Tea and punch have a long history together. Some say punch originated in India, where it was made from five key ingredients. (In
Hindi, the word for five is “panch.” Many think this is where the word “punch” originated.)
These five key ingredients were: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, liquor and vaguely defined “spice,” which could mean something we currently think of as “spice” (like nutmeg), something we would probably shun today (like a whale secretion that’s only used is perfume these days), or (yes, yes) tea.
Water temperature also influences the final cup, and tea masters are vigilant about heating their water optimally to match the tea they are brewing. However, they determine the “readiness” of the water in different ways-visually, auditorially, and electronically.
Some look for visual signs of the water temperature to determine when the water is heated properly for the particular tea they intend to brew.
You may have heard tea masters talk about looking for “fish eyes” in the water. This is when medium bubbles form just before the water moves towards a roiling boil. This is when the water is ready for oolongs, generally. The way the steam leaves the spout of the kettle—in wisps or in gusts–also signals the water’s readiness for some tea masters.
David Lee Hoffman’s appreciation for quality tea water reminds me of those of Lu Yu, the eighth century Tang Dynasty tea sage who instructed his readers in The Classic of Tea about how and where to collect water for tea:
“On the question of water to use, I would suggest that tea made from mountain streams is best, river water is all right, but well-water is quite inferior.”1
Other tea masters rave about the water used for brewing tea in the rural mountain villages of China where they go to find teas. They believe that where good tea grows, good water is often close at hand. As well, the experience of drinking a tea in its natural habitat with local stream water meant for that tea is an inimitable lifetime experience to be treasured.
Jennifer Leigh Sauer brings our attention to the elemental ingredient in great tea: water. “Before tea there is water. While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.
Before tea there is water. While you invest time and money to procure great tea, you might also want to consider your investment in “gathering” and brewing water for tea.
While I don’t profess to be a tea master, I’ve made it my life’s work for the past three years or so to research tea for my book and blog by interviewing great tea masters. They all have different preferences and standards when it comes to water, and I’ll share with you some of what I have learned from them.
There are many ways tea and alcohol can be combined to form sophisticated, complex tea cocktails. The most common method is to simply blend tea, alcohol and a mixer. Somewhat more complex methods include making a tea-infused liqueur or a tea-infused simple syrup before building the beverage itself.
A fun, simple and colorful method of making tea cocktails is to whisk matcha into an alcoholic drink. For a Saint Patrick’s Day cocktail, a bright green color is desirable, so I decided to go with this last method in coming up with a tea cocktail recipe to share with you here. It’s easy, tasty, energizing and a lot healthier than a Red Bull and vodka or an artificially colored beer. Check it out:
Continue reading St. Patrick’s Day Green Tea Cocktail
Tea is hot!
And no one steeps patrons in the ancient and enduring properties of tea like San Francisco’s Samovar Tea Lounge. In this compelling podcast, owner Jesse Jacobs explores the reverberations of how one cup of tea serenely enjoyed influences peace throughout the world. Visiting with modern Tea Masters, Jacobs uncovers the mysterious roots of today’s highly sought-after tea experience and sheds light on the dark elixir’s calming effects….
Christie Bartlett, Founding Director of Ursaenke Society, San Francisco talks about the history of Urasenke, why tea gatherings matter today, and the ripple effect of “peace through a bowl of tea.”
– What is a “tea gathering?”
– Spontaneity through structure and the art of tea
– Slowing down time, appreciating fleeting moments
– Sipping tea to free the mind, cleaning tea utensils to clean the heart
– The role of a tea gathering in creating world peace
Check out the tea in this video… Matcha.
* Special thanks to Toshiko, for making the tea!
David Lee Hoffman: Part of the beauty of tea is you can get so many different tastes and sensations with it. Almost emotion, each tea has a different emotion and personality. And you could shape that personality, you could play with it, depending on how you steep it, and the water, and the temperature, time, and the quantity of leaf you put in, it all has a contribution to the shape that you want to give that tea. Continue reading David Lee Hoffman, Tea Pioneer: Part I
American tea pioneer David Lee Hoffman discusses puerh, the Slow Food tea movement, and the benefits of organic, handcrafted family-made tea.
– Living with tea kings, learning to taste fine tea
– How To: Artisan tea crafting and family operations, and secrets
– Making American Handcrafted Puerhs
– Slow Food and the Fair Trade movement and tea
– Culinary pleasures of tea and living slowly
– Tea as an affordable path to world peace
Ayumi Kinezuka visits us from Japan to talk about her organic tea farm in Shizuoka, and the challenges facing small artisan Japanese tea farmers today.
– Meet the family: an entire production from a small family operation
– Where are today’s generation of organic tea farmers? Challenges with aging tea farmers means fewer farmers making high-grade Japanese green tea
– Big beverage companies offering bottled green tea replaces Slow Tea
– Big business lacks microenvironment knowledge to manage small organic farms
– How can a consumer make a difference
San Francisco tea-entrepreneur and owner of Modern Tea, Alice Cravens discusses her Slow Food Farmer’s Market philosophy, discussing challenges and opportunities to growers, distributors and sellers of organic food and tea.
– Organic, seasonal, artisan food philosophy at Modern Tea
– About the Slow Food Movement and why it’s important
– How to make a difference: visit a local farmer’s market
– Fair Trade Today, challenges and opportunities
– The environmental impact of importing tea to America
Mostaffa and Omar brew traditional Moroccan tea and espouse on the harmonizing effects of Moroccan tea, Moroccan culture , and food- for all to embrace.
– How to make traditional Moroccan tea
– A gathering of family and friends around the Moroccan tea table
– Moroccan tea culture and the growing American tea culture
– The diverse ethnicities of Morocco and the unifying effect of tea
Teas in this video…Moorish Mint
Taste tea, eat food, meet American tea-icon Karter Louis and learn about tea pairing principles.
