Welcome To The Mighty Leaf Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Tea Culture’

American Tea Culture

January 28th, 2016 by Eliot Jordan

Eliot Jordan tea-team

China, Japan, Great Britain, and other cultures offer a tea ceremony that is uniquely theirs. In the United States, we are a nation of immigrants and an American tea culture reflects this. As the American traditional approach to food has revolved around producing and consuming large quantities, there is a shift at play, demanding higher quality. With tea, we had a strong cultural bias early on because so many British came and settled here. Paul Revere was a silversmith and made teapots. The New England area was a little England. American colonists emulated the British style of tea-making to a degree up until the American war of Independence. Then, tea went from being the beloved drink of the country to a symbol of oppression. We became a coffee-drinking nation at that point, encouraged by the British-rival French who had already begun coffee cultivation in Martinique. In the 21st century, we are now becoming more well-versed in tea. The cultures of tea around the world are becoming more known and popular here too.

Americans like and want tea for what tea wants to give them: a moment of reflection and quiet. This characteristic of tea is different than that of coffee. There aren’t elaborate cups or pots for coffee. Americans like that element and long for it because we are fundamentally impatient. We want convenience. We love iced tea even though for most of the rest of the world tea is drunk warm. American culture is less ceremonial than many cultures around the world. There’s no such thing as an American tea ceremony. We pick and choose aspects of ceremonies and make them our own. Chai is a great example of this—can we prepare it quickly and with a big machine? We’ve got stuff to do and places to go.

Joane Filler-Varty, our VP of hospitality talks about how American culture impacts the tea programs she sets up for our four and five star hotel clients. “Our whole perspective is to celebrate the tea leaf which is why the tea pouches are important. People can have appreciation of the whole leaf whether through acknowledging the agricultural element to the amazing liquor in the cup that helps you slow down, relax, and enjoy the moment. In the U.S., perhaps not as much time is given as with the British afternoon tea, but if you’re willing to spend more time brewing tea, the experience lasts longer than a cup of coffee. The goal is to reflect, be involved, and watch the tea leaves produce the end product. For my American hotel clients, tea pouches are quite popular, although a growing interest in loose tea has been cropping up too. The teapot size varies quite a bit, but they’re often not quite as large as the British teapots. Tea is often served with dessert or pastry.”

Mighty Leaf Tea has established itself as a modern American tea brand. Much of our success and business have come from our tea pouches because many Americans like to drink tea that way. Our tea line takes influences from different culinary backgrounds. Organic African Nectar is a good example of this, since it includes a South African herb that tea people in the United States didn’t know about 25 years ago. Pull out your best teapot and serve any of our tea pouches for an exceptional experience. The tea pouches envelop high quality tea leaves that can be prepared conveniently. You can drink good tea on the go with them. People feel harried and why not? Email is calling for attention. Texts on the phone ask a person to be in 10 places at once. A cup of tea in hand invites you to stop and taste something from the other side of the world. If you have those moments in the day, you can get through our modern life.

Chai: Journey in a Tea Cup

December 5th, 2015 by Eliot Jordan

Eliot-tea-team

When the average American thinks of chai, I would venture to say what they envision is what you can purchase at coffee shops or cafes and is expected to be a pretty milky, sweet, and spicy black tea concoction made at the espresso machine with steaming milk.

Now, if you walk into a restaurant in India and ask for chai they will bring you a cup of unsweetened tea. You have to ask for masala chai (masala means a mixture of spices)– we think of chai and mean masala chai. No self-respecting tea seller in India would sell you tea already mixed with spices. They expect you to add the spices at home. Each street vendor in India prides his or herself on their special blend of spices. The term, Masala got dropped as chai came to the U.S.

Indians didn’t grow tea until the British brought it over from China. The Hindi word for tea, chai, is derived from the Northern Chinese term, cha. In Southern China, the word for tea is te (it’s a different pronunciation of the same characters). So, it stands to reason that countries exposed to the Northern half of China reinterpreted the word for tea that way. Other countries use derivations of cha too, like Russian tchai.

