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Local Tea Preparation

12 May 2019

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Every spring, our four tea tasters travel across Asia in search of the best available teas. With time, they have noticed very different customs from one country to another, whether it concerns the consumption or preparation of tea. Discover the habits of the Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Indians, and what are their preferences for making tea.

China

Tea is an essential element of daily life in China, and, in a territory that includes almost 2.5 million acres of cultivated land, it is not surprising to find that the methods to prepare tea vary from region to region. China is the only country to produce all six families of tea. As the consumption of tea is based on local culture, Chinese tastes vary according to region and custom. In general, the Chinese prefer to drink green tea, and they drink it unceremoniously from a tea glass or bottle. They usually pour boiling water on the leaves then dilute the infusion when they have drunk about a quarter of the glass. Actually, the main utensil for the infusion of tea leaves in China is the tea bottle. It can be found everywhere! Throughout the day, Chinese can drink their tea at will, whether they are in a train, a workshop, an office of a bus.

Japan

Although making tea the classic method of brewing from loose leaves is still the Japanese national drink, it does not fit well with the lifestyle of young Japanese. However, several customs remain fashionable. Restaurants serve Bancha, Hojicha and Genmaicha teas in teapots. For a more upscale tasting experience, Sencha and Gyokuro teas are brewed according to the traditional senchado method. This method was created by learned Japanese who wanted to break free from the constraints imposed by the rules of chanoyu.

Taiwan

In almost all Taiwanese households, it is customary to welcome visitors by offering the best tea in the house. The Taiwanese are proud of their wulong teas, and many of them travel long distances from their favourite mountain garden. Taiwan is full of tea enthusiasts and well-informed connoisseurs who use the specific method of infusion known as gong fu cha to bring out the extraordinary rich flavour of wulong teas.

India

When the English established tea in India, the product was destined mainly for the export market. Before the 1850s, the people of India drank almost no tea, whereas now they consume almost 79% of what they grow. Now considered the national drink, tea is the most affordable and available beverage in India. Indian usually choose an inexpensive lower grade black tea, because they add milk, sugar and spices to it and make chai.

What’s your favourite way of making tea?

Refreshing and delicate white teas

16 April 2019

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The aromatic body of white teas is known to be delicate and fragrant. We often detect clover honey, edible flowers, fresh walnuts, freshly cut meadow grasses – all sweet and velvety nuances with a creamy liquor.

Thanks to a relatively low caffeine and tannin content, most Western tea-enthusiasts tend to enjoy it at any time of the year whereas in China, white tea is more often drank during the warm months for its refreshing aspect. We suggest enjoying this tea in a quiet setting, without food, in order to benefit from its finer subtleties and its soothing effect.

Two great classics to discover or rediscover

Mr Zhang is a producer with whom we have been working since 2004, known for two most classic white teas: Bai Hao Yin Zhen and Bai Mu Dan Wang. The original terroir and plantations for this tea family are located in northern Fujian.

In recent years, the growing popularity of white teas, particularly in China, has resulted in excessive local price rise. Thanks to our longstanding relationship with Mr. Zhang and his understanding of our market reality – we can acquire and offer you these products at a reasonable price.

While both teas come from the same gardens, the difference lies in how the leaves are selected. The Bai Hao Yin Zhen is harvested delicately: with the bud and leaf, while for Bai Mu Dan Wang, more leaves will be selected and picked, giving it a more frank, grassy taste with a hint of fresh hay. The Bai Hao Yin Zhen is very delicate, has more texture and its notes are more floral.

Bai Hao Yin Zhen

A worthy representative of the great Chinese teas, this white tea is seductive at first sight. The lively and silky liquor fills the mouth with fruity and vegetal flavors (straw, mushroom). Long and delicate, its floral finish(chamomile) is quite refreshing.

Bai Mu Dan Wang

A white tea with a floral character (reminiscent of lily) enhanced by hints of cinnamon. Moist, the Bai Mu Dan Imperial has a beautiful persistence and is a good everyday companion for delicate tea lovers.

Enjoy!

