide over, scone lovers, the cupcakes are taking over tea time. They’re a natural combo, so much so that they are even served on occasion in teacups! [Note: You should not pour tea into that cup while the cupcake is still in it. I realize that is probably self-evident, but it’s good to caution you anyway just in case.]

Tea and cupcakes from Yahoo! Images

Tea and cupcakes from Yahoo! Images

Chocolate cupcakes are a favorite. Coupled with chocolate buttercream icing, they are a total wow! You will want an appropriate tea to go with them. Try one of these: Assam black tea, a nice ripe Pu-erh, any flush of Darjeeling, one of the varieties of Earl Grey now available, a fresh Gyokuro, an Oolong (lots of choices out there), a pre-Qing Dragonwell, Yunnan golden tip black tea, and a nice Japanese Sencha.

Another favorite is the carrot cake cupcake with that cream cheese frosting. Even a total non-baker like me can manage to make some that taste not too terrible. Some teas to have with them: more of that Assam black tea, some Ceylon black or green tea from Sri Lanka, some of that Dragonwell, a second flush Darjeeling, that Japanese Sencha, and a Vietnamese green tea.

Other flavors and teas to go with them:

  • Apple-flavored: Dragonwell, Ti Kuan Yin, Darjeeling, Oolong (any)
  • Banana-flavored: Ceylon, Ti Kuan Yin, Tung Ting Oolong, Pouchong
  • Raspberry-flavored: Ceylon Black, Ceylon Green, Darjeeling, Vietnamese Green
  • Strawberry-flavored: Dragonwell, Ti Kuan Yin, Darjeeling
  • Pumpkin-flavored: Ceylon Black, Ceylon Green, Dragonwell, Darjeeling
  • Vanilla-flavored: Ceylon, Keemun, Darjeeling, Nilgiri

Don’t forget to add those cute designs to them. Or pop on some extras: fruits, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and even flowers. The design possibilities are limited only by your imagination, budget, patience, and a steady hand. Best of all, you get to keep practicing… and eating the failures.

By the way, did I mention that a recent study says that three cups of green tea a day can help you lose weight? No guarantees, but it sure can’t hurt!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A very British tea store! (ETS image)

A very British tea store! (ETS image)

There are a few countries whose citizens drink more tea than the British but none of them roll right off the tip of the tongue. If you’re like me, when you think of great tea-drinking peoples throughout history you probably think of the British. Which is why the recent flap over tennis and tea there probably should come as no surprise.

It all has to do with Wimbledon – you’ve probably heard of it. Apparently it’s something of a tradition, at this oldest of the world’s tennis tournaments, to bring your own eats. Given that the attendees are mostly British their drink of choice often turns out to be tea. If you buy a cup of it on the grounds it can be kind of expensive, at about $3.60 in US dollars. The obvious solution, at least until lately, has been to bring your own tea.

Nowadays though, a ban on vacuum flask containers (of the Thermos type) that apparently went into effect last year, is starting to be enforced and tea lovers at Wimbledon are quite out of sorts to find their containers of tea being confiscated.

As one article in the British press noted, “coolboxes and camping chairs are also banned, but bottles of wine and spirits are permitted.” The problem with such containers and the reason for the ban is the possibility that they can be used in improvised explosive devices. Some of the other banned items on the list are a little more obvious, according to an article from an Australian paper that covered the issue. They include “knives, illegal substances, political slogans, ambush marketing, tents, camping chairs, flares, klaxons and long lenses.”

Not surprisingly, there are still options for taking afternoon tea at Wimbledon (they are British, after all), as you can see at this page at the tournament web site (scroll down). It claims that afternoon tea, which was supposedly invented just about 40 years before the inception of Wimbledon, was served at the very first incarnation of the tournament, in 1877.

Thirty years later, in 1907, a certain Mrs. Hillyard was playing in the event. During a rain delay she apparently overindulged a bit at afternoon tea. Then, when the tournament commenced again, she proceeded to lose and was rather distraught over it all – the implication being that the rain delay and overindulgence at tea negatively affected her tennis game.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Yes, there is such a thing as a virtual tea party! In these days where it seems that our entire lives are online, not holding virtual tea parties would be the odd thing. So, holding one seems a total no-brainer… but I beg to differ. It can be quite tricky, as you will soon see.

