The world of smells is closely linked to our experience. We work on memory, and so everyone describes tea with different terms. My role as a tea taster is to understand each one and say, “you are actually talking about the same compound.”
Inspiring enthusiasts to refine their taste in tea
Spring begins a romance as jasmine flowers meet the newly plucked tea. Spring green tea and summer jasmine flowers are mixed at a strictly-calculated ratio. Hundreds of processes exist to make the miracle tea. The bitterness of tea and the sweetness of flowers are a perfect compliment. Jasmine grown in Hengzhou meets the high expectations of famous brands at home and abroad.
A pioneer tea sommelier in France and the author of several reference books on tea, Lydia Gautier has been a consultant for many international brands. Her 25 years of experience and proximity to producers have led her to become one of the major figures in tea expertise in the world, and in 2107 to create her own brand, Lydia Gautier Thés et Tisanes.
Mountainous Suichuan county in Jiangxi Province offers an incomparable microclimate for local cultivars, producing an exceptionally tender leaf. Gou Gu Nao Green Tea is highly prized. The processing method is quite complicated. It is refined through eight processes. The shape of Gou Gu Nao Tea is tight and rolled to a slight curl. The color is bright green, the aroma is fresh and elegant, and the taste is fresh and thick with a sweet and long aftertaste.
Depending on the variety and quality, the price of local tea in the domestic market ranges from $4.70 to $29 (8-50 manats) per kilogram. Recently, farmers say, the demand for higher quality has increased markedly. People have discovered that local products are of better quality, and therefore they are willing to buy Azerbaijan tea, despite the apparent high cost.
What’s changed is what I hoped would change. There is no such thing as ‘Tea Cuisine;’ it is no longer an oddity or a fad. It’s just another palate of ingredients and techniques that can and do inspire many chefs and mixologists. – Cynthia Gold
Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) is a cutting-edge organization in the Agro-technological sector in agricultural research, extension, and innovation. The institute is a decentralized state organization with operational and financial autarchy, associated with the Ministry of Agroindustry. INTA operates in the five ecoregions of Argentina (Northwest, Northeast, Cuyo, Pampeana, and Patagonia) through a structure that includes: a central headquarters, 15 regional centers, 52 experimental stations, six research centers, 22 research institutes, and more than 350 Extension Units.
Meitan Cuiya is an early spring green tea oxidized for a few hours in the shade before processing. It is made from high-quality fresh and tender tea leaves and undergoes 20 complex processes, including spreading, fixing, shaping, and drying. The leaves appear straight and flat. The aroma is long-lasting above a bright green liquor. The tea has a fresh taste with abundant amino acids, polyphenols, and vitamins.
Luo Shi uses iron-rich Miaoli clay and traditional methods to bring his vision of nature to life. His work, such as his wonderful teapots, sell for hundreds of dollars each in his homeland and have earned him celebrity status in Taiwan’s fine arts and tea-drinking circles.
The Barbote tea farm is nestled in the steep hills of Ilam, Nepal, planted by his grandfather and tended by his father but grower Narendra Kumar Gurung spent most of his working years with the Japan International Cooperation Agency. Like most of Nepal’s new-generation farmers, specialty tea is a new endeavor built on a century-old foundation of commodity production.
Once the most productive growing region in Africa, Mozambique’s tea gardens lay idle during decades of war until investors realized the potential of rejuvenating millions of mature tea trees naturally purged of pesticides and chemical fertilizer.
It’s important to really know what you’re drinking and how it affects your body.
Consumers who experience the origin, terroir, and processing of the leaves in the cup can engage more deeply by visiting tea-growing regions to learn about tea. Visiting origin forever alters one’s relationship to tea. But before delving into the myriad tour options it is important to reflect on how our actions may impact others. Namely, while simultaneously seeking an authentic, hands-on tea tour, one must also consider which programs are sustainable and respectfully engage the host culture(s).
Knowledge of how tea is grown and processed came naturally to fourth-generation Argentine grower Carolina Okulovich but she observed that was not so for the tourists and visitors to the farm who found tea cultivation and processing fascinating. That was how the idea arose to create a learning experience for visitors touring the 15 hectares known as La Ruta del Té.
What started as a conversation about the qualities that make the teas of Assam so appealing has since developed into a collaboration with marginalized, small-size tea growers to provide natural loose-leaf “home grown” tea.
Tea in Colombia was first planted 75 years ago. Joaquín Llano González and his son, Alberto Llano Buenaventura, became the first commercial tea growers and their farms La Sofía and Hacienda Himalaya, located in the mountains of the western Andes above the Pacific Coast, continue producing Colombia’s sole domestically grown brands.
The Tea History Collection fills a huge gap in the documentation of the history of the business of tea the world over. Very few individual tea companies possess archives that relate to their own history, and many other tea businesses simply disappeared when they closed or were bought out.
