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Review: Matcha Source “Kama Matcha”

Matcha Sources whisk it kit, with Kama Matcha and bamboo whisk

Kama Matcha Review

BRAND: Matcha Source  |  TEA: “Kama Matcha”  |  GRADE: Ceremony Grade  |  ORIGIN: Japan

Preparation:

I prepared this matcha using 2 chashaku scoops (roughly a teaspoon) and 3 oz of purified water at just below 180 degrees fahrenheit (note that Matcha Source recommends a 180 degree temperature. I typically prefer the 165-170 range for high-grade matcha, but that’s just a personal choice). For this review, the matcha was prepared in the traditional Japanese fashion, sifting the matcha into a tea bowl and whisking with a chasen (bamboo whisk). I used a glass tea bowl (to better illustrate the color and nuances of the prepared matcha).

Packaging & Shipping:

I ordered the “whiskit kit” from Matcha Source, which is a 3-piece set that comes with their Morning Matcha, bamboo whisk, and whisk holder (and a detailed informational guide).  Note: I upgraded to the Kama Matcha, and for the purpose of this review I’ll be focussing on this matcha (rather than the accessories in the kit). Kama Matcha Ceremony Grade Matcha Tea 30g tin

 

 

However, I am including some photos of the packaging for reference, and I can report that the ordering process was easy and intuitive. Standard shipping brought the package to my doorstep in 2 business days (likely due to the fact that I reside in the same state).  I also received timely confirmation emails from Matcha Source regarding the order and shipping details.

 

Matcha Source whisk it kit

Matcha Source bamboo whisk and matcha

MATCHA SOURCE – KAMA MATCHA REVIEW

Tasting Notes:

What I noticed immediately, on first sip, is the smoothness of this Matcha. Behind the taste along, this smooth characteristic applies to the mouth feel as well…perhaps best described as “velvety-like” on the tongue and back of my throat (which surprised me a bit, as this is not always as noticeable with matcha). A lot of the matchas that I’ve sampled over the years have a slight bitterness or astringency, which is sometimes a distinctive flavor profile of matcha. This isn’t the case here (at least not with my palate). I also would describe the flavor as complex — mostly because of the hint of sweetness that I tasted, combined with noticeable undertones of grassy and earthy flavors.

I will say that I’m using the the term “sweetness” very carefully here. If you are new to matcha, you might not think of sweetness as a flavor characteristic. However, I drink a lot of matcha (admittedly, I’m a bit obsessed), and I definitely noticed a very distinctive (yet not overpowering) sweetness with this matcha. I first detected it with the aroma, prior to preparation. This sweetness comes across in both aroma and taste (however, it’s much more prominent with the aroma). I also want to be clear that this Kama Matcha is very well balanced. The sweetness characteristic is not over powering at all…just a very nice and noticeable hint.

 

 

Kama Matcha by Matcha Source

Matcha Source Kama Matcha froth

 

When dry (prior to adding water), Kama Matcha has a very vibrant green color. This is a distinction of high-quality matcha (vs. lower grades that may be a bit duller, brownish in color, or not as bright green). Once prepared and whisked, the matcha provided a very nice foam and creamy taste.

 

Matcha Source guide

 

Matcha Source has produced a detailed guide to matcha, which includes an overview of matcha, preparation steps, health benefits, recipes and more.  It’s nicely illustrated, and came packaged with the whiskit kit.

Overall, this high-grade matcha provided a very pleasant drinking experience…from first sip to last, all the way through. I enjoyed two sessions, one bowl prepared THIN style, and the other THICK style. The tastes described above were obviously more subtle in the thin style, but the smoothness and balanced flavor came across in both styles of preparation. I really enjoy this Kama Matcha, and will be adding it into my morning matcha ritual.

I hope you find this review of Matcha Source’s Kama Matcha hepful. I encourage you to check out the Matcha Source website by clicking the banner below, where you can browse the variety of their matcha offerings, view the blog or follow along on their social channels.

 

Matcha Source for matcha green tea powder

 

Disclaimers: I paid full retail price for the tea reviewed above.  This review includes affiliate links.

Photos:Copyright TeaMinded.com

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What is Matcha Tea? Our Complete Guide to All Things Matcha

We’ve prepared the following guide to answer the question: What is Matcha tea?  This includes a look at the origins (and rich history) of the beverage, as well as detailed information about the different types and qualities, accessories, rituals and what to consider when buying matcha. We hope you find this guide useful, and please be sure to post comments below if you have any questions of feedback to share with others from the TeaMinded community.

