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Tea & Health: the virtues of each tea family

15 January 2017

at 9:14 by Social

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Over 4000 years ago Sheng Nong discovered that tea has the power to both stimulate and detoxify, man had gradually lost interest in its medicinal properties. If the stimulant, diuretic and antibacterial properties of tea have long been recognized by Chinese medicine, it is only recently that its benefits have been confirmed by modern science. Today, unlike the Taoists of old, we do not consider tea as an elixir of immortality or as a drink with mystical powers. However, there is no longer any doubt that its virtues contribute to our longevity by stimulating the functions of the heart, strengthening the immune system and preventing cell mutations.

Whichever tea family you prefer, you can rest assured that each of them will offer various benefits. Find out what they are here:

WHITE TEA

Refreshing, thirst quenching white tea in China is particularly consumed during the summer. According to Chinese medicine, it balances excess heat and mitigates the effects of menopause.

New amateur of white tea? We suggest Bai Hao Yin Zhen.

GREEN TEA

According to recent studies, some green teas contains a higher amount of polyphenols than other families of tea, which has made it very popular in the West in recent years. Thanks to its antioxidant properties, green tea can prevent some forms of cancer. Equally reknowned as an aide to concentration, green tea contains more iron, vitamins and catechins than black tea. The drying necessary to obtain a green tea helps increase the polyphenol content of leaves

Are you looking to boost your antioxidants? Try out Sencha Mobata.

WULONG TEA

Steady consumption (8 grams per day) of Oolong causes weight loss by improving lipid metabolism. Its relaxing effect, anti-stress, even euphoria, is due to the high concentration of aromatic oils that are exuded from the leaves during rolling

Hugo Americi has a soft spot for the Ali Shan wulong.

BLACK TEA

The enzymatic oxidation experienced by the leaves during the processing of black tea converts some of the catechins into theaflavin and thearubigins. Caffeine in black tea is released more quickly into the bloodstream, over a shorter period than that of green tea, the oxidation partially separating the tannins. Due to this, black tea acts as a more physical stimulant than green tea. Surprisingly we now find that some black teas are rich in antioxidants.

Bet you didn’t know that Kevin Gascoyne drinks about ten Darjeeling cups every morning. Well, he does. Get the facts on black tea with the Darjeeling 1st flush classic Singell DJ-19.

AGED TEA

Because of its properties, Aged tea has long been used as a food supplement by several tribes and nomadic populations living in remote areas. As these people ate mostly high fat yak meat, tea allowed them to balance their diet by fighting against fat. Today we recognize the cleansing virtues of Aged tea which helps to regulate the body and aid digestion. Aged tea also helps to remove cholesterol.

Feeling curious? Try out the Thai Pu Er 2006 Hong Tai Cha: a more obscure terroir product.

Dark teas for white snow days

31 March 2014

at 21:34 by Seb

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All tea lovers eventually explore the fascinating family of aged teas. Easy to drink throughout the year, some intuitively feel a deep need to rediscover their rustic flavors during this delicious season of reflection that is winter, especially when its end still seems far!

So make the most of the warmth and quiet of a wood heated chalet, or a perhaps a  festive evening, to immerse yourself in one of these vintages carefully refined by time. Young or old, slowly ageing after having  undergone a forced fermentation, Pu Er and other dark teas offer a wealth of unexpected textures and flavors.

Developed for immediate consumption, the  shou Pu Er, with their rapid maturation, deploy round and earthy liquors, very few tannins or bitterness, nuanced by accents of leather and undergrowth. Ideal to accompany a meal with their digestive properties, they are also appreciated between meals for their sweetness. The more aged unveil their profound sophistication in the form of balance and more sustained presence in the mouth.

In order to fully understand the aesthetics of aged teas, tasting very young sheng Pu Er is an essential and very interesting experience. It then becomes clear that this tea which is produced and drunk in Yunnan, also called maocha, is a raw product fairly close green tea in its taste profile. Combining powerful tannic and mineral, with vegetal, floral and fruity notes of amazing persistence, greatly appreciated by collectors and guaranteeing an excellent bonus potential.