With its 1,800 hectares of soil, the Jersey Royal is spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to plant tea. The islands’ acid soil is perfect for the tea plant to grow. Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Jersey winters are mild, without any risk of frost, while summers are moderately warm and sunny. The island’s high humidity also provides ideal conditions for the tea plants to thrive.
For centuries, in southwest Anhui, Huangshan Mountain has endeared itself to scenic seekers, poets, and tea lovers. During the Five Dynasties, Shezhou Dafang tea was a tribute tea favored by the imperial family. In the Song Dynasty, at the onset of commercial trade, the acreage under tea expanded continuously and a variety of famous teas emerged.
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew houses a remarkable cache of tea leaves and tea material culture collected over the past 174 years. Kew, a 326-acre botanical garden southwest of London opened in 1759 and today houses one of most diverse living and dried botanical and mycological collections in the world.
In 2011 Portuguese wine maker Dirk Niepoort and his wife Nina Grutkowski planted two hundred seedlings in their garden adding a little at a time until, in 2018, there were 12,000 seedlings. Last spring Camélia Tea processed its first commercial crop, with a distinctive flavor that is the result of a terroir of its own.
From Hwuy-Chow Foo, a tea-growing district in Anhui, China to Pauri, India, the Nilgiris, Munnar, and Chennai … the Ajoo family story traverses an untold chapter in the history of Indian tea, a road James Ajoo is trying to retrace, “to say I landed my feet where my ancestor had walked.”
Growers in Anhua county invented the dark tea processing technology before 1524, which led to the rise of dark tea production and marketing. The compact and easily transported tea was very popular locally and in 1595, Anhua dark tea was formally designated as the “Official Tea” of the Ming dynasty government making it a regulated form of currency.
The Bolivian government has invested in tea production as part of its Poverty Alleviation Program leading to the creation of ecological brands pioneered by ChaiMaté Tea, an IMO certified supplier producing teas competitive for export.
The Léonard region of Brittany in Northern France has been considered a land of plenty for centuries; but who would have thought that a tea perfectly expressing the alliance between land and sea would grow from its soil?
Tie Guan Yin oolong, the quintessential “slow tea of China,” is time-consuming to produce and meant to be savored slowly. In Anxi, Fujian, the birthplace of Tie Guan Yi, the locals, like organic tea grower Rong Feng Wang, are fiercely proud of their oolongs. Here’s Wang’s tea journey.
Tanyang Gongfu tea is experiencing notoriety as well as increased demand that dates to the 1980s when local growers collectively raised their production standard, earning a reputation for quality hongcha (red tea). The tea is grown in Fu’an which takes its name from a poem in which a Song dynasty emperor bestowed five blessings: “Lucky Heaven, Lucky Earth, Lucky Mountain, Lucky Water, and Lucky Tea.”
The Satemwa Tea Estate, founded in 1923, began to revive the production of orthodox teas about 15 years ago. It is the only estate in Malawi crafting orthodox teas. Taster Alfred Mwase says, “my only experience prior to 2010 was CTC. My first tasting of specialty stimulated interest in these unique teas. Satemwa is a pioneering estate that is open to experiments with new tea cultivars, withering times, rolling techniques, oxidation times, and drying cycles.”
The pandemic was the worst thing to happen to Nepal’s Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, but there is a silver lining. “It radically changed how we work,” says Nishchal Banskota, who manages operations via Zoom calls between Long Island, New York, and his family’s tea estate. It’s early morning for me and the end of the day for my father, but after nine months, he says, “I have more confidence that I can manage a farm remotely.”
“Down-chain tasting invites creative adventures into language and experience that is independent of a single lexicon. The focus is on concrete references to scents and aromas but abstract descriptors that personify overall quality are effective. Of course, your words have to describe something that touches on a shared experience — otherwise, it’s useless.”
Tea Journey readers span the globe. Half of the magazine’s subscribers reside in Asia and Europe and Africa. That’s why this year’s last-minute gift guide features festive items from India, Europe, and China. These gifts bring to mind holiday celebrations around the world
The aroma that swirls from a package of gyokuro, especially one of the highest grades, is so extraordinary that you could stop right there and be satisfied.
Orit Eisenberg is irrefutable proof that it sometimes takes 25 years to become an overnight success. During the recent World Tea Virtual Summit, Eisenberg, a product development specialist and production designer, told her founding story with humor and extraordinary passion. She launched the Mennä ONE in September 2019 after testing 20 prototypes over five years, gradually refining the elusive challenge of controlling steep time on the go.
Given the interest among young adults, tea promoters would be wise to expand their outreach to places where these folks congregate: colleges and universities.
Chileans drink an average of 427 cups of tea a year, more than any South American country and almost as much per capita as the Chinese, placing them among the top 20 tea consuming countries.
My introduction to tea was unspoken and visceral. Humble mugs of the strong, milked ‘builder’s tea’ of my youth in the North of England still fill me with nostalgic pleasure whenever I’m in the U.K. My body chemistry has never been without the magic nectar. – Kevin Gascoyne
The currents of Japanese tea culture are flowing outward to Europe. In the past 50 years, Europeans have been diving and delving into the green waters. What is it about Japanese tea that attracts Europeans, and how is it pouring into European culture?
