How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

If you were to look, you’d find legends for nearly every variety of tea throughout the east. It’s been steamed and ground into powder, plucked and pan-fried, oxidized and aged deep inside caves. It was a beverage suitable for rulers and only after trade boomed did it start to spread far and wide until we come to where we are today.

Despite this vast history, tea is a relatively new fad this side of the world, and very few people know much about it. Studies are being done to show all the health benefits of green tea, pu-erh, and the like, but these are tidbits of knowledge that have many cultures smiling our way and saying, “we tried to tell you.”

There has been a small setback with this trend and that is, people want tea. You might be thinking, well that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I’d have to agree to an extent, but because the industry focuses so much on the benefits and so little on everything else, what can be an indulgent, potentially life-changing daily ritual, has many people pinching their noses and throwing it back like medicine.

Every type of tea has unique characteristics and qualities. The leaves can be picky, and to get it right there’s a bit of know-how that goes into it. I’m going to cover a few tricks to help make sure you can enjoy a near perfect pot of your favorite tea.

Green and White Tea

Specially selected early in the morning fresh white tea leaves spread curing in bamboo basket tray after harvest.Chinese silver needle white tea of premium quality. Tea orchard in the background.

Green tea tends to be the most notorious for being bad, bitter tea and that’s usually because it can be the most finicky when it comes to brewing it. Green tea can be popularly categorized in two. On the one hand, we have Chinese green tea which is harvested, pan-fried and quickly dried to prevent oxidation. Then, there’s Japanese green tea which is harvested, steamed and quickly dried. Chinese green teas are often a bit sweeter and more fragrant while Japanese green teas tend to be a deeper green color and have a grassy taste.

One of my favorite green teas is our Snow Jasmine. It’s a sweet green tea that’s very fragrant and easy to brew. But the Starfruit green is one of our most popular summer drinks. We blend some tropical fruit in with a delicate Chinese green tea. It makes a refreshing and tantalizing cup.

To make the best cup of green tea, you want to make sure to use hot water that’s at most 170. A good way to tell this without a thermometer is to keep an eye on the bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot. If they’re small and a few are starting to zig-zag to the surface, that’s perfect.

You also want to keep an eye on the time it steeps for. Green tea is great for many infusions, but you only want to steep it for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

White tea, on the other hand, is primarily a Chinese tea. It tends to be sweeter and much more delicate than green tea. That’s because white tea is made from the soft, new buds of the Camellia Sinensis plant – the tea plant. It’s quickly pan fried to prevent oxidation and then dried. Because the leaves are so young it tends to be delicate and boiled water will scorch the dried leaves. For this reason, like green tea, you want to use water at about 170. Unlike green teas, many white teas won’t get overly bitter if left to steep for long periods of time.

One of our most popular white teas is our Pink Cherry Cider. We blend our silver needle with a collection of fruits to make a pot that’s subtly sweet all on its own.

Oolong Tea

oolong green tea in olive bowl

Oolong tea tends to be the most complex flavor wise. It’s designed for multiple infusions, and for having a gradually maturing flavor as the infusions progress, and the leaves fully open. You can use fully-boiled water with this tea and steep it for about three minutes every time. Some have a tendency to get bitter, so keep an eye on it.

My favorite Oolong is our Buddha’s Favor, also known as Ti Kuan Yin. If you want to know the legend behind it, click the link here. But, by far the crowd favorite had been our Blackberry Oolong. We mix premium rolled oolong leaves with dried blackberries, elderberries and more to make a deep red elixir. It’s sweet and tangy and fantastic iced.

Black Tea

Good-Tea_Li-Zhi-Hong-Cha_56B9096_b-800x800

Black teas are typically very strong and dark teas. The leaves have been fully oxidized after harvesting which gives the leaves their dark color and flavor. You can use boiled water but only steep it for two minutes. Some black teas can get very bitter if over infused. Our Keemun is a traditional Chinese black tea. If you want to learn more about it, you can read a little here. It’s a robust black tea with some nutty, chocolate notes and pairs wonderfully with warm milk and honey.

Pu-erh

Black pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea is one I consider to be right up there with herbal teas in terms of how easy it is to brew, especially if you like your tea as strong as I do. This is a fermented tea that actually came about by happy accident.

