September 2010


White Tea is surrounded by folklore and mystique heralded from ancient China. I am talking really ancient here, as in Tang dynasty 618-907 AD. This delicate tea was proclaimed by the Emperor as “the culmination of all that is elegant” and reserved for members of the Imperial Court. The leaves were picked in early spring when young tea shoots abound and legend has it that the picking was done by virgins wearing white gloves. Well, it is a pure story at any rate!

Tang Dynasty China

White tea is thankfully no longer solely the property of Emperors and Kings! Although originally grown only in the Fujian Province in China, due to its increasing popularity it is now grown in other regions such as Sri Lanka, Taiwan and India. What has remained the same is the process of making this tea!

White teas are the least processed of all the teas. Leaves are delivered to the factory by hand where they are naturally withered and sun dried, no oxidation takes place.

The new buds are picked before they open when they have a white, silvery appearance (hence the name!). This white appearance is the ‘hao” or hair on the bud or baby leaf.

White Mischief

White teas are subtle, delicate and flavorful and are considered by some to have the most health benefits. The appearance of white teas can vary in color depending on style of tea but all have a very natural fresh look which is also very pure and natural in the cup, devoid of any astringency or grassiness.

With more antioxidants than black tea or green tea, research shows white tea has anticancer properties, is strengthening for the immune and cardiovascular systems, reduces high blood pressure and is calming and detoxifying on the skin(anti-sagging!).

So, what about our White Mischief from Local Coffee + Tea? I thought this a very appropriate name on first tasting this tea with a mischievous play on the taste buds. Take a moment to smell this tea when it will also play mischief with your senses!

White Mischief is a type of tea known as Pai Mu Tan which means “white peony” and is produced in Fujian Province from a variety of tea bush called Narcissus or chaicha where only the “two leaves and bud” are used.  The tea is mostly green with silver tips and is quite light and fluffy.  The mischievousness is created by blending with a healthy dose of tart pomegranate and juicy guava!

When brewing White Mischief use one heaped teaspoon per cup with water heated to 180-190 degrees (or just under boiling).  I find this produces a mellow flavor without scalding the leaves which may cause astringency.  The tea can be infused for 2 minutes with plenty of flavor.  A second infusion of 4 minutes and a third of 6 minutes will yield great cooling and refreshing character. See our earlier post on multi-steeping tea. 

I have infused this tea as many as 6 times, but leave you to experiment with this very exciting and actually quite mischievous tea. Sorry couldn’t resist it one more time!

Cheers,
The TeaLady

“Why beach tea?” we are asked when serving this delightful fruit infusion.

A quick sniff and a small sample of this tea will whisk you away to an exotic beach on a deserted island, with dolphins, manatee and other tropical delights.  This is a tea you would definitely want to be stranded with on your imaginary beach paradise or while visiting our shop on Siesta Key

Mote Beach Tea

It is impossible to resist a tea with such wonderful dried fruits and flowers: – pineapple, coconut, rosehips and hibiscus blended with natural flavors of those fruits.  There is no true tea, so Mote Beach Tea is caffeine free, especially nice after dinner or before bed and can be a “sweet tooth” substitute for dessert.

As we have done with our other fruit tisanes lets look in more detail at the ingredients of Mote Beach Tea.

Coconut (Cocus muciferaA tropical fruit rich in protein and very rich in the taste department! I absolutely love all things coconut and the ‘tree of life’ in its various forms delivers lots of healthy fats and fiber. I found that coconut has all the benefits of other dietary fibers: –

Lower risk of heart disease, helps prevent cancer, improves digestive function and helps regulate blood sugar all with 4 times the amount of fiber compared to oat bran.  New research shows that coconut fats are absorbed directly by the liver and not stored in fat cells thus producing energy and raising the body’s metabolism.

Pineapple (Ananas cosmosusThis ‘fruit of many blessings’, good health, good fortune and longevity.  Pineapple also has a wonderful taste along with some outstanding health benefits. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain which helps in the digestion of proteins, Vitamins C and B and many essential daily minerals. The sugars in pineapple are easily digested, the fiber content is high and your immune system will receive a boost protecting you from illnesses.  Pineapple also has anti inflammatory properties.

Apple (Malus domesticaNot quite as exotic as our first 2 ingredients but never the less a very special fruit which we perhaps take for granted due to the continuous abundance of choices year round in our grocery store.

Apple contains anti-oxidants, flavonoids and pectin which is a natural fiber (apples being the richest source) that has recently been shown to act against bad cholesterol, decrease the chances of colon cancer and reduce high blood pressure.  Quercetin which is primarily found in Apples (and Black tea!) belongs to a group of plant pigment called flavonoids that help fight disease.

The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” was certainly established with good reason.

Rose Hip (Rosa caninaThe beautiful hip is the fruit of the Wild Dog Rose and takes its name from its earliest use as a remedy for bites from ‘mad’ or ‘wild’ dogs.

