Monday, August 18, 2008

Tips for Brewing Iced Coffee

by Sarah Ferguson
Just because the weather’s turned hot doesn’t mean it’s time to forsake your beloved coffee. Whether it’s over ice, blended into a smoothie, or mixed into your favorite ice cream, coffee is a great addition to your summer festivities. So when you’re preparing for your big summer bash, don’t forget to brew a pot of your favorite java.

Here are a few tips on brewing iced coffee:
1. Always brew your coffee hot - Coffee is brewed at specific temperatures because it’s the best way to bring out the flavor nuances in the blend you’ve chosen. Brew your coffee as you normally would, and then pour it over ice to chill it. If you’re making small batches or individual drinks, try mixing your coffee and ice in your martini shaker.

2. Brew your coffee double strength - When you’re mixing a drink with ice, keep in mind that ice melts and waters down your drink - especially when you’re combining it with a hot beverage like coffee. If you’re brewing your coffee with a drip coffeemaker, it’s a good idea to use the same amount of water and double the amount of coffee you would use for a half pot. This way you get a double strength brew without worrying about overflowing your coffee filter.

3. A little bit of sugar goes a long way - If you like to sweeten up your iced tea, you’ll definitely want to add sugar to your iced coffee. But because coffee has a slightly bolder taste than tea when it’s chilled, adding a teaspoon or two to the entire batch is generally a good idea. Then set out sugar (and cream) with your iced coffee so your guests can add more to their individual drinks if they choose.

4. Serve your iced coffee with complementary desserts - Coffees from different origins have distinct flavor characteristics that pair very well with specific types of desserts. In order to enhance the flavor of these treats as well as your coffee, it’s important to serve them accordingly:
  • Fresh fruits and berries are especially common this time of year and are best complemented by lighter roasted coffees that have a high acidity. Try serving your berry pies and fruit tortes with our Java Joe’s Kenya AA or Guatemalan Huehuetenango.
  • When you’re serving creamy desserts like cheesecakes, custards, and lemon bars, you want to pair them with coffees that reflect their smoothness. Supreme Bean’s Organic Rainforest, Java Joe’s Costa Rican, and CafĂ© La Semeuse’ Classique perfectly harmonize with these types of velvety treats.
  • Dark, bold coffees coffees are best paired with rich chocolate and heavy cream-based desserts like mousse and chocolate cakes. For a decadent combination, serve your indulgent desserts with Java Joe’s Sumatra Mandheling or Supreme Bean’s Black & Tan.

The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide: Interview with the Author

by: Dr. Phil Domenico
(NaturalNews) I had the distinct pleasure of reading a paperback book by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr. called the Alkaline-Acid Food Guide. It is a short read and quick reference on the extent to which foods affect the pH balance in our bodies. The book is based on compiled research from a number of important scientists who spent their life documenting the pH effect of thousands of foods and drinks. The authors do an admirable job of summarizing all this effort in a very simple manner for everyone to appreciate. Nevertheless, the 80-plus pages of food tables in their book are very useful even to professionals.

Their major premise is that the modern diet tilts the body’s pH toward the acid range, which has negative health consequences. The kidneys, lungs and skin must work overtime to balance body pH toward the alkaline. They do so by borrowing alkaline minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium) from bone and tissue. Muscle is also broken down to obtain alkalizing amino acids (i.e., glutamine). Over the long haul, bones weaken and muscles waste away to compensate, and aging is accelerated. Osteoporosis, muscle loss, kidney stone formation, joint and back problems are among the conditions associated with even a slightly acidic state. The authors also describe many other problems and chronic conditions that could result from what they term chronic, low-grade acidosis.

This book has already had a major impact on my eating habits, and I was already a health nut. Yet, it left me with a number of questions. Since Larry Trivieri and I are acquaintances, and grew up in the Rome-Utica area in upstate New York, I thought it would be fun to have a public dialogue with him. Larry is a noted author and lecturer in the natural and holistic healing world, and is publisher of the free online newsletter, The Health Plus Letter ( . He joins me here in this question-answer forum:

Dr. Felipe: Excuse my excitement, but I find this perspective on health fascinating, and very practical. I realize that you are not the first to introduce this notion of pH imbalance, but no one has ever made it as practical as you and Dr. Brown have. The first thing I did after reading your book was to make a list of the most acid-forming and alkaline-forming foods as a personal guide. Then I went out and bought every high alkaline-forming food I could find.

Larry: So, what have you observed thus far?

Dr. Felipe: I believe that I may be on the way to solving some old, nagging health issues with your guidance. The jury is still not out yet, but I do feel more energetic and happy, the weight is starting to drop, and my allergies are not as bad as before. I’ll know for sure come ragweed and dust-mite season. You say in the book that the benefits increase over time with consistency. I’m looking forward to that.

Larry: As with any health enhancing measure, eating according to the principles Dr. Susan Brown and I share in our book will have a cumulative effect in terms of the benefits people typically experience when they shift their diets to eating foods that are primarily alkalizing. Initially, many people won’t necessarily experience benefits that they notice. Even so, Susan’s research shows that benefits are occurring. Over time, as the body is no longer burdened with a steady diet of acidifying foods, more oxygen and nutrients are able to be delivered to the cells and tissues, and before long the benefits truly become noticeable. Common examples of such benefits include greater energy levels throughout the day, improved digestion, more restorative sleep, and less aches and pains, and so forth.

Dr. Felipe: According to your book, the most pervasive high acid-forming foods in the modern diet are carbohydrates. People should restrict these foods, if they are intent on balancing their pH (and losing weight). Specifically, under refined carbohydrates, you list bagels, biscuits, croissants, bread, sugar (including brown sugar), cakes, corn flakes, farina, noodles, brownies, cookies, corn syrup, croutons, crackers (including saltines), cupcakes, donuts, ice cream, pies, puddings, jams, jellies, pasta, pancakes, pastries, pizza, potato or tortilla chips, and waffles as highly acid forming. Is that a fair assessment?

Larry: Yes. And unfortunately, these are precisely the kinds of foods that are so prevalent in the so-called standard American diet, which goes a long way towards explaining why our nation is afflicted by so many chronic degenerative diseases. Since you mentioned sugar, I’d like to point out that sugar substitutes such as honey and maple syrup are not as acid forming, and that organic sucanat, brown rice syrup and molasses are alkalizing. Additionally, such sweeteners are more mineral-rich than the sugars that are so common in our standard diet, and it’s the mineral content of foods that is one of the primary factors that differentiates whether foods have an alkalizing or acidifying effect in the body.

Dr. Felipe: Certainly, excessive carbohydrates, particularly refined carbs, are known to be detrimental to insulin and heart health, but few experts speak to their effect on pH. What exactly do these foods do to tip the balance?

Larry: They create a bigger acid burden inside the body. This, in turn, forces the body to draw upon its alkali mineral stores, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, in an attempt to neutralize acid buildup. Most healthy people can afford to eat carbs so long as they aren’t refined and are consumed in moderation. But when refined carbs are eaten on a regular basis, chronic acidity, or acidosis occurs, eventually causing the body’s supply of alkali mineral stores to significantly diminish. These minerals are primarily stored in the bones, which explains why osteoporosis and other bone conditions are so prevalent in our culture, whereas, as Susan has verified firsthand in her travels and investigation of other cultures around the world, such diseases are virtually nonexistent among peoples whose diets are traditionally alkalizing.

Dr. Felipe: Most protein sources are acid forming according to your table. The high acid-forming proteins are beef, bacon, veal, hard cheese, mozzarella, swordfish, lobster, mussels and shrimp. Can you explain why this is so? Also, people are not about to give up these comfort foods. How do you recommend balancing this acid effect in a meal?

Larry: We discuss the answers to these questions in depth in our book. The short answer is that neither Susan nor I advocate eliminating protein foods from the diet. Despite the health claims made by proponents of vegetarianism, research shows that few people are suited to such diets, and that for the majority of people optimal health depends on a daily supply of protein-rich foods. The problem is that, in our culture, many people are consuming too much protein foods each day. Excessive protein adds to the body’s acidic burden just as refined and excessive carbs do. The solution is to make sure that you always include lots of alkalizing foods, especially green vegetables and so forth, with your meats, fish and poultry dishes, and to limit the size of your protein portions. For most people, a healthy portion equates to the size of their fist. Anything above that is usually too much.

Ideally, each meal should consist of between 60 to 80 percent alkalizing foods, and only 20 to 40 percent acidifying foods. Susan and I realize that most people are not going to drastically change their eating habits, no matter the scientific evidence that might encourage them to do so. That’s why our book provides so many food charts and tables that contain our nation’s most commonly eaten foods. Using the charts makes it easy for anyone to create predominantly alkalizing meals without having to make too many changes in their eating habits.

Dr. Felipe: While whole grains and many animal products (e.g., chicken, eggs, pork) are also acid forming, they are not as bad as white flour and red meat, according to your food tables. Some of these foods are nutrient rich and healthful in many respects, so it’s a relief that they are not highly acid forming. What about organic varieties of these foods? Are organic eggs or chicken any less acid-forming, or organic beef for that matter? One would think that a pasture-raised animal would produce far less acid. Certainly, it is far less inflammatory.

Larry: Organic food choices are always the best bet when it comes to healthy eating. Not only do organic foods contain a higher amount of beneficial nutrients, they are also free of the various additives, including dyes, antibiotics, growth hormones, and other factors that much commercially grown and raised foods contain. All such additives create further acidity in the body, not to mention the many other unhealthy effects they have.