Indian Masala Chai literally means ”spiced tea” and reflects how Indian food combines multiple spices and even some dairy for a satisfying flavor. This isn’t the case in China, where the food is not focused on dairy or sweets. The tea reflects the cuisine. In Turkey, milk is not used to make chai, instead, sugar is used and a lot of times they will add fresh ginger and orange peel.

I recall how the Beatles made traveling to India cool in the late 1960’s—perhaps we can thank them for chai’s introduction in the U.S.? So many young Americans went to India and tried chai but couldn’t find it back home in America. In 1981 I first heard of chai while I was a student at UC Santa Cruz. I have sipped chai from street vendors a few times during visits to India over the years. When I travel, I love to drink the local tea.

I remember a chai stall on the road—a 6×6-foot shack with a big aluminum pot that looked 100 years old, boiling 10 gallons of a concoction of tea, sugar, spices, and local unpasteurized milk. When you order chai in India, it’s typically served in 4-6 ounces. The idea is you drink a little bit and then come back later in the day. Their version of recycled cups is pretty interesting because they give you a cup made of clay from a stack. It doesn’t take long to drink the chai and when you’re done, you throw the cup in the road and shatter it. The remnants of your cup turn into dust in a few days. I’m convinced kilns all over India crank out these disposable cups.

If you think of it, the way chai is made in the U.S. now, it has become an American drink, prepared with steamed milk and perhaps foam—we love our foam in the U.S. In India, you boil milk on the stove. You can find Masala Chai as we know it in Europe and other countries. I think the two places where Masala Chai is popular are the United States and India.

We carry several chai offerings at Mighty Leaf Tea because this style of tea is a category unto itself. If I had to come up with 20 tasting chai blends, I could probably do it. You can have so many variations, even with the same chai blends. You can brew chai with 100% milk or 25% milk to water ratio. You can add tons of sugar or no sugar. When looking for chai, consider the spice blend. Which spices and how much of each are used in chai? While turmeric plays an active role in Indian cuisine, it’s not typically used to spice chai. Basil is not used in chai either. Chai will have cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Maybe there’s some sort of heat—black pepper? You might see clove in a chai blend. A lot of American chai blends use vanilla—you’d never see that in India. Some blends use star anise. Our version of Masala Chai is a Kolkata-style chai with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and clove. Our Bombay Chai, on the other hand is comprised of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and star anise. The difference between the two blends is noticeable.

The tea itself plays an important role. Most Indian black tea is strong and black and for a good masala chai, you need an assertive tea—small leaf teas give a lot of color and flavor. When we are blending and sourcing tea for chai, we are looking for strong teas. Our Masala Chai uses Assam tea—my favorite origin for milk teas and also has some Nilgiri black tea in the blend. Bombay Chai uses tea from similar regions but overall offers a lighter tea character indicative of South India. Some chai blends use Chinese black tea for its smooth quality. Others might use a straightforward-bodied African tea. There are even some chai blends made from green tea that follows a lesser-known tradition in Northern India with cinnamon, cardamom, and almonds. Kolkata-style chai tends to use local teas (typically Assam and a few others) and the spices tend to be heavier on cardamom, with less pepper for a more sweet, not quite as zesty-hot drink.

Chai has a really broad taste range. Whatever people are exposed to early on will impact what they think of tea. If you ask an average person in China if they drink tea, they will say yes, and probably refer to Chinese green tea. With a masala chai, most people will think of the flavor profile they were exposed to the first time. I would encourage you to embrace the nuances of each blend of chai rather than trying to discover “true chai.” True chai can be whatever you enjoy, so open up your mind. Each chai is an expression of the person who created it, whether it’s being served up at a stall in Kolkata or from a company in the U.S. Every chai recipe has a history to be enjoyed for what it is.

Eye Pillows that Pamper with Tea

February 8th, 2012 by admin

We love tea for many reasons. It tastes great and can energize or calm. Tea is one of nature’s most versatile products – not only can you drink it but you can use it to help heal, refresh and pamper the body. One unique way to take advantage of tea’s natural soothing qualities is to use tea bags as eye pillows – this can help reduce tired and puffy eyes. You can either use a tea bag or make your own eye pillow from loose tea and a paper tea filter. This may sound a bit alternative, but once you try it you might be hooked. It’s like a mini spa in a bag.

