Uncovering the Truth: Tea is Full of Pesticides?

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Damning truth or fantastic fiction? Tea Biz’s latest post gives us a much more insightful look into the world of tea growing and how pesticides are used.

Uncovering the Truth: Tea is Full of Pesticides?.

(And don’t worry, tea addicts. As far as we can tell, the news is fairly good.)

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The Story of Jhentea and its Family History

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Jhentea is a teashop in Taiwan that has a fascinating history, with four generations of tea experts and production in Taiwan, after their ancestors, Hon Chen’s offspring, escaped from Communist China. It began as a small family business cultivating tea in the Fujian Province, with great-great-grandfather Hon Chen – a very well-known and respected tea master within the local community. Chen’s offspring had already expanded small parts of this business in Taiwan when communist rule overcame China, and were fortunate enough to be able to escape there. Their main trade was Wu-Yi tea plants that grew to create beautiful oolong teas. This business grew such that it was able to trade with global customers.

The first tea garden to be owned in Taiwan by the family was bought by Li Chen, Hon Chen’s son. It cost 2 Dragon Dollars (a currency used in China long ago) and was on Taipei’s mountainside. Taiwan’s beautiful climate had made it renowned as a land of new opportunity, and its weather complimented the art of growing tea beautifully. In this tea garden, Wu-Yi and Oolong was cultivated, despite not being native to the region – the climate was still ideal.

Japanese rule became a big problem for many residents in Taiwan, bringing with it waves of hardship and fear. As a result, the family, led by Li’s son, Jeder Chen, moved their production of tea to a different side of Taipei Mountain. They settled in a mountainous region of Yi Lan, and began to plant. A small community had formed in an effort to hide out here, and much effort and community spirit went into helping each other through the hardship.

Jeder had fled to the mountainous region of Yi Lan with Dong Lai Chen, his second wife. It was there they raised 7 children together, however after the true hardship of Japanese rule was over, Jeder Chen returned with his first wife. Dong Lai Chen was left on the plantation and raised her children alone, each learning and doing what they could manage on the plantation. Through her experience and knowledge, Dong Lai became the first female tea master in the region – however as a female, she was forced to work hard to gain a reputation among other tea masters.

Full-production of tea was reassumed after 1942, when the Japanese occupation was nearly over and Chiang Kai-Shek assumed power. Tea had become a valuable trade commodity, and Taiwan’s oolong teas became some of the most highly-regarded all over the world.

Fu Chen, Dong Lai’s eldest daughter, became the major cultivator in the Chen family tea garden, while 4 out of the other 6 siblings became involved in the family’s legacy as well. Fu Chen became the second female tea master in the family, and opened the Chen family’s first shop. She married SeHo Fang, who had a vision for a retail store, as well as the branding of their crop. It was named Long Yuan, similar to “dragon dollar” in Chinese.

Fu Chen’s beautiful teas won many competitions, and was a regular entrant. Her daughter, Ai Fang, was brought up in the way of tea and became the family’s third female tea master, continuing four generations of valuable tea knowledge and exceptional cultivation.

Ai Fang is particularly concerned with educating her customers about everything related to tea, and has a modern view of the world. Her daughter, Kuei Fang, became an artist and travelled to New York – however she discovered that what her family created was quite rare, and so much effort was rarely put into a good cup of tea as her family had done. In response to this, she and Ai entered a rebranding project of Long Yuan into Jhentea, to bring the shop into the modern age. It is their wish for this to help bring Ai Chen’s story and knowledge of tea onto a worldwide platform, so that even more people can appreciate tea.

You can find out more about Jhentea at http://www.jhentea.com/our-story/

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An Exciting Offer in Tea Education

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An exciting opportunity has come about in the tea world recently, thanks to the hard efforts of the ITEI, or Internation Tea Education Institute. Hosted by four tea experts – Sylvana Levesque, Brigitte Horrenberger, Susan Peters and Sandy Li – a 10 day intensive is being held in Zhejiang Province, China, where you can learn about Chinese teas in a way that no other educational experience could hope to provide.

