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117 Galisteo St
Santa Fe, NM 87501

505-795-7724

Luxury loose leaf teas, handcrafted tea blends and fine tea ware. ArtfulTea: where the ordinary experience of drinking tea becomes extraordinary.

Tea Wisdom

Iced Tea Popsicles

Karen Gardiner

It's Summer! Let's make popsicles!

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Any tea you enjoy as an iced tea will also make tasty popsicles. For even more fun, add in a few extras like fruit or yogurt when making them. Here are a few of our favorite ideas for iced tea popsicles:

Blueberry Pomegranate Popsicles: Start with iced Blueberry Pomegranate herbal tea. Place a few fresh blueberries in each popsicle mold, then slowly add the iced tea. You can add a dollop of vanilla ice cream if desired. Freeze and enjoy!

Apples to Oranges Popsicles: Start with iced Apples to Oranges organic herbal tea. Cut a fresh apple into very thin wedges. Cut a fresh orange into very thin slices. Add one of each fruit slice to the popsicle molds, then slowly add the iced tea. Again, you can top it off with a dollop of vanilla ice cream if you'd like a creamsicle taste.

Watermelon Matcha Popsicles: This one has a few more steps and ingredients, so we've made a recipe card for you below. We used our Culinary Grade Organic Matcha for these.

Whichever tea you choose to use, iced tea popsicles are a delicious, fun and healthy way to celebrate summer. Enjoy!

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Floral Teas

Karen Gardiner

Floral flavors are one of this year’s food trends, and what better way to get a floral fix than in tea? For centuries, flower blossoms have been blended with tea and other herbs to create intoxicating and medicinal brews. Flowers add color, flavor and aroma to tea. Many of us are familiar with chamomile as a sleep aid, but there are so many other floral teas that are as delicious as they are beneficial.

One of the most popular floral flavors is jasmine. Alone or blended with tea, jasmine has been consumed in China for centuries, and was once given as an aphrodisiac! Today, jasmine tea is commonly found on the menu in many Asian restaurants (although the quality of tea served there can vary widely). Our organic Jasmine Yin Cloud is an exceptional high-quality Chinese green tea scented with fresh jasmine petals. We blend it in small batches in-house for an exquisitely aromatic blend that is a treat to the nose as well as the taste buds.

Lavender blossoms, rose petals and calendula (marigold) petals are each thought to have calming, relaxing, and soothing properties. When blended with chamomile’s mildly sedative powers, you have the perfect sleep-enhancing brew – which we call Lavender Lullaby. For the purist, we also carry an organic Egyptian Chamomile that is made entirely from the large, golden flower heads of the plant (the part that yields the most beneficial compounds) and produces a pale yellow liquor with a distinctive earthy taste. 

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Another favorite flower often found in herbal tea blends is hibiscus. Hibiscus petals can range in color from yellow to orange to bright red. They are brewed and consumed all over the world, and are purported to treat many things, from high blood pressure to upset stomach. Our deep red organic Hibiscus flowers are from Egypt, and are packed with vitamin C and anthocyanins. Brewed alone, they make a tart and tangy cup, or blend them with a sweetener, lemonade or other teas for a refreshing burst of flavor.

One of my favorite floral teas is our organic Midnight Rose which combines Chinese black tea with beautiful, delicate rose petals, producing a delicious cup that is both uplifting and soothing. Rose petals also star in Rose Petal Raspberry, one of our most popular herbal teas which is particularly tasty in Summer served iced or even made into vibrant red popsicles. Our Tuscan Sun is another floral sensation with linden blossoms, lemon balm, lavender, rose petals, orange blossoms, and blue mallow blossoms. It looks and tastes like sunshine in a cup.

Whatever floral flavors are your favorites, there's bound to be a tea to tickle your fancy and nurture the mind and body.