It is estimated that there are more than 10,000 species of cultivated roses but the medicinal species are natives of Europe. The hips are the reddish colored coverings that grow around the real fruits for protection and for this reason they are often called “false fruits”. The nutrient value is as rich as their color; they enhance the function of everything from your skin to your innermost being, containing an array of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

Hibiscus Blossoms (Hibiscus sabdariffaIf you have been following our blogs, by now you will have become very familiar with this little gem which is used as an enhancer in many teas now. If you have missed our previous descriptions on this healthy and colorful addition check out  Sabdariffa Spritzer.

 You may not receive quite the list of benefits just drinking the tea so after brewing why not just add the steeped fruit to your morning cereal, yoghurt or smoothie for more exotic goodness!

Mote Marine Laboratory

Mote Beach Tea was created to celebrate and honor the work conducted at Mote Marine Laboratory.  Available in distinctive, resealable blue bags to maintain freshness, on the back of each package is an overview of the mission of Mote Marine Laboratory.  

Mote is one of the treasures of Sarasota, and a part of the Local Coffee + Tea Celebrating Sarasota collection of teas.  Mote Beach Tea is a crowd pleaser at our tea tent at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings. Kids love it, though parents often enjoy it even more. 

We launched this tea last year at the Night of Fish, Fun & Fright at Mote.  Come this year Friday Oct. 22 from 6:30 to 9pm.  

Cheers,

the TeaLady

 Thank you to those following my Kombucha side trip on my Tea Journey, as well as those enduring me when I get carried away with Kombucha enthusiasm! Since my earlier Kombucha posts, #1 and #2, I have been busy brewing and continue to learn about the variations, the good, bad and the ugly about this fascinating beverage.

Kombucha Tea

I am not very disciplined about drinking my kombucha when at home but during my working days at the Carriage House at Selby Gardens sip during lunch and the afternoon hours. During the ‘dog days of summer’ kombucha gives me a boost of energy.

Michael and Tray continue to make excuses why they no longer brew kombucha, though Tray drinks as much of my supply as available. I must be doing something right. So, what’s new?

I have found that black tea seems to work best, especially our Harrogate Yorkshire tea. (Not really surprising, this tea has such strength and character like the people of Yorkshire!!) Brewing the tea for 14 days was too astringent for my taste, so I reduced to 7 days. Less fermentation time results in a slightly sweeter taste and more fizz which I prefer. I also started adding new tea on top of the same SCOBY instead of washing out container each time and splitting the mother and baby. The SCOBY has grown really fat, improving my end results.

kombucha SCOBY

After reading that more fizz will be achieved if you leave bottles out for 4 days before refrigeration I tried this. The bottles started to grow ‘mini’ SCOBYs (ew!) so I now refrigerate immediately.

I am very much enjoying where this journey is taking me and find new converts or fellow ‘Kombuchans’ in all sorts of spots. You may have heard of retailers removing the commercially bottled Kombucha from their shelves, so there has been growing interest in home brewing. I have been giving away SCOBYs to anyone who wants to try making their own and hope to have more success stories to share.  Stop by Local Coffee + Tea to talk tea. 

Cheers,

The TeaLady

Our sister company, Local Catering has seen an increased interest in tea parties at Selby Gardens including an intimate wedding last month.  I hear the term “High Tea” used as a reference, when in actual fact; “Afternoon Tea” is a more accurate description. 

Tea Service

I will attempt to explain the differences between “High Tea” and “Afternoon Tea”, as well as a bit of history on how these very different meals got their specific titles

“High Tea” does not refer to fancy sandwiches and small cakes served with elegant table settings, but rather a meal served in working class households as the main meal of the day, usually early evening.

At the height of Victorian times lower and middle class families were only able to afford one meal per day.  Served at the end of the working day, the meal typically consisted of bread and cheese, potatoes, vegetables, maybe cold meat and pickles or for the more affluent, fish.  Black tea would be served along with the food. This is the meal most families would now refer to as dinner.

Growing up, this was the main meal at house and was called “tea”.  Today, I still refer to our evening meal as tea and often ask myself “What are we having for tea today?” As I am more sensitive to caffeine, we now will drink Rooibos or Honeybush or another herbal tea

Why is this meal known as “High Tea”?  Very simply, the meal is served on a dining table, in contrast to the much lower table on which “Afternoon Tea” is served.

Anna, Duchess of Bedford

Anna, Duchess of Bedford (1788-1861) is credited with creating “Afternoon Tea”. The evening meal was often served after 8pm, and the Duchess would get a ‘sinking feeling’ (low blood sugar levels associated with hunger!) in the afternoon hours.  She instructed her staff at Belvoir Castle to make up small sandwiches and cakes, and invited friends for tea and conversation. The meal was served on lower tables in the drawing room, allowing for intimate conversation. The tradition of “Afternoon Tea” is still very popular.

There are many variations of “Afternoon Tea” with small sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream and a huge variety of teas to choose from.  “Tea” can be a sophisticated, dressy and special occasion or a simple, casual and relaxed meal at the end of the day.

Whichever “Tea” you choose, the idea remains a wonderful way to spend quality time with friends or loved ones, enjoying some food and conversation. We should all do this more often!

Cheers,

The TeaLady