A great time to make use of that pot warmer stand! (From Yahoo! Images)

A great time to make use of that pot warmer stand! (From Yahoo! Images)

If you’re like me, drinking tea is a necessity not to be interrupted by an hour or two of answering a doorbell rung by those trick-or-treaters. So here are some ways to enjoy tea even during that “trick-or-treat” time.

Prepare Ahead

Steep up a nice pot of tea for yourself and any other tea drinkers “sitting vigil” with you on Halloween. Use a warmer stand to help keep the tea at a decent temperature or wrap the teapot in an insulating cozy, either snuggie or dome style. Don’t forget a little something to nibble on. Some scones, McVitie’s Digestives, cheese and crackers, even popcorn – anything that will satisfy and keep you away from that candy – is essential. Don’t forget the comfy seating near the front door. And practice your “Gee, I’m so surprised and you really scared me” look for the kiddies in costume. (Under no circumstances should you laugh at them or say how cute they look – you can save that observation for the parents chaperoning them around the neighborhood.)

Perfect Your Teacup Technique

Unlike normal tea times when you can – and should – ignore interruptions such as phones, doorbells, smoke alarms…uh, well, maybe not that last one, the trick-or-treat tea time will of necessity be full of interruptions. And you should welcome them or you will be stuck with all those bite-sized chocolate bars, Tootsie Roll Midgets, toffees, bubble gum, jawbreakers, suckers, and so on. They could last you until the middle of next year! (Or, if you’re like some of us, you can just hide in a closet and finish them off all at once, explaining that you are saving the rest of the household having to be part of that process.) Anyway, there will be interruptions. You need to be able to take a sip of your tea and set the cup back on its saucer in a genteel and safe manner to avoid chipping or breakage (which could lead to spillage which would be very sad indeed). So… all together now… LIFT… SIP… SET! Got it? Good!

Assign Someone to Refill Duty

Nothing is more distressing during times of stress (such as kids you don’t know and never see any other time of the year coming up, ringing your doorbell, trying to scare you, and then “convincing” you give them candy to avoid a much worse alternative) than an empty teapot. So be sure someone is on refill duty and has that new potful ready before the first one is gone.

Here’s hoping your “trick-or-treat” time will go smoothly!

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.

There is a trend toward people trying to bake their own tea. I like that “do it yourself” spirit, but there are 3 reasons why you should let the vendor bake your tea. There may even be more.

Baking machine for tea used by Thomas Shu, expert on Taiwanese oolongs (Screen capture from site)

Baking machine for tea used by Thomas Shu, expert on Taiwanese oolongs (Screen capture from site)

No, we’re not talking about the kind of baking that produces such deliciousness as cakes, pies, breads, and scones. This is a rather different process, but philosophically, there are similarities. Which brings me to reason #1.

1 The Process Takes a Practiced Skill

Just as when making any of the luscious treats named above so that they turn out truly luscious or like when making a soufflé that would bring tears of joy to the eyes of a chef at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, success with baking tea leaves takes practice which in turn builds up skill. Just cracking an egg can be tricky. Mixing the batter just right is, too. So is baking tea leaves. The right temperature and duration is determined often through experimentation. You also need to monitor the process, baking for awhile, then smelling the leaves, then maybe baking some more, adjusting the temperature up or down as you might think is due. Of course, what you use to bake the tea leaves matters, too, which brings us to reason #2.

2 The Process Takes Special Equipment

Unless you’re planning to bake a lot of tea or just like to spend your money on something that will sit around collecting dust most of the time, you may not want to buy your own tea baking oven. See the one shown above used by tea pro Thomas Shu who bakes quite a bit of tea and is a real pro in this area. Sure, you can use the regular oven in your kitchen, but this is better in that the leaves can be closer to the heat source. A toaster oven is another option, though. It’s smaller and easier to control the amount of heat getting to the tea leaves than that big turkey-sized oven is. But even so, you could end up with burnt tea nuggets instead of a lovely nutty oolong or wonderfully toasty black tea, no matter how skillful you are. Which is a waste and brings up reason #3.

