Archive for the 'Tea Terms' Category

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 »

How is Tea Decaffeinated? Tea Term of the Month: “Decaffeinated”

Decaffeinated teaDecaffeinated tea is a great option for tea lovers who wish to avoid much of the caffeine naturally found in the tea leaf.  All forms of tea (black, oolong, green, white, and pu-erh) can be decaffeinated; but really only black and green tea are regularly decaffeinated.  It must be noted that decaffeinated tea is NOT caffeine free.  The decaffeination process leaves a minute amount of caffeine in the leaf.  By law, tea labeled as “decaffeinated” must have less than 2.5 percent of its original caffeine level.   Currently, there are four methods of decaffeination: methylene chloride; ethyl acetate; carbon dioxide; and water processing.

Methylene chloride decaffeination is a process by which the molecules of caffeine bond to molecules of methylene chloride.  Caffeine is removed either by 1) directly soaking the tea in methylene chloride or 2) indirectly soaking the water (used to remove the caffeine) in methylene chloride and then returning the water to the tea for reabsorption of flavors and oils.  Because methylene chloride is widely believed to be unhealthy for consumption, a legal limit of 5 parts per million is placed on residual traces in the tea and the US bans all imports using methylene chloride.

Tea processed using ethyl acetate is often referred to as “naturally decaffeinated” because ethyl acetate is a chemical found naturally in tea. Caffeine is extracted in the same way as with methylene chloride processing, but ethyl acetate is the solvent.  However, ethyl acetate is very difficult to remove after the decaffeination process, and is sometimes described as leaving a chemical taste.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) decaffeinated tea is essentially “pressure cooked” with this naturally occurring gas. At high pressures and high temperatures, carbon dioxide reaches a supercritical state. The CO2 becomes a solvent with its small, nonpolar molecules attracting the small caffeine molecules. Since flavor molecules are larger, they remain intact, which is why this process retains the flavor of the tea the best.

Caffeine extraction with water is used primarily for coffee decaffeination, however a small amount of tea products are decaffeinated using the water method. After the caffeine is removed from the tea by soaking the tea in hot water for a period of time, the solution is passed through a carbon filter for caffeine removal. The water is then returned to the tea for reabsorption of flavors and oils.  This process is often described as “watering down” the flavor of the tea.

Arbor Teas offers organic decaffeinated teas that exclusively use the carbon dioxide (CO2) method.  We feel that this is the safest form of decaffeination, while retaining the greatest flavor and health benefits.  Try some today!

February 03 2010 | Tea Preparation and Tea Terms | 11 Comments »

Tea Term of the Month: “Afternoon Tea”

TeacupAnna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the origination of afternoon tea in the early 1800s in Great Britian. In Anna’s day, lunch was served at noon, with dinner often put off until well into the evening. As the story goes, Anna decided that a light meal over tea in the late afternoon would be the perfect solution to her between-meal hunger pangs. Given Anna’s social stature, the concept took off among the upper class, proving to be an excellent social venue. The term “high tea” is actually owed to England’s working class, who transformed the afternoon tea into their primary evening meal, serving much heartier fare such as meats, cakes, bread and pies. “High” tea is a reference to the table the working class sat at while taking their tea – tall in comparison to the low, delicate tables at which the gentry took their lighter, more formal tea. Queen Victoria introduced the English to the Russian custom of adding lemon to their tea after visiting one of her daughters in Russia – before that, the English took only milk with their tea.

Try Arbor Teas’ Afternoon Blend Black Tea to have your own Afternoon Tea!

December 20 2009 | Tea Terms | 1 Comment »

Tea Term of the Month: “Single Origin”

Huang Shan Hair Tip Green Tea

Refers to those loose leaf teas which hail from a single geographic region, estate or garden.  Such “single origin” teas bear the closest relationship to the areas in which they’re grown, reflecting the unique combination of soil, climate, geography, etc. found there (often called “terroir” in the wine industry).  Single origin teas are contrasted by blends composed of teas from two or more geographic areas.   As with most agricultural products, the characteristics of single origin teas can fluctuate from year to year due to changing conditions where they’re grown.  Conversely, blends made of teas from a variety of locations can be adjusted to maintain a consistent flavor profile, year after year.  In doing so, however, they lose the special traits that are unique to any one particular origin.  Our website ( distinguishes which of our black teas, oolong teas, green teas, white teas and pu-erh teas are of “single origin” and which aren’t.  Finding top-quality single origin organic teas couldn’t be easier!

