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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.

Is it grey, or is it green? Our second Tea of the Month for May is both! Enjoy 15% off the forever favoriteTOLSLL_GRNEGR-16oz_-00_Earl-Grey-Green-Tea-Loose-Leaf-16oz made fresh with bergamot and green tea. Bergamot is a small citrus orange that blossoms in winter.

Tea was originally flavoured with bergamot to imitate the more expensive types of Chinese tea. This practice dates back to the 1820’s in the UK. In 1837 there is a record of a lawsuit against a tea maker who was found to have supplied tea “artificially scented, and, drugged with bergamot in this country.”

The Earl Grey blend, or “Earl Grey’s Mixture,” is assumed to be named after The 2nd Earl Grey, British Prime Minister in the 1830s and author of the Reform Bill of 1832. Lord Grey reputedly received a gift, probably a diplomatic perquisite, of tea flavoured with bergamot oil. The English Tea Store is one of few who takes this original Earl Grey blend and surprises you with a base of green tea.

Editor’s note – I love the word perquisite – so much nicer than today’s “perk.”

Tea has practically become synonymous with England. The Brits do more than their share to keep those tea gardens in other parts of the world very busy growing and processing tea. Two of those places are China, where tea growing and drinking is said to have originated, and Japan, where tea is so important to their lives that it was part of their emergency rations after a tsunami hit a few years ago. While a Western or British touch to your tea time is very customary, more people are opting for that Asian touch. Here are 5 ways for you to join in the trend:

1 A Tea from China or Japan

Tea time starts with tea. So an appropriate choice is important. And you have quite a few. I focused on the green ones, but in China there are others – black teas, oolong, white teas, and a wide variety of pu-erhs.

Top to bottom: Bamboo strainer, tea scoop, and teapot (ETS image composite by A.C. Cargill)

Top to bottom: Bamboo strainer, tea scoop, and teapot (ETS image composite by A.C. Cargill)

Chinese Green Teas to choose from:

Most tea in Japan is green, but they have quite a variety.

Japanese Green Teas to choose from:

2 A Matcha Experience

The matcha tea mentioned above is part of a tea ceremony. You don’t have to go quite that far. But a Matcha Tea Spoon will certainly help. The “spoon” (more of a scoop) is just short of 7½ inches long and made of bamboo, a quick growing member of the grass family. (The spoons are sold separately.) Bamboo is a symbol of longevity in many Asian countries, so you are also adding that image to your tea experience.

3 A Zen Style Teapot

This Zen Style Glass Teapot isn’t really Asian, but it will convey that Asian air to your tea time. It holds a generous 42 ounces of liquid. The body of the teapot is hand blown borosilicate glass, and the handle is bamboo. It comes with a raised bamboo base, bamboo tea scoop, and micro-mesh stainless steel filter. The filter is definitely NOT Asian, but compromises in tea preparation or blending in with your usual pattern some different ways to enjoy tea can be inspiring. The scoop is great for getting the loose tea leaves into the teapot.

4 A bamboo tea strainer

Once the tea has steeped in that glass Zen teapot, you can use a bamboo strainer to keep the leaves out of the cups. Keep a few on hand, so that they can thoroughly dry between uses, and don’t use them for teas with very fine particles.

5 Asian Symbols

A few Asian symbols are a nice touch here. Since we are heading into that colder time of year, include in those symbols the 3 Friends of Winter: Plum (mei 梅), Bamboo (zhu 竹), and Pine tree (song 松). A bit of red here and there are good, too, since it is the color of good luck and happiness. Or go with yellow which is one of the 4 colors of longevity. Combine both red and yellow for double good luck. Chrysanthemums symbolize the tenth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (roughly our October), so have a vase of them on hand. The crane is another sign of longevity, so a picture of one is great to have.

Whatever your particular selections, have a great Asian tea time!

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.

by Guest Blogger Sarah Rosalind Roberts

Tea is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. It is steeped in history and rooted in thousands of years of tradition. In China, it is brewed as a drink for many different occasions and also has many symbolic meanings depending upon the situation.

Legend tells us the leaves of the camellia sinensis were discovered to be drinkable in 2737 BC when emperor Shen Nong was sitting in his garden sipping steaming water and a tea leaf dropped into his cup. He found the result of this to be refreshing and so tea, or cha as it’s also commonly  known, was born.

The Chinese have a very different relationship with tea than we do in western culture. There are many aspects that I feel could improve both the way we view tea, but also how we drink it. Here are some ideas, influenced by Chinese culture, that could enhance your cuppa tea.