3 Wasting Good Tea Is Criminal

Well, not technically criminal. There’s no real law or statute or government regulation against it. But considering the time and effort that goes into growing, tending, harvesting, and processing the tea that you are trying to bake, I would certainly not be happy about it.

There are certainly legitimate reasons to try to bake your own tea: experimentation, the tea leaves have absorbed moisture from the air around them due to improper storage, the tea wasn’t baked enough for your taste. Whatever the case, should you get the urge to bake your own tea, do so with care. Enjoy!

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.

One version of a growing number of Earl Grey Teas (ETS image)

One version of a growing number of Earl Grey Teas, preferred by Star Ship Captains throughout the known galaxies! (ETS image)

Once upon a time I wrote an article in which I tried to determine how many people in the world drink tea on a given day. I arrived at the tentative conclusion that the number was just over two billion. But I’m no statistician so that’s a very tentative figure. It might be interesting to come up with an estimate of how many people have ever consumed tea, but that’s a task that might be too much for my modest abilities.

In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to look at a few well-known historical figures who drank tea. In my first article on the topic I looked at a number of U.S. presidents who were known to drink tea and the late Russian leader, Vladimir Lenin, as well as some leaders you’d assume were tea drinkers but actually were not.

Samuel Johnson
One of the great cheerleaders for tea who deserves a mention, as well as a rather avid tea drinker, was the great English writer Samuel Johnson. Who drank tea to a point that some might consider excessive. I’d say more but I already have so I’ll just point you to that article.

Henry James
While the historical record shows that novelist Henry James was a fan of tea, it’s more interesting to note how many times he mentioned it in his writings. Such as this oft-repeated snippet from The Portrait of a Lady, “Under certain circumstances there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” Tea turns up so often in James’ works that it inspired at least one in-depth research paper – Tea and Henry James’s ‘Scenic Method’ in The Awkward Age and The Spoils of Poynton.

Jean Luc Picard
Okay, so he’s a fictional character, specifically the captain of the starship Enterprise on TV’s second incarnation of Star Trek. But Captain Picard’s renowned request for “Earl Grey, hot” has become a well-known cultural catchphrase that’s done its part to raise awareness of tea.

Boris Karloff
Here’s one that combines a great fictional figure (Frankenstein’s monster) with a great historical figure, the actor who became famous for his portrayal of said monster. Look here for a number of shots of Karloff drinking tea, both in and out of that famous makeup.

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.

One of the chief areas in India for growing tea is the state of Assam in the northeastern part of the country. There are hundreds of tea gardens (Chah-Buwas or tea plantations) with names that can be real tongue twisters. Two of my favorites are Borengajuli and Tarajulie (simple to say if you pronounce them a syllable at a time). Dan Bolton, a tea writer, collected a partial list of Assam tea gardens and tea estates. I have added to that and ran the total up to about double what he had. Many of them are not known outside the tea auction houses. Others are part of larger companies such as McLeod Russel/Williamson and Tata. But with so many, a full list is a bit tricky. I wrote about a few in this article, and thought it was about time to write about some more.

Tarajulie, hot, malty, rich, and great served “British style”! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Tarajulie, hot, malty, rich, and great served “British style”! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

The exact number of tea gardens varies, but one thing is for sure: they produce a lot of tea – and that amount varies per source, with one claiming it’s 400 million kilograms and another claiming it’s a mere 1.5 million pounds (about 680,400 kilograms, a lot less). The tea gardens stretch out on either side of roads as you drive through Assam Valley where the Brahmaputra river flows. They are more level than gardens in more mountainous areas of India, China, Taiwan, and other tea growing nations. And the bushes are low-growing (about waist height or lower).

