Hello, readers and friends! It has been over a year since I spoke to you about tea, and it’s been far too long. I will not be updating as frequently as I once was, but I hope you will visit here from time to time or add me to your Google Reader or RSS feeds. I am optimistic that 2011 will bring great tea into my life that I would love to share with you.

Until tomorrow, when I will share with you a documentary I watched on tea recently.

IMG_0106

Tonight I improvised a masala chai by steeping Upton Tea Import’s Orange Spice Imperial tea in a teapot, poring the liquor into a saucepan with 2% milk and pure cane sugar, and bringing the mixture to a boil.

Orange Spice Imperial tea according to Upton’s website is “generously scented black tea, with cinnamon, orange peel, vanilla bean, and a bit of clove.” While this tea does not make an authentic Indian masala chai insofar as the ingredients are not quite right, it does make for a delicious treat. I am debating on whether to try Upton’s Chai Spice Tea or just stick with this nicely flavored blend. As some of you know, Upton provides great deals on samples – for as low as $1.00 – so there is no reason for me not to try the Chai Spice. Look here for a comparison over the next couple of months.

Do you want to know all there is to know about masala chai? Read Wikipedia’s entry on the subject here.

I am always looking for new ways to make chai, and even different blends. Let me know your favorites.

Tonight I begin to re-read an excellent reference book on tea. “The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide” by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss makes a wonderful holiday gift for yourself or others. Look for insights from this book in future posts!

In my new Beehouse teapot for two, the boyfriend and I enjoyed Upton Tea Imports’ Season’s Pick Kenya Blend: his with sugar and mine with milk and sugar.

This tea is rather astringent, which is not surprising for a black tea. It, according to the boyfriend, has an earthy aftertaste. The tea is a little too bold for my palate. I may have overdone the amount of tea leaves with two and a half heaping teaspoons.

IMG_0095

This evening while watching basketball I drank a China Competition Grade Top Tie-Guan-Yin, a personal favorite oolong of mine – but then again all oolongs are personal favorites. I can honestly say that I have not had a oolong that I did not enjoy. This tea comes from Upton Tea Imports.

I received two grams or .1 ounces, which was just barely enough to make eight ounces of tea. I could have easily added another half teaspoon of tea to my infuser.

Description from Upton’s website:
This handmade specialty Oolong is the finest Tie-Guan-Yin we have seen in recent years. The liquor is smooth and sweet, with a complex, orchid-like aroma.

In looking at their website, Upton only sells this tea in two grams and 10 grams. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience this tea. The floral aftertaste is very apparent and extremely delightful.

The liquor, as you can see, is a pleasant yellow-green, which was very clean.

Pu-erh

Read about pu-erh tea. Learn about post-fermented tea: the tea that is better when aged. There are many zealots in the tea-drinking world who swear by their pu-erh cakes. Tell me, where do you buy yours? Consider me completely wet behind the ears in this area.

Photo courtesy of user Iateasquirrel on Wikipedia. Photo of a Xia Guan Tuo Cha.

IMG_0089

Tonight I review the festive Christmas Tea from Upton Tea Imports. Christmas Tea, or Mélange Noël, is a blend of black tea with cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and cardamom. It is decorated with orange peel, rose petals and almond pieces.

Upon smelling this tea, the first thing that came to mind was potpourri. The taste, however, was not as artificial as the smell. For me, the flavor of cloves really came out in my first brew of this tea. As described above, Mélange Noël is extremely spice heavy, but this adds to the drinking pleasure. It reminded me of a lactose-free chai.

I drank my tea with a slice of homemade banana bread courtesy of the boyfriend. It was a great combination. I especially enjoyed dipping the banana bread in the tea.

IMG_0088

Today I decided to dig into the Assam Orange Pekoe black tea a co-worker had brought back from India. The tea had been sitting on my desk for several weeks, but for some reason I did not get around to brewing it until today.

Knowing that a different co-worker was also a lover of tea, I asked if she was interested in partaking of this personally blended tea. She was interested, so I brewed two cups. I brewed the first cup – my co-worker’s – for about four minutes with 1 1/4 tablespoons of tea. She said the tea was excellent and not too weak. While I steeped mine for 20 seconds shy of four minutes, and found it a little on the weak side. The tea is extremely fresh and of very good quality.

Orange pekoe as you may know is a grade of black tea. For a full list of grade terminologies, please see below.

Grade terminology

Choppy – Tea that contains many leaves of various sizes.
Fannings – Small particles of tea leaves used almost exclusively in tea bags A grade higher than Dust.
Flowery – A large leaf, typically plucked in the second or third flush with an abundance of tips.
Golden Flowery – Tea that includes very young tips or buds (usually golden in colour) that were picked early in the season.
Tippy – Tea that includes an abundance of tips.