What is Matcha Tea?

Originating from Japan, matcha tea is gaining immense popularity due to its health benefits and great flavor. Even though tea is a word that often brings to mind images of loose leaves steeping in hot water — matcha, on the other hand, is a ground tea leaves that, rather than steeping in hot water, is whisked, which creates an intense version of green tea.

Matcha Tea Accesories

Origins of Matcha Tea

Green tea was first cultivated in China. From there it made its way to Japan in 1191 where it has been cultivated since. The methods of preparing powdered green tea were adopted by the Japanese as it is an essential part of Zen Buddhism. It was during the 14th century that matcha tea started gaining recognition among other echelons of society, especially the upper class.

There was a time when this tea was not readily available and was used only by a select few. Thanks to the efforts of a monk named Eisai, green tea was introduced to the common public and the samurai warriors. The people of China and Japan have known about the health benefits of this beverage for centuries. It’s even been used as a medicine to treat and prevent ailments.

At first, matcha tea was used for medicinal purposes only, but with time its use became more widespread and it became a favorite beverage of the local people. This is what led to the inception of the commonly known Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony involves the gathering of people to enjoy both the making, and drinking, of tea.

Matcha Tea Bowl Whisk

What Separates Matcha from Other Tea?

All green teas come from the same source, but the one thing that separates matcha from other teas is the processing method. The method utilized for preparing the leaves for consumption is what really sets it apart. Normal green tea leaves are fried, roasted, sundried or baked after harvesting. These leaves are then rolled a few times to remove moisture before they are packed and shipped to consumers. In order to prepare matcha, the tea farmers utilize a specific way of harvesting. For a number of weeks, typically three, the plants are shielded from the sun (shaded) to promote a naturally sweet flavor before the leaves are picked. Once picked, the leaves are steamed and left to dry. It is often during the month of May when the matcha green tea leaves are hand-picked by the farmers. To prepare the best quality, only the tenderest parts of tea leaves are selected after they have dried. They are then grounded into fine powder, packed and shipped for consumption.

To prevent fermentation the tea leaves are steamed. This is done because if the leaves are allowed to ferment, they lose their original and vibrant green color. Make sure that when buying matcha tea the color of the powder is bright green and not dull or damp green.

Once the tea leaves are picked, they are dried in the shade. After this, they are transferred to airtight tea jars where they are stored for a number of months (typically six). In November, the leaves go through the grinding process. This long and arduous process of making matcha tea is the reason why it is more costly, but it also ensures that it is of the best quality possible. This method of preparing matcha ensures that a huge amount of EGCG remains rather than going to waste (EGCG is a potent antioxidant and is an abundant catechin found in matcha tea).

The rolling and drying process of normal green tea leads to a large amount of EGCG going to waste. Some manufacturers put the green tea leaves through the process of fermentation, something that also changes and negates the power of the tea leaves. The gentle process used to prepare this beverage ensures that more than 90% of the antioxidants remain intact, while the EGCG reaches super-charged levels due to the grinding process. Such positive benefits can only be boasted by matcha tea.

Types, Grades, Quality of Matcha Tea

The higher grade of matcha is usually naturally sweet with a nice smooth finish and almost little to no bitterness. This type of is best consumed with just water, as it is not meant to be used for cooking purposes. The standard of high-quality matcha and low quality can also be discerned by the price. Matcha is one of the more expensive teas as it requires hard labor to cultivate, harvest and manufacture. Moreover, the time period for processing and refining it is quite extensive.

Another way you can determine the quality of this tea is sight. Matcha should be of a vibrant green color, similar to that of Japanese jade green. Lower grades can be sighted as brownish/yellowish. High quality gains its jade green color due to the presence of natural chlorophyll that gives it a green glow. Ingredient grade is made with leaves that are older and are also exposed to sunlight for some time. High quality matcha can also be determined by its smell as it gives off a pungent but sweet vegetal smell. This smell comes from the high amounts of amino acids, namely L-Theanine. This high level of amino acids is due to the tea plants being grown in the shade. If the green tea leaves are left in open air, they lose amino acids as they are converted into catechins.

High quality matcha has a natural sweet taste as the amino acids are preserved due to being grown in the shade. High quality also has a silky and fine feel to it, almost like baby powder. When the tea is prepared and whisked, it will leave a frothy layer on the top — whereas lower quality matcha will have less of a frothy layer, and instead it will give off large air bubbles.

