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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

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 is 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.

View ArtfulTea's collection of luxury loose leaf rooibos tea

White Tea

Nick Rose

White tea is made from the buds and immature leaves of the camellia sinensis plant, all of them plucked before the leaves have a chance to fully open and dry in the sun. Its name is derived from the fine white downy hairs that are found on the leaves.

peony white tea

What differentiates white tea from other teas is both that it is made from younger leaves and that the tea leaves undergo very little or no treatment in the form of rolling or oxidization. As a result, white tea tends to be the lightest-tasting and lowest-caffeinated tea. Of all the teas, it also has the highest concentration of the immue bolstering antioxidants known as catechins.

Pleasant and subtle, brewed white tea actually has a pale yellow color. It has been well known in China for many centuries (in ancient China, its consumption was restricted to members of royalty), though not until the 1900’s was it really enjoyed overseas. Even today it remains the hidden gem of the tea world, growing in popularity yet still unknown to many consumers.

White teas are delicate, and optimal preparation involves steeping the tea in water that is steaming but just below a boil (175-180 degrees). However, because of its light flavor, you can steep the tea for a bit longer than green tea -- generally for up to three minutes.

Browse ArtfulTea’s selection of Luxury Loose Leaf White Tea

THE BASICS OF BLACK TEA

Nick Rose

Where Black tea Comes From

Black, green, oolong, and white teas all originate from the same source, the Camellia Sinensis plant. However, it is both the kind of camellia sinensis and how the leaves are processed that determines what type of tea we end up with. Black tea typically derives from the camellia sinensis assamica plant which is grown in subtropical climates, often at higher elevations.

 

assam black tea

How black tea is processed

After a tea leaf is plucked, it is transferred to a processing area where the leaves are carefully withered to achieve the right moisture content and to allow for the development of flavor. The leaves may be rolled to remove extra water content so that they can begin to oxidize. During this process, the leaves blacken and develop flavor. Once this is complete, the tea is tasted, packaged, and shipped!

 

General Guidelines for Black Tea Preparation:

Use 1 level teaspoon per 6 oz. water. Heat water to boiling. Steep for 2 - 4 minutes. For best taste, do not over steep. Black tea leaves can usually handle a second infusion, and sometimes even a third.

Browse ArtfulTea’s selection of Luxury Loose Leaf Black Tea
 

Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: How long to steep tea

Nick Rose

Everyone has their own ideas about how long to steep tea, but the main rule is not to "stew" the tea by letting the leaves steep forever, resulting in a bitter, unpleasant drink. Beyond that, feel free to modify these suggestions to suit your taste.

jade oolong

Black tea – usually steep for 3 - 5 minutes.

Green tea – generally, steep no more than 2 minutes. Many will taste best after only one minute (note: if you think you don't like green tea, it may be because you've only had it after it steeped far too long).

Oolong – steep about 2 minutes (most oolongs can be infused multiple times).

White tea – steep about 3 minutes, unless it's flavored (in which case you may want to steep it for a shorter time). White teas can also be infused more than once.

Herbal, Rooibos and Mate – steep for 5 minutes or longer. Because these "infusions" don't contain any tea (see "Types of Tea: Herbal Infusions"), they won't get bitter when steeped longer and often the benefits of the herbs are maximized by steeping for about 10 minutes.

Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: Amount of Tea

Nick Rose

kukicha green tea

It can vary by tea, but generally you'll be safe with these guidelines.  For a standard mug (which usually holds 10 to 12 ounces), you'll just double the amount recommended for a 6 oz. cup. If you're using a teapot, it's a good idea to measure how many ounces it holds.

Black tea, Green, Oolong and Rooibos – use one level teaspoon per 6 oz. of water

Herbal tea – use a heaping teaspoon per 6 oz. of water

White tea – use two teaspoons per 6 oz. of water

Preparing the Perfect Cup of Tea: Water Temperature

Nick Rose

The temperate of the water when you pour it over the leaves really affects the way tea tastes. You'll want to use the best quality water available and always start with fresh water (so please don't reheat previously boiled water as it will taste flat).

