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Gyukuro 101: Shade Teas

26 February 2017

at 21:02 by Social

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Also known as “Precious Dew”, Gyokuro is a very popular Japanese green tea produced mainly in the regions of Uji, Yame and Shizuoka. Called “shade” teas, Gyokuros have a particularly fine taste and a characteristic sweetness. It is said that they have a taste of umami, this fifth basic flavour reminiscent of a pleasant taste of broth covering the whole tongue.

How is it that this mysterious tea taste so sweet? The secret resides in the garden pratice, that differs from the majority of teas. To produce Gyokuro, or any shade tea, it is essential to deprive the tea bush of sunlight. The story goes that a producer, during a dry spell was protecting his plants from suffering too much sunshine and decided to cover his tea bushes with straw. Once the leaves were  transformed he was pleasantly surprised by the result.

This method reduces the process of photosynthesis and prevents the transformation of theanine (not to be confused with the theine) into catechin, the flavonoid responsible for the astringency of tea. To produce Gyokuro, shade must be placed over the tea bushes for 2 to 3 weeks before harvest. During a period of 7 to 10 days, 55% to 60% of the luminosity is blocked, and during the last 10 days, 95% to 98% of the luminosity is cut off. This results in a tea of great sweetness endowed with a rich aromatic complexity.

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What about the price? The lack of light slows down the growth of the tea bush so its yield is naturally reduced.  And as with most rarer teas, it is hand picked adding to the price.

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What is the best way to taste Gyukuro?

To taste the characteristic flavour of Gyokuro, it is recommended to infuse it at a lower temperature (60-70 degrees Celsius) in a small volume of water (between 100 and 150 ml) for 2 minutes. For this amount of water, use about 1 teaspoon of Gyokuro.

Enjoy!

Tea: should it always be organic? Our opinion on the subject.

20 February 2017

at 7:40 by Social

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The virtues of tea have long been recognized; it contributes to our longevity by stimulating the functions of the heart, strengthening the immune system and preventing cell mutations. In recent years, however, the issue of pesticides has been raised in discussions around this beverage. Here is the position of Camellia Sinensis on the subject.

At Camellia Sinensis, our main criterion for choosing to import a product is its overall quality; a tea with exceptional taste, cultivated with respect in a healthy garden, by people we know personally. Since our first voyages to producing countries in 2003, we have been working directly in the field to guarantee not only the high quality, but also, the wholesomeness of the teas we import.

Tea is an agricultural product in the same way as vegetables or wine; it is quite usual for cultivation to  require fertilizer and / or biological or chemical repellents to guard against insects and fungal infestations. When possible, and as a rule for tea produced in large quantities, we always select a certified organic tea. But it is important to know that international organic certification is expensive and that for many family artisan producers it is a huge sum. Since we travel deep into the countryside, the producers we meet are more focused on their local market than on the international market. This is the case for many Chinese and Japanese producers who sell the majority (if not almost all) of their products locally. What we buy from them is rarely enough to make international organic certification profitable.

It is also important to know that non-certified production does not amount to poor quality production. Many farmers care about the health of their gardens. And rightly so, because it directly affects the quality and safety of products placed on the market. Conversely, certified organic production does not guarantee the quality of the tea: many commercial products have no other value than their organic certification. That is why it is first and foremost important for us to favour considerate agriculture and the local purchase of high-quality products from artisans. By visiting them on a regular basis, we make sure not only to create beneficial bonds of trust in our procedures, but also to verify the state of health of a garden in the short and long term.

What about biological certifications at Camellia Sinensis? Our company is in fact certified organic by Ecocert since 2004 – our shops, the warehouse, the commercial resale and all the selection of organic teas that we offer. We have also taken steps for the tea gardens of Mr. He, in China, where we obtained Ecocert organic certification in 2008. However, in order to continue offering the teas at the same price, we took the decision to drop the certification, knowing that its gardens pass the most stringent standards at the organic level.

Since 2007 we have also been testing several teas per year for chemicals. First of all at the Centre d’expertise en analyse environnementale du Québec (CEAEQ) and now with the SGS laboratories, directly in the producing countries, to ensure the safety of our teas before export. All tests are carried out according to the European Union standards, i.e. the strictest in the field.

As we also are big drinkers of our teas, it is quite natural to undertake this type of approach to ensure that the liters we drink every day are healthy.

To learn more about our approach: here.

Tea & Chocolate: Our Pairing Recommendations

12 February 2017

at 22:21 by Social

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The rich and delicate pairings between the creaminess of chocolate and the aromas of teas are enough to seduce anyone. On Valentine’s Day, Émilie Poissant, our specialist in gourmet pairings, presents her recommendations.

