Australian International Tea Expo – It’s almost here!

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Hey everyone! If you haven’t already heard, we are currently in the throws of organising the first ever Australian International Tea Expo!

Of course, with this massive event comes a few sacrifices to our other commitments, one being this lovely little blog. So we apologise for our lack of activity these past months.

Everything is slowly coming together for the Expo – we have sold nearly all our exhibitor stalls and all our activities are slowly getting confirmed and prepared. Time is ticking away and we know it is still going to be a mad rush to the finish line but it will all be worth it in the end; the first year is always the hardest, we’ve just got to make sure it is a massive success!

We have some many amazing Exhibitors for the event, who will be showcasing off teas from all around the world!

The classes are filling up slowly and we are looking forward to teaching everyone how complex and amazing tea is.

That’s all we really have to say right now, we will try to give a few more updates in the coming months (If we get a spare second!)

So, fellow readers, if you are planning to be in Australia, or near Geelong around October, please make sure to attend our expo – it is going to be brilliant!

http://australianteaexpo.com.au/

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New Tea Trend: Matcha

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If you have turned on your TV, used the internet or even read a newspaper in the last few months you would have gathered that matcha is going to be the next big thing in the coffee and tea market.

Matcha is a powdered form of steamed and dried green tea leaves that has been used in Japanese tea ceremonies but is now becoming the new superfood. Unlike the Bubble tea trend that we explored last year, matcha comes with oodles of health benefits.

Health benefits include:

  • Full of antioxidants, including the amazing cancer-fighting antioxidant EGCg.
  • Boosting metabolism and burning more calories
  • Enhances mood and improves concentration.
  • Provides vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium.
  • Boosts your immune system.
  • Rich in fiber.
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar.

So it’s no wonder that it is increasing in popularity and is being used in versatile ways; from matcha lattes to being used in cake recipes. People are falling in love with all the possibilities.

For those of you who want to start enjoying matcha at home, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • There are 10 grades of matcha, the higher the grade the less bitter the Matcha.
  • You should use it within six months of it being harvested.
  • Be prepared with the correct tools; (link to ATM) a chawan, a chasen and a chashaku.
  • Whisk vigorously.
  • Once the mixture is smooth, drink immediately! Or the powder will settle at the bottom of the cup.

The legend(s) of Tiequanyin – Iron Goddess Oolong tea

Iron Goddess tea
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Tiequanyin, or Iron Goddess, is one of the most well-known teas in China. It is different from other oolongs in that it is fermented longer and its leaves tend to be more spherical in shape. The Iron Goddess brews into a golden brown liquid with a strong baked aroma, with a sweet and fruit flavour. People are drawn to the tea for its taste and fragrance but few are aware of the history and legends behind the name of this tea.

Iron Goddess oolong has three legends surrounding it; the Wei legend, Wang legend and the Monkey legend.

Wei Legend

Centuries ago there lived a poor farmer in the Fujian Province of China. There was a temple in this province that was dedicated to the Iron Goddess of Mercy and every morning the poor farmer would walk past his temple to his farm. The temple had not been cared for in a long time and was in a very poor condition. The farmer had no means to repair the temple but still wanted to help. The farmer bought a broom and some incense, he swept the temple clean and lit the incense as an offering to the Goddess.  For many months the farmer repeated the same tasks. One night, the Goddess appeared to him in a dream, she told him of a cave behind the temple where treasure awaited and that he was to take the treasure and share it with others. In the cave, the farmer found a single tea shoot which he planted in his farm and nurtured into a large tea bush, from which the finest tea was produced. He gave cuttings of the tea plant to his neighbours and started selling it under the name Tiequanyin. Over time, the farmer and his neighbours prospered and the temple was repaired and became the beacon for the region.

Wang Legend

Wang was a scholar who accidentally discovered the tea plant beneath the Guanyin rock in Xiping. He brought the plant back home for cultivation. When he visited Emperor Qianlong in the 6th year of his reign, he offered the tea as a gift from his native village. Emperor Qianlong was so impressed that he inquired about its origin. Since the tea was discovered beneath the Guanyin Rock, he decided to call it the Guanyin tea.

