A Journey Through the World of Tea

Archive for September, 2010

Metropolitan Tea Co.: Gunpowder Green

The other day, I was sent some of Metropolitan Tea Company’s Chinese Gunpowder Green tea by a friend of mine.

Gunpowder is traditionally a hand rolled green tea from the Guangdong province of China, and is named because it resembles grains of explosive gunpowder. Gunpowder green tea plays a pivotal role in Moroccan tea culture as mentioned in a previous article. The flavor of this tea is more smoky and leans more towards oolong than most green teas.

I steeped just under one tablespoon of leaves in 180°F water for about 3 minutes. The color of the tea after I steeped it was brown/green, expecting it to be bitter, I was surprised at how light tea the flavor was. The smokiness of this tea is nothing like that of a Russian caravan or a lapsang souchong It sort of lingers at the back of your tongue, and is really only noticeable if you really pay attention.

As far as greens go, Gunpowder is not your run of the mill vegetal/grassy tasting green. Now I have had this tea before in the past and enjoyed it. Today though, when I picked up a sample and steeped it, I have to say I didn’t enjoy it all that much. The smokiness was very light and it just tasted old.


Five Herbs to Keep Around

Whether you call them teas, infusions, or tistanes; herbs (along with flowers and fruit) steeped in hot water have become part of tea cultures around the world. There are even records that show almost every world civilization using herbal teas for medicinal uses.

I don’t often drink herbal tea, but I enjoy it from time to time. Lately, as I dive more into my major (nursing), I have become intrigued with herbal remedies. Here are some herbs that I think are good for everyone to keep around, just in case.

Cinnamon– The inner bark of a tree commonly found in South East Asia, has been found to help to relieve pain caused by headaches, arthritis, and menstrual cramps. Other studies have shown also that cinnamon can help lower cholesterol, help with the management of type 2 diabetes, and help fight leukemia.

Ginseng– This root commonly from Korea or China has been used for it’s engery boosting properites for over 5,000 years. Other uses are as an anti-aging supplement, improving athletic endurance, and helps with the prevention of some forms of cancer.

Peppermint– This hybrid of spearmint and water-mint is from most commonly from Europe. A traditional use for peppermint in the herbalist world is for soothing effects on the digestive tract. It also can limit indigestion and aid in alleviating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Ginger– Another root from Asia, ginger is from the same plant family as cardamom, which is a spice often used in masala chai. Ginger has been known to be a pain reliever and also effective in reducing inflammation. It has been proven to be very powerful against Ovarian cancer, as well as help in the prevention of Colon cancer.

Licorice Root– Licorice root originates in southern Europe. It may not be everyone’s favorite flavor, but licorice can be called somewhat of wonder drug, as it has been found to aid in multiple health areas. Commonly used for sore throats by actors and singers, it can also help with chronic fatigue, viral infections, canker sores, gingivitis, and ulcers.

This Week in Tea Volume V

Without further adieu, what happened this week, in tea…

Jess Hodges continues her series of Tea around the world at Insani-Tea. This time it’s a trip to Sri Lanka

Tea Goober reviews Puttabong Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling.

In this week’s episode of Tea Show TV, Michael and Sam try Samovar’s Hawaii grown Oolong.

Over at The Voice of Tea, Cindy Gold’s tea cook book Culinary Tea is discussed.

T Ching‘s Laura Logsdon shares with how to freshen your home with your old tea leaves.

Travel and Tea takes a look at black tea from Kenya.

Do you know who Anna Russell is? Learn some English tea history in this Leaf Box Tea post titled Unstanding Anna.

For those free next Tuesday, Samovar will be holding another live event. Join founder Jesse Jacobs as well as Leo Babauta, Tim Ferris, and Susan O’Connell in a night of zen and life management.

Cinnabar of Gongfu Girl shares a comedic video titled Tea with Tyson (Mike Tyson that is).

Like always, you can see these links and more at our delicious bookmarks.

Tipu: Instant Black Chai

Chai has a special place in my heart, for it was in India that I had my first cup of loose leaf tea in the form of Masala Chai. So when I wasapproached to review Tipu’s Instant Chai, I was curious and skeptical at the same time. Because my first experience was so pure and authentic, I was not entirely sure that “instant” would be able to stand up to my expectations for quality.

The tea is self looks a lot like hot coco mix, brown and chalky. The aroma of it is spicy, with the smells of cinnamon, cardamon, coriander and ginger as the most prominent. The instructions call for just milk and any sweetener you prefer. So after heating 8 ounces of milk to about 212° F (100° C), I added the powder into my cup, mixed, and sweetened it.

The first taste is a classic chai that I have come to love. The ending taste on the other hand was something I think was a combination of ginger and black pepper.

The final verdict, to me, it was a little of a disappointment because of the ending taste of this tea. It was a little too overpowering and unpleasant to me. Don’t take my word alone though, I encourage you try it yourself and read the review our friends over at Little Yellow Teapot review of Tipu’s instant tea as well.

Featured Tea Company: Chicago Tea Garden

Q- Chicago Tea Garden, how did it come to be?
A- In 2005 I was fortunate enough to join a trip through my university to China. We spent 40 days roaming around China, the last 10 days I spent by myself starting from Hangzhou and ending in Beijing. Tea was everywhere, men were playing mahjong on street side sipping from gaiwans, tiny shops on nearly every corner served tea gongfu style. I happened upon a small tea shop south of the forbidden city in Beijing where a woman taught me the gongfu tea ceremony, she did not speak English and I did not speak mandrin – tea bridged the language barrier. Later, in 2008 I backpacked most of Southeast Asia, I started in Fiji and traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal and India. Each country had tea and their own culture surrounding it. When I came back to the states, I wanted nothing more than to spread the culture and history behind great tea.

