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One of my favorite ways of enjoying tea may not be familiar among the British but it is beginning to sweep the United States by storm. Bubble Tea, or Pearl Tea and Boba Tea (boba is what bubble tea is called in the area I live in), is a Taiwanese variant of milk and tea but with an added twist of little black bubbles. The term bubble comes from the little black “bubbles” or “pearls”* on the bottom of the cup. But what are they?

The little bubbles are actually a form of tapioca. The tapioca comes from the cassava root. Americans make tapioca pudding from this but the Taiwanese use this to make their little pearls. They make them small or large. In addition to the tapioca pearls, they add other things like pudding (not the British pudding!), aloe, and flavored jellies like lychee or mango. This can be added to the milk teas, clear teas, and even the slushies they make!

Boba

(c) Crystal Derma for use by The English Tea Store

The tea used to make the bubble tea are simple black, green, oolong, and ceylon teas. They are mixed with milk or made iced. Another type of drink that is made by bubble tea shops is called a snow, which is LITERALLY like snow! Just be warned, they’re very hard to drink. The fun part of bubble tea is that the milk tea can be made in many flavors, like coffee, chocolate, taro, red bean, or fruity flavors. The plain teas like black, green, oolong, and ceylon can also be flavored as such. Of course, the MOST fun part is drinking the pearls through a straw. Usually a large, wide straw is given so the pearls can travel up and be chewed (yes, I eat the pearls).

Unfortunately, there is a debate among my fiance and I. Where I come from in California, there is a competition for bubble tea. I like to get the “Tapioca Milk Tea” which is made with black tea and milk and I consider it to be the basic flavor but when I visit my fiance out in Virginia, there isn’t such a flavor. I tried to order it out there and everyone gave me funny looks, including the fiance. The closest thing I had to get was coffee/mocha and it just wasn’t the same.

I have been a fan of bubble tea since about 2001 or 2002 as a teenager and it’s an undying love for me. The local specialty stores are finally stocking the pearls to make my own bubble tea. You need to take the pearls and cook them. Once I obtain these next time I go, I hope to tell you all how to make them! I have also been told it is just black tea that is used to make the original milk tea. However it is made, bubble tea is delicious!

*When consuming these pearls, they CAN be a choking hazard. Do be careful and supervise a young child if they are enjoying one!

~CD

With December coming to a close, the frantic holiday rush picks up and it’s hard to find a good time to wind down and relax with a good cup of tea. My seasonal picks for the month of December from the English Tea Store are sure to delight and soothe even some of the most frazzled holiday preppers.

For a good holiday tea to entertain your guests who enjoy tea, English Tea Store’s Holiday Spice is a must. The spicy flavors and a hint of orange will take you into the spirit of the holidays along with a burst of energy to keep you going. I enjoy my cup without milk and a hint of sweet.

(c) Crystal Derma for ETS use, all rights reserved.

(c) Crystal Derma for ETS use, all rights reserved.

For those in the mood for some mint flavor, you are in for a treat! The English Tea Store chocolate mint tea is a good pick-me-up. At first, I thought chocolate tea was not my thing and I am a huge chocolate lover but I felt not in tea. Once I opened up my bag, however, I was in heaven. A minty chocolate scent burst up to my nose and I thought to myself, This is tea? I immediately brewed my cup in anticipation, sweetener and milk nearby. I expected it to taste a little bit like a peppermint mocha and it does, but not as strong as I thought it would be. Milk made the flavors more subtle yet. Delicious.

Finally, my favorite is the peppermint tea. If you have never tried peppermint tea, you must. Fine tea leaves allow room for minty flavor in your cup. It’s good any time of day, even before bed since it’s caffeine free! Plain sweetener is just fine but some honey is also good for more natural sweetness. I like to mix both. If you like peppermint with a caffeinated kick, I would suggest the Stash White Christmas tea if you order it before it’s gone. It has not only peppermint but a bit of ginger in it.

