Japanese Tea and Radiation: Update

As many of you may know, the 2011 tea harvest is well underway in Japan. With the devastating effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which badly damaged Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, there has been a lot of speculation in the marketplace regarding the safety of Japanese tea. While much of the fearful chatter over irradiated Japanese products has subsided in recent weeks, concerns still abound.

Arbor Teas has begun to receive Japanese tea from the 2011 harvest. We’ve pulled together some important facts which we hope will help our customers understand the status of this issue (and, without diminishing the significance of this event, perhaps relieve some concerns).

1) No Japanese tea – either freshly picked or packaged – has been discovered to be contaminated by radioactive particles. (Update 6/1/11 – Unfortunately this is no longer true.  Radioactive cesium in newly harvested tea has been detected. Shipments of all the tea from the area were suspended pending additional tests. Please see comments below for more details.  We are working with our suppliers to have samples of their 2011 crop tested for radiation and will post them when available.) continue reading »

May 16 2011 | Green Business and Miscellaneous and Tea and Health | 23 Comments »

COOKING WITH TEA RECIPE: Citrus and Tea Cream Pie

Citrus and Tea Cream PieHurry! Before Meyer lemons are out of season, go make this pie! Or don’t. Just wait for the right occasion and be inspired by what citrus is in abundance at that time. The original inspiration for this recipe came from Martha Stewart as a chamomile version of lemon meringue pie in a homey cornmeal crust. All of these elements, the mellow chamomile flowers, the zesty lemon, the pillowy marshmallow meringue, and the crunchy cornmeal work together in a wonderful, satisfying combination. But with the variety of organic loose-leaf teas available from Arbor Teas, why stop there? You could alter the recipe into a summery mojito rendition by subbing in lime for lemon and organic moroccan mint green tea for chamomile, all atop a buttery shortbread crust. Organic jasmine green tea and grapefruit (or those giant pumelos) would make a sophisticated, perfumed dessert. Tangerine and organic schizandra white tea, orange and organic earl grey black tea, or even blood orange and organic holiday spice black tea are a few more pairings I brainstormed to go with your favorite graham cracker, gingersnap, or chocolate cookie crust. Here is the original lemon-chamomile recipe. Let me know what combinations you dream up!

Citrus and Tea Cream Pie
adapted from Martha Stewart

Cornmeal Pie Dough

1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup medium-ground yellow cornmeal
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup ice water

Lemon-Chamomile Cream Filling
3 cups whole milk
3-4 tablespoons loose organic chamomile (or whatever other tea flavor strikes your fancy)
¼ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
1½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (or other citrus zest)
¼ cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (or other fresh citrus juice)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Meringue
4 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
a pinch of salt

To make the Cornmeal Crust:
Pulse flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and process briefly until mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, slowly add ice water until dough just begins to hold together. continue reading »

May 06 2011 | Cooking with Tea | 2 Comments »

Shipping: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

It’s so easy nowadays- just point, click and buy. Depending on where you bought from and the availability, you could have your item delivered to your house in about a week. Sounds easy, simple and energy free, right? Well, sort of. While you didn’t necessarily power up your car and drive from store to store scavenging for the perfect item, a lot of fuel energy was probably used in your delivery. So, if an item is being delivered to you what is the best method and why?

Fossil Fuels: What & How

We use biologically-based fossil fuels to power most of our locomotive machineries. Fossil fuels are naturally made from the anaerobic decomposition of dead animals.  In fact, the ones we use today are typically millions of years old (some fossils exceeding 650 million)!  When animals and plants decompose, they release carbon into the atmosphere at an incredibly slow rate. However, when fossil fuels are burned in order to make fuel energy, the carbon from the decomposing organisms are released at a much higher rate. So, the amount of carbon that should have been released over the span of tens of millions of years is ultimately released in the span of a few hundred years. This extreme release of carbon as carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gasses drives the greenhouse effect responsible for climate change. While it would be difficult to regress back to environmentally “healthy” shipping options such as horse and buggy, it is important, as a consumer, to know your different shipping options and their individual impact on our fragile environment.

continue reading »

March 18 2011 | Energy and Green Business and Sustainability | 1 Comment »

Meet the Arbor Teas Interns!

