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Chai Tea

30 October 2012

at 20:24 by john

Chai in traditional disposable clay cups (khulars)

Although almost all teas can be enjoyed during any season, some have a particularly appropriate appeal at certain times. An excellent seasonal example: hot chai tea on a cold day.
Though not yet actually winter, the arrival of fall marks a noticeable downward turn of temperatures, and feeling those first icy chills from the humid air gives the drinking of chai an extra dimension of pleasure – beyond its its usual sweet, spicy and milky delight to the tastebuds – there is also the aspect of it providing sustenance. Composed of a mixture of warming and soothing spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper, cardamom, and a ‘base tea’ – such as a black tea, green tea or rooibos. A selection of classic blends available include Masala green organic, Transsiberian organic, Chaï Camellia organic, and caffeine free Rooibos Chai organic.

Although chai tea is often prepared in a saucepan with the tea, sugar and the milk boiling together, it can easily be prepared in a teapot – adding milk and sweeteners to taste in the cup, in the same way as traditional milky tea. Aside from the warming spices the resulting brew will have much of its character defined by the milk and sweetener used, an advantage of this is that, given the many various dairy milks, soy milks and white and brown sugars, honeys etc., the brew can subsequently be flavoured to suit a variety of personal taste preferences

The traditional saucepan method with the chai, milk and sweetener already mixed is not suitable for catering to different peoples requirements – or more seriously, allergies, at least not from the same pan! It does however have a unique charm of its own (and resembles the preparation methods of the Tang dynasty in China when leaf was broken from bricks and boiled in the water) – and there is nothing quite like sharing a pan of chai in which the spice flavour has deepened with the additional time and temperature.

However prepared, and with whichever additives, chai tea is, at the very least, a pleasant aromatic addition to the atmosphere of almost any wintery event.

Our Teahouses prepare chai on specific days during the winter, pop in for a cosy warm-up.

This marvellous traditional recipe uses the saucepan on a stove-top method:

INDIAN CHAI (1 litre)

  • 500 ml of water;
  • 500 ml milk (soy or dairy);
  • 4 heaped teaspoons of chai mix (your choice);
  • 4 teaspoons white or brown sugar;

Boil the water in a saucepan.

Add the chai mixture and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the milk and sugar and bring back to the boil. Remove from heat, cover and let steep 5 minutes. Adjust the sweetness to taste. Allow it to steep longer for a spicier flavour.

Filter using a sieve or cloth.

Enjoy!

NB:
If you use sweetened soy milk, reduce the sugar to 2 teaspoons.

For a creamier chai, you can put 750ml milk and 250ml water.

You can prepare your drink chai few days in advance and refrigerate until required – then drink it, hot or cold!

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 Taster’s difficult decision…

10 October 2012

at 1:03 by Manuel Legault-Roy

 The insect responsible for the fabulous taste of Bai Hao

The Taster’s difficult decision…

The work of an importer-taster, as you may well imagine, is not always simple. This year, for example, the renowned Taiwanese wulong, Bai Hao (AKA Oriental Beauty) was a little disappointing, failing to dazzle us with its spicy, floral and honeyed notes. In this case it was not the fault of the producers. It was more to do with the capricious weather conditions, way much precipitation to the Taiwanese growing region during the summer months. This destabilized the leaf chemistry, depriving the tea of its precious flavors and aromas.

The scarcity of quality crop raised the price of Bai Hao 2012 significantly. Hugo, our Taiwan tea taster/specialist, having scoured the region was faced with a harvest of less than average quality at a higher than normal price. He had to make the difficult decision of not buying a Bai Hao for the catalogue this year at the risk of disappointing many enthusiasts.

Hugo reflected that despite all the reputation of a great classic tea like this, it is not the legend of great years that makes a premium tea, but the know-how of the artisans and the alignment of a great many natural variables.

All is not lost, however, Hugo is now cupping the freshly picked Autumn Bai Hao….

Fingers crossed!!

 
 

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