Dr. Felipe: What makes fried food so acid forming? And, what does browning or charring foods do to their pH effect?

Larry: These types of cooking methods literally change the chemical composition of foods, making them more difficult to digest and significantly increasing their acidifying effects in the body. In fact, one of the primary reasons browned, charred, and/or fried foods produce inflammation in the body is because of the acidosis that they cause. The interrelationship between acidosis and inflammation is discussed early on in our book because the cooking methods you mention are so common in our culture.

Dr. Felipe: I was doing all right until I came upon chocolate in your table. It would have been heaven if it was alkalizing but, alas, it is highly acid forming (as is espresso coffee, another one of my favorites). If these foods are kept to a minimum (one mouthful per day), how much of a high alkaline-forming food, like lime juice or mineral water, would neutralize this small amount?

Larry: I love chocolate too, Phil, and as I’m sure you know, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that chocolate is actually a health food. Similar benefits are also being found for coffee. Again, moderation is the key. I recommend that people who choose to indulge themselves with a bit of chocolate (and for me that means more than a mouthful) simply increase the amount of alkalizing foods they eat for a few days. As for how much alkalizing foods or drinks are needed to maintain balance, that depends on the overall health, including acid-alkaline balance, of the individual in question. Obviously, the more acidic a person is, the more alkalizing foods he or she should consume.

Dr. Felipe: Forget about it, Larry! Giving up coffee is out of the question. However, I don’t mind switching to alkaline-forming green or herbal tea after my first cup of coffee. On a daily basis, could these hot beverages offset one another?

Larry: Yes, especially if you also drink adequate amounts of healthy water throughout the day.

Dr. Felipe: I took the liberty of making a table of selected foods from your extensive food tables, mostly to contrast foods within a category that have extreme opposing effects on pH balance. My next few questions will work off this table. Of course, your food tables are far more detailed, and distinguish among mild, medium and high acid or alkaline foods. I included a few mild and medium foods as well in the table, to feed the curiosity of my readers. However, this is only a small sampling.
Selected Food Categories Containing Foods With Opposing Acid-Alkaline Effects

*medium acid- or alkaline-forming **mild acid- or alkaline-forming

Dr. Felipe: First of all, I made this chart because I believe that the real problems and solutions rest at the extremes. Foods that are mildly acid forming, like stevia, Swiss chard, spinach, peas, tomatoes, black tea, balsamic vinegar, milk, beans, butter, clams, dates, figs, prunes, and mayonnaise aren’t so much the problem when it comes to pH balance. It is more so the prevalence of carbs and meat, I presume, that really tilts the balance. Yes? No?

Larry: What it really comes down to is the overall percentage of alkalizing and acidifying foods we eat during the day. For example, red meat, as you pointed out, is highly acidifying. I happen to enjoy eating red meat on occasion and have no intention of eliminating it from my diet. So when I consume a food such as red meat that I know is highly acidifying, I limit myself to a moderate portion and increase the amount of alkalizing vegetables I eat with that meal. It really isn’t difficult to enjoy the foods we like while still eating in a way that improves the body’s pH values.

Dr. Felipe: With regard to vinegars, it looks like umeboshi and apple cider are the way to go. Vinegar is known for its many health benefits and practical uses. Yet, should we consider using only alkaline-forming vinegars for all these purposes?

Larry: I tend to shy away from “only use” recommendations. Different vinegars add different flavors to food dishes, so enjoy the ones you like. Again, it comes down to moderation and seeing that the overall composition of your meals is alkalizing.

Dr. Felipe: The nut thing is a bit hard to fathom. Walnuts are on the top of my list for health benefits, yet they are high acid forming. On the other hand, chestnuts and cashews are alkaline forming, but do not pack the same nutritional punch. Please advise.

Larry: I agree with you that nuts in general are very healthy and nutritious foods even though walnuts and a few other nuts are acidifying. So I recommend them as healthy snacks and so forth. Given the high quality nutritional benefits that walnuts provide, I wouldn’t be too concerned about eating them regularly. Like any other food that is acidifying, just be sure that you eat enough alkalizing foods to buffer whatever acid is produced when walnuts are eaten.

Dr. Felipe: Most people know that berries are super foods. Should people eat them regularly with acid-forming foods to neutralize the pH effect?

Larry: Actually, I think berries should be eaten away from other meals for the most part, since they are so quickly digested by the body, while other foods take much longer to be digested. But yes, I definitely recommend making berries a part of one’s daily diet due to the many healthy benefits they provide.

Dr. Felipe: Your tables indicate that all seeds, except cottonseed, are alkaline forming, with pumpkin seeds being the only high alkaline former. What a pleasant surprise! I bought a pound of organic, raw (shelled) pumpkin seeds on the cheap, added some sea salt, and now I can’t stop eating them. Are the known health benefits of seeds connected to this alkaline-forming effect?

Larry: Definitely so, at least to some extent, because all alkalizing foods help to support the body’s health. But seeds are also very rich in many different nutrients that are also vital to health. Pumpkin seeds, for example, are good sources of zinc, which is why they are often recommended to men to support the health of the prostate gland. While alkalizing foods are good for the body, I don’t recommend that we make a food’s effect on pH the sole criteria for whether or not we choose to eat it. As your questions indicate, many acidifying foods offer a wealth of health benefits, so I’m all in favor of including them in one’s diet. Ideally, the key is to create meals that have an overall alkalizing effect on the body and also contain nutrient rich foods that the body can make use of in many other ways.

Dr. Felipe: I really can’t believe how acid forming soy products are. Only the fermented forms (miso, tamari) are alkaline forming. Forget about replacing cow’s milk with soy milk (cow’s milk is only mildly acidic). In contrast, whey protein powder is mildly alkalizing. Is whey a better choice than soy powders for added protein?

Larry: I personally do not believe that non-fermented soy products are healthy for most people, and therefore do not recommend them. So yes, I definitely recommend whey over soy as a source of healthy protein. I also find it interesting that Asian cultures, where fermented soy foods are used, generally have lower incidences of chronic degenerative disease compared to the U.S. At least, this was the case until fairly recently. Now, indications are that the same types of illnesses are on the increase in Asia and have been ever since traditional Asian eating habits started to be replaced with eating habits more akin to the standard American diet.

Dr. Felipe: Here’s my favorite topic. Sea salt is highly alkalizing, while iodized table salt is highly acid forming. I use only sea salt, but not the white (leached out) stuff. A good sea salt is grey looking. I’m a big salt freak, and I am not happy that the “food police” are lumping all salts together as bad for you. What is your take on all this?

Larry: I completely agree with you. Salt as it is found in nature is very healthy. One of the reasons this is so is because sea salt contains a wealth of trace minerals that are essential for good health. The problem, as you pointed out, is that common table salt no longer contains these trace minerals. The “food police” and other advocates of salt-free or low-salt diets are ignoring this important point. It is not salt that is bad; it’s the adulterated salt that most people use, which is a completely different story.

Dr. Felipe: What about lite salt? Lite salt typically contains potassium chloride, effectively cutting the sodium content in half. But is this the right form of potassium to be ingesting? What are your thoughts on supplementing with other forms of potassium (citrate, gluconate) to help alkalize the body?

Larry: Susan and I point out in our book that potassium supplements are very useful for helping to restore acid-alkaline balance in the body. Additionally, many people unknowingly are deficient in potassium, as well as other minerals, so potassium and other mineral supplements can be very useful for regaining and maintaining good health. As for lite salt products –- they may be an improvement on common table salt, but I prefer sea salt due to its much higher composition of important trace minerals.

Dr. Felipe: I don’t often recommend potatoes to people who are trying to lose weight, but maybe an occasional baked potato with skin or a yam can’t hurt, given their alkalizing effects. Sweet potatoes are especially alkaline forming and full of nutrients. Perhaps this is a better way to load up on carbs before physical activity than with pasta or French fries. Do you agree?

Larry: Overall yes, though most people would do well to limit their overall consumption of starchy foods. That said, yams, sweet potatoes, and potatoes with their skins intact are healthy foods and certainly far more nutritious than refined carbs.

Dr. Felipe: For summer refreshments, I highly recommend alkaline-forming fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, and pineapple, rather than highly acid-forming soft drinks, diet or otherwise, or milk shakes. Did I mention the difference in calories as well? What is it about soft drinks that make them so acidic?

Larry: Where do I begin? The short answer is that soft drinks are essentially poisonous to the body. Don’t drink them.

Dr. Felipe: Maybe we are not accounting for people’s addictions. However, you mentioned that being in pH balance energizes the body to help people get off the carb and caffeine kick. However, some high alkaline-forming foods are full of carbs. I guess some carbs are better than others.

Larry: There’s no need to guess, Phil. Some carbs definitely are better than others as the charts and tables in our book make clear. The unhealthiest carbs, as we’ve discussed, are refined carbs, which unfortunately are very prevalent in many people's diets. Overall, carbs from whole grains are much healthier choices, as are yams, potatoes, and fruits.

Dr. Felipe: Regarding flour, only oat flour is alkalizing. What foods do you recommend here, particularly breakfast foods?

Larry: While it’s true that only oat flour is alkalizing, certain other flours, such as amaranth, buckwheat and millet, are only mildly acidifying so people really have a number of options when it comes to using flour. As for breakfast foods, there are many options available. I personally like to start my day with some protein, so a typical breakfast for me might start with a glass of fruit juice followed twenty minutes later by a vegetable omelet (minus cheese) or a small serving of chicken with green vegetables. For people who like cereal for breakfast, puffed brown rice cereal with almond milk is a nice option.