Matcha tea comes in three different grades

  • Thick or Ceremonial
  • Thin
  • Ingredient or Culinary

All three are considered premium quality Matcha.

Thin matcha, also known as usucha, requires adding more water and less tea. This grade has the highest percentage of amino acids. This adds complexity to the aroma and taste of the prepared tea.

The thick matcha, also known as koicha, is made using more tea and less water. In order to make koicha, only the tenderest and youngest leaves are used to prepare the tea. This matcha is of the highest quality and often used in Japanese tea ceremonies.

Culinary grade matcha, also known as ingredient grade, is made from the leaves that lie below the plant’s top leaf and the bud set. These leaves found in the lower parts of the tea plant are less delicate and older than the rest. When grounding these leaves into powder form, the stems are not removed (as they are with premium grade). Culinary grade, as the name suggests, is excellent for making drinks and ice cream, as well as cooking sweet and savory recipes. Its bolder and less complex taste makes it the perfect ingredient grade matcha.

Health Benefits of Matcha Tea

Matcha tea’s health benefits have made it an important ingredient in a lot of health food products. Energy bars, frozen yogurts, lattes and cereals have started incorporating matcha as a healthy ingredient. Matcha has been found to have at least three times more anti-oxidants and EGCG than other teas and fruits like blueberries and pomegranates.

The biggest reason why this tea has these health benefits is due to the fact that it consists of the whole leaf, unlike other teas where only the steeped water is ingested from the tea bags. Other teas are brewed from the leaves and only the water that remains is consumed, the remaining tea is thrown away.

However in the case of matcha, its preparation consists of stone grounded tea leaves, providing you the most powerful minerals, amino acids, vitamins and antioxidants. This also gives matcha tea higher levels of catechins and chlorophyll. In comparison, it’s been reported that roughly ten cups of green tea equal one cup of matcha tea with regards to health benefits.

Other health benefits of Matcha tea include:

  • High in Antioxidants
  • High in EGCG and Catechin
  • Calms the Mind
  • Boosts Memory and Concentration
  • Boosts Memory and Concentration
  • Increases Energy Levels and Endurance
  • Detoxifies the Body
  • Burns Calories
  • Strengthens the Immune System
  • Lowers Bad Cholesterol and Raises Good Cholesterol
  • Helps in Fighting Cancer and Alzheimer’s

Matcha is likely one of the reasons why Japanese people live long and healthy lives. The one place where the people live the longest is Okinawa, Japan. The people there consume this tea on a regular basis as it is the most popular green tea. As the word of mouth about matcha’s health benefits spreads, health and fitness gurus throughout the world have started to incorporate the green tea in the diets of their athletes and clients. With more and more studies being conducted, the positive health benefits of matcha just keep pouring in from all corners of the world. No wonder matcha is quickly becoming one of the most popular green teas.

What to Consider When Buying Matcha Tea

It is better not to buy open tea from any local store. Chances are the quality of that matcha will not be similar to the premium quality levels. When buying matcha, go for the purest organic variety possible. Pure organic matcha contains all the health benefits mentioned above, whereas buying processed matcha won’t be as beneficial as it loses its premium grade quality.

When buying matcha, the most important aspects to consider are:

  • The location where the tea plants are grown and picked
  • The pre-grinding process
  • Calms the Mind
  • The method of grinding
  • The oxygen exposure time

The location from where the tea plant is grown is essential to its quality. The upper part of the tea bush needs to be supple and soft to ensure fine texture with high quality. The matcha tea powder made from these leaves has the best flavor. Unlike other teas, pure premium grade green leaves are left to dry in the shade rather than in the sun. All efforts are made to ensure that the leaves are not exposed to direct sunlight.

For this reason, the leaves are mostly dried indoors. Even though the drying process can be done outdoors, the risk of rain ruining the tea leaves is too high. This leaves the leaves in a fine green color. If the tea leaves are not properly grounded, they will be of a poor quality as they will appear dark and burnt. This is why matcha leaves are stone grounded at a slow pace to avoid heating due to the constant friction between the stones.

In Japan, the tea manufacturing plants are equipped with granite stone mills in order to grind the tea leaves into fine powder. Once the grinding process has been completed, the matcha tea powder is immediately packed and shipped. This immediate packing reduces the oxygen exposure time, ensuring premium quality.

When purchasing matcha tea make sure that the brand/company you are buying from follows the abovementioned process. This ensures that you are buying the highest quality tea.