Earl Grey Green Tea

Black tea, Herbal or Rooibos  – heat water to a full boil (212° or lower depending on your elevation)

Oolong tea – heat water until just off the boil (approximately 195°)

Green or White tea – heat water until "steaming briskly" but not boiling (approximately 175-180°)

Mate – heat water until steaming but not boiling (approximately 150° - 160°)

If the water has already reached a boil but you want it cooler, you can wait a few moments until the temperature comes down a bit and then pour it.

Types of Tea: Herbal Infusions

Nick Rose

Atomic Gold Organic Herbal Tea

Herbal tea is really not "tea" at all. It is more properly called an "infusion" or a "tisane" – but you nearly always see it referred to as "tea". It contains no part of the camellia sinensis plant, but is made entirely from herbs, flowers, berries, spices or leaves. Because there is no "tea" in it, it has no caffeine.

Rooibos is also an herbal infusion. It comes from a plant that is native to South Africa, where it has been enjoyed for centuries. It has no caffeine and is very high in antioxidants.

Mate is an herbal infusion that, strangely enough, contains a "caffeine-like" compound that creates an effect much like caffeine does. It is native to South America and was traditionally used by people of the Andes to keep them warm and alert.

Types of Tea: Camellia Sinensis

Nick Rose

You can see from our tea collection that there are several types of tea. Black, Green, White and Oolong teas all come from the same plant: the camellia sinensis (cousin to the garden camellia). Each tea looks and tastes different because of the way the leaves are processed.

Camellia Sinensis Tea

Black tea leaves have been fully fermented (or oxidized), giving them their robust flavor and their higher level of caffeine.

Green tea has had little or no fermentation (oxidation) and has less caffeine than Black tea. It can vary from quite mellow in flavor to more "grassy" tasting.

Oolong is somewhere between Black and Green tea. It has had just enough fermentation for a darker exterior while the interior remains green, giving it a wonderfully complex flavor. Depending on how much oxidation has occurred, Oolongs will vary on a spectrum from almost green to almost black. They are sometimes described as "orchid-like" in taste.

White tea is made from only the tea plant's newest "downy" leaves. It has not been fermented at all but merely dried, so you'll often see little white hairs or down on the leaves. White tea has a very subtle flavor, and minimal caffeine.

Storing loose leaf tea

Nick Rose

Organic English Breakfast Tea

Tea is susceptible to air, moisture, light and heat. If exposed to any of these elements for even a fairly short time, tea will begin to degrade. The most effective way to keep your tea fresh is to use a storage container that is tightly sealed against air and moisture, and also keeps all light out. A tea tin is ideal, but it must have a tight fitting lid. A ceramic canister is also fine, again as long as the lid is snug. Glass containers are usually not the best choice because they allow light in. Whatever container you choose, be sure not to store it near heat (such as a stove) or in a window where it will bake in the sun.

We package ArtfulTea in bags or tins. The bags are specially made, three-ply bags that keep moisture, air and light out as long as they are properly closed. Your tea will be fine in one of these bags for several months. ArtfulTea is also available in reusable tins (with a special, snug lid!) for more permanent tea storage. Consider ordering your first batch of ArtfulTea in the tin, and when you re-order choose bags for decanting into the tin!

How Long Does Tea Last?

Karen Gardiner

darjeeling black tea

Good quality tea is going to be drinkable for about a year from the time it is harvested and processed. However, since all tea is imported and transit times can vary, by the time the tea reaches you it may already be a few months old. It's a good idea to try to use your tea supply within about six months if you want to be sure it's fresh. If it takes you a year to use it, it will probably still taste okay, although you may be able to tell a slight difference in flavor.  (And, really, life is too short to drink bad tea! So drink it sooner than later.)