Dr. Felipe: On a day-to-day basis, how can a person gauge the pH effects of their diet?

Larry: An early indication of pH imbalance is increased respiratory rate. Another is body odor, from all the strong acids excreted through the skin. The more acidic an individual’s body becomes, the more fatigue, inflammation and infection may be experienced. One can monitor the effects of an “alkalizing” diet by these yardsticks. It is also easy to measure daily changes in acid-alkaline balance by testing the pH of the first morning void urine. How do to so is explained in my book.

Dr. Felipe: Frankly, most people I show the list of high acid- and alkaline-forming foods are disappointed. They wonder how anyone could forgo all the tasty foods for boring or disgusting ones. I'm sure you are familiar with the problem.

Larry: I agree that this is a common reaction. However, as I said earlier, I’m not suggesting that people stop eating the foods they enjoy. Rather, I’m recommending that they try to eat meals that have an overall alkalizing effect on their bodies. As my book shows, this isn’t difficult to do and, aside from unhealthy junk foods, which are highly acidifying, does not require eliminating most foods that people enjoy. By no means am I advocating a diet of nuts, seeds and sprouts. In fact, Susan and I even included a fast food table so that people who live on such foods can at least minimize their acidifying effects.

Dr. Felipe: The way I see it, people are not about to give up their comfort foods and addictions. That's why I advocate dietary supplements to help support the health of people with bad habits. It may not be ideal, but it's much easier to pop a pill for health. Certainly, I would rather they pop nutrients than drugs. What dietary supplements do you recommend for pH balance?

Larry: I agree that dietary supplements are important for good health. The fact of the matter is that even if we are able to obtain organic foods for all of our meals, today’s food supply does not contain the same abundance of essential nutrients that the foods are ancestors ate did. This is primarily due to the fact that the mineral content of our farmlands has been diminishing since the early 20th century. Without rich mineral content, farmlands are unable to yield crops that are as nutrient rich as crops grown a century ago. Therefore, nutritional supplementation is very important for maintaining good health.

There are a number of supplements that can be used to balance the body’s pH levels, and this too is discussed in The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide. Some of the most effective supplements in this area are magnesium, calcium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin D. Multi-mineral formulas can be very helpful for this purpose too, as can green drink powders.

Dr. Felipe: Obviously, you prefer natural over synthetic supplements, but indulge me for a bit. Which mineral supplements work, and which do not work to alkalize the body?

Larry: The key to choosing mineral supplements that help to alkalize the body is to look for organic sources of these minerals, since the organic forms are preferable as alkalizers. Beyond that, I recommend that people monitor their morning urine pH level on a regular basis to see whether the minerals and other supplements they are taking are resulting in a shift towards alkalinity. If they are, then the urine testing should reflect this within a few days to a week.

Dr. Felipe: How long will it take to reach a steady alkaline state?

Larry: The answer to this question depends on the health of each person to begin with. Obviously, the more acidic a person is prior to beginning to eat meals that are predominantly alkalizing, the longer it will take for him or her to achieve acid-alkaline balance. In general, however, if people faithfully follow the recommendations in my book, they will begin to notice their pH shifting within a few days, just as you have. This is one of the reasons we recommend using pH strips to monitor morning urine. As people see their pH values improving, they are more apt to stick with the program, as it were.

Dr. Felipe: I want to thank you and Dr. Brown for providing an accessible and practical guide to a healthier diet.

Larry: My pleasure.

Reference: Susan E. Brown & Larry Trivieri, Jr., The Acid-Alkaline Food Guide, SquareOne Publishers, Garden City Park, NY, 2006

About the author

Dr. Phil Domenico is a nutritional scientist and educator with a research background in biochemistry and microbiology. Formerly an infectious disease scientist, he now works as a consultant for supplement companies and the food industry.

Death of The Blend

The big question o­n my mind at the moment is: are we witnessing the death of the espresso blend? As the specialty coffee industry gets better and better at spotting interesting and complex single origin coffees from individual estates and presenting them to the espresso community, I am wondering if we are moving into a brave new world where blends take the back seat.

These thoughts have been brought to the forefront of my mind as a result of James Hoffmann winning the 2007 World Barista Championships (WBC) using o­nly single origin coffees. Of course, a couple of years prior to James’ victory, Troels Poulsen of Denmark had won the 2005 edition of the WBC using Daterra beans from Brazil. Although not single origin in the strictest sense, Daterra is virtually so as it is all grown o­n the same farm, albeit a very big o­ne, the size of several traditional estates. The Daterra beans are taken from different sections of the farm and combined to imitate a blend. Until James’ success this year, Daterra was the closest thing to a single origin that had been used with any significant success at the WBC.

Clearly Troels’ choice of coffee two years ago was a sign of things to come, and James went o­ne step further this time with his selection of single origin beans from Costa Rica and Kenya respectively. The coffees used in this year’s competition were incredibly complex and produced a real statement of intent for the judges. The two single origin coffees he used are very familiar to me, and represented a very brave choice by James. The Kenya Gethumbwini is an intense coffee with overpowering blackcurrant in the after taste. The taste is bold and cuts through milk very well. This is a coffee that I would never have thought to be a good espresso and I am still exploring it now to find the best of it. The Costa Rican Cafetalera HerbazĂș is a dry processed bean from the Villa Sarchi varietal, and is as complex an espresso as I have ever experienced.

I think those observing the WBC competition this year will have observed that blends have gradually become less complicated and often now have far fewer components than they might traditionally have contained in the past. There has been a real movement towards allowing the coffee to do the talking with signature drinks, presentation and blends becoming simpler. This has to be applauded.

Let me tell you of my own personal preferences. I’ve have always enjoyed the honesty of a single origin in espresso. In my opinion, it is possible to taste and understand the bean in a far purer way. Having said that, the argument that of single origin coffee is o­ne dimensional and thin is also not lost o­n me, but I think much of this can be attributed to poor preparation, or trying to use set parameters o­n every coffee without proper experimentation and consideration of all the different beans holistically. I do enjoy constructing blends and simply enjoying them, but for me each single origin has something to offer in its own right, and I enjoy working with it to showcase those strengths and allow the individuality to flourish.

In the wrong hands coffee from a single origin or a blend can be awful, though in my experience blends are frequently more forgiving. So are we using blends as a crutch for our sloppiness, our poor barista skills or poor equipment? Well, if we are then I don't believe this is automatically wrong. Making use of something that is easy to prepare and is likely to yield a result makes sense both commercially and in terms of effort; but when we want to be challenged, when we want impress and showcase coffees and skills, we may not want to take the easy option. I remember some advice given to me by a seasoned professional roaster at the beginning of my journey in the industry that has stuck with me to this day. He simply said: “Good coffee is never easy”. He never really expanded o­n those words, but each day, as I learn more, the meaning behind his statement becomes clearer to me. With coffee, you o­nly get out as much as you are prepared to put in. Coffee gives nothing away, and it needs a little help to produce and deliver its full potential. I like to think that this is achieved by investing just a little bit of extra care and effort at the growing and harvesting stage, in the processing and milling, in the sourcing, the shipping, when roasting and most certainly in the preparation.

Many of the blends I have come across have existed solely for the purpose of saving money and/or hiding poor beans. This is not an acceptable way to use blends, and I think it is o­ne of the main factors contributing to my dislike and distrust of blending in general. That is why none of my blends are shrouded in secrecy and consumers can have confidence in the product. The o­nly point of blending should be to improve o­n the sum of the component parts, or to create something different, not to mask things that are not good enough not be in there. Consumers deserve better than that, as does the craft of roasting coffee.

As a lover of single malt whiskies, it is nothing new to me that blends are generally not a way to experience the best of anything. All too often they are bulked out by poor ingredients that are not good enough to stand alone. The problem is sometimes whether good is even attainable with the constituent parts being used. I have yet to taste a blended whisky that I would describe as good, and I think many blended coffees are of a similar standard. Yes, of course there are always going to be notable exceptions in any genre; hand crafted blends containing o­nly the best of ingredients are designed to produce very specific, balanced profiles in accordance with the producers’ designs. However, artisan roasters producing blends of this quality remain a small minority within the coffee industry.

Many roasters guard their blends just as ‘Colonel Sanders’ covets his recipe, seeing it as the secret to their success. I think this is simply wrong. There should be no need for it to be a secret. Unlike Colonel Sanders’ recipe which is the coating o­n the meal, with coffee the blend itself is the main attraction. No-one would walk into KFC and expect to be served meat of an unknown origin. In any case, coffee blends are prone to change year o­n year, with crop rotations and quality swings affecting the component beans. Surely coffee is more akin to the choosing of fine wines than a finite food recipe that should be hidden for all time in case it is replicated. All consumers deserve to know what they are buying, and I believe it is imperative for the commercial customer who runs a coffee shop or restaurant, if they have a blend, to know what is in it. The reputation of their business may depend o­n that blend. How can a barista inform and share with customers if he or she doesn’t have any idea what is being sold? Knowing and sharing the whole story and information about the personalities behind individual coffees is a sure fire way to engage the customer and drive quality forward. Just as consumers enjoy finding out about a good whisky distillery; the different production methods and the experts developing the whisky; they are becoming increasingly aware of coffee origins and the demand for specific information is increasing. For consumers, knowing all about the origins of a coffee can be the ‘icing o­n the cake’ leading to a better understanding of what they are experiencing, and, for them, make a great beverage complete.