Some tea gardens of note:

  • Achabam Tea Estate – the name literally means “it has good soil”; founded in 1921 by the manager of the Borhat Tea Estate (Mr. Knoll); between the Desam River and neighboring villages; the garden is quite productive, producing as much as 2,836 kgs per hectare.
  • Borengajuli Tea Estate – part of McLeod Russel (a member of the Williamson Magor Group); a smaller garden near the village of Bamonjuli where most of the older residents help in the tea garden and keep it safe from wild elephants and their children go off to larger towns to seek work (usually as domestics); the tea has a very high reputation (including with me and hubby).
  • Dikom Tea Estate – named after the high quality of the water there; dates back to the Medieval era of the state of Assam when it was ruled by kings; teas from here are tippy, bright and malty in flavor, famous the world over; in the heart of the tea growing region of Assam; very well maintained fields with an aggressive uprooting and replanting program using high quality clones with high yields; their teas tend to have a natural sweetness, said to be from the water in the area.
  • Dhunseri Tea Estate – managed by the Dhunseri Group; their tea has won the trust of traders and consumers, due to its superior quality.
  • Glenburn Tea Estate – on a hillock above the banks of the River Rungeet, high in the Himalayas, overlooked by the Kanchenjunga mountain range; started by a Scottish tea company in 1859 and then passed into the hands of one of India’s pioneering tea planting families – The Prakashes.
  • Harmutty Tea Estate – founded in 1870 by Major Gibb; named after Queen Hiramati; Dikrong River is along one side and their northern border extends into the thickly forested hills of Arunachal Pradesh; fertile soil is perfect for growing the carefully selected clonal plants there; the leaves get processed into a range of teas that are full-bodied and flavorful.
  • Keyhung Tea Estate – at 1,500 feet above sea level; produces Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) Cut, Torn, and Curled (CTC) tea that is strong, full-bodied with excellent maltiness and rich color – perfect for an early morning pick-me-up; garden is in the state’s northeast corner, between the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the country of Myanmar (Burma); it covers nearly 3 square miles, 2 of which are under tea; over 3,000 people are employed in the harvesting and processing of the tea, and a total of 10,000 people call the estate (more like a small town) their home.
  • Mangalam Tea Estate – has a unique style of bush planting; it is managed by Jayshree Tea Industries who uprooted original plantings and replanted with 100% clonal bushes with greater yield potential; the plantings are arranged so that employees can drive from place to place; teas produced are very high quality Assams processed as CTC and Orthodox styles.
  • Mokalbari Tea Estate – founded in 1917, produces premium 2nd flush Assam tea as CTC and Orthodox styles; not to be confused with Makaibari, a Darjeeling tea garden.
  • Satrupa Tea Estate – in Upper Assam, at the eastern-most part of the Assam region; rich red loom soil, year-round tropical wet climate, and old-growth forest all around; on the periphery of the last contiguous rainforest tracts in the Eastern Himalayas.
Tarajulie even looks rich in the dry leaves! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Tarajulie even looks rich in the dry leaves! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

There are many more, but this will give you an idea of the tea-growing prowess of this part of India. This is also my favorite class of teas. They can be infused milder or stronger, served over ice or piping hot, stand up to milk and sugar or please your palate as they are, add a lively appeal to a bland tea blend or stand on it’s own. You can’t go wrong.

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.

The holidays offer a time for us to get together with family and feast on all the delightful holiday traditions we look forward to all year. This sure fire simple tea recipe is sure to be one used over and over again. This ham is bursting with holiday cheer and wonderful flavors. Perfect with so many side dishes synonymous with the holidays.

Tea Cranberry Glazed Ham (photo by Janet Sanchez, all rights reserved)

Tea Cranberry Glazed Ham (photo by Janet Sanchez, all rights reserved)

¼ cup orange spiced tea
1 ½ cups 212°F water

Steep the tea for 5-7 minutes.

1 6-8 lb smoked uncooked ham (can be adapted for a cooked ham)
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 cup orange spiced tea

Preheat oven to 325°F. Scour the ham on all sides. Place into a deep roasting pan. Pour the agave syrup over the top covering all sides. Pour the tea into the bottom of the roasting dish. Cover with foil and place into a preheated oven. Cook until internal temperature is 145°F which is about 15-20 minutes per pound. If using a cooked ham follow the instructions that come with the ham except add the tea at the bottom of the roasting pan.