How to taste chocolate with tea? The “sandwich” technique is used; first take a sip of tea, then bite a piece of chocolate, then follow with another mouthful of tea. This technique allows the chocolate to melt rapidly and evenly, in order to appreciate the respective flavours of the tea and the chocolate. For more intense chocolates, several sips of tea at the end of the tasting are recommended. It is also possible to melt the chocolate with the hot tea, which gives equally delicious results.

In the case of a fruity black chocolate with a medium cocoa percentage (Manjari 64% of Valrhona, Socconusco 66% of Chocolate Privilège) we choose a round, fruity, slightly malted tea, similar to the chocolate. Chinese black teas (Yunnan Da Ye, Zhenghe Hong Gong Fu, Feng Huang Hong Cha) or the more fruity and woody wulongs (Gaba Cha, Bai Hao).TIhese teas also accompany a chocolate with an olive oil ganache (for example, that of Geneviève Grandbois) with its fruity notes and its nutty finish.

For those fond of dark chocolates with nuts and dried fruits (Tanzanie 75% of Cacao Barry, Araguani 72% of Valrhona or Grand Noir 85% of Michel Cuizel), the pairings will be with the more woody and grilled wulongs (Shui Xian Lao Cong, Qi Lan Wuyi) to rival the bitterness of chocolate. Also worth trying in this case are earthy aged teas (Menghai 1992 or 2011, Haiwan 2005). All these teas are perfect with chocolate desserts such as a chocolate fondant cake, a tart or a brownie.

With a milk chocolate with a lower percentage of cocoa (Tanariva 33% of Valrhona, Ghana 40% of Cacao Barry), the combination will be pleasant with more full-bodied and malty black teas (Ceylan New Vithanakande, Darjeeling 2nd flush or autumnal) which pair particularly well with the sweet side of the chocolate. In the mouth, the blend of tea with milk chocolate creates the impression of an English tea.

White chocolate, pairs well with a lightly roasted wulong tea (Dong Ding Mr. Nen Yu or Mr. Chang – roasted in-house).

Finally, if you are a lover of caramel ganache chocolates with fleur de sel, Emily recommends the more vegetal, buttery and fruity aspects of the Taiwanese wulongs (Dong Ding by Mr. Chang or Shan Lin Xi) for a harmony of balance and sweetness, or a Japanese green tea (Sencha Fukamushi Kagoshima) for a more explosive pairing.

Intrigued by the gourmet pairings between teas and chocolates? Don’t miss our workshop: a captivating sensory experience in a convivial atmosphere. Chocolates of various terroirs, exceptional teas, rich and delicate pairings. (in French only)

Team Portrait : Alexis Bernard

9 February 2017

at 8:50 by Social

Alexis Bernard_re

At Camellia Sinensis, what matters, as much, if not more, than the quality of our tea and teaware, is the team behind the company. This month, we introduce Alexis Bernard, who has worked with us for more than a decade.

Alexis, tell us how you started with the company …
“It’s been twelve years since last December, I can hardly believe it has gone so fast!” I started in the holiday rush, two weeks after the opening of the Quebec boutique. An intense and completely crazy immersion in the world of tea, which I have never regretted! Twelve beautiful years of discovery inspired by a rich and fascinating realm, an incredible gang of enthusiasts and open and curious customers!

What is your role in the team?
“I am a store consultant, workshop leader at the tea school and a lecturer on the road. I also have a few peripheral projects to do with Quebecois ceramics and gastronomic pairings. The gastronomic aspect is particularly motivating; it is new and passionate! I love making new discoveries of pairings with the tea and sharing them with customers and the restaurateurs. Tea is quietly making its place in the world of the sommelier and restaurateur and it really is a lucky privilege for me to be a witness and to be able to contribute.

Your favourite tea is …
“I must admit that I’m a Darjeeling addict. I never tire of the very aromatic 1st flush which Kevin brings, and the Thurbo and Singell are at the top of the list!”

What has been your most recent discovery?
“I had a great liking for the new Taiwanese black tea, Mi Xiang Hong Cha. Magnificently floral and round, it has a very unique style. For pairings, I was really impressed by Bai Rui Xiang, a blawulong from China, already delicious by itself. It never ceases to surprise me with its great versatility in pairings with chocolates, cheeses, oysters, seafood. It pairs with so many different dishes, it is impressive!”

Tea: from Aperitif to Dessert – A Valentine’s Menu

1 February 2017

at 22:44 by Social

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Tea’s story begins in the kitchen. Originally used as an herb, it is still used around the world to enhance the flavours of certain dishes. Here is a perfect menu to impress your loved one on Valentine’s Day!