Students will take part in a large variety of educational tea activities from renowned local producers, growers, and experts. Focused on will be the famous Chinese green tea Dragon Well, or Long Jing.

The tour begins on September 15, 2014, and continues for a total of 10 days and 9 nights.

Included in the cost of the tour:

  • 10 days and 9 nights in the Hangzhou region of Zhejiang Province. Beautiful five-star hotel accommodations are provided throughout the tour
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are all provided daily
  • Transport to all locations in the tour, including to and from Hangzhou Airport
  • A professional photographer to document your learning experience, as well as four tea experts to guide and educate you
  • All activities, entrance fees, etc. are included
  • An “Advanced Certificate for Education in Chinese Tea Study & Travel” will be awarded to each student upon their completion of the tour

Not included:

  • Airfares (this allows students to extend their trip beyond the tour dates).
  • Travel insurance

A tuition fee of $4,250 for ITEI and CTMA (Canadian Tea Masters Association) members, or $4,475 for non-members. Further details will be announced soon and displayed on the ITEI website in the tea tours section. For bookings and more information, please feel free to contact Sylvana P. Levesque, at info@i-tei.org.

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The Big Red Robe

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Although oolong tea may not immediately be thought of as blue in colour, in China the humble oolong is a drink commonly referred to as “blue tea”, thanks to its (often, not always) tinged-blue colour. Due to an oxidation process that leaves them anywhere between 10 – 70% oxidised, their flavours are much less delicate than green and white teas, and it is possible for them to give off a roasted note.

Da Hong Pao, or “Big Red Robe” as it is known in many western countries, is an extremely famous Wu Yi rock tea which is renowned for its rich flavours. The tea’s history goes back to the Ming Dynasty, where supposedly its leaves cured an emperor’s mother from serious illness. In recognition of its apparent healing powers, the emperor ordered that the bush from whence the leaves came to be clothed in big red robes, thus giving it its name. It also sometimes goes by “Scarlet Robe”, however this is less common.

The leaves are very twisted-looking and brown in colour, which is uncommon among many oolongs. Floral notes adorn its beautiful, rich flavours.

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Judging the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards

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Resident Tea Master Sharyn Johnston is pleased to announce that she has been listed as a judge for the RASV Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards! She is pairing up with Tony Laurent as the official judges of Pantry Goods/Herbal Tea, and will be using her extensive experience in the tea industry and global tea knowledge to judge these fine products.

Entries for the awards have been extended until Friday the 31st of January, so there’s still time to get your herbal tea in to be judged! You can enter online here: http://www.rasv.com.au/Events/RMFF_Home/

Sharyn will be judging the entered herbal blends from Tuesday the 4th to Monday the 24th of February, 2014.

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Afternoon Tea Cuisine

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Afternoon tea is a dainty practice, one that should be treated as more of a snack than a meal. It is most notably different from its commonly confused cousin, high tea, and has a complex set of rules and etiquette. However, it is a decadent event that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Thankfully, afternoon tea has been gaining popularity at an incredibly rapid pace as of late, so finding wonderful recipes and tantalising foods is much easier than with cooking a traditional high tea. Regardless, it is advised that while you keep the selection of food wide, keep the serving portions light. This is not a meal in and of itself; it is merely a stop-gap between lunch and dinner.

Food Ideas for Afternoon Tea

–          Tarts

–          Cakes

–          Macaroons

–          Finger Sandwiches

–          Slices

–          Yo-Yos

–          Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

–          Sausage Rolls

–          Muffins

–          Biscuits / Cookies

–          Pavlova (not traditional, but a great asset to any teatime)

–          Crumpets

–          Crumbles

As with high tea, both tea and coffee are popular beverage choices. Black tea is by far the most popular variety; during the past few centuries black tea has been the most widely available tea variety. Drinks, again, should be served with a pitcher of milk for guests, as well as some lemon slices and sugar. Do not allow your guests to mix lemon and milk, however, as the citric acid in the lemon will cause the milk to curdle.

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