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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.

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.

Chinese Black Tea (ETS image)

Chinese Black Tea (ETS image)

Language is an ever-changing thing, as anyone who’s ever struggled to read Chaucer or Shakespeare can probably attest to. The British Library was so convinced that the English language is constantly in flux that they created a web site to try to document some of those changes.

Of course, the language of tea has changed along with the rest of the language, and some of the terms that might have been quite common in past centuries don’t turn up much anymore. I took a look at a few of these obsolete tea terms in an article here a while back. More recently, I took a closer look at such old-fashioned tea terms as Bohea, Hyson and Singlo, words that are used to categorize types of tea but which aren’t heard much anymore.

Then there’s Congou. As I began this article, I was under the impression that it was a term that we don’t hear much about anymore. But then I discovered that there are still a few scattered tea sellers who offer teas under this name. For whatever it might be worth, Merriam-Webster Online defines “congou” as “a black tea from China,” which is a decidedly less than specific rendering of the term. Other useful information from the same listing claims that the term was first used in 1725 and that it rhymes with bongo.

Congou tea hails from the Fujian region of China and is indeed a black tea, a category the Chinese sometimes refer to as red tea. According to a few merchants who still offer this variety, it is sometimes referred to as the claret of Chinese tea, which is a reference to a red wine that’s made in the Bordeaux region of France.

As nearly as I can tell, Congou, in the broader sense of the word, is still a relatively arcane term, at least by today’s standards. Although, as noted, you can still buy some if you really want to. However, there is a variety of Congou that’s arguably a little better known. That one is called Panyang Congou and it’s probably better known to those relatively few people who have tried it as Golden Monkey. More about that one here.

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.

Rare teas are generally ones that are fairly unknown and available in small quantities, but along with this the term is meant to indicate high quality. A number of these teas come from China, which is no surprise since they remain the top country for tea growing but had also at one time a few decades ago chopped down a lot of the older tea trees to plant better cash crops. That means a lot of these older trees are now rather few and far between and being sought out by intrepid tea hunters like Phil Mumby and Rajiv Lochan.

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Some rare Chinese teas:

  • Shoumei White — Chinese white tea is rare in China since these teas are exported to other countries where they are considered gourmet and healthy. This one is primarily from the Fujian Province in China and quite rare, has a price starting at $5 per ounce, and is also considered by many experts to be the finest tea on earth.
  • Green Tea from Anhui Province — A rare, competition-grade tea grown high in the mountains in Anhui Province. The gardens are surrounded by wild orchids and their scent is imparted to the leaves at night.
  • Monkey Picked Tea — Possibly a marketing gimmick or tall tale, but this tea is said to have actually been made from leaves picked by monkey off of tea trees (in many parts of China and elsewhere the Camellia Sinensis plant is let grow tall like a tree instead of being kept trim to more of a shrub height).
  • Monkey Ditch, Tai Ping Hou Kwei, and Monkey Hill — Three grades of a rare and beautiful tea made from a large, flat leaf almost two inches long. They are grown in China’s Yellow Mountain area in Anhui Province. After harvest, they are wrapped in gauze, giving the leaves a beautiful pattern. Tai Ping Hou Kwei is the middle quality level, has a red coloration to the leaves, and is enjoyed with meals like a fine wine but with a slightly grassy character. Monkey Ditch has a red vein in the leaf and steeps up a liquid that has an exceedingly fresh, sweet hay aroma and a grassy, green taste.
  • Wild Ti Kwan Yin — A more rare version of a tea that is becoming ever popular with tea devotees. This version grows wild (and is not commercially cultivated) on rocky, mist-shrouded hillsides at elevations of 4,500+ feet in a subtropical environment around the Xi Ping village in the Fujian Province. The tea is only picked once a year in Spring versus twice a year (Spring and Fall) for most other teas. The aroma of the leaves combines green-ness, floral, fruity, and honey, and steeps up a liquid with fabulous body, flavor, and finish. A 1-minute steep in boiled water will fully unfurl the leaves and produce a superb infusion.
  • Curled Dragon Silver Tip — A rare white tea with thick, downy leaves of green and white that steep up a complex, mildly sweet, and floral infusion that is quite smooth with no astringency.
  • Pi Lo Chun (Bi Luo Chun, Tiny Snail) — This tea has down leaves curled to resemble tiny snails and steep up an infusion with a peachy fragrance. Small wonder since the leaves are harvested from plants growing in the Tung Ting mountains with peach and apricot trees nearby. The nectar-like liquid is fruity sweet.
  • Tie Luo Han Oolong (Iron Warrior Monk, Wu Yi Tie Luo Han) — One of the Famous Five Wuyi Rock Teas and also believed to date from the Song Dynasty, making it the earliest Wuyi tea. The name means “Iron Warrior Monk” due to the legend that this tea was created by a powerful warrior monk with golden-bronze skin. He had found a tea bush in a cave (Gui Dong or Ghost Cave) in Hui Yuan Yan, one of the ninety-nine cliffs of Mount Wu Yi. The flavor is rich, full-bodied, and rather strong, steeped up from dark, slightly curled leaves.
  • Top Grade Qi Men Hung (Qi Men Red or Keemun Black) — Classified as a red tea in Asia but as a black tea by Westerners. This type of tea is generally not very popular in China, but us Westerners drink black (red) tea most by a wide margin over green and other teas. There are several grades such as Gongfu, Mao Feng, Hao Ya, Ji Hong, so look for the top grade (usually labeled “1st grade”). While lower grades can be bitter, this grade is fruity-plummy and hints of pine. First produced in 1875, it became a key part of English Breakfast blends.

