In its origins, tea is grown in green, luscious countryside's that are rich in culture and ornate in their history. History and culture that discovered energy and nutrients in the roots of leaves. True tea comes from the tea plant, scientifically known as the Camellia Sinensis. This plant is native to the part of Southeast Asia where China’s Yunnan Province meets India’s Nagaland region as well as the northern areas of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Left alone it will grow into a tree, but cultivated tea gardens prune these trees into bushy rows that make it easier to harvest.
Tea is recognized by six categories: green, yellow, white, oolong, black and dark. The word that differentiates these categories? Polyphenolic oxidation. This process is similar to the way apple slices brown. Rishi Tea & Botanicals share that, “the art of making tea involves skillfully facilitating tea leaf oxidation, and dehydration, through a series of intricate steps to achieve a desired flavor and aroma.”
The beauty of tea is found in the experience it invites us into, the history in which it makes us a part of. We want you to know what to look for so you can have the best experience.
When we think about tea, we support small businesses that provide high quality tea leaves as well as who benefit the environment. We look into if it’s organic, fair-trade and eco-friendly. We also like to make sure it’s all natural. Tea doesn’t need to be jaded by chemicals and additives. We’re spilling the tea about tea so you have the best tea buying experience!
So, let’s get into it.
Loose vs. Bagged
The truth is, loose tea will always have more flavor because loose tea is made up of full leaves. A lot of times tea that comes in bags is made up of broken down, fine particles of tea leaves. This is what we call tea “dust.” A lot of your store bought tea is going to be made up of this. It isn’t bad, it’s just not going to lead to the rich flavor and full potential of what tea has to offer. We get our tea from small businesses that have both bagged and loose teas.
Full leaves being drenched in boiling water have room to breathe and expand enhancing the aroma and taste. Tea bags also tend to be tighter so as you marry the tea with the water, the leaves don't have an opportunity to fully expand.
Vadham is a recognized and revolutionary brand that ships their tea directly from India. Their loose teas are made of “a variety of garden-fresh, superior quality ingredients sourced from their place of origin. Procuring these ingredients during their prime harvest periods means that (they) get the best quality which have an enhanced flavor, character, and freshness.”
Research is growing as people are discovering the health benefits different teas have. When you have these fuller leaves, you also have more opportunity to reap the energy and nutrients coming from them. Tea is meant to enhance your life.
Bellocq tea has an artisan approach in the way that they craft their teas.
“Even before you take a sip, a cup of tea can transport you. The aroma of leaves opened and unraveled by heat can whisk you into a heady repose, olfactory memory taking you back to the lush, moss-carpeted woods of your childhood. Or perhaps the faint, briny whisper of your first sip swings you forward to a beloved seashore. Another cup, a blend of teas more exotic to you, and you find yourself someplace dizzyingly, delightfully new. It’s this sense of wonder and discovery, and the recognition of exquisite beauty in the ordinary rituals of life, that inspired the creation of Bellocq.”
They meticulously select their teas from the finest estates in China, Japan, India, Nepal, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Malawi. Their focus is on exclusively full leaves sourced from high elevation gardens. Higher elevations ensure the leaves are more responsive to heat.
Loose or bagged, full leaves unlock the key. Not all bagged tea is of lesser quality. It’s the quality of the leaves that define the result of the pour. It’s also best to verify the tea bags are biodegradable as well. Companies like Harney & Sons have biodegradable tea bags for both their bagged and loose teas. And their bagged tea is made up of full leaves. You get the best of both worlds!
How is tea sourced?
Here’s what we look for in our tea sourcing. First, we make sure our tea is fair trade. Fair trade means that there is a fair price between those buying and selling the product. With tea, it means that ingredients are sourced from fair trade farms. It reassures that compensation is fair and wholly beneficial to everyone. Second, we ensure the tea is organic, that it comes from a good environment. Finally, we identify if it’s ethically sourced. We make sure the relationship from harvest to packaging and selling is in good favor and integrity.
An incredible example of fair trade can be seen in Vadham’s approach and support of their tea farmers. As a home-grown brand, they see their farmers as a priority. They make sure that all earnings are retained in the regions they’re bought from and the farmers get a better price. Ultimately they empower their farmers for long term benefits.
Good companies can be found if you take your time to look. We find quality in the grocery store brands as well as with small businesses. Another business we adore is Teaspressa.
Teaspress is female owned and operated, and have been handcrafting their tea since January of 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. Their slogan is “C’est La Tea.” It’s about accepting that setbacks happen, but you can roll with the punches and enjoy the little moments in life. They rally around the idea that “the little moments make it all worth it, so let’s make those little moments special.” They make life special through their quality tea.
Drinking tea is about so much more than pouring water over leaves. It’s a history and ritual. It’s a rich invitation for culture, and it’s a way to support those that cherish and share their culture with us. Here are some items to bring you a little closer into the nuance and beauty that tea has to offer.
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Cape Town features a full-bodied Rooibos, chosen for its familiar healthful qualities, mild texture, rich aroma, and many-faceted taste. You can add a slice of lemon or a splash of honey to enhance this specially crafted loose-leaf tea blend.
A timeless blend of caramel and delicate fleur de sel, a sparkling sea salt. This sugar mini is your classic combination of sweet and salty.
With a built in infuser, this tea pot is ethically sourced and meets fair trade. They also give a portion of their revenue to tea farmers for their children’s education.