I hope you join me again next month for January’s tea roundup. In the meantime, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings!

~CD

brit flagI fell in love with Britain at a young age, even going as far as wanting to live there when I grew up. When I did grow up, my life took different turns and I ended up staying in the United States. I figured the closest things to Great Britain would be to immerse myself into the food and culture. I became an English major at my college since I love to read and write. While my school offers a program to study abroad in Oxford, I am unable to go due to my current obligations. I hope to save up to go Britain for a visit so I can find the Globe Theatre, Big Ben, and ride a red double decker bus.

PG MonkeyHowever, Britain isn’t complete without a nice cuppa tea! I started my tea drinking journey with PG Tips after I watched one of their funny advertisements on their website featuring their mascot, a wooly monkey and his human companion, Al (played by English comedian Jonny Vegas). The tea bags are in pyramid form so the loose-leaf tea can unfurl and steep more freely than the standard, round, and flat teabags. The taste is smooth, crisp, and robust. The tea itself is strong when black but it can be mellowed out with the addition of milk.

digestiveFrom what I learned in my research, tea is an important part of life in Great Britain. My best friend and I went to an afternoon tea and I can see why the British love it so much! It’s very calming and relaxing to take some time to enjoy tea along with some sandwiches and tasty scones. Tea is considered a meal and there are a lot of places where you can stop have a nice cup of tea. When I have my tea at home, I enjoy it with some digestive biscuit dipped into my cup. But do be careful, they soak up rather quickly and can break apart and get lost in the bottom of the cup!

~CD

 

Spring Pouchong is a great tea for Thanksgiving! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Spring Pouchong is a great tea for Thanksgiving! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Whether you have a more traditional, Norman Rockwell-esque Thanksgiving dinner or something very untraditional and unique, tea is an important part of that feast. And serving the right tea can make the difference to you and your guests between success or “so long, folks.” Not that anyone would walk away from a great meal just because you served the wrong tea with it. But they will walk away from the tea. So, let’s see how to have a bit more assurance that this won’t happen. Here are 5 tasty teas that are great with traditional Thanksgiving dishes and even non-traditional ones.

1 Assam Black Tea (CTC style)

The sky is the limit here, as far as food pairings are concerned. So, no matter what your feast menu consists of, this tea should be a big hit! Great hot or iced, straight (steep only 2-3 minutes instead of 3-5 minutes) or with milk and sweetener.

  • Meats: Hamburgers, Bacon, Fried or Roasted Chicken, Baked Ham, Eggs, Mexican Foods, Lasagna
  • Cheeses: Goat Cheese
  • Grains: Corn Bread, Couscous
  • Vegetables: Chiles, Baked Beans, Mushrooms (Chanterelle, Common, Morel, Porcini)
  • Desserts/Sweets: Dark Chocolate, Carrot Cake, Crème Brûlée, Caramel, Pecan Pie, Ones with Coffee or Mocha Flavors, Cinnamon, Nutmeg

2 Spring Pouchong Tea

You’re probably thinking I’ve flipped my lid, but quite the contrary. This is a rather surprising tea, pairing with more foods than you might think. Plus, although many classify this as an oolong, it is so lightly oxidized that it is more like a green tea.

  • Meats: Chicken Curry
  • Fish/Seafood: Anchovies
  • Cheeses: Gorgonzola, Muenster
  • Vegetables: Potato Salad, Antipasto (even ones with meats in them)
  • Desserts/Sweets: Baklava, Ones with Bananas, Avocados, Ones with Vanilla, Ones with Mint, Fresh Fruit

3 Darjeeling Tea

Another tea style that goes with a wide range of foods. And it can be served hot or iced (I’m keeping all you folks in warmer climates, like the Southwest U.S., in mind here).