Mint Teas

Karen Gardiner

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The plant genus Mentha, also known as mint, is a flavorful and aromatic herb found in everything from garden pots to toothpaste. Mint has been used for centuries as a digestive aid and breath freshener, and is also rich in antioxidants. Today, mint is ubiquitous with mint plants in every plant nursery, packages of fresh mint in grocery stores and sprigs of mint gracing plates in restaurants. While peppermint and spearmint are the most well known varieties, other types include apple mint, lemon mint, chocolate mint and even licorice mint.  

In the world of tea, mint can be brewed on its own, blended with tea leaves, or combined with flowers, fruit or other herbs. While we may say we like “mint tea,” mint on its own technically isn’t tea. The word “tea” refers to the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant used to make black, oolong, green, and white teas (see our post “Types of Tea: Camilla Sinensis”). We tend to loosely use the term ‘tea’ to mean any hot infusion, but herbs and herbal blends are more properly called “tisanes.”

At ArtfulTea, we carry many blends containing mint, including our popular Moroccan Mint Tea – a classic blend of spearmint and green tea. (Did you know that Moroccan Mint is traditionally offered as a form of hospitality and welcome?) Our Lemon Mint Ménage is a blend of smooth black tea, peppermint, spearmint and lemongrass, creating a perfectly balanced, uplifting cup. The Mad Hatter would tip his hat to the flavor celebration in Alice’s Peppermint Party with peppermint, ginger, apples, almonds, hibiscus and rose. At the other end of the herbal spectrum, Lavender Mint offers a relaxing and cooling caffeine-free brew that's delicious hot or cold. Mint also forms the basis of Sing Your Song, a handcrafted herbal that helps soothe the throat, clear congestion and promote wellness. And, if you love chocolate after-dinner mints, our rich cup of Chocolate Mint Rooibos is a guilt-free way to enjoy this favorite flavor without the calories or caffeine!

The Basics of Green Tea

Karen Gardiner

Green tea is loved by many but not by all of our customers, and the reason most often given is a bitter taste. Green tea, properly prepared, is light and delightful, not bitter. The key to enjoying a cup of green tea is preparation, which is really very easy once you get the hang of it. Unlike black and oolong teas, green tea leaves are not oxidized, so they are more delicate and require brewing with a bit more care.

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The best known greens come from China or Japan. Chinese greens such as Chun Mee, Dragon Well, and Gunpowder tend to have a more mellow flavor and color than Japanese greens such as Sencha, which are brighter green in color and have a fresh, almost grassy flavor. An exception here would be Kukicha, a Japanese tea made from the stalks, stems and twigs of the tea bush, producing a more earthy, slightly sweet tea. Genmaicha, another popular traditional Japanese green, is a blend of Bancha and roasted rice, giving it a deeper, toasty taste.

To brew a delicious cup of green tea, measure one teaspoon of leaves for every six to eight ounces of water. Heat a kettle of fresh, cold water to the point of steaming briskly, but not boiling. If you have a kitchen thermometer, you will want the temperature to be between 175–180F. Pour the hot water over the tea leaves, allowing them to steep for one minute or two at the most. Steeping green tea leaves for too long will nearly always result in a bitter taste. And if the water is too hot when it touches the leaves, the tea will have a burnt or scalded taste.

ArtfulTea offers a variety of classic and flavored green teas. One of the most sought-after is our Jasmine Yin Cloud organic green, a custom blend of exceptionally high-quality Chinese green tea scented with fresh jasmine blossoms. The aroma is as intoxicating as its flavor. All green teas can be delicious whether prepared hot or iced. As a bonus to the enjoyable flavor, green teas are usually low in caffeine, yet high in anti-oxidants. Some can also handle being infused twice.

Turmeric Tea

Karen Gardiner

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Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and, like ginger, it's the root of the turmeric plant which is dried and ground to create the vibrant orange spice that has become so popular. India produces and consumes 80% of the world's turmeric. It is used not only in their cooking, but for centuries Ayurvedic medicine has recognized its anti-inflammatory properties as well.

In the West, turmeric was first introduced as a dye, but eventually made its way onto the spice shelf and even more recently has come to the attention of the medical community. Many healthcare providers now recommend turmeric to support those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. This wonderfully mild spice also offers antioxidant benefits and is currently being researched for use in the treatment of certain forms of cancer. 

