Tea Glossary

July 10, 2008

The culture of tea is rife with terms that can be confusing to the layperson, especially when it comes to tasting terms such as “Biscuity” and “Dhool”. In this post there is a short glossary of some popular terms, while a more complete tea glossary can be found on our website. This glossary is by no means complete, and we are always adding to it and double-checking out definitions, so if there is something that you feel is wrong, or something that should be added to or expanded upon, do not hesitate to contact us!

Afternoon Tea – A British meal eaten in mid afternoon, consisting of sandwiches, scones,and pastries accompanied by tea.
Agony of the leaves – The unfurling of tea leaves during steeping.
Assam – A major tea growing region in India. These black teas are known for their strong malty flavor.
Biscuity – Tea taster’s expression, often used with Assam teas that have been fired well.
Brick Tea – Tea leaves that have been steamed and compressed into bricks. Pu-erh is a common brick tea.
Camellia sinensis – Botanical name of the tea bush.
Coppery – A term describing a reddish infusion, associated with black teas of high quality.
Dhool – A term describing the coppery, fermenting tea leaf.
Earl Grey – A Black Tea blend flavored with Bergamot Oil. –
Flush – Refers to the timing of the tea harvest. “first flush” is the early spring plucking of new shoots. “second flush” is harvested late spring through early summer, yielding more body and full flavor. Autumnal flush is the late season harvest.
High tea – A meal served late afternoon to early evening which is a mixture of afternoon tea and dinner.
Light – A term describing tea that produces a weak infusion.
Orange Pekoe – Referring to size of leaf, not quality or flavor, this term indicates a larger-size grade of whole leaf teas.
Orthodox – Traditional method for picking and processing teas in India without using CTC technology.
Pungent – A term describing highly astringent tea.
Smoky – A term describing teas fired over an open fire, resulting in exposure to wood smoke.
Tannin – A term referring to the astringent polyphenols of tea, producing a bitter flavor.
White Tea – Rare teas of fine quality. White teas are known for their high antioxidant content and subtle flavor.
Yixing – Pronounced Yee-shing, a region in China known for its purple clay, and the unglazed teapots produced from it.

These are just a few of the more than 130 terms that are defined in our tea glossary on our website. Be sure to visit it and increase your knowledge of tea culture!


White Tea – The “Gucci” of Brewed Beverages

June 26, 2008

White tea is a relative newcomer to the North American market place. It is the least processed of all the teas, and has the healthiest profile of all the teas. This tea is made from young leaves and new growth buds. When referring to white teas, it is said it is “two leaves and a bud”. This nickname is because when picked, the youngest and most tender leaves are picked – the top 2 leaves and the bud of the branch.

TeaFrog - Pai Mu Tan White TeaThe oxidization process for white tea is halted almost immediately in white teas, often right in the fields, through heating or steaming. This allows the leaves to retain high concentrations of catechins and other anti-oxidants. Some estates go so far as to shield the buds from the sun to reduce chlorophyll formation.

In recent studies, white tea has been shown to have additional calming and detoxifying effects on the skin, as well as showing the same cancer fighting and anti-oxidizing properties that other teas show. White teas have as much as 3 times as many anti-oxidant polyphenols as other teas, due to the lack of oxidizing that takes place in the processing of this tea. It is much more effective in cleaning up free radicals in the body, which cause skin to sag and age.

Because of the extra high concentrations of the anti-aging and anti-oxidant polyphenols found in white tea, many cosmetic companies are utilizing concentrated white tea in new anti-wrinkle and anti-aging products. Whether these products are effective or not has yet to be proven.

With cancer fighting properties, and anti-aging properties, the velvety smooth taste you get from a quality white tea is a surprising bonus to this extraordinary tea – who says that healthy has to taste bad!

Because the young leaves and buds are used for white tea, it is much more rare than any black or green teas, and is often more expensive. As the health benefits are more widely recognized however, it has become more mainstream, and more available to the western public. TeaFrog has started flavouring white teas to great success, as can be found in our Blueberry Flavoured White tea, Coconut Vanilla White tea and brand new Pink Grapefruit White tea.

So give it a try today. You can purchase a high quality white tea directly from the TeaFrog online store, and have it delivered right to your door!


Gunpowder Tea

June 10, 2008

When TeaFrog goes to craftshows, there is one tea in particular that always gets attention, and it is one of the most common kinds of green tea available. It is called Gunpowder Tea, and is named such due to it’s appearance.

Gunpowder Tea

Green tea leaves are rolled into tight pellets, reminiscent of gunpowder pellets, and thus the name Gunpowder Tea. This is a fairly recent name for this tea, as it has been produced as far back as 600AD, when gunpowder had not yet been invented. It was introduced in the 1800’s to Taiwan, and it is surmised that it gained the name Gunpowder Tea shortly thereafter.

 

Gunpowder Green Tea produces a clear golden liquor when brewed, and has a grassy, slightly nutty, full and rich flavor. It is often blended with peppermint leaves to produce a favorite middle eastern tea referred to as “Morroccan Mint”.