We’d like to introduce you to our wonderful team of interns who work (tirelessly, we might add!) to bring you all the great content we share on our blog and via Twitter. David, Kartikha and Sonya are all currently students at the University of Michigan here in Ann Arbor, and have been on the Arbor Teas team since September, and we’re so grateful to have them on board!  Here’s a little bit about each of them:

David Faulkner

David is our group history buff, responsible for fascinating articles on Earl Grey and pomegranate lore. He’s also taken it upon himself to show up to every team meeting in a full suit and tie – a classy fellow for sure. Good thing I got him a tie-clip for Christmas.

1. So what are you studying at the University of Michigan?

I’m a double major in English and Microbiology. I find the subject matter of microbiology fascinating, and I hope to study toxicology in graduate school. English just came naturally as a major because I love writing.

2. What do you think you’ll do after you graduate, and where do you see yourself ten years from now?

I hope to attend Public Health school to complete a graduate programme in industrial hygiene and toxicology.

continue reading »

February 13 2011 | Miscellaneous | No Comments »

The Forbidden Fruit: Pomegranates and Valentine’s Day

Pomegranate IllustrationFor many, Valentine’s Day is a day of romance, chocolate, and red roses. But here at Arbor Teas, we think it’s time to shake things up a little. Maybe enjoy a little of the “forbidden fruit?” That’s why our tea of the month is the pleasantly sweet and superbly indulgent Pomegranate White tea. But wait! You may be thinking, wasn’t the apple the forbidden fruit? What’s this about pomegranates? Though the apple has been cast as the perennial example of temptation, a little research reveals that the pomegranate is a worthy contender in the tradition of off-limits produce.

The Prominence of Pomegranates
Pomegranates, as delicious to eat as they are difficult to prepare, have a rich history in myth and society. Archeological evidence suggests that pomegranates have been cultivated for five and a half millennia, originating in the western Himalayas and what is now modern-day Iraq. Its popularity spread quickly, however, and by around the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E., the fruit would be commonplace in Mesopotamia and the Mediterranean.
Many religions and societies throughout history, including the Hindu, Hebrew and Chinese cultures, have viewed the pomegranate as a potent fertility symbol. Of interest to us, is how pomegranates became the focus of several mythological traditions among the ancient Greeks, and it is here that that they developed a reputation as a symbol for the taboo or tempting.

An Inconvenient Fruit
In the myth of Persephone, a quintessential tale of temptation and seduction, we find the pomegranate as a “forbidden fruit.” According to one version of the story, Hades (the god of the underworld) falls in love with Persephone, the beautiful daughter of Demeter (the goddess of the harvest), but she will not have him. Hades then lures Persephone into the underworld and tricks her into eating between three and six pomegranate seeds(the number differs depending on which version of the story you hear) because anyone who ate food in the underworld was doomed to spend eternity there.

continue reading »

February 09 2011 | Organic Tea Facts | No Comments »

COOKING WITH TEA RECIPE: Cultured Tea Butter and Buttermilk

cornmeal-biscuits-and-fresh-cultured-tea-butter2010 seemed to be the year of DIY in the food world, and I have no doubt that 2011 will continue to be the same. If the reasons are not for putting up (canning, curing, dehydrating, etc.) to preserve the abundance of harvest for leaner times like our great grandparents used to, or not meant to ease reliance on commercially-packaged, convenience foods, then it’s to satiate the curiosity of how basic foodstuffs are produced and to relish in the pure satisfaction that you can DO IT YOURSELF.

Remember taking turns to shake that jar of cream in kindergarten until it thickened and yielded a soft, spreadable butter? Patience-inducing yet awe-inspiring to a 5-year old. Making cultured butter from scratch is just one step up from that sort of classroom demo magic. And using a modern stand mixer makes it an easily approachable task if your kitchen amenities are sans old-fashioned butter churn and butter bats. Furthermore, fresh, liquid cream presents a blank canvas on which you can layer a custom flavor profile at the very foundation, before churning. You can add cultures for tangy-ness as well as ingredients, like tea, that steep best in liquid without altering the final texture. Compound butters, a different approach to flavored butter where herbs, aromatics, syrups or fruit pastes are mashed into solid butter, while good in there own right, offer only the opportunity for flavor afterthoughts, post-churning.fresh-buttermilk

