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Smack dab in the middle of winter, it’s hard to keep up hope for Spring. Valentine’s Day has come and gone, and the excitement has sadly worn off from it. With all the winter storms and blizzards coming and going, the world outside the window becomes white and colorless and the only reason to come outside is to dig yourself out of the snow.

When I visited my fiance in January 2016, we were hit by Winter Storm Jonas out on the East Coast of the United States. It was my first ever blizzard, being a California girl. For me, it was fascinating to watch the wind blow the snow that was falling but the aftermath was just atrocious! But during the storm, all I had to enjoy was my Yorkshire Tea, which I thankfully packed from home. While I love my Yorkshire, it got to be very boring when it was all the tea I had to drink while being snowed in since I love variety. Since I was away from home, I did not have access to my tea collection from home, which has green, white, herbal, and rooibos teas along with black.

Here are some good teas to help get you through a blustery blizzard:

tolsl16_orgcher_-00_bulk-loose-tea-organic-sencha-kyoto-cherry-rose-festival-green-tea-16ozOrganic Sencha Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival Green Tea -This green tea, which is most often used during Japanese tea ceremonies, is flavored with sweet Montmorency Cherries. The taste is light, fruity, and smooth and can be enjoyed iced or hot. The caffeine content of this tea is low and is considered to be a good source of antioxidants This tea is sold in loose leaf form.

French Blend Tea – This one is truly a treat. If you want to escape or just have something a bit different but still enjoy black tea, then this one is just right. This tea is inspired by Britain’s neighbor, France, it is fragrantly noted by Earl Grey, Lavender, and Jasmine, while blended with Ceylon, Nilgiris, Assams, and Kenya tea. The lavender in this tea is from Provence along witTOLSLL_GRNLIS_-Long-Island-Strawberry-green-loose-leaf-teah some beautiful rose petals to add its romantic charm. The color when brewed is a nice, rosy color, helping to make you blush!

Long Island Strawberry Green TeaFinally, to help make you think of more summery days, this tea has summer written all over it. Another one of our Sencha green teas, this tea is grown in the Hunan Province of China. Strawberry is not only the key fruit but dried papaya pieces help boost it’s sunny flavor! Try it hot or iced with some strawberries in the glass!

These teas are also good pick-me-ups when you’re a weary traveler. I will know next time I head out on a trip (or as the British say, on holiday), to pack more types and flavors of tea!

-CD

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Quick Blurb: Sencha is Japan’s most popular type of tea.

Sencha is traditionally a Japanese green tea that is made from leaves of the Japanese tea bush. In recent years, Sencha teas have been known to be produced in China, South Korea, and other countries. In 1740, a Kyoto tea master named Soen Nagatani developed the method of steam processing green leaf resulting in a superb, fresh flavorful cup.

When Sencha is brewed it has a vibrant yellow color and light aroma. The taste can be described as both bitter and sweet – making this tea a very unique experience.

Health Benefits:

  • Fights against free radicals in the bodyTOLSLL_GRNSJP_-Sencha-Japanese-Green-Tea-loose-leaf-tea
  • Antioxidants can aid in preventing coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis
  • Absorbs extra cholesterol in the body
  • Can control blood sugar levels
  • Beneficial to the immune system
  • Helps aid osteoporosis
  • Burns calories and can help during weight loss
  • Helps retain youthful skin and reduce wrinkles by hydrating
  • Repairs damaged or inflamed skin
  • Natural relief for sore throat or cough
  • Tea extract can be used for aromatherapy

Caffeine Content: LOW

This tea contains natural caffeine found in the L.Camellia Sinensis family. A cup of green tea steeped in boiled water for 5 minutes will contain between 22-29 milligrams of caffeine. An equal sized cup of coffee will contains 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. Caffeine quickly becomes soluble in very hot water. If you want to reduce the caffeine level in this tea, briefly rinse the tea leaves in extremely hot water. The caffeine content will reduce 25-50% – this may have a minor effect on the taste of the tea.

Antioxidant Content: 7.5 -9.99% polyphenols by dry weight. The longer you steep your tea the more polyphenols will be extracted. Polyphenol percentages may fluctuate with lot, grade of tea, testing method, temperature of water, and freshness of tea. More antioxidants are extracted from tea the longer it is brewed. The more that the tea is used the greater the antioxidant benefits.

