Tag Archives: plants

What’s New at the Zoo?

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Well, well – back from the Tea Expo and back into an insanely rushed 5 week course at UNT. But, I had to get it done. I am a bit late with the news and review for the Expo, but here goes. It was marvelous – of course! The new venue in Long Beach was a nice change from the awful hot of Las Vegas. It was really nice that after three years, folks on the show floor actually recognized me from previous Expo’s. I took that as a good sign. I am always amazed at the new items and niche items the vendors bring for display. There was some outstanding packaging ideas – which I have been seeking, and some delicious products such as icing made from tea and herbals by The Modern Girl Tea group! Those girls were busy dishing out the samples. It took me three days to get to the booth, but it was well worth it. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? There is always new tea maker products and this year the vendor with the crowd was Alpha Dominche with their Steampunk Tea Brewing System. I just might have to get me one of those….. Here is a YouTube link for the ‘Steampunk Machine’. This is demonstrated for coffee, but the system can be used for tea as well. Since tea  – good tea – requires brewing at the correct temperature and for the correct length of time to enjoy the tea at its best, this system is really cool.

http://youtu.be/2mTKtdzBKJM

The educational courses offered this year were top-notch. I enjoyed a class with Scott Svihula, Tea-smith, China Mist Tea Company about problems that can happen in the process and handling of tea that seriously effect the taste. Scott’s courses are always outstanding and I learned much about identifying the processing errors. The Expo is never complete without taking a Legal Course for all of the new rules, regulations, and laws that affect the tea industry. This course was presented magnificently by Mr. Dan Dwyer of Partner, Kleinfeld, Kaplan and Becker. If this is the only class I can attend, it always has something new that affects the tea business and as a retailer, new regulations we must follow for advertising and labeling our products. I think though, I have to say my favorite course this year was the Pairing Cheese and Chocolate with Tea taught by Chef Robert Weischner. It was one of the most informative and educational for this year and for the future of our tea business. I will be incorporating these tastings in my product presentations going forward!

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For those of us who may find goat cheese a bit ‘strong’, paired with the right tea, that bite is lessened and a good goat or blue cheese is very enjoyable. Of course my mind was running faster than I could keep up with in ideas for doing Tea Parties using chocolates and cheeses. I will have to work on the format for that one. There is a new coffee-house opening in Pilot Point, Texas that may be interested in hosting these pairing parties – we shall have to look into that possibility.

The World Tea Tour – with tastings involving 25+ teas from 7 countries, is always a delightful way of starting the program. I can never hear enough from folks like: Jane Pettigrew, Rona Tison, and Thomas Shu and his lovely wife.

My stay on The Queen Mary was great – except for the fire drill about 5:00pm on Saturday – that was a bit strange. But, the ship does have her own stories of ‘odd happenings’.

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Well – back to work! 9 Lives Tea House is making a huge leap! We are in the process of developing our own label of teas. We will let you know when they are ready to ship. It has been a long-time coming, but we are finally ready to take the leap.

In the meantime – ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ – Everyone, Tip Those Tea Cups!

Judith A. Ames-Hardman

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

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The Magic of Tea

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All of my life I have been fascinated by the plants given to us on this earth. When I was an undergrad student at Cal Poly Pomona in California, I was an Agricultural Biology Major because I knew someday I wanted to farm and grow ‘unique’ plants or crops. I was pulled away from that because of my love of animals and I turned to Genetics/Animal Husbandry. But I still thought I would some day grow crops.

My favorite plant of choice was the ‘cotton’ plant. What a neat plant. It grows rapidly, and in a few short months, we are able to harvest those cotton bowls and the rest is history. That fiber is processed, dyed, and then becomes material that is transformed into so many things we wear and use everyday – like our favorite jeans! It may have been in my family genes to some extent as my grandparents used to work the California Valley driving the planting and picking crews for the first cotton crops ever planted in the state. Then, when a very clever geneticist found a way to grow colored cotton, I was beyond amazed. Plant science is a fascinating field.

Which brings me to the ‘tea’ plant: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. This plant is really quite a simple plant. If you stumbled onto it, you would most likely not pick it out as beautiful, or particularly colorful, or even attractive in any way. In many settings, it would be a large, bulky tree and not a shrub at all like you see in many tea plantations.  The Tea Bush is just a simple ‘evergreen’ shrub that grows in many climates, at different altitudes, and in many temperatures from hot and steamy to the highest mountains in the Himalayas up to 5000′. It grows on flat, valley terrains and on the sides of mountains.

I am sure you are asking yourself – “Well that is all good but what makes the Tea plant so special and why should I care?” A good question and here is just one of many answers:

This amazing evergreen, although all of the same species, will adapt its chemistry to the climate where it lives. What this means is that white tea, green tea, oolong, and black tea all come from the same plant but not all green teas or black teas have the same flavor or taste. The tea-plant is highly sensitive to the insults of the ground it is grown in and the weather surrounding it’s home. Only the end two leaves and bud are picked and processed to become the teas you see in stores and specialty shops. The regions with warmer more temperate climates will see several harvests in any given year and the colder, higher regions will see only a few plucking’s each year. The chemistry of the soil, the rain and cold, soil run off, and any fertilizer additives used all influence the flavor the plant leaves will produce in a tea brew. That, to me, is one of the most amazing abilities of this wonderful, little, beverage generator.

I have compared the tea industry to the wine industry because there are so many similarities. A grape is a grape, is a grape…. or is it? Not to the wine maker who understands and appreciates  how all of the influences Mother Nature can have on the final product. They also appreciate the blending process and aging process. The production of Tea has become a true art just as the production of a fine wine.

Although I am still developing my ‘Tea’ palette, I do believe I have entered the phase of considering myself somewhat of a tea snob – but I don’t mean that in a bad way. It just means I am learning to detect the differences in regions and altitudes. I have had good teas and I have had ok teas, and I have had bad teas. Just like with wine, everyone’s palate is different and you cannot manufacture a GOOD tea for the masses. Each year the crops vary with subtle differences and because of this, each harvest is a one time offering. Loose leaf teas command a higher price because they deserve it due to the limited quantities of each harvest. So, if you find a particular type of tea you enjoy, I would recommend stocking up because next year there will be slight differences.

Some of you may be saying under your breath – What about the Camellia sinensis var. assamica, fermentation, oxidation, and the processing used for by the tea producers? Don’t these also influence the tea? All very good points as these also affect the flavor and taste of the tea brew. I will be addressing these other things in future blogs as each has very important influences on the final product.

Until then: ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ Everyone tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames-Hardman

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

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