1 Take your time and enjoy

The Chinese preparation of Kung Fu cha is a slow and careful process of brewing tea.

It’s far away from the dip and squeeze tea bag method we’re more accustomed to in the west. They allow time to brew the tea, and also have intermediary steps between steeping and drinking. These steps involve pouring the tea into a pitcher cup to thoroughly distribute the tea and then into an aroma cup, with another aroma cup placed on top. The tea is then flipped into the top cup and inhaled prior to moving it to the tasting cup.

It’s a very long process, but what it teaches us is that good tea is worthy of this type of ceremony. So next time you think about dipping and shaking your tea bag, take a breath and take your time to appreciate the smell and taste of the leaves.

Sandra's Rose Bone China - 6 Cup Teapot (ETS image)

Sandra’s Rose Bone China – 6 Cup Teapot (ETS image)

2 Invest in a good teapot

The Chinese are renowned for their Yixing clay tea pots, which are porous and the oil in the tea builds up over time creating a very distinct flavour. If you’re not able to find this type of teapot, you could invest in a beautiful fine bone china teapot, such as this one, which will help you enjoy your tea.

3 Chinese tea etiquette

There are several nuggets of Chinese tea etiquette that you could apply to your tea drinking habits. Whilst pouring tea for a guest, lifting the pot three times signifies you are bowing to them and when you place the teapot down, make sure the spout is not facing anyone as it is considered impolite.

Adopting a Chinese mindset towards tea will help you to appreciate its flavour and aroma, allowing you to develop a deeper relationship with those lovely leaves.

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

A classic Chinese green tea (ETS image)

A classic Chinese green tea (ETS image)

If you’re ever in the mood for some truly offbeat reading, you could head on over to Project Gutenberg and take a look at a curious 1854 book by one Rev. I. Platts. It’s called The Book Of Curiosities: Containing Ten Thousand Wonders and Curiosities of Nature and Art – which is a somewhat abridged version of the full (and quite weighty) title. While the book might not quite touch on 10,000 wonders, it hits quite a few, including such oddities as the ant-lion, the lifespan of fleas, magical bottles and murdering statues.

Amidst all these curiosities I was surprised to find a short chapter on the relatively mundane (by comparison) topic of Chinese tea. The author starts out with a few of the basic facts about the tea plant and sequence of the various harvests in China. This was a time when China was still the world’s primary tea producer, with the tea industry just getting underway in India. As Platts notes, of China’s tea, “It is to be found all over China, but there are certain places where the tea is of a better quality than in others. Some people give the preference to the tea of Japan, but we have reason to doubt whether there is any real difference.”

After that there’s an all-too brief discussion of how tea is processed and then it’s on to a look at some different types of Chinese tea. There’s Bohea, for instance, which the author claims is called vou-y-tcha in Chinese. Once quite popular, the name Bohea is not much in use these days but Platts claims that it came from Fokien province, more commonly known as Fukien.

Things wind up with a discussion of some Chinese green teas, which were said to come from the province of Nankin. The author summarizes them thusly, “The first is known under the name of songlo tea, but oftener under that of green toukay; the second is called bing tea; and the third hayssuen tea, or hyson. There are also some other kinds, but the greater part of them are unknown, or of little importance to foreigners.” Platts also reveals the little-known “fact” that the French seek in their green tea “an odour similar to that of soap.”

From there it’s on to the next segment, a brief but interesting discussion on the Antiquity of Sugar. So don’t stop reading. More 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.

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.

Keemun Panda (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Keemun Panda (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

If pressed to choose my least favorite type of tea, I’d probably have to go with Lapsang Souchong. For those who may never have heard of it, it’s a Chinese type of black tea whose leaves are cured/flavored by exposing them to the smoke of a pine wood fire – or at least “real” Lapsang Souchong is made this way. Which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing, and I’m not averse to a little smoke in food, but when it comes to tea I have never acquired a taste for it.

I bring this up in my review of the English Tea Store’s Keemun Panda because most of the Keemun I’ve sampled thus far has a bit of smokiness to it, although it tends to be much less pronounced than you’ll find with Lapsang Souchong. I tend to run screaming when it comes to smokiness in tea nowadays, but if it’s faint enough, then I’m okay with it, and there are actually some Keemuns I’ve liked quite a bit.

Having said all that, I’ll say that this was a very fine example of the breed, but there was just a bit too much smoke there for me to add it to my list of everyday choices. According to the English Tea Store’s description, “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.” They also note that “the bright, reddish brew delivers a winey, fruity flavor with depth and complexity.” I’m not quite sure what “winey” means and I didn’t personally catch onto the fruitiness, but I won’t argue with the bit about the depth and complexity.