  • Meats: Turkey, Hamburgers, Chicken (Buffalo Wings, Curry, Lemon), Lamb, Smoked Ham, Eggs, Quiche, Pork, other meat curries, Carpaccio (an appetizer made of raw meat or fish, thinly sliced or pounded thin)
  • Fish/Seafood: Blinis with Salmon, Smoked or Grilled Fish/Seafood, Anchovies
  • Cheeses: Brie, Cheddar, Cream Cheese, Edam (best with Autumn Flush Darjeeling), Camembert (best with First Flush Darjeeling)
  • Vegetables: Eggplant, Potato Salad, Morel Mushrooms (best with Second-Flush or Autumn Flush Darjeeling), Polenta (cornmeal boiled into a porridge – can be eaten as is or baked, fried, grilled)
  • Herbs/Spices: Cinnamon (best with Autumn Flush Darjeeling), Basil, Ginger, Mint, Nutmeg
  • Desserts/Sweets: Chocolate (Dark, Milk, or White), Baklava, Carrot Cake, Cheesecake, Crème Brûlée, Crêpes, Fruit Compote/Tart (Ones with Apples, Blackcurrants, Raspberries, Strawberries), Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Fresh Fruit, Avocados

4 Ceylon Green Tea

An all-round good green tea that will be strong enough in flavor yet light enough in its general impression on your palate to suit your guests after that big meal. Consider this your dessert tea, although it can go with a few other foods well, too.

  • Fish/Seafood: Anchovies, Clam Chowder, Prawns
  • Other: Capers, Salsa
  • Desserts/Sweets: Pumpkin Pie, Baklava, Carrot Cake, Cheesecake, Crème Brûlée, Ones with Raspberries, Ones with Caramel

5 Ceylon Black Tea

Another tea that is pretty general when it comes to pairing with foods. So let your inner chef take over when planning the menu and have free rein.

  • Meats: Turkey, Pork, Beef (Hamburgers, Stews, Roasts, Briskets, Steaks), Bacon, Eggs, Quiche, Chicken (Buffalo Wings, Fried, Lemon, Roasted), Baked Ham, Lamb, BBQ Meat, Salami, Lasagna, Antipasto (even ones with meats in them), Carpaccio
  • Fish/Seafood: Ones that are Smoked
  • Cheeses: Cream Cheese, Edam, Gorgonzola, Provolone
  • Vegetables: Any Raw Veggies, Mushrooms (Chanterelles, Common, Porcini), Eggplant, Potato Salad, Baked Beans
  • Grains/Pastas: Corn Bread, Couscous, Macaroni & Cheese
  • Other: Nutmeg, Spicy Foods, Mexican Dishes, Pizza
  • Desserts/Sweets: Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Baklava, Carrot Cake, Cheesecake, Crème Brûlée, Fruit Compote/Tart, Ones with Caramel, Ones with Bananas, Ones with Raspberries, Ones with Vanilla

Wishing you a great dinner and some lovely tea experiences. 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.

When I was growing up tea was a thing of mystery. My family drank powdered iced tea of dubious quality, but that was about all I knew about tea. Except that tea was black and you bought cheap teabags at the grocery store and steeped them and probably added milk, sugar, lemon or whatever.

Some of the many black teas available for tea drinkers. (ETS image)

Some of the many black teas available for tea drinkers. (ETS image)

Once upon a time, at least outside of Asia, this is how things were done. Tea and black tea were synonymous and that was that. Yes, as I’ve noted before, imports to the United States of Japanese green tea and other types were significant in the nineteenth century but somewhere along the way something changed and black began to prevail.

But there are indications lately that black tea is not quite the dominating force that it was. Even a casual observer to what’s happening in the tea world has probably noticed the surge of interest in green tea and some of the lesser known types.

As it turns out, there is apparently evidence to support all of this. In the United Kingdom, that great bastion of black tea drinking, a recent article in the press there notes that “While sales of ordinary black tea bags have dropped by nearly five per cent in the past year, demand for green tea has rocketed by almost 10 per cent.”