During the month of June, try Sencha Japanese Green Tea at 15% off the original price! It’s available in loose leaf or bags.

Map of Sri Lanka.

Map of Sri Lanka.

A vendor posted on Twitter that they carried in their product line a sencha that was grown and processed in Sri Lanka. Needless to say, that raised a few eyebrows, especially among those carrying and selling sencha from Japan. Time to take a closer look.

First, what is “sencha”? Some sources say it simply means “common tea.” It’s a staple in many Japanese households, a favorite due to its tang, freshness, high uniformity of the leaves, and deep emerald hue. Once roasted as part of the preliminary processing, it is now steam treated, processed further, and finally pan-fried. So, can you get this type of tea with the same quality (or even higher) from leaves grown elsewhere? It seems so. But that’s not the only question here.

Why even bother? Apparently, there are still folks out there who are concerned with radiation in tea leaves from Japan. Whether that concern has merit or not I cannot address here, and it’s immaterial except to explain the mushrooming of Ceylon Sencha options now available. Those who are really into sencha and feel that radiation is still an issue need an alternative to the Japanese sencha. They are, in essence, creating a demand in the tea market. The producers seem to have heard them.

An online search for “Ceylon Sencha” turned up page after page of results. The typical description was:

Delicate, sencha-like green tea from Sri Lanka. Naturally sweet taste, best steeped for no more than 2 minutes at about 180 degrees F.

Reviews range from raves to revulsion. Not surprising. There are those who drink sencha as their daily cuppa green tea and accept a level of quality that may be a bit more ordinary. And then there are those for whom sencha is almost sacred, that the quality and flavor are almost more important to them than the grades their kids get in school, being promoted at work, or having their IRA actually grow in value. For them, this green tea being touted as “sencha” is high blasphemy. Thus it is with tea, no matter what type you are talking about. There are teas that get popular and then get “copied” to take advantage of that, and there are tea terms that get used in a more general way than some of us think they should be. (See my article on Silver Needles posted recently.)

Here, it seems to be the tea growers in Sri Lanka and the vendors who are both addressing a demand in the tea market, using “sencha” as the draw among green tea lovers. You, the tea drinker, will be the one to determine if they have been successful. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews out there, I would say they have been.

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.

Read all about a Gyokuro Face-off (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Read all about a Gyokuro Face-off (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Track and Field is an extensive Olympic sport, consisting of 47 separate events: 26 running events, 3 walking events, 16 field events, the decathlon (men) and heptathlon (women). They are spread over ten days during this Olympics, but if you are only going to watch one, I would suggest the 11th of August, as all eight events on this day will see gold medals awarded. These events are: men’s 50km walk, women’s 20km walk, women’s high jump, men’s javelin throw, men’s 5000m run, women’s 800m run, and both men and women’s 4x100m relay (for a full schedule of when each of these events will happen, see here).

The day’s offerings are rich and varied, and, especially if you are watching the evening session, the events will happen in quick succession. So, if you are planning on taking some tea with your Olympics, what does this flurry of high stakes events mean for your tea drinking?

2012 Olympics Track and Field (Photo source: screen capture from site)

2012 Olympics Track and Field (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Given the range of events, I would suggest picking one of your “go-to” teas—a tea that you find suits just about every occasion. If you don’t have one of these, or if one does not come readily to mind, my suggestion would be a pure Japanese green tea.

If you want to go all out, Gyokuro is the highest quality Japanese green tea. I find its grassy, slightly sweet taste to be more favourable than that of Sencha, the medium grade Japanese green tea. However, there are many subtle taste distinctions between the different varieties of Gyokuro and Sencha out there, and many times you might find the latter is preferable.

A pure Japanese green seems appropriate for track and field due to its traditional, time-tested qualities. Some of the events that fall under track and field, such as running, javelin and discus throws, were staples of the original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. You can’t get much more time-tested than that! Additionally, track and field events might lend themselves to comparison of human achievement over time better than other sports. In a recent New York Times article, Nate Silver posits that track and field events are less prone to continuously producing record-breaking performances because they reflect the “intrinsic barriers of human achievement” better than other sports. There is less room for increasing performance through technological improvements, or socio-economic advantages: a more level-playing field, if you will.

