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101 W. Marcy 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: Tea Spotlight

Japanese Sencha

Margaret Wack

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One of the most popular green teas in Japan, Sencha is a green tea with a rich, grassy taste that has earned it a following all over the world. Produced from the leaves of camellia sinensis tea plants from Shizuoka on the Fujiyama mountain slopes, our organic Japanese Sencha is carefully processed and slightly steamed before rolling and drying.

Like other green teas, Sencha is unoxidized, resulting in lower caffeine levels (about half that of black tea, and a quarter that of a cup of coffee.) Sencha has a rich aroma, a bright green colored leaf, and brews up a vibrant green-gold cup of tea.

Health Benefits

Like other green teas, Sencha is rich in beneficial properties. This tea is extremely high in antioxidants, while containing a relatively small amount of caffeine, making it a wonderfully balanced tea for those looking to explore green tea options. Sencha can also improve clarity and focus, and is the perfect accompaniment whether you’re just starting the day or need a little pick-me-up in the afternoon.

Sencha Preparation

Like other Japanese teas, Sencha is often traditionally brewed in tetsubin cast iron teapots, or small side-handle pots called kyusu. Sencha can also be prepared in a traditional western pot or cup.

Sencha is especially sensitive to water temperature and steep time, so it’s important to prepare it correctly in order to avoid a bitter, burnt taste. To brew a cup of Sencha, use 1 level teaspoon per 6 oz. water, and heat the water until briskly steaming, but not boiling. Steep for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to over-steep. This high quality green tea can be infused twice and it will still maintain a wonderful flavor!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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Himalayan Tea: Nepal

Nick Rose

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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.

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.

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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!


 

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Yunnan Black Tea

Nick Rose

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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.

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.

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Ti Kuan Yin Tea

Nick Rose

Ti Kuan Yin Tea

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.

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. 

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