A delicious way to get the many benefits of this subtle, savory spice is to enjoy it in tea. We hand blend our Turmeric Mango Organic Green Tea to deliver all the healthy goodness of turmeric and green tea with the tropical flavors of mango, pineapple and yuzu, creating a naturally sweet and tangy brew. A well-loved herbal option is our tasty Atomic Gold, which packs a powerhouse of health benefits from turmeric, ginger, licorice, lemongrass and orange, creating a remarkably bright golden yellow cup with a deep and satisfying flavor.

Oolong Teas

Nick Rose

Formosa Oolong

China and Taiwan are the best known Oolong producing countries in the world today.  Chinese tea production reaches back centuries while Taiwan is a relative newcomer with tea production beginning in the early 1700s on the East Asian island known as Formosa.  Many Taiwanese teas retain its historic, regional appellation such as our Organic Formosa Oolong.  Taiwanese oolongs tend to have a shorter fermentation cycle than their Chinese counterparts, though fermentation also varies according to the type of oolong being made.

Oolong is referred to as semi-fermented. Fermentation is a process which involves drying and roasting the leaves multiple times to produce a specific flavor, color and aroma.  Many oolong lovers consider this tea the perfect bridge between unfermented green tea and fully fermented black tea.  Generally speaking, oolong teas have lower caffeine levels than most black teas while being higher in caffeine than most greens (with the actual amount of caffeine in a tea depending on several factors including the length of the fermentation process).

In terms of flavor, various aspects determine where an oolong tea lands along the green to black tea spectrum including elevation, when the leaves are harvested, and the length of fermentation.  Closer to the green tea end of this spectrum, our Jade Song Oolong from Taiwan has a lovely pale color and delicate flavor reminiscent of its green cousins.  By contrast, our Organic Formosa Oolong is noticeably darker in color with a more full bodied flavor including a hint of honey and slightly more caffeine.  A delightful middle ground is our classic Fine Ti Kuan Yin which offers a distinctive brandy hue and a slightly sweet yet earthy flavor often attributed to oolongs grown in China.    

Loose leaf Formosa oolong tea is a bargain in addition to being delicious! There are many health benefits ascribed to oolong teas and the leaves can be steeped several times with each infusion releasing surprising subtleties in flavor.  While oolong tea is a great balance point between green and black to start the day, oolongs are also lovely in the afternoon when caffeine might be a consideration.  Even in the heat of the summer months, Citrus Sonata, a subtly flavored oolong from China’s Fujian Province, or Passion Petal, with its exotic mango and rose flavors, are a wonderful pick me up.

Jasmine Green Tea

Nick Rose

Jasmine Green Tea

Even if you couldn’t name it, you’re probably familiar with the scent of jasmine. One of the most popular flavors of tea in the world, jasmine green teas can vary wildly in quality and flavor. Our Jasmine Yin Cloud organic green tea is one of the most exceptional versions of jasmine tea you can find.

Truly exquisite jasmine teas begin with the use of high-quality Chinese tea leaves. Those tea leaves later become scented with the aroma and flavor of freshly picked jasmine flowers during the drying process. The most intensely aromatic jasmine flowers are plucked only at night during the month of May. Our Jasmine Yin Cloud acquires its distinctive, delicate flavor from these precious jasmine blossoms harvested over a short period in May. Freshly plucked flowers are placed on trays above and below the drying green tea leaves. As the tea leaves dry in proximity to the jasmine flowers, it absorbs the essence of the flowers. The trays of jasmine flowers are replaced with trays of freshly picked blossoms several times during the entire process of making this tea.

Lesser quality jasmine teas are sometimes made by simply adding dried jasmine flowers to the tea, or by drying the tea with flowers harvested at less optimal times than May. Give our Jasmine Yin Cloud green tea a few sips and you'll recognize the difference in quality immediately.

