Online Social Networking Related to Tea – Part 1


Odd I’ve never brought this up before; there are lots of places to talk about and learn about tea online.  Writing a blog post about reaching a million answer views on Quora reminded me of the subject, so I’ll start there, and list others.

Quora: you can ask or answer questions about tea on Quora, more or less an expanded version of Yahoo Answers.  Comments work out like discussion threads but it’s not the same.  There is a personal messaging function, just no forum or thread-style discussion area.  I started writing about tea, and ventured into travel and culture related issues after.

lots of Quora stats to add a level of feedback, if one is interested

Tea Chat (forums): unfortunately this site has run its course, related to online forums having a natural lifecycle, but this had been the main dedicated tea forum.  Tea Forum is a more recent spin-off but it’s not that much more active.  Steepster is really a tea review site, also with a currently inactive discussion section.  There’s only so much tea discussion going on to support dedicated forums, and the next entry sucks a lot of the air out of the room.

Tea Forum; a new version of an old theme

Facebook groups: this is where people talk about tea online most now.  I co-founded one active group, International Tea Talk, which is focused on tea themes in different countries, but others have their own sub-themes:

handy that the groups, pages, and personal profiles all link in Facebook

Pu’er Tea Club: about pu’er, not as snobby as it might have worked out, but still what you might expect.

Gong Fu Cha: mostly US experienced tea drinkers, who don’t favor Western style brewing.

Tea Drinkers: my favorite beginner oriented group.

Local / city FB groups:  I’m in versions related to Thailand, NYCLAColorado, and more recently Melbourne.  Groups like these are ideal places to ask for local shop recommendations.

Reddit r/tea: this subforum is unusual, in terms of format and for people not consolidating into a common-perspective group, but it works for a lower experience level general discussion group.  Just as Facebook links personal profile details and interest groups Reddit works to make discussion across a broad range of interest areas available in one place, typically more anonymously.  They just don’t integrate.

Instagram: not a good place for discussion, just about pictures and limited video, but it’s so active for tea themes that I’ll mention it anyway.  I saw a really cool interview about tea culture in Russia by a Russian tea lovers page there but as far as I know those live “story” videos aren’t accessible later.  They do also upload some videos to Youtube.  Youtube is a media channel but not set up for social networking in that other sense, related to interaction.  TeaDB is a nice blog there, and Tea Fix hasn’t got far as a start on a podcast yet but they’re working on it.

Twitter: I don’t like Twitter, the format or the vibe (culture, as much as a grouping that broad has one).  It could work a lot better than it seems to for sharing information, but it can work out for sharing news links or as a self-promotion feed. Some “tea people” seem to use it for that, and to share other updates.

Google +:  that social networking site is nearly as dead as Julius Caesar, but it had such potential.  Google tends to really develop what it knows is going to work, like Maps, or Android, and throws the rest at the wall to see what sticks.  It would be possible to write an entire post about obsolete or marginal tea-themed social networking options but I’ll stop at G+.  LinkedIn isn’t marginal or obsolete but this would be a good place to add mention of it; tea industry professionals add profiles there, and some groups there relate to tea, as with lots of other subjects.

Images provided and copyrights held by author

To be continued tomorrow



Online Social Networking Related to Tea – Part 2


Continued from yesterday’s post

Tea maps:  this isn’t conventional social networking, more like a wiki project, but the idea of groups communicating information overlaps.  Someone just mentioned creating a private version of one on a Steepster thread, a site that already has a map function, as Tea Chat did, both now obsolete.  This seems like a great idea but the details haven’t come together for any version to get relatively filled in.

Reddit’s tea map version

Issues with online groups

The main problem with online tea interest groups–beyond activity tending to drop off at some point–seems to be people being on the same page, sharing perspective.  Facebook groups work well for sorting that naturally; if you talk about scope beyond group theme interest you probably won’t hear much back, or feedback could be negative.  

