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Iced-Tea-2016

Here we go again! We’re back in the summer months and that means warmer weather and colder tea. Roughly 80 percent of Americans take their tea iced and sweetened. Surprisingly, the British still take their tea hot! This is possibly due to tradition and the weather difference. American summer is much more hot and humid than British summers can be.

One of the most popular types of iced tea in the US is sweet tea, which is more predominant in the Southern states but has become more popular in Western and Northern states like California and Oregon. And I myself being raised in an American family, they all take their tea iced and sweet. Other people take their iced tea flavored with a bit of lemon, peach, or raspberries for a nice hint of fruit flavor.

In the coming weeks, I will show you how to take your iced tea to the next level. This means more ways than just having your tea iced the plain old way! You’ll learn how to brew the tea differently and even enjoy your iced tea in a different form. A whole new form? That’s right! You can cool off in more ways than one with tea this summer. This June is going to be the best for iced tea! Stay tuned!

And don’t forget National Iced Tea Day on June 10th! Be sure to celebrate with a refreshing glass of iced tea, however you like it.

For more information on iced tea, visit my post from June 2015: https://blog.englishteastore.com/2015/06/10/national-iced-tea-day/

-CD

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Some of us tend to think of Silver Needle as the sole purveyance of the Fujian Province in China (see an earlier article comparing versions). But is that just tea snobbery or tea ignorance or maybe even a bad tea experience? In my case it could be all three. Sigh! Fortunately, I am always eager to keep an open mind, learn new things, and give something a second try. In the case of a Silver Needle tea from India, it seemed essential. There was still stuck in my mind the question: Can you get a premium Silver Needle tea from India? Time to find out.

First, a look at what is usually meant by Silver Needle. The term “silver needle” seems to get used to mean something very specific, but is it really? Silver Needle is usually described this way:

This variety of white tea is produced in the Fuding and Zhenghe areas of Fujian province. Many tea drinkers consider this the top grade white tea.

To me, this indicates that similar white teas produced outside of the Fujian Province cannot truly be called “Silver Needle.” Also, it is one of the ten classic teas of China, so how could it possibly come from any other country? A photo posted online recently by a tea grower in northern India seemed to say that this was definitely possible. If the tea is really like it’s photo (and, knowing the grower, I see no reason it shouldn’t be), then there is definitely at least one grower producing a true Silver Needle in India. That, of course, means there are certainly others, and an online search bears that out. One vendor boasts a version from the Nilgiri state of India that, if it lives up to the web site photos, rivals those from Fujian. Another shows a version from the Manjushree Plantations Ltd. A host of other examples are readily found.

Here is the one from northern India, before steeping:

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

And after steeping:

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

(Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Why fuss? Because there is a habit of late to slap a popular name on a tea so a higher price can be charged. Fake pu-erhs abound, becoming more rampant as knowledge of and demand for this type of tea increases. The name “Long Jing” or “Dragon Well” is now used for teas grown and processed nowhere near the famous well for which they are named.

To combat this, I see more and more the “regionalizing” of various tea terms. “Pu-erh” can only be used for teas where the leaves and the production are done in Yunnan Province in China. “Darjeeling” is reserved for only those teas grown and processed in the state of Darjeeling in northern India. And so on.

It seemed as if the term “Silver Needle” had been similarly hijacked as a way to charge more for an inferior version of this highly-prized tea. It also seemed as if some attempt was being made to make the term regionalized, that is, applied to a tea that had to be grown, harvested, and processed in Fujian Province in China. So far, that seems not to be the case. Nor, in my humble opinion, should it be. While I support the idea of protecting something special and not letting its reputation get downgraded by inferior versions, I am a supporter of open competition and keeping things simple wherever possible. Trying to get U.S. tea drinkers to see beyond the teabag is hard enough without making tea more complicated than it needs to be.

Further muddling things are similar terms like these:

  • “silver tip white tea” — A fine example is Adams Peak White Tea from the Nuwara Eliya region of Sri Lanka (Ceylon). A hand-rolled tea grown at 7800-8200 feet above sea level that makes a delicate, light copper color tea with a taste of pine and honey. One of the few white teas from outside of China.
  • “peony white needle” — An example is this version from the Chongqing Province of China. A delicate, lingering fragrance and a fresh, mellow, sweet taste. The leaves (two leaves and a bud combos only) come from a special varietal tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha bushes and must show a very light green almost gray white color and be covered with velvet peach fuzz down.. They are dried and withered in the sun.
  • “white tips” — A tasty version is Darjeeling White Tips a very rare tea from the Darjeeling region where each leaf is hand selected, delivering a truly exceptional blend that has a wonderfully light scent. The flavor is muscatel with hints of white wine to deliver a truly wonderful finish.