Save $3 Off First Orders at Matcha Source

Utensils Used to Make and Drink Matcha Tea

The Japanese have been enjoying this variety of tea both medicinally and spiritually for almost 1,000 years. The utensils used by the people back then are still being used as they have become a part of the matcha tea drinking culture and the traditional Japanese tea ceremonies.

Traditional accessories include

  • Bamboo Scoop
  • Whisk & Whisk Holder
  • Hand Strainer
  • Natsume
  • Strainer Can
  • Matcha Bowls

The Bamboo Scoop: This simple utensil is used to scoop or pick up the tea powder from its airtight container into the matcha bowl. Nowadays these bamboo scoops are made to measure almost one gram of tea powder. In Japanese tea ceremonies, two bamboo scoops are used instead of one.

The Whisk & Whisk Holder: As the name suggests, the whisk is used for whisking the tea. This utensil is perfect for creating the foamy layer at the top of the tea, just like a latte. These whisks are made from the bamboo tree and are an essential part of whisking matcha tea in the traditional Japanese way. At first look, the whisk’s center prongs will be intertwined while the outer ones will be curled. The first thing to do after buying a new whisk is to soak the whisk in hot boiling water for a few of minutes. This helps in removing any aroma of the bamboo and also unravels the whisk’s prongs. The whisk holder’s purpose is simple, to hold the whisk when it is not in use. This way the whisk will dry evenly and also maintain the whisk’s shape.

The Hand Strainer: When making matcha tea, the hand strainer is used to ensure that the tea powder does not clump. Its purpose is to smoothen and evenly mix the powder in the water to make the perfect matcha green tea. Every time you make a bowl of matcha, you should use a strainer to sift the tea.

The Natsume: Typically used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the natsume is used as a tea caddy, to hold the tea powder after it has been sifted.

Matcha Strainer: Can The Matcha strainer-can houses the natsume and the hand strainer. The sifter is placed in the top portion of the can while the sifted matcha is kept at the bottom. As a rule of thumb, it is best to sift a week’s worth of sifted tea powder in the can. All the while the can can be stored in the fridge. After filling the can with a week’s worth of sifted matcha, store the rest in the freezer whilst using this for your drinking pleasure.

Matcha Bowls: The traditional matcha bowls are used for drinking matcha green tea. They come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Traditional Japanese matcha bowls come in three shapes and are meant to be used during different seasons

  •  Shallow
  • Deep bowl with narrow mouth
  • Normal shaped bowl

The shallow bowl has a wide mouth and is used during summer. Their wide mouth allows the matcha to cool quickly during the summer heat. Deep bowls with narrow mouths are used during winter seasons. The narrow mouth helps retain the heat during the cold winters as the small surface allows less heat to escape. The normal shaped bowl is a general bowl and can be used throughout the year. They are typically used during autumn and spring seasons as traditionally the winter and summer seasons have specific matcha bowls.

Conclusion

Hopefully this Matcha Tea Guide provides you with useful information. Matcha is a wonderful tea for so many reasons — great taste, stress-reducing, metabolism-enhancing, cholesterol-lowering, immune system boosting, and cancer-fighting (just to name a few).

 

Matcha Source for matcha green tea powder

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Yixing Teapot User Guide

Throughout history, Yixing teapots have been used as effective and magnificent tools in which to brew tea. Dating all the way back to the time of the Chinese Sung Dynasty in the year 960, these pots have maintained their superior status when it comes to the art of tea making.  We’ve prepared the following Yixing teapot user guide to provide you with a complete overview, including tips on how to properly care for your Yixing teapots.

Yixing Teapot User Guide
Photo by Ilya Yakubovich

A Bit of History

Pottery during the Sung Dynasty was being produced from purple (zisha) clay found in the Yixing (pronounced yeeshing) region of China. Before yixing pots came along, the Chinese were accustomed to drinking tea out of bowls. People started using zisha clay to make the teapots during the Ming Dynasty, from 1368-1644. “The dissemination of YiXing teapots greatly influenced not only the forms of teapots found throughout the world, but also prompted the invention of hard-paste porcelain in the western world.

Yixing pots are so revered because they’re perfect for brewing. What makes them so great is the porous material, which is excellent for absorbing the flavor of the tea.  If used for numerous years, one could brew tea just by pouring boiling water into the empty pot (although, it may be a bit weak). Other features of the Yixing teapot include “a fine and solid texture, a four percent water absorption rate, a very low thermal conductivity, and a double air hole design which enhances the pot’s brewing properties.”

