September 2009

You may have noticed our new mantra, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”. We have tried it on for a few weeks and think it may be time to provide some details about what we are trying to do at Local Tea Company.

During the course of a typical week we sample teas to many visitors at Selby Gardens and the Downtown Farmer’s Market here in Sarasota. We talk tea, and find many tea drinkers thrilled to engage us with their favorite tea tales. Yes, we love our job.

It comes as no surprise that many people use tea bags. But shocking is how many people have never tasted loose leaf tea. Sad to think so many people are missing out on the wonderfully unique experience of loose leaf tea.

And so, “THINK OUT OF THE BAG” our campaign to encourage people to choose loose leaf tea in place of tea in tired old bags. The sub heading is, “Loose leaf tea is fresher, hipper and just darn better for you”. Our intent is to convert tea bag users to loose leaf tea drinkers through tasting, educating and advocating loose leaf tea one sip at a time.

There are several reasons to choose loose leaf over tea bag tea, and we offer them here. If you, our fellow tea lovers have other reasons we failed to mention, please share…

There is absolutely no comparison. Most bag tea is the lowest grade of tea (dust or fannings) that comes out of the production area. There are of course some exceptions but generally the tea is very small particles and holds little flavor. Every step in the processing of loose leaf tea is designed to enhance the flavor and taste.

There are also some exceptions and just because you buy loose leaf tea does not mean it will be excellent quality. We, and all of our fellow tea enthusiasts search for teas with exceptional freshness, quality and taste, and you should to. We call this our “tea journey”. Loose leaf tea allows you to examine, smell, listen and sample for maximum quality.

Despite what you may assume when first exploring the loose versus tea bag conundrum, loose is more economical. Tea bags are created for one time use! Nearly all varieties of loose leaf tea should be steeped at least twice and some loose leaf teas can be steeped many more times. Work out the math and you will be surprised how little loose leaf costs you per cup.

Loose leaf tea is perfect for brewing a pot of tea to share with others, the starting point for a meaningful conversation. Offering a cup of properly steeped loose leaf tea is a wonderfully kind gesture, hard for anyone to refuse.

Just think how much packaging and bits of string you would save!

Whilst you may still gain some health benefits from tea bags you will gain many more from loose leaf tea. My theory is that you will like the taste better and will WANT to DRINK MORE therefore giving yourself the gift of good health.

Lastly, and for us one of the most important reasons to drink loose leaf tea is the sheer enjoyment it brings into your life. Brewing a pot of tea for one is relaxing and contemplative, watching such majesty. Sharing a pot of tea with a friend is a nod to a more civilised era. The leaves gracefully dance in your pot and tantalize your taste buds with their fresh and fragrant bouquet.

Make time in your life for loose leaf tea and join Local Tea Company in helping all tea lovers to “THINK OUT OF THE BAG”

the tea lady


This week we launched a signature rooibos tea for the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Our Van Wezel Anniversa-Tea celebrates 40 years of fabulous performances at the Sarasota landmark by the bay.

On Wednesday evening the line up of performers for this season was announced along with a signature dessert by Michael’s On East and our stunning Rooibos blend with black and red currants. Tony Bennett is the big star headlining the 40th Anniversary party on January 5th.

Local Tea Company will sample and sell Van Wezel Anniversa-Tea at performances this season, as well as serve the caffeine free tea at selected events for sponsors and patrons. Van Wezel Anniversa-Tea will also be available at our shops in Siesta Key Village and at Selby Gardens, on Saturday mornings at the Downtown Farmer’s Market, and online at

The Van Wezel Anniversa-Tea is the second in our “Celebrating Sarasota” series of teas, the other being our best selling Selby Select in honor of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

The initial response to the iced version was very positive, though it is hard to compete with a cold pinot grigio on a gorgeous summer evening at the bayfront. Special thanks to Julia Mays for spreading the word all evening long and to the entire team at the Van Wezel for putting all the details together so quickly.


We love oolong teas and find the flavors so incredibly unique. They say no two oolongs are alike, and that may be what we like best about oolongs, always a surprise.

Oolong means “Black Dragon”. The Chinese tea growers thought the complex character of Oolong tea was similar to the spirit of this mythical creature.

The crafting of Oolong is an art form and the growing areas limited. Conditions have to be exact and great care is taken to maintain the surrounding environment of the tea plants. Like wine growing regions, the soil and humidity levels definite impact on the taste and complexity of the finished product.

Oolongs are referred to as semi-fermented or semi-oxidized teas. (see earlier post on oxidation / fermentation) They follow a similar process to black tea but with up to 60% less oxidation. This results in a tea with characteristics of both black and green tea.

Fujian province in China is the home of Oolong varieties of tea but production began in Taiwan during the 1850’s when tea planters from Fujian immigrated to the small island nation called Formosa. The Dung Ti Mountains in central Taiwan have very fertile slopes where some of the finest tea plantations produce excellent Oolong tea. Both of our Oolong teas are from Taiwan.

Our Dung Ding Oolong is entirely hand made and has a stunning rolled leaf producing a taste which is smoother than black tea but not as grassy as green. The result is a very well balanced tea with orchid like aroma and taste. Steep the leaves multiple times and give your taste buds an exciting journey along the way. Examine the leaves and you will see the oxidation that has occurred around the outer part of the leaf leaving the inside quite green. We highly recommend this tea which is easy to drink. Don’t forget that Oolong teas are great for raising your metabolic rate.

Our Aronia Oolong produces quite a different taste profile. This is also a Taiwan Oolong which is wiry and lively with characteristics that are much closer to black. The addition of some Sri Lanka black tea gives added depth along with chokeberries, mango, passion fruit and rose petals for a delicate floral finish. As we like to say, this tea is easy to drink, hard to resist!  And can be steeped multiple times giving a lighter color and flavor each steep.

Brewing Oolong Tea
It is recommended to rinse or flush Oolong leaves, that is pour water over leaves and immediately remove the hot water. We cannot bear to throw this lovely liquor away, and usually add it to a later steep. Then start with a 1-2 minutes steep and add additional steeping time after each infusion.

When preparing Aronia Oolong we actually brew as a black tea, using boiling water, steeping for 4 minutes, then steeping a second time for 8 minutes and combine the two steeps for a multi-fusion.

For Dung Ding Oolong we use water around 194 degrees, steep for 2 minutes and drink! This is way too good to flush away in our opinion. For the next steep add 2 minutes and continue adding extra time till the entire flavor has been released.

As with all teas there are personal preferences so be playful and enjoy the process of discovering how you like your Oolong tea.

the tea lady