Make Your Own Sparkling Teas

ceylon_crop-webSparkling Teas . . .

are coming soon to your local grocery store, if they haven’t already shown up.

But you can make sparkling tea today—

  • by yourself,
  • with your favorite tea, and
  • with total control of just how much, if any, sugar they contain.

To compare, the new Sanpellegrino + Tea (by Nestlé Waters) contains organic tea extract, real fruit juice, and cane sugar; there are 50 calories per serving (Dobos 2018).

Another sparkling tea called SoMATCHAAH! by Matchaah is also pending. According to its website, the new beverage will contain matcha tea, carbonated water, cane sugar, citric acid, and natural flavors. Although it touts the antioxidant benefits of matcha, again, there’s the cane sugar.

While these teas are undeniably convenient, it’s too bad they contain sugar.

Back in 2015 a study found that:

Consumption of SSB [sugar-sweetened beverages] such as soft drinks . . . was associated with higher type 2 diabetes risk independently of socio-demographic, lifestyle and dietary factors. . . . Our findings suggest that reducing consumption of sweet beverages, in particular soft drinks and sweetened-milk beverages, and promoting drinking water and unsweetened tea or coffee as alternatives may help curb the escalating diabetes epidemic. (O’Connor et al. 2015) [emphasis added]

Further, the study suggests that if water or unsweetened tea or coffee is substituted for just one sugar-sweetened beverage on a daily basis, the diabetes risk evidently decreases by 14–25%, which seems decently significant!

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So why not enjoy tea’s health benefits without the added sugar?

TeaHaus suggests a couple of ways to make amazingly refreshing sparkling tea. And depending on the tea used (fruit teas really shine here), you can come up with something similar to lightly flavored sparkling water or a concoction more like a soft drink.

Note: You can add carbonation to any tea. Simply start with concentrated tea and add carbonated water and ice, adjusting the ratios to your personal preference.

Method One

Measure out three times the amount of tea you would normally use. For example, if you are making a 20-ounce glass of iced carbonated tea, use triple the amount of tea and add 6 oz of hot water (use temperature and brew time specified for that particular tea).

Fill a 20-ounce glass about half full with ice.

Pour in the brewed tea and add carbonated water to fill the glass (you can either make your own carbonated water with a carbonation machine or use bottled sparkling water).

Top off with ice.

Note:  If you prefer, add agave or honey while the tea is brewing.

lade_final-webMethod Two

Make a tea-infused syrup and add to any sparkling water (or sparkling wine!—though I suppose that may negate some of the health benefits you are going for, depending on which side of the “wine is good/bad for you” debate you support).

Syrup:  Add 12 grams (about ½ ounce) of tea to 16 ounces of boiling water; allow to infuse for 15 minutes to overnight. Strain and cool completely.

And Enjoy . . .


Sources:
–Dobos, E. “Budding products: new carbonated teas,” World Tea News, April 9, 2018.
–Matchaah. http://www.matchaah.com/so-matchaah.
–O’Connor, L. et al. “Prospective associations and population impact of sweet beverage intake and type 2 diabetes, and effects of substitutions,” Diabetologia, March 6, 2015.

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Assam Tea Workers and Industry Still Beleaguered

Would you be willing to pay 15% more for your cup of tea so that a tea worker could receive a 25% wage increase?

assam 155
Assam Mokalbari

 

Well, if you’ve heard how many workers in the tea industry struggle to subsist on low wages, it’s a no-brainer.

Consider Assam, where strikes are possibilities (Bolton 2018) and salary negotiations are ongoing (Ghosal 2018)—and tea producers are weighing the balance between wages and profits.

The vice president of Corporate Sector Ratings notes that if wages go up 25% in Assam:

organized bulk tea players based in North India would witness a considerable deterioration in operating margins, unless there is a commensurate rise in prices of tea on a sustainable basis. . . . a minimum price increase of around 15% would be required to cushion the impact of higher wages. (Ghosal 2018)
Important decisions, with consequential results.
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Assam Mangalam
 According to an in-depth analysis of Assam’s tea industry (Arya 2013):
  • tea is “the most important crop in Assam”
  • Assam tea ranks among the world’s best
  • over half of the tea produced in India is from Assam
  • one-sixth of the world’s tea is from Assam
  • the largest CTC tea auction center, and the “second largest in terms of total tea,” in the world is in Assam
  • 17% of Assam’s work force works in the tea industry
  • Assam has more than 2500 tea gardens and 850 tea estates
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Assam Marangi tea leaves before and after brewing

So it seems an easy fix to simply raise wages and tea prices, but we all know that things are never ever that simple.

Assam, in northeast India, is bisected by the Brahmaputra River. The unique environment—humid and hot—contributes to the malty flavor that is characteristic of Assam teas.