Go exploring and you may find others to try!

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.

China, the much-acknowledged birthplace of tea drinking in the world, is a large country divided into provinces. Fujian is one such province and is also a source of some fine teas. They are so varied, though, that we will start with the county of Anxi. Time to go exploring!

About Anxi County

The area has the perfect balance of red, sandy soil plus climate and elevation, and most teas grown here are processed as oolongs (semi-oxidized). The first Chinese Tea Industry International Cooperation Summit was held here in late 2002 or early 2003 (funded by money funneled from UN member countries to the UN Development Program Office in Beijing).

Qi Lan Oolong (Wikipedia image)

Qi Lan Oolong (Wikipedia image)

Some Teas

Oolongs produced in this region are mainly processed as tightly rolled pellet shapes, instead of the longer, twisted shape of many Wuyi oolongs.

  • Ti Kuan Yin — Probably the best known tea from Anxi County. Legend has it that the tea was named after the goddess Ti Kuan Yin (“Iron Bodhisattva of Compassion”), a granter of wishes. A farmer prayed to the goddess for money to restore a Buddhist monastery in his village. One version says he went to the temple to pray, while another says he prayed before going to bed and then dreamt of her. Either way, she is supposed to have shown him a special tea bush and told him to cultivate it. The tea grew so popular, that the village was able to get the money to restore the monastery. The tea is extremely fragrant and intoxicatingly complex and fruity.
  • Spring Imperial Anxi Huang Jin Gui Oolong — “Huang Jin Gui” means literally “Golden Osmanthus.” From Dapingtown in Anxi County, and produced in accordance with the traditional Anxi Oolong tea making techniques and so has green leaves with red edges. A different tea plant varietal is used from Ti Kuan Yin, so the liquid is rather more yellow than other teas from Anxi. The flavor is very full, mellow, and thick, and the aroma is unique. The leaves are harvested in late April and are comprised of two or three half-matured tea leaves that are processed into a tight bold ball shape (or some call dragonfly head shape). Steeps best in a gaiwan or Yixing teapot using water heated to 209° F (98° C).
  • Ben Shan Green Dragon — Made from a young tea plant varietal (a clonal) with strong, heavy branches and brightly colored, distinct, ellipse shaped leaves. It grows in the mountains primarily near Raoyang village in Anxi and shares some similarities in fragrance with the Tie Kuan Yin varietal. This oolong has a low oxidization and has been lightly roasted after rolling, with some re-rolling and re-roasting. The liquid is smooth, full-bodied, and golden with a toasty, grassy-sweet flavor and light floral notes.
  • Qi Lan Oolong — Means “profound orchid,” “strange orchid,” or even “wonderful orchid,” depending on how you translate. More heavily oxidized and darker-roasted. The color is darker and often described as being mild and sweet, with a nutty aroma. Some are less oxidized, resembling other greener oolongs, and have a more evident orchid aroma.
  • Rou Gui — Means “cinnamon,” also called “Cassia bark oolong.” It tends to be darker and the name refers to its aroma, suggestive of cinnamon. However, it contains no cinnamon flavoring. Cultivated both in the Wuyi mountains and in Anxi county, the Anxi version tends to have a greener character while the Wuyi version tends to be darker.
  • Mao Xie Oolong — Means “hairy crab.” A se chung oolong that has fine hairs on the tea leaves. Those leaves are from a particular tea plant varietal that has deeply serrated edges. The edges tend to cause the leaves to form into irregular shapes when rolled, with curled pieces of stem and leaf projecting out in a way that makes them look like a miniature crab.
  • Crooked Horse Oolong — This is a medium oxidized Ti Kuan Yin style tea made from a tea plant varietal called wai ma tau (“crooked horse peach”) due to the tip of the tea leaf being hooked like a local peach called Crooked Horse. The leaves are fired in an oven after oxidation, giving a richness and depth to the aroma and flavor. The leaves should be dark green and steep up a golden liquid with a lingering sweet taste of autumn fruit.