The intriguing transformation that occurs at the heart of these carefully compressed teas, following the passing of years, reveals increasingly supple and harmonious liquors with aromas of barks, spices and eventually lichen or roots. Old sheng Pu er, known for their refreshing and exquisite aftertaste, are also savoured for the effect of well-being they provide. A nice excuse to acquire a ‘cake’ and patiently follow its evolution over several decades.

Other teas have been able to benefit from the growing popularity of aged teas and their positive effects, and even if they do not originate in Yunnan and therefore do not have the name Pu Er, they all offer the same intoxicating and comforting taste experiences. Whether the revered small leaves of Liu An, from the province of Guangdong, with mineral and earthy flavors or those more mature Liu Bao from Guangxi famous for generating lighter, sweet and woody, liquors, each region has its expertise and its unique character making them tantalizing to discover! Some have made their mark in history, such as Fuzhuan or Baboo, respectively for the Mongolian and Tibetan markets, and cleverly integrated into their rich meat diets. Others remained the domain of ethnic minorities and concocted specially for their festivals and celebrations such as the unique and intensely acid Bulang tea!

Who knows where this voyage of terroirs and flavors will lead us once it begins, but you can be sure that each of these teas is like a force of nature to be tamed in order to appreciate in all its splendour !

Heavy Metals and Pesticides in my Cup?!?

20 March 2014

at 15:03 by Seb

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Recent North American media publications report studies on the presence of lead and arsenic in tea.  Naturally this is of some concern to us all. Camellia Sinensis has had a vigilant, in-house approach to such contamination since 2008 when our first heavy metal laboratory tests were initiated.

During the planning of our first book on tea we commissioned the Quebecois laboratory Transbiotech to begin various analyses of our privately imported teas for antioxidants, caffeine, humidity and heavy metals content. Research continued into 2013 when we commissioned more tests, relating more specifically to pesticides. This time in the laboratory of the ‘Centre d’Expertise en Analyse Environnemental du Québec

Heavy Metals

Transbiotech laboratory tested for traces of twenty different heavy metals on twenty of our teas.  Tests showed that aside from trace presence of aluminum and manganese, which occur naturally in almost all soils, other heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic, were either completely absent, or present in the same concentration as the mineral water used in the tests. (See the certificate of analysis here)

Pesticides

The TV show L’Epicerie recently broadcast a piece exposing traces of pesticides in some industrial, mass-produced tea bags. Camellia Sinensis has been actively organic for almost 10 years (the company received organic certification in 2005) so I would like take this opportunity to share a little of our experience and vision on the organic cultivation of tea. Tea is as much an agricultural product as any other fruit or vegetable we consume. As with any other agricultural products; fertilizers, insecticides and fungicides, be they natural or chemical, are often used to ensure a good harvest and to control pests and diseases. For us, working directly with the producers in their tea gardens on our annual visits enables us to ensure the safety and quality of the teas we import.

Back in 2005 we first received organic certification for many of our teas, examples from each region of production. In 2008, we launched a project to certify 2 gardens with Ecocert and Mr. He, a producer of Huiming, in the province of Zhejiang, China.  Initially we were curious to compare Western standards with those of China’s OTRDC (Organic Tea Research Development Center). So we were very pleased in May 2009 when we received organic certification from Ecocert, attesting that Mr. He’ s gardens met all the stringent requirements of European standards. Today we are pleased to have a large selection of certified organic teas.

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To be realistic, with our focus on artisanal teas, many of our producers are small family farmers.  With the costs for certification so high it is not possible to have a certification for all teas from all countries. Nevertheless, at all times, we take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of our teas.

Here are some of our methods.

During every tea garden visit we conduct a ‘checklist’ of visual analysis for certain parameters:

- What are the local risks from the natural environment, altitude and topography? Tropical plains or mountains at 2000 m do not require the same insect control or fertilizer responses.

- Is there other plant-life growing between the tea plants?

- Is there a big contrast between the mature leaves at the base of tea bush and the young shoots?

- Is the garden alive! Spiders, worms, flies, ladybugs etc..

-Are there bags of fertilizer or pesticides in the garden or factory?

Meeting the same producers year after year, we are able to follow with them the annual climate challenges and new farming methods.