 

Chun Mee Green Tea

Nick Rose

Chun Mee green tea

For green tea lovers and those wanting to try green tea, this buttery, mild Chinese tea is the lightest green we carry at ArtfulTea. The Chinese name Chun Mee means "precious eyebrow," a perfect description for the long, curved and slightly dusty-looking leaves of this delicate tea.

Chinese green teas are more mellow than their Japanese counterparts known for their rich, grassy flavor. Our organic Chun Mee takes that mellow taste a step further with its pale yellow liquor and subtly sweet flavor that can be described as a bridge between white tea and more full bodied green teas such as Dragon Well.

As with many teas, the loose leaves of Chun Mee can be brewed at least twice, with each infusion offering a more nuanced experience of this beautifully light, low caffeine tea. Another reason to love Chun Mee Green Tea is the rich store of beneficial antioxidants, amino acids and vitamins in each cup.

Darjeeling Black Tea

Nick Rose

Darjeeling black tea

Darjeeling tea takes its name from the region in the Himalayan Mountains of India where the plants are cultivated. Unlike Assam, its tea growing neighbor to the east, the Darjeeling area is smaller, higher, colder and, importantly, the plant which produces this legendary tea was brought from China by the British in the 19th century. It is not surprising then that Darjeeling tea is markedly different from traditional Indian blacks grown at lower altitudes from native plants. Prized for its unique character, aroma and flavor, the finest Darjeeling tea is extremely expensive with demand consistently outpacing supply.  One reason for the high cost is the small leaves grow slowly and are hand-plucked in a labor intensive process. The Board of India places a certification mark and logo onto chests of Darjeeling so consumers will know the product they are purchasing is authentic, offering one explanation for the nickname “the Champagne of teas” due to the similarity with France’s strict labeling policy of its famous sparkling wine. 

Darjeeling teas will vary by year depending upon the weather, the garden or estate where it is grown, and the "flush" or harvesting season within a year. Darjeeling has three main flushes when fresh leaves are gathered. First Flush, also known as  Spring Flush, begins in early March and continues into early May, with the Second Flush following from May until the Monsoon rains come in June. In October, when the rains have ceased, the Autumnal Flush season lasts until the plants go dormant for the winter. Tea made from the leaves of each flush will vary considerably from a bright, noticeably astringent taste of delicate First Flush leaves which are infused like a green tea, to a Second Flush brew which offers richer fruit, less tangy astringency and hold up to fully boiling water without bitterness. Darjeeling tea is graded based on size and quality from “Super Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe” (SFTGFOP) at the top end, to “D” which indicates the dusty, fine powder that is often found in teabags.

At ArtfulTea, we offer a very affordable Second Flush called Daily Darjeeling (FTGFOP1). These organically grown leaves yield a bright coppery brew with a deliciously nutty flavor and mild astringency. For some tea lovers, the lighter color and flavor of Darjeeling more closely resembles oolong than black. We certainly appreciate how nicely the leaves hold up to a second infusion. Darjeeling makes a delightful organic iced tea in the summer months, and can be easily brewed in our Urban Tea Tumbler for a flavorful cup on the go. Hot or Cold, enjoy this Champagne of teas daily!

Himalayan Tea: Nepal

Nick Rose

The world’s tallest mountain range is home to some of the most famous tea growing regions including Assam and Darjeeling both located in India. A rocky landscape of varying altitudes, these mountains produce teas that are well known in many homes and the basis of favorite blends such as English Breakfast or our own Star of India. Today, the relatively small nation of Nepal is making a name for itself as a producer of premium Himalayan grown teas after over a century in the shadow of its much larger neighbor.

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Beginning in the mid-19th century, the British empire expanded to India and the British East India Company began full scale commercial tea production in that part of the world. Despite tea cultivation arriving in Nepal at about the same time as in Darjeeling to the east, commercial tea production in this small Asian country did not take off until later in the 20th century. Nepali tea, the term describing tea cultivated in Nepal, is currently grown in five primary regions with new areas being added to meet the demand for this much sought after export.  