Don’t miss our next stop on this virtual world tea tour!

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 written about smoky teas a number of times in these pages, mostly discoursing about how much I didn’t like them. My latest opus on this topic is here. Once upon a time you would not have heard a good word pass from my lips about smoky teas. Not that it was for lack of trying them. I sampled various blends over and over again and always came to exactly the same conclusion – an enthusiastic thumbs down.

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Keemun Panda (ETS image)

Then things started to change – just a little bit and very gradually, mind you. For the most part I owe it to Keemun, a Chinese black tea that often has smoky notes, ranging from barely imperceptible to moderately intense. While I don’t care much for the latter and I don’t know if I’ll ever make peace with Lapsang Souchong, a tea I’ve always found to be quite smoky, I find some of the milder varieties of Keemun to be tolerable and some even a little bit likable.

These days I’d stop far short of calling myself a fan of smoky teas. I certainly don’t seek them out but I can put up with certain ones, at least to some small extent. What I’ve found recently, in the course of the past few weeks or so, is that I’ve been using the smoky stuff to “save” other teas. I’ve written about this practice before and to summarize, it consists of taking a tea that’s not quite bad, but mostly just lackluster, and mixing it with a better quality tea to make the latter go further.

I’ve found myself doing this a lot lately with a tea that I received a rather large sample of a while back. After taking one sniff of it I looked around to see if someone had lit a campfire. Then I realized that smell was the tea. I put it aside, assuming I’d probably end up giving it to someone at some point. It’s not a tea that I could ever imagine drinking straight unless my tastes drastically change. But lately I’ve but using it to salvage a few black teas that I wasn’t quite in love with ut that were made quite palatable with the addition of just a bit of smoke.

Who knew?

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.

Teas are grown in an ever-increasing number of countries in the world, with China still being one of the leaders. Your first stop on our world tea tour is the Fujian Province where a good portion of these teas come from.

Dragon Pearls before steeping. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Dragon Pearls before steeping. (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

About the Province

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Fujian Province served as the heartland of China’s tea production. The name is spelled alternately as “Fukien” due to the trickiness of translating from one type of character set to another. (It’s often done based on the sound, and that leads to all sorts of interpretations.) The province is on the southeast coast of China on the Taiwan Straight, and has a subtropical climate and mountainous terrain, both ideal for growing tea. Various historical documents show that tea has been grown and produced here for over 1,600 years. This province is also home to the famous Wuyi mountain region, where a number of wonderful oolongs come from.

Some of the Better-Known Fujian Teas

There are actually around 336 varieties of Camellia Sinensis (the tea plant) grown in this province. That’s more than in any other tea growing area in China. Teas from this province include oolongs, black teas, green teas, and the greatest selection of white teas available.