See what I mean? And all three are from outside of Fujian, China.

No need to split hairs…uh, I mean, tea bud down here. As long as the quality is there, it makes no difference where the Silver Needle (or whatever name it’s being called) was grown and processed. And from what I’ve seen, the ones from India certainly meet that high standard.

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.

Gymnastics is one of the most popular sports of the Summer Olympics. It is also one of the oldest, having been featured in the first modern Olympics in 1896, held in Athens. However in these games, and for many years after, only men competed; the first games in which women’s artistic gymnastics was featured was the 1928 Olympics, held in Amsterdam. Since then the women’s competition has become one of the most-watched events in the Summer Olympics. This year, the much-anticipated women’s individual all-round final will be held on the 2nd of August, beginning at 11:30am EST (4:30pm BST).

Peony White Needle (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

Peony White Needle (Photo source: The English Tea Store)

If you are a gymnastics devotee, this means you will want to put your kettle on the stove at approximately 11:20 so that by the time the coverage starts, you are able to sit down with well-brewed tea in hand. But which tea?

My tea pairing suggestion for this event is Peony White Needle tea. The individual all-round consists of four sections: the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam, and the floor exercises. This structure allows for timely tea breaks, and so I have selected White Peony because it is a tea that re-steeps well. This tea is from the Chongqing Province in China, and is delicate enough that it comes with specific rules about when and how it can be picked. The Chinese origin of this tea is perhaps also notable in its pairing with gymnastics, since in the 2008 Beijing Olympics China won the most gold medals in gymnastics (11 out of 18), including for the women’s team all-round (the gold for the women’s individual all-round, however, went to an American gymnast).

2012 Olympics women's artistic gymnastics (Photo source: screen capture from site)

2012 Olympics women’s artistic gymnastics (Photo source: screen capture from site)

National affiliations aside, the re-stepping ability of White Peony is fitting for this event. The exact number of steeps you can get from a white tea depends partially on the specific tea, but more so on the individual preferences of the tea drinker. People who prefer a milder white tea will steep the leaves for a shorter amount of time and might find that they can get more steeps in total. For those who prefer longer steeps, you might only find that two or three infusions give you a brew you are satisfied with. You might also find that you need to increase the brewing time with each steep in order to get your desired strength.

So, with White Peony (or any other high quality white tea) there is no need to measure out more tea for a new cup, or pot, and risk missing the next routine; just heat some more water (not too hot, though—it is white tea!) and let your tea leaves release more of their goodness as the competitors continue to execute their impressive moves.

© 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.

Basically there are two types of white tea leaves available to the consumer: the kind with long, thin silvery (sometimes downy) leaves, and the kind with leaves of varied sizes and colours, sort of like what you might find on a forest floor. The catalogue photo for this tea depicts the former, while these Darjeeling white tips are definitely in the “forest floor” category. So I was somewhat confused.

As a matter of fact, I thought perhaps they had sent me a pai mu tan (or bai mudan if you prefer) tea, which generally has this “forest floor” appearance. I asked my esteemed editor to verify that the tea sent to me for review was indeed the Darjeeling, which she did.

White Darjeeling tea leaves after steeping

White Darjeeling tea leaves after steeping

Now, it’s not that I didn’t believe her or The English Tea Store, it’s just that in my experience there are some teas that look a certain way and others that look another way. Turns out my experience was a tad limited, and in searching for references for both Darjeeling white and pai mu tan teas I found evidence that either one can look like the other, depending on the processing technique. Another tea lesson learned. (As this is a tea review, not a discourse on tea processing, I’ll let the details go for another time.)

When I prepare white tea, I use very low temperature water: I bring it to a boil, then let it cool in the kettle with the lid off for about five minutes. If it still seems too hot, I pour it from about a foot above the leaves to cool it even more. The temperature I want it to reach is about 140 to 150 degrees F. Then I steep the tea for at least five or six minutes, and often for as long as twelve to fifteen minutes. This low temperature/long steep coaxes out the subtle fragrance and taste of white teas. (If you’ve been drinking white teas at the often-recommended two-to-three-minute steep and can’t figure out why everyone loves the stuff, give this technique a try.)