At ArtfulTea we carry two Nepali teas: Himalayan Spring, a delicate green, and the award winning black aptly named Nepalese Gold. The latter is grown at high elevation and is intensely aromatic with striking golden leaves rendering a well balanced brew. We find it to be more subtle than Ceylon while offering a richer and more mellow flavor than Darjeeling. No surprise it is quickly becoming a favorite.  Moving down into the foothills, a refreshing green is created by hand plucking the first leaves of the spring season. Pale pink in hue with a delicate aroma, Himalayan Spring offers the subtlety of a white tea and the distinctive taste of a light, classic green. Both of these teas can be enjoyed hot or cold making them a perfect year round choice.

Masala Chai

Nick Rose

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In Hindi, the word "chai" simply means "tea" while the term "masala" refers to a blend of spices. In the west, we've come to use the term "chai" for that special mixture of black tea and fragrant spices with milk and sugar (or honey) that creates an aromatic and warming tea drink.

Many Americans were first introduced to chai in a premixed carton. In India, making Masala Chai can take time and care, like a special family dish with a recipe passed down through generations. The spices most commonly used are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, anise, fennel, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. I've had the chance to watch traditional chai being made by a friend from India. First he used a mortar and pestle to grind each spice by hand, then stirred them into a pan of milk which was slowly simmered (not boiled!) for several minutes before black tea leaves were added. Last, he stirred in some sugar until it dissolved, then poured the steaming brew into our glasses. It was a delight to watch and well worth the wait!

At ArtfulTea, we often tell customers there are as many ways to make chai as there are people who drink it. While chai can certainly be enjoyed milky and sweetened, it is equally delicious on its own as a spicy brew with no milk or sugar. We offer two types of Chai, each with its own balanced blend of spices. The first, a "traditional" Masala Chai, combines cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and cloves with a premium Ceylon black tea. For a caffeine-free option, our popular Rooibos Chai is organic and contains cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, cloves and black pepper along with South African rooibos.

Try making either of these with milk and/or sweetener, or create your own variation to discover the way you enjoy chai best. I've even heard of folks who add a splash of strong coffee to our Rooibos Chai to make a lower-caffeine version of "Dirty Chai." Masala Chai lends itself to creativity and experimentation. Enjoy!


 

Irish Breakfast Tea

Nick Rose

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Morning: It’s the start of a brand-new day, and you never know what opportunities are waiting for you until you take it on. Get the energy you need to shake things up by stepping out of the coffee zone and trying something different. Even if you’re not usually a tea drinker, you’ve probably heard of English Breakfast Tea, one of the most popular and versatile black tea blends available.

Irish Breakfast Tea, however, is ideal for those of you who need that extra caffeine jolt to get you going in the morning. It’s one of the strongest black tea blends, both in terms of flavor and stimulation, and so it’s traditionally served with cream and sugar. There’s no right or wrong way to drink it, though, so if you like your coffee black, chances are good that you’ll enjoy Irish Breakfast Tea on its own as well.

This popular blend is made by both companies large and small, and can often be found in convenient teabags. We’re partial to loose-leaf, though, since it allows us the opportunity to select the best-quality whole tea leaves and buds so that every cup is sensational.

We use a traditional blend of black teas, including Irish Breakfast’s star, Assam. It’s a strong, tropically-sourced tea that is known not only for its wake-up qualities but also for its rich color: it helps to lend every cup of Irish Breakfast tea its beautiful, dark red color. Of course, the best companion for a cup of this tea is a full Irish breakfast - complete with bacon, eggs, baked beans and grilled tomatoes. Now THAT’S a lucky way to start the day!

Earl Grey Tea

Nick Rose

Earl Grey Tea

Earl Grey is one of the most recognized and popular blends of tea on the shelves of every tea shop. Named for Charles, the second Earl Grey, who was a 19th-century British Prime Minister, this tea has been a favorite since the mid-1800's. A recent survey in Britain revealed that a majority of citizens there think Earl Grey is the most "posh" tea, owing perhaps to its aristocratic appellation. Whether there is a connection with the original Earl Grey is a question for debate, but the tea that bears his name is a well-loved classic.