Interesting stuff! I’m glad I’ll have some Gyokuro to sip while I ponder those thoughts and watch the track and field events unfold!

© 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.

As I mentioned to my esteemed editor when I proposed this article, some of the worst teas I’ve ever tasted were sencha. On the other hand, some of the best teas I’ve ever had the pleasure to sample were sencha. Which is something that could probably be said about many varieties of tea – Assam is one that immediately springs to mind. There’s a wide range of quality even within some of the most narrow categories of tea, but for some reason sencha is the one that stands out for me.

Japanese Sencha

Japanese Sencha

Though they produce modest amounts of black tea, Japan is best known for its many varieties of green tea. According to one informed source, about 80 percent of all tea grown there is sencha and the quality and price varies considerably. Processed sencha leaves typically are long, thin, straight and reminiscent of a needle, with a deeper green color than many other green varieties.

Kabusencha and shincha among the various types of sencha you might run across. I haven’t been able to find a reliable definition for what distinguishes the former from other sencha, but shincha is essentially just another name for the highly coveted sencha that comes from the first harvest of the year, in spring.

When sencha is steeped it produces a color that, in my experience, can range from a pale golden hue to a very deep vibrant green. While I haven’t made anything close to an in-depth study of the matter, my unscientific observation is that those senchas that brew up to the deeper green colors tend to be the ones with the fullest and most sophisticated flavor. The latter of these also tend to be infused with a fine powdery sediment and thus are somewhat on the cloudy side. While this is not so desirable with other types of tea, I’ve learned that for sencha it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Regardless of whether you’ve laid your hands on “good” or “bad” sencha it’s like most green teas, in that it benefits from being steeped with water that’s considerably below the boiling point and for a period of time as little a minute or less. Of course, you’ll want to fiddle around to see what works for you.

Good sencha is likely to produce at least two or three flavorful infusions and in looking back at some of the better ones I’ve reviewed at my site I came across one that I described as having a flavor so intense “that I’d walk ten miles in a blinding snowstorm just for a taste.” On the other hand I described a decidedly less memorable sencha as straddling “that nebulous zone between being undrinkable and yet not quite so bad that you can bring yourself to toss it in the garbage.”

© 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.

Japanese Sencha

Japanese Sencha

Recently, I revisited some teas from Japan that I had tried previously and had reacted to with less than a positive and enthusiastic manner. The results were a revelation.

Part of learning and growing is re-trying something you tried years (or maybe even only months, weeks, or days) ago all over again to see if you still react to it the same way. Often, your reaction will be different because it will be influenced by the intervening experiences and acquiring of new knowledge. (This is often called the “The Knowledge Spiral.”)

The first time trying a Sencha, for example, I was very bothered by how much it tasted like grass to me. Being used to the maltiness of Assam black tea smoothed with milk and sweetened with a bit of sugar substitute, or having a green tea that was pretty nondescript, I reacted from that standpoint, meaning that the Sencha was actually a bit of a shock. Since then, however, I have come to appreciate the flavor, which isn’t quite as “grassy” as it first seemed.

Genmaicha, that most unique Japanese green tea and toasted rice combo, has actually become a favorite for both hubby and me. This one is no surprise, though, since our first sampling of it was a pleasant and rewarding experience. It is a tea that satisfies and comforts. We tend to sip it and savor that toasty flavor along with the taste of the green tea. Truly unique. We have tried several different makers’ versions, with nary a disappointment in the bunch.

Houjicha (or Hojicha as it is sometimes spelled) is another Japanese tea that we have rethought since our first try of it. At that time, hubby and I considered this a tea to reserve for a once or twice a year tea experience. Now, it seems more like a monthly or even weekly tea to have. A quality houjicha can produce several infusions from a small amount of tea leaves. One thing we appreciate more now is the varying taste and strength of each infusion. It is fairly normal for the 5th or 6th infusion to be quite different in both areas. What we had thought of at the time as a fault in the tea we now see as a limit in our scope of vision, something that has widened in relation to our tea tasting frequency.