End of Season Teas

18 March 2019

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You may have noticed some reduced prices on our menus recently. With spring around the corner, these “end of season” teas will shortly be giving way to the all those new lots about to start coming in. They are being replaced by others not because they have expired or gone bad, simply that we need room for the new harvests. For many amateurs of most tea styles, a quest for freshness represents the goal in tasting. Though this goal never lasts more than a fleeting moment. Each year, we renew our efforts to present the best teas, the freshest teas possible, because we know just how much pleasure can be experienced in their tasting.

So what are these “end of season” teas and why are they not as good as “fresh” teas? As we know most tea loses its freshness during a year of storage, does that mean we shouldn’t drink it? Luckily, it doesn’t. As opposed to many other food products, tea never goes bad or stale, even over the years. Its great preservation is due to its very low humidity content. When we talk about tea’s freshness, we mean the intensity of its aromas, its impact on your taste buds rather than on your health. So if ever you find a bag of forgotten tea at the back of the cupboard it is always worth giving it a try. The worst that can happen is that it will be a bit disappointing flavour wise. It certainly won’t do you any harm!

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So why do we reduce the prices of these teas if they are still good? Because with time, the composition of aromatic molecules within the leaves change or dissipate. Even kept in the ideal conditions of a dark, cool and dry place, the most volatile scents cannot be held forever. The same phenomenon can be observed with spices or dried flowers. With time, they lose their aromas. And despite their very low humidity levels, tea leaves still undergo a slow oxidation in contact with air. This process, hardly noticeable at first, invariably leads to changes in both taste and colours. The leaves lose their bright visual aspect and gain smoothness as diminishes their aromatic vividness. Some styles benefit greatly from this slow oxidation. First Flush Darjeeling teas, for example, often reveal their full complexity and potential after a short mellowing period.

If you’re looking for teas to try during this “end of season” (those that have brightly stood the test of time or benefited from oxidation), here are a few picks from our team:

  • Huo Shan Huang Ya : delicate Chinese green tea with longue needle-like leaves. Reveals a superb softness in taste, a smooth caress for sunny afternoons.
  • Pu Bu Long Zhu : another Chinese green tea that, despite months of vacuum sealed storage, kept very lively its green vegetables notes and fresh herbaceous accents.
  • Darjeeling Thurbo 1st flush DJ-41 : a rare find (even by Darjeeling standards) still as good today as when we bought it. Over the months, we avidly followed its aromatic evolution from sharp herbal notes to its now smooth and perfectly balanced floral nuances.
  • Meghalaya Lakyrsiew Autumnal organic : appreciated at first for its bright leather and fresh tobacco aromas, a slow transformation towards a more chocolate/spicy character (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) made it our best ally against the season’s last colds.
  • Jingxian Jin Jun Mei : maybe one of you best chance to experience a grand cru from Jingxian at great price. Deep notes of cocoa and malt softly balanced by time.

Effective now until new stocks come in, “end of season” is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of great prices and experience new teas before the 2019 harvests take over.

Happy tasting!

Practical and Ecological Tea Bottles

30 September 2018

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Perfect for travelling, tea bottles are a practical and ecological object. We offer several varieties, perfect for every need!

They offer both ways to infuse your tea, according to the technique that suits you and your preferences.

Technique # 1 - ”Chinese style”

  • Warm the inside of the flask with hot water for a few seconds.
  • Remove the infuser, place the tea at the bottom of the flask (1 to 2 tsp, depending on the type of tea selected) and replace the mesh sieve.
  • Pour in water at the recommended temperature. Wait a few minutes and enjoy.

This preparation technique ensures that the tea is infused continuously. To avoid a too full bodied infusion, it is recommended to add more water at the correct temperature after drinking about half of the brew. Nearly all teas can be prepared this way. Only very finely chopped teas do not provide good results.

Technique # 2 - Controlled infusion

  • Warm the inside of the flask with hot water for a few seconds.
  • Remove the basket part of the infuser and put the tea leaves in the basket before reattaching the mesh sieve.
  • Install the infuser in the flask and pour in the water at the recommended temperature.
  • Infuse for the time required, remove the infuser and enjoy.

This preparation technique is suitable for all types of tea and allows you to control the development of the infusion to your own taste.

Discover our three practical bottles:

Bamboo and Porcelain Flask

Here is a practical brewing vessel of amazing simplicity, designed for people who want to drink tea on the move. This flask is made of porcelain with an airtight lid and a removable stainless steel filter. It allows you the choice to brew your tea leaves using the technique you find most convenient at the time.

