Archive for the 'Tea Facts' Category

India’s Tea Grading System Might Get Even More Complicated

Organic Assam Black Tea TGFOPYou may have noticed the long list of grading letters that often trail the name of an Indian or Sri Lankan (Ceylon) tea, such as in our Organic and Fair Trade Certified Assam Black Tea “TGFOP”. Once manufactured, tea is graded based on its physical description (including leaf size and color). Indian black teas are subject to the most structured and extensive grading system. It is important to know that Indian tea grading does NOT reflect the quality of the final brew, just the visual characteristics of the dry tea leaf. The basic term used for grading whole leaf tea,what we predominately sell at Arbor Teas, is Orange Pekoe (pronounced PECK-oh), or “OP”. In addition to the “OP” designation, additional letters are often assigned to describe the leaves’ various characteristics. So, for example the tea shown above has a rating of “TGFOP” which signifies a tea leaf that is Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe. Now that is a mouthful!

Well, this already complicated system might be getting even more complicated. As reported in the Business Standard today, the Tea Board of India is proposing to rate tea factories too. During his address at the inaugural session of the 24th annual general meeting of Federation of All India Tea Traders Association (FAITTA), the chairman of the Tea Board Board of India, M G V K Bhanu, announced that the Tea Board of India has proposed to give all the tea factories in India a category rating ranging from A to D, with A being the top quality category. Bhanu stressed this rating system would help spread awareness about the importance of good quality tea among the small tea growers and ensure good quality tea production in the country.

“We propose to map all the tea factories on some of the key parameters. An independent agency will take samples of tea from these factories and certify them with respective categories like A, B, C and D. This will give the factories an identity and ensure the quality production of tea,” said Tea Board of India chairman Bhanu.

June 19 2013 | Tea Facts | No Comments »

What is Dark Tea? Are Dark Teas the Same as Pu-Erh Teas?

One of the amazing things about the world of tea is there is always something new to learn. Just when we think we’ve heard of everything, we discover a new origin, style, or blend, and the learning process begins anew! During Arbor Teas’ recent trip to NYC to participate in the Specialty Tea Institute’s tea curriculum, we were introduced to a “new” category of tea. I put quotation marks around the word “new” because this category of tea is actually not new at all. I (Aubrey) was taught and have always understood the five main types of tea as: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. These five main types of tea were touted by the Specialty Tea Institute way back when I took their Foundations of Tea classes, and in many famous and well respected tea history books. In fact, on we divide our navigation menu into these five types of tea, plus “rooibos” and the catch-all category of “herbal“.

However, what Sarah and Peggy learned in their Foundations of Tea class this time around was that Pu-erh teas are actually a sub-set of a larger category of Chinese teas called “Dark Teas”. Because Pu-Erhs are really the only Dark Teas known to the western world, they are often mistakenly described as their own category (like white, green, oolong, and black). But technically speaking, the fifth category of tea should not be “Pu-erh” but “Dark”. (As an aside, kudos to Sarah and Peggy for completing and passing Foundations of Tea Levels One & Two – congrats!)

So what are Dark Teas? continue reading »

March 05 2012 | Miscellaneous and Products and Tea Facts and Tea Terms | 3 Comments »

Tea and Chocolate, a Terrific Pair!

With the holidays upon us, the urge to consume staggering quantities of rich, often unhealthy, food grabs hold of us all! But don’t worry, there is a healthy way to indulge: tea and chocolate together! Some may think that pairing tea with chocolate is a little strange, but actually, they have a lot of components in common, including caffeine and polyphenols such as tannins and flavinoids.

Here’s a rundown on why it makes sense to pair tea and chocolate – both for your palette, and your health!


As you probably know, tea and chocolate offer significant doses of caffeine. In addition to giving your a little “lift” after consuming them, a variety of new studies suggest that caffeine (in moderation), can help stave off many neurological disorders, such as Alzeheimers or dementia.


Flavonoids are a class of polyphehols that are somewhat bitter in flavor.  There are many studies indicating that flavonoids are anti-allergic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-microbial. Happily, tea and chocolate are both fantastic sources of flavonoids!


Tannins (a type of flavinoid) are an astringent, mildly-bitter molecule that lends both tea and chocolate that rich, somewhat puckery flavor we so enjoy! It could be these molecules that facilitate the pairing of chocolate with tea.

As it turns out, treating yourself to tea and chocolate is a great way to cater to that holiday snack hankering, but still maintain your healthy lifestyle. This winter, try pampering yourself with some of Arbor Teas’ Tea Infused Chocolate Truffles! Of course, they make fabulous gifts for those foodies friends of yours, too!

December 05 2010 | Tea and Health and Tea Facts | No Comments »

Gunpowder Green Teas: Tea with a Bang!

Organic Gunpowder Green TeaThere’s something alluring about the way gunpowder green tea pellets unfurl in hot water. The leaves lift and twirl in a delicate dance, bending and turning with invisible currents and convection in the water. Half of the fun of drinking this tea is in the experience of watching the leaves unfold; the other half is in the nutty, vegetal flavor – often with a hint of smoke. But if you think that’s all there is to gunpowder tea, you might be surprised to know that this tea has a rich history and is much older than you’d expect.