The zisha clay can manufacture light buff, purplish brown, and cinnabar red colors on its own, and other colors are created by mixing these three or adding mineral pigments. Yixing pots are made one at a time, by hand. The Chinese take their tea very seriously, which is reflected in the tradition of using the yixing pots.

Yixing Teapot User Guide
Photo by Debunix

Caring for Your Yixing Teapot

This is perhaps one of the most important considerations of any Yixing teapot users guide — proper care and seasoning. Since the teapots are delicate, they require special care.  After purchasing a Yixing pot, it’s not recommended to brew in it right away.

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that the air holes are functioning properly.  It’s also recommended to boil the teapot itself in hot water to remove any stray bits of clay or glazing (since these are artisan teapots).  And, although not required, some people prefer to soak it in tea for a few days to “break it in.”

Another recommended step-by-step method is to first fill the pot with boiling water and let it sit for five to 10 minutes. After draining that water, it should be filled a second time, but with one teaspoon of tea leaves. This should also sit for the same amount of time and then drained. The final step(s) before enjoying your tea of choice from your new Yixing gets a bit complicated. Here are the recommended steps:

  • Fill your teapot with freshly boiled water to heat up the pot
  • Drain the water
  • Put one teaspoon of tealeaves into your pot
  • Again, fill the teapot with freshly boiled water
  • Drain the water quickly to rinse the tealeaves
  • Fill the teapot a third time with boiling water, allow it to steep for at least [one] minute and enjoy your tea

After sipping the high quality tea, you should avoid rinsing your Yixing teapot with detergents or soap. In fact, this would damage the vessel. It can be rinsed with hot water or wiped with a soft cloth and then air-dried. What you’ll want is to end up with a fully “seasoned” teapot.  Cleaning solvents such as dish soaps and detergents will prevent this seasoning and will likely be absorbed into the teapot itself.  Remember, if stains begin to appear overtime, it’s normal and part of the yixing aging process.

Yixing Teapot User Guide
Photo by Laughingrat

Getting the Most from Your Yixing Teapot

The Yixing teapot is best for teas that are steeped at higher temperatures – such as oolong teas or black teas.  For example, to make oolong teas in the yixing pot, it’s recommended that you fill the teapot one-third of the way with water that’s between 185 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit combined with two to three teaspoons the loose leaf tea.  Steep for one to two minutes (depending on the type of oolong and your tasting palette).

Prices for yixing pots vary…anywhere from $40 to collectable ones which can cost thousands of dollars.  To determine if a pot is the real deal, it may sometimes come with a certificate of authenticity and include the artist’s signature, writes Lynn Flewelling of Teaviews. One of the most important aspects to consider is that the lid should fit well. “Fill the pot with water, put on the lid, and start pouring” to investigate this, says Flewelling. “If, when you cover the air hole in the lid knob with a fingertip, the water stops, that’s a perfect fit and perhaps one of the best tests of a pot’s quality of workmanship.”

Yixing teapots may be pricey and require delicate care, but for a tea enthusiastic, they’re worth it, and can last for many years. In fact, they only mature and get better with age (just like many pu-erh teas and fine wines). We hope this Yixing teapot user guide is helpful, and we encourage you to share any of your own thoughts in the comments section below.

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Turmeric Root Tea Recipe

Inspired by a recent twitter post from @AmyOh2 seeking recipes for making tea with dried turmeric root – I went on a search. Many of the recipes I came across called for turmeric powder, not the fresh (or dried) root. Others were for variations of chai teas (all good, but I was looking for something a bit different).

A trip to the local Whole Foods Market resulted in a good portion of turmeric roots (and other ingredients) for some at-home experimentation. My first few attempts and concoctions on the turmeric root tea recipe front resulted in mediocre results.  Finally, I found a blend that satisfied.

Fresh Chopped Turmeric Root
Turmeric root, ginger root, peppercorns, cinnamon, loose leaf black tea

 

Turmeric Tea – A TeaMinded Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 inches of turmeric root, chopped
  • 1/2 inch ginger root, sliced into 2-3 quarter size portions
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole (uncrushed) peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon loose leaf black tea
  • 1 to 2 cups filtered water

Steps:

  • Bring 1 to 2 cups water to a full boil in medium-sized saucepan
  • Add turmeric root and simmer for 2-3 minutes
  • Add ginger root, cinnamon, peppercorn and simmer for 3 additional minutes
  • Add loose leaf black tea and simmer for 1 additional minute (or last 3–seconds)
  • Remove from heat, strain and serve (some may also prefer to add a touch of honey)
Turmeric has numerous health benefits – including anti-inflammatory properties