– How to pair tea and food: basic harmonies and balancing flavors
– One tea leaf connects cultures and makes peace
Check out other Japense Green Teas.
Choosing teas from the seemingly never-ending selection can sometimes be daunting. Let Samovar Tea Lounge guide you through the maze of different teas and help you learn about what makes a good tea.
Before buying tea, it’s always optimal to taste it, just like wine. In general, you should buy small quantities – unless it’s a particular favorite – because this will allow you to consume the tea while it’s still fresh.
Picking. Sorting. Steaming. Firing. Twisting. Oxidizing.
All of these techniques and more are used to produce the best tasting tea. Learn more about how the perfect leaf becomes the perfect sip.
All tea is made from the same plant.
Yes, you read right, all tea, whether it’s black, oolong, green, white, or pu-erh, comes from the Camellia sinensis plant in the same way that all wine comes from the grape, albeit different varietals.
Like wine, different tea leaf varietals have developed in different geographic locations. Each tea varietal’s unique characteristics are the result of the human selection, soil composition, and local weather patterns.
Processing makes all the difference.
Processing the tea in different ways creates different kinds of teas. (Just for the record, we need to differentiate between tea and herbal infusions. The former is what we’re describing here, the latter is a beverage made from herbs and plants such as lavender, chamomile, rooibos, lemongrass, and osmanthus.)
Jade, emerald, golden, grassy, hay, ocean, oceanic, nutty, fresh, lively, smooth, fuzzy, uplifting, cooling, and nourishing. All These words describe Green Tea. Everybody knows Green Tea, but what is it that makes a tea “Green?”
Green Teas are teas that have not been allowed to oxidize much.
While White Tea undergoes virtually no processing, Green Tea is made by processing the leaf soon after it is picked to assure that the leaf is only minimally oxidized. The “green” in Green Tea is fixed into the leaf through heat: either by steaming or pan-firing the leaves. Each process brings out those classic Green Tea notes, which range from really vegetal and grassy, to buttery and nutty with hints of alfalfa, persimmon, and hay.
Depending on where and how it was processed, a Green Tea can have a strong or a delicate flavor. Good Green Tea should have a complexity of freshness, vibrancy, potency, and really positive uplifting energy.
One of our favorite things about Green Tea is the incredible diversity within this classification of tea. “Green Tea” encompasses many different processes and flavor profiles. The roasted twigs of Houjicha are really toasty, dark, nutty and hearty, while Senchas are so grassy and vegetal.
When you sip a good Green Tea, your first response should be, “Wow. Amen. That is Green Tea!” The aroma should be of freshness, whether ocean air or cut grass, and the first sip should really awaken your mouth. The body should be noticeable, smooth and buttery, with a tiny tingling of astringency on your tongue. You should be able to really feel the body swirl in between your cheeks and tongue, while you sense the aroma in your nose. After you swallow, the taste should linger on… slowly dissolving until the next sip.
Brewed properly, with good tasting water, Green Tea is a real luxury. It feels wholly healthy. It has just enough caffeine to keep you gently stimulated and able to buzz about your day. Or you can just sit there, sipping the tea and loving life. Our Green Teas come directly from the farms of our tea family friends in Japan and China.
A good Green Tea should leave you salivating… wanting more after each sip. It should make you feel really good. Just plain youthful and fresh and healthy.
Our collection of Samovar Green Teas has been curated for balance and flavor, dedicated to the craft of tea.
If you are looking for incredible value on Samovar Green Tea we have a number of deals on our Tea Shop Sale page.
Black Tea is the class of tea that is considered to be fully-oxidized. The processing of Black Tea originated in China, where it is known as Hong Cha, or “Red Tea.” When this fully-oxidized tea came to the west, people saw the black color of the dry leaves and Black Tea got its name.
Black tea is processed to become dark. This means that enzymatic oxidation is encouraged.
With black tea, the leaf is not fired until the leaf has oxidized to a point that the Tea Master making the tea determines is enough. If the tea is not oxidized enough, it will be to green in flavor. Too much oxidation and the tea will taste flat and dusty.
The resulting infusion of a Black Tea is a coppery “red.” This change in color occurs as a result of the way oxidation alters the polyphenols in the tealeaf. Fresh tealeaves are rich in polyphenols (the antioxidants), which have a clear and greenish pigment. When these clear-green polyphenols oxidize, they become Theaflavin, which has a golden-yellow pigment (as with the infusions of oolongs and white teas). In black tea, the Theaflavin has further oxidized and become Thearubigin, which has a reddish pigment.
Due to the hearty tea leaf varietals traditionally selected to make Black Tea, the infusions tend to be higher in caffeine than most other kinds of tea.
Take a look at the Samovar Black Teas. These make a great substitution for coffee by providing energy and hydration.
Julian, one of our most esteemed tea gurus talks tea, and dating and how to best blend the two!
You can learn so much about a person by what kind of tea they order. Don’t get me wrong – I was definitely a peppermint Stash kind of guy when I walked into Samovar for the first time on a man-date with one of my best friends. It was his secret date place, and, as it is for many people unaccustomed to camellia sinensis, the tea and herbal selection was quite intimidating to me at first. I knew I wanted to be adventurous, however, I had no idea how to even begin saying the word pu-erh, let alone know how to order or drink it (pooh-air, as it turns out).
My first hot sip at Samovar Tea Lounge was of the 8 Treasures, a sweet and refreshing mix of dates, berries, rock sugar and schizandra. It was served gong-fu style, which was handy to learn given I would begin my love affair with oolongs not long thereafter. Following that first experience I was hooked, and it was only a matter of time before I became interested in learning more about tea and joining the Samovar team.