8oz frozen cranberries
¼ cup agave syrup
½ cup orange spiced tea
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
8-10 cloves whole
1 tsp cinnamon

Bring ingredients to a simmer then reduce to medium low heat and cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the cranberries burst. Once burst, remove from heat and mash up together. Pour berry mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and cloves.

Once the ham is cooked remove it from the oven and take off the cover. Using a pastry brush, brush the cranberry sauce over the entire ham. Place under a low broiler for about 5-8 minutes or until the cranberry adheres to the ham and the outside is slightly crisped. Use the same instructions for this portion of the recipe regardless if the ham was cooked or uncooked. Slice and serve.

Recipe serves 10-12 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.

Welcome in my tea pantry anytime! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Welcome in my tea pantry anytime! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Many say that variety is the spice of life, but I say that variety is the tea party of life. And teas seems to be getting more varied, as well. Talk of tea parties, and not always the kind at which tea is served, is rather common these days. Not surprising. Tea parties are social but, since the days of the Boston Tea Party, have also been a bit political. And now they are becoming a proving ground for the various types of teas being produced. So, I guess variety is also the spice of the tea party.

When I say “Assam” do you automatically think “black, lower quality tea”? And if I say “Darjeeling,” do you think of that blend of nondescript stuff that tastes sort of like Muscat grapes with a bit of a tangy aftertaste? What springs to mind when you hear “green tea from China”? Or if I say “oolong,” do you have a set taste associated with it? Time to shake things up. These and other tea producing areas and types are becoming more varied. The state of Assam in India is a prime example. They are now producers of all kinds of teas of much higher quality.

Tea producers are more focused away from straight black teas and going with white, green, and oolong style teas. It’s a trend that has been growing over the last five years or more. One thing motivating this is the goal to raise the bar on quality, and hopefully raise up market prices (usually at tea auctions where many vendors buy the teas in bulk) and therefore the salaries of the people harvesting and processing these teas. But all this effort means nothing if you, the tea loving public, don’t know about it or appreciate the teas being created. Even if you do, though, it may not deter you from continuing to imbibe your current favorites. I enjoy a lot of these special teas but still go for that strong pot of black tea as my go-to cuppa. Brands like PG Tips and Typhoo still have a place in my tea pantry. You might say that my tea party has variety.

How to add that variety to the tea party of your life:

With tea around your life will certainly be a party!

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.

I’ve run across a lot of tea gadgets over the years, but I’d like to think that I haven’t become jaded just yet. This theory was confirmed recently when I saw an article about a rather unique gizmo. It’s a chocolate teapot. To clarify exactly what that means, it’s a teapot that’s actually made of chocolate – and it apparently works.

I’m not sure why we need this or if the public has been clamoring for it (I doubt it), but it was devised by researchers at the Nestlé Product Technology Centre in England. The pot was made of dark chocolate and, as this article notes, is apparently capable of holding boiling water long enough to prepare a cup of tea. Which is great if you like chocolate flavored tea.

We’ve written about Tregothnan Estate many times now. They’re the United Kingdom’s only native tea producer of any significance, and they will soon be providing tea for First Great Western’s trains in the UK. Which will make them Tregothnan’s top customer and contribute to the company’s rapid growth, which is estimated to hit 60 percent this year.

Now we turn to some offbeat research, specifically a study related to green tea and canine periodontal disease. It’s called The Effect of Green Tea Bag in Dogs With Periodontal Disease and the translation from the Chinese is a little bit clunky but it’s interesting nonetheless. The experiments were carried out on 11 beagles, five of whom served as a control group while the rest had their teeth rinsed with green tea. The results, according to the study abstract, “show that the green tea bag is effective for periodontal disease.”

We close things out today with an eye-catching piece of teaware called a Tea Ball Glass Mug. It’s nothing fancy but, if you’re a fan of sleek, slightly futuristic tea gear, then this one might work for you. The non-glass bits of it are made of silicone and it comes complete with a matching tea ball, if you’re a fan of that sort of thing, and a saucer.