A few noteworthy observations: 

  • Use heavy proportions of turmeric root — otherwise this would just be black tea with lots of additions.
  • With initial samples the ginger was overpowering.  So, I went with just a few slices for this recipe (vs. the finely chopped or grated options).
  • My goal is to have turmeric be the dominant ingredient. Therefore, I recommend holding back until the last minute (or 30-seconds) of boiling/steeping before adding the loose leaf tea. This ensures just a hint of the black tea (rather than a heavily/overly cooked black tea variation). I also tried a sample without the loose leafs (also very good, producing a deep orange-colored liquor and heavy turmeric taste).
  • This recipe doesn’t truly solve Amy’s search for a recipe using “dried” turmeric root. But replacing the fresh/chopped turmeric root with the dried variety might garner similar results (worth a try..I just need to track down a source for dried turmeric root…stay tuned).
  • Turmeric stains — your fingers and cutting board will be orange…be prepared (with good soap, and/or latex gloves).
Here are a few photos of the end result.

Note – I used these small cups for “family tasting” purposes (which worked well). However, I’d recommend a more sturdy teacup/mug for serving and enjoying.

Special thanks to @AmyOh2 (her twitter handle) for the inspiration. You can follow her blog here: San Fran Tea — Notes from a tea drinker in San Francisco. 

Please share your comments, feedback on the recipe, or even your own turmeric tea recipes and suggestions in the comments section.

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Fair Trade Tea – A Complete Guide

Fair trade is a topic that comes up often in discussions about the business and culture of tea. Simply put, viagra sale when consumers buy fair trade tea, they are supporting a better quality of life for the workers in the fields. Tea companies that participate in fair trade practices are going above and beyond for the people behind the product. Just one example is Rishi Tea – a company that has been at the forefront of offering Fair Trade Certified loose leaf teas.

Just like any other industry, the lower-ranking employees of tea businesses may face mistreatment and unreasonable working conditions.  Employees of tea growers pluck the leaves by hand, taking on other responsibilities such as hoeing, weeding, spraying, and fertilizing, says the United States Department of Labor.

Although child labor is not common in the tea fields, it does occur, according to the DOL. In the countries where the tea is grown, such as China, India, Brazil, and Kenya, women, who are the main tea pluckers, do not have access to child care. They bring their children along with them to work, which often results in the children themselves taking on responsibilities. “Most allegations of child labor in the tea industry involve the functions of plucking, weeding, hoeing, and nursery work. Some argue that children make good pluckers because of their ‘nimble fingers;’ others argue that plucking is too arduous a task for children to perform. Child labor may also be preferred for functions that require moving about between bushes on hands and knees.”

In addition to the child labor issue, workers in the tea fields can encounter medical problems because the work is so demanding. In countries that are impoverished and have a lack of good health care, these problems are amplified. The DOL says that many times, workers are not given the proper footwear or clothing to complete their work, and are exposed to hazardous chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides.

When fair trade tea comes into play, these workers receive the proper compensation and treatment they deserve. In general, according to Fair Trade USA, which certifies brands as fair trade, “For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace. Through vibrant trade, farmers and workers can improve their lives and plan for their futures.”

Fair trade tea guarantees that employees receive more than minimum wage, that they are not too young to be working, and that they receive international and national protection (source: Learn-About-Tea.com). Also, workers won’t be exposed to the harmful chemicals, and they have the ability to organize amongst themselves if they please. These countries also receive premiums, which has led to the creation of library facilities in China, as well as a new medical center in Tanzania.

ArtofTea.com Teas

In the United States, fair trade first emerged in the 1940’s when organizations in North America and Europe “reached out to poverty stricken communities to help them sell their handicrafts to well-off markets,” according to Fair Trade USA. “Later, a fictional Dutch character, Max Havelaar, was developed as an advocate for exploited coffee pickers.” Fair Trade Certified Tea was then established under Fair Trade USA, formerly TransFair, after USA Today ran a story about the coffee industry and poverty in 2001.

Tea importers and brands that wish to become fair trade in the United States are required to adhere to certain regulations. They must pay certification and licensing fees, set the minimum fair trade price on products, submit quarterly reports, and undergo routine audits. For manufacturers, every single ingredient in the tea has to be fair trade certified.

More than 90 companies selling tea in the United States are certified by Fair Trade USA, and, in 2011, the sales of this tea jumped 38 percent. Overall, in 2011, fair trade products saw a 75 percent increase in sales. One of the major players in fair trade, Honest Tea, represented a “37 percent increase in Fair Trade ready-to-drink beverages.”