A typical virtual tea party posting! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A typical virtual tea party posting! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Selecting a Venue

You have choices these days, with Facebook being at the forefront (but waning due to increasing security and privacy concerns and an environment that is becoming far more commercial than social). Twitter now allows the posting of photos but still limits tweets to 140 characters (part of that will be the name of people you want to see the tweet, and the photo takes us some of it), but it’s amazing how much you can say in such a short space. LinkedIn is more business oriented but you could set up a group just for your virtual tea party. Connecting with people is a bit trickier than on other sites, though. Pinterest is a good option since it’s all about the visual but also allows text (a larger amount than Twitter but less than Facebook) and people can comment on your pins – just set up a “board” for your virtual tea party and invite others to pin to it.

What to Include

Okay, so the venue is all set. Now what? Well, it’s all about photos and a bit of information on them. So, step one is to get that camera out and start clicking. Take a picture of what you are currently steeping, or the tea in the cup, or the dry tea leaves, and so on. Feel free to virtually share also your tea time treats! Virtual treats are my favorite kind since they are calorie-free! I can indulge in all the cakes and pies and chocolate covered bacon I want and not worry a bit about added poundage. But a view of those tea leaves can really be enticing. Not all tea comes as ground up dust in a bag with or without a string and tag attached. The sight of those little silver needles or those tieguanyin nuggets or a teabloom emerging or a tuocha expanding is quite a delight.

A Bit of Etiquette

For a virtual tea party, etiquette is quite different than for those real life tea parties. For one thing, you can slurp all you like – no one will hear or see you doing it. Ditto for pinky pointing, wiping your mouth (or nose) with your sleeve, belching, or just about any other egregious behavior you would generally engage in while enjoying tea in the privacy of your home. But there are certain points of etiquette that do need to be observed: say “hi” when you jump in and “bye” when you leave (if you’re using a site other than Pinterest), be nice, don’t make fun of someone’s less than stellar picture taking, provide information about your own photos beyond it just being a black tea or a green tea, and if asked for a recipe for your special cake or pie that you posted, be ready to provide it or a good reason why not.

Above all, have fun!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

With barbecue season in full swing, but not always enough time to break out the charcoal and get a fire started; this recipe will make your day.  Enjoy all of the wonderful barbecue flavor with very little effort.  To top off this simple dish, it is infused with the wonderful flavors of Puerh tea (such as this one) and Golden needle black tea (like this one).

Slow Cooker Tea Pulled Pork BBQ (photo by Janet Sanchez, all rights reserved)

Slow Cooker Tea Pulled Pork BBQ (photo by Janet Sanchez, all rights reserved)

4 ½ lbs pork shoulder
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp salt
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp thyme
2 tsp paprika

Combine all of the spices together then generously rub on all sides of the pork.  Place in a preheated pan over medium high heat.  Sear for 3 minutes per side.

4 cups boiling water
1 tsp gold needle black tea
1 tbsp puerh tea

Steep the tea in the water for 6 minutes then remove.  Place the tea water into a slow cooker on high heat.  Once the pork has been seared on all sides place it into the slow cooker filled with tea water.  Cook for 7-9 hours or until falling apart when picked up.

16oz BBQ sauce

Remove the pork from the liquid and place onto a cutting board.  Pour excess liquid into a small sauce pot and reduce liquid for about 15 minutes.  Using a fork pull apart the pork into shreds.  Once shredded chop if needed to create smaller shreds.  Mix with the 16 ounces of BBQ sauce.  Place pork back into the slow cooker on low heat to keep warm. Take about ½ cup of the tea reduction liquid and mix it back into the pork.  This amount may vary slightly depending on the density of the BBQ sauce used.  Only use enough to create a little more moisture but not enough to make it soggy.

