Blending Your Own Teas

Blending Your Own Teas

In addition to drinking tea, I love dissecting different loose leaf blends and discovering the many ingredients that go into making the delicious teas we all adore. I’m fascinated by the diverse combinations of herbs, spices, and food stuffs as well as the health benefits that said combinations naturally have. I suppose part of the intrigue (for me, at least) is that blending teas rather puts me in mind of medieval-fantasy times with cauldrons, witches, magic, and coming up with various herbal and plant concoctions.

Now, because I haven’t had any first hand experience, (only what I’ve read) I recommend visiting Kitty who is kind enough to share her valuable knowledge of this enchanting process.

Until next time, happy tea drinking, blending, and/or dissecting! :)

Advertisements

High Tea Etiquette

Most American hotels and tea rooms do not serve a proper high tea, offering tidbits of fancy pastries and cakes on delicate china when, in its traditional form, high tea usually refers to dinner. Known also as “meat tea”, high tea is typically eaten between 5 pm and 7 pm and consists of a hot dish, followed by cakes and bread, and occasionally there would be cold cuts of meat, such as ham salad. The term was first used around 1825, and high is used in the sense of well-advanced (like high noon, for example) to signify that it was taken later in the day than afternoon tea; it was used predominantly by the working class and in certain British dialects of the north of England and Scotland.

Now, without further ado, visit  Cristina Re for some high tea etiquette!

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour in London

In London, there is a bright red vintage tour bus that drives around Central London showing off some of the city’s best sights. What separates this from your average tour bus is, perhaps, the fact that you can munch an array of tasty sandwiches, decadent cakes and pastries, straight from Covent Garden’s French BB Bakery, and sip delicious cups of tea whilst enjoying the heart of the city’s culture. There are tables and leather upholstered seats both upstairs and downstairs, friendly servers and did I mention there was tea?

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

The tour lasts approximately one hour and thirty minutes which, to me, would go by all too fast. Enjoying sights such as The London Eye, Big Ben, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St James’s Park and much more, while cackling at the poor souls on those other tea-lacking buses would make for one of the most  pleasurable tours in existence.

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

Afternoon Tea Bus Tour

For more information on the BB Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus Tour click here!

Tea Processing And Classification

Tea processing is the method in which the leaves from the tea plant Camellia sinensis are transformed into the dried leaves for brewing tea. The categories of tea are distinguished by the processing they undergo. In its most general form, tea processing involves different manners and degrees of oxidation of the leaves, stopping the oxidation, forming the tea, and drying it.

At least six different types of tea are produced:

  1. White (wilted and unoxidized)
  2. Yellow (unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow)
  3. Green (unwilted and unoxidized)
  4. Oolong (wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized)
  5. Black (wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized; called ‘red tea’ in China)
  6. Post-Fermented (green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost; ‘black tea’ for the Chinese)

After being picked, the tea leaves soon begin to wilt and oxidize unless immediately dried. An enzymatic oxidation process triggered by the plant’s intracellular enzymes causes the leaves to turn progressively darker as their chlorophyll breaks down and tannins are released. This darkening is stopped at a predetermined stage by heating, which deactivates the enzymes responsible. In the production of black teas, halting by heating is carried out simultaneously with drying. The innate flavor of the dried tea leaves is determined by the type of cultivar of the tea bush, the quality of the plucked tea leaves, and the manner and quality of the production processing they undergo. After processing, a tea may be blended with other teas or mixed with flavourants to alter the flavor of the final tea.

FromLeafToTheCup

Tea Bags

A tea bag is a small, porous, sealed bag containing tea leaves that is used with water for brewing the beverage called tea.

TeaBag

Some tea bags have an attached piece of string with a paper label at the top that assists in removing the bag while also displaying the brand and variety of tea.

TeaBag2

The first tea bags were hand-sewn fabric bags. First appearing commercially around 1904, tea bags were successfully marketed by the tea and coffee shop merchant Thomas Sullivan from New York, who shipped his tea bags around the world. The loose tea was intended to be removed from the sample bags by customers, but they found it easier to brew the tea with the tea still enclosed in the porous bags. Modern tea bags are usually made of paper fiber. The heat-sealed paper fiber tea bag was invented by William Hermanson, one of the founders of Technical Papers Corporation of Boston. The rectangular tea bag was not invented until 1944. Prior to this, tea bags resembled small sacks.