Glass Flask

Here is a practical brewing vessel of amazing simplicity, designed for people who want to drink tea on the move. This flask is made of double walled glass with an airtight lid and a removable stainless steel filter. It allows you the choice to brew your tea leaves using the technique you find most convenient at the time.

Inox Flask

Besides its insulated aspect, the magic of this flask lies in the fact that none of its components have to be detached to drink the tea, or even to infuse it.

The sealed lid can be opened with one hand with the push button. The filter is attached to the flask and its function is transformed depending whether it is placed on the left or right side. This enables you to brew your tea leaves using the choice of technique that suits you. This simple handling makes it a very useful travel accoutrement.

This flask is made of double wall stainless steel which considerably reduces heat to the hands while effectively maintaining the temperature of the tea. The lime green part is made of certified BPA free plastic.

Drink up!

12 September 2018

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Following the recent article in La Presse about the democratization of wine tasting, the Camellia Sinensis team sat down to discuss tea’s evolution over the past 20 years. (translated from the French)

 
Tea… an elitist passion?

As with wine and other fine tasting products (coffee, cheese, chocolate, spirits …), there is always a risk of rigidity when talking about tea. The specialization and knowledge that come with any form of fine tasting, and the apparent expertise that ensues, can easily lead to lack of compromise in one’s discourse, especially early on as we begin a new passion.

Are Camellia Sinensis purists?

We are of course no exception, and we’ve had all been through our own personal purist periods. When we opened back in 1998, the atmosphere was more Bohemian, to say the least. Then we gradually developed an expertise that led us to into what we call our “purist era” (about 2001-2003). Early trips to Europe, especially France, had given us the false impression that to be credible, one had to project a certain elitism. This, we later realized, is not only completely wrong, but plainly against our company ethos!

It is tempting for the enthusiastic tea folk in our team to spread their knowledge in this way, especially when they first join the company. For some, it almost seems to be a mandatory stage before they can feel at ease in their dialogue. As in many other industries, it takes time to understand how much or what type of information a customer needs. The team receives constant and intense training in may aspects of tea, but we always emphasize the importance of keeping everything accessible to the client.

Focus on sharing

For us, tea remains both a passion and a pleasure, and our approach is first and foremost focused on taste, pleasure and sharing. Possessing a thorough knowledge of tea is an intellectual endeavour but is not necessary to appreciate its fascinating diversity of flavour profiles or to enjoy its benefits immediate and longterm. This is a message we advocate in all the classes in the Tea Schools, many of which are focused on tasting, sharing and exchanging impressions without censorship.

As Jasmin often likes to say, “ Everybody should drink tea!” – whether it be in our shops, our teahouses, our tea classes or anywhere else, our role is the inclusive democratization of tea for all.

Learning About Tea: Our Favourite Books

9 September 2018

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Over the years, our research has not only pushed us to read a lot about the tea industry, but also write a lot about it. Here are some recommendations if you’d like to learn more about the fascinating world of tea:

Green Tea: A Quest for Fresh Leaf and Timeless Craft

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Travel with us through encounters with the artisans and other highlights of Asia’s green tea cultures, a new study on tea and health and page after page of beautiful photos and illustrations. Winner of World’s Best Tea Book for 2012 in the Gourmet Awards, Paris.

Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties

This prize-winning book, now published in four languages, takes us through the various terroirs of China, Taiwan, India, Japan and many other important producing countries. Explore the diverse cultures and rituals, learn to cook with tea with some great Chefs and discover the many properties of tea through new, extensive scientific research on antioxidants and caffeine. World’s Best Tea Book 2014 World Tea Awards, Las Vegas. Canadian Culinary Awards 2010.

Tea Journey Magazine

Co-founded by our own Kevin Gascoyne, tea taster and owner here at Camellia Sinensis, Tea Journey Magazine is packed with well researched articles on every aspect of tea culture. With a focus on origin specific teas, much of the material is translated from Asian tea-writers translated into English for the very first time.

The Classic of Tea (Lu Yu)

Written in 7th century by the first tea master, Lu Yu, this really is ‘the classic’ with many illustrations and drawings of how tea was originally prepared with over 25 instruments!

