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The first discounted tea this month is our Keemun Panda, in bags or loose leaf. Keeman is written in traditional Chinese like this: 祁門紅茶, and pronounced chee-MEN. It brews into a vibrant red with smoky and chocolately hints.fdd332ef6296e4d34ac74234d63ebb71

Of all the China black teas available, Keemun Panda is probably one of the best known. Keemun is one of the congou-type teas meaning it requires a great deal of gongfu (disciplined skill) to make into fine taut strips without breaking the leaves. Interestingly, the characters in the written Chinese script for time and labor are the same as those used for ‘gongfu.’ It is often said that a properly produced Keemun, such as Panda, is one of the finest teas in the world with a complex aromatic and penetrating character often compared to burgundy wines. Traditionally, Keemuns were used in English Breakfast tea. Keemun is one the best-keeping black teas. Fine specimens will keep for years if stored properly, and take on a mellow winey character.

The name Keemun comes from Qimen county in southern Anhui province where almost all the mountains are covered with tea bushes. Qimen county produced only green tea until the mid 1870’s. Around that time a young man in the civil service lost his job. Despite being totally heartbroken and completely embarrassed by his shame, he remembered what his father told him: “A skill is a better guarantor of a living than precarious officialdom.” In America we would say, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Following this advice, the young man packed up his courage and his bags to travel to Fujian Province to learn the secrets of black tea manufacturing. Upon his return to Qimen in 1875, he set up three factories to produce black tea. The black tea method was perfectly suited to the tea leaves produced in this warm, moist climate with well drained sandy soil. Before long, the superb flavor of Keemuns became very popular around the world.

If you haven’t tried our exquisite Keemun Panda tea, now is the perfect time, with 15% off through the month of May only.

Our second tea for March is vanilla flavored black tea. According to our site, “Vanilla calms the nerves, lifts the spirits and improves the romantic aspect of one’s life.” Wow. Maybe I should have written about this one last month instead of wasting space driveling about chocolate (oh, wait, sorry, chocolate is never drivel.).

GOC-hand-scrub-photo4I’ve lately found myself tempted to buy some essential oils and experiment, because they are great for making your own lotions, body scrubs, and candles. Around the DIY sites you can find 1001 uses for them, and vanilla is one of the most popular. If you mix some coconut oil with sea salt and a few drops of pure vanilla, you can smooth and nourish your skin in one inexpensive step. A drop of vanilla on the cardboard toilet paper tube before you put it on the holder will make your bathroom more inviting. And if you are painting a room, a tablespoon of the oil into the paint will not only knock out paint fumes but make the room smell pleasant for many months. Who knew? Vanilla being at the top of the list for creating your own “me time” products attests to our site’s statement.

snowman-graphicsfairy004pl-1024x671I’m not sure how the weather is in your locale but where we are, the winter has been one of the coldest, breaking a few records. More commutes than usual have seen white knuckles through ice, significant snow, and “wintry mix” (euphemism for “holy man, not this mess again!”). I am voting for a two-minute mini break when you get to the office. Brew a strong cup of our vanilla black tea, inhale deeply and languidly, then sip slowly as the steam brings warmth back to your cheeks and the scent envelops you. If your boss pokes his (or her) head out and yells, you can tell him (or her) I gave you permission for this and your productivity will be higher. If you are the boss, treat your reports to this tea.

Our vanilla tea is available in bags, loose form, and as a variety in our flavored tea sampler, all at a 15% discount this month. If that doesn’t lift your spirits, I’m out.

~Your editor

The Groundhog was right on his prediction when he said there would be six more weeks of winter. Pretty much everywhere in the United States there is snow, freezing rain, or just cold in general. I have been fortunate enough to live in a state that has managed to avoid most of the dreary, wintry mess of a season. That is, until now.

Yesterday I left sunny California for over a week to go to the icy cold East Coast of the United States! I normally love cold days in California but the lowest it usually gets is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m staying where subzero temps are the norm for now. Brr! So to help handle the bitter cold, I will be packing a lot of tea with me, including some picks for this month’s teas of the month that are sure to keep you nice and warm until Spring arrives!

TOLSLL_ESTNON_-Nonsuch-Estate-tea-loose-leafFor a sleepy wintry morning, the Nonsuch Estate Tea is a good choice. It’s a little strong so it’s perfect for the morning. It has a fruity but floral-like maltiness to it that I find yummy. This tea is a blend of Nilgiri tea from South India where it is grown 5000 feet above sea level.