That’s why it’s odd that the Reddit subforum works; it isn’t sorted, beyond an emphasis on most people being newer to tea.  That’s also probably why it has 120k+ members and almost none of them seem to be regulars, beyond the moderators.  There are some but they are exceptions.  Vendors had seemed to be more active in the past but a few scandals about product promotion inconsistencies may have thrown off the friendly neighborhood self-promotion vibe.

this shaving forum previously had a developed tea discussion theme (here)

Related to self-sorting there seems to be a natural split in membership of people relatively new to tea or else really far along a learning curve.  That makes sense, that to everyone else in between there wouldn’t be as much point.  Others who like tea could just drink it instead, and skip focusing on a learning curve.  Vendors make up half the people discussing tea on the experienced end, and the rest are probably a bit obsessive to take a drink interest so far.  Relatively few don’t actually have some form of business interest.  Take me, for example; why keep going on about the subject?  I suppose it’s a long story, only partly because I am obsessive.

Vendors account for a lot of the interest in social networking about tea, related to doing it, and providing content as a foundation, in some cases.  But even though tea is a potentially bottomless subject to learn about and experience for most people it’s about drinking a version they know and like, so all that only goes so far.

Trying out holding tea tasting events recently reminds me of how important the real-life aspect is to social networking related to tea.  People can all talk about what they bought from Yunnan Sourcing together (in their FB vendor-theme group), but in general, it helps really sharing the drink in person.  

Someone new to tea can try a lot of types fairly quickly through some sort of meet-up or tasting, and experienced tea drinkers can share more interesting versions with each other.  Some teas just don’t come up a lot, and even if the internet makes really local, rare teas available now the range of all types is so broad that you can’t hope to try most of it.  Reading blog reviews only goes so far; sharing teas with each other in person covers a lot more ground, the actual experience.

The two themes can definitely work together.  Discussing tea online helps with reaching out to a broader group for more information and input, and networking there can help with finding local cafes, shops, meet-ups, and events, to bring the experience back into real-life scope.

conference panel; online meets real life, from a post about Polish tea culture

Images provided and copyright held by author



Blast From the Past: Do you love something chocolate-tea?


Fresh off of presenting pairing sessions at the Los Angeles International Tea Festival, which were enthusiastically received, I got to thinking that not only can one pair tea with chocolate, and tea with cheese (yes!); placing tea and chocolate in closer proximity  – in a tea cup – makes for an inviting early fall beverage, particularly for those who like dairy in their cuppa. Tasting a range of single-estate teas from the Assam region in preparation for my pairing sessions, I came upon some which had an almost chocolaty essence which set my creative impulses afire. With a bit of a fall nip in the air, I’m inspired to propose the following.

First: Source some good, single-estate Assams, such as those from Doomni, Langharjan or Nahorhabi with hints of malt and cocoa, buying enough of the tea to use to brew and to infuse the heavy cream required to make the Tea Truffles recipe given below.

Next: Scour the chocolate bar aisles in your local specialty food store. Look for names such as Guittard, Valrhona –  both larger scale producers – and then, look further for smaller bean-to-bar producers such as, Mast Brothers, Dandelion, Theo and Tcho. Check the labels for the percentage of total cocoa solids and cocoa butter content. I like to use chocolates which tend to be a bit more bitter  – 60-70 percent range.

Finally: Buy some good heavy cream.  Now make the Tea Truffles as follows.

Yield:  8 generous sized truffles

1 c. plus 4 T. heavy cream

2 T. good quality Assam (or other favorite) tea leaves

8 ounces high quality chocolate, cut into small pieces (roughly ½ inch)

Place the chocolate into a stainless steel or other heatproof bowl.