In addition to green tea, beverage lovers there are also turning to fruit flavored teas and tisanes such as peppermint and chamomile, all of which have seen an increase of eight percent in a year. The good news for black tea is that the category still accounts for nearly twice as much in sales as all others combined. Not that the news is bad for all tea companies, mind you. At Yorkshire Tea they’ve managed to buck the trend and claim that their sales of mostly black tea have jumped by 66 percent over the course of the last five years.

A recent article in the Washington Post claimed that we’re gradually becoming a nation of tea drinkers. Maybe so and maybe not and I’ve already discussed that claim in a recent article for this site. But it’s also interesting to note the facts that were cited in the article, courtesy of the U.S. Tea Association.

As they note, the tea market in the U.S. has jumped from about two billion dollars in 1990 to more than ten billion dollars last year. Half of all the tea we drink is of the black kind (I’m certainly doing my part on that front), followed by fruit and herbal “tea.” Both categories are faltering however, with a small increase in the latter since 2000 and a drop of about 2.5 percent for black tea.

Not so for green tea, which has grown by about 40 percent since 2000 and now accounts for about a tenth of all of our tea. So-called fringe and artisanal teas like white and oolong and others have grown by about 8,000 percent in the last decade but still make up a fairly small portion of our tea market overall.

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.

Ecstasy is a glass full of tea and a piece of sugar in the mouth. – Alexander Pushkin

Czar Nicolas Russian Caravan Tea (ETS image)

Czar Nicolas Russian Caravan Tea (ETS image)

If you’re like me, then when you think of great tea-drinking nations, you probably think of the United Kingdom. Who are actually topped in tea-drinking by countries like Turkey, where they consume nearly three times as much as the Brits on a per capita basis. Then, there’s Morocco, Ireland, and Mauritania, all of which fill the spots on the list just ahead of the UK.

One of the countries that you might not think of when you think of great tea drinkers is Russia. But they have a long history of tea drinking and are credited with popularizing and possibly even inventing the samovar, one of the world’s earliest tea gadgets.

Given the proximity of the two countries, it’s probably no surprise that China eventually started trading one of their precious and unique commodities – tea – with Russia. Russians are first thought to have tasted tea – at least according to the historical record – in the early seventeenth century when envoys from the Tsar, who were dispatched to Mongolia in 1616, encountered a strange beverage made with leaves. About two decades later Mongolia made a gift of about 600 pounds of tea (though that amount varies, depending on the source) to the Tsar. His envoy grumbled a bit, remarking that furs would have been a better choice than these curious leaves.

But tea began to catch on, and by 1674 a Swedish envoy noted that it was being sold in Moscow for 30 kopeks a pound and was claimed to be a remedy for the ills brought on by drinking too much of the harder stuff. By the early to mid-eighteenth century tea had begun to regularly make the long journey from China to Russia, often by camel caravan. Much like in Britain, as the popularity increased and larger supplies were imported, prices fell even further and things began to snowball. By 1810, according to one source, one Russian trading guild was responsible for importing nearly three million pounds of tea into the country.

And so it went. Nowadays the Russians are not ranked all the way at the top of the world’s tea drinking nations. But the beverage is still something of an institution there and enough tea is consumed to put Russia’s citizens fifteenth on the list of tea drinking peoples.

See also 5 Signs That You’re “Going Russian” at Tea Time

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.

Some teas are best when steeped in a gaiwan. Others in a Yixing style teapot. And still others were specifically produced to be served British Style, that is, steeping up a strong and somewhat bitter liquid that reacts well to milk and sugar (these should enhance, not drown out, the tea’s flavor). Sure, you can steep up a weak version of these teas (infusing for two minutes or less), but you won’t get their full glory. Here are five of the better known ones:

Assam tea CTC style (ETS image)

Assam tea CTC style (ETS image)

1 CTC Assam

Let’s face it, this tea steeps up fast and strong. It is made from leaves of the Camellia sinensis var. assamica member of the tea plant family. The leaves are larger and heartier than many other tea plants. They are withered, rolled, fully oxidized to turn them black, then dried and ground into the typical CTC (crush, tear, curl) shape (sort of like smaller versions of Grape Nuts cereal). There are a number of options for this tea, including this one sold loose and bagged.

