Google Trends Review of Tea Trends – Part 1


This subject comes up at the beginning of every year:  What’s new in tea and what’s changing (as in this World Tea News article covers).  Usually, that’s none of my concern; but a passing mention of reviewing trends made me wonder if the Google Trends review of what is searched matches up with what is seen as popular. 

I first considered this sort of approach in January of 2014 when I wrote a post about the same theme back when I was new to blogging.  It seemed there was a mild uptake of interest in tea back then, but it wasn’t easy to pin that down to a related hot search term.

I’ll mostly use Google Trends results here to check on how searches match up with different topics.  In the relatively recent past, matcha and boba/bubble tea were popular.  Maybe a bit over a year ago “cheese tea” seemed to come and go, the idea of mixing types of cheese with brewed tea. 

To start, the changes in interest in matcha are familiar to people in the tea industry, or even just from noticing it being sold locally:

Definitely a general increase over the last two years, with a good bit of cyclic variation and spikes over that time.  The same kind of trend occurs with bubble tea (or “boba”):  a bit cyclic, but showing less general increase; maybe not to the extent matcha created an upward trend. I guess bubble tea was popular for a while, so a long and gradual upward trend is what one might expect.

Images provided by author

To be concluded Monday!



A Glimpse Into the Tea Ceremony


Sadou, chadou or even cha-no-yu–as it is often called–is the beautiful, meditative, and serene Japanese ritual of ceremonial tea. It’s also a life’s work for those attempting to master it. But one can never master sadou because it is an on-going meditative practice and there is actually nothing to master except the mind itself.

With three main schools of practice, Urasenke is the most well-known. The other two main schools are Omotesenke and Mushakoujisenke.  These three are known as the san-senke, and have lineage to the so-called founding father, Sen Rikyu. Many other schools exist but aren’t known as “senke”.

Sadly I had to give up the practice due to a pinched nerve from sitting on the floor, causing all feeling to leave my right leg for three months! But while living in Kyushu, I’ve taken it up again with a modern-thinking sensei who turns a blind eye when I shift my position. If you want to study, I highly suggest finding a modern sensei.

If you are interested in reading up on the tea ceremony in much more detail–and from one of the most respected experts–I suggest Kakuzou Okakura’s classic “The Book of Tea” written in English.

But for now, I will attempt to give you a brief glance into this wonderful, beguiling world.

Created by a Zen Buddhist priest named Ikkyu, it was his student, Sen Rikyu (Sen-no-Soueki Rikyu Kouji) who perfected the tea ceremony by refining it into rustic simplicity: Meaning no-frills which could hinder the path to enlightenment. This concept has reverberated into modern architecture, seen in breathtaking homes with beautiful floors, walls, sliding doors, and interiors containing nothing but a vase of flowers. Even a photo of a Japanese interior exudes calmness, which works its magic on you from the pages of a magazine or coffee table book.

It is Sen Rikyu who is often regarded as the father of the tea ceremony, and not Ikkyu. Sen Rikyu is also said to be the father of “wabi-sabi”, or imperfect beauty; and what many in the Western world consider as “old stuff”, missing the point completely.

The tea ceremony was first used as a meditative practice. It wasn’t about the tea at all. The ritual was about mindfulness, simplicity, and respect for the self. The main purpose of Zen, and of the tea ceremony, is to eliminate the unnecessary in life (and we could all use a little bit of that!). After all, the ritual consists of nothing more than “the simple act of boiling water, making tea and drinking it”, to quote Sen Rikyu. As the greatest tea master of all time, he believed that if we all did a bit of navel gazing, we would realize that our human lives are filled with a plethora of ridiculous and superfluous thoughts, cluttering our minds and causing confusion.  To get back to basics by boiling water, making tea, and sipping it we are helping rid ourselves of fantasy and illusion, enabling us to live a more harmonious and balanced life.

Westerners are curious about the tea ceremony because it is just so unlike anything we know or do. But mostly what attracts Westerners is the beauty, serenity, and tradition of the ritual and only a few do it to drink the tea. The ceremony incorporates special handmade instruments used in a choreographed ritual with theatrical precision that centers the mind. Exquisite hand-made bowls are adorned with the finest tea in Japan, whisked into a frothy three-sip gesture of respect.

When the President of Osawarouho Tea Company casually mentioned that the tea bowl from which I was sipping was worth as much as a Ferrari, I nearly spewed the tea on his tatami floor!