Monkey Legend

Many centuries ago, a Buddhist monk was picking tea leaves. His monkey saw his master picking the leaves and started imitating him. The monk discovered that the tea leaves picked by the monkey produced a uniquely different flavour than the ones he picked himself. He was so impressed that he got his monkey to begin picking tea for him from the high mountains of Fujian province which was unreachable by humans. Others tea pickers saw this, and started adopting the practice themselves. But now, only a small Chinese village still continues the tradition.

Whether or not these legends are true, it is still amazing that a single type of tea can hold so much history.

12 Christmas Gifts for the Tea Lover

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With Christmas coming up fast, some of you may be stuck with what to buy your tea loving family member, significant other, friend or colleague. Here’s a selection of what’s on our Christmas wish list this year, hopefully it gives you some good ideas!

1. ZENS Original Extract Series.
An Asian tea set, with traditional, small elegant cups, designed for Asian connoisseurs and Oriental tea lovers in the Western market.

Features:

  • Double-walled glass teapot
  • Double-walled glass cup x2
  • Glass infuser
  • Bamboo plate
  • Bamboo infuser holder

2. Matcha Set – Chasan, Chasaku and Tea Caddy.
Enjoy the unique tea that is Matcha with this lovely set. Includes everything you need to make a perfect cup of Matcha.

3. Novel Tea.
This would be perfect for the book lover! Each English Breakfast teabag is individually tagged with beloved quotes from famous authors. There is no better company than a steaming cup of tea as you open the cover of a favourite classic or turn the page of the latest thriller. Read ’em and steep!

4. Rare Tea Club Membership.
Show a loved one just how much you appreciate them by giving them a chance to taste rare teas from around the world. Each month members receive a new rare tea and in each pack there will be enough tea for at least 30 cups. Members will also receive information on the tea and tasting notes. Each month the tea changes to a different white, green, oolong, black or puerh rare tea.

5. Grow Your Own Green Tea Plant.
Great for the tea lover who wants to learn more about tea hands on. This amazing kit has all you need to grow your own tea plant at home. Native to China and India, camellia sinensis thrives in warm, humid environments at higher elevations but can also be grown in cooler climates with some care. A greenhouse, conservatory or even a sunny window are all adequate to grow this amazing plant.

6. White Satin Pearl Teapot Necklace
This lovely necklace and its cute teapot pendant would be an ideal gift for a female tea lover. The teapot hangs from a brass chain that comes in different lengths.

7. Spode Christmas Tree Tea Set.
Add to the Christmas décor with this gift. The receiver can enjoy a nice cup of tea and maintain the holiday spirit. This fun and practical tea set contains candy cane handled teapot and 4 candy cane handled 14 oz mugs.

8. Grey Owl Tea Set.
Perfect for the younger generation tea lover or animal lover, this cute owl tea set would be a great addition for under the Christmas tree. Set contains an owl teapot and two matching cups, with matching creamer and sugar. Quality is evident in the set’s detailing which features a textured stoneware exterior that adds to the natural beauty of the pieces.

9. Tea Travel Mug.
For the tea lover who loves to travel. They can enjoy loose leaf tea anywhere with this handy travel mug!

10. Coffee Joulies.
Do you know a tea lover that makes a tea but then forgets about it, only to remember a few hours later when it has gone cold? Well here is the perfect solution to that problem; Joulies!
With Joulies™ your tea (or coffee) will be ready to drink faster and will stay in the perfect temperature range longer. Each polished stainless steel shell is filled with an advanced phase change material that melts at 60 degrees. Put them in your tea or coffee and they absorb heat when it is too hot, storing that energy inside. When your tea reaches the perfect temperature this stored heat is released to keep it there longer. It will keep your tea the perfect temperature for around 4 hours!

11. DIY Herbal Set
Let your tea lover experiment and create their own herbal teas with this lovely set. The set contains 9 herbal containers and 6 tea containers all encased in an aluminium box. Recipes are included but you can also make your own herbal creations.