What exactly gives Earl Grey tea its distinctive flavor? Bergamot, a small pear-shaped citrus fruit cultivated primarily in the Mediterranean, is the prized ingredient. The aromatic essential oil pressed from the rind of bergamot has a slightly spicy, citrusy taste that, when added to tea, provides the flavor we all associate with Earl Grey. Exactly how His Lordship came to enjoy his tea enhanced with oil of bergamot is a topic of much speculation. What is certain is that Earl Grey tea became immensely popular in the 19th century and remains so today.

Yunnan, a black tea from China, is often used in Earl Grey, though any tea may be combined with oil of bergamot. At ArtfulTea, we offer five versions of Earl Grey: three black teas, one green tea, and even an herbal infusion made with rooibos. For the most classic cup, our Earl Grey Organic is a blend of fine Yunnan black tea with bergamot essential oil from Italy, providing a smooth, slightly floral flavor. Our Earl Grey Français is made with bergamot from France, and is an exceptionally aromatic and flavorful version of the classic. We've also added lavender blossoms to our Earl Grey Lavender for a wonderfully relaxing tea bringing to mind the lavender fields of Provence. Our Green Tea Citrus (a green version of Earl Grey) is a delicious twist on the timeless favorite with Japanese Sencha green tea as the base, along with lemon peel, orange blossoms, and bergamot. If you love the flavor of Earl Grey but not the caffeine, Earl Grey Rooibos is designed for you. This organic herbal blend has become hugely popular with our customers who desire the taste of Earl Grey without the effects of caffeine.

Whichever version of Earl Grey you choose, each time you drink it you'll be sipping one of the tea world's most legendary flavors!

Yunnan Black Tea

Nick Rose

Yunnan black tea, also called Dianhong tea, is a gourmet black tea grown in the Yunnan province of China. Yunnan is a bit lighter, sweet-smelling and less astringent than typical black teas, with a rich, malty flavor and a brassy orange color when it’s brewed.

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Yunnan black tea is a relatively new innovation within the ancient tradition of Chinese tea-making, with its production beginning in the early 20th century.

Yunnan black is considered a high-end, gourmet tea in China. The main difference between Yunnan black tea leaves and other tea leaves are the high numbers of golden-tipped leaf buds in the dried tea. Yunnan black is made from large, high-quality tea leaves, and the finest varieties of Yunnan black are processed through partial oxidation but without chopping the leaves, to minimize bitterness.

Yunnan tea should be steeped in water cooked to just below the boiling point, between 195 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Like other black teas, it can be taken with milk and sugar, though its flavor is also soft enough to be enjoyed alone.

Mate Tea

Nick Rose

Known as “Drink of the Gods” or “Drink of Friendship,” mate tea (or yerba mate) is a caffeine-rich infusion of tea leaves and stems from a type of holly plant known as llex paraguariensis, from the subtropical forests of South America. First discovered and prepared by the indigenous Guarani people, Mate is is grown in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.

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Mate is extremely popular in South America: it is the official drink of Argentina, and is also widely consumed in Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil. It is also very popular in Syria, which is the world’s leading importer of Mate, and Lebanon.

Mate is known for producing the energy and mental alertness of other caffeinated drinks, but without side effects like nervousness, stomach-aches or addiction. For this reason, there is a widely-held belief that mate contains not caffeine but a different stimulant referred to as “matteine,” although mate is in fact caffeinated (it has less caffeine than coffee, but more than most teas).

Mate is said to produce the energy of coffee, the calmness of tea, and the euphoria of the natural chocolate, cacao. It is shade-grown, and its dark leaves contain even more antioxidants than green tea. Mate is also rich in vitamins and minerals, and is known for promoting good digestion and heart health.

Mate is traditionally prepared in a wide, rounded cup known as a gourd, and drunk through a metal straw known as a bombilla. It is traditionally enjoyed in a social setting of family or friends, who pass around the same gourd of steeped, and re-steeped, Mate.