We will delve deeper into the styles of tea ceremony in our next blog next month, so stay tuned…and keep whisking!

Image supplied by Camillia Garden



Blast From the Past: Tea For Valentine’s Day


It’s doubtful many people know when and where Valentine’s Day originated.  Today it’s known as the holiday on which people get together, give cute cards to each other, and generally celebrate a day of love.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/seyyed_mostafa_zamani/4266283238/It’s traditional to give your significant other flowers or chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but I propose a different gift this year – tea.  Tea may lack the same romantic qualities as roses and chocolate, but it definitely has some advantages over them.

Unlike chocolate, tea does not contain a significant number of calories.  Though your beloved is surely glad to receive the luscious candy, he / she will surely not be happy to gain several pounds from consuming expensive chocolate.  And, in many instances, tea tastes nearly as good or better than chocolate.

Flowers die.  Tea does not die, as far as I know.  Flowers are quite beautiful, but not so much after they have wilted or dried up.  Tea, however, is sometimes made from flowers and can be consumed, unlike most flowers, such as the tulip.  To my knowledge, no one eats tulips in their raw form except my cat.

If you’re already in the habit of giving tea to your loved ones, how about considering a teapot or a teacup?  There are many beautiful, artistic teacups and teapots, many of which even have flowers on them.  So you could think of it as a “two-for-one” deal.

In terms of specific types of tea, how about giving that special someone a rose tea?  Rose tea would seem rather traditional, as many people give red roses on Valentine’s Day.  Another option would be apple tea, as the apple was sometimes used as a symbol for love in Greek myths.

Speaking of myths, one of the less common ones about Valentine’s Day is about the day when St. Valentine, who was persecuted as a Christian, met the Roman Emperor Claudius II.  The emperor was impressed by Valentine and offered to spare his life if he converted to Roman paganism.  Valentine refused and attempted to convert the emperor to Christianity instead.  In turn, the emperor ordered his execution shortly thereafter, but not before Valentine performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

There are a variety of much happier myths involving this romantic holiday.  I guess those are the ones they tell the second graders, because I don’t remember hearing anything about executing Christian saints in conjunction with St. Valentine’s Day while I was in elementary school.

In any case, St. Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for tea (as is every day), so why not try it as an alternate gift option.

Photo “Heart” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution Generic License 2.0 to the photographer seyed mostafa zamani and is being posted unaltered (source)

Originally posted by Sarah Linton in February 2011



Drones Support 21st Century Tea Cultivation


I got an upset call from my daughter the other day. She was disturbed by the presence of a drone that was flying above her house. I’m not sure what was so unsettling about it, but she investigated her rights as a homeowner and learned that the air above her home did, in fact, belong to her. She fantasized about shooting it down (she doesn’t own a firearm), or sending up her own drone to disable the offender (she doesn’t own a drone either). I suspect this is about privacy and the invasion of her space. She’s quite sensitive to noise so I think that’s what first set her off. When I think of drones I think about war and the Middle East. Do drones have positive purposes around the globe? I think they do!

I came upon a post about how drones are improving cultivation of tea plants.

Dr. Manzul Kumar Hazarika concluded that drones represent an excellent surveillance option this is quite cost-effective.

“The main benefits of the drones are data acquisition at a very high spatial resolution at high accuracy, easy and quick to deploy on demand, no obstructions from clouds unlike earth-observation satellites……drones can add to the much needed speedy surveillance of the tea gardens for pest as well as insect attacks to take actions at the initial stage in order to reduce the reaction time and decrease in pesticide and insecticide volume.”

As more tea gardens are pursuing organic options, I see drone surveillance as a significant aid in avoiding the use of widespread pesticides. Early detection of infestation would be critical in that environment. Dr. Hazarika further said:

“Use of multi-spectral sensors, drones can also create images showing the situation of tea plants in terms of output as well as their maturity levels. Using very high-resolution cameras and maps generated by drones will be helpful in planning and making decisions for plantings.”

Do drones have a role to play in the future of agriculture? I think the answer is: Absolutely. Using drones for positive purposes brings this interesting technology into focus around the world. We will become increasingly challenged by climate change, so any opportunity to get a leg up on agricultural pests will allow tea farmers to support organic farming practices more effectively.