How to Make Eye Pillow out of Tea Bags

Steep a tea bag in warm water for 3-4 minutes to release the tea’s natural oils and aromas. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible and cool down in the refrigerator for a half hour or so. Find a comfortable position and place the chilled bags on your eyes (eyelids closed) for 20 minutes. Of course, if your eyes are feeling great, relax with tea bags even longer.

How to Make Eye Pillows with Loose Tea

Fill two paper tea filters or muslin tea bags with 2 tablespoons of tea. Soak the bags in warm water for 3-4 minutes again to activate the tea. Wring any excess water out of the bags and chill in the refrigerator for a half hour or so. Relax with bags on your closed eyelids as instructed above.

 

 

Why Tea is the Most Popular Beverage in the World After Water

June 20th, 2011 by admin

After water tea is the most popular beverage consumed in the world. That may be a surprise for many living in the U.S. who only drink tea when they are sick or looking to chill out or relax. Of course, iced tea is consumed by the gallons here in the South and in refrigerated icy bottles drunk up like soda pop. But, good old fashioned hot tea reigns supreme in many parts of the world when it comes to what people drink on a daily basis.

Why is tea so popular? Tea is an ancient drink with a rich history. Many reasons exist that stem from the intrinsic benefits of the tea plant itself and others from cultural and historical develpoments. Here are some explanations not listed in any particular order of importance.

1. Taste and Variety: It’s plain and simple – tea tastes good and there is a lot of variety to taste. Whether hot or iced, tea refreshes and uplifts with its unique tastes and flavors. Like wine, the terroir or where its grown imparts a distinctive taste profile that can yield memorable and savory moments with a cup. Whether it’s a sencha green tea from Japan, yunan black tea from China or a Darjeeling from India, drinking tea becomes a vehicle for discovery and exploration.

2. Accessibility, Cost and Convenience of Making: Accessibility, cost and the convenience of making has made tea an important part of daily life around the globe. You can find tea in any store or market. Of course, the quality may vary but with tea’s growing popularity premium whole leaf tea is more readily available than in the past.

Although tea may appear to be expensive at first glance, when you factor in the actual cost per serving, it’s one of the world’s most affordable luxuries. The quantity of tea used to make a cup will vary depending upon the tea type, but the industry standard is that on average a pound of tea can yield around 200 cups. This is much higher than a pound of coffee which yields around 40-50 cups. Keep in mind that with some oolong and green teas you can also steep multiple times further impacting the overall cost per serving analysis.

3. The Importance of Ritual and Participatory Culture: The importance of the ritual of tea drinking plays a central role in many cultures around the world. Developed in China, the original tea ceremony focuses on the actual tea itself including the taste, smell and look versus the more predefined Japanese tea ceremony with strict, memorialized rules. In China, the host and those enjoying the tea will drink tea for a number of reasons including honoring guests, showing appreciation, celebrating a life event and much more.

The Japanese tea ceremony (The Way of Tea or Chado) is highly revered for its connection with Zen Buddism and a refined attention to detail. The preparation and serving of matcha tea is elevated to performance art with an emphasis on aesthetics and harmony. Drinking strong black tea from a Samovar is a key component of Russia’s tea culture tradition. In Morroco, drinking mint tea (a mixture of gunpowder green, fresh mint leaves and sugar) is a national pastime. You can find chai wallahs everywhere in India serving up fresh cups of chai tea. Afternoon and high tea in England highlight the importance to the British of tea in society and their culture.

4. Caffeine: Let’s be honest – lots of people like tea because it’s a good alternative to coffee and provides them with a caffeine boost. Waking up or making it through a long afternoon at work can be difficult. A hot cup of tea provides a nice pick-me-up and makes it easier to get through the day.

5. Health Benefits: Many studies have been published that have concluded that tea may have positive health benefits. You can learn more here about the health benefits of tea.

James Norwood Pratt on Tea

May 12th, 2011 by admin

James Norwood Pratt has played a large role in disseminating information on tea in the United States and in 2010 wrote a comprehensive work