  • Gunpowder (also called Pearl Tea and Zhu Cha) — A green tea whose dry leaves are rolled into the shape of little pellets resembling gunpowder, which some say accounts for its name. The flavor is thick and strong with a slightly smoky aftertaste. It was one of the first teas that China exported in high volume and remains popular today.
  • Dragon Pearls — The dry leaves of this green tea are rolled into little balls the size of standard pearls. They steep up a liquid that is nutty yet sweet and feels smooth on the palate. Steep in a glass teapot or teacup to add a visual element to your experience. Watch the pearls unfold in the water.
  • Shi Ru Xiang — A green tea with a clean, pure fragrance. The white down leaves are twisted. They steep up a bright yellow-green liquid, can be steeped multiple times, and have a long lasting fragrance.
  • Ti Kuan Yin Iron Goddess Oolong — Some say the name “Iron Goddess” comes from Iron Goddess of Mercy who supposedly appeared in a dream to a local farmer, telling him to look in the cave behind her temple where he found a single tea shoot that he then planted and cultivated. This is one of China’s most sought-after teas, with stout, crinkly leaves that unfurl in boiling water, revealing greeny-brown lace-edged leaves and producing a brownish-green liquid.
  • Wu-Yi 0olong — Made from the leaves of tea plants grown in the lush and beautiful Wu-Yi Mountain region located between Wuyishan City and Wuyishan Town, in the Jiangxi province. It’s a sought-after tea with a fruity, medium-bodied taste and about half the caffeine that’s in a cup of coffee. It’s also loaded with polyphenols, which some say have strong antioxidant properties that ward off a variety of health-related issues and disease and to improve metabolism to facilitate weight loss.
  • Jasmine Pearls — This tea is primarily produced near Fuzhou City in Fujian Province, China. The best young leaf-and-bud sets are harvested in April, rolled into pearls, then stored until late June, when jasmine trees blossom. The tea pearls are spread out on mesh trays and placed in a heated dryer, with trays of jasmine blossoms in-between each of the tea leaf trays. In the morning, the pearls have absorbed the jasmine scent. Freshness is key here. The best jasmines are gotten to market quickly.
  • Lapsang Souchong China black tea — Very popular, with demand exceeding supply, and often imitated. The true version originates in the Wu-Yi Mountain region. The leaves are withered in the smoke from pine or cypress wood fires, giving the tea a strong and distinctive smoked flavor often described as an acquired taste.
  • Four Chinese white teas: Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver needle), the best with the highest grades commanding rather high prices. Bai Mu Dan (White Peony), ranked second in quality. Gong Mei (Tribute Eyebrow), ranked third. Shou Mei (Noble, Long Life Eyebrow), last but still a great tea with a stronger flavor than other white teas since it’s harvested later in the growing season.

Our next stop on this world tour will be a jaunt to Japan, where tea is an important part of life!

© 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.

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

I consider myself to be a rather avid fan of Assam tea, a black variety that hails from the Assam region of India. Although I’m always careful to note that Assam teas are definitely not all created equal and some of them are rather yucky, to be quite honest. But I’m such a fan of this tea that on two separate occasions I’ve devoted an entire month at my own tea site to considering its many and varied charms.

Which doesn’t seem a very logical way to open a review of a black tea from the Yunnan region of China. But I wanted to establish that I like Assam so much for the simple reason that I’m starting to wonder if I don’t like Yunnan better. For a while now I’ve been drinking Yunnan tea from a merchant who shall remain nameless. I turn to this one whenever the supply of tea samples from various merchants starts to run dry because it’s of a decent quality and I can run down to the local Whole Foods and buy some, rather than having to go through mail order.

While it’s a rather decent Yunnan, as I say, the English Tea Store’s Golden Heaven Yunnan is a cut above that and is one of those Yunnan teas that might just put me over the top in my homegrown Assam/Yunnan competition.

I have to cringe at the Tea Store’s description of this one, however, specifically the opening part that claims that it’s a “a delicious tea that’s outstanding with milk.” While it may indeed be just that and while I’ve learned not to berate anyone for spoiling an outstanding tea with milk, I’d encourage anyone who thinks that black tea actually needs milk to give this one a try on its own before reaching for the pitcher.

