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Making Dragonwell tea is a complex process: it requires many hours of manual labor, skilled workers, and just the right cultivation methods to produce one of the finest teas in China. The style of Dragonwell tea preparation perfected on Lion Peak Mountain (a mountain in the western part of Zehjiang province) has been emulated by numerous plantations around China, but subtle variations in growing and manufacture result in products of various qualities.
Location, Location, Location
All the processing in the world won’t make a bit of difference if the starting product is no good, and to grow the best tea leaves, you need optimal conditions for the tea plant. The best Dragonwell tea comes from plantations at high altitudes in moderate climates with high humidity and lots of rainfall. Lion Peak Mountain, the source of the first Dragonwell teas, has a topography that maximizes rainfall and moisture retention and soil that is high in phosphorus and mildly acidic. Factors such as these, combined with a legion of highly trained tea workers, result in the ideal Dragonwell tea leaf, but there are still many steps between the tea tree and your teacup.
The Art of the Harvest
The artistry involved in merely picking the Dragonwell tea leaves is exceptional. Workers must only collect terminal buds and another leaf or two (often referred to as a “bud set”), and they must be cautious not to tear or otherwise damage the leaves; all bud sets in Dragonwell tea must be pristine.
Even the harvesting season is meticulously managed; traditional harvest begins on March 20th and ends April 20th, leaving workers a meager four weeks in the fields! This is all the more astounding when one considers that skillful tea harvesters may only gather two kilograms of tea in the span of ten hours, which will amount to roughly a quarter of that weight in processed tea product.
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January 22 2011 | Organic Tea Facts and Products | 1 Comment »
We’re thrilled to introduce our latest addition to our catalog of organic loose teas: organic Schizandra White Tea! This combination of organic white tea and schizandra berries is not your average blend!
Schizandra (aka “Magnolia Vine”) is a genus of hardy deciduous climbing shrubs native to East Asia. Schizandra berries are given the name wu wei zi in Chinese, which translates as “five flavor fruit” because they exhibit all five basic flavors in Chinese herbal medicine: salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy), and bitter. This complex flavor profile plays a supporting role to the fresh, smooth and aromatic character of the organic white tea leaves and sweet-citrusy touch of tangerine flavor. A knock-out choice hot or brewed!
The dried fruit of the schizandra plant is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is believed to provide a remedy for many ailments: to resist infections, increase skin health, and combat insomnia, coughing, and thirst. Modern medical research suggests that Schizandra is particularly effective in protecting the liver, with clinical trials pointing to a benefit to those with chronic viral hepatitis. In combination with antioxidant-packed Bai Mu Dan white tea leaves, this blend is potentially as healthy as it is tasty!
June 30 2010 | Products | 5 Comments »
This is always an exciting time of the year at Arbor Teas, as we welcome the arrival of the 2010 Makaibari First Flush Darjeeling! The first flush harvest is the first picking of 2010, and marks the beginning of the new tea season in India. This year’s First Flush is outstanding – a major improvement over last year’s drought-ridden crop – with a very dry mouth feel that has nuances of green and black tea that is slightly flowery, with fruity notes of Muscat grape. Truly a delight, it perfectly represents the “champagne” of Indian tea. This outstanding tea is Fair Trade Certified, and organic & biodynamically farmed at the Makaibari estate in India’s Darjeeling district. Established in 1859, Markaibari is the oldest estate in Darjeeling, where a strong commitment to sustainable farming prevails.
Please Note: We recommend infusing this tea with a slightly lower water temperature and shorter steeping time than that of other black teas (maybe 2-3 minutes at 180 degrees F).
June 30 2010 | Products | 2 Comments »
Beginning on Earth Day 2010, Arbor Teas became the first tea company to deliver its full line of organic loose teas in 100% backyard compostable packaging! With the release of this next generation packaging, we at Arbor Teas advanced our environmental mission, continuing to lead the tea industry through our staunch commitment to sustainable business practices. For the first time ever, tea drinkers are now able to compost their tea leaves AND tea packaging together in their home composting system!