Photo “Flying quadcopter drone agriculture farming” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike Generic License 2.0 to the photographer “ackab1” and is being posted unaltered (source)



Some Facts On Caffeine Levels in Tea – Part 2


Continued from yesterday’s post Some Facts On Caffeine Levels in Tea – Part 1

Teabag Tea Facts

  • Ground tea (in a teabag) has more caffeine in the first steeping than loose tea because of the greater surface area.
  • Loose tea has more caffeine in the second and third steepings than ground tea.
  • Teabag agitation in water (such as repeated dunking) does increase the infusion speed.
  • Teabag size and shape can have an effect on how much caffeine is in the infusion.

From “Tea preparation and its influence on methylxanthine concentration”

Comparisons Between Different Types of Tea

  • When all other factors are the same, white teas (young leaves and buds) had some of the highest caffeine levels.
  • When all other factors are the same, one study found that unfermented (green) tea had slightly higher caffeine levels than fermented (oolong) tea.
  • Tea plant cultivars affect the amount of caffeine. Most black teas are from Assam cultivars whereas most green teas are from China cultivars. Assam cultivars have measurably more caffeine than China cultivars; therefore on average, the black teas we consume have more caffeine than green teas.
  • When black tea steeped in boiling water (90 degrees C) was compared to green tea steeped in sub-boiling water (75 degrees C), the green tea had significantly lower caffeine levels. This result was even more pronounced when the first green tea steeping was discarded after one minute and the second steeping measured.
  • All camellia sinensis tea tested as having higher caffeine levels than the South American tisane yerba mate, despite its reputation.

From “Caffeine in Chiang Rai tea infusions”

This is a very basic parsing of a rather large amount of information. Please do read through the studies below, they are quite fascinating! (A part of me still can’t believe that dunking a teabag repeatedly actually makes a measurable difference…)

Sources
Caffeine in Chiang Rai tea infusions: Effects of tea variety, type, leaf form, and infusion conditions
Tea preparation and its influence on methylxanthine concentration
Factors Affecting the Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Black and Green Tea Infusions
Caffeine in teas: levels, transference to infusion and estimated intake

Photo “Test tubes of tea” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Generic License 2.0 to the photographer Ayman Itani and is being posted unaltered (source)



Some Facts On Caffeine Levels in Tea – Part 1


The other night, a friend of my husband’s was visiting. I remembered that on a previous visit, this friend had recognized my husband’s gaiwan for what it was and asked why he was using it as an ashtray. I explained that we found it at a thrift store and it didn’t have a lid, making it useless for tea; a point he conceded. So I mentioned to him that if he wanted I could make a pot of tea for him. He demurred, stating that he can’t have tea past noon because of the caffeine. I nodded knowingly, and admitted that I can’t have caffeine after 5pm, myself.

This exchange brought to mind a discussion that I had previously with my husband where he had been of the belief that my cup of morning tea had as much caffeine as his morning coffee. While it was a simple matter to find the amounts of caffeine in coffee and tea respectively, it started me researching the caffeine content in tea and the many factors that can affect it; something that I’ve gone back to periodically as a continuing curiosity.

In Michelle’s article Decaf Tea – Au Naturel, she mentioned the lack of data regarding caffeine content of different types of tea and the fact that none of us steep green tea in boiling water. She asserted that this renders any scientific results regarding the caffeine content of different teas effectively useless because they all use boiling water as part of the study. While I couldn’t find any studies involving multiple tea types at multiple temperatures (most of the studies compared only two types of tea in cross-temperature experiments), I did find some fascinating information. Some of what I found seems obvious, but some other data surprised me. Here is a short summarized list of some of the more interesting facts I came across from different studies.

Basic Facts

  • Water temperature has an effect on how much caffeine will be in the infusion.
  • Steeping time of loose tea has an effect on how much caffeine will be in the infusion.
  • Caffeine quantity of loose tea decreases with each steeping; however, this levels off and becomes constant at the fifteen-minute mark.
  • By the time tea has steeped for a long enough duration to have very little caffeine, it would also have no catechins, antioxidants, or any of the other beneficial ingredients of tea. (Or, presumably, flavor!)
  • Loose tea still had noticeable flavor during the second and third infusions. Caffeine contributes to tea flavor, as do numerous other compounds.
  • The caffeine content is influenced by the plant varietal, growing environment, and manufacturing processes.

From “Factors Affecting the Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Black and Green Tea Infusions”

More information and conclusion tomorrow!

