My high school reunion is this fall (and we're not going to mention how many years it's been) and a lot of us from Concord High School in Concord, North Carolina have reconnected on Facebook. When I found Molly and learned she owned a tea shop in our hometown, I was fascinated. I've always drunk iced tea. What Southern Belle doesn't? But one summer in college, while reading Miss Marple mysteries, I decided to try hot tea with sugar and milk. Oh yum!!!!! And I've been a hot tea drinker ever since. But there's more to tea than tea bags and here's Molly to fill us in.
Thanks for asking me to do a guest blog on tea! Where to start?!?! Although I am a life long tea drinker, I began to discover the connoisseur's world of tea about 10 years ago when a friend of mine, Denise LeCroy, introduced me to estate teas. Denise is the "First Lady of Tea" in South Carolina and a tea maven. From her knowledge of teas I developed a real "thirst" for more information about teas and a curiosity about the brew.
Tea is grown in almost every country in the world. It is the second most consumed beverage on the planet, with water holding first place. All tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. Where it is grown will affect its flavor and how it is processed after harvesting determines whether it will be green, black, oolong or white. There are thousands of varieties of teas.
Black tea is the predominant tea in America. Black tea is fully oxidized, which means after it's harvested, the leaves are bruised and it's left to ferment, or oxidize, for about 24 hours. It is then pan fired to stop the oxidation process and dried. Any flavoring is usually added at this time. Then the tea is graded and packaged. Black tea is where my drinking habit started! Some of my favorites are estate teas, which are grown in a particular area of a country. One such example is Sylvakandy, which is produced by the Sylva estate in the Kandy district of Sri Lanka. It is a Ceylon tea (Sri Lanka used to be Ceylon). Ceylon teas are often used as the base tea for flavored teas such as Earl Gray. They are medium bodied. I also like the Assam teas, which are produced in the Assam district of India. These teas are full bodied and malty. I love a bracing cup of Assam on a cold morning with a little sugar and a splash of milk.
India also produces two other varieties of tea, Nilgiri and Darjeeling. Darjeeling tea is often referred to as the champagne of tea because of its light muscatel flavor.
Green tea is the most consumed tea in China and Japan. Green tea is very high in antioxidants, which fight free radicals. There have been hundreds of studies on green tea's disease fighting properties, particularly cancer, and general health benefits. It was green tea that was thrown into the Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Green tea is picked, then steamed, dried, and packaged.
Oolong teas are between greens and blacks. It is partially oxidized, which makes this tea milder than most black teas, but without the vegetal taste of most green teas. Oolong teas are good for allergies and skin problems such as eczema. My favorite Oolong is Quanzhou Milk Oolong. It has a sweet flavor somewhat reminiscent of fresh milk.
White teas are fairly new to the American market. White teas are picked before the cillia falls off the leaves, then the leaves are dried. Because of their rarity, white teas are more expensive than the other varieties. White teas are very delicate, and most can be infused several times before the flavor is gone. At one time, only the royal family was allowed to drink white tea. One of my favorite white teas is Tangiers Lemon. It is delicious iced or hot.
What to drink?? After Denise introduced me to the world of tea, I would periodically go a little nuts with the tea catalogs and order several different varieties. When the packaged arrived, I'd often brew three cups at one time because I couldn't decide what to try first. This habit led to more and more purchases of tea, expanding my collection from a small basket on the kitchen counter to opening a tea shop to make room for it all!
I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to try something new in the world of tea. It's good for you, helps hydrate the body, and the experience of brewing and drinking a cup of tea can be a most rewarding experience. When it seems that the world is at my door with too many problems and not enough solutions, fixing a cup of tea and taking five minutes (or more!) just for me helps put everything back into perspective. Bottoms up with your cups!!
You can learn more about Molly's Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Shop here. I love their slogan: We Encourage Heavy Drinking. Also, one lucky commenter will win a tea sampler that includes her mentioned favorites plus one of her house blends and a couple of her best selling green teas . She sent me a sampler pack and I can vouch for how great her teas are. Yep, it's a lot more than tea bags.
So tell us. Coffee, tea or something else? What do you drink?
P.S. Our very own Blaze Babe, Kira Sinclair, is on the Blaze authors' blog today. Hop over and join in to find out about what happens in Vegas.