I pass this along to you so that you can revisit a tea from your past, especially if it’s one that you initially reacted to negatively because the aroma or flavor was not in line with your expectations built up from previous tea tastings. Also consider that year by year the flavor of these teas can change due to changing weather conditions and other factors.

Just as people deserve a second chance, so do teas!

Stop by A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find 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.

Sencha

Sencha

Making sense of Sencha (a style of Japanese green tea) can be a bit tricky for many of us tea drinkers used to Indian, Ceylonian, African, and Chinese teas. Where tea is concerned, Japanese teas seem a world unto themselves.

Processing Sencha is the “secret of its success” for the most part. The first Senchas were actually black instead of the green color we are used to today. That was due to the leaves being steamed or boiled and then either roasted or left out in the sun to dry. In 1738, a creative tea farmer (Sou-en Tagatani, who lived to the amazingly ripe old age of 97 during Japan’s feudal era) developed a hand-rolling process that dried the tea leaves but preserved their green color. The technique has since been replaced by machine rolling but is preserved by the Temomi Preservation Society.

There are three grades of Sencha:

  • High-grade — made from either the bud or the bud plus the youngest leaf of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis).
  • Good to average Sencha — made from the bud plus the top two leaves.
  • Lower quality — made from the two top leaves, the lower leaf below them, plus parts of the twig.

The first form the tea leaves take in the processing of Sencha is called aracha. This is directly after the initial processing and before wholesalers, brokers and tea manufacturers further refine it into a variety of different Senchas. This stage involves seven basic steps:

  1. Steaming the leaves while quickly stirring them. (There are different levels of steaming, the lighter ones preserving natural flavors as much as possible.)
  2. Pounding the leaves by putting them into an oven and spinning them (this will dry the leaves’ surface).
  3. Spin rolling the leaves on top of a heated table to squeeze out liquid (making them into a ball and roll it by pushing downwards on the leaves so that they “spin” or “roll” on the table).
  4. Breaking up the ball after the spin rolling is finished (it will be in clumps by now, so you can just spread the leaves out on the table).
  5. Shaping the dried tea leaves by placing them between your hands and rolling with your fingers so that they become long and round (roll and let fall from your hands).
  6. Keeping you nose alert since, as you push, pull and roll the leaves, you will begin to smell the aroma coming from them.
  7. Drying the leaves at a low temperature in an oven or heated area. Push down on them with your finger. If they are brittle, they’re done.

Voilà! You have just made the tea leaves into aracha. From here the tea is further processed into various versions of Sencha, which generally have an aroma like freshly cut grass and a taste reminiscent of sweet, seaweed or spring greens. Steam longer and you get Fukumushi Sencha with a richer and sweeter taste and a full-bodied liquid with very little astringency.

Sencha can be enjoyed straight or as part of a blend, such as Kyoto Cherry. It is also the basis for some versions of the classic Japanese tea: Gen Mai Cha (made with toasted rice). It is generally a delicate tea that should be stored carefully (some vendors recommend keeping them in the refrigerator) and used within a relatively short time after receiving them (two months or less).

I hope this has helped you make a bit of sense out of Sencha. Try some and see what you think.

Oh, by the way, did you know that those cherry trees in Washington, DC, were a gift from Japan? I had the pleasure more than once to walk among them during the spring and take in, both visually and aromatically, those delicate blossoms. [Cherry Blossom Festival in 2011] If you get a chance to do so, don’t forget your camera!

Namaste!

A.C. makes sense of what she calls the “tea life” each and every day over on her blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!

When it comes to quantity, Japan is not a top producer or consumer of tea, but tea drinking is still an integral part of Japanese culture. One of Japan’s greatest contributions to tea drinking, the Japanese tea ceremony, is renowned the world over.

Goykuro

Tea came to Japan by way of China. Tea seeds may have been brought there as early as 805. Over the next few centuries tea was a rare commodity confined to ruling classes. In the centuries following, Chanoyu, or the Way of Tea, became established and as tea became more readily available ordinary citizens also embraced it.

The Japanese produced black tea as early as 1874 and they also import it. In 2007, the country was the sixth largest importer of black tea from Sri Lanka. But the majority of tea grown and consumed in Japan is still of the green variety.