Now of course a good story without great coffee is like well presented food without the substance of taste, but incredibly tasty coffee well presented with information about how and where it is produced is a winning combination. With coffee blends, I find the opportunity to engage the consumer with stories containing these details is often lost. Even when it is possible to do so, the tale of any specific bean is significantly diluted by the fact there are so many other parts of the blend to consider as well.

Of course, I also look at this with a UK perspective. Here in the UK we don't have a ‘Hairbender’ or a ‘Black Cat’ blend; we haven't really had a blend that people can put their hat o­n and say: “that's a good coffee”. I've never actually heard anyone say either of these are the best espresso's they have ever tasted, but similarly, I've also not heard anyone say they are bad either. Blends like these represent a level, and a bar is placed by them for others to seek to attain.

Maybe the lack of passion shown and the absence of people declaring their undying love for the blend in general is another factor in its perceived downfall. o­n the other hand, I have heard real passion and desire expressed for a lot of single origin coffees. Like many, I have fallen big time for single origins; for a unique Nicaraguan or a perfect Bolivian. I have had single origin coffees that have yielded moments of epiphany in my life; I can remember exactly when and where they were tasted and how they made me feel. I cannot say the same about any blend. Maybe this is because I have not been exposed to blends that are capable of doing the same things for me. I wonder if they exist or if it is even possible to achieve the same things from them.

The UK market has not pushed the envelope; it has not been felt necessary, or perhaps it has not been possible, for those involved to develop a single killer signature blend in order to be competitive. The lack of a big name blend has meant that in our market there has been a much more diluted message, with no o­ne backing and marketing o­ne single blend as “the o­ne”. I believe this is o­ne of the major contributing factors toward my perspective o­n blends. Certainly here at Has Bean we are far more motivated toward providing bespoke blends catering to individual customer needs than to producing a o­ne size fits all solution, which in itself weakens the message of any o­ne product being “the blend to have”.

But Blending can be incredibly interesting and a rewarding education in coffee. My blending experiences with James Hoffmann this year with his UKBC 2007 blend, and last year with his WBC 2006 blend were some of the most demanding, frustrating and the most rewarding of my life. This was where I truly learned that good coffee does not come easily. Working o­n individual profiles and developing the best attributes of component ingredients to make something that was very special as the sum of those parts was really satisfying.

I can think of no better way to push the boundaries than to have a barista with the skills to get the best out of the espresso, working with a roaster capable of obtaining the full potential of the beans in his profiles. I owe a great deal to James for helping me to understand what makes coffee tick in the espresso machine, and also for being my harshest critic.

It has been said many times before, but the truth is that the barista is the face for the consumer, and is therefore best placed to know what is required and how it can be achieved. The roaster is tucked away in the roastery, and needs to be given information about what is needed. When these two forces come together in co-operation, something fantastic can be created for all to enjoy.

I do, think there is a time for a blend in coffee, just not all the time as some would have us believe. In my opinion it is important to indulge yourself, to try single origin espresso, enjoy it and not keep falling back to the blend as the default. Embrace a coffee for what it is; if it lacks a little body because of its complex acidity, enjoy and celebrate that fact. Don’t try to make every espresso consist of the same things. I think for me to say: “Death of the Blend”, in the title was a little dramatic, but it got your attention. I would actually prefer to refer to it as: “The Birth of the Single Origin Espresso”.

How to Brew (Steep) Tea

Steeping Tea Guidelines

  1. Place 1 rounded teaspoon of tea per 6 oz. cup in tea infuser.
  2. Bring filtered, fresh water to a boil. (soft water is best)
  3. Warm the teapot or mug with boiling water and pour out. (For green tea, just fill mug or teapot and add tea.)
  4. Place tea infuser inside mug or teapot, add boiling water and steep proper time (see chart to the right).
  5. Remove infuser and you’re ready to enjoy!

Green Tea is best when brewed at a lower temperature. Let the boiled water cool on the stove for a minute or two, or splash a little cold water in the teapot or kettle, or just fill cold teapot or mug and add tea (no pre-heating).

Good tea is not expensive!
Keep in mind that a pound of tea makes 180-200 cups. Therefore, a $6.00 bag of tea makes 50 cups (33 mugs) at a cost of .12 per cup.


Tea Tasting 101

Tea Tasting

Tea tasting, like wine tasting, pays attention to similar factors: sight, smell, taste and touch.

Usually, a tea tester works for a large tea factory or is involved in buying. They test several teas of the same type, such as Ceylon teas from the same estate. The tester looks at three things: the dry leaf (appearance and feel), the liquor (color, flavor and aroma), and the wet, freshly brewed tea leaf. At home, you can simplify tea tasting by comparing two Darjeelings. Or for fun, invite a friend or two and hold your own tasting.

1) Dry Leaf
You can tell a lot about a tea by first examining the dry leaves. Gently press some dry leaves in your hand. Most new teas are a little springier and less likely to crumble than an older teas. Look for fibers, dust or stalks and note the leaf size. With some experience, you will notice whether the leaf appears shiny and fresh, or dull and stale. Buy a good quality tea and pay attention to its dry appearance as well as its smell. Remember your impression.

2) Infuse & Examine Leaf
Measure a level teaspoon of each sample into infuser. Use white or clear cups to view the truest color. Begin your analysis of the infused leaves as the cups are filled. Smaller flat leaves will show more body than larger twisted leaves, which take longer to steep. Steep the teas for a fixed time, generally three to five minutes.

3) Color of Liquor
After steeping, take in the aroma of the tea and examine the infused leaves for color and evenness. Color does not necessarily indicate the strength or body of the liquor, but every tea has a unique look, taste, and feel peculiar to that tea.

4) Tasting
Now you’re ready to taste the tea. Take a spoonful of the liquid to your lower lip and slurp with force to ensure that the tea is sprayed over the entire tongue. Move the tea around in your mouth, sucking in more short bursts of air in order to release more delicate characteristics. This step is important since we taste bitterness at the back of the tongue, saltiness in the middle, sweetness in the front and sourness on the sides of the tongue. If you were working in a tea factory testing room, you would spit the tea into a waist-high spittoon and move on to the next tea.

It may be difficult to describe your findings at first, but after sampling many teas you will begin to notice similarities and differences in color, taste and smell. Many teas have a typical “character” or flavor profile. You may want to start a notebook to record your impressions.

Tea Vocabulary
Select a few words from the list below to expand your descriptive vocabulary of tea.

Dry Leaf (un-steeped tea)
Desirable characteristics: Curly, wiry, neat, blackish, bloom, clean, leafy, nose, tip, well twisted.

Undesirable characteristics: Mushy, ragged, grey, dull, light, uneven.

Infused Leaf
Desirable: bright, coppery, smooth, self drinking, full, rich, soothing, smokey.

Undesirable: dull, dark, tarry.

Desirable: body (light, medium, or full), bright, brisk, character, point, pungent, quality, strength, flavor, full, mature, self-drinking (does not need to be blended with other teas)

Undesirable: baggy, bakey, bitter, brassy, burned, coarse, common, dry, dull, musty, plain, raw, soft, stewed, tainted, weedy, thin, earthy, empty, hard, harsh, heavy, lacking, green (referring to black tea).

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Water, Temperature & Tea

Water, Temperature & Tea

Water quality is very important to a good cup of tea.

Tap water should be filtered with a Brita or Everpure filter to avoid chemical or other bad flavors. Hard water makes bad tea, so if you are out camping, you might want to bring your own water. Soft water or pH 7 water is best for green teas, and pH 7.9 for most teas.

A rolling boil is usually needed to bring out the full flavor of teas, but lower temps are recommended for green teas to avoid bitterness. Sometimes you can allow boiling water to sit for a minute to cool down, or you can splash a little cold water into the kettle. Try using a thermometer to get a better understanding. After awhile, you'll develop an innate feeling for when the water is ready.

Temperature Scale
(Based on Tang Dynasty tea scholar Lu Yu)

Fish Eyes: 160-180° F.
Tiny bubbles begin to float to the surface. Ideal for delicate green teas.

String of Pearls: 180-190° F.
Strings of bubbles connect bottom of kettle with surface. Good for most green teas.

Turbulent Waters: 190-210° F.
A rolling boil. Best for black and oolong teas.

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Health Benefits of Tea

Health Benefits of Tea

Current research suggests that green tea may prevent cancer, while black tea may prevent strokes and heart attacks.

The Miracle of Anti-Oxidants
Anti-oxidants, which help prevent cell damage, are found mostly in fruits and vegetables. Tea has anti-oxidants too, in the form of compounds called flavonoids. Green tea is high in simple flavonoids or catechins which researchers believe might be an anti-oxidant effective in preventing cancer. Black tea has more complex flavonoids known as theaflavins and thearubiginscatechins, which researchers believe may strengthen arteries and reduce the chances of stroke and heart disease.

In case you were wondering, anti-oxidants go after "free radicals," which are unstable oxygen molecules that damage our body's cellular walls, and consequently damage DNA. "Free radicals" come from pollution, smoke, radiation, toxic substances, ultraviolet radiation, and are even a byproduct produced when the body converts food into energy. "Free radicals" damage our cells, rendering them unable to effectively fight cancer, aging, and other diseases.

Possible Health Benefits of Tea:

  • Prevents heart disease and strokes
  • Prevents cancer
  • Natural fluorides, flavonoids, & tannins prevent tooth decay
  • Anti-bacterial properties are good for the mouth and teeth, prevent bad breath
  • Reduces inflammation and relieves arthritis
  • Strengthens immune system to fight colds and other ailments
  • Speeds up calorie burning
  • Slightly lowers cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure and prevents dangerous blood clotting
  • Although researchers are finding many health benefits from tea, don't forget the fickleness of health research. Tea tastes good, is relaxing, and doesn't appear to have any bad health effects...isn't that reason enough to enjoy tea?