This unique environment also means that:

  • the lowland grown-tea is on the boundary of tea-growing regions, making it quickly affected by any temperature increase (Kahn 2015),
  • the river has too much silt, so is susceptible to erosion—and flooding—during heavy rains, and
  • because tea is sensitive to precipitation levels, vacillations in rainfall are devastating—and in the past several years, Assam has been beset with periods of drought alternating with heavy rains.

There are many factors to weigh when calculating wages vs profits. The entire enterprise must be sustainable in the face of climate change, which will directly impact the tea industry.

And the problems that plague the industry of course directly impact the lives of millions of people in Assam.

Something to keep in mind if the price of your favorite Assam does indeed go up. . . .

989 all three crop copy


Sources:
–Arya, N. “Growth and development of tea industry in Assam,” International Journal of Scientific & Engineering Research 4(7):226–73. 2013.
–Bolton, D. “Assam tea workers consider strike for higher minimum wage,” World Tea News, March 27, 2018.
–Ghosal, S. “Profit margins of tea producers to improve: ICRA,” The Economic Times, April 3, 2018.
–Kahn, B. “Global warming changes the future for tea leaves,” Scientific American, June 4, 2015.

Springtime Buds include Darjeeling First-Flush Tea

Every spring bud holds a promise.

And this is true of tea plants as well, for the tea-budfirst buds that begin to open in spring constitute the first flush or “spring” harvest—especially vital in places like Darjeeling, where the first-flush teas command the highest prices.

Tea plucking in Darjeeling began a couple weeks ago with “only reluctant support from workers” (Bolton 2018).

Many had not yet received the 19.75% bonus for 2016–2017 that they had been promised back in September (Gazmer 2018), following a months-long strike that shut down the tea gardens. The Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labourers’ Union, which had been threatening to stop the harvest, eventually said that plucking could take place in those gardens “that will give written assurance to pay the remaining bonus within a time frame” (Gazmer 2018).

leaves-webThis is not trivial—to the workers whose livelihood this is, or to the tea industry in Darjeeling, as this first plucking brings in 35% of the year’s profits; last year’s strike meant a loss of around $61.6 million (Bolton 2018).

Plus, Nepal growers are only too ready to step in, offering comparable tea at a far lower cost (see my earlier post on Nepali teas).

The first harvest runs through April, with generally over 18 million pounds of tea produced! Two to three weeks after the first-flush harvest has ended, the second-flush plucking will begin.
brewing-web
Shown above is first-flush Steinthal, with dark green and brownish leaves. (Steinthal is one of the oldest tea gardens in Darjeeling.)leaves-in-basket-web

While black teas are usually brewed for several minutes, a first-flush Darjeeling is brewed for a shorter time because its leaves are more delicate, being the bud and tender new leaves.

The green of the leaves becomes more pronounced during brewing, with the brewed leaves ranging from celery to dark green, and definitely looking more like green tea than black.

With a crisp and slightly grassy aroma, the liquor of Steinthal Darjeeling is a bit nutty but more astringent—as any good first flush should be. spring-montage-web

Springtime buds . . .
the promise of blossoms,
the promise of beauty,
the promise of harvest. 


Sources:
–Bolton, D. “Darjeeling first flush experiencing jittery start,” World Tea News, March 13, 2018.
–Gazmer, D. “Union threatens to stop Darjeeling tea first flush pluck,” The Times of India, March 13, 2018.
Darjeeling Steinthal is available at TeaHaus.com.

Some Cautiously Good News for Darjeeling Tea Gardens?

After months of bad news for Darjeeling tea aficionados (see my October post), some promising headlines:

(1) apparently the months-long closure of the tea gardens—resulting in an extended period of neglect—may be beneficial to the tea plants, and

(2) people who love Darjeeling tea don’t scare away easily!

So How Is Neglect a Good Thing?

tea-leaf_whiter_2015-copyWhen leaves aren’t continually being plucked off, more of a plant’s resources can go into producing new leaves. This is why, in many areas, leaves are plucked from tea plants for only one annual harvest (Bolton 2017).

In Darjeeling, however, leaves and buds are plucked for most of the year, with each harvest season producing its own characteristic tea.

The plants are pruned in December to promote new growth, with those first leaves opening in March. These tender leaves constitute the first harvest of the year, or “first flush.” More mature leaves are plucked for the succeeding harvests, with four total flushes:

  • First flush, early spring, most valued
  • Second flush, June–July, highly regarded
  • Monsoon flush, summer, lower quality
  • Autumn flush, more similar to second-flush tea

In actuality, as World Tea News reports, leaves are plucked from the plants every few days—so with the gardens shut down for most of 2017, this

Resting results in healthier plants that are more resistant to disease and pests—and better-tasting tea (Bolton 2017).

