Archive for the 'Tea Culture' Category

Turkish Tea: Visiting Dem Cafe in Istanbul

Dem Cafe in IstanbulWhile recently traveling in Turkey, we were lucky enough to visit a lovely specialty tea cafe named “Dem” in the up-and-coming Karakoy neighborhood of Istanbul.  Voted the best cafe in Istanbul for 2013, Dem has been in operation for only 1 year and its owner, Ömer Çagatay, is already prepared to open a second location.  While tea service is an age old tradition in Turkey, specialty tea is only now catching on in this ancient city. Dem is definitely a front runner in this arena.  Their tea menu features over 60 teas that are sourced from all over the world including: black, green, oolong, white, pu-erh, and herbal teas.  However, Jeremy and I were most excited to try Dem’s Turkish tea offerings.  Yes, Turkey has a small tea growing region in the northern coastal area near the Black Sea.  Turkey manufactures mainly black tea and produces barely enough to satisfy the country’s own demand, exporting virtually none, which is why it is not well known outside of the Turkish borders.

While at Dem, we tasted two Turkish teas.  A tirebolu tea from Giresun.  This tea was produced from tea grown at higher elevations of the Eastern Black Sea region and was one of the best Turkish teas we tasted during our entire stay in Turkey.  We also tasted an organic hemsin tea from Rize (a well known tea growing region).  Tea grown in Rize is also available in many Turkish supermarkets.  Both teas were tea bag cut leaf – the predominate cut in Turkey – and produced a straightforward liquor, reminiscent of a low-grown Ceylon.  Additionally, we tasted Dem’s version of Turkey’s ever-popular herbal Apple Tea.  We were delighted to find that their version is much more than the usual instant powder that produces a highly-sweetened and tart apple brew.  Instead, Dem has a lovely loose herbal blend that includes actual pieces of dried apple, offering a slightly sweet herbal concoction that our children (ages 4 & 5) loved!

In Turkey, tea is everywhere!  It is a traditional offering to guests and is important in Turkish culture as a form of hospitality.  It is traditionally brewed in a two-tiered, stacked, samovar-like apparatus.  The smaller top teapot contains a concentrated brew of tea that is kept warm by the lower vessel.  The concentrated brew is called “dem”, which is also the namesake of the cafe.  The larger, lower vessel contains water that is heated to piping hot.  The liquid from the two vessels are combined to create a tea of varying strength.  A tea drinker can ask for more dem or less dem to specify a stronger tea or weaker tea depending on personal preference.   The tea is served in lovely small, tulip-shaped clear glasses on saucers.  In some cases, multiple glasses of  tea are transported on silver hanging trays. The flawless transportation of these trays was particularly impressive to witness at the bustling Grand Bazaar where there was a near constant stream of HOT tea deliveries to the vendors.

While we enjoyed tea throughout all of Turkey, our favorite cafe to relax in and have a glass of tea was definitely Dem Cafe.  Next time you’re in Istanbul, plan a visit!   Also, be sure to try their scrambled eggs — some of the creamiest (and best) scrambled eggs we have ever tasted!

July 11 2014 | Tea Culture | No Comments »

Discovering Tea, Hawaii Style!

Tea Farm in HawaiiTwo weeks ago, a small contingent of us from Arbor Teas headed to the big island of Hawaii to see what this exciting new tea growing region had to offer. Many suggested that a trip to Hawaii was simply an excuse to dodge the relentless cold and snow of southeastern Michigan’s winter. They were, of course, partly right. But after adding a couple exceptional green teas from Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Tea Farm to our catalog several months ago, we had other motivations, too!

At Arbor Teas, we’re regularly challenged by our customers to track down new and interesting organic teas from exotic locales. At the same time, we’ve seen increasing interest in domestically-grown sources of organic tea. It’s fascinating to think these seemingly opposite trends led us to the same place – aloha, Hawaii!

The objectives of our trip were threefold:

  1. Spend some time with the growers of our wonderful Organic Premium Hawaii Green Tea and Organic Hawaii Sweet Roast Green Tea, and learn more about what goes into making these outstanding teas;
  2. Track down additional sources of organic tea from Hawaii to add to our catalog; and,
  3. Deepen our knowledge of tea growing by spending time with (and, in some cases, working beside) growers who are still in the relatively early phases of tea farming.

Happily, we were remarkably successful on all three fronts!

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March 18 2014 | Tea Culture | 1 Comment »

Earl Grey Tea: Fact and Fiction

Earl Grey TeapotEasily the most popular of the English tea blends (our organic Earl Grey is certainly one of our most popular!), Earl Grey may seem as timeless as tea itself, but this tea is a surprisingly young blend with a checkered history that few can seem to agree on.

The Tea Itself

Traditional Earl Grey is a blend of black tea flavored with the essence of Bergamot rind, though the name may also be used to refer to any tea—black or otherwise—that uses bergamot as a flavoring (such as our organic green Earl Grey, and our organic Earl Grey rooibos blends). Bergamots are small tart oranges native to southern Vietnam that research suggests are a cross between the sweet lemon, Citrus limetta, and the sour orange, C. aurantium, and the essential oils from their rinds are what give Earl Grey its characteristic flavor. Consequently, the tea often sees use in all manner of confectionary, lending a subtle, citrusy zest to chocolates (like our tea-infused truffles!), cakes, or sauces.

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January 11 2011 | Organic Tea Facts and Tea Culture | 2 Comments »

Legends of Dragonwell Tea

There is an incredible amount of Chinese lore surrounding dragonwell tea, with each tale more mystifying than the last. Recently I came across one of these stories that I thought might be particularly worth sharing, because it seems to relate to our culture’s custom of giving around the winter holiday season.  This story is translated from the work of a Chinese blog writer named 刘胜权, and it goes something like this:

A long long time ago there was an old lady who lived by a dragon well (a type of large mortar).  Near her house and the mortar grew eighteen wild tea trees of the type that usually grew in mountainous regions.  Right outside her front door ran the busiest part of a street that the NanShan farmers used to travel to Xi’Hu.  When travelers passed by, they always wanted to take a break at this spot, so the old lady set up a single table and a wooden bench for passerbys.  At the same time, she thought she could use some of the wild tea leaves and water from the old mortar to brew up some tea.  It would be a great place for members of her community to rest before making the journey to Xi’Hu.  Little did she know, some day this spot would become known throughout the world.

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January 08 2011 | Tea Culture | 1 Comment »

Butter Tea from Tibet: Tea Around the World, Vol 1

According to the Tea Association of the USA, tea is the most widely consumed beverage around the world, next to water. Naturally, different tea drinking cultures have developed in different parts of the world based on varying needs, tastes and types of tea available in those regions. Today, we start our journey around the world of tea with a look at “butter tea” from Tibet.

Butter tea, known as Po cha in Tibet, is made from churning tea, salt and yak butter. The tea used is a particularly potent, smoky type of brick tea from Pemagul, Tibet. A portion of this brick tea is crumbled into water and boiled for hours to produce a smoky, bitter brew called chaku. This is then stored until used to make butter tea. To make  a serving of Po cha, some of the chaku is poured in a wooden cylindrical churn called a chandong, along with a hunk of yak butter and salt and churned for a couple of minutes before serving.

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December 05 2010 | Cooking with Tea and Tea Culture | 1 Comment »