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    Chai, Tea Latte, or Milk Tea?

    Chai, Tea Latte, or Milk Tea?

    Milk tea, or the "tea latte," has moved from India to East Asia to America, and now joins with the European tradition of tea with milk.

    Tea with Milk: Whether you add tea to your cup tea first or last is up to you. Some argue that if you add milk last, you have better control over the amount, but others say that milk protects fine porcelain cups from cracking when the tea is poured, and the flavor of the milk is enhanced when the hot tea hits and scalds the milk. You be the judge. Just don’t add milk to green or oolong teas. Two-percent or whole milk is best. Cream is not good with tea, as the milk fats interact adversely with tea tannins.

    Chai: In India, all tea is called "chai." The most common method of brewing Indian chai involves tossing tea leaves (usually broken Assam tea or CTC tea) into a kettle of boiling water, simmering for a few minutes, adding milk and sugar, and once the milk boils, removing from the stove and straining into a pre-warmed teapot or mug. Indian chai sold by chai wallahs at train stations is usually made this way, and is very strong, milky, and sweet. The unglazed clay cup used for serving is then tossed from the train as you travel down the line.

    Chai Tea Masala Chai: What Americans call chai, should actually be called “masala chai, ” or "spiced tea." This recipe is the same as the chai recipe above, but with the addition of spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and so on. Many families in India have their own recipe, and grind fresh spices at home. Supermarkets now sell pre-mixed concentrates of masala chai that you add milk to and heat in a kettle or the microwave. Chai is also very popular in American coffeehouses, although usually made too sweet. Try our Masala Chai blend.

    Tea Latte: The tea latte probably started in Japan and spread to America. Usually a strong black tea is mixed with steamed milk and sugar, plus flavored syrups, such as almond and vanilla. Be careful that the syrup flavor doesn’t overpower the taste of the tea. You can also brew up some flavored black tea and add hot milk or boil the whole concoction as in the first recipe.

    Milk Tea Recipes
    Recipe #1: Make a tea concentrate by doubling the amount of black tea leaf and brew a mug, or a half or full pot of tea. Fill pre-heated mug 2/3 full of brewed tea, add hot milk, and sweeten. Full bodied teas, such as our Assam Blend, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast or Africa Morning are ideal.

    Recipe #2: Add 1 heaping teaspoon dry tea leaf to 1 cup boiling water in saucepan and simmer for 1- 2 min. Add a little less than one cup of milk to tea mixture. When milk comes to a boil, remove saucepan from stove immediately and strain the “milk tea” into your cup, mug, or pre-heated teapot. Sweeten heavily!


    Iced Tea Secrets

    Iced Tea Secrets

    Iced tea is America's contribution to world tea culture. Because making iced tea is so easy, why not do it right?

    Already by the 19th century iced tea recipes began to appear in cookbooks. But iced tea really took off in popularity when the tea merchant Richard Blechynden, unable to sell tea during a heat wave at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, decided to serve his tea over ice. It was a hit with visitors, and summer's haven't been the same since.

    Today, iced tea is the most popular tea in America. Forget about instant iced tea from a jar; it's too sweet and lacks real tea flavor. Great iced tea can be made with any black tea as well as flavored teas, such as Peach Black Tea, Lemon Green Tea, or even Oolong or Japanese Sencha. If you like it sweet, try using superfine baking or bartender's sugar (you can also make your own in a food processor). You can also mix up a sugar syrup on the stove with a 1:1 ration of sugar to water, simmer for a few minutes, cool, and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you allow tea to cool down naturally before refrigerating, it won't cloud or "cream down."

    Cold Steeping
    In this method, just double the amount of dry tea leaf (2 heaping tsp or 2 tea bags per cup), place in any clean jug and add the proper amount of cold water. Let the infusion stand in the refrigerator overnight or for at least six hours. Strain the tea into a second jug or container. Add sugar or lemon to taste. This is similar to sun tea, which also works fine, but some experts fear bacterial growth may occur in sun tea. I doubt it, but you be the judge.

    Hot Steeping
    Method 1: Use half the hot water you would ordinarily use for hot tea (1 tsp per 6 oz cup), infuse for 3-5 minutes, and pour over a full 12 oz glass of ice. The rapid cooling gives you a crystal clear tea.

    Method 2: Some recipes call for doubling the tea leaf amount, steeping for 3-5 minutes, and then pouring into a container with the equal amount of cold water. This dilutes the strong tea and chills it quickly.

    Fruit Juice Iced Tea Strong tea concentrates are especially great when mixed in a 1:1 ratio with lemonade or other fruit juices. Just be sure the juice doesn't overpower the tea flavor. If you shake this mix with some sugar in a cocktail shaker or in a blender, the aerated drink is wonderfully fresh and light tasting.

    Recommended Iced Tea Blend: Tropical Black Tea (passionfruit, mango, peaches and black tea)

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    World of Tea: Britain & Europe

    World of Tea: Britain & Europe

    The world of tea is rich with variety.

    Afternoon tea with scones and cucumber sandwiches in England; kneeling on a tatami rice mat while awaiting powdered green tea during the tea ceremony in Japan; diluting a strong cup of black tea with hot water from a samovar in Russia; buying a cup of spicy chai tea from a train window in India; cooling off on a hot summer day with a clear glass of iced tea in America. In addition to the hundreds of different types of tea, there are innumerable customs found in nearly every country around the world, and with a little familiarity these customs can enrich your life no matter where you’re from.

    First the basics. All tea, including black, oolong, and green, comes from either Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (China variety) or Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Assam variety). Once a tea leaf is picked it immediately begins to wither and oxidize, much like a slice of apple turns brown after slicing(many books incorrectly call this “fermentation”). If the tea is steamed or dry-fried immediately and then dried, it becomes green tea. If it is allowed to wither and oxidize partially and then heated to stop the oxidation, it becomes oolong tea. If you oxidize the tea leaf 100 percent, you have black tea. Of course there are many other factors that affect flavor, but basically it all comes from one plant.

    English Tea: Traditionally, English tea is a full- bodied black blend, often served with milk and sugar. Over the past couple of decades, teabags have, unfortunately, become common in Britain (P&G and Tetley are especially popular). However, good English tea requires loose tea. Remember that “afternoon tea” is served around 4 pm and is a light meal of sandwiches and cakes, “5 o’clock tea” is just tea and sweets, and “high tea” is a working class supper served with tea around 6pm. The words "high" and "low" refer to the heights of the tables used.

    German Tea: Good quality loose tea has become popular throughout Europe in recent years, especially in Germany and France. People in the northern German state of Ostfriesen consume more tea per capita than anybody in the world, and some of the largest tea importers are based in Hamburg.

    French Tea: In Paris, tea salons are now more numerous than in London, and the emphasis is on quality, variety, and proper brewing technique. Unlike England, where tea is an everyday drink, tea is a special occasion in France and approached in the same manner as wine. The most famous tea salon in Paris is Mariage Freres, which dates back to 1854 and sells around 500 types of tea, including small, muslin tea bags. Of course the French pay attention to food and tea, and sweets include the renowned little madeleines that Proust wrote so about so eloquently.

    Russian Tea: Throughout the former Soviet Union, people still follow the custom of placing a small pot of very strong black tea ("zavarka") on top of the samovar (a small tabletop electric water heater for tea), and pouring some of this tea into a tea cup, diluting it with hot water from the samovar, and then adding sugar, or fruit jam to the cup. Some people scoop a teaspoonful of jam in their mouths or place a sugar cube in their mouth and wash it down with tea. Tea is popular in the afternoon or after the evening meal, and is often served in a glass held in a silver holder with handles. Russians often serve their tea in glass mugs. Most popular are full-bodied black teas from Assam, Sri Lanka, Kenya, or Vietnam. The smoky or orange flavored teas non-Russians think of as "Russian Tea" are not Russian, just Russian- inspired.


    Chinese Tea Traditions

    Chinese Tea Traditions

    Understanding Asian tea must begin with an understanding of China. But that's not as simple as it sounds.

    To begin with, you need to know that not all Chinese drink the same kind of tea, nor do they all use teapots. Let's take a journey.

    North China: If you have the opportunity to travel to northern China, you will likely be served jasmine green tea, often in a lidded mug. From the Forbidden City in Bejing to the sleeper cars on China's railways, jasmine green tea is ubiquitous. It's the most popular tea for northern Chinese.

    South/Southeast China: As you head south towards Shanghai, unscented green tea takes over. East central China produces an infinite number of green teas, and you can spend a lifetime seeking them out. Shanghai has shops with the greatest variety of choices. Hangzhou is famous for its Long Jing or "Dragon Well" green tea. You must seek it out!

    If you journey to southeast China, to Fujian or Taiwan, you'll discover that people are proud of their oolong teas brewed in the “gong fu” style with tiny unglazed clay teapots and cups. Men often make tea this way on tables set up along sidewalks, as they play cards and talk in the evenings. Taiwan has a highly developed tea culture with refined teahouses in the heart of cities and rustic teahouses located in mountain tea fields.