White Darjeeling tea steeping in a glass gaiwan

White Darjeeling tea steeping in a glass gaiwan

I sampled the white tips in a six-cup and a two-cup teapot, and then in a gaiwan, trying to discern any hint of the typical Darjeeling muscatel taste or aroma. Sorry to say, I didn’t find it. What did come through was a nutlike quality in both the nose and the cup, seguing into the gentle floral sweetness that renders white teas so enjoyable. And that heretofore I had considered typical of a pai mu tan tea.

Bottom line is that while this tea did not look the way I expected, and didn’t exhibit the taste or aroma I expected, it did produce an enjoyable, respectable cup, and at a very reasonable price. Although the photos show it steeping in a gaiwan, I recommend using a teapot and staying on the short end of the steep, as this tea starts to get bitter after five or six minutes.

© 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.

Tangiers Lemon White Tea

Tangiers Lemon White Tea

Name: Tangiers Lemon Flavored White Tea

Brand: English Tea Store

Type: White Tea, flavored

Form: Loose leaf

Review: I’ve long said that white peony tea and lemon are a natural pairing: While I love the fruitiness of unflavored white peony, a little kick of lemon is sometimes a welcome addition, adding a bit of tang that does a great job of perking up the taste buds.

The English Tea Store caters to my longings by offering this blend of white peony and lemon flavoring. The tea itself brews up to a pretty, pale gold liquor with a medium-light body. While some lemon-flavored teas can sometimes have a stale quality to them, Tangiers Lemon isn’t one of them. Instead, the lemon flavor is quite snappy, making it a pleasure to drink.

Tangiers Lemon is a decidedly affordable option for those who like flavored whites or who are simply serious lemon-heads. Recommended.

Preparation Tips: The flavor in this tea is strong, so watch both your leaf amount and steep times. I’d recommend about 5 grams of leaf to eight ounces of water that has been cooled to 180F/82.2C. Let it steep for about a minute. Warning: White peony tea is quite light and fluffy and sometimes the leaf will float on top of the water as it infuses, staying bone dry. To avoid this waste of tea leaf, and to get rich flavor that you want, carefully pour your water into the pot or infusion basket, making sure that it saturates all of the leaves and buds.

Serving Tips:  This lemony, crisp tea is quite neutral, making it easy to pair with many types of foods. I wouldn’t serve it with a super-heavy or rich menu, but I think it would be awesome with sandwiches, chicken, or fish. Tangiers Lemon is also quite delicious on its own. Do try it iced: There are few things more refreshing than this tea on ice.

© 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 Moon White TeaName: White Tea

Brand: Golden Moon

Type: White tea

Form: Loose leaf

Review: One simple tea, one simple review.

White tea can be a controversial subject. Some people love it, some find it uninteresting. Traditional white tea, also known as silver needle, is made entirely from the fuzzy buds of the tea plant. While it is often a gorgeous tea, it is a subtle one, and its subtlety doesn’t suit everyone. For that reason, there are now several “new style” white teas made from tea leaf instead of, or in addition to, the tea buds.

This white tea is made up of buds and leaf, with a bit of chrysanthemum flower for additional flavor. The tea brews up to a pale green, medium-light bodied liquor with a fruity, slightly floral taste. It is both refreshing and non-astringent. A lovely sipping tea. I got several infusions out of the leaves, too. The second infusion tasted much like the first, while the third infusion had a less sweet, more vegetal flavor. I probably could have gone for a fourth infusion, but I had other teas to review.

Recommendation: This is a tasty, simple, yet flavorful white tea that ought to appeal to most people, particularly those who find silver needle too subtle and green teas too grassy. Definitely works for multiple infusions, and also quite nice as an iced tea.

Food Pairings: Most white teas don’t go well with food, as their flavors are too easily overwhelmed. I wouldn’t pair this tea with anything when it is served hot. As an iced tea, it may go well with a simple green salad, mild fish, or a cucumber sandwich.

Preparation Tips: Take the water temperature down a bit to make this tea, 180F should work. Try raising the temperature a bit for subsequent infusions. Best infusion time is about 2 minutes.