The tea is prepared by filling the gourd about half to three-quarters full with mate tea; the gourd is then turned upside-down, and with a hand covering the top, shaken vigorously for about five seconds. The purpose of the shaking is to move the smallest tea leaf fragments to the top of the gourd, to avoid drinking pieces of leaf (for drinking, the bombilla has a small filter that allows liquid to enter but not the leaves, although tiny leaf fragments might get through if not shaken from the bottom).

After shaking, the gourd is turned upright and hot water is added to the infusion -- water should be 160-180 degrees, hot but below simmering temperature. Now the mate is ready to drink; typically, one person drinks a full cup of mate, then water is added to the infusion again, and the tea is passed to the next person. Often mate drinkers will store hot water in a thermos to continue adding to their mate blend.

Matcha Green Tea

Nick Rose

Grown and produced in Japan, Matcha is a powdered green tea derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant. To make Matcha tea, the leaves are grown in the shade during the final few weeks leading up to processing. After the leaves are harvested, all veins and stems are removed before the leaves are stone-ground into a green powder.

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The shade growing of Matcha increases chlorophyll and produces a darker tea leaf with higher caffeine levels and more amino acids, particularly theanine. As theanine is a relaxing amino acid, the combination of theanine and caffeine is known to produce a state of both mental alertness and calmness. Matcha green tea has a subtle but deep, slightly sweet flavor dominated by its amino acids. It is highly rich in antioxidants and other nutrients.

Though it has endured as a product of Japan, the earliest preparations of Matcha tea were developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). When the monk Eisai brought Buddhism to Japan in the 12th century, he also brought the Chinese method for preparing Matcha green tea. The ritualized use of matcha by Japanese monks grew quickly, and by the 15th century its popularity had spread to Japan’s upper classes. As Japan honed its methods for producing Matcha, in China its popularity declined; today, Matcha Tea is known primarily as a legacy of Japan.

In Japanese, “Cha” means tea and “ma” means powder, so the word “matcha” is literally translated to powdered tea.

Preparation of a cup of Matcha tea is a little different than with loose leaf teas. To prepare, put one-half to one teaspoon of Matcha powder into a bowl. Then add two ounces of simmering water -- do not let the water reach a full boil. Briefly stir the contents, then vigorously whisk (using a regular wire whisk if fine, though many recommend a bamboo whisk) until the water becomes foamy. Enjoy your Matcha.

Pu-erh Tea

Nick Rose

Organic Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh is an aged and fermented tea known in China as a type of “heicha,” meaning dark or black tea. In China, what we know as “black tea” is actually referred to as “red tea,” while fermented teas like Pu-erh are dark teas. Pu-erh tea is produced with leaves from the camellia sinensis plant in the Yunnan province of China, and named after the city of Pu-erh.

Like wine, Pu-erh is stored to age before consumption, and typically labeled with the time and place of production. Pu-erh that has been aged for many decades and can sell for thousands of dollars a pound.

Most teas go through a process of oxidation, but few are truly fermented by bacteria and yeast the way Pu-erh is. Fermentation occurs by storing the tea in a humid environment, over a time period of weeks to years.

The fermentation of Pu-erh produces a tea with an earthy flavor and low astringency, along with certain unique health benefits. Pu-erh tea is particularly good for aiding digestion and, because its fermentation produces natural statins, lowering blood pressure.

One signature of Pu-erh is that, after fermentation, the leaves are sometimes formed into neat shapes before packaging – such as cakes, bricks, mushrooms or flat squares pressed with Chinese characters. Pu-erh is often processed as a loose leaf tea as well. (ArtfulTea generally offers our Pu-erh teas in leaf form to make it easier for you to prepare and enjoy.)