    Pu Er Tea: In southern and southwestern China, the earthy tasting Pu Er tea is commonly drunk, especially in restaurants. Because it is believed to help digest food (especially oily food) Pu Er is commonly served in Hong Kong/Cantonese dim sum restaurants, another of the many fun Chinese tea traditions. A few blossoms of dried Chinese chrysanthemum are often added to the Pu Er to liven up the taste. Remember, if your teapot needs replenishing of hot water, just turn the lid upside down or place it on the table. The waiter will know what to do. Also, after the tea is poured into your cup, you can show thanks by tapping your fingers on the table next to the cup.

    Eight Treasure Tea: Tea steeped with other ingredients is also popular throughout China. One of the most famous teas is "Ba Bao Cha" or "Eight Treasure Tea," which is made with green tea, red dates, dried Longan fruit, dried chrysanthemum flowers, red wolfberries, raisins, rock sugar, and sometimes other ingredients. Ba Bao Cha is a sweet drink and believed to have many medicinal benefits. Ask a Chinese friend about it. More info...

    Lei Cha: Another unique custom found in mountainous areas of southern China and Taiwan, is "Lei Cha" or "Pestle Tea." The name refers to the mortar and pestle used to pound tea, peanuts, sesame seeds, toasted rice, and sometimes ginger mixture and made into a beverage by adding boiling water. This is an ancient tea custom dating back to possibly the 3rd century AD. Lei Cha is especially popular with Hakka Chinese, a sub-ethnic group found mostly in southeast China and Taiwan.

    Tea Mugs/Teapots: Chinese people don't always have a teapot on hand to make tea. Throughout China, it's common to see people drinking tea from glass jars in which leaves are thrown in the bottom and replenished with hot water throughout the day. Sometimes, tea is simply tossed into the bottom of a wide cup, covered with hot water, and allowed to steep. At more formal settings, a tea set is brought out for the "Chinese tea ceremony." In Taiwan, most families have a “gong fu” tea set which consists of a very small teapot, a small decanting pitcher, and several tiny, handleless cups. The teapot is filled 1/3 full with oolong tea, brewed for about one minute, decanted, and then served. The tea can be infused numerous times, with progressively longer steeping times.

    Teahouses: Teahouses, which had been closed down after the Communist revolution in 1949, have now begun to reappear in China. In large cities like Beijing and Shanghai, fashionable teahouses serving all types of teas have become popular gathering places for the newly rich, and Chinese tea traditions have begun to undergo a renaissance. Taiwan tea growers have also begun tea operations in mainland China, and Taiwanese opened the first artistic teahouses in China as well. And so today, Chinese tea is improving in quality and teahouses are once again becoming a part of Chinese life. That's good news for everybody.

    Family Customs: Finally a word on family customs. When a couple gets married, tea serves a symbolic purpose, for the couple is expected to serve tea to their parents as a sign of thanks for raising them. Cups of tea are also set out before the family shrine or in temples as offerings. And tea is always served as a part of socializing with friends, neighbors, business associates, or relatives. Tea is to the Chinese what wine or coffee is to Europeans.

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    World of Tea: Japan

    World of Tea: Japan

    Without a doubt, the national drink of Japan is green Sencha tea.

    When you arrive at a traditional inn or ryokan, you are presented with a cup of green Sencha tea; in restaurants, waitresses often serve you cups or mugs of green Sencha or roasted hojicha; and even the 7-11s are stocked with cold bottles of green tea. Japanese green Sencha tea is one of the most famous Asian teas, yet least appreciated outside Japan. Here's an introduction to the most important types:

    Sencha: Japan's most famous tea, Sencha has been steamed then dried, resulting in a fresh, vegetal taste. Sencha tea is steeped very briefly (1 minute or less) in a tall, handleless cup or in a kyusu teapot, which has a handle angled out the side of the teapot. To prevent bitterness, the tea is brewed using water that is much below boiling.

    Gyokuro is a very high quality green Sencha that is especially green due to the tea bushes being shaded by black mesh netting a few weeks before harvesting. This increases the caffeine content and chlorophyll, producing a very delicate and expensive tea.

    Matcha or powdered green tea was long reserved for the Japanese tea ceremony, but in recent years people have begun to drink it as an everyday tea. Matcha is also used in cookies, cakes, and ice cream.

    Hojicha was invented in the 1920s by a Kyoto tea merchant who decided to roast green tea. The flavor of roasted hojicha is "toasty" and slightly reminiscent of oolong tea. Because of the roasting process, there is virtually no caffeine.

    Genmaicha is produced when green sencha is mixed with toasted rice. It has a very unique flavor that we especially love on chilly days.

    Bancha is an inexpensive, low quality green tea drunk everyday.

    For tea accessories, the ideal Japanese teapot is the kyusu, which has a handle jutting out the side. Tea is brewed for a very brief time and then poured into handleless, porcelain cups. Japanese tea is usually bought in small quantities and stored in small, metal tea containers, with tight-fitting lids.


    Dragon Well Tea: China's Most Famous Green Tea

    Dragon Well Tea: China's Most Famous Green Tea

    Of the hundreds of green teas grown in China, undoubtedly the most famous is Dragon Well.

    It's flat, shiny green leaves and sweet chestnut taste have been desired by Chinese people for centuries. It was first recognized in the West when President Nixon was served Dragon Well during a visit to the area with Premier Zhou Enlai in 1972.

    History: Dragon Well, or Long Jing (sometimes spelled "Lung Ching") is first mentioned as "Long Hong" by Lu Yu (AD 733-804) in his Classic of Tea (Cha Jing). Although Lu Yu didn't rank the tea as extraordinary, his record proves the early recognition of this tea. Lu Yu called the tea "Long Hong." In fact, the Dragon Well name wasn't applied to the tea until the Ming Dynasty, when it was mentioned in a county gazette history in 1609. Tea from this area was mentioned by other poets through the ages, including the Song Dynasty statesman-poet Su Dongpo. Song tea names included Bai Yun (Treasure Cloud), Xiang Lin (Fragrant Forest), and Bai Yun (White Cloud).

    Myth: The unique Dragon Well name comes from the well and village located in the middle of the tea growing area, an area of misty green mountains a little southwest of Hangzhou City in Zhejiang Province (a couple of hours by train from Shanghai). The most popular story explaining the origins of the Dragon Well, is of a Taoist priest living in the area around AD 250 who told farmers to end their drought by praying to a dragon who lived in a nearby well. The rains came and the well became famous. The Dragon Well Monastery still stands next to the well. On a few visits to the well, we've been shown how when you swirl your hand in the pool of water a twisted swirl or dragon-like effect appears deep within the water then disappears. It is believed that this is caused when dense, underground water is stirred and raised to the surface to mix with a lighter density ground water. The dense water then sinks again. You have to see it to believe it. Locals have a story that the well is connected underground with the sea and that a dragon lives within. Perhaps that's what is really going on.

    Chinese Grading System: The different grades of Dragon Well are numerous and confusing. Traditionally, there were 5 grades based on the villages where the tea was produced:

    Lion: (from Shizi Feng or "Lion's Peak")
    Dragon: (from Long Jing "Dragon Well" and Weng Jia Shan "Weng Family Mountain)
    Cloud: (from Yun Qi "Cloud Settlement"), Tiger (from Hu Pao "Tiger Run" and Si Yan Jing "Four Eyes Well")
    Plum: (from Mei Jia Wu "Plum Family Village").

    Today, the best tea is said to come from Shizi Feng, followed by Mei Jia Wu, and Xi Hu "West Lake". All are referred to as Dragon Well Green Tea. From each of these places the tea is further ranked into 10-13 grades. The very finest grade is picked as one bud and one leaf called Qi Qiang or "Flagged Spear" (when brewing, the bud floats like a flag and the leaves hang suspended like spears). The second highest grade is called Que She or "Sparrow's Tongue" and is comprised of a bud and two leaves. Most of the high grades never leave China and are sold domestically. Because of the popularity of Dragon Well, this tea is now being produced in other areas of Zhejiang Province (including ours), yet are still delicious tasting.

    Tea people often discuss the time of tea harvest. Dragon Well picked before the Qing MIng Festival (April 4-6) is ideal, especially tea from Shizi Feng. But even better is tea picked just before the Grain Rains or "Gu Yu" on the Lunar Calendar (April 19-21). In fact there is a rhymed saying that refers to picking Dragon Well around the Qing Ming Festival: "Picked 3 days before is treasure (bao); Picked 3 days after is grass (cao).

    Traditionally, tea lovers described good Dragon Well as having four characteristics: green color, heavy fragrance, pure flavor, and beautiful leaf shape. Of course these are highly subjective traits, but it's nice to think of them when sipping this tea.

    Processing green tea is very labor intensive, from picking in the mountains, carrying it down to the processing site, rolling the leaves to soften them, and then repeatedly hand pressing the tea in hot woks to produce the dry but shiny flat green leaves. During the pan-frying process, the large electric woks are oiled or greased slightly with round blocks of white tree pith from the Chinese tallow tree.

    Around Hangzhou, locals and tourists often visit the famous Hu Pao Spring, or Running Tiger Spring, which reputedly has the most ideal water for making Dragon Well tea. The water has a sweet, clean taste and a high surface tension. Tour guides like to show how water can be poured into a cup and rise slightly above the rim before overflowing.

    The easiest way to drink Dragon Well green tea is to brew in a large mug or lidded cup (gaiwan). People around Hangzhou like to use clear drinking glasses, in order to watch the tea leaves unfurl and the water turn jade green. If you're going to do this, make sure the glass is heat resistant and has a handle. The leaves will mostly settle to the bottom, and those that float can be blown to the side with a few light puffs. Generally, we steep Dragon Well in slightly cooled water (180 degrees F.) for one minute, give it a stir, and then allow to steep for one more minute. You can replenish with hot water and steep 2 or 3 times.