1 bag prepared cold slaw
12 burger buns

This recipe used a prepared bag of cold slaw where the dressing came with all that was done was to mix it together.  This was used for the purpose of simplicity but any cold slaw recipe will work.  Place a portion of the pork on the bottom half of the bun.  Place a portion of the cold slaw on top of the pork then place the top bun on.  Recipe serves 12 people.

See more of Janet Sanchez’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Tea Room,” “Tea House,” or “Tea Shop” – what’s the difference? In the world of tea, words swirl and float and often have no firm shape. They are like clouds and mist instead of something solid and definable like a mountain or a car. As a result we have herbals being called “herbal tea,” Rooibos being called “red tea,” terms like “brew,” “steep,” and “infuse” being used interchangeably, and the name “Tea Room” being attached to establishments that get no closer to tea than that dust-in-a-bag stuff (sort of like they said, “Oh, yeah, we need some of that ‘tea’ stuff on hand” and rushed out to the nearest grocery store to stock up). And so, we see tea rooms, tea houses, and tea shops popping up all over, often having little discernible difference between them. Thus, I posit a few thoughts and observations here for your perusal.

Dublin Tea Shop (Screen capture from site)

Dublin Tea Shop (Screen capture from site)

“Tea Room”

It’s a room where tea is served. Sounds pretty obvious. But these days a tea room can be a house where several rooms are set up to serve tea and various foods laid out in delicate fashion. Sometimes, a tea room is a corner of a hotel’s regular restaurant and is only used when they are serving that event called “Afternoon Tea” or the misnomer “High Tea.” Sadly, “tea room” is also often applied to places that are merely cafés.

“Tea House”

It’s a house dedicated to serving and enjoying tea. These are more common in some Asian countries, especially Japan where tea is so vital to their lives that it’s part of their emergency supplies (a practice which I personally find quite sensible). The chashitsu is all about tea – no distractions. If you want food, go to a restaurant. But these days “tea house” and “tea room” have become synonymous.

“Tea Shop”

It’s a place where you shop for tea. And teawares. And books about tea. These days, they also serve tea and are often called by what “the young crowd” relates to more: a tea “bar.” (Side note: anything hinting at the consumption of alcohol seems to appeal here, so we get terms like being “tea drunk” and drinking the “tea liquor.”)

Bottom Line

Don’t go by the name. If you want to know which style the establishment is, you’ll need to do a bit of checking. It seems that these days anything goes!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

With all of the attention to the many alleged health benefits of tea nowadays, you tend to hear certain terms a lot. One of those terms is catechins. Which leads to the obvious question – what are they? I have to admit that, as much as I write about tea, I wasn’t completely clear on this issue myself. So I set out to demystify the matter.

Let’s start with a dictionary definition and go from there. Merriam-Webster says catechins are “a crystalline compound C15H14O6 that is related chemically to the flavones, is found in catechu, and is used in dyeing and tanning.” Which doesn’t much sound like something one wants in their tea but let’s look into the matter a little more closely.

Wikipedia says that a catechins are “a flavan-3-ol, a type of natural phenol and antioxidant. It is a plant secondary metabolite. It belongs to the group of flavan-3-ols (or simply flavanols), part of the chemical family of flavonoids” and thankfully does not reference it as something used in tanning. Besides tea, catechins are also found in cocoa, argan oil, many types of fruit and dark chocolate, to name a few.

A fact sheet from the University of California at Davis breaks things down in terms that are generally more suited for laypeople. If you’ve wondered, like I have, if a catechin is different from a flavonol, they clarify the matter by noting, “catechins are classified as flavanols and include the following compounds: catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate.

They also provide a chart of some items that are high in catechin content. Tea doesn’t rank too high when it comes to catechins and epicatechin but green tea is number one on the list when it comes to epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate, with black tea taking second place. The sheet goes on to comment on some of the alleged benefits of catechins and “media hype” regarding red wine, chocolate and tea.

For yet another perspective on the above take a look at this summary of components and health benefits of tea, courtesy of a Japanese tea maker.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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