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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

Filtering by Category: 01 - Black Tea

Lapsang Souchong

Nick Rose

The name Souchong refers to the fourth and fifth leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, farther removed from the prized flowery pekoe bud at the tip (which is followed by orange pekoe and then pekoe leaves). These lower leaves are considered inferior in quality, so it is perhaps not surprising that they were used by the Chinese growers in the Wuyi mountains of the Fujian province of China to create an intensely smoky tea.

Lapsang Souchong

The true story of how and when the Chinese began smoking these Souchong leaves is unclear. A popular legend has it that it was created by accident during the 17th century when the leaves were burned during a raid, or that war caused tea growers to abandon the usual drying process and later use smoke to speedily up dry the tea for market. Whatever the true origins of this pine smoked tea, by the mid-1800s it had become popular in European tea rooms.

And yet, for all its popularity in the West, the Chinese do not drink smoked tea. In New Tea Lovers Treasury: The Classic True Story of Tea, James Norwood Pratt eschews the controversy surrounding the history of Lapsang, and offers instead that “disbelieving Chinese friends have sworn to me that a barbarity like smoking tea could never be practiced in China, where Lapsang Souchong is apparently all but unheard of.” It is said that Winston Churchill liked Lapsang Souchong, unsurprising since this great statesman also loved a good cigar and strong whisky.

Lapsang Souchong is not for the faint of heart; tea drinkers either love it or can’t imagine drinking it. A cup of a well-balanced Lapsang, with its earthy aroma, intense smoky flavor and hint of sweetness, is as comforting as curling up by a warm campfire on a chilly evening. Enjoy our deliciously balanced Organic Lapsang Souchong with or without milk any time of day.

Irish Breakfast

Karen Gardiner

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ArtfulTea customers often ask about the various breakfast tea blends they've encountered, from the well-known English Breakfast to the less familiar Canadian Breakfast. The origins of breakfast blends are a bit of a controversy in the tea world. Some tea historians attribute the start of what we now called "breakfast tea" to Queen Anne, who made it fashionable to drink tea instead of ale with breakfast. Others date the breakfast tea phenomenon to about a hundred years ago when a Scottish tea merchant in Edinburgh created a very stout blend to go with the traditionally heavy morning meal. Queen Victoria is said to have loved a Scottish blend of tea and English tea companies quickly began creating their own blends, dubbing them "English Breakfast" tea. Referring to blends as "breakfast tea" from a specific country caught on, particularly in the U.S.

In his well-researched book New Tea Lover's Treasury: The Classic True Story of Tea, James Norwood Pratt tells us "Tradition is on a firmer footing with blends sold in the US and UK as 'Irish Breakfast' which always contains a high proportion of malty Assam, though nobody seems sure just when the Irish acquired this preference." Assam, known for it's strong malty flavor and bright orange-brown color, is a black tea grown near sea level in the state of Assam, India.

One reason given for the different kinds of breakfast blends is that tea masters consider many factors in blending tea, including the quality of water in a given place. In Ireland, where the water was traditionally considered to be hard, using Assam as a base tea was found to work well. The Irish, however, don't call what they drink "Irish Breakfast" tea – it is simply "tea" and is consumed throughout the day. On average the Irish consume 4–6 cups of tea daily, placing them among the top tea consumers in the world.

There are nearly as many different blends of Irish and English Breakfast tea as there are tea purveyors, so you may want to try several to find the blend that suits you. The Irish Breakfast at ArtfulTea is a blend of organic Assam and Tanzanian black teas rolled into tiny granules creating a very robust and hearty tea with a deep auburn hue. Irish breakfast is traditionally enjoyed with milk and/or sweetener and will certainly deliver a boost any time of day.

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!

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!


 

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.

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