    See if you can notice the nutty chestnut flavors present in China's most famous green tea. And when you stir your cup to help the leaves settle down, don't forget to look for the dragon.

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    Keemun Tea: China's Most Famous Black Tea

    Keemun Hao Ya A Tea

    Although Keemun tea is famous in Europe, especially in England where it's been a favorite of the monarchy for the past 160 years, most people in China have never tasted this wonderful tea.

    Chinese people have traditionally been inclined to drink oolong and green teas, and have only recently begun to pay attention to black tea.

    Keemun (Qimen in modern spelling) is the name of the county in Anhui Province where the tea was first grown. It's best known as the "burgundy" of teas, for it has a rich liquor with an orchid fragrance. This is known in Chinese as a "gong fu" or "kung fu" tea, which refers to the "disciplined skill" required to produce the dark wiry leaves. A higher grade of Keemun is called "Mao Feng" or "hair point." No other black tea is similar to Keemun in taste or fragrance.

    There are two stories regarding the origins of Keemun. The most common story is of the government official She Ganchen, who after leaving office in Fujian Province and returning to his home county of Keemun in 1875, decided to manufacture black tea which he had learned about while living in Fujian. The tea was embraced by western importers and She was able to persuade local farmers to produce this black tea. A second story attributes the tea's beginnings to Hu Yuanlung, who faced with a weak green tea market decided to produce for the stronger black tea export market and opened the Rishun Factory in 1876.

    Today, Keemun is produced in the Anhui Province counties of Qimen, Shitai, Dongzhi, Guichi, Yi, and Guangshan, as well as the Jiangxi Province region around Jingdezhen City, best known for its porcelain.

    Although Keemun is described as having a faint orchid or rose scent, we've often thought it also suggests dark chocolate. Try steeping for 4 minutes, but experiment with longer or shorter steeping times.

    Keemun Morning (a good all around Keemun)

    Keemun Hao Ya (high grade Keemun)

    Organic Keemun Hairpoint (fine quality, intense flavor, organic)

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    Oolong Tea: One of the World's Great, Under Appreciated Teas

    Oolong Tea: One of the World's Great, Under Appreciated Teas

    Outside of Taiwan or southeast China, Oolong (or wulong, wu lung) tea is possibly the least appreciated or understood of Chinese teas.

    And yet, it is one of the most worthwhile teas that combine the freshness of green tea with the smooth body of black teas.

    Produced in Fujian Province since the 18th century, large scale production emerged in the mid-1800s in Fujian and across the strait in Taiwan to meet export needs. Curiously, oolong tea was a popular import to New York in the second half of the 19th century.

    In the English language, teas are classified into three groups: Green Tea (un- oxidized), Oolong Tea (semi-oxidized), and Black Tea (fully oxidized). But in Chinese, oolong refers to one type of many semi-oxidized teas known collectively as “qing” or “ch’ing” tea. The word qing is difficult to translate as it refers to many shades of the color green.

    1. Withering: Freshly picked tea leaves are laid out on a cloth in the sun, and then moved indoors to finish withering. This removes moisture and makes the leaves pliable.

    2. Rolling: During the indoor withering process, tea is rolled in long, bamboo cylinder baskets to break the tea leaf cells, thus triggering oxidation (sometimes called “fermentation.”) Oxidation can range from 15% to 70%, although 20-30% is most common for oolong teas.

    3. “Killing the Green”: After the tea has oxidized on round, shallow bamboo trays for several hours, the oxidation is stopped with heat in gas heated tumblers that look like large front loading clothes dryers.

    4. Twisting the Leaf: The tea is dumped out of the tumblers onto sheets of cloth, and the corners of the cloth are tied together to form a large white cotton ball. These are placed in a machine that has four rotating posts that rolls this cloth ball causing the leaves inside to gradually twist into tiny pellets. This process of “killing the green” and rolling is repeated several times. (Little pellets of tea are desired because they contain intense flavor that is slowly released with repeated steepings.)

    Firing Oolong Tea 5. Firing: The mostly dry tea leaf is finally finished in a multi-tray oven and baked at low temperatures until the leaf reaches a 5% moisture level. This process brings out the sweetness and fragrance of oolong tea. Traditional firing in bamboo baskets over a bed of charcoal is also still practiced and highly valued. Skill in firing can often turn a mediocre tea into a great tasting tea.

    Taiwan has an excellent reputation for producing the finest quality oolong teas (often called Formosa Oolong). The Taiwan government never collectivized their tea farms as happened in communist China, and free market competition, government supported research, and rising incomes have resulted in extremely high quality oolong tea. The Taiwanese are very skilled in firing tea and generally favor lightly fired, highly fragrant oolong teas.

    Famous Taiwan teas include Tung-ting (Dongding) Oolong, Alishan Oolong, and High Mountain Oolong, grown in Nantou County in central Taiwan. Ti Kwan Yin (Tie Guanyin) Oolong is another great tea from Taiwan, which is more flowery in flavor than the darker roasted Ti Kwan Yin tea of Fujian Province in mainland China. Many people are familiar with Pouchong (Baozhong) tea which is oxidized about 15% and has a unique green-oolong flavor. So called “Chinese restaurant tea” is often a large leaf, low-grown oolong tea originally from Taiwan. This is called Formosa Oolong and is not a tightly rolled leaf, but rather very loose leaf tea. Prices for this slightly nutty tasting tea are usually quite affordable.

    Most of Taiwan’s tea is consumed in Taiwan, with a limited amount exported to Japan and elsewhere. We import oolong tea directly from Taiwan (visit our Taiwan Oolongs).

    Mainland China
    Oolong teas from Fujian and Guangdong provinces are darker in flavor and color than those from Taiwan. Most famous is tea from Anxi County in Fujian, as well as the rare “cliff teas” grown in the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian. Many tea names such as Ti Kuan Yin or Dongding are found on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, yet differ in flavor. In recent years, China has de-collectivized and de-centralized tea production and sales. Combined with rising incomes and a newfound appreciation for China’s national drink, the quality of oolong tea has improved considerably. Furthermore, many Taiwan tea farmers are growing tea in Fujian and other provinces to take advantage of plentiful land and labor. They have brought with them highly specialized experience and equipment.

    Oolong in other countries
    In recent years, oolong teas have also begun to be produced in Thailand, Vietnam, India and Sri Lanka. Because a tea transplant takes three years before entering production, and it takes many more years before processing can be adjusted to match the tea leaf, these new oolong tea areas have yet to establish their reputations.

    Gong Fu Cha Steeping Oolong Tea
    Most oolong tea is rolled into tiny pellets and is meant to be steeped repeatedly in very small teapots and served in miniature cups. This method, often called “gong fu cha” or “skilled tea,” takes some education and practice, but is very rewarding. A pre- heated teapot is filled a quarter or third full with tea leaves, boiling water is added to “wash the leaves” and quickly dumped out. Next, more boiling water is added and the tea steeps for about a minute and is then drained into a small pitcher from which it is poured into cups. Several more steepings are possible with progressively longer steeping times. The tiny pellets slowly unfurl and release their full fragrance and flavor with each steeping.

    Certainly, oolong teas can also be steeped like other teas in a mug or larger teapot, but if you are only going to get one good steeping, it’s probably best to purchase a less expensive oolong tea and steep for a longer time.

    Chinese tea drinkers often compare the flavor of oolong teas to ripe fruit, such as peaches and plums. Some astringency is prized, as well as the ticklish and sweet aftertaste that lingers at the back of your mouth and throat after tasting the tea. This sensation is called “hou yun” or “throat resonance.” Flavor and sensation lingers for a long time with high quality oolong teas.

    Soil, altitude, weather conditions, and the skill of the farmer and tea roaster can result in an infinite variety of oolong teas. You could spend a lifetime enjoying and understanding this extraordinary tea.

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    The Mysterious World of Pu Er Tea

    The Mysterious World of Pu Er Tea

    Just miles from the border of Laos and Burma, is an area known as Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province. This rugged country is known for producing China’s most mysterious tea: Pu Er.

    It’s mysterious and fascinating because of the unusual method of processing, the fact that it gets better with age (20-30 year old Pu Er is smooth and expensive), its unusual molded shapes (circular rounds, bell-shapes, small nubbins shaped like small mushrooms, and rectangular bricks), and its magical ability to reduce cholesterol.

    Yunnan Province is in southwest China, and its 20 million people are separated by the steep mountains that rise up sharply, similar to the famous limestone karst peaks of Guilin. Pu Er tea is named for the Pu Er area where the tea has long been traded and sold. The village markets are a fascinating scene, for unlike elsewhere in China, where most farmers dress in the same green Mao coats and yellow straw hats, one sees numerous minority peoples speaking different languages and wearing black tunics embroidered with brilliant reds and pinks. The tea they produce and sell in these markets is the mysterious Pu Er tea. Here are the facts you need to know.

    After the tea is picked, it is fired in large dry woks to stop oxidation. This tea is then slowly oxidized through dry storage natural aging, or quickly oxidized through wet storage fast aging, or undergoes “wo dui” oxidation, where the tea is piled in a warm room and covered with a damp cloth.

    Yunnan Pu Er (stronger tasting, good for multiple infusions)

    Organic Pu Er (mild, slightly sweet tea)

    Pu Er Tuo Cha (tiny nests of compressed tea)


    Pu Er can be categorized as follows:
    Sheng (raw, uncooked) Pu Er: Green tea is slowly aged and oxidized in dry storage. Some of this tea, called young, green Pu Er, is aged for a shorter time and then consumed.