Whole leaf grades
The grades for whole leaf orthodox black tea (in ascending order) are:
OP – Orange Pekoe – Main grade in tea production. Can consist of long wiry leaf without tips.
OP sup – Orange Pekoe Superior – Primarily from Indonesia. Similar to OP.
F OP – Flowery Orange Pekoe – High-quality tea with a long leaf and few tips. Considered the second grade in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh teas, but the first grade in China
F OP1 – Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves – As above but with only the highest quality leaves in the F.O.P classification
GF OP1 – Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe First Grade Leaves- Higher proportion of tip than FOP Top grade in Milima and Marinyn regions; Uncommon in Assam and Darjeeling.
TGF OP – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – Tea with the highest proportion of tip; Main grade in Darjeeling and Assam.
TGF OP1 – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – As above, but with only the highest quality leave in the T.G.F.O.P classification
FTGF OP – Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe – Highest quality grade. Often hand processed and produced at only the best plantations. Roughly one quarter tips.

Broken leaf grades
BT – Broken Tea – Usually a black, open, fleshy leaf that is very bulky. Classification used in Sumatra, Sri Lanka, and some parts of Southern India.
BP – Broken Pekoe- Most common broken pekoe grade. From Indonesia, Ceylon, and Southern India.
BPS – Broken Pekoe Souchong – Term for broken pekoe in Assam and Darjeeling.
FP – Flowery Pekoe – High-quality pekoe. Usually coarser with a fleshier, broken leaf. Produced in Ceylon and Southern India, as well as in some parts of Kenya.
BOP – Broken Orange Pekoe – Main broken grade. Prevalent in Ceylon, Southern India, Java, and China.
F BOP – Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe – Coarser and broken with some tips. From Assam, Ceylon, Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. In South America coarser, black broken.
F BOP F – Finest Broken Orange Pekoe Flowery – The finest broken orange pekoe. Higher proportion of tips. Mainly from Ceylon’s “low districts”.
G BOP – Golden Broken Orange Pekoe – Second grade tea with uneven leaves and few tips.
GF BOP1 – Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 – As above, but with only the highest quality leaves in the GFBOP classification.
TGF BOP1 – Tippy Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe 1 – High-quality leaves with a high proportion of tips. Finest broken First Grade Leaves in Darjeeling and some parts of Assam.

Fannings grades
PF – Pekoe Fannings -
OF – Orange Fannings – From Northern India and some parts of Africa and South America.
FOF – Flowery Orange Fannings – Common in Assam, Dooars, and Bangladesh. Some leaf sizes come close to the smaller broken grades.
GFOF – Golden Flowery Orange Fannings- Finest grade in Darjeeling for tea bag production.
TGFOF – Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Fannings.
BOPF – Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings – Main grade in Ceylon, Indonesia, Southern India, Kenya, Mozambique, Bangladesh, and China. Black-leaf tea with few added ingredients, uniform particle size, and no tips.

Dust grades
D1 – Dust 1 – From Sri Lanka, Indonesia, China, Africa, South America, and Southern India.
PD – Pekoe Dust
PD1 – Pekoe Dust 1 – Mainly produced in India.

Source: Wikipedia entry on “orange pekoe”

IMG_0079

Today I contributed to the sales of RTD, or Ready-to-Drink, teas. A recent article in Marketing Daily states that canned and bottled teas have seen only a growth of 1% this year. This is surprising insofar as there are so many different RTD teas on the market. According to this article, people are turning to bagged and loose teas for their tea drinking. Bagged and loose teas are cheaper than RTD teas, and are seeing a 3% sales growth this year.

IMG_0084

This evening I sipped on Creme Caramel tea from Upton Tea Imports. As you may recall, I purchased a 15g sample of this black tea over the weekend.

The tea is a blend of caramel pieces with Ceylon, or Sri Lankan, black tea. It has a smooth flavor that coats the mouth. This tea is extremely sensitive and should only be steeped as Upton instructs: four minutes. I can honestly say that I allowed mine to go as long as five minutes, and the bitter aftertaste, while not ever-present, did diminish my opinion of this tea. Adding pure cane sugar brought out the caramel flavor and lessened the bitterness of the oversteeping.

According to the Wikipedia entry on tea in Sri Lanka:

Tea production in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, is of high importance to the Sri Lankan economy and the world market. The country is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea and the industry is one of the country’s main sources of foreign exchange and a significant source of income for laborers, with tea accounting for 15% of the GDP, generating roughly $700 million annually. Sri Lanka was the world’s leading exporter of tea (rather than producer) with 23% of the total world export in 1995 but has since been surpassed by Kenya. The tea sector employs, directly or indirectly over 1 million people in Sri Lanka, and in 1995 directly employed 215,338 on tea plantations and estates. The central highlands of the country, low temperature climate throughout the year, annual rainfall and the level of humidity are more favorable geographical factors for production in high quality tea. The industry was introduced to the country in 1867 by James Taylor, the British planter who arrived in 1852.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.