2 English Breakfast Blends

Usually in a very fine ground leaf form (often called “dust” or “fannings”) and a blend of the finest Assam, Kenyan, and other choice teas. A strong tea to start the day with a full malty flavor and a rich dark color that is best served hot with milk and a little sugar (or artificial sweetener). Several customers have remarked that they rely on this tea as their morning wake-up cuppa. Hubby and I enjoy it all day long, preferring our tea served British style. See a full selection here.

English Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

English Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

3 Irish Breakfast Blends

Usually in the CTC form (as described in #1 above) where the leaves are a stout robust blend of February Kenya BP1 and 2nd flush Assam in some brands, a blend of Ceylon and Assam in other brands, and leaves from Assam and Darjeeling together in other brands. They all have superb color (usually a rich ruby red), a delightful aroma, and a flavor that is described as rich, malty, and full of subtleties such as notes of prunes, cherries, hazelnuts, and honey. You will get some bitterness or astringency when steeped strong (usually 5 minutes using water brought to a full boil), but that’s where the British style of serving helps – the milk and sugar subdue those negative qualities and enhance those wonderful flavors. Some customer comments say this is not just a great wake-up tea but also a perker-upper in the afternoon. I heartily agree! See a full selection here.

Irish Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

Irish Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

4 Scottish Breakfast Blends

Ever been to Scotland? Brr! Even in Summer you need a hot cuppa to get you going in the morning. They also have mainly soft water (not a lot of extra minerals, etc., in it) which tends to steep up a rather flat tasting tea. So this blend tends to be rather more bracing, malty, and full-bodied due to a blending of leaves from various gardens in the Assam region of India. Milk and sugar are strongly recommended. They bring out that maltiness and make this a tea ideal with typical Scottish breakfast foods like Scott’s Porridge Oats. One customer says she drinks this tea all day long since it usually has no bitterness. So true! We always keep some on hand and rotate this with the others as our morning cuppa. See a full selection here.

Scottish Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

Scottish Breakfast Blends (ETS image)

 

Yorkshire Harrogate Tea (ETS image)

Yorkshire Harrogate Tea (ETS image)

5 Yorkshire Harrogate Tea

Strong black teas blended to produce a full-bodied tea with a rich flavor. Harrogate is famous for its water that people would drink as a medicinal cure, and it steeps this tea up perfectly. But don’t worry – you don’t have to travel there or have some of their water flown in. Your water at home should be fine. Be sure it’s brought to a full boil and steep for 5 minutes to infuse all the goodness in those leaves into the water. Don’t forget that milk and sugar – the key part of that British style cuppa. And since Harrogate is also where the annual Crime Writing Festival is held, you can sit back with a good crime novel while you imbibe. See the tea here.

Whether you’re slurping a cuppa with breakfast, gulping one mid-morning, brightening up your lunchtime with a fresh potful, or any other time of day, this tea will keep you going – in British style!

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.

Forget politics, religion, taxes, and other topics that are typically the subject of debates around the water cooler (such as why that line backer made that move in the second half of the first quarter of that football game). The debate over whether Orthodox style tea is better than CTC style tea is popping up more and more. Some tea drinkers just scratch their heads and wonder what these tea types are and the real differences between them.