    Shou (mature) Pu Er: Green tea is oxidized quickly by piling in heaps and covering with a damp cloth in a hot room. This is the “wo dui” method, and generates heat within the pile just as piles of damp leaves do in the fall. (Another method is to store the tea in a damp room for a long period of time (called wet storage), but this often creates molds which many consider unhealthy.)

    Pu Er is either pressed and steamed into molds or sold as a loose tea. The pressed tea is shaped into bricks, round “nests” or into round wheels. In recent years it’s been popular to even press Chinese words into the tea.

    The processing of Pu Er tea is unique, and we wonder if it began when teas were pressed into bricks or rounds to be transported on horses long distances to Tibet and Central Asia. Along the way, the heat and dampness of the animals may have triggered an oxidation, which resulted in a smooth tea that got better with age.

    Although people in Yunnan and Tibet boil pieces of tea in a pot and add milk and a little salt, you might not find that recipe very appealing. Pu Er tea can be appreciated like oolong tea by brewing in tiny teapots with very short, multiple infusions. Or you can steep in mugs or larger teapots as well. Experiment with different aged teas (10 years old is mellow, 20 years is even better!), and try different amounts of tea and steeping times. The liquor of good Pu Er tea is chestnut brown and clear (not muddy).

    If you have pressed Pu Er, break off pieces of tea and steep. Some Pu Er lovers will steam the pressed tea first for about three minutes, break up the softened tea, and allow to dry for a couple of hours (in the shade) and store the loose tea in a container. Unlike most tea, Pu Er can be stored in a loose jar without losing flavor. In fact, a little air helps the tea to continue to age and mellow.

    With all honesty, the flavor of Pu Er tea is definitely an acquired taste. Reminiscent of the smell of damp earth or moss, only a few will really learn to appreciate Pu Er tea. But if it really does help digestion (that’s why it’s the preferred tea served in Cantonese dim sum restaurants), and reduces cholesterol levels in your blood, it’s certainly worth giving it a try.

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    The History of Tea in China

    Numerous volumes have been devoted to the development of tea in China. Below is a brief outline of the history of tea in China.

    Early History It's interesting to note that with all the attention given today to the health benefits of tea, this wonderful plant began in China not as a beverage, but as a medicinal herb. Have we come full circle? Early historical accounts of tea are unclear, for the Chinese character for tea had not been standardized, and several other Chinese characters appear in books referring very likely to the same plant, Camellia Sinensis, what we now call tea.

    Nearly every Chinese language book about tea begins with the story that it was the Emperor Shen Nong (probably mythical), who discovered the medicinal benefits of tea around 2700 BC. He is also credited with inventing agriculture and discovering many plants used for food or medicine. But are there clear records of the earliest use of tea? The scholar Gu Yanwu (1613-1681) noted that the use of tea in China began when the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) conquered the region of Ba Shu, modern day Sichuan, indicating that Sichuan had already established the custom and production of tea. Scholars seem to agree on this early date.

    Tea spread through the subsequent Han Dynasty (202 BC--AD 220) as a widely used medicinal herb noted for its ability to clear the mind and cleanse the body of poisons, among other things. After the Han Dynasty broke up, China underwent 370 years of disunity with different dynasties ruling different regions, known as the Six Dynasties. Chaotic, yes, but culturally it was a lively period. Buddhism gained a foothold, and monasteries began growing tea to aid in meditation. Tea was also seen as a better way to entertain guests than serving alcohol. But tea's real history as the beverage we all know and love really takes off during the "Golden Age of Tea," the Tang Dynasty.

    Tang Dynasty (618-907) Poetry, Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, landscape painting, & Buddhism

    When you hear the name Tang Dynasty, keep in mind that this is a 300 year-plus long dynasty best known for its size (the largest empire in the world), the development of China's greatest poetry (which kids are still required to memorize), the invention of landscape painting (though almost nothing extant survives), the busy-ness of the Silk Road (silks, porcelain, etc.), and the cosmopolitan/international character of its capital Chang' an (modern day Xi'an). It was an era when the aristocracy dressed colorfully, women road horses, and Buddhism spread like wildfire.

    As for tea, remember two things about the Tang Dynasty: 1) the tea consumed was green tea pressed into bricks, and was boiled with other spices (juniper berries, ginger, scallions, salt, etc.) and poured from a pitcher (no teapots yet); and 2) the great "tea sage" Lu Yu, who after growing up in a Buddhist monastery as an orphan, traveled far and wide to write the most influential book on tea in history, the Cha Jing, or "Classic of Tea." Lu Yu's careful documentation of tea production, growing areas, equipment, etc. would help spread the influence of tea and raise the beverage to new heights.

    During the Tang period, tea spread throughout China as a popular beverage consumed by all classes, while the aristocracy raised tea drinking to an art form. In fact, so popular was tea that the government began collecting a special tea tax, set up a government bureau to regulate the tea trade, and used tea as a currency in its tributary relations with nomadic peoples living along China's borders. It was also during the Tang that tea was first grown in Japan as well as in Tibet.

    Sung Dynasty (907-1279) Monumental landscape paintings, exquisite porcelain, & the rise of the scholar-official class

    The Sung Dynasty was culturally brilliant , but politically weak. The Sung is usually divided into two periods: the Northern Sung, when China was united and the capital was in the north, and the Southern Sung, when the northern half was taken over by tribal kingdoms and the capital fled to modern day Hangzhou, near Shanghai. Despite the weakness of the period, this 500 year dynasty marks the development of the "classical" China we think of today: educated mandarins who passed exams based on the classics, philosophy and history, and were then appointed to rule districts throughout the empire. These men enjoyed sitting in elegant gardens while listening to music, composing poetry, and creating paintings for friends. They also loved tea!

    During the Sung, green tea was ground into a powder and whisked into a frothy drink with a bamboo whisk. You've probably seen this kind of tea made in the Japanese tea ceremony where the custom still survives (visiting monks from Japan took the custom back home). Tea continued to be enjoyed by all classes. In fact, the government official Wang An-shih said that tea equals rice and salt in that you can't have a day without it. During the Sung, tea production spread to the southeast region of Fujian, which is now a major tea growing area.

    High quality tea produced during the Sung gave rise to the interesting custom of "dou cha" or "competition tea," where people competed not only over the quality of tea leaf, equipment, and water, but also the final frothed bowl of tea. People competed to see who could produce the most beautiful and delicious bowl of tea. Because there was an emphasis on the froth, black and brown bowls were highly prized, as they highlighted the color of the tea and froth. Loose tea, as opposed to brick or pressed tea of earlier dynasties, becomes increasingly common. The teapot, however, had yet to make its appearance.

    Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) "Literati-style" painting, blue/white porcelain, steeped tea

    A brief but traumatic 90 year period of history followed the Sung Dynasty when the Mongols ruled all of China. Their period of rule is not terribly important in understanding tea. By the time the strong and harshly draconian Ming Dynasty was established in 1368, teapots had appeared and the custom of brewing with loose tea leaf was established. Steaming tea as a part of processing fresh tea leaves was largely replaced by dry pan frying, a common practice even today. Powdered tea, so popular during the Sung, faded away, while new teas appeared from Fujian's Wuyi Mountains, as well as scented teas. Teahouse culture was popular with all classes, and performers entertained while tea was served in teahouses and in opera houses.

    The Ming period is also famous for producing perhaps half of all pre-20th century books about tea. During the Ming Dynasty, blue and white porcelain was first produced at Jingdezhen and the famous unglazed, reddish-brown teapots from Yixing became well known. Because Europeans arrived at this time to purchase tea, the west also adopted the Ming custom of using teapots to steep tea. Because the English imported their tea through the Fujian port of Xiamen (Amoy), the English adopted the Fujian dialect word "te" for this drink. Elsewhere in China, "cha" was and is the most common word for tea.

    Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Manchu ethnic group governs China, ornate decorative tastes popular, diverse styles of porcelain, Peking Opera develops

    The borders of China extended farther than any previous period during the Manchu-ruled Qing Dynasty. Throughout the period, China continued to develop new teas, including oolong tea and more varieties of scented teas. Lung Jing or "Dragon Well" tea was popularized after the Emperor Qianlong visited the tea area near Hangzhou in 1751. Fujian's famous oolong growing region of Anxi converted almost entirely to oolong production in the mid-1800s, while Taiwan's oolong tea became a famous export product in the 1860s. The fragrant and lightly oxidized Baozhong (Pao Chong) tea appeared in Taiwan in 1881.

    The tremendous amount of silver paid by Europeans to import tea triggered two important events: 1) selling opium in China as a product to stem the drain of silver, which would in turn trigger the Opium Wars and devastate China; and 2) the British decided to grow tea in India to replace China as a cheaper source for tea. This adversely affected China and led to the further colonial development of India.


    It's difficult to discuss tea in China over the past century, for it was dealt serious setbacks by political chaos and warfare from 1912 to 1949, and by the Communist collectivization of tea fields and closing of teahouses from 1949 to the 1990s. Today, the picture is changing dramatically as privatized family operations are producing higher quality teas, Taiwan tea farmers are investing in tea operations in China, and teahouse culture is being revived in cities. Two other trends of interest are the development of organic tea farms, as well as the production of famous teas, such as Hangzhou's Dragon Well tea, in other regions of China. Right now, we are living through an interesting transition in China, and the future of tea looks positive and exciting.