IMG_1731Bring the cup of cream to a boil (reserving the 4 T. of the cream).  Add the tea leaves, stir and reduce the heat to simmer, cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes. Now pour through a fine meshed sieve into a small bowl. Add the remaining 4 T. of heavy cream which approximately replaces what is absorbed by the tea leaves. Stir the mixture immediately to melt the chocolate completely – if it does not fully melt, place the bowl of a pot of hot water and stir until it does. Allow the mixture to cool and then scrape or pour out into a flat shallow bowl or pan. Refrigerate, covered, until firm, about an hour. Once the mixture is firm, spoon out tablespoonfuls of it onto a parchment- or foil-lined sheet pan. Chill again, covered. Now remove from the refrigerator and round the rough tablespoonfuls using the palms of your hands.   Store the completed truffles in the refrigerator in a container with a tight fitting lid until ready to use.

Brew your favorite Assam (or choose from those listed above), using 3 grams per 6 ounces of good quality water, brought just to the boil. Infuse for about 3 minutes (taste as you go to arrive at the degree of extraction that you like). Place a truffle at the bottom of a nice china cup, set onto a saucer. Decant the brewed tea into the cup, stir gently, inhale deeply and enjoy!

Image courtesy of Lauren Wemischner

Originally posted by Robert Wemischner in September 2014



Calamity Is Running Out of Tea


“Do we have any more tea?”  My husband held aloft a Tealet tin in which we store each week’s leaf.  

“Look in the cabinet,” I took a deep gulp of Goomtee Muscatel, “I’m sure there’s another packet of Doke.”

“Nope.  Unless you have a hidden stash someplace, this is it.”  I looked more closely: about a teaspoon of leaf remained.  Not enough for another morning of leisurely tea drinking and solving the world’s problems in six steeps. There wasn’t even enough to take on just Oregon’s foibles in one steep.  I searched high and low, finding three dusty tea bags, a small packet of matcha and two ancient flowering tea balls.

This has never happened.  Hoarder by nature and teacher by trade, between well-meaning gifts of exotic word stew blends (cinnamon pumpkin black hibiscus spice comes to mind), it had been ten years since we had been “out” of tea.

We. are. out. of. tea. 

This will never do.  Immediately I got online and put in an order to my favorite tea company and ordered a kilo of black teas, including Giddapahar, Jungpana, Harmutty, Goomtee muscatel, and our go-to Doke Black Fusion.  “That’s all well and good,” Rafe crossed his arms in a most presidential way, “what are we going to drink in the meantime? DO NOT suggest those bloomin’ balls!”

“That’s flowering tea; it’s beautiful.”  Why I argue in these situations is beyond me.  Is there some auto-pilot that clicks on when you’ve been married for thirty-plus years that you argue even when you’re way out on a limb?  

“Why would anybody choose their tea because it flowers in the water but tastes like bilge water?”  To my credit, I did not ask how he knew what bilge water tasted like.

“Lemme run to the store and get some.  I saw bulk tea at Huckleberry’s. I will pick up a hundred grams of Assam.  That should last us until we can resupply.” I grabbed my keys.

“Take the Toyota, will you, and fill it up with gas?” Much as I hate getting gas, I was at fault for failing my tea inventory duty so I agreed, grabbed his keys, and was out the door.  The Toyota is an SUV about four times the size of my Jetta, but I am comfortable driving it.

To say that I found the tea choices daunting would be an understatement.  It’s been at least ten years since I shopped retail for tea. The choices have exploded!

There are HUNDREDS of choices of tea bags in no fewer than three places in the store.  Whole leaf can be found in three places as well.

Finally, just as I was about to experience sensory overload, I found the bulk whole leaf organic Assam and scooped out a few ounces.

The carry-out lad was interested and we talked tea as he bundled my purchases into the bag.  Into the parking lot I went and I did not see my Jetta. I walked up and down the rows of cars, clicking the automatic lock, knowing it would trigger a flash of parking lights. Nothing. Then, I walked up to every charcoal grey Jetta in the lot, coming to two conclusions: first, there are a lot of 2009 Jettas out there; and second, my car had been stolen as I blithely shopped for tea.  Rats.

If it weren’t for bad luck; I’d have no luck at all.  I run out of tea and my car gets stolen and my husband is going to poop a peach pit.  Near tears, I convinced the carry out lad to help me. No luck. Finally, I decided to face the music and call my husband, “Someone stole my car,” I sobbed into the phone when he picked up.

