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A few words about caffeine

25 November 2008

at 14:35 by Seb

café et sencha: caféïne

First, let’s clear up a common misconception: What is the proper term is for this stimulant when it appears in tea? Caffeine. While it was believed for many years that there were two different “-ines”, one for coffee and one for tea, researchers have determined that there is but one alkaloid, simply associated to different elements: the tannins in tea and the chlorogenic acid in coffee. Caffeine is released into the body differently in each case: more suddenly and briefly for coffee (more at the physical/cardiac level than at the mental/intellectual level), and rather more mildly and gradually (with longer lasting effects) in the case of tea. Caffeine in tea generally gives a feeling of intellectual alertness, quick-wittedness, and an increased ability to concentrate—all depending on each person’s sensitivity. While the stimulatory effects of coffee are felt for two to three hours after ingestion, the effects of tea can be felt for four to six hours (and those of a green tea even longer: six to eight hours). According to important research, a cup (100 mL) of filter coffee contains 80 to 150 mg of caffeine and a cup of tea contains only 30 to 90 mg.

People often ask me what tea to drink at different times of the day: “Which is best to wake up with in the morning? And which is best for drinking later in the day?” Even experienced tea drinkers sometimes hesitate before serving tea in the evening, fearing that the stimulating effects of caffeine will keep people from falling asleep. While most black, green, and young sheng Pu Er teas are reserved for morning and afternoon (they have relatively high caffeine content), white, most wulongs, and aged Pu Er teas are recommended for later in the day or simply for moments of relaxed tea drinking. We do not recommend drinking decaffeinated tea; not only will you be limited to industrially processed teas but these teas will have very likely been treated with chemicals to reduce the amount of caffeine. Some say that if a tea is pre-infused for one minute and that this “first water” is discarded, the major part of the alkaloid is then extracted from the leaves. In fact, recent studies have shown that it takes about five minutes for 80% of a tea’s caffeine content to be released. Therefore one minute of pre-infusion would only extract 20% of the initial quantity of caffeine! And since a long pre-infusion would inevitably lead to a considerable loss of flavour and aroma, we believe that it’s better to choose a tea according to the time of day rather than try and change the very nature of its leaves.

External links:

“Caffeine” on Wikipedia

“Caffeine and Tea: Myth and Reality” on Cha Dao tea blog

Pu Er And health

21 November 2008

at 16:44 by Seb

Shou Pu Er and cup

In recent years, we hear more and more about green teas and their value – being particularly rich in polyphenols – as substances researched in the field of prevention of various cancers. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget a family of tea which is just as important to health, Pu Er, which, since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), has been one of the most important medicinal ingredients of the Chinese pharmacopoeia. Although I agree this is a subject that could fill a book, I shall today just briefly summarize the main health virtues of these delicious teas.

 

Even though we can use Pu Er tea externally to treat burns and bruises, it is mainly internally that it is of medicinal benefit (with a great taste of course!). Among its many qualities, it is mostly for its properties of reducing excess fat and bad cholesterol that some glorify the dark leaves of this family of tea. Indeed, it would be the most potent tea at this level, making it the champion in the fight against cardiovascular disease. In the past, several studies have shown the great slimming power of Pu Er. It seems it can also tonify liver metabolism (it is also very effective in recovering from the excesses of alcohol and over-consumption of rich food … The holiday season is coming, make sure you have some in the cupboard! !) and the immune system, promote detoxification and purification (helpful in fasting and dietary treatments), fight against multiple infections (bacterial) and circulate the vital energy (Qi) in the body. In addition to treating gastrointestinal disorders (including diarrhea), it can likewise treat mild depression, the latter sometimes associated with intestinal disorders and an imbalance of yin / yang … which Pu Er also has the ability to harmonize.

 

And that’s not all! In addition to these multiple medicinal properties full of promise of well-being, Pu Er conceal tastes and aromas like no other type of tea: notes of minerals, farms, earthy-ness, old wet wood, humus, peat … a rustic and comforting character, perfect for the coming cold season. These teas keep almost indefinitely, are very generous in reinfusions and are easy to brew in a large pot, or in a zhong or a gong fu cha pot, in addition to having a relatively low caffeine content (especially for shou Pu Er).

 

I can already hear the question that resonates in the minds of many of you, “Yes, but does sheng have the same properties as shou?”
“Yes”, but only when they are ripe, fully fermented (and oxidized). That’s when the members of this subfamily of Pu Er win on all fronts, both in taste and in their properties (becoming so low in caffeine). I also heard from several experts that it is not advisable to consume a lot of young sheng Pu Er (under 10 years of age) due to the risk of experiencing stomach problems from the “greenness” of these “immature” teas. Though they are already very interesting tastes, it may just be good to know that it is especially sheng Pu Er over ten years of age and shou Pu Er of any age, (since it is artificially forced to be mature in a few months during their production) that more specifically provide the benefits mentioned above. And it goes without saying that the qualities and grades of leaves, within this large family of tea, will vary from one recipe to another, from one year to another.

 

Next hangover or stomachache, not that I wish that on you, try testing some Pu Er when you make a nice pot of tea … and give us some news!

 

Tea storage

14 November 2008

at 18:20 by Seb

A double-lid tea can to maximise the protection of the fragile tea leaves.

It seems as though one can never put enough emphasis on optimal tea leaf storage at home as freshness is probably the most important aspect, along with the original quality of the leaves, of a tea brimming with aromatic possibilities . . . Actually, aside from the Pu Er family (which need relatively warmer and more humid conditions—more on that in an upcoming article), all teas need the same storage conditions in order to protect them from elements that could damage their aroma. The tea might not necessarily become rancid, but it could simply lose its bouquet (become aired out, as happens with spices and ground coffee) or even “lose its spirit”, as I like to put it.

For a longer shelf life, store in a cool, dark, and dry place, away from ambient odours (tea has the ability to absorb these). Simply put, it is best to limit the amount of air that the leaves come in contact with in order to keep them from being altered by humidity.

Even though the Camellia Sinensis zip bags are airtight and very effective for home tea storage, many prefer storing their teas in proper containers, or caddies. Several types of tea caddies exist made from various materials and in different sizes. Wood, bamboo, and unglazed clay are specifically suited for Pu Er aging, but because of their breathability are not ideal for other types of tea. For these, it is best to use airtight containers made of metal, plastic, or glazed ceramic. I’d like to remind you that glass, because of its transparency, does not provide the proper conditions for storing tea. There are types of caddies equipped with a valve to hermetically seal the tea, similar to the way we take care of our teas here at the shop. We vacuum pack them as soon as we receive them so they stay at their peak of freshness during the following months.

Airtight resealable bags are great for storing and preserving tea. Please note that brown paper tin tie (coffee-style) bags are not airtight and will not sufficiently protect the fragile aromas of your tea.

It is also important to note that, even in the best storage conditions, your tea could eventually lose its flavour and aroma. Tea should be consumed soon after purchase so it is preferable to buy it more often but in small quantities, depending on how much you like to drink. Generally speaking, black, wulong, and white teas will stay fresh for 12 to 18 months after they’ve been picked. Green tea, which is more fragile, will stay fresh for up to 12 months.

 
 

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