Art of Tea

For fans of aged teas, this book delves deep in to the world of Pu Ers as well and offers great information on ceramics and other styles of tea.
Enjoy!

Camping : Never Without my Tea!

6 August 2018

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Fans of camping and the great outdoors will be pleased to learn that we offer many practical objects to make your tea wherever you are. Simple and efficient!

Here are two ways to enjoy your tea while camping:

1) Quick and practical

Very simply: put a filter in your cup, add 1-2 tsp of tea and fill the cup with hot water (75-95 depending on the tea). Infuse for 3-5 minutes, remove the filter and enjoy.

2) For a Grand Cru

Our new travel kits are perfect to enjoy a Grand Cru with friends around the campfire. With everything you need to get the best out of your favorite teas, wherever you may wander.

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Tea 101: The Perfect Teapot Infusion

18 June 2018

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What makes a great infusion? Well everyone has there own personal preferences, so it is important to judge your own infusion with the confidence that ‘you know how you like it’. Here is a very simple guide to help you move towards brewing your perfect teapot infusion every time. Don’t forget that though teapots are the most common and practical tools for brewing tea, experimenting with a Gaiwan, Gong Fu Cha or Senchado can often enhance your tasting experience even more.

White tea

  • Dosage: 3g/250ml (2 tsp)
  • Duration: 5 to 7 minutes
  • Temperature: between 65 and 90 degrees Celsius. A lower temperature is recommended for teas with unmolded buds (Bai Hao Yin Zhen), and a higher temperature for buds with silver to black buds. (ex: Darjeeling Avongrove)
  • Tips: try drinking white teas in a small volume of water, in a Gaiwan for example, to appreciate all the subtleties.

Yellow teas

  • Dosage: 3g/250ml (1.5 tsp)
  • Duration: 4 to 5 minutes
  • Temperature: between 75 and 85 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: Prepared in a Gaiwan, yellow tea will have the strength of a green tea, and in teapot, it will rather have the sweetness of a white tea.

Chinese green teas

  • Dosage: 2.5-3g/250ml (1 tsp)
  • Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Temperature: between 75 and 85 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: Try Chinese green teas in a Gaiwan!

Japanese green teas

  • Dosage: 2.5g/250ml (1 tsp)
  • Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Temperature: between 60 and 85 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: The senchado technique is recommended for the highest grades.

Wulong

  • Dosage: 3g/250ml (1 tsp)
  • Duration: 4 to 5 minutes
  • Temperature: 95 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: It is suggested to rinse the leaves so they unfold more easily, and to use a brewer large enough for the same reason.

Black teas

  • Dosage: 2.5g/250ml (1 tsp)
  • Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Temperature: between 85 and 95 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: The more the leaves are broken or crushed, the lower the brewing time should be.

Pu Er

  • Dosage: 2.5g/250ml (1 tsp)
  • Duration: 3 to 6 minutes
  • Temperature: between 90 and 95 degrees Celsius.
  • Tips: It is suggested to rinse the leaves for at least 5 seconds.

Enjoy!

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Green teas: What Makes a Chinese Tea Different from a Japanese Tea?

8 April 2018

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Jun Shan Yin Zhen

Green teas… they are as many types as they are nuances. Some, almost transparent, evoke flowers; others taste like seaweed, fresh herbs or green vegetables.

There are more than 1,500 types of green teas, 80% of which come from China while others mostly originate from Japan. So what are the major differences between Chinese  and Japanese green teas?

China

In China, the most prized harvest usually takes place in March, before the Qing Ming festival (“Day of the Dead”) celebrated around April 5th. This traditional Chinese production requires a pan that is heated either over a wood fire or electrically. The leaves are then stirred constantly, by hand for about twenty minutes.

 

This dry heat, characteristic of the Chinese panning methods, liberates the aromatics, gives the tea a vegetal character, along with floral, grassy and/or grilled nut notes.

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Japan

In Japan, the first tea harvest of the year is called shincha, (“new tea”), takes place at the end of April, depending on the weather. By steaming the leaves to for seconds, the Japanese production method creates a very different green tea from the Chinese version.

 

In addition to preserving the freshly cut grass and vegetal aspect, the steaming process gives green vegetables aromas, iodine and marine notes, typical to the Japanese terroir.

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Here you will both find Teaware and Teas created by some of Asia’s most talented craftsmen.

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