A survey by Core Communications released in 2011 found that the reason Fair Trade products are selling better is that 91 percent of consumers claimed they would buy items that help out a cause. Sixty two percent of consumers did just that last year.

Fair trade tea is beneficial to everyone involved. Workers receive the respect and treatment they deserve, along with a chance to improve their communities and lives. Consumers can feel good about their purchases, knowing that with one swipe of a credit card they’ve contributed to the enrichment of peoples’ lives. And, considering the ever- growing market, fair trade tea importers and manufacturers will be part of an exciting and profitable movement. As the saying goes, “tea is the cup of life,”—in more ways than one.

 

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Health Benefits of Loose Leaf Tea

This list has been making its rounds on the tea blogs.  Looks like the original source goes back to EatDrinkBetter.com.

Isn’t it great when something that tastes so good can also be good for you (most often doesn’t work that way)!

Health Benefits of Drinking Tea:

  1. Tea contains antioxidants. Antioxidants can help slow down the aging process, and help cells regenerate and repair.  Many studies suggest antioxidants also assist our bodies in preventing cancer.
  2. Tea can lower stress hormone levels. Black tea can reduce the effects of stressful events by lowering the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.
  3. Tea fights cavities and reduces plaque. Compounds in tea are capable of killing or suppressing growth and acid production of cavity causing bacteria in our mouths.
  4. Tea keeps you hydrated. Every cup of tea you drink, especially low or no caffeine varieties, counts as a cup of water with the added bonus of providing antioxidants as well.
  5. Tea may reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Tea can help prevent formation of dangerous blood clots which are often the cause of strokes and heart attacks.
  6. Tea can help lower blood pressure. Drinking green tea daily can reduce your risk of hypertension by up to 50%.
  7. Tea aids your body in digestion. Tea has been used for thousands of years as an after-meal digestive aid.  It can also help relieve stomach cramps.
  8. Tea may help prevent diabetes. There is some evidence to suggest that green tea might help to lower the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes.
  9. Tea can help beat bacteria. An Egyptian study testing the effects of green tea on antibiotics found the tea to enhance the bacteria killing effects of the drugs.
  10. Tea aids your immune defenses. A study comparing the immune activity levels of coffee drinkers vs. tea drinkers found the tea drinkers to have levels up to five times higher.

Photo credit: Gathering More Calmness by CallMeSubtle on Flickr.

 

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“The Sky’s the Limit on Where Tea Can Go” — Joshua Kaiser of Rishi Tea

If you haven’t already tuned-in, this is a great video series from Breville — “Tea Explorer.” This clip features a behind-the-scenes glimpse with Joshua Kaiser, founder of Rishi-Tea.

A highlight from Joshua is well said, and exciting to think about:

“Where is tea going in the next 5 years?  We can only hope in the direction of speciaty coffee and the wine industry. Coffee baristas are hungry for tea information, they want to know how to make a great cup of tea…that’s been a major shift in awareness and interest.  We’re at a very interesting stage of tea’s history where in the US market and the European market we’re seeing more and more tea that was never in the market 10 years ago…the sky’s the limit on where tea can go.”

 

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Tea Culture: Some Common Types of Tea Ceremonies & Rituals

One of my favorite things about tea are the wide variety of cultural nuances and rituals.  All around the world, cultures have distinct ways of serving tea. These notable rituals and signature ceremonies are integral aspects of these societies, and often reflect the values and views of their people.

For me personally, tea rituals slow me down and foster a “community” vibe. I especially like Gorreana Tea Estate’s description — “Tea rituals are about relationships. [They’re about] the relationship of the tea server with the tea, the environment, the tea ware, the guest (if there is a guest), and to oneself.”

Photo credit: Alexander Baxevanis

Let’s take a look at the different methods of serving tea today and throughout history in these unique cultures.

Chinese

China was the first nation to discover tea, and it has become engrained in its cultural fabric ever since then. “A Chinese saying identifies the seven basic daily necessities as fuel, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea,” writes the author of “Chinese Art of Tea Drinking” at ChinatownConnection.com.

The different regions in China have their own separate customs regarding the type of tea they drink. In Northern China, scented tea is widely consumed. Citizens of Fujian and Guangdong drink black tea, while green tea is a favorite amongst those in the east.