Sri Lanka celebrates diversity in tea. A new generation of Ceylon tea growers recently established an artisan tea collective to showcase exceptional teas produced to interest a niche domestic market and equally, the international market.
Modern Songyang integrates the essence of mountain and river, the taste of the countryside, and the beauty of folk art and local customs. The terraced hillsides are typical of traditional tea-producing regions, but Songyang is also a model county for national tea industry development. Plantations cover 20,403 acres of plants used in making 76,000 metric tons of Yinhou and Xiang green tea.
The Global Japan Tea Association educates and informs tea enthusiasts about Japanese tea, but it is also about making and developing human relations that transcend national boundaries.
Uniquely positioned in the southern hemisphere where the harvest will soon be underway, Argentina is one of the world’s great tea producing nations. The first few months of the November 2019 harvest were very rainy. Growers report achieving normal volumes of good quality black tea for export.
In 2014 in Brittany, France, Denis and Weizi Mazerolle processed 50 grams of their very first green tea using traditional Chinese methods. The tea had its own typicity, expressing aquatic, greeny, and seaweedy notes, it was a pure evocation of its terroir. Two thousand trees now make their garden, Filleule des fées, one of the largest in Europe.
While hot tea still cools millions worldwide, it is iced and cold-brewed tea that quenches the thirst of urban dwellers on the go. Our Summer Fun gift issue offers some great iced teas, pitchers, tea makers and teaware. Now is the perfect time to review the terrific selection of recipes for A Summer Barbecue by Culinary Tea author Cynthia Gold. Recipes include tea-smoked salmon, tea-grilled wings with hot dipping sauce, matcha and white bean dip, and gourmet s’mores.
In marketing tea, health has always played an important role. In her book Tasting Qualities, Sarah Besky writes that back when the Indian Tea Association (ITA) was promoting “Empire Tea” (teas originating in the colonies), medical journals were linking the increased consumption of these malty, astringent teas from British colonies to a population-wide rise in indigestion and constipation. Tea’s most important benefit today is boosting immunity.
At age 6, on his way to school, Roy Fong would linger at a Hong Kong food stand where day laborers were making gongfu cha. Sometimes someone would offer him a cup, and he never forgot the wonderful aroma and taste.
The originators of the Japanese tea ceremony believed that the simple activity of sharing tea with a friend was like the path of a falling cherry blossom. It is a fleeting encounter on a path that can never be exactly repeated.
There is no doubt that in this golden age of tea quality frontier teas are precious opportunities to increase the spectrum of possibility. With the right care, everybody could win as producers gain a new source of income and the flowering of that beautiful craft-pride from focused artisanal activity. We should never forget, when tasting new tea, to exercise reverence for the passion and determination it takes to harvest and convert any form of the leaf into a finished tea.
Shun the expensive spring water If you want a better-tasting cup of green tea ― your water of choice should be from the tap. If it is health benefits you seek, choose bottled or deionized water for superior extraction of catechins, nearly double that of tap water.
Tasting Qualities: The Past and the Future of Tea by Sarah Besky manages to easily deconstruct and demystify the space between the plantation and the cup of tea.
During the past few decades, all types of tea, from herbal to Pu’er, have re-emerged in premium formats favored by younger generations. “What makes the super-premium tea category unique, in my view, is the importance of storytelling with regard to ingredient origin, processing, and functional appeal,” says Euromonitor Beverage Analyst Howard Telford.
The Tea Leaf Theory team is very lean, choosing to remain independent, bootstrapped, refusing certifications, they represent a new kind of startup, modern yet rooted in something traditional, ancient even. There’s the social impact but Tea Leaf Theory is not an NGO working for small farmers. “We want to make them entrepreneurs, not beneficiaries,” say co-founders Upamanyu Borkakoty and Anshuman Bharali.
Sikkim’s Temi Tea has protected and sustained its legacy. But it also made this legacy a part of its brand story, one that complements its topnotch tea.
Peru’s tea industry is gradually expanding after decades of decline. Tea drinking has grown in popularity, but due to social and political problems and the economic crisis, commercial production in the late 1990s began a seemingly endless decline, compounded by bad administrative management and the arrival of less expensive Argentine tea. In the ten years since 2011, Peru’s tea market has increased 61% by value.
Tea drinking has evolved in the 75 years since George Orwell’s famous essay ‘A Nice Cup’ was first published. The variety of teas available today would likely astonish Orwell and certainly would have astonished his Evening Standard readers. The process of discovering what a great pot of tea means to you can and should be more nuanced and wide-ranging than it was in Orwell’s time.
Several studies reveal that healthy skin begins with the microbes living in your gut. Drinking a flavonoid-rich Silver Needle white tea helps gut microbiota adjust biological activities, improve bioavailability, and produce antioxidants such as flavonols and phenolic metabolites.