So the (Tea) Glass Is Half Full Then?

avongrove-brew-web
Darjeeling FTGFOP1 Avongrove, a second-flush tea

Well, earlier reports opined that the neglected plants would be too stressed to produce good tea in 2018 (see my August post).

And because most of the Darjeeling gardens are organically grown, a year of neglect presumably meant that weeds and pests had a very good year. Meaning stress for the tea plants as they fought for resources and warded off invaders.

It remains to be seen which scenario will win out here.

Half Full or Half Empty, Many Hope That Darjeeling Remains in the Cup!

Some first-flush Darjeeling was still available in 2017, going to “those willing to pay the price,” and demand for premium orthodox teas remains high; in fact, much of the tea that would normally stay in the country is now headed to the United States as well as to Japan, the European Union, and Russia (Bolton 2017).

So, contrary to many expectations, many Darjeeling tea drinkers are remaining loyal to Darjeeling teas, which is encouraging to growers.

To use the cliche, time will tell. Hopefully, that telling will be on the side of Darjeeling.

avongrove-leaves-web


Source: Bolton, D. “Darjeeling rebounds: What’s next,” World Tea News, December 26, 2017.
Tea pictured is available at TeaHaus.

Nepali Teas Stepping In for Darjeeling

steinthal-and-rarity-darj
Darjeeling 2nd- and 1st-flush teas

Notice to all Darjeeling fans: this year’s strike means there’s a lot less tea, along with a higher price tag  (see earlier post).

Nepal, however, has been happily stepping in.

And also ushering in a few complications.

The Cons

Darjeeling abuts Nepal’s east border,

  • which means the two areas have pretty much the same climate
  • which means that their teas may be quite similar
  • which means that one tea could conceivably be passed off as the other.

Already in August concerns were raised about Nepali tea being sold as Darjeeling tea. At that time, the supplies of first- and second-flush Darjeeling teas for auction had already been depleted.

Nepali tea crossing into India is nothing new. As World Tea News explained in August,

To reduce the cost of acquiring tea for blending, India has a free trade agreement with Nepal. This means gardens in Nepal (some owned by Indian companies) do not pay an import duty.

And it has been blended with Darjeeling tea in the past, and then sold as Darjeeling, according to the Hindustan Times (November 2017). But the Times also reports traders saying that unblended Nepali tea is sold as Darjeeling.

However, there are myriad reasons why you should enjoy Nepali tea for its own sake.

The Pros

tin-web

The tea gardens in Darjeeling are well established, which also means that the plants are aging and there is little room for expansion.

Nepal, as a relative newcomer, has younger plants along with a favorable environment.

And due to the strike, they currently have many employees who earlier left the Darjeeling gardens in search of jobs and now have stayed in Nepal (well, this is sort of both a pro, for Nepal, and a con, for Darjeeling).

And the gardens are producing some terrific teas, such as the premium, second-flush Nepal Mystic, shown above on TeaHaus’ tea wall.

This beautiful leaf yields a deep reddish cup:

tea-in-tin-web

brewing-web

brew-web

I love this tea’s amazing aroma and flavor!

I know that delicate and subtle teas have their place but sometimes I just need a tea that holds its own—waking me up with bold and wonderful flavor that matches its intoxicating aroma!

And by the way, Nepali teas don’t need to replace Darjeeling teas; they can stand right alongside Darjeeling teas.


Sources:
Bolton, D. “Nepali tea growers fill Darjeeling void,” World Tea News, August 28, 2017.
Girl, P. “‘Good quality’ Nepal tea spoils Darjeeling’s party,” Hindustan Times, November 18, 2017.

TEA: From Pallet to Palate

TeaHaus’ eagerly awaited tea shipment arrived today! It shipped from Germany, spent a whole lot of time in customs, and then came to Ann Arbor via truck.

truck-web

Two pallets of tea to unpack!

open-box
Each box is opened and the contents checked against the packing slip.

sorting-web

Some teas need to be renumbered to match TeaHaus numbers.

renumbering-web

White teas—delicate and easily crushed—are packed into individual cartons within the boxes.

white-tea

The tins on the Tea Wall are first filled. Here, Mercedes is transferring our new Vietnam tea from the bag into a tin that protects the tea from light and moisture.

filling-tin
TeaHaus offers around 175 loose leaf teas at all times.

tea-wall

Extra tea is stored in either the TeaHaus storage room or the overflow storage room at our Eat More Tea location.

tea-storage-room  tea-shelvestea-shelves-alt

Tea is bagged for walk-in customers and to fill online orders.

filling-bags  boxing-orders

And, of course, all our teas are brewed, either in-Haus or in your house—completing the process from pallet to palate!

tea-brewedSee teahaus.com to order tea!!!