12. Confluence 1 of 100
If you have a bit (okay, a lot) of money to spare, and really want to give the best gift possible, then this tea tray is exactly what you need. Confluence is a small wooden tea tray carved out of Birch plywood. The layers of the laminated ply accentuates the undulating form through their alternating dark and light seams. Niches and plateaus are carved to accommodate small tea cups that serve up to six. A large central reservoir is created by the landscape, where excess tea will naturally flow towards the reservoir and form a miniature lake. As the tea gathers, the level gradually rises just like a lake does when it rains. This is a beautiful limited edition piece!

Let us know what gifts you have brought for your tea-loving companions (or even for yourself!)

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Orange Pekoe is Not Supposed to Taste Like Oranges

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If you’re at all interested in tea, you’ve probably heard the term ‘orange pekoe’ (or OP) before. This is a tea grade; for instance, a tea may also be graded Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (or FTGFOP), which is one of the highest grades a tea can achieve (which is probably why FTGFOP is sometimes known instead as ‘Far Too Good For Ordinary People).

Interestingly, and rather contrary to what some will tell you, orange pekoe doesn’t have anything to do with orange notes, orange flavouring, or any oranges at all. It is instead a quirk of language use, and actually only tells us that the tea is a basic medium-leaf variety of average quality. Teas carrying this grade are plain tea; the herbs that may have been combined with them later are not a part of this grading system, and have no effect on the overall grade of the lone tea.

This grading system is used for the tea trade that occurs in the West, and applies mostly to teas that have been grown in current and former British colonies such as Sri Lanka and India. Black teas are the only types of tea that use this system. It is relatively unknown in most parts of China.

The term ‘pekoe’ refers to silver downy hairs found on both the buds of camellia sinensis, and the leaves. It is possible that it originated as a mispronunciation of the Chinese word that was used for a tea called “white down”. ‘Orange’ seems to have come from either the fact that finished black tea can have a bright orange tinge to it, or due to the Dutch marketing the tea as orange when they transported it to Europe, so as to make the tea sound royal (after the House of Oranje Nassau).

 

The Story of Yellow Tea

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Yellow tea is little-known and little-spoken of. An offshoot of green tea with the relatively light oxidation of white tea, yellow teas aim to retain the health benefits of green teas while removing the grassier notes and being easier to stomach. However, not many yellow teas exist in the world, and some can no longer even be created; their processing techniques have become extinct and unknown. In spite of much searching, no scholars have yet found any person with the required knowledge to reproduce these yellow teas.

Although the exact time that yellow tea was created is not known, it is generally speculated to have been conceived during the early Qing dynasty of 1644 to 1912.

Some yellow teas are now produced as green teas in order to help them sell or because the original processing technique has been lost. They remain an expensive specialty that does not survive well in the poorer markets where they are produced, and so most if not all yellow teas are currently in a dangerous position.

Yellow tea was only very recently recognised and included as one of the six main types of tea, the other five being green, white, black, oolong and puerh.

Toucha – Game of Choice in Medieval Japan

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The Kamakura Shogunate fell in 1333 to the warring Northern and Southern dynasties, as situation that had occurred due to a large split in the royal family. It was during this time that the then-famous game of Toucha became popular among the gekokujou, a group of upstart nobles. It was played by inviting the guest to distinguish real tea (honcha, which literally means genuine tea. Honcha was tea sourced only from Toganoo) from other tea. As tea diversified and spread across Japan, Toucha also diversified to fit its audience; it became a game combining skill, knowledge and luck, where guests would guess which plantations different teas had come from.

Toucha was the game of choice for so many that it even became normal to bet money and extravagant items on it, so much so that a skilled player could almost earn a decent living on it. Toucha gatherings were common and as time went on many of the poorer classes in feudal Japan were also introduced to it. While they could not afford to be as extravagant as their higher-class brothers and sisters, this didn’t stop them from betting amounts more appropriate to their income.