Sources
Caffeine in Chiang Rai tea infusions: Effects of tea variety, type, leaf form, and infusion conditions
Tea preparation and its influence on methylxanthine concentration
Factors Affecting the Caffeine and Polyphenol Contents of Black and Green Tea Infusions
Caffeine in teas: levels, transference to infusion and estimated intake

Photo “Project 365, Day 78: Tubes of Teas” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Generic License 2.0 to the photographer Mark Atwood and is being posted unaltered (source)



One Ton of Tea and Countless Teapot Spouts


 

Three exhibit spaces in Los Angeles recently showcased the work of Chinese artist Ai WeiWei (b. 1957) who has lived and worked in Berlin, Germany since 2015.

At the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, 5,929 crudely-built wooden stools from the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) formed a 72-foot square centerpiece, while the walls were adorned by 12 LEGO-brick artworks: Each featuring the head of a Chinese zodiac sign juxtaposing a famous landmark. 2019 is the year of the Boar or Pig. Paris’s Eiffel Tower is the chosen monument to complement the pig head – don’t ask why. This space’s least conspicuous piece–positioned behind the seemingly countless stools–was Ai’s 2006 Ton of Tea, made with exactly one ton of compressed Pu’er tea and through which Ai hopes to convey his respect for traditional Chinese materials and craftsmanship.

Upon entering Marciano Art Foundation’s main hall, visitors were presented with Ai’s 2010 porcelain work Sunflower Seeds–created by 1,600 modern-day artisans–and the 2015 Spouts: A massive pile of teapot spouts from the Song dynasty (960 – 1279), redolent of mouths and yearning for freedom of speech.

 

The third space, UTA Artist Space, did not feature any tea-related pieces.

I cannot imagine any other way to collect all the stools and teapot spouts, other than searching and sorting through discards at major landfills or recycle centers in China.

Different forms of creativity should not be critiqued or evaluated against one another. I can’t help but recall Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit at the Broad last year, which drew a tremendous crowd in spite of the hefty admission fee and long wait time. All Angelinos should have gone see at least one of these three accessible, free-of-charge, and thought-provoking exhibits; yet not many did. I have not become a fan but am looking forward to examining Ai’s other works in the future.



Blast From the Past: Vanilla tea


Have you ever had a cup of tea infused with real vanilla?  It is one of my ideas of heaven on earth and I have been on a quest for years after first tasting it.  In 1985, I visited my friend Herta in Cologne, Germany and one afternoon we stopped at a quaint tea shop near the river.  Herta asked for vanilla tea, and the clerk opened a large brass tin.  The delicate and fresh fragrance of vanilla wafted through the air.  Back home, we brewed a pot of the vanilla tea and my first sip was sublime.

However, my search for real vanilla tea in the States has been unsuccessful.  The teas that I bought either had no taste of vanilla or the vanilla left a harsh aftertaste in my mouth.  I was disappointed.  That is, until I made my own vanilla tea!  It is easy to do and I’ll give you the simple steps so you can do it too.

Make Your Own Vanilla Tea

You will need pure vanilla extract and one vanilla bean, one cup of loose black tea, and one clean jar.  The key is to use pure vanilla extract, and not synthetic vanilla flavoring.  You want to use an unflavored black tea such as English Breakfast – I used Yorkshire Gold tea from Taylors of Harrogate.  Measure one cup of black tea and pour it into the jar.  Then add one teaspoon of vanilla extract to the tea.  Score the vanilla bean down the center of the bean lengthwise and then cut the bean into one-half inch pieces. Toss the vanilla bean into the jar.  Tightly close the lid and shake the jar to distribute the bean and tea.

That’s it – it’s that easy.  Every day, give the jar a good shake and after one week, measure 1 teaspoon of tea (minus the bean) per serving into a cup or teapot, add boiling water, and let the tea steep for three to five minutes.  Voila!  Real vanilla tea with just a hint of delicate, pure vanilla flavor.  Then sit back, relax, enjoy, and savor the sublime deliciousness of it all.

Fun Fact: Did you know that a vanilla bean is the seed pod from an orchid that is indigenous to the Americas?