In the Beginning

Gunpowder teas are green teas native to the Zhejiang Province of China, and have been around since the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). Though Zhejiang has historically been the primary source of gunpowder teas, a number of other provinces now contribute to the production of this style, in addition to locales beyond China’s borders.

continue reading »

November 22 2010 | Tea Facts | No Comments »

History of Irish Tea

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 particulaUragh Stone Circle, Republic of Irelandr 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 »

Recent Study Finds that Region Does Matter for Tea Quality

Japanese Tea Garden

The World Tea News recently reported (11/30/09) on a study that suggests that plants producing high-quality tea cannot simply be reproduced in other regions with the same outcome.  Researchers at the Kenyan institutions Maseno University, Egerton University and Moi University, conducted the study, which will appear in the April 2010 issue of the scientific journal Food Chemistry.  They started from the idea: “A superior quality genotype in one location is assumed to replicate the same attributes when planted in different regions, especially when climatic variations are minimal.” To test it, they cloned 20 plants that produced high-quality tea and planted them under identical circumstances, but in three different regions.  The results showed significant differences in the quality of the plain tea produced, based on certain parameters, among varying locations of production. A closer look further indicated that the changes in the tea were not systematic, because the same clone underwent different changes in different regions.  The study led the team to conclude: “A genotype selected in one site for high quality may not retain the relative quality over other genotypes in new areas. It is necessary to test genotypes in new areas of production to fully evaluate their relative quality potentials.”

continue reading »

December 04 2009 | Miscellaneous and Tea Facts and Tea Preparation | No Comments »

How to Decaffeinate Your Tea at Home

We receive questions on a daily basis regarding the caffeine content of tea.  It’s probably one of the hottest topics we’re asked about.  Recently, a customer asked why we didn’t carry a decaffeinated Genmaicha Green Tea, to which I offered the following explanation:

Decaffeinating teas requires costly equipment and substantial amounts of energy, which typically make it cost-ineffective to decaffeinate small batches of specialty teas.  Only the most main-stream varieties are generally considered for decaffeination – usually versatile black and green teas that can be sold “as is” or blended in some fashion to create products like Decaf. English Breakfast, Decaf. Earl Grey, etc.  You’ll almost never see a decaffeinated version of a limited-production premium tea, like our Jade Oolong, Silver Needle White, or Gyokuro Green.  These products are already rather expensive and have a limited market demand, so creating a more expensive decaffeinated version to serve an even smaller group of customers doesn’t make sense for the tea manufacturer.

After offering this explanation, I was reminded of a way for caffeine-conscious tea lovers to sidestep the limited availability of premium decaffeinated teas.  If you just HAVE to have a particular variety of tea, and you’re not able to find a decaffeinated version, consider using our “easy at-home decaffeination method.” continue reading »

March 18 2009 | Tea and Health and Tea Facts and Tea Preparation | 13 Comments »

Unwrapping the Mystery of Pu-Erh Teas

Ancient Green Tuo ChaThe popularity of pu-erh teas has increased dramatically over the past twenty years, both domestically in China as well as in the western world.  Despite this, many tea drinkers are still in the dark about this unique variety of tea.Pu-erh teas come from China’s southwestern Yunnan Province, and are traditionally made from the old-growth tea trees that Yunnan is famous for.  The name “Pu-Erh” is derived from the town where all tea in this region was taken after harvest in ancient days. Part of the fascination with pu-erh teas (also spelled, “puer,” “puerh” and “pu’er”) stems from their complexity.  They exhibit a wide-ranging palate of (perhaps unusual?) aromas and flavors that, in comparison to other traditional tea varieties (black, green, etc.), accentuate their exotic character.  In addition, pu-erh teas are highly valued in Chinese medicine, and are believed to aid in the digestion of fatty foods and help to regulate cholesterol levels.

What Makes a Pu-Erh Tea?
Although the end product can be quite different than other tea varieties, the manufacture of pu-erh tea begins with a number of steps common to all teas.  Like other teas, pu-erhs begin by being plucked, whithered, rolled/kneaded, and sometimes allowed to oxidize.  From this point, however, pu-erh manufacture follows its own path.  After initial manufacturing, pu-erh teas are packaged up (either loose or after being steamed and pressed into a certain shape) and the aging/fermentation process is allowed to begin.

continue reading »

February 16 2009 | Tea Facts | No Comments »

CO2 Is Good for Something: Decaffeination!

Caffeine MoleculeThis 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 »

Tea Fact: All Varieties of Tea Come from a Single Plant

Many people don’t realize that all types of tea begin with the leaf from a single plant, Camellia sinensis. It is actually the manner in which the tea leaf is processed after it is picked that determines whether it becomes white, green, oolong, black, or pu-erh tea. Tea can be manufactured using one of two approaches, orthodox or CTC. Orthodox production methods, whether done by hand or by machine, generally preserve the integrity of the tea leaf and involve significant human attention.  By contrast, CTC manufacturing (short for “crush-tear-curl”) uses machines to mince, shred or crush the leaf. Both methods can produce excellent teas; however the orthodox method is typically considered the more “traditional,” and produces tea that is generally more complex in flavor and aroma.

Orthodox Manufacture
Orthodox manufacture begins by selectively picking (often by hand) tea leaves. The leaves are allowed to wither, reducing their water content and making them soft and pliable. Once withered, the leaves are gently rolled to break down the cellular structure, beginning the oxidation process. The oxidation stage is primarily responsible for differentiating tea into its various categories – white, green, oolong, and black – and determining tea’s caffeine content. The longer the oxidation process is allowed to continue, the darker the leaf becomes, and the more caffeine the tea contains. White teas are not rolled or oxidized at all. Once the desired level of oxidation is reached, the leaves are dried to halt the oxidation process and make them suitable for distribution. The dried leaves are then graded and sorted into various sizes: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings (small particles) and dust. continue reading »

November 29 2007 | Tea Facts | 1 Comment »