Next up we have the Mim Estate. I really like its name, which I learned has come from Mim in Northern India where you can see Mount Everest on a good day! Our Mim Estate is a Darjeeling, second flush. A second flush is a harvest in June where the tea is fully developed. When I tried it, I could taste a hint of currant and muscatel (grape). It tastes pretty light if you like a less strong tea but I find it nice to relax with a few digestives or scones.

When traveling, sample packs are the way to go since they are small so they save space in your luggage. The Estate Sampler has a few of our estate teas including the ones I mentioned above plus others. it’s a nice gift to give to your host (always try to bring a gift since they are kind enough to let you stay at their home), or share it with the loved ones you came to visit.

The upside to my trip is that I won’t be having tea by myself! My fiance will be joining me and he will enjoy a few cups with me during the cold, bitter days. As February winds down to a close, I still find it the month of romance and I would love to make my dear a nice warm cuppa (cross your fingers that I get him into my biggest tea obsession, PG Tips.

~CD

ETS EG Cream Metro

(c) Crystal Derma for English Tea Store. All rights reserved.

One tea that has definitely caught my taste buds by surprise is the English Tea Store Brand’s Earl Grey Cream Blend. I made this on a rainy day a few days ago and was very surprised at the taste! A little milk and sweetener helped make this stand out.

I wanted something caffeinated but something different from my usual PG Tips. Then I remembered I had a bag of Earl Grey Cream, so I opened that up while I had the kettle boiling on the stove. As I waited, I studied the tea leaves and noticed there were little purple flower petals in the bag. I later found out that they were corn flower petals. Found them to be very pretty, though.

This tea tastes very much of smooth, creamy vanilla, especially after the milk and sweetener were added. It made me want to have a scone right then and there! It feels very much like a dessert tea. Or better yet, skip the sweet treat and just have another cup of tea!

In my research, I learned that 98 percent of this tea comes from estates that are part of the Ethical Tea Partnership. The ETP website explains they they are a non-profit organization working to improve tea sustainability, the lives of the tea workers, and the environment in which the tea is produced. They are a worldwide organization that includes tea companies big and small. Some tea companies that are partnered with the ETP include well known British tea brands like Ahmad Tea and Twinings.

~CD

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nokhoog_buchachon at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

January has come and gone and everything seems to have returned to normal after the holiday excitement. Christmas lights are down and there is a chill in the air. Everything seems blue but one thing that is around the corner will definitely warm your heart. Valentine’s Day.

As much as people say that Valentine’s Day was totally made up, Valentine’s Day is

much more than hearts, cards, and chocolate. Valentine’s Day is to celebrate in the memory of Saint Valentine, who was a martyr and lived his life for love. February 14th was a feasting day in Saint Valentine’s honor. Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world to this day and the United States and Britain are no exception!

I grew up in the US where I have seen so many flowers, cards, and sweets given to loved ones, along with packed restaurants booked to the brim with reservations. Britain has the same customs but unlike the Americans, many Brits write poems, sonnets, and more to pay a tribute to Saint Valentine.

The children of Britain also get to be a part of the celebrations! When I was growing up, the only thing I did was give Valentine’s Day cards to my classmates along with some candy hearts. The children in Britain sing special songs and are given treats and money in return. In some regions, tasty Valentines buns with plums, raisins, or caraway seeds are enjoyed as well. These buns are also eaten in honor of the birds. Valentine’s Day is dubbed “Birds Wedding Day” because February 14th is the time for birds to begin looking for a mate. Geoffrey Chaucer even wrote a poem about the birds: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”

Mid-February in Britain also signifies the changing of seasons from winter to spring. With the birds and everyone rejoicing, it certainly adds a spring-filled cheer!

Image courtesy of zole4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zole4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, not all the gifts have to be the standard flowers and candy. Tea lovers enjoy a nice cuppa, perhaps even with their date! English Tea Store’s Lover’s Leap can be purchased by itself or as part of a number of samplers (Tea Lovers being one). The Lover’s Leap is a black tea which can be enjoyed during a nice Valentine’s Day tea. The Lover’s Sampler is also a nice variety for your V-Day tea, letting your guests pick which tea they want to try! Don’t forget to whip up some fresh scones, too! Home baked goods are always the best gift of the heart!

~CD

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.

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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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