Traditionally, Pu-erh is prepared by “rinsing” the leaves in hot water before brewing the tea to drink. First, pour boiling water over the leaves for a few seconds, then drain the water (this first step cleans the leaves and begins to unlock their flavor). Next, steep the leaves for one to five minutes and enjoy. Most Pu-erh teas can be infused multiple times. The same leaves might even be steeped up to eight times.

Ti Kuan Yin Tea

Nick Rose

Ti Kuan Yin -- also spelled “Tieguanyin” -- is a type of oolong tea from eastern China notable fo its orchid-like flavor and complex process of production. Fragrant and tasty, Ti Kuan Yin tea is said to be China’s most famous and beloved oolong.

Ti Kuan Yin Tea

Cultivated at high altitudes in the cool mountain air of China’s Fujian province, tea leaves that will be made into Ti Kuan Yin are processed using more than a dozen steps including oxidation, tossing, tight rolling and roasting.

When steeped, the dark, curly leaves of Ti Kuan Yin lighten and unfurl, unleashing their flowery aroma and taste. The brewed tea has a golden yellow color and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Ti Kuan Yin Tea offers an excellent source of sustained energy, both for its moderate caffeine content and high levels of vitamins, amino acids and antioxidant-containing polyphenols.

The name Tieguanyin is a reference to the Chinese “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” Guanyin, who is the female embodiment of the bodhisattva. 

Tea Oxidation

Nick Rose

When we think of food and oxidation, usually the idea conjures something undesirable: browning fruit or withered lettuce, for example. However, a process of controlled oxidation is crucial to unlocking the flavor, color, caffeine and nutritional content of most teas.

Oxidation is a process whereby tea leaves are dried and browned through exposure to the air, which opens their flavors and aromas by unlocking certain molecular compounds. Generally speaking, the longer a leaf is allowed to oxidize, the stronger the tea. The leaves of black teas are made using a relatively long process of oxidation, while green teas undergo a much shorter one.

oxidized tea

Tea leaves begin to oxidize as soon as they are plucked, and some teas are processed simply by letting the leaves be exposed to air for a period of time. Other oxidizing methods entail rolling, tumbling or macerating the leaves first in order to intensify or accelerate the oxidation. These methods work by breaking the cell walls within the leaves,  allowing oxygen to enter more freely.

Tea oxidation is typically performed at temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. While higher temperatures and a humid environment can increase oxidation, much higher temperatures (140 degrees and above) will actually halt the process by deactivating the enzymes that cause it.

After a batch of leaves are sufficiently oxidized, tea producers use a technique called “fixing” that involves steaming, baking or pan-firing the leaves to stop the oxidation process.

Fixing takes skill because the leaves need to be heated sufficiently but not overheated, which can curtail their flavor. In order to keep tea fresh, it should be stored in an airtight container, away from light, moisture, and heat.

Rooibos Tea

Nick Rose

Rooibos (a Dutch word that means “red bush”) is an herb from South Africa’s Western Cape region. When made into tea, Rooibos is non-caffeinated and has a rich, almost sweet flavor.

The name “Rooibos” comes from the reddish-brown color that the leaves take on when they are oxidized with heat. However, there is also a green Rooibos that is made when the leaves are lightly steamed but do not undergo a full process of oxidization. Green Rooibos tea is more difficult to produce than regular Rooibos, and has a milder flavor.

Rooibos tea is made from the needle-like leaves of the Aspalathus Linearis plant, which grows in a mountainous region near the South African Atlantic coast. Owing to the unique climate and soil conditions of the region, the Aspalathus Linearis is extremely difficult to grow in other places. Rooibos has been enjoyed for many generations in South Africa, which continues to be its premier exporter around the world.

Rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, compared with black and green teas Rooibos is very low in bitter-tasting Tannins.  Many Rooibos teas are also deliciously blended with spices, flowers and fruit.

While steeping some teas too long can produce a flavor that’s overly strong or bitter, as an herbal tea Rooibos is easy to prepare and won’t become bitter with longer brewing. Using water that’s brought to a full boil,  steep a teaspoon of Rooibos for every 6 to 8 ounces of water for at least five minutes to maximize its aromatic flavor.

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