Q- Where do your teas come from?
A- Many of our teas come direct from small farmers in Japan and China, the pu-erhs were purchased by David Lee Hoffman and were aged in his man-made tea caves in California.

Q- What do the customers mean to your company?
A- Without my customers, Chicago Tea Garden wouldn’t exist. I have made many friends through my business, and I treat my customers as if they were my good friends. So to answer the question, my customers are my friends.

Q- What makes Chicago Tea Garden unique?
A- We are able to sell many unique teas that some larger companies cannot sell due to availability. We buy in small quantities, many times — we are buying all that a farmer has to offer. Larger companies have a greater demand – so they must buy in huge quantities, top quality tea is not always available in such quantities. We hope that we find our business to be scalable by adding more teas to the selection.

Q-  In three words, can your sum up the culture of your company?
A- peace, love, tea

Q- This is a three-parter. What tea does every one order? What tea would you suggest for tea newbies? What is your most unique tea?
A- Surprisingly enough, there is not one tea that everyone orders, it varies from order to order and some teas peak as reviews are written online, or if a tea becomes popular on Steepster. For a tea newbie, I suggest our Golden Bi Luo. It is a yunnan black tea and it has been good at changing people’s minds about black tea when they are used to bagged black tea. For starters with pu-erh I recommend our Camel’s Breath pu-erh tuocha or our Wild Orange pu-erh. In general though — all of our pu-erhs can be a considered beginner pu-erhs. I don’t consider myself a pu-erh expert. I think that I would have to live several lifetimes in order to become a pu-erh expert and to offer a selection competitive to a store like Yunnan Sourcing. Our most unique tea of the moment is our Kamairi Cha, it is a pan-fired green tea from Japan hand-made by a man well-known in Japan for producing this type of tea. This is the first time his tea has been sold in America. (Can’t forget the New Zealand Oolong too!)

Q- What is the mission of Chicago Tea Garden?
A- To provide the best quality teas we can find at an affordable price while respecting and supporting the farmer.

Don’t forget to Like them on Facebook or Follow on Twitter.

This Week in Tea Volume IV

Happy Friday tea lovers!

What you may have missed this week, in tea:

A special congratulations to Chris Bourgea and his company, BourgeaTea, for being ranked 9th of the best tea companies over at TeaViews

Deb + Brad from Travel+Tea have conducted interviews with fellow tea and travel bloggers this week, along with some other awesome posts. Be sure to check them out.

Little Yellow Teapot had Chai week this week. Here is their review of Tipu’s instant Black Chai Tea.

Jess Hodges of the Insani-TEA blog takes a trip to Taiwan, sharing the tea-centric culture that she found.

Continuing with the talk about Taiwan, over at Tea Guy Speaks, find out more about the Taiwan tea market.

Stéphane Erler at Tea Masters shares his Pu-erh Collection.

This past Tuesday, Samovar Tea Lounge hosted “The Mavericks of Tea,” a discussion with some of the forerunners of tea. It was very a great success, and you can catch the video of the event and enjoy it at your leisure.

The real party Tuesday was over at Leafboxtea as they hosted an online party of sorts, having a chat during the Mavericks of Tea. It was a hit and you can expect their next chatting event to be even better.

As always, you can find links to these stories and more over at our delicious bookmarks.

The Tea Table: Fine Ti Kuan Yin

(Today’s Post is a guest post is from Wes Murdock, editor of Tyros Of Tea)

Ti Kuan Yin (Ti Guan Yin or Iron Goddess of Mercy) is lightly oxidized oolong tea, that is characterized as being close to a green tea. While the descriptions on the packaging and the website differ (with the packaging being a better description), one thing is for sure: this tea tastes like a Ti Kuan Yin.

The reason I make that statement, is that the website I bought this tea from had me leery of their product. The prices of their loose leaf teas are generally quite low. The prices of the teas is also determined by how much you buy, the more ounces of tea you buy, the cheaper each ounce is. Because of the low prices, I decided to buy many teas I have not tried, as well as teas I knew well. As Ti Kuan Yin is one of my very favorite teas, I felt that it would be a good gauge of quality.

To brew the tea, I used the same process as I do with the rest of my oolongs, using a glass gaiwan, poured into a small glass pitcher, and drank it with a porcelain tea cup. The water was filtered and heated with an electric kettle to 180 degrees, and brewed for 2 and a half minutes for the first steep, and 3 minutes for the second.

This tea didn’t knock my socks off, but it was good. It did not have a flavor that lingered for a long period of time, nor did it have quite as round and beautiful flavor as many other I have had. The tea though gets extra points for being so inexpensive ($1.75 for an ounce). The tea is a wonderful way to introduce someone to Ti Kuan Yins and oolongs, as it has the base flavors without all the complexities that can get lost through improper brewing or treatment. They also offer more expensive and higher quality Ti Kuan Yins such as a “Monkey-Picked” ($16.80 per ounce) and their “Superior” ($4.25 per ounce).

You can order this, or many other teas from their website or follow them on Twitter.