You can use fully-boiled water. Pu-erh is a dark tea without much of the bitterness and astringency of a black tea. Some can get bitter if left in the water too long, but I find a good quality of pu-erh will often get deeper and darker the longer it steeps. If you want more infusions out of it (and this tea can go for a long time,) then steep it for about four minutes before removing the leaves.

I prefer classic pu-erh blocks myself. I can’t resist the deep woodsy notes and the full mouth flavor. Our Strawberry Slim comes in at a close second. The strawberries give you a slash of summer flavor that’s mellowed out by the lingering effect of pu-erh tea.

Herbal Tea

Cup of herbal tea

Most people think boiled water when it comes to Herbal teas, but did you know some are prone to burning the same way a white tea would? When you have an herbal tea with lots of flowers it’s best to use under boiled water like with white or green tea. The good thing is, it’s difficult to make a bad cup of herbal tea. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the flavor.

A few more tricks for the road

One of the biggest downsides to tea bags and tea balls if the lack of room the leaves have to move around. Tea likes to breathe and it likes movement. You’ll get the best flavor by steeping your tea in a pot where it can move, and to stir the leaves around while it’s steeping.

For Iced tea, the trick is to make a tea concentrate first. You add a heaping tablespoon of leaves to the pot and steep it in about half the amount of water you normally would use before pouring it over a cup full of it. That way, when the ice melts, it’ll dilute the concentrate and give you a fully flavorful cup of refreshing iced tea.

If you have any questions about tea leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer! We sell our teas online too, just click this link here to visit our website and check it out.

~Tea Barista

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What is the Chinese New Year? Celebrating the Year of the Dog

In many western cultures, we take a single day to celebrate the rise of a new year. It’s widely known as a time to reflect on the wonderful moments of the past before then turning to the future with an aim to better ourselves and developing our dreams. I think it’s safe to say that among many cultures this mentality is at least a little similar. It often feels like the end of a chapter or, sometimes, the closing of a book. The main differences tend to be in how we celebrate.

We don’t know exactly when the Chinese New Year began. One article I read mentioned it’s believed the celebration began early as the time of the legendary sage emperors, Yao and Shun. It’s believed that Yao in particular, was one of the first to assign astrological officers to track the constellations and changes of the heavens in order to make a sun traditional paper cutand lunar calendar of 366 days in a year, including the leap month. Important, because the Chinese New Year doesn’t fall on the same calendar month like ours. It follows a lunar cycle; on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month in the Chinese calendar. And, it’s a celebration that lasts for fifteen days and it’s a national holiday, meaning government offices, schools, and most companies are closed during the course of the celebration.

Many see it as a time to visit distant relatives. They wear new clothes, clean their homes, eat as much food as they can, and decorate with window paper cut outs – all in red. What fortunes you bring into the New Year depends on what symbols you decorate with. For instance, the lantern represents “pursuing the right and the beautiful,” while the fish means “having more than ones needs every year.” They also have firecrackers to cast off any bad luck and perform dragon and lion dances, something you probably saw pictures of on a number of occasions.

2018 marks the year of the earth dog, but what exactly does that mean? Most people know about the Chinese zodiac the same way I do, and that’s from what was on the paper placemats in Chinese restaurants when we were kids. That gives us a little info at least. We know that every animal has different personality traits. The dog, for instance, is known to be sincere, independent, and clever. (This is also the sign of Miss Ting, the owner of The Green Teahouse) Similar to the animals, every element has its own unique properties and influences on our chi, (or aura if you prefer.)  Earth is associated with growth, practicality, harmony, and hard work.Dragon Dance in Chinatown

These two combined can make 2018 a very auspicious year! Especially if you have any long-term project needing grit and dedication. The Earth element grounds the hard working enthusiasm of the dog. If there’s anything to watch out for, it would be taking care in where you spend your time and energy. The Dog tends to be very loyal and giving, but if we give too much this often leaves us without the energy to take care of ourselves.

The city Chengdu in Sichuan Provence is not only the home of our signature Snow Jasmine tea but the elegant owner of The Green Teahouse, Miss Ting. They celebrate with spicy hand-made sausages and a Paper Lantern Festival. In honor of her home and culture, we’ll be hosting a New Year celebration at the teahouse on February 17th from 1-5pm.