November 09 2009 | Tea Terms | No Comments »

Tea Term of the Month: “Mixed-Grading”

Sencha Green Tea

Refers to a characteristic of certain loose leaf teas which are intentionally composed of a variety of particle sizes, or “grades,” unlike most orthodox teas where uniformity of leaf size is a priority. Mixed grading is a trait that is fairly exclusive to Japanese green teas. The combination of large and small tea leaves and leaf fragments results in a heartier infusion, with more body and somewhat greater bitterness, which is preferred by many Japanese tea drinkers. To get a really authentic example of a Japanese green tea with mixed grading, give our organic Sencha Green Tea a try today!

September 30 2009 | Tea Terms | 1 Comment »

Tea Term of the Month: “Masala Chai”

Masala Chai Black Tea

Refers to the popular beverage hailing from the Indian subcontinent made by brewing tea with a combination of aromatic herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and pepper (although this can vary from region to region).  Translated from Hindi, masala chai literally means “spiced tea.”  Taken by itself, the word “chai” simply means “tea” throughout much of the world, but for most Americans it has come to imply this spiced tea beverage, often served with steamed milk and sweetened with honey.  For those interested in a fantastic South Indian-style take on Masala Chai, try our organic and Fair Trade Certified Masala Chai Black Tea today!

August 17 2009 | Tea Terms | No Comments »

Tea Term of the Month: “Self-Drinking”

Singampatti Oothu Black Tea

A cupping term referring to a high-quality tea having a good balance of flavor and body, allowing the tea to be consumed without blending or the use of milk or sugar. Generally reserved for black teas. At Arbor Teas, many of our organic black teas are considered “self-drinkers.” One excellent example of a self-drinking black tea is our Singampatti Oothu Black Tea, from southern India.  Try some today!

June 25 2009 | Tea Terms | No Comments »

Tea Term of the Month: “Orthodox”

Mao Jian Green Tea

Refers to the method of producing tea predominantly by hand, with great care and a high level of human involvement (as opposed to a predominantly mechanized approach). Generally involves hand plucking and often hand rolling, but occasionally includes some closely supervised use of machinery.  At Arbor Teas, all of our organic loose leaf teas are produced by way of orthodox manufacture (with the exception of our Japanese green teas, which belong to a special catagory of tea production all their own).  For an excellent example of orthodox manufacture, check out the hand-plucked and hand-rolled leaves of our Mao Jian Green Tea!

May 22 2009 | Tea Terms | 1 Comment »

Tea Term of the Month: “Tisane”

Crimson Berry Tisane

An infusion of any botanical ingredients (such as herbs, fruit, flowers, etc.) other than those derived from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis.  Covers a broad range of beverages, including fruit blends, herbal teas, and the like.

April 21 2009 | Tea Terms | No Comments »

Tea Term of the Month: “Flush”

Makaibari Darjeeling First Flush Black Tea

Can refer both to the newest growth of buds and young leaf shoots that appears at the tip of each branch of the tea bush, as well as the particular time of harvest during the growing season. Several successive harvests can occur throughout the growing season, each happening when the latest “flush” of leaves emerge fom the tea bushes.  Thus, the first harvest of the season is generally referred to as the “first flush,” and once the tea bushes have regrown a new flush of leaves, they are ready for the “second flush” harvest, and so on.  Oftentimes, the different flushes throughout the growing season can exhibit variations in appearance, flavor and aroma.  This is particularly the case when comparing a first flush Darjeeling tea to a second flush Darjeeling tea.

March 18 2009 | Tea Terms | No Comments »

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