[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.

Stash FusionName: Fusion Red, White & Blueberry Tea

Brand: Stash Tea

Type: White tea, rooibos blend, flavored

Form: Paper tea bags, individually wrapped

Review: One of my cardinal rules is to never eat or drink something just because it is supposed to be “healthy”. This rule is even more rigorously applied to tea, as I’ve encountered a whole lot of swill packaged as “health food” and foisted upon a gullible public. Is tea good for you? Perhaps, but the jury is still out on its direct health benefits. On the other hand, it is a tasty, calorie-free beverage that may have some benefits in the form of antioxidants, and there is little known harm in drinking the stuff. Just make sure that the tea you drink tastes good.

Fusion Red, White & Blueberry Tea tastes good.

It’s also supposed to be healthy, as its base of white tea and rooibos have some interesting antioxidants, as do blueberries. Even better, the combo is really quite tasty. White tea and blueberry flavor have always been one of my favorite matches, and the same holds for the combination of rooibos and blueberry. The whole lot of them together, with a bit of lemongrass for extra tang, is a hot, sweet, fruity delight.

Try it.

Recommendation: This tea is sweet enough to make a good snack: Don’t bother eating anything with it, though, as you’ll lose its subtlety. Try it on ice, but make sure you use enough teabags to get some decent flavor. Don’t bother to cold-brew, though, as the blueberry will dominate and the rooibos won’t develop well in cold water.

Preparation Tips: Preparing this sort of blend is tricky, as white tea really needs cooler temperatures to avoid scorching, while rooibos benefits from boiling water. Steep this tea at a compromise temperature of about 195F for no longer than a minute for good results.

[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.

Stash Decaf Raspberry & White TeaName: Raspberry & White Decaf

Brand: Stash Tea

Type: White tea, decaffeinated, flavored

Form: Paper tea bags, individually wrapped in foil

Review: Subtlety can be a good thing. Many flavored white teas are a joke. The “manufacturers” simply blend a cheap, flavorless white tea with a whole lot of artificial flavorings. The result is something that tastes like the flavorings, but not like the tea. The tea is a marketing gimmick, added to create the illusion of a “healthy” beverage with all those wondrous antioxidants.

Peh.

But sometimes, a bagged-tea blender gets it right: Stash’s Raspberry & White Decaf is a nifty blend of a decaf white tea and a light touch of raspberry flavoring. Does it compare to a delicious, whole-leaf white tea prepared in a gaiwan? Certainly not. But it is delicious, with clean, crisp, yet gentle flavors. The raspberry isn’t overdone, and the tea has a nice sweetness and gives the cup some balance and body.

About the decaf bit: You may have heard that white tea has less caffeine than other types of tea. This isn’t true, so if you’ve been drinking white tea in hopes of avoiding caffeine, you’ve been getting a lot more caffeine than you bargained for. Decaf tea itself does have some caffeine, so if you avoid caffeine for health reasons, talk to your doctor before drinking even decaffeinated teas and coffees.

Recommendation: Weirdly enough, I sometimes like a white tea first thing in the morning. I know this is decaf and all that, but when you want to wake up slowly, this tea does the trick. The hint of fruit flavoring perks up the tastebuds, which is just enough to get me going on a day when there is nothing pressing in my schedule. Lovely on ice, very refreshing. Try making a tea spritzer with it: Pour some soda water over ice, and then some cold Raspberry & White Decaf over it. Add a slice of fresh lemon to liven it up a bit. Tasty and refreshing.

Preparation Tips: Bring the water temperature down to 180F or so, and only let this tea infuse for about a minute.

[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.

Trying a tea for the first time is a true adventure. There’s an excitement in the air that’s hard to describe, accompanied by a dozen questions running through your mind. How do you properly brew it? Is it good quality? Will you like it? It costs how much? They’re kidding, right? And so on. Thus was my mind whirling as I sat down to try, for the first time ever, an exotic flowering tea.

The first step, though, before embarking on this tea adventure, is to get an answer to the question: “What is flowering tea?” According to my research, it’s a bunch of hand-picked tea leaves and flower petals sewn together with delicate string (more like thick thread). Flowers commonly used in the designs are chrysanthemum, jasmine, globe amaranth, hibiscus, osmanthus, and lily. Teas used are fine whites, greens, and blacks, such as Lily Fairy Black, Jasmine Pu-Erh, and Lychee Nut flower.