There are many varieties of green tea produced in Japan, some readily available in the West and others not as much. Some of the better-known varieties of Japanese tea:

Gyokuro: One of the best Japanese green teas, Gyokuro is grown in the shade for several weeks before being harvested, which gives the leaves a sweeter, more delicate flavor.

Sencha: A Japanese green tea that varies as far as quality goes. Better grades can be quite good and are often made with the top two leaves and bud of the tea plant.

Matcha

Matcha: A Japanese green tea made from top quality leaves called Tencha. These are dried and ground into a powder. Matcha is used more widely nowadays but it’s still probably best known as the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony.

Bancha: A lower grade of green tea, made from lesser quality leaves, and sometimes the stalks of the plant.

Hojicha: Made by roasting Bancha-grade green tea leaves, which gives them a brownish color and distinctive flavor.

Kukicha: Similar to Hojicha, but is made using the stalks of the tea plant, rather than the leaves.

Genmaicha: Made by mixing Bancha with roasted rice kernels for a distinctive flavor not unlike popcorn.

Don’t forget to check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

Japanese Sencha

Japanese Sencha

The Subject: Japanese Sencha Tea from The English Tea Store.

Water temperature: 180° F
Steeping time: 3 minutes

Tea type: Green
Scents, flavorings, etc.: N/A
Aroma, dry: Pleasant grassiness, a hint of spinach
Aroma in the cup, plain: Mild, grassy
Taste, plain: Mild, grassy, no bitterness or spinach taste
Aroma in the cup, enhanced: N/A
Taste, enhanced: N/A

2nd Infusion: Lighter, weaker, still very drinkable

Chilled: Grassy, no bitterness, could use a touch of sweetener

Comments:
Temps are still unseasonably high, so we again made sure we tried some of this chilled as well as hot. This time, though, we only chilled it for 2 hours, not overnight. Tea cooled this way tends to be a bit cloudy, but still tastes great.

The tea hot is mild, grassy, and not bitter. Great tasting and good for you. How rare is that these days?

Chilled, this tea holds its grassy flavor and no bitterness. Again, I can drink it unsweetened, but hubby thinks a touch of sweetener would be just right.

A good everyday tea, hot or chilled, but we prefer the fruity goodness of the Raspberry Green Tea. However, enjoying a little chilled melon with the green tea makes up for it.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, the rating of the tea and any opinions concerning it are always strictly objective.

You can read more great tea reviews on A.C.’s blog, Little Yellow Teapot Tea Reviews!

Sencha

Sencha

The ideal tea situation for me means sitting at my table outside, listening to birds chirp as I pour small cups from my cast iron tea pot, the leaves having plenty of room for their gentle unfurling and floating. But of course, the reality quite often falls short of the ideal, and I’ve got to grab my tea and run; or I’m not even at home, but I’m dying for a good cuppa, and all I can find is awful cruddy tea. What can I do?

I have a few tea travel mugs with infuser baskets, but they are bulky, and then I have this big infuser basket to deal with. They do quite well for going to and from work, but not so much when I’m traveling in the great unknown. Then, before a recent vacation, I purchased paper tea bags for one to fill oneself. I love the convenience of them, but I do feel a bit guilty disposing of them. I don’t mind as much if I infuse with them a couple of times, but that’s not always a possibility. How to be green and yet be able to carry my loose leaf teawith me?

Be crafty! While stumbling around a few green blogs, I came across a pattern for a muslin tea bag. Not a bad idea at all! Muslin costs mere pennies for the amount of fabric you’d need, and you hardly need a pattern for a pouch. If you need one, feel free to search. I’ve also seen small muslin pouches sold as spice bags at kitchen stores. When you are finished, you just let them dry out, then turn them inside out and the leaves fall away. If you are in a rush, you can just turn them inside out wet and rinse the leaves. No mesh for them to stick to! The disadvantage is that you now have a wet tea bag, but a plastic baggie should do the trick. Just remember to reuse the baggie instead of throwing it away, and enjoy your “green” tea!

Check out Stephanie’s blog, The Tea Scoop!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find 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.

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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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