Blended Black Tea
Our black tea blends are mainly done with Ceylon teas from the highlands of Sri Lanka. as the base tea. However, we also use China black teas and Indian teas when necessary to achieve a certain flavor profile. These teas are blended in our facility by our tea expert with over 40 years experience. The balance of tea flavors and flavors introduced from other sources is what distinguishes our teas from the rest.
There are over 100 varieties of Green teas produced in China alone. Most tea producing countries manufacture black tea as well as green tea. China and Japan specializes in green tea. Green teas are produced from Camillia Sinensis, but are not oxidized, unlike black teas. The leaves are steamed or pan fired to deactivate the enzymes that contribute to oxidization. This is one more step in the manufacturing process of green teas that is absent in conventional black tea production where oxidization is 100% (with a few exceptions).
The name Oolong tea is derived from the Chinese language meaning “black dragon tea”. Oolong tea is produced from cultivars of Camellia Sinensis through a process including withering and oxidation before rolling in muslin bags to bring about curling and twisting of the leaves.
Most Oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, are produced from unique tea plant cultivators that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation can range from 10% to 80% depending on the variety and production styles. The lower oxidized Oolong teas are commonly referred to as green Oolongs because their appearance is somewhat greenish (example Ti Kwan Yin Oolong) and the more oxidized ones are called dark Oolongs because their appearance is dark, and close to black teas (example Wu Yi Oolong).
Preparation of Oolong teas is customarily done with the Gongfu process using a Yixing tea pots or a Gaiwan. A glass tea pot works well too. The advantage of using glass is that you can see the leaves unfurl and sink to the bottom. Due to the nature of the rolling process where the leaves are twisted and curled but not broken, an attribute referred to as ‘whole leaf teas’, the brewing process can involve as much as 3-4 infusions from the same leaves. The initial infusion is called a primer, where in actuality the leaves are washed for 10 to20 seconds and primed for subsequent infusions. The liquid is drained out and not consumed. This removes any tea dust that may be present. The next infusion, which is the first, is about 3 minutes duration, sufficient time for the leaves to yield the appropriate flavor into the water. The liquid is consumed and more water is added for the second infusion. The procedure continues until there is no more flavors coming out of the leaves. Water temperature for Oolong teas should be around 190 degrees. The amount of tea should be 3 grams for 6 ounces water. The taste of Oolong teas vary among various sub-varieties. It can be sweet and fruity, thick with roasted aromas, or green and fresh with bouquet aromas. The specific cultivators that are used and the processing techniques determine these results. The best Oolong teas are produced in the Fujian province of China and Taiwan.
Puerh is a variety of post-fermented tea produced in Yunnan province, China. Post-fermentation is a tea production style in which the tea leaves undergo a microbial fermentation process after they are dried and rolled. This is a Chinese specialty and is sometimes referred to as dark, or black tea (this type of tea is completely different from what in West is known as “black tea”, which in China is called “red tea”).
There are a few different provinces, each with a few regions, producing dark teas of different varieties. Those produced in Yunnan are generally named Puerh, referring to the name of Puerh county which used to be a trading post for dark tea during imperial China. Puerh is available as loose leaf or in various compressed forms as a tea brick or cake.There is also the differentiation of cooked (shou) and raw (sheng) types.The shou type refers to those varieties that have gone through an accelerated post-fermentation process,while the sheng types are those in the process of gradual darkening through exposure to the environmental elements. Certain selections vary either type can be stored for maturity before consumption. That is why some are labeled with year and region of production.
Tisanes, Rooibos, & Herbals
Herbal teas are comprised of infusions that can be made from Herbs other than Camellia Sinensis, the traditional tea bush. Herbal teas are made from leaves such as Spearmint, seeds such as Fennel, flowers such as Chamomile and Lavender and roots such as Ginseng. They do not have caffeine.
Rooibos, meaning “red bush” and scientific name Aspalathus linearis is a member of the legume family of plants growing in South Africa. The leaves are used to make a tisane called Rooibos. The product has been popular in Southern Africa for generations. Rooibos is usually grown in a small area in the region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Generally, the leaves are oxidized, a process often referred to as fermentation in accordance with tea processing terminology. This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown color of Rooibos and enhances the flavor. Unoxidized “green” rooibos is also produced, but the more demanding production process for green Rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional Rooibos. It has no caffeine and has a mild flavor and a bright red liquor.
It is found that adding Vanilla and fruit flavors to it enhances the overall taste of the tea. Tisanes are liquors made only from dried fruit pieces such as Mango, Apricot and Apple. On their own they do not impart much flavor. The flavor comes from the flavorings that are added. We use dried fruit pieces in some of our herbal blends. They are tasty either hot or cold. Herbal teas and tisanes are usually steeped with 3 grams tea in 6 ounces water for 5-6 minutes at 212 F. There is no astringency or bitterness even if you extend the steeping time longer.
White tea is the least processed of all teas. They are comprised of tea buds that are harvested by hand. The tea bud is the infant stage of a tea leaf and harvested before it grows into a leaf and the production of Chlorophyll. Therefore tea buds are white with minute down like hairs visible to the naked eye.
Once harvested, they are spread out to dry. The drying period can vary depending on the dryness of the air and subject to weather conditions. Dry natural air produces the best quality and flavor in the tea. Processing is basically the removal of moisture from the buds. No handling, rolling or bruising of any kind is acceptable, and when dried to the required age, the dried buds are collected and packed ready for sale.
Even though white tea can be produced from any variety of the tea plant, Camilea Sinensis, there are select varieties that are more suitable in terms of flavor and appearance. Buds can be long and slender or thick and short and everything in between. Sometimes the color of the buds could take on various shades of white and gray. Since the buds are not rolled or processed in a manner as to cause breakage, it takes more time for flavor to be properly produced when steeped. Therefore unlike Green, Black or Oolong teas, more time is required to make tea. Due to this complexity, there is much deliberation as to the proper way to steep white tea. We do not believe there is one right answer. It all depends on preferences and time available. White teas can give several infusions and the entire process may take hours. Water temperature also is debatable. Going on the basis of logic, our recommendation is to steep with boiling water (212 F). The first infusion could be 8 minutes and each successive infusions could be 2 minutes longer. This could go on for as long as the tea still tastes good. Of course the first few infusions will be more flavorful, with diminishing results in the latter infusions. Cup color is extremely light even at 2 grams of white tea. Flavor is also very subtle and is an acquired taste. Those who are used to drinking black tea or green tea will find the flavor to be less forthcoming, but after much practice will begin to notice the nuances of the tea which will become more and more appreciated with time.
There is also a category of white tea called Pai Mu Tan, made in China, that is not entirely buds. This will have 2 tender leaves harvested along with the bud and is known as a ‘flush’. Yet the drying part is the same and there is no rolling. Dried leaves however, are not easy to keep intact and therefore in Pai Mu Tan, there will be some broken leaves. Due to the leaves, cup color and flavor, it will be much more pronounced and the taste too will be less subtle. Some tea connoisseurs prefer Pai Mu tan over pure white tea for this reason.