Serving tea carries with it metaphorical, philosophical, and historical importance. Seven Cups — one of my favorite tea companies/blogs provides this perspective — The Chinese tea ceremony is all about respect, peace, and relaxation. Created over 1200 years by monks who “felt they could illustrate deep philosophical concepts through tea service,” these ceremonies include customs that the server should follow.  The person having guests over should have a happy attitude, provide a peaceful, clean environment, use light and clean water to improve tea quality, and possess a graceful demeanor. To the Chinese, tea ceremonies are not taken lightly.

Russian

In the middle of the 1600’s, a Chinese ambassador brought tea to Russia. High society in the country embraced the drink, which provided warmth. Tea was only available to the wealthy until the 1700’s, when prices dropped. It was then that it started to become a huge feature of Russian society.

When it comes to making tea, Russians use the samovar, a large, ornamental teapot. They “pour condensed tea previously prepared and kept warm in a dish on the top of the samovar into a cup,” according to Pickwick Tea. “To dilute the tea to the required thickness, they use the boiling water from the samovar.”

First, the teas are brewed dark in various pots, writes Linda Delaine of Russian Life. The bottom of the samovar is where the hot water is kept. One pot up contains dark tea, and the next is full of mint or herbal tea. At the very top of a samovar rests a zavarka, which holds a concentrated and dark brew. Tealeaves and boiling water go into the zavarka for at least five minutes. The tea is then enjoyed throughout the day and can last up until the next morning.

Delaine says that teatime is never a planned event in Russia. “Remember that tea, in Russia, is not just for [teatime]. I like to think that the warmth, comfort and hospitality that tea symbolizes, in Russian culture, is why it is offered at every meal and anytime during the day, especially when family and friends are gathered.”

Japanese

Cha dao, or “the way of the tea,” is a term that is used to describe tea ceremonies in Japan. The term and ceremony derived from Chinese traditions, which Japanese monks discovered when traveling through China during the Tang Dynasty, according to Chinatown Connection. Like the Chinese, the Japanese serve tea with principles in mind such as purity, tranquility, respect, and harmony, says Gorrean Tea.

Tea serving in Japan goes along with the time of day and year. For example, Akatsuki-no-chaji is a ceremony that takes place during the early, cold mornings of winter. Asa-cha is held in the early mornings of summer, and in October, the Japanese hold Nagori-no-chaji, an event signifying the end of summer and the last remains of that year’s tea.

Photo Credit: Selena N. B. H

The subtleties of a Japanese tea ceremony are the key to success. It is customary for guests to bow when receiving a cup of tea, turning it clockwise three times, and making a loud slurp when it’s gone to signal to the host that the tea was satisfactory. When the cup is returned to the host, it should be turned counterclockwise.

It can take years to get the hang of the Japanese tea ceremony, however, once it’s mastered, the true beauty of it can be seen. It is meant to be a fun and social event, where guests leave feeling uplifted and content.

English

The English are famous for their love of tea, and most known for their afternoon tea rituals. This came about in the 1840s, deriving from already established customs that had been around since the late 1650s.

After dinner, which took place between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. in mid-17th century England, men and women at elegant parties would drink their tea, writes Jane Pettigrew of Tea Muse. At first, since it was so expensive, tea was reserved for the wealthy. Overtime, it became cheaper, which made it accessible to everyone, no matter what income level. Dinner was also served later as time went on, between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and afternoon tea, served after lunch, was brought about.

Although the English drink tea at all times of the day, the most noteworthy custom is afternoon teatime. It is typically served with slices of bread, muffins, biscuits, or other small, sweet treats and occurs around 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Black, loose tea leaves are brewed in a large pot, and those enjoying the food and drink are expected to be gracious and polite. Milk and lemon slices complement the black tea, and cream is never used.

These days, with everyone’s busy schedules, afternoon teatime is a more rare and special occasion that remains highly treasured among the British people.

Indian

Since the British once ruled India, tea culture became prominent in the country. Just like the people of England, Indians enjoy black tea with milk, or Masala Chai, which is on the spicier side. The tea is boiled with sugar, strained, and poured into the cups, according to Pickwick.

Today, India exports more tea than any other country, according to The Tea Spot. However, most of the tea is consumed there.

India is known mostly for being tea manufacturers. The culture doesn’t have distinct ceremonies like other countries, probably because it was introduced to them later on, in the mid-1850s.

Conclusion

Tea ceremonies and rituals offer a glimpse into how people of different cultures think and act, as well as show what they believe in. Whether tea represents peace and tranquility, or is used as a means to socialize, it is an important part of the lives of people throughout the globe.