Long Overdue Update!

Hello!

Its time for a long overdue update.  But where to begin!

Single Origin Teas was founded back in the spring of 2013.  And while the core values have not changed (bringing high quality tea at an appropriate price to my friends and fellow tea enthusiasts), things for me have!  A week or so after my last post (way back in March of 2014, again I’m sorry!), I moved to Florida.

Single Origin Teas has always been a family business, and so while I handle the online aspect, my mother (and Laura and Dee) have diligently filled the orders.  Several things have resulted from this move.  Notably I am completing a graduate degree from the University of Florida, and more importantly (or at least in regards to tea) growing tea here in Florida!

One of the original advertisements from the Waverly Growers Cooperative. Waverly Co-op is whom my family has sold its citrus through. The town of Waverly is also the closest town to where I will be growing my tea. So it seems very appropriate to honor heritage and pay respects.

For those that are active on the Facebook page, or on Steepster, you may have noticed the Waverly Tea Estate fundraisers.  Eventually it is my dream, for Waverly Tea Estate to stand proud and independent from Single Origin Teas.  But until then…you can sometimes order Florida grown tea here!

I’m also proud to announce that the University of Florida will soon be looking into tea growing trials here in Florida.  As many people know, citrus has been in decline due to a horrible disease.  And it is my (and many others) hope that tea can be offered as a new alternative crop for Florida growers.  So please, spread the word!

Some of the first ‘commercial’ batches of tea. I’ve been selling custom batches of tea to help raise money for the tea plants.

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Spring Pictures

No new teas to report, so some pictures this week instead!

 

Our Camellia Sinensis plant slowly recovering after the harsh winter.

Our Camellia Sinensis plant slowly recovering after the harsh winter.

Just had to brag about the clematis!

Just had to brag about the clematis!

Again just a bragging picture.  :)

Again just a bragging picture. 🙂

Our spearmint almost ready for another harvest!

Our spearmint almost ready for another harvest!

Coonoor Tea Estate

Coonoor Tea from the Nilgiri region is very exciting to us.  I was completely taken back when I tasted this tea! Complex aromas with just a hint of wintergreen really surprised me.  When I first tasted this tea I got this delicious bramble-jam, almost sloe berries (or sloe gin without the gin).  Then there was this peachy-apricot sweetness with a slight zest.  If this tea was a pie, I would already be over-weight.

Another nice feature of this tea, is the care that went into the harvest.  Beautiful long leggy leaves that show the care the estate manager took producing this tea.  This wasn’t a tea that was rushed into production, but one that was nurtured.  I have only seen care like this on one other tea, Amba.  Perhaps the similarities of the two teas is why I decided to buy this one!

With such beautiful long legs, this tea belongs in a burlesque show!

With such beautiful long legs, this tea belongs in a burlesque show!

 

This truly is one of the top notch teas I have tasted, and am proud to have Single Origin Teas sell it.

 

White Pomegrante

Time for some new teas!

White Pommegrante (1024x725)

White Pomegranate is the first of our new summer/spring teas.  Imported from Edinburgh Scotland, this tea has traveled the world! Composed of mostly white and green teas (grown in China), it has smatterings of dragonfruit, pomegranate, raspberry, kiwi and lemongrass! The medley of tropical tastes blend together in a sweet tasting exotic delight.

We find this tea is great hot, cold, or even room temperature.  You don’t really need to worry about it over-brewing as the sweetness of the fruit pieces really just makes it stronger.  Our only word of advice would be to use water around 80 (c) or 175 (f).   As always we would also recommend two teaspoons of tea for a pot, or just one spoonful for a mug.

 

This is a tea we cannot take credit for blending.  Our source is Anteaques (Edinburgh, Scotland), which we would strongly recommend visiting if you ever find yourself in Edinburgh.  This charming tea shop is dedicated to high quality teas, and we are happy to bring the best of the UK to the USA!

We will be bringing more teas from Anteaques like Orange Blossom Oolong, and a true Earl Grey (none of that fake bergamont that America seems to love).

New Teas!

I”m excited to announce several new teas!  Huzzah!

1.) Coonoor Nilgiri. The first tea is a black tea from the Coonoor Tea Estate in the Nilgiri Mountains of south India.  Nilgiri isn’t really a well-known region of India.  Its production is less than Assam( but more than Darjeeling), and its milder climate doesn’t give much pause for a ‘striking’ tea.  But this is where one can really see the true skill and craft of the estate manager.