ABOUT OUR BACKYARD COMPOSTABLE TEA PACKAGING
Our exciting new packaging is composed of a cellulose film made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably-managed trees. Most compostable packaging available in today’s marketplace is only truly compostable in industrial settings optimized for rapid breakdown. By contrast, the films used for Arbor Teas’ new packaging can actually breakdown in a backyard compost setting.
Because of greater variation in moisture and temperature, backyard composting environments have historically been incapable of breaking down so-called “compostable” packaging materials (e.g. corn plastic cups and take-out containers and the like). However, the material chosen for Arbor Teas’ new packages requires a less optimized environment for biodegradation, representing a major advancement in low-impact packaging. continue reading »
April 22 2010 | Green Business and Products and Sustainability | 4 Comments »
One of our traditional blends at Arbor Teas is our ever-popular organic Irish Breakfast tea. With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I got to wondering about this particular blend. Where did the flavor profile come from and why is it so popular in Ireland?
One of Ireland’s most famous (and most consumed) brands of tea, Barry’s Tea, claims that on average the Irish consume up to 6 cups of tea per day! And if that doesn’t convince you that the Irish drink a lot of tea, this statistic will: Ireland is one of the largest tea consumers per capita in the world! Now in my opinion that is a boat load of tea. What led Ireland to become such a large tea drinking country?
The history of tea in Ireland is similar to that of England (another well known tea drinking country). It was initially introduced to the upper class in the early 1800s and later spread to the rural and lower class in the mid 1800s. The tea that was available to the average Irish citizen was usually of poor quality and brewed strong, therefore it was consumed with plenty of milk. This tradition of brewing strong tea and adding milk is still prevalent today. We at Arbor Teas describe our Irish Breakfast blend as “so strong you could stand your spoon up in it,” and that is no joke.
Strong tea is preferred by the Irish – often continuously brewed on the stove all day long. Tea became so popular in Ireland that on May 8, 1910, The New York Times printed an article titled “Tea is Ireland’s Evil – Ranks before Alcohol as an Enemy of Public Health.” This now antiquated article (amazing how science has changed our perception of this healthful beverage!) relates that even within the most inaccessible communities in Ireland “The teapot stewing on the hearth all day long is literally on tap; the members of the family, young as well as old, resorting to it at discretion.”
It wasn’t until World War II that Ireland’s history with tea diverged from that of England. Up until WWII, Ireland received most of its tea from the English auction houses, importing little from countries of origin. However, during WWII Ireland took a neutral stand and refused to allow Britain to use its western ports. As a result, Ireland’s tea ration was drastically cut. With the help of newly adopted post-WWII laws, Ireland began importing its own tea direct from source and to diverge from Britain’s traditional tea flavor profile. continue reading »
March 07 2010 | Miscellaneous and Products and Tea Facts | 10 Comments »
With immense pleasure we at Arbor Teas would like to introduce you to Nancy Biehn, Chief Executive Chocolatier of Sweet Gem Confections, an artisan chocolate shop located right here in our hometown, Ann Arbor, MI. Over the past few months a sweet collaboration has been forming between Nancy and us—we’ve teamed up to bring you handcrafted, organic tea-infused truffles!
Simply delighted to be a part of this exciting project, I dropped in on Nancy one evening to observe her master craftsmanship firsthand. The display of chocolate mastery I witnessed was nothing short of amazing! She was making a white chocolate, masala chai tea ganache that, when cooled, would be rolled into orbs and dipped in white chocolate. Without missing a beat while attending to all the stirring, cooling and additional stirring that the ganache required, Nancy poured perfectly tempered milk chocolate into shell-shaped molds, turning out the excess onto her parchment-covered workbench in a spectacle that can aptly be described as a chocolate “rain shower.” These shells will eventually enclose earl grey black tea-infused milk chocolate ganache. While those were cooling, she painted a shimmery campfire motif on the tops of a batch of 65% cacao dark chocolate Laspang Souchong truffles. Talk about a multi-tasker!