Orthodox on the left and CTC on the right. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Orthodox on the left and CTC on the right. (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Orthodox teas are usually harvested and processed by hand to get intact, whole leaves – small, young tea leaves plucked from the tips of the tea bush – but some may be harvested and processed by machine. The basic processing involves four steps. Withering where leaves are spread out on long metal troughs in a shaded area for about 14-20 hours, letting moisture evaporate so they become limp and pliable and can be rolled without damage. Rolling where the leaves go through a press that rolls over them while rotating them around to release chemicals stored in their cells, thus beginning the oxidation process (the highest grades are done by hand while large-scale production of lower grades use a machine). Oxidation (started during rolling) where the leaves are laid out 2-4 hours in a humidity/temperature-controlled room, allowing the air to react with chemicals released during rolling and turn the leaves to reddish-brown, then black (too long will cause the tea will be strong and lose its subtlety, while too short will not let the complex flavors fully develop). Firing of the leaves is done on a conveyor belt that moves through a charcoal fire heater, halting oxidation and drying them, at around 220-250° F for 20-40 minutes after which the leaves are sorted by leaf grade by a machine that shakes them over varying gauges of mesh that sifts by size. The largest pieces may be hand-sorted to assure consistent size and therefore steeping time. Young, whole leaf teas are generally higher priced than the broken leaf grade.

Orthodox teas are graded from Golden Tip (highest grade comprised of mainly the best quality tips from the stems of the tea bush Camellia Sinensis), then FTGFOP1 (Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade – finest top-grade production with an abundance of tips), TGFOP1 (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade), TGFOP (Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe), and so on down to the lowest grade of OP (Orange Pekoe). Even that lowest grade can be heads and tails above CTC tea.

CTC is basically machine processed and fully oxidized (black) tea; it tends to be less expensive and lesser quality than Orthodox tea and often are blends of tea leaves harvested from more than one plantation during the first “flush” (harvest). This makes their flavor fairly consistent from one batch to another, making it important to start with good quality tea leaves, since that level of quality will determine the quality of the finished tea. Generally, a CTC tea steeps stronger with more chance of being bitter, while Orthodox teas are higher quality, less likely to be bitter, and contain more subtle and multi-layered flavors. These teas tend to look like tiny nuggets, similar to Grape Nuts (which contains no grapes and no nuts, just double-toasted bread crumbs). By the way, most black tea bags are CTC blends ground to fannings or dust.

Knowing which tea you are buying will help you know what results you will get in the cup! If you are planning to make some masala chai (spiced tea), definitely start with a CTC tea. However, if you drink your black tea straight or with just some sweetener or lemon, then start with an Orthodox tea. Assam tea is a common type of tea seen labeled “CTC”. It steeps up an deep ruby-colored liquid with a rich malty flavor tending toward the bitter side. It takes milk well and can usually use a bit of sugar or other sweetener, too, serving as a great tea to use in masala chai (spiced tea).

Now you know, so you can decide which type you like and get just the taste you want. As for which is better, I tend to think that the Orthodox is overall better, with a richer and more varied flavor profile. 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.

Variety is the spice of life. It’s a somewhat overused phrase, but when it comes to tea drinking it’s true. I’m a black tea drinker first and foremost, and there’s nothing I like more than a good Assam. But I also like to mix things up with other varieties of black tea from time to time and just for fun I’ll throw in some green tea now and then and maybe even some oolong once in a while.

Black teas (ETS image)

Black teas (ETS image)

But it rarely occurs to me to mix any of the aforementioned in the same cup. Which is to say that for most tea drinkers the major types of tea like black, green, oolong and whatnot tend to be consumed apart from each other. I touched on this topic briefly some time ago when I wrote about a tea I’d run across that blended black and green tea. But I thought I’d revisit the subject and do a little experimenting of my own.

The topic came to mind again when I ran across (but haven’t sampled yet) a black and green tea mix from one of the big-name tea companies. It’s described as a “full flavored black tea with the refreshing goodness of green tea.” Which seems like it’s defeating the point on both counts but what do I know?

One of the main issues I see with this sort of thing is the nagging question of how to prepare such a blend. One article I read claimed that boiling water should be poured over the tea bag and steeped for about three to five minutes. Which might be good advice for black tea, though I tend to err on the side of shorter steeping times there. However, the common wisdom with green tea is that the surest way to ruin it is to subject it to boiling water and long steeping times.

The simplest way around this dilemma, of course, is to prepare both teas ahead of time and mix them. Which might be a bit labor-intensive for hot tea but for those of us who always have iced tea on hand it’s a little more convenient.