As for the assertion that this tea “takes milk well,” I’m not and never have been a milk and sugar fan, but with a tea such as this particular one I can see how such a mixture might actually work. My other point, and it’s one that I frequently make with black teas, is a caution not to oversteep. The description calls for two to five minutes in water that’s been brought to a rolling boil. My standard steep time for any black tea is two minutes and this one might do quite nicely with longer times but I’d caution readers to start short and work up to the longer times that can sometimes bring out undesirable flavors in any 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.

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.

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

As much as I like a great cup of Chinese or Japanese green tea, I have to say that, for me, there’s nothing quite like black tea. I’ve said it many times before and I’m sure I’ll say it many more – for me Assam is the be all and end all when it comes to black tea, though it’s important to note that not all Assam is created equal and much of it is actually quite mediocre, at best. But I digress.

After Assam, it would be tough to pick my next favorite but if pressed I’d probably have to go with Yunnan tea. This is a term that covers a great deal of territory, so it’s probably a good idea to narrow things down a bit. Yunnan is a province in southern China that’s well known for its output of a variety of teas. Yunnan may be best known for its production of Pu’er, a type of tea so tied to this region that the city of Simao, in the heart of the Pu’er growing region, recently changed its name to Pu’er City.

Puerh can be an acquired taste for some (present company included). For my money the Yunnan tea most worthy of sitting up and taking notice of is a black tea that’s often just referred to as Yunnan and more specifically as Dian Hong, or sometimes Dien Hung. The ancient Chinese term for Yunnan, Dien Hung roughly translates to Yunnan Red. Red tea in China is what those of us in most of the rest of the world typically refer to as black tea.

Dian Hong is typically harvested from older bushes and tends to be characterized by a relatively high concentration of golden tips. This quality is recognized in such names as Yunnan Gold, Yunnan Pure Gold, Golden Tip, or Golden Buds, among others. It’s a relative newcomer to the pantheon of Chinese teas, having only begun production in the last century or so.

Dian Hong typically has a rather robust, even malty flavor with faint notes of spice or perhaps a hint of pepper, though this may vary considerably depending on the grade. Most varieties that I’ve had the pleasure to try are almost completely free of the bitterness or astringency that makes any tea-drinking experience less than satisfying. Looking back over the Dian Hong varieties that I’ve reviewed over the years at my own site I see that I have yet to run across a dud and one of my favorite everyday teas, one that’s almost always in my cupboard, is a Dian Hong.

For a recent review of English Tea Store’s Golden Heaven Yunnan, look 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.

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

Golden Heaven Yunnan China Black Tea

While I consider myself to be somewhat of an universalist when it comes to tea (I’ll drink tea from anywhere), I admit to a strong bias for Chinese black teas, particularly those from Yunnan. While Yunnan is perhaps best known in the tea world as the producer of pu’erh, it also grows and makes some mighty tasty black teas. While I adore Keemun, if I had to choose only one type of black tea to take onto a desert island , it would be a Yunnan black.

The question is, however, which Yunnan black. It’s hard to choose.

One of the things that I most love about Yunnan black tea is its many varieties. Some Yunnan blacks are made up entirely of soft, golden tips that give a wonderful spicy, honey-sweet liquor in the cup. Others are more robust, with only a smattering of tips strewn through earthy-flavored leaf. Each variety is a revelation, and I love to compare and contrast the Yunnans that I try. Even better, Yunnan blacks are the first teas that I often give to newcomers to tea, who are often used to standard, harsh grocery store teabags and never had any idea that tea could be so sweet, smooth and complex. I’ve even tried Yunnan blacks that have cocoa notes. Mmm.

A few suggestions for working with Yunnan black teas:

  • The more robust varieties, those that have more brown leaf and less golden tip, can make excellent breakfast teas.
  • Iced Yunnan black tea is excellent and needs no sugar or other flavorings. (A Yunnan iced tea is an excellent accompaniment to Mexican food.) Some people swear by cold brewing Yunnan black, but I confess to being a purist and preferring to extract the full flavor of the tea by preparing it with hot water and then pouring over ice after steeping.
  • High quality Yunnan blacks are incredibly forgiving on steep times: If you forget about pot and let it sit for awhile, try it anyway. You may find it to be perfectly delicious.
  • Every batch of tea is different, but it seems to me that Yunnan blacks are often fairly high in caffeine: You may want to stop drinking this tea after 3pm.

See also: Yunnan Basics

© 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, LLC, and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2017. 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, LLC., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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