TeaBag3

Most tea bags today contain fannings, the leftovers after whole tea leaves have been sorted and selected for loose tea packaging. There are, however, a few premium companies today, who use whole tea leaves in their tea bags providing optimal flavor.

Wouldn’t it be fun to make your own tea bags? Here is a wonderful tutorial by Yours Truly, G.

TeaBagDIY

The Best of Queens, And Best of Herbs

Tea got its most popular start when it became fashionable at the English court following the marriage of King Charles II of England to Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, in 1662. Catherine was not a particularly popular choice of queen since she was a Roman Catholic. Her religion prevented her from being crowned, as Roman Catholics were forbidden to take part in Anglican services. Raised in a convent and in a pious, loving family, Catherine suddenly found herself in the midst of a bawdy and dissolute court, with a continuously unfaithful husband and where she was the target for anti-Catholic bigotry. She initially faced hardships due to the language barrier, and the political conflicts between Roman Catholics and Anglicans. Despite his infidelities, however, the king respected Catherine’s unwavering religious convictions, and defended her whenever she was attacked. Over time, her quiet decorum, loyalty and genuine affection for Charles changed the public’s perception of her.

Catherine of Braganza
Catherine of Braganza

As time went on, the once rigidly formal Portuguese Infanta mellowed and began to enjoy some of the more innocent pleasures of the court. She loved to play cards and shocked devout Protestants by playing on Sundays. She also enjoyed dancing and had a great love for the countryside. Picnics, fishing, archery, and drinking tea were also favorite pastimes.

Catherine of Braganza
Catherine of Braganza

Catherine’s enormous dowry included: the Portuguese trading posts of Tangier and Bombay, the right to trade Portuguese possessions overseas, a fortune in gold, and a chest of tea. Catherine was a loyal tea drinker and, before long, sipping tea in small cups, “not bigger than thimbles”, caught on among the aristocracy.

In honor of Queen Catherine, Edmund Waller wrote a poem for her birthday;

Venus her myrtle, Phoebus has her bays;
Tea both excels, which she vouchsafes to praise.
The best of Queens, and best of herbs, we owe
To that bold nation, which the way did show
To the fair region where the sun doth rise,
Whose rich productions we so justly prize.
The Muse’s friend, tea does our fancy aid,
Repress those vapors which the head invade,
And keep the palace of the soul serene,
Fit on her birthday to salute the Queen.

Iced Tea

In 1904, at the St. Louis World’s Fair (also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition), Richard Blechynden, an enterprising English merchant, stood at his tea pavilion offering free hot tea to the many fairgoers. However, because of the sweltering heat, his tea samples remained untouched. Exhausted and desperate to showcase his product, Blechynden tried serving the tea in glasses filled with ice. The scheme was an instant success.

Because of this account, Richard Blechynden is often credited as the inventor of iced tea. Actually, it is more accurate to describe him as someone who popularized the drink, for, in reality, English and American variants of iced tea had been in existence since the early 1800s.

On September 20-21, 1890, the Missouri State Reunion of Ex-Confederate Veterans was held in Nevada, Missouri. Fifteen thousand veterans converged on the city of Nevada including several hundred from St. Louis. This event was held at the Artesian Park where an encampment was set up with rows upon rows of tents. The encampment was called Camp Jackson.

On the first day a huge meal was served, the magnitude of which was absolutely stunning. For example, there was over 11,000 pounds of beef, and 4,800 pounds of bread. The biggest surprise, however, is that the meal included iced tea – 880 gallons of it! Below is a clipping that appeared as part of a write-up about the Confederate reunion which appeared in the September 28, 1890 issue of the Nevada Noticer newspaper.

This article was published fourteen years before the World’s Fair. It also seems notable that the article is written in a style which infers that the newspaper assumed its readers knew what iced tea was. This leaves little doubt that iced tea was invented quite some time before the St. Louis World’s Fair.

I love iced tea. Although my family usually drinks it plain, a slice of lemon or some mint makes a lovely change.

To finish up this post, I have gathered a handful of delightful looking iced tea recipes.

  1. Five Minute Raspberry Iced Tea
  2. Perfect Peach Iced Tea
  3. Sweet Thai Iced Tea
  4. Iced Green Tea With Ginger, Mint And Honey
  5. Orange Vanilla Iced Tea
  6. Blueberry Iced Green Tea
  7. Lemonade Iced Tea
  8. Coconut Iced Tea