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.

Satisfy those ghouls at tea time with this pea soup green matcha! (ETS image)

Satisfy those ghouls at tea time with this pea soup green matcha! (ETS image)

It’s a time of year for being aware of strange things that could happen at tea time, such as it morphing into something quite “ghoulish.” So it is very important to be able to tell when this is beginning to happen. Here are some signs to watch for:

1 Vocabulary Morphage

The re-arisen dead have a language all their own. Things tend to focus on their obsession with chasing, catching, and making a bit of a tasty treat of the living. You might overhear your tea time guests saying things like this:

  • “Please pass the braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains!”
  • “Gee, why is it so bright in here? I like it nice and dark.”
  • “You didn’t need that door, did you? I knocked but no one answered. So I had no choice but to bust it down.”
  • “This tea doesn’t taste rotten… much too fresh. And it’s not that lovely shade of pea soup green I like.”
  • “Who made this cake? It’s as hard as a tombstone… in other words, perfect!”

It’s a sure sign that your tea time is off to a ghoulish start!

2 Tea Preference Changes

You can have several teas that convey a ghoulish mood (in a good way, that is):

  • Start with a pea soup green Matcha, of course! You don’t want those ghouls grouchy all night long. Not good.
  • Add in some Jasmine Dragon Tears Green Tea, since dragons can liven up any ghoulish tea time – just keep a fire extinguisher handy.
  • That dragon is useful for keeping your Lapsang Souchong nice and smoky, though!
  • And don’t forget to steep up some Blood Orange Flavored Black Tea as your pièce de résistance.

That should keep them distracted from other forms of beverage.

3 Decoration Alteration

Black is a great color. So are orange and red. They can be calming or inspiring. But they can also be arranged in such a way as to convey quite a ghoulish atmosphere. If you find yourself swapping your brighter, gayer colors for these, you are well on your way to a “ghoulish” tea time. Add in some skulls, black cats, ravens, oversized spiders, and “things that go ‘bump’ in the night,” and you will be mostly there.

 (Seen on Pinterest)

(Seen on Pinterest)

4 Ghoulish Tea Time Recipes Dominate

You just gotta have something tasty to serve friends and family at tea time. If you see your usual scones or muffins or cookies being replaced with any of these, you are well on your way to going “ghoulish” at tea time:

A feast fit for a houseful of ghouls! (composite by A.C. Cargill of images from site)

A feast fit for a houseful of ghouls! (composite by A.C. Cargill of images from site)

  1. Meat Hand by Not Martha – a bit creepy…just be sure it doesn’t crawl away!
  2. Shrunken Head Punch by Maple Spice – make it a tea-based punch so those heads smile!
  3. Watermelon Brains at Instructables – better than making it with a big cabbage and some red food coloring.
  4. Eyeball Cake Balls by The Pioneer Woman – mine, all mine!
  5. Mummy Dogs at Instructables – too cute to be ghoulish, though.

5 Tea Time Attire Adjustments

Ghoulish attire tends to be a bit less than tidy. It can get a bit ripped and torn, not to mention dirty, when trying to climb out of a grave or bursting through your front door. And sometimes that final outfit is not exactly a show stopper. So, if you find your guests showing up in out-of-date fashions with a rip here, a button missing there, and stained with all sorts of debris that could only come from their final resting place, you have achieved a ghoulish tea time.

So, how did you do? Have you gone totally “ghoulish” yet? If so, just give in and enjoy it!

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.

In 18th-century America, the pleasant practice of taking tea at home was an established social custom with a recognized code of manners and distinctive furnishings. Pride was taken in a correct and fashionable tea table whose equipage included much more than teapot, cups, and saucers. (Rodris Roth)

Americans are not the greatest tea drinkers in the world, not by a long shot, but we drink our fair share and always have. While we tend to think of the historical version of America as a rough and tumble place, as the passage quoted above indicates, that’s only partially true and in many places the polite custom of taking tea was well established. The passage is taken from a brief but informative work called Tea Drinking in 18th-century America: Its Etiquette and Equipage, by Rodris Roth, which was published by the US National Museum in 1961.