We won’t be able to set off firecrackers or cast paper lanterns into the sky, but we’ll have face painting, tea tasting with snacks, and a tai chi demonstration. There will also be a raffle with some great prizes! You can stop in, or call the store for details. I’ll leave a link to our homepage here.

For a bit of fun, leave a comment telling us what your zodiac animal is, and we’ll let you know what tea matches you best! Click here to get your horoscope.

 

If you like our tea, be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Stay healthy and drink lots of tea.

Melissa ~ Tea Barista

Social Tea – How to Create Warmth, Welcome and Community with Tea

Let me take you somewhere new for a moment. You’re in India on a crowded street first thing in the morning. Despite the early hour, the air is thick with humidity and that humidity locks all the smells in the air; the dust kicked up from the sidewalk, the spices boiling in the morning dal, and, on every corner you turn, the spicy sweet aroma of masala chai tea.

Let’s try a new place. We’re going to Morocco now. You’re by the ocean, sitting in a café overlooking the sea where you can smell the salt in the air. An elegantly adorner silver pot is put before you, suffused with the unforgettable aroma of sweet, mint green tea.

Maybe these places are too exotic for you. We can go to France instead, a city where the evenings are filled with music and the plates are decorated with pastries so beautiful it’s difficult to eat them. The tea is dark and familiar even if the sidewalks and architecture are relics of romanticized history.

These are a few examples, but no matter where you go in the world, tea has its own distinct culture. Despite the differences, there’s a common thread uniting these people, cultures, and histories across the globe and that’s community. Where there’ a hub for tea, there are people gathering to share ideas and enjoy each other’s companionship. No matter if you’re drinking tea in India, China, Japan, Pakistan, or right in your own home, you can embrace a world-wide culture of community.

Ever since I began drinking tea, it became bonded to my identity among close friends. If they came over to talk, they knew a pot of tea would be waiting. Sometimes they brought over little sweets in anticipation. All around the world tea houses and tea rooms are places for individuals of like and unlike minds to gather and converse, to laugh, and build a family outside of blood ties.

Inviting someone into your space and offering them a warm, comforting beverage shows an openness and trust that’s easy to respond to in kind. I’ve made countless friends and developed some of the deepest relationships of my life while sharing a cup of tea. It brings out the stories in people; It brings out the laughter. How could it not when tea itself has inspired countless legends- when it’s traveled so far through history to be in your cup?

With a few subtle touches, tea drinking can transform a cozy night into a romantic candlelit evening. Try adding dried rose petals to your favorite jasmine tea. The fragrance will fill the room without the need for heavy scented candles. (And it pairs great with chocolate.) Or, you can try your hand at making the Strawberry Rose Latte which I’ll tell you how to make in just a bit. Trust me, it’s easier than you might think.

Strawberry Rose Late

rose latte small

What you need:

  • 16 oz boiled water
  • 1 tbsp Strawberry Rose Oolong tea
  • Honey or Agave (about 1 tbsp if desired)
  • 4 oz milk of choice
  • Whipped cream
  • Dried rose petals
  • Dried strawberry pieces or powder
  • A ton of Love

 

Steep the tea in the water for 3 minutes or longer if you like your tea strong as I do, and add the sweetener you like. While that’s brewing, froth your milk. If you don’t have a frother then heating it up will do just fine. Adding cold milk to tea is fine, but it will make the tea room temperature instead of hot.

Add it all together, and top with whipped cream, roses and strawberries.

This tea makes a great dessert, especially paired with chocolate covered strawberries. Not only is it sweet and warming, but the oolong tea will help you digest the dinner you likely had first.

Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day with friends or life partners, I hope you enjoy their company around your favorite tea knowing you’re following the example of cultures and communities around the world.

If you like our tea, I encourage you to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out on our great promotions. You can also like us on Facebook and Instagram.

Stay healthy and drink lots of tea.

Melissa ~ Tea Barista

Mindful Tea and Slowing Down

Not so long ago I visited New York. More specifically, Time Square, and it was nothing short of overwhelming. Everything vied for my attention – the people handing out flyers on the street, the cars laying on their horns, the flashing advertisement signs, the aromas, the buildings, and the endless crowds of people hurrying down sidewalks in massive clusters. There was always something to eat, something new to see, something strange to experience. I had fun but, by the end of my stay, I found I wanted nothing more than to wake up in my quiet apartment, in a sunny room where all I could hear were the birds and I could infuse my morning with the enveloping fragrance of jasmine flowers.