With beautifully long leggy leaves, that have this wonderful bramble/jam aroma.  It tastes like an ambrosia.  I may be in love (and I may have ordered this tea with the sole intent of filling my craving).  This rivals the Amba Tea Estate in quality.  As much as tea fanatics love to go on about the terroir of the soil, making tea is a craft that really has to be learned.  This batch shows the true potential for a tea of this region (which is going to make my tea tasting all the more difficult to find one of this caliber again).

2.) Hibiscus Petals.  Hibiscus is a nice exotic touch.  A flower that I wouldn’t really associate with a tea, but I find it perfect for summer.  Bright fuchsia color, with a touch of astringency, really make this a nice caffeine free alternative for the summer.

3.) Going along with the theme of herbal, Single Origin Teas will soon be stocking Chamomile!  Its taken me a while to find a source that will use whole flowers that haven’t been adulterated.  Hopefully y’all will agree that this raw form will give a purer taste.

4.) Honeybush.  If you love Rooibos, then this cousin-plant also from South Africa will be a nice touch!

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Lastly I am waiting to hear back about several new flavored teas.  These teas would be coming from a European distributor, and I am anxiously awaiting to find out if they are willing to ship across to me.  The principle of Single Origin Teas is to sample the unique nature of teas from around the world.  While I don’t often associate this with flavored teas, sometimes its nice to drink something different.  Fingers crossed that I can provide some high-quality flavored teas too.

 

Why Loose Leaf Tea is Better (A comparison between orthodox and CTC production in black teas)

A better title would probably be; A comparison between loose leaf tea and tea bag tea, but the current title does state my bias better. 🙂

 

Probably the biggest difference between loose leaf tea, and tea bag tea, is the quality of the leaf.  loose leaf tea is also often called Orthodox, as its production style hasn’t changed since the 1800’s.  The Orthodox style of production is based off of the traditional Chinese style.  Tea bag tea is associated with the CTC manufacturing method.

The easiest way to remember these two styles is that Orthodox main target is to preserve the leaf as a whole (better price for the less adulterated), while CTC style prefers a more processed leaf (to allow for a quicker brewing method).

A good Orthodox tea is dependent upon good leaf and good processing.  CTC requires only a thorough processing. Any size of leaf can be made into CTC.  Hail damage, pesticide burn, old leaves, bit of stem, none of it matters as the final product with be uniform.

Orthodox style is much more difficult to make.  Careful plucking of young leaves, picked at the right time of the day, carefully monitored.  Orthodox style is a craft as the skills have to be learned.  CTC leaves are almost pureed and created into a homogeneous diced size (one grade is called Dust, if that gives a size of the product).

That being said, Orthodox and CTC do have some cross over.  After a harvest of leaves for orthodox style of production, the plucking table must be ‘reset’ back to the bud leaf.  These leaves that were not good enough to pluck for the orthodox (or if the estate adheres to a strict 1 leaf and 1 bud (or 2 leaves and a bud) policy), but still be harvested to reset the tea plants at the same height.  Thus most tea estates will produce both Orthodox tea and CTC tea.

 

The different cultivars of tea

All true tea (not herbal infusions, but tea tea) comes from a single species.  Camellia Sinensis.

While much debate remains about the indigenous home of tea, it is mostly likely a range between the tropical forests of China and India.  This plant, either naturally or artificially (human selection) has been broken down into fairly clear sub-species lines**:  Camellia Sinensis Sinensis, Camellia Sinensis Assamica, and Camellia Sinensis Cambodgiensis.

Camellia Sinensis Sinensis is fairly distinct form of small pinnate shaped leaves.  While all Camellia Sinensis will grow into a tree, Sinensis offers a more shrubby nature with more branching noticed.  Traditionally found in China, this variety is found all around the world now.  It is particularly useful for crosses between the Assamica variety.

Camellia Sinensis Assamica is also fairly distinct, with larger more broad shaped leaves.  This too will grow into a tree, though short, Assamica doesn’t quite develop the branch structure.

Cambodgiensis is most likely a hybridized form between these two more prominent sub-species/cultivars.  However due to the wide-spread nature of it, and its presence in the wild, it is also worth mentioning.

All of these teas belong to the same species, but are fairly distinct and recognizable.  Some people have argued that sinensis sinensis has a better flavor than sinensis assamica.  I do not agree with such assessments.  However I do believe that certain varieties grow best in different altitudes and climates.   The major tea producing countries all have government institutions set up to create new cultivars.  These cultivars are specifically created to optimize the tea plant with that countries unique growing conditions.  A prime example of a successful cultivar, is the Ruby 18 variety created in Taiwan.  However as with any mono-culture crop, disease is a constant issue keeping the tea institutes busy turning out new varieties.

**No paper has been published on these different sub-species, and hybridization is very common, but I believe from a Botanist perspective that a successful argument can be made of a sub-species categorization