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November 03 2009 | Cooking with Tea and Products and Tea Fun | 4 Comments »
This month, we’re very excited to announce the replacement of our previous water-process decaffeinated teas with our new CO2 decaffeinated offerings. But many of our enviro-conscious customers may be wondering why we’re so excited about using CO2 for anything related to our generally Earth-friendly little tea company. Don’t we go to great lengths to eliminate or offset the emission of CO2 from our business? Well here’s a bit of background to explain why CO2 isn’t so bad for decaffeinating tea.
How CO2 Decaffeination Works
CO2 is a non-toxic, nonflammable, colorless and odorless gas which is a naturally-occurring part of the air we breathe. Although elevated levels of CO2 in our atmosphere contribute to global warming, it’s generally a pretty inert substance. Under pressure and temperature, however, CO2 is able to flow freely through natural materials (like tea) and has strong solvent capabilities. This is called its “supercritical” state (which is why CO2 decaffeination is also referred to as “supercritial CO2 decaffeination” or “supercritical fluid extraction,” but this is a blog for tea drinkers, not chemists…). continue reading »
November 30 2008 | Products and Tea Facts | 6 Comments »
One of the many new and exciting products added to our catalog this fall is our organic Matcha Green Tea. Matcha is a variety of Japanese green tea that is stone ground at the end of the manufacturing process, resulting an ultra-fine tea powder that is typically whisked in hot water until a frothy consistency is reached, as in the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. The resulting brew has much more body and flavor than tea brewed in a conventional fashion, with a thick, rich green taste and slight bitterness. Drinking matcha has been found to be even healthier than normal green tea, because the entire tea leaf is consumed when matcha is drunk – not just the infusion as with normal teas.
To brew, measure approximately one teaspoon of matcha and place it in a pre-warmed bowl with approximately 1.5 oz. of water at 175°. This is roughly two almond-sized portions when using a traditional bamboo matcha scoop (or “chashaku”). Whisk vigorously in a back-and-forth motion using a traditional bamboo matcha whisk (or “chasen”) until frothy, making sure not to press the whisk down against the bottom of the bowl. After whisking, the matcha is ready to drunk directly from the bowl.
In addition to this traditional method of preparation, matcha is more and more frequently used as a cooking ingredient. It’s often added to shakes, smoothies, and ice creams, lending a flavor that is at once sweet, bitter and savory. But whether you’re brewing it or cooking with it, you should definitely try some today!
November 30 2008 | Products and Tea Preparation | 1 Comment »
Yixing clay teapots (also called “purple sand teapots”) have been made and used in China for tea brewing for roughly 600 years, and with their recent addition to our catalog, the time-honored tradition of using them to brew cherished varieties of tea can be yours! These very special teapots are produced in the region of the town of Yixing (in China’s eastern Jiangsu province), made of a special “purple sand clay” found in that region.
One of the key elements that make yixing teaware special is the slightly porous finish caused by the purple sand clay they’re made from. With repeated use, this slightly porous finish allows a tiny amount of tea to be absorbed into the pot. Over time, the pot will develop a coating that retains the flavor, aroma and often the color of the tea it has been used to brew. For this reason, many tea lovers prefer to dedicate their yixing teapots to a single type of tea – often oolongs. And here’s an important tip: because of yixing teaware’s porous finish, soap should not be used for cleaning. I nstead, yixing teaware should be rinsed with fresh water and allowed to air-dry.
November 30 2008 | Products and Tea Fun | No Comments »
Arbor Teas fans have waited very patiently while we made major additions to our catalog of organic teas and top-quality teaware, and now the time has come to show them off! Based on the input we received from our recent customer survey, as well as many, MANY requests made by customers, we’ve added over 40 new teas, tea samplers, pieces of teaware and gift sets to our selection. In addition, we’ve re-vamped many of our custom blends, including CO2 decaffeination of our entire line of decaffeinated teas. We think you’ll be happy with the greater selection, better flavor and higher quality of our new catalog – but don’t take our word for it, see for yourself!
November 30 2008 | Products | No Comments »
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