The city may be an exaggerated version of a society taught to rush headlong into hard work, but even if you don’t live smack in the middle of the Big Apple, there’s still much to be distracted by. Our phones are a constant buzz of entertainment; everything from the news to the weather to the daily lives of everyone else. We move tirelessly from one task to the next until finally collapsing at the end of the day. It leaves little time to enjoy the calmer parts of our lives. The little things like having the time for a good breakfast or taking a moment to breathe in the air and shake the stress off your shoulders.Croissant jam coffee orange jice at white wooden table.

Studies have shown that listening to the sounds of nature for five minutes a day can drastically reduce stress levels. (I’m sure I don’t have to mention that stress is known to be the leading cause of a long list of ailments.) This understanding isn’t even a new one.

Think about the culture of tea. Many societies around the world see tea making not only as a healthy beverage but a work of art. Everything from plucking and drying the leaves, to brewing and drinking of the tea, asks for patience, grace, and internalized harmony. It’s a process that asks those participating to put aside the worries of the past and future and delve completely into the elegant and beautiful task at hand.

Every morning I set time aside to brew my favorite tea, to make myself a light breakfast, and to savor every sip. It’s not only greatly improves my focus throughout the day, but it gives me that quiet moment I need to go about my day in a calmer state of mind.

Since this is the month of love, why not dedicate a good portion of it to self-love. Put your phone away on lunch breaks and savor your meal. Go for a short walk after dinner. Or, like me, take some time in the morning to be still and enjoy the simple pleasures your life has to offer.

As always stay healthy, and drink tea.

~ Melissa, Tea Barista.

Ti Kuan Yin – The Legend

It was some years ago, during the start of my budding tea enthusiasm, when I took a journey to visit family in Montana. We were driving through the snowy mountains on our way to Yellowstone in Wyoming when we rolled our rickety old truck into a small village. The streets were cobbled and the roofs were snow dusted. Among shops selling trinkets and the cafes offering black coffee, there was a gem.

I found myself wandering into a home for tea tradition, celebrating not only the unique qualities and flavors but the history as well. The story that captivated me most, was the story of an oolong tea, Ti Kuan Yin.

In Fujian’s Shaxian province, during a time of great poverty, there stood a neglected stone temple on the outskirts of a small village. An old farmer frequently visited the temple. He swept away debris, lit incense, and prayed to the goddess of compassion, Guanyin. One day, in a time of great despair, he went to the temple as usual. He finished his sweeping but, when he went to light the incense, the statue of Guanyin sprung to life. The old farmer fell to his knees, at which point the goddess, in her kind manner, whispered, “The key for your future is just outside this temple. Nourish it with tenderness and it will support you and yours for generations to come.”

She reverted to stone once more.Eastern turquoise Ti Kuan Yin tea

True to the goddess’s word, there was a shriveled bush outside the temple doors. From that point onward, the farmer swept the floor as always, lit and incense, and also watered the bush. When the leaves grew plump and healthy the farmer discovered that, when steeped in hot water, it made a refreshing drink. He clipped some branches and brought it to the village where his neighbors could plant it too. After a time the farmer experimented by drying the leaves in a stone wok until they became the dark, iron color. It reminded him so much of the Goddess, he named the tea, Ti Kuan Yin, Tea of the Iron Goddess of Mercy.

To this day, Ti Kuan Yin continues to be the most beloved olong grown in the Fujian province.

I don’t think the man who told me this story, would know how closely I held it over the years. Safe to say, I purchased the tea and it remains one of my favorites.

Oolong tea is typically served with meals since it may aid in improving digestion.  Other studies indicate that, due to high amounts of flavonoids, oolong may aid in improving bone and skin health, lower risk of heart disease, and prevent diabetes. It’s also delicious.

The Green Teahouse has many wonderful oolongs to choose from, including Ti Kuan Yin, which features in our Strawberry Rose blend. Come in to try a cup, or purchase a bag in store or online as www.thegreenteahousecom.

Stay healthy, and drink lots of tea.

-Melissa~ tea barista