“Your car is in the driveway,” he sighed, “you drove the Highlander.”  

Eureka.  The moral of this story is: don’t run out of tea.

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What is Chaga? – T Ching


What is Chaga?

Chaga is a type of slow-growing, non-toxic fungus typically found on birch trees. The exterior looks like burnt charcoal. This odd-shaped mass found in forests may look like just another mushroom, but inside it is a super powerful source of nutrients and anti-oxidants.

How is Chaga harvested?

Chaga should only be harvested from living trees and great care must be taken to ensure the tree is not damaged or the chaga is over-harvested. The chaga is then dried and broken into chunks or ground into powder. It’s a good idea to make sure you are buying from a reputable vendor. Many Chaga vendors will let you know exactly where the Chaga comes from.

What are the health benefits of Chaga?

Chaga Mushroom is an adaptogen. Adaptogenic plants and mushrooms help to bring the body back into balance and have beneficial effects on the nervous system, immune system, the GI tract, the cardiovascular system, and the endocrine system. By supporting the body and mind in these ways, adaptogens help us to cope with stress, stay healthy during the cold and flu season, fight cancer, and lift us out of the dark depths of depression and adrenal burnout.

Chaga = Massive amounts of anti-oxidants

You already know that eating foods rich in anti-oxidants will help prevent many forms of disease and help you feel better. And anti-oxidant rich tea, such as green tea is a great way to keep anti-oxidants circulating in your bloodstream throughout the day. Because of the way Chaga grows, it accumulates an enormous amount of anti-oxidants over time.

Let ORAC speak for itself:

ORAC (Or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) measures the free oxygen radicals that food or supplement can absorb in your body.

For example, 1 gram of blueberries has an ORAC value of 24.5. Gogiberries contain even more at 400. The tropical acai berry one up’s that with a score of 800. But Chaga is the real champion. Forget 1,000 – 2,000 or even 10,000. 1 gram of Chaga comes in at over 36,000 on the ORAC scale, making this the pinnacle of anti-oxidant containing food!

What does Chaga tea taste like?

Chaga mushrooms do not taste like a typical mushroom found in a grocery store. It has a somewhat earthy flavor with a slight bitterness. It also contains a naturally occurring form of vanillin, the same as what is found vanilla bean. You can drink chaga mushroom straight just like any other herb. But because it is so dense in nutrients and anti-oxidants, the chaga mushroom lends itself to be an ideal component when blended with other herbs. Like cooking with mushrooms, the earthy flavor will complement many other herbs and spices like ginger, turmeric, and honeybush.

How often should you drink Chaga?

Chaga is probably best used as a general health tonic, and 2-3 cups per day seem to be the going dose. Of course, drinking it in a blend with other beneficial herbs will lower the overall dosage, but give you exposure to a variety of other beneficial compounds. Some users will increase dosage especially if they are sick or have an on-going health issue. If you are drinking Chaga for this purpose, make sure you do your research! The “ideal” dose will vary from person to person, but we always like the middle way, a mild serving every day will expose you to a gentle dose of benefits. Like anything else, excessive consumption may have side effects.

Other general benefits from Mushrooms (reprinted from Time magazine)

“Besides anti-oxidants, mushrooms are brimming with phytochemicals which have anti-inflammatory properties and can protect the body from a number of diseases. A study in 2017 found fungi to be the best source of two disease-fighting antioxidants, ergothioneine and glutathione. Low levels of the latter have been linked with higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Mushrooms are increasingly being used to replace red meat. Store mushrooms in a refrigerator in a sealed paper bag, and prep them by wiping them down immediately before cooking. Meaty porcinis are one of the most antioxidant-rich fungi. But you can enhance the nutritional prowess of nearly any variety just by putting a pack of mushrooms in the sun. Putting them in natural sunlight for 30 minutes grew the vitamin D content between 25% to 100% of your recommended daily dose. If you chop them up first, you’ll increase sun contact and maximize vitamin D production. If you want extra vitamin D and antioxidants, grind air-dried and sun-bathed mushrooms into a powder. Mushroom nutrients are heat stable, so they won’t degrade when cooked. Toss the powder into foods such as pasta sauces, casseroles and bread flour for a nutrient boost with a disguised taste.”