When preparing Gunpowder Tea, use slightly less that the usual green tea amount called for (1 tsp) as it expands to many times it’s rolled size. In fact, the tea expands so much, it almost looks like your Gunpowder Tea is “exploding”!

Overall this is a tasty green tea, and will brew to a nice iced tea as well as the traditional warm tea. Consume this tea any time of the day, and it goes well with just about any type of food. Be extra carefull not to over steep this tea, as it will very quickly get very bitter, ruining the flavor of the tea.

To order Gunpowder Tea and brewing accessories, visit the TeaFrog Gunpowder Tea page.


How to Infuse Loose Leaf Tea – A Beginners Guide

May 16, 2008

 

Here at TeaFrog world headquarters, one of the most often asked questions of new customers is “so, what do I do with this loose tea?”.  Many people have at least heard of a tea ball, but the whole preparation of a cup of tea from loose leaves seems to be a bit of an intimidating mystery.

When you are brewing loose leaf tea, there are really only two was to do it.  The first is straight forward – simply leave the leaves directly in the water, or place them in some sort of devise that make them easy to remove them from the water.  These devices are referred to as infusers.

There are many many different kinds of infusers available.  From your basic tea ball, to the BREWT infuser.  Easy type of infuser has it advantages and disadvantages, however generally you will choose an infuser based on ease of use, ease of cleaning, and based on the type of tea that you drink.

Tea Ball
Tea BallThe tea ball is about the most common type of infuser.  Shaped like a ball, it usually opens in half.  You place your leaves in one half, and latch the other half down to keep the leaves in the ball.  You then place that in the water and let the tea infuse.

Tea Pincer

There are many drawbacks to the tea ball.  First, it is a pain to clean, and the smaller the leaf, the more will get stuck in the mesh.  Second, because you are dealing with two half’s and latching, it can be a pain to get the tea in and the latch closed without loosing some tea.  The tea ball also keeps the tea compressed and does not give much room for large leaf tea to fully expand, keeping the full flavor of the tea from being released.  The biggest advantage of the tea ball is that it tends to be cheap, and readily available.

There are also many different variations of the tea ball, including a tea pincer, which makes filling easier, as the half’s separate with pressure on the handle, but it still has the same drawbacks as the latching balls in that the tea does not fully expand and the mesh is not fine enough to keep the smaller leaves from your water.

Tea Sac Tea Bag Filters
Tea Bag Filters

One often overlooked method of brewing your tea is to create your own loose leaf tea bags.  Using a T-Sac tea bag, you can do just that.  Simply place your loose leaf tea in the provided tea bag filter, and seal it using an iron, sealer or even just a staple, and you instantly have your own tea bag!

The T-Sac filters are environmentally friendly and can be composted.  They are made from a specially developed paper composite and are unbleached,  which also ensures that the taste of your tea is unaffected in the brewing process.  Because they are so small and convenient, it is easy to make a couple up to take with you to the office, or out for a meal at your favorite restaurant.  I find that I am very disappointed when I get a tea bag of generic tea after a nice meal, so I make sure that I have my own loose leaf tea bag at the ready when we go out!

Basket Infusers
Finum Basket Infuser

The basket infuser is a step up from the tea balls in all ways.  Many teapots that you purchase now come with basket infusers included.  They can be glass, ceramic or plastic, with mesh or just holes in the bottom to allow the water to hit the leaves.

The best basket infusers, such as the Finum Basket Infuser, have a very fine mesh covering the whole basket area.  This allows the water to flow over the whole basket of leaf.  Other designs with the holes only in the bottom of the basket tend to neglect the top leaves in the basket.  You should also look for a basket infuser that will sit it a teapot and tea cup directly, and not limit yourself to only one container for brewing your tea.

The Finum Basket Infuser is a plastic infuser with a stainless steel mesh that is very fine, keeping all your leaves in the basket, even the small Rooibos leaves.  It has tabs on the top of the basket to sit it in tea pots, travel mugs, cups, or any other container that you would make your tea in.  It is dishwasher safe, and a snap to clean.  Just tap out your leaves to the compost, and rinse the basket out.  It even comes with a lid that couples as a drip tray for when you remove the basket from the container.

BREWT Infuser
BREWT Infuser

The last major type of infuser is a self contained pot/infuser that makes tea brewing easier than any other method we have ever seen at TeaFrog.  The BREWT infuser is a high impact plastic “jug” that looks stylish and is simple for anyone to use.  You simply measure your leaves into the container, and pour your water over the leaves.  When your infusion time is up, place the BREWT infuser on your cup or mug, and the water comes out of the BOTTOM of the container, directly into your cup!  The fine plastic mesh filter in the BREWT keeps the leaves in the container, so your drink contains only the infusion, and no floaters or silt!

This revolutionary way to prepare your tea is easy to clean, just tap out the leaves, and rinse.  The mesh filter is easily removed the clean as well.

The biggest advantage that we have found in the BREWT infuser is that it makes it simple to infuse the leaves multiple times.  Because you are removing the water from the leaves, rather that the usual way of removing the leaves from the water, the leaves are sitting there, ready to have more water added to re-infuse them!  It is easy, clean, and a convenient way to brew your tea.