APERITIF

Labrador Cobbler
By Patrice Plante, mixologist at Monsieur Cocktail

  • 90 ml (3 oz.) Cold infused Labrador tea (see recipe below)
  • 37 ml (1.25 oz) of pisco
  • 7 ml (0.24 oz) agave syrup
  • 15 ml (0.5 oz) of lemon juice
  • Crushed ice
  • 30 ml (1 oz) of sparkling water
  • Small fruits or seasonal herbs (for decoration)

1. Pour the Labrador tea, pisco, agave syrup and lemon juice in a Highball glass filled with crushed ice cubes.
2. Stir lightly with a long spoon and add sparkling water.
3. Decorate with berries or seasonal herbs.

Cold-Infused Labrador Tea

Put the water and tea in a sealed container. Stir well. Leave to infuse in the refrigerator for 48 hours to concentrate the flavours. Filter with a fine sieve.

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ENTRÉE
Carpaccio of Scallops with Marinated Celery and Shiitakes, with a Chinese White Tea broth
By Marc-André Jetté, Chef and owner of Hoogan and Beaufort

6 PORTIONS

Carpaccio

  • 600 g (1. lb) of fresh scallops, size u10, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 30g (1/4 cup) sliced almonds
  • 60g (1 cup) shiitakes, cut into thin strips
  • Marinated celery
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 75 g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Tbsp Coriander seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp of fennel seeds
  • 1 star of anise
  • 1/2 Tbsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 220 g (2 cups) celery, thinly sliced

1. Put all the ingredients, except the celery, into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Sieve to remove the spices, pour over the raw celery and allow to cool.

Fleur de sel

Cut the scallops into slices and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, the lemon juice, the almonds, the shiitakes and the fleur de sel.

Broth

  • 500 ml (2 cups) water
  • 100 g (1 2/3 cup) shiitakes, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp. Bai Hao Yin Zhen tea
  • Salt

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Put the mushrooms and tea into a bowl and pour on the boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let infuse for 5 min. Sieve and salt to taste.

Presentation

1. Put the marinated celery and some celery leaves or buds in the scallop carpaccio.
2. Sprinkle with warm white tea broth and savour.

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MAIN COURSE

Lobster Mackerel with Labrador Tea
By Arnaud Marchand, Chef Chez Boulay-Boreal Bistro

6 PORTIONS

‘Escabèche’

  • 4 mackerel fillets, 90 g (3 oz) each
  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz.) Unsliced pork bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 diced carrot
  • 500 ml (2 cups) white wine
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) Labrador Tea
  • Salt and pepper

‘Sauce Vierge’ with honeysuckle

  • 1/2 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 bunch of chopped chives
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) camerises or blackcurrants
  • 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

‘Escabèche’

1. Place the mackerel fillets in an oiled baking dish.
2. Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry in a saucepan.
3. Add the onion and carrot to the pan and sweat for a few minutes.
4. Deglaze with white wine.
5. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and add the Labrador tea.
Pour the hot concoction over the mackerel.
6. Marinate for 12 hours in refrigerator. Remove the twigs from the Labrador tea and serve.

‘Sauce Vierge’

1. Combine celery, chives, shallots and camerises.
2. Add the oil and vinegar without mixing. Salt and pepper.

Presentation

Serve the mackerels cold with its cooking juices with sauce vierge and garnish with honeysuckles. Serve with a bacon potato salad and a few bread croutons.

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DESSERT

Jellied Matcha Strawberries
By Charles-Antoine Crête, owner of the Montréal Plaza

8 pieces

  • 8 large strawberries
  • 3 sheets of gelatin
  • 250 ml (1 cup) cold water
  • 2 Tbsp Suisen Matcha powder

Wasabi Paste

1. Cut the strawberries in half and trim the sides of each piece so that it is flat on both sides. Set aside on a serving plate.
2. Put the gelatin sheets to soak in cold water. Set aside.
3. Heat water up to 65 ° C (150 ° F) and pour in the Matcha powder. Whisk well. Let stand until there is no more foam.
4. Squeeze the gelatine sheets to remove excess water and place them in the lukewarm, tea mixture. Whisk until gelatin is dissolved. Cool in an ice bath until the mixture thickens slightly.
5. Place a small amount of wasabi in the center of each half of strawberry, then quickly add one teaspoonful of jellied matcha over it. If the matcha jelly gets too hard, reheat it over a saucepan filled with boiling water to get the ideal consistency.
6. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Once all dishes are prepared add candlelight and a little Barry White and you are all set…

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