Chaga recommendations

Buy Chaga from a reputable vendor. Regardless of pure chaga or a chaga blend, the company should disclose where exactly the chaga is sourced. It’s important to purchase from sustainable sources, and we prefer to stick with North America.



How to Make Iced Tea, Fast!


Guest contribution by Paula Geerligs

IT’S STILL SUMMER TIME. My summer heat survival strategy? A fridge full of iced tea, of all kinds, ready to drink. The great thing about tea is that it counts as water, so you can stay cool and hydrated while sipping on something tasty. And the good news is that you don’t have to wait forever for your tea to cool down. I have some tricks up my sleeves, including a method for making a quick iced tea in less than 10 minutes. This might even be the fastest way to make iced tea (if you have a faster method, please share!)

So, here’s how it works:

  1. Use half hot water, and half cold water
  2. Use more tea leaves than you normally would use

You will also need ice cubes, and a strainer or large empty tea bags.

This is How I Make Iced Tea, Fast!

In this example, I make 6 cups of tea.

First, I measure out my tea leaves: roughly 6 heaping teaspoons, plus a little extra (that’s, a teaspoon per cup, plus some!)

I filled my empty tea bags with the leaves, but if you don’t happen to have tea bags, you can steep your tea loose and pour it through a strainer after!

Next, I poured 3 cups of hot water over the tea bags. Let your tea steep. Don’t forget to cover your vessel! Your water temperature and steep time will vary, according to what kind of tea you use. I used an oolong, so I let my tea steep for 5 minutes.

Once your tea is done steeping, remove the bags, or remove the leaves through a strainer. At this point, your tea is still hot, so if you’re a sweet tea kind of person, now is the chance to mix in your sweetener. Otherwise, skip this step.

Then, add the cold water! I added 3 cups of cold water.

And the final step, add some ice! After adding the ice, begin swirling the iced tea as quickly (and as carefully) as you can: this is an important step, as it will affect how cold your tea gets. Swirl, swirl, swirl!

Here’s another tip: while you’re making your tea, let your glasses chill in the freezer.

And one more tip! Invest in sphere-shaped ice molds. The round ice keeps your drink cool, and melts slower, so your drink is less likely to become diluted.

That’s it! Serve up your tea in your chilled glass, add your ice cubes and…

Stay cool, friends!

Images provided and copyright held by author



Tea Desire – T Ching


As the desire for tea is growing is the desire for better tea happening, too?

I’m a little surprised to see that the tea selection in the grocery stores in my hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan hasn’t changed that much over the years. Red Rose and Tetley still seem to occupy the most shelf space.

While spending some time with family and long-time friends, I decided to visit the senior community of Sherbrooke Community Centre during my stay in Saskatoon. I reached out to them prior to arriving and was invited to do a tea presentation for their residents. My first job as a teenager was at this same community. The street address is still the same but the changes that have taken place there are truly amazing. 

For almost four years, I brought tea into senior communities in the San Diego area, and have kept my finger on the pulse of senior living ever since. I was thrilled to learn of the Eden Alternative Philosophy that’s been implemented at Sherbrooke. It addresses the three dreaded areas of concern in senior communities: loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. (You can learn more about this aging concept here: THE EDEN ALTERNATIVE.)

Of course, doing a tea presentation fits right in with this philosophy!

I also needed to find some tea to serve at my demonstration. In the spirit of what I’ve always “preached” in the tea industry about collaboration versus competition, I reached out to a Saskatoon tea company. In the true fortitude of Canadian hospitality, the owner of Tea Desire, Heidi Aupers, responded to me with warmth and kindness.