Many restaurants, tea and coffee shops use the BREWT to serve their customers, because it is so hip and stylish.  Serving the tea is made simple for the staff, there is no fumbling around and it is quick and easy to prepare the BREWT for the customer.  The ease of cleaning makes for a no fuss solution to serving premium gourmet loose leaf tea to customers.

Making a Decision

When it comes to making a decision, make sure that you choose based on the ease of use, and ease of cleaning, as well as durability of your infuser.  If you are making more than a cup or two of tea a week, avoid the tea ball right from the start.  The low price point may be attractive, but they are cheaply made and break quickly and easily with little use.

Infuser baskets and the BREWT infuser are the much better choices, as they are very durable, easy to use and clean, and not overly expensive at all.  Both the Finum Basket Infuser and the BREWT infuser are available for purchase from TeaFrog.com.


Masala Chai Tea – TeaFrog Tasting Notes

April 1, 2008
 
TeaFrog Masala Chai Tea  TeaFrog offers a traditional Chai Tea blend of spices that is rarely matched. Unlike a Tazo Chai blend, which is pre-brewed in a concentrated form, and lacking real bite, the TeaFrog blend expands your senses past simple taste. 

 
In tasting this Masala Chai Tea Blend, you will find that it has a smooth texture, with spicy notes of Cardamom and Peppercorn.  There is a slight undertone of orange from the orange peel as well.  The black tea base of the Assam Black Tiger tea is a fantastic compliment to the spices in this blend, as it does not overpower the flavor of the spices.
 
The finish is smooth, with a slight bite left on your tongue, just like a traditional Masala Chai tea should taste!  Unlike the sugary sweetness of a Starbucks Tazo Chai Latte, or other commercially watered down Chai blends, this treasure from TeaFrog is the real thing, Chai tea just as it is supposed to be prepared!
 
The TeaFrog Masala Chai Tea contains Cardamom, Cinnamon, Fennel, Anise Star, Peppercorn, Orange Peel, Coriander Seeds, Assam Black Tiger Tea.  You can purchase this tea for $7.50 per 100g at http://www.teafrog.com/teas/masala-chai-tea-from-teafrog.html

Rooibos Tea – Different Types

March 21, 2008

The Rooibos Bush

As we have previously learned, Rooibos is not technically a proper tea, because it is not derived from the Camellia sinensis plant.  Rooibos however, is not usually referred to as a Tisane.  The Rooibos leaf comes from the plant , a member of the legume family of plants.  The Rooibos bush is a small and shrubby bush, with thin needle-like leaves.  The bush only grows between 1/2 to 1 meter tall.  On the bush, the leaves are green, but once processed they turn a deep red from the oxidization of the Rooibos leaves.

Green Rooibos

Rooibos is available in the market in several forms.  Typically, you will get the red leaved Rooibos either in it’s plain, unflavored form, or in a flavored
 or blended form.  Rooibos is now becoming more widely available in its “
green” form as well – as Green Rooibos.  Even more recently you are seeing Green Rooibos being flavored and blended like the typical Red Rooibos you find. The difference between the two is that the Green Rooibos is the un-oxidized form of the Rooibos bush.
 
As we have previously mentioned, the Rooibos bush has many different health benefits.  It is naturally decaffeinated, with no caffeine in it at all.  Rooibos tea is very low in tannins, so you will never get a bitter cup of Rooibos tea.  Rooibos is very high in antioxidants, which have health benefits ranging from anti-aging to cancer prevention.  Rooibos has been known to relieve stomach ulcers, nausea, constipation, and heartburn.  Rooibos has high concentrations of calcium, manganese and fluoride.  In addition to being internally used, Rooibos has been used externally to promote healthy skin, and has been shown to relieve itchy skin, eczema, sunburns, diaper rash and acne.

For thousands of years, Rooibos has been a herbal remedy for the tribes of South Africa.  It is only in the last 100 years or so that Rooibos has been available worldwide, and only in the last 5-6 years that it has really become popular and available in North America in sufficient quantities.

TeaFrog’s Gingerbread Orange Flavored Rooibos

Today, Rooibos is blended and flavored in many many different ways!  TeaFrog currently carries 6 different Rooibos blends, from Caramel Cream to Love Flavored, to Tiramisu.  We also carry Rooibos Original, the unflavored natural Rooibos leaves.  The typical flavor of Rooibos is a sweet, slightly nutty flavor, which needs no addition of milk or sugar, albeit that is traditionally how it is consumed in South Africa.  When combined with different flowers, herbs and flavors, Rooibos still retains its core sweetness, making an amazing tea that is both tasty and healthy – a combination that is not always easy to find!

As Rooibos becomes more and more popular in North America, you will continue to see studies released on the health benefits, scientifically proving what South African Tribes have known for hundreds of years, that Rooibos Tea is healthy, has a great flavor, and is a great alternative beverage for both adults and children alike!  So try Rooibos today from the TeaFrog online store, you will not be disappointed!

TeaFrog explores Rooibos Teas and their growing popularity in North America

March 13, 2008

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