The flower petals are an important part of the tea. They add scent and flavor — the tea flavor dances in your nose and on your palate along with the floral notes. But that’s not why it’s called flowering tea. The explanation is in the brewing, as my tea adventure was about to show.

Armed with at least this modicum of knowledge, I confidently headed out, hubby by my side, to a local restaurant with the goal of having a true tea adventure. My level of expectation was high and, once we were seated at our table, I focused on the task at hand.

Step one in the process of preparing a flowering tea is selecting one (okay, so that’s obvious!). Taking extra care in making this selection will make your tea adventure truly special. The best method to me seemed to be smelling the teaballs when they were still dry. The server was very understanding and brought the two I requested:

  • “Spirituality” — White Tea and Tea Tree Flower (on the left in the photo)
  • “Loyalty” — White Tea and Jasmine (on the right in the photo)
The Teaballs

The Teaballs

The first one was in the shape of a mushroom and the second one in the shape of a ball, the two typical shapes used. I chose “Loyalty” — jasmine is a flower that has always enthralled (but not overwhelmed) me with its intoxicating scent. The flavor of white tea was so delicate as to be a perfect accompaniment with that floral fragrance.

Step two is the actual steeping. An essential tool in this step is a glass teapot, for the experience is highly visual. The best method is to put the water, heated to the proper temperature, in the teapot first, and then add the teaball.

Flowering Tea "Blooming" in Glass Teapot

Flowering Tea "Blooming" in Glass Teapot

Step three is the most important: enjoying the show! The teaball will start to open shortly after being put in the water. In a couple of minutes (three, at most), the “flower” will be blooming. The tugging of those tiny water molecules at the tea leaves and then the flower petals will be relentless until the goal is achieved. At this point, you can pour the tea and decide if you want to leave the “bloom” in the teapot and add more water, or remove it. If you don’t do one or the other, the tea could get overly strong, even bitter. I know this first hand, having chosen to leave the “bloom” in place. (The tea was still great. I just added some more warmed water to it.) To me, this is the one drawback. You lose that visual experience by having to remove the bloom once it has reached peak brewing.

Resulting Cup of Tea

Resulting Cup of Tea

Don’t forget the finger foods to go with your tea. Surprisingly, despite their size, they can be quite filling.

Having had a truly adventurous teatime, hubby and I sat back awhile, waiting for our meal to settle and enjoying the architectural splendor of our surroundings, luxurious yet comfortable and showing a strong Art Deco influence, especially in the furnishings. Finally, we roused ourselves and, with some reluctance, headed home.

Of course, now I must have a glass teapot and some flowering teaballs. Santa, are you listening? Enjoy your own tea adventure soon!

If you’re interested in going on the greatest “tea adventure” of them all – that of living what A.C. calls the “tea life” – make sure to visit her blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, today!

White Peony

White Peony

If you’ve been following the media’s coverage of tea in recent years, you must surely have noticed that at some point green tea pulled ahead of all other varieties when it came to popularity. This was due, in large part, to a number of studies that suggested that green tea might have assorted and sundry health benefits. It’s probably safe to say that green tea still gets more attention than the other varieties, but in recent years some of the spotlight has been diverted to its near cousin – white tea.

White tea will probably never garner the attention that’s been lavished on green, though it’s not for lack of trying on the part of some marketers. Of the six varieties of tea that are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant, you could safely divide them into two main groups, the ones that are lightly processed and those which are more heavily processed. In the latter group we’ll find black tea, puerh and the more processed oolongs. In the latter group, the less processed oolongs, yellow tea, green tea and white tea.

White tea is closer to green or yellow tea than other types, but tends to have a more delicate flavor than either, especially green. White tea is produced from the buds and young leaves of tea plants and because it is less processed than other types of tea is believe to retain more of the healthy compounds that tend to be lost in more heavily processed types.

You can find white tea in various tea-growing regions, such as Ceylon or the Assam region of India, but most of the varieties worth drinking originate in China.

The most popular varieties of white tea come from Fujian province, in China. Silver Needle and White Peony are among the better grades of white tea. Tribute Eyebrow and Noble, Long Life Eyebrow are among the lesser grades of Chinese white tea and Yunnan province, probably best known for black tea and puerh, also turns out a white version of the latter.

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

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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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