Tea Desire opened their first tea store in May 2005. Tony and Heidi Aupers, the founders of Tea Desire, are experienced entrepreneurs. They bring European and Canadian market experience to their tea stores where they stock the finest loose-leaf teas and teaware. (TEA DESIRE CANADA)

 

With two stores in British Columbia and one in Saskatchewan, I’m always more attracted to teaming up with smaller tea shop owners than going to the “big guys or girls” with my ideas.

The manager of the Saskatoon shop, Angella, and former customer Anna–now working in the teashop–were simply wonderful to meet and a delight to work with! So much so, that Angella volunteered to help me with the senior tea presentation.

These were the selections of tea we chose to serve: White Champagne Cassis, Green Strawberry Champagne, Oolong Raspberry, Rooibos Summertime (strawberry & rhubarb), and a Black Lychee. Yes, for my senior demonstrations, I have learned that the flavored teas are received quite positively over pure and “plain” teas. As predominately “prairie” seniors, I knew these flavors would be a hit. I chose the lychee-flavored black tea as something that would be new to them and sure to be a delight. The White Champagne Cassis was overwhelmingly the hit of the day!

I am most grateful that Angella was extremely efficient at preparing the teas we had selected for the seniors to taste because it was a challenge to keep up! The event was very well attended and tables were added throughout the presentation. We were also most appreciative of the four volunteers that assisted with the pouring of the teas.

Over 40 seniors sipped and socialized at our tea demonstration. Due to privacy restrictions with photos, I have only one photo to share of just a fraction of our attendees.

I am currently updating my tea slides to put together a fresh slideshow of my trips to the tea fields of Japan, China, and India to present next week in another tea-tasting event for these seniors using teas from Tea Desire.

Sherbrooke Community Centre refers to their community as a “village.” Thus, providing the feeling and experience of everyone living and thriving together as a village — which is what I definitely experienced with all the helpful hands that assisted me in bringing this tea event to their seniors.

Tea Desire responded to me in a manner most befitting of the village concept. As I have been stating for over a decade now, the tea industry needs all of us! When we implement the “village” concept as it applies to our mission, passion, or vision with tea when we all come together, our individual power ten-folds. If we all applied this sentiment, we would quickly learn that the fearful concept of “competition” and rivaling each other with our tea businesses would no longer be necessary. That place of distrust, beating out one another, getting the jump, and basic survival tactics, is just not a good or healthy way to live. Life is about thriving not just surviving.

Reach out to your community, as well. Many are still new to the world of tea and the experience of sipping good tea. If they are not coming to you go to them! Collaborate; find ways to expose your product and to express yourself and your passion.

Images provided and copyright held by author



Blast From the Past: Tea roses, not rose tea


While reading about roses, I kept coming across “teas” and wondered how roses and teas were related.

What are tea roses?  Not surprisingly, they are so named because the fragrances of some varieties resemble that of Chinese black tea.  Rose historian and author Brent Dickerson elaborates further by comparing the scent to “a newly-opened sample of the choicest tea”.   Tea roses originated in China and were introduced in the West in 1808, a year ancient enough to categorize tea roses as a type of “Old Garden Rose”.  The most interesting characteristic of tea roses may be their petals with their pointed tips and curly edges.   I thought my favorite crimson rose in the garden was a tea rose whose petals have a conspicuous pointed tip; however, through additional reading, I learned that tea roses should be in pastel shades of white, pink, and yellow.

And then there are the widely popular “modern” hybrid tea roses, which were created by hybridizing hybrid perpetual roses and tea roses.  All roses introduced after 1867, the year the first hybrid tea rose “La France” was developed, are considered “Modern Roses”.

rose gardenAt a rose garden, I discovered the dazzling “Rio Samba”, which seemed to exude a tea scent; however, after standing next to the bushes for a bit I realized the tea scent actually came from the foliage.  I asked the gardener which rose was, in his opinion, most fragrant; he pointed to a white rose with seemingly uncountable layers of petals, and I clearly heard him say “Jean Valjean”.   Later I searched for this rose on the Internet, but a rose with such a name appeared non-existent.  To me, this rose is more “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” than “Jean Valjean”.