Originally posted by Kate Dumont in February 2011

Photo “Wanilla Wodka” is copyright under Creative Commons Generic License 2.0 to the photographer McBeth and is being posted unaltered (source)



Tea with Milk….and Eggs and Sugar


When the weather cools, I bring the bold, bright, and lively teas to the front of the tea cabinet. Malty Assams speak to me at this time of year. Their warm honeyed notes also inspire me at meal’s end, especially to flavor an egg-rich but not eggy flan; one of the simplest to make and yet most satisfying desserts: the ultimate comfort food for these stressful times. For the Flan Thé which follows, I like to add some premium quality leaf to infuse the milk along with a fragrant, flexible vanilla bean and some seasonal citrus peel (yes, citrus fruit does have a season and it is now). Cuisines from Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, and much of central and South America feature variations on a theme of this homey dessert–usually flavored with vanilla–though coffee, chocolate, and aromatic spices such as cinnamon, star anise, and cloves announce their welcome presence from time and time. (Even in China and other parts of Asia where milk and dairy are traditionally little used, there are memorable versions or adaptations; the delicious dan ta custard tart that ends a Chinese dim sum meal is just one example; Japan’s bento-box favorite, tamagoyaki, a rolled sweetened omelet which pairs eggs with sugar though it usually appears during the meal and not at the end. In both of these, the tea would be an accompaniment rather than an ingredient flavoring the sweet dish).

Definitely a make-ahead dessert, flan–a.k.a. baked custard–is an uncomplicated but almost universally appealing sweet. When complexed with the flavor of your favorite tea, the dessert experience is even more hauntingly delicious. And bowing to tea lovers further, I like to serve this doused in a tea-flavored caramel sauce. (This is in addition to the caramel clinging to the custards that is in itself a kind of sauce.) Here’s the vital information.

Flan Thé

Yield: 2 servings (The recipe may be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, as you wish)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Half-fill a 2- to 3-inch-deep baking pan with water. Place it on a rack halfway up from the bottom of the oven. Now line the molds with caramel.  

To line the molds with caramel:

3 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar

In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar until it is richly tea colored. Wearing heatproof mitts, carefully pour the caramel into heatproof ramekins or other individual serving size vessels (5-ounce capacity each), swirling the mixture to coat the insides of the ramekins evenly. Set aside to cool. Now infuse the milk for the flans as follows:

  • 10 oz. milk (anything from low-fat to whole milk will work here; fat is the carrier of flavor so don’t use nonfat milk since it won’t be successfully infused with the tea, vanilla, and citrus peel flavors)
  • 1 vanilla bean (it should be flexible and moist), split lengthwise
  • Approximately 1 ounce of the peel, without the bitter white pith, from 1 brightly colored orange or tangerine
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 1 egg yolk, from 1 large egg
  • 2 ounces (scant 1/3 c.) superfine granulated sugar
  • ¼ oz (scant 2 T.) premium quality Assam tea leaves

In a heavy saucepan, simmer the milk for about 10 minutes with the vanilla and citrus peel. Remove from the heat and allow the liquid to infuse for about 15 minutes. Sieve the liquid and return it to a clean saucepan.

In the meantime, using a wooden spoon or spatula blend the egg, egg yolk, and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Stir, without aerating, until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

To the infused milk, add the tea leaves and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse until the tea flavor is clearly perceptible, about 5 minutes. Pour the liquid through a fine sieve into the bowl containing the egg, egg yolk, and sugar. Mix to blend well, without aerating, and now place each of the caramel-lined molds into the hot water bath in the oven. (The hot water should reach halfway up the sides of the molds. If it does not, add enough additional hot water until it does.)  Using a pitcher, carefully pour the flan mixture into the molds and bake for approximately one hour, or until set (when done, the mixture should feel firm on the top but jiggle some when the molds are gently shaken). When done, carefully remove the flans from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. When cooled, cover them and place them into the refrigerator until fully chilled or overnight.

Now make the tea infused caramel sauce.

Tea-infused caramel sauce:

  • 4 ounces strongly brewed Assam tea
  • 3 ounces (1/3 c.) granulated sugar

Brew the tea until fragrant but not tannic, about 3 minutes. Decant the liquid and keep hot.

In a heavy sauce cook the sugar, without stirring, until deep golden brown, but not burned.

Carefully add the hot brewed tea liquid and stir until it is well blended. Remove from the heat. When cool, place into a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until cold.

To serve the flans:

Run a small knife along the edge of the ramekins to help release the flans. Invert onto serving plates. Serve with the tea-infused caramel sauce and, if desired, accompany the custards with a wedge of crispy shortbread or a thin wafer cookie of your choice.

Photo “Flan” is copyright under Creative Commons Generic License 2.0 to the photographer “Scott and Emily” and is being posted unaltered (source)