I’ve had the good fortune to try a few decent Yunnan teas over the years and this one holds its own with any of them. It’s got the very full and highly robust black tea flavor that’s common to the breed and some notes of something like spice in the finish. Probably the best indicator of how highly I thought of it is that out of the wealth of tea samples I’ve received in recent weeks it was one of the first to go.

See also:
Review ― Golden Heaven Yunnan from The English Tea Store

© 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.

Ceylon Black Tea

Ceylon Black Tea

As mentioned in a recent article here, India’s tea industry is hopeful that the government there will declare tea the country’s national drink. At least one government official cautiously suggested as much not so long ago. But a more recent news report claims that another government minister is not so confident, citing a similar initiative that failed in 2006.

In China, the world’s largest producer of tea, they turn out all kinds of the stuff, from black and green to white and yellow to oolong and puerh. But according to one article there’s been something of a fad there lately among China’s middle class for what the report called “British-style black tea.” Which is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but there are concerns that the increased demand will push prices higher for these varieties.

Speaking of black tea, let’s take a moment to speak of Sri Lanka, a country that’s arguably best known for producing a distinctive variety of black tea known as Ceylon (a nod to the country’s former name). The word there these days is that their distinctive Ceylon tea may soon become a little less distinctive as they seek to boost profits by blending it with less expensive imported varieties.

This article has mentioned some of the world’s more notable tea growing regions thus far. One country that doesn’t come up much in these discussions is New Zealand, and it’s a situation that at least one tea company is trying to remedy. The firm, who grow tea there, has blended the names of its home country with its preferred tea type (oolong) to come up with its own name – Zealong. Here’s an article and video from the local press.

Coming up with the best places in the world to drink tea might seem a herculean task. Which didn’t stop a writer from Travel + Leisure magazine from recently devising A Global Guide to the Best Tea. The article is actually a chronicle of a trip to the Wuyi Mountains region of China, which are renowned primarily for their high-quality oolong tea. Also included, a rather ambitious guide to six of the Best Places to Drink Tea in America.

Finally, if it’s job security you crave, you could do a lot worse than to be the Queen of England. At least two companies (Twinings, East India) celebrated the Queen’s sixty years of laboring in the regal salt mines with special tea blends and spiffy caddies to store said tea in. Here’s one of them.

© 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.

Here is the 2nd of the baker’s dozen (13) of recipes that I selected off of a foodie site since they seem to really fit this bill of going great with tea. This is a more unusual recipe to serve with tea but seems to fit this time of year.

After reading my take on these, you might want to try out the recipe with a pot of the tea named and assess the pairing for yourself.

The recipe: Simple Summer Couscous Salad

Simple Summer Couscous Salad

Simple Summer Couscous Salad

Tomatoes and cucumbers and scallions — oh my! Two years ago, the cook presented this most yummerlicious looking salad on her site. She had presented it as perfect for your Memorial Day Weekend luncheon. It’s a real “beat the heat” dish. The recipe calls for fat-free chicken stock, but you can sub a nice vegan style broth. I made it with the chicken stock, and hubby said I achieved very satisfactory results (the recipe is simple enough for even me to handle).

Fresh ingredients will assure a fresh-tasting and satisfying treat that deserves a wonderful tea with a flavor and aroma to contrast with it.

The tea: Golden Heaven Yunnan

Golden Heaven Yunnan

Golden Heaven Yunnan

My tea choice may not be yours, but having actually made the salad and had it with this tea, I can attest that the combo is worth trying. Golden Yunnan is climbing my personal scale of faves, but still remains some distance behind Keemuns, Assams, Ceylons, and Darjeelings. It is a tea that I can enjoy both straight and in a more British-style serving manner with milk and sweetener. In fact, it is even a tea that can take the chill, delivering a refreshing peppery punch during the heat of the Summer.

Hope this works for you. Feel free to comment here with your experience, and watch for the next pairing to be posted in June.

See also:
Pairing Tea and Food — Pomegranate Vanilla Scones and Sencha Tea 

© 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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