In 2013 we undertook laboratory tests with the ‘Centre d’Expertise en Analyse Environnemental du Québec’ to test for chemical residues in both leaves and liquors of our teas.

We were pleased to learn that the vast majority of our teas had no residues of pesticides or other chemicals at all. The teas that did reveal tiny trace residues were levels similar to those we would find in many of the vegetables or fruits that we eat. The essential things to look for are which chemical and in what quantity?

The leaves of one tea, for example, contained 0.3 mg / kg of cyhalothrin, an insecticide used worldwide for leafy vegetables. 0.3 mg / kg is the MRL (maximum residue level) established by Health Canada.  However, we do not eat tea like a vegetable so we were curious to test the liquor after infusion to see if the insecticide in question was soluble in water.

Results showed that, following the regular suggested infusion parameters we use to brew a good cup of tea, there was absolutely no presence of this chemical in the liquor. You can consult our analysis certificates for the dry leaf and the liquor here.

The following link shows Health Canada’s standards

Be assured that for us organic and ethical agriculture is an on-going concern. Our inspections and laboratory tests will continue in the years to come. When you drink as much tea as we do you really don’t want to have to worry about these things.

Jasmin

Gaba Cha

21 November 2013

at 15:09 by Seb

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Gaba Cha is a modern tea.  It was originally created as a health product but has such a fascinating flavour profile that it stands tall in any catalogue of fine teas. Dr. Tsushima Tojiro and his team at Japan’s ‘National Tea Experimental Station’ developed the processing technique for this tea back in the late 1980’s.  It is however the Taiwanese that have become the World’s producer and supplier of Gaba Cha.

The manufacture begins with a quantity of good quality leaf placed in vacuum packed bags at a temperature above 40˚C for around 8 hours. This anaerobic reaction can also be done with nitrogen instead of vacuum. The leaves are then removed for a carefully measured period of just a few minutes when they are exposed to air and agitated. For our Gaba Cha, the vacuum- air cycle is repeated 5 times with slight variations in the time of exposure between vacuum treatments. This anaerobic procedure unlocks the rich natural source of Gamma-aminobutyric acid or ‘GABA’ from the leaves’ natural chemistry.

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid or ‘GABA’

GABA is an important amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.

So drinking Gaba Cha has been associated with a long list of claims and benefits for human health and wellbeing that range from memory retention to curing hangovers, from weight loss to relaxation and from combating depression to increased sexual performance to mention just a few.

New herbal teas!

11 October 2013

at 8:42 by Seb

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Whereas with tea we must travel to mountains and countries overseas to meet our producers, it is with great pleasure that the process of tasting and selecting our herbal teas is done with producers and herbalists from Quebec! Just as with tea, we have made a careful approach to tasting in order to create different herbal mixtures with harmonious aromas and flavors. Originating, for the most part, from Quebec, the mixtures contain whole plants harvested by hand and dried in the traditional way, retaining all their aromatic oils and beneficial effects.

Divided into three groups, you will discover a world of new fragrances and of different plants such as verbena, agastache (=Giant Hyssop, Licorice Mint, or Lavender Hyssop), raspberry, nettle, wintergreen, hops, lavender, yarrow, and lemon balm as marvellous  accompaniments to your late evenings.

Happy explorations!

Wupperthal’s Rooibos Cooperative

15 April 2013

at 5:45 by Seb

Church in Wupperthal, South Africa

High in the rugged Cedarburg Mountains of  South Africa’s Western Cape is the lost valley of Wupperthal.  Cut off from the world, this tiny village community of thatched church and cottages was founded by German missionaries back in the 1830s among a small group of Khoikhoi families.  They introduced both Christianity and European farming practices to the valley and the community grew.

The local people had been using rooibos for at least 600 years as a medicinal herb and infusion.  As the popularity of this plant spread both nationally and overseas it became the focus of the region and today a cooperative of 93 farmers from Wupperthal and the surrounding villages are still producing a high quality, traditional, hand-harvest rooibos.  Camellia Sinensis has been buying it for many years.