So in the spirit of DIY, I present you with directions for culturing butter and flavoring it using Arbor Teas’ organic, loose-leaf tea. Cultured tea butter should not be confused with Tibetan butter tea, a yak milk-derived, fortifying hot beverage for the iron-stomached. This is a wholly different dining experience. I chose two very different Arbor Teas to make two unique flavors. The first was organic genmaicha green tea, which is composed of Japanese green tea leaves mixed with toasted brown rice kernels. This tea flavor brings to mind popcorn, and thus lightly salted butter flavored with genmaicha lends itself to savory applications: smeared on crusty bread or slathered on roasted vegetables. The second was organic masala chai black tea. Redolent with warm spice and delicately sweetened (post-churn) with honey, this makes a welcome addition to a breakfast table spread or to afternoon tea fare. continue reading »

February 04 2011 | Cooking with Tea | No Comments »

Tea and Stress: Chill Out with Polyphenols and L-Theanine!

The holidays are behind us, and life if back to it’s usual (and often hectic) pace. Everyday stress is all around us:  busy schedules, deadlines, crying babies, etc.  Fortunately, our friend the tea leaf can offer a little relief! In the seemingly endless list of beneficial health benefits of tea, here’s a little bit about tea’s role in managing stress.

A Little Background on Cortisol & Stress

Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland when one experiences stress. This mechanism is an evolutionary response to help us mobilize our bodies to respond quickly to harmful situations. While small amounts of stress can be beneficial, prolonged periods of stress can be detrimental to your body. It’s important to monitor your stress levels and stay aware of stress-relieving remedies to maintain health cortisol level.

Tea’s Polyphenols to the Rescue!

Tea is full of polyphenols. As you may remember from previous posts, polyphenols are a class of antioxidant that help your body maintain homeostasis. These polyphenols also help lower the amount of cortisol in the body after a stressful event. Research suggests that with enough polyphenols circulating in your body, the negative effects of excessive cortisol can be counteracted!

And Theanine, too!

Tea is also full of L-theanine, an amino acid that also helps your body fight off stress. Theanine relies on its natural psychoactive abilities to not only decrease mental and physical stress, but also improve various cognitive abilities. And better yet, it’s also believed to strengthen the immune system! (There’s probably nothing more stressful than getting sick in the middle of the a stressful situation!)

So, next time you find yourself experiencing a little more stress than usual, turn to a trusty cup of organic tea for some relief! It’s a delicious way to keep cortisol levels in check, and keep you feeling mellow!

January 23 2011 | Tea and Health | 1 Comment »

Dragonwell Tea Production: From Tea Bush to Tea Cup!

Dragonwell Green TeaMaking 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.

continue reading »

January 22 2011 | Organic Tea Facts and Products | 1 Comment »

A Penny for Your Thoughts… Actually, Free Tea Samples!

Is there a tea you’re just dying to try, but you’re hesitant to actually fork over your hard-earned cash for a sample? Well, have we got a deal for you! Be one of the first 10 people to leave a comment on any of the 100+ posts on our blog, and add a FREE TEA SAMPLE to your next order by January 31st! You’re welcome to say whatever you like, of course, but we’d particularly love to hear what you thought of the post in question, or your personal perspective on its topic.

So why, exactly, are we doing this? Three reasons: (1) We’re adding more and more fun stuff to the blog these days, and we want you to explore it! (2) We really want to know what you think: about our blog, or the tea world in general; and, (3) We want you to try our teas! We’re pretty sure that one of our nearly 100 organic loose teas is just waiting to become your new favorite!

On to the rules. Yes, there are rules, but they’re fairly simple – here goes:

  1. You must be one of the first ten (10) people to comment on any given post to qualify;
  2. To claim your free tea sample, just leave us a note in your next order telling us which post you commented on, and what tea sample you’d like us to include;
  3. You must claim your free sample within seven (7) days of commenting. Comments made prior to January 17, 2011, do not qualify;
  4. Limit one (1) free sample per order.

We hope you enjoy exploring the Arbor Teas blog, SustainabiliTEA, and that you find a new favorite tea in the process!

January 17 2011 | Tea Fun | 4 Comments »

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.

continue reading »

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

« Prev - Next »