I have not been too disappointed by not being able to detect the “tea scent” in the tea roses or other varieties.  Many rose growers actually characterize the scent of tea roses as fruity.  I will continue my search.

Originally posted in August 2009, written by Ifang Hsieh



La Vie en Rose Tea


At this time of the year when many wine drinkers turn to indisputably quaffable wines (Read: “rosé”),  I turn to drinking tall glasses of iced tea. But not just any iced tea. My version of choice involves lightly brewed delicate white tea flavored with the fleeting berries of summer, requiring nothing artificial, synthetic or nature-equivalent. It’s just pure berry flavor. Choose whichever berries are best in your area—red or black raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries, ollalieberries.  In truth, everything but blueberries will work; they don’t release a flavorful liquid when pureed. You can use a combination of a few kinds if you’d like.

The method is simple and doesn’t vary no matter which berries you are using. Use 1 quart of the most fragrant berries you can find per quart of cold brewed tea. Puree the berries and then place in a medium-fine sieve over a stainless steel bowl or other container that fits nicely under your sieve with a few inches of clearance between the bottom of the sieve and the bowl. Stir a few times and then allow the mixture to drain of its own accord at cool room temperature for a few hours or–if the kitchen is hot–place the whole assembly into the refrigerator for a few hours.

Brew a quart of white tea using the cold brew method overnight if you can be leisurely about it, placing the loose leaves into a clean glass carafe. I use 20 grams of tea leaves per quart of good quality water.  Lest I run out, as I note the amount of brewed tea in the refrigerator dwindling, I set up another cold brew and allow it to brew slowly and lazily, for at least 24 hours in the fridge, even for as much as two days before sieving out the spent leaves.

Once the berry juice has finished dripping into the bowl, combine this flavorful liquid with the brewed tea, discarding the pureed mixture. Chill further if you’d like. I tend to serve this neat in chilled glasses sweetened to taste with a simple sugar syrup (boil equal parts by weight of sugar and water until dissolved and then cook further until it has the consistency of maple syrup, then chill and store in the refrigerator in a covered glass jar). I feel ice dilutes the delicacy of the drink.  

Place some berries in the freezer in a single layer and freeze for a couple of hours. Use as a garnish, throwing a few of them into each tall glass. Then say a collective “Aah” as you enjoy the drink. All together now…..

Image Source

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Berinag Tea Revives You – T Ching


Guest Contribution by Anirudha Singh Dhanik

Berinag is a Himalayan town located 102 km from Pithoragarh (District Headquarters and easternmost Himalayan district in the state of Uttarakhand, India) and 160 km from Nainital. It is one of the six Administrative Subdivisions (tehsil) of Pithoragarh. National Highway 309A passes through Berinag. The closest prominent villages include Sangarh, Tripuradevi, Garaun, Dhanoli, Bana, Bhattigaon, Banoli, and Quarali.

Berinag gets its name from the Berinag Temple (called ‘Bedinag’ locally), which is a Nāga Devta Temple situated at the top of Berinag Hill. Berinag is among the many temples devoted to Nāgas namely Dhaulinag (Dhavalnag), Kalinag (Kaliyanag), Feninag (Faninag), Bashukinag (Vasukinag), and Pinglenag.

It offers a panoramic view of the Greater Himalayas, from Garhwal Himalayas to the Nepal ranges, especially lofty peaks like Panchachuli and Nanda Devi. The region was famous for tea estates developed during the British rule.