The downside to all of this, as I’ve found by undertaking some amateur tea mixing experiments is that the sum of the parts leaves something to be desired. I mixed a quite good black tea in equal parts with an acceptable green tea. I’m sorry to say that the result could be summed up in one word – bland. But perhaps more experimentation is called for. I’m not completely ready to give up on blended black and green tea just yet but for the moment I think I’ll stick with one or the other.

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 Yunnan Province of China is home to some of the finest teas from China. A few years ago the Chinese government even went so far as to give approval to a proposal that limits the labeling of any Chinese tea as “pu-erh” to only those grown and processed in this province. This was in part to protect their reputation in the tea market (success breeds imitators) where their popularity is growing. But aside from these teas, other very fine ones are produced. They are categorized as “Black” (called “Dian Hong” or “red tea” in other countries) and “Golden.”

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

A couple to get you started:

  • Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea — Considered by many to be one of the highest quality teas available from Yunnan Province. A black tea blend composed of tippy, neat, wiry, and well-made leaves that have a wonderful fragrance and produce a bright reddish cup with a malty flavor and aroma. The leaves are harvested and processed during the last 2 weeks of March and the first 2 weeks of April and so have a brighter golden tip. A tea that is perfect on its own, but a bit of milk or sugar help capture that malty character. Steep for 3-7 minutes in water that has been brought to a rolling boil. (My review)
  • Flowering Tea – 3 Flower Burst – Green Tea — This tea mimics the lush Yunnan countryside as it unfolds from brewing. Lily, Osmanthus, and jasmine blooms are tied together with steamed full leaves of Yunnan green tea. They steep up a full green taste with overtones of peach, and undertones of lily and jasmine. Steep in something where you can watch the show!

Some more to be on the lookout for:

  • Royal Yunnan — A tea resulting from literally thousands of years of tea growing and processing experience. The leaves are picked in early Spring from the first flush, and these young, fresh buds turn gold when oxidized instead of black. The rich flavor  that steeps up from these leaves has lingering notes of honey and smoke. Steep as long as you like to get a stronger, not bitter, brew.
  • Dian Hong (Yunnan Red, Yunnan Black) — Unlike other Chinese black teas, the finest grade of Dian Hong has a higher amount of fine leaf buds (“golden tips”). They steep up a liquid that is brassy golden orange and having a sweet aroma that is gentle, and the flavor is free of astringency. Lower grades can steep up darker brown and be bitter, especially if oversteeped. Both are a tea version that goes back only to the earth 20th century. The grades: First Grade, Broken Yunnan (BOP grade), Yunnan Gold (OP to TGFOP grade), and Yunnan Pure Gold (TGFOP to SFTGFOP grade).
  • Golden Bi Luo (Twisted Yunnan Gold, Hong Bi Luo, Yunnan Bi Luo) — A rare golden black tea that is made with a local Yunnan varietal similar to a high grade Yunnan Gold. The leaves are processed in the style of the famous green tea called Bi Luo Chun (from Jiangsu province in China). The flavor is creamy with sweet, malty notes of vanilla.
  • Yunnan Tribute Pu-Erh — A tea aged for many years that has been a favorite in Southern China for a long time. It has a distinctive earthy, bold, and assertive flavor, yet is exceptionally smooth.

About Yunnan Province

This part of China is in the southwest corner and borders Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Tibet, and Vietnam. The elevation ranges from 76 meters above sea level to over 6,700 meters, with tea being grown at 1,200 to 2,000 meters. Weather wise, they are crossed by the Tropic of Cancer, have an annual rainfall range of 1,000 to 2,000 millimeters, and have a temperature range of 12° to 23° Celsius. This is ideal for the tea trees growing there and for which the province is famous. Most of the 200+ species are known as “Yunnan large leaf” and are great for pu-erhs and black teas. Their first flush begins about a half month ahead of other tea-growing provinces such as Zhejiang.

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, 2009-2015. 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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