The work opens with a quote from a French traveler to America, who noted, in 1781, that the Americans “use much tea.” As is the case with so many tea books, the author then proceeds to give a brief overview of the history of tea and moves on to a discussion of tea drinking in early America and notes, not surprisingly, that “English customs were generally imitated in this country, particularly in the urban centers.”

Of course, any discussion of tea drinking during this era can’t really avoid the tension between colonists and the British regarding the topic of tea. Roth touches on this as well, even quoting an anti-tea poem that appeared in newspapers of the day called A Lady’s Adieu to Her Tea-Table.

But of course tea drinking continued even after the great conflict had ended and the author touches on this as well. As the name indicates, however, the focus here is primarily on manners and teaware. And, even though the work only totals 31 pages in all, it provides an in-depth, illustrated look at tea culture during this time, one that’s probably more than anyone but the most avid tea historian would ever need.

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.

Young Pu-erh – great straight or “British style” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Young Pu-erh – great straight or “British style” (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A few years ago I received a sample of a tea called “Young Pu-erh.” It started me on an exploration of this rather unique style of tea. It’s not a black tea nor an oolong. And it’s certainly not a green or white tea. So, what is Young Pu-erh all about? To know that, you need to know more about pu-erh.

The Official Description

In 2008 pu-erh was granted a geographical designation by the Chinese government at the request of the tea farmers and factory owners in Yunnan province. Standard Number GB/T 22111-2008 “Product of geographical indication – Puer tea” (pu-erh has several spellings in our alphabet with lots of discussion about which should be the standard). As of 1 December 2008, only tea grown and processed in Yunnan province could be labeled as pu-erh tea, and it must be made from a large leaf variety of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis var. assamica) and processed using a specified methodology. Why bother? Because at that time prices were sky high. Shortly after (or possibly just before) this standard went into full effect, the pu-erh market was experiencing a pricing bubble that popped. Prices fell about 85% but in the past few years have been climbing back up. Fakery abounded before the standard (and the big price drop) and still does. Tea leaves were being gathered from wherever they could be gotten and processed haphazardly into cakes to sell to unsuspecting customers (mostly outside of China). The overall reputation of the tea was being threatened, as it was with Darjeeling teas which were being blended with inferior teas to spread out the supply and meet demand.

What Makes Pu-erh Different

This is a greatly simplified version. The tea leaves undergo the basic processing of tea leaves according to the final style of pu-erh desired. This involves withering, rolling, drying, etc. The result is called máochá (leaves that can be stored awhile under proper conditions before final processing or be processed right away). From here there are two different options: wo dui (wet pile fermentation) that speeds up aging of the tea (actually a form of fermentation but one that does not create alcohol) and is called shu, shou, cooked, or ripe pu-erh; and natural fermentation where the leaves are wetted slightly, pressed into various shapes (discs, mushrooms, tuos, bricks, and mini-tuos), then stored in certain conditions (humidity level, temperature, and monitoring periodically) for at least 5 years, and is called sheng, uncooked, or raw pu-erh.

Description of The English Tea Store’s Young Pu-erh

This is basically a shu (cooked, ripe) pu-erh. It has an aroma described in various ways, depending on whether the describer finds it pleasant or not. To me it’s earthy like a forest with lots of leaves on the ground. Some call it mushroom-like. Others say it’s like rotting vegetation. The steeping instructions said it can be infused using water heated to a rolling boil for 2-10 minutes. So of course, hubby and I had to try it infused using different times. We also tried it straight but also “British style” with milk and sweetener (and probably made a few pu-erh lovers faint – they tend to take this tea quite seriously, while I like to keep a bit of humor and the joy of experimentation in things). Both ways were quite satisfying for us. And you can feel confident that whichever way you prefer it will be fine. There are no rules in tea – only options!

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.

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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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