Berinag Tea was a highly sought-after tea in London tea houses and tea blenders for its kippery flavour. This tea was a well-known brick-tea made of leaves compressed into a solid mass and made from the leaves of a wild plant which grows in many localities in the Himalayas. It was grown in the most eastern Himalayan district in the state of Uttarakhand, but is now only grown in Chaukori which is famous for its tea gardens established by the Britishers. Laurie Baker, the connoisseur, loved Berinag tea remembering it throughout his life. Unlike other kinds of tea, Berinag tea is low in color which accounts for the delay in infusion. It is an old saying that Berinag Tea was very popular in Tibet and Daba Jongpen a Tibetan trader made a practice to buy tea from Berinag at very frugal price and label it “Chinese”, putting it in customary Tibetan regime skins to sell it to the  peasantry as the best Tibetan article without giving genuine credit to the Berinag Tea.

After some years, an expert committee was appointed in 1827 to investigate the possibility of the successful cultivation of tea in Kumaon region and a tea estate was set up in Berinag. Soon after, Berinag Tea estate was bought from agents of Corbett by Dan Singh Bist. It was distributed by D.S. Bist & Sons, a company owned by Dan Singh Bist who is a billionaire philanthropist in India and popularly known as the Timber king of India. From the late 1900s till his death in 1964, Dan Singh Bist sought the tea in China, India, and London. The managers of the Berinag tea company discovered the secret of manufacturing Chinese brick tea, and their tea was admitted by unprejudiced Bhotia traders to be far superior to the Chinese article imported into Western Tibet via Lhasa. The secret ingredient not only rejuvenated the drinker but it catapulted Dan Singh like a shooting star. On 20 May 1924, at the age of 18 years, he purchased a brewery from the British Indian Corporation Limited and on those 50 acres began to build a home and office for himself and his father at Bisht Estate. Berinag tea was the number one brand in all three markets: Chinese, London and Indian. These details may be found in the Indian Government’s page of the Tea Board of India, where Berinag has file number B-803/LC and Chaukori is C-804/LC both listed as owned by D. S. Bist and Sons, on page 3 of  the Tea board document. Dan Singh Bisht even managed to get handsome quota money from the Tea Board Association Calcutta, something both Corbett, as well as the previous owner Robert Bellairs’ father (from whom Corbett had bought Berinag) had failed to do. Gradually the business declined, and by 1960 only a small tea garden survived. However, after his death the tea estate was taken over by settlers and encroached. Berinag was home to one of the best tea gardens in the country until Dan Singh Bisht died.

In the famous book “Footloose in the Himalayas” written by William McKay Aitken, regarding Berinag Tea he said the packaging was just the same as it was in the 1930s: Printed on one side of the box is the advertisement “Berinag Tea Revives You”, at the top is the claim “fresh from garden”, below which the garden itself is depicted. Beneath three snowy peaks runs a long factory building at chaukori with a red tin roof. Picking the tea bushes are the three ladies all with ebony bobbed hair. The girl in the foreground looks convent educated and carries on her back the long wicker basket peculiar to Kumaun. What is intriguing is the girl’s dress: Her salvar kameej is more Chinese than Indian and sports a mandarin collar.

Woefully the brand is forgotten except by older generations. The accidental death of the magnate Dan Singh Bist in 1964 left the brand without a successor. It’s disheartening to see the current condition of the tea gardens. But for now, let’s hope for the best.

References

  1.  “Tourist Spots” . Themistymountains.in. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 April 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  2.  “Tea Board of India Licensing Department” (PDF). Teaboard.gov.in. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  3.  “U’khand tea: Raj days’ flavour goes brandless”. Hindustantimes.com. 2014-09-17. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  4. “Full text of “Western Tibet and the British Borderland: The Sacred Country of Hindus and Buddhists, with an …””. Archive.org. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  5. “The Other Side of Laurie Baker – Elizabeth Baker – Google Books”. Books.google.co.in. 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  6. “Berinaag – WikiUttarakhand”. Bedupako.wikifoundry.com. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  7. “Footloose in the Himalaya – Bill Aitken – Google Books”. Books.google.co.in. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  8. “Uttarakhand Worldwide • View topic – Have a Cup of Tea”. Uttaranchal.org.uk. 2005-08-05. Retrieved 2015-04-16.
  9. Mittal, Arun K. British Administration in Kumaon Himalayas: A Historical Study, 1815-1947.