P1070489Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) from the legume family took its name from the Afrikaans word ‘rooibosch’, meaning red-bush, from the deep red it turns toward the end of its life.   It is a small hardy bush adapted to the unique conditions of these mountains, enjoying a symbiotic relationship with regionally specific root fungus and bacteria.  In fact it has become so specialized that will not grow anywhere else!  The soils are rocky and largely sand, the weather conditions extreme with periods of heavy rain followed by months of scorching hot sun.  The surrounding vegetation is adapted to these semi-desert conditions: scrub bushes, succulents and small sturdy trees.

Pile of rooibos in processEach farmer works a ‘field’ about the size of one or two tennis courts.  During the January to April harvest temperatures are often in the 40s. A young bush will be productive after 3 years growth then turn red and die after around 9 years. The bushes are still cut with the traditional scythe, removing the top 30-50% of the foliage leaving the bush healthy for the next harvest. The cuttings are then taken to the processing unit in Wupperthal where the stems and leaves are shredded in a simple cutting machine.  The cuttings are then spread in a large walled ‘tea court’ in a pile around 30cm deep where it is crushed, sprayed lightly with water and left to oxidize for 10-14 hours before being spread out in a thin layer to dry in the sun.  A sorting process separates the stems and leaves giving varying qualities and a short pasteurization by steaming removes any risk of bacteria before it is dried and packed.

Kevin Gascoyne

The Japanese tea Nadeshiko – riding the border between a Black Tea and a Pu Er.

18 December 2012

at 12:23 by Manuel Legault-Roy

The leaves

We discovered a tea in Nadeshiko back in 2012 in its experimental phase. Passing through the “airlock” between the tea processing room and the fungus inoculation chamber, we knew that we had found another great project!

What is this tea? Basically a black tea with a controlled. microbiological fermentation. The leaves are from a garden on Haruno Mountain in Shizuoka Prefecture. Gardens, which do not use pesticides or herbicides. The tea follows an unusual series of transformation techniques… withering, rolling, kneading and sterilization.

Then, in a controlled chamber, a single spore of Aspergillus awamori is introduced. The leaves are then stabilized by drying and sorted. The result: a tea with a very distinct flavour profile, closer to a black tea than a Pu Er.

Developed as a healthy tea here in Japan, the leaves contains more citric and gallic acid, and catechins, than most green teas. The transformation process also creates large amounts of polyphenols called Teadenol A and Teadenol B. Current research at the Universities of Shizuoka and Saga seeks to do more research into the properties of Nadeshiko Tea and this new process.

While we wait to learn about these benefits , let’s just loose ourselves in this fascinating flavour profile!

Serious work

From Côte Nord to your cup: A new grade of Labrador tea in limited quantities

20 October 2012

at 0:56 by Manuel Legault-Roy

Labrador Tea

A new grade of Labrador Tea has been added to our menu which comes from Côte Nord in Quebec. Unlike the regular Labrador Tea which is harvested from boggy land under forest cover, the grade 1 tea comes from moorlands where the leaves are exposed to the hot sun. The plucking is also different: the regular comprises only quite mature leaves whereas grade 1 contains only the stem and tiny leaves.

The presence of stems may seem surprising at first, especially in a herbal infusion. However, they will be increasingly used in the future due to a high concentration of ursolic acid, a compound found in many fruits and used as an anti-tumoral in traditional medicine. This discovery was recently made at the Laboratoire d’analyse et de séparation des essences végétales (LASEVE) at the Université du Québec in Chicoutimi (UQAC).

Its Virtues: The advantages imparted by the stems adds to a  long list of the benefits in Labrador Tea: its essential oil is considered anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, decongestive and effective in treating various broncho-pulmonary ailments (not surprising that many first nations have used this to fight off colds and flu), Labrador Tea is also known for its calming and slightly soporific effect, helping to combat insomnia and anxiety, it is also recognized to have the role of draining the liver and of regenerating liver cells (some even claim that an infusion of Labrador Tea can soothe a hangover!), lastly it can be a digestive, ameliorate the menstrual cycle and help during labour for women about to give birth.

Due to a rich tannin content, high doses or prolonged brewing may cause cramps and upset stomach. So it is best not to steep it for too long and to ration its consumption. It is not recommended for women pregnant for six months or less or children under six.

A grade of high taste potential: Another  benefit of Labrador Tea is its exceptional taste, the Grade 1 is quite surprising in this respect. Its taste is more pronounced, well structured and releases aromas of balsam fir and scents of lime. Refreshing and simply delicious.
Search around on the web and you will find many food recipes that incorporate Labrador tea, especially with wild game, in place of the mint in spring rolls, and even to replace vanilla essence in desserts!
Share your feedback on any recipes you have tried. Why not try the two grades comparatively and let me know how that goes!
Enjoy your  tasting!
Kate

The Japanese teas of 2011 are finally on the shelves!

5 July 2011

at 15:46 by john

Over the last few years our Japanese teas have always arrived in early June. This year we have had to wait for all those beautiful fresh leaves to arrive. To start with, Japan had a colder winter than usual which delayed the harvest by about fifteen days.
Then, following all the terrible events that Japan suffered in March, we were obliged to follow a strict protocol with the 2011 harvest to ensure that our teas were not affected by radiation. These are the principal steps we have taken:

* Results and certification of soil analysis from each tea producer

* Results and certification of analysis of fresh leaf and/or infused leaf

* Results and certification from an independent firm here in Quebec of the Japanese teas
   upon arrival in our Montreal warehouse

A part of the copy of radiation report from our tea producers in Japan

A part of the copy of radiation report from our tea producers in Japan

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So what was the result of all these precautions?

We received over a dozen radiation analysis certificates from our Japanese producers. Not one of them showed levels of radiation above the acceptable Canadian norms (1000 bq/kg). In fact the majority fall below the level of detection around 136 bq/kg. So the Japanese teas we have imported for the 2011 catalogue can be enjoyed with full confidence.
As an extra precaution the Japanese teas were also analysed on arrival in our warehouse by a radiation specialist before being sent out to our stores and Internet clients. After all these checks we now have the pleasure to announce the availability of a wonderful variety of 2011 teas: Sencha Haruno, Sencha Ashikubo, Sencha Nagashima, Sencha Isagawa, Kamairicha, Sencha Fukamushi Aji, Sencha Tuyuhikari, Sencha Tsukigase, Genmaicha, Genmaicha (sencha-matcha), Guricha, and Gyokuro Hokuen, to satisfy those thirsty palates!
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Other teas will be available in the coming weeks. Rest assured that we will continue this level of testing with the same vigilance until the situation is completely restored to normal in Japan.
So enjoy, I recommend my most recent favourite the Sencha Tuyuhikari which comes from a newly developed cultivar the Tuyuhikari. A great example of a high class sencha with notes of green freshness and a long floral aftertaste.

M. Deschamps, radiation safety specialist, making tests on our latest arrivals of Japanese tea
M. Deschamps, radiation safety specialist, making tests on our latest arrivals of Japanese tea

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Hugo Américi / Taster responsible for our imports from Taiwan & Japan.
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News from Japan

7 April 2011

at 8:30 by François Alexis Roy

Japanese Tea Garden 2011

For several weeks, we have been communicating with our tea growers in Japan by email and telephone. We thought we’d let you know what is happening now, especially as regards the impact on future crops.

The families and friends of our producers are safe and none of them have undergone physical damage (gardens, equipment, etc..). This is already good news. With regard to levels of radiation, no area of production where we buy leaf is affected by radioactivity control measures. Currently, only the following areas are affected: Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Yamagata, Niigata, Nagano, Yamanashi, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba.

Shizuoka Prefecture is located more than 400km from the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Uji and Nara are located at more than 700km. Miyasaki? More than 1000km. For now, our producers assure us that they have received no information from government bodies or associations of tea producers to the effect that there might be any health hazard for future harvests, which begin late April or early May, depending on the region.

However, many of our producers have already committed to provide us with certificates of radiation analysis from their gardens to reassure us and our customers. From our side we are working to establish a protocol to test the tea when it arrives at our warehouse.

We are closely monitoring the situation.

Hugo is also in Japan from May 12 to 20 to meet our producers and he will keep us updated.

Want to help the Japanese by making a donation? Here are some useful links:

www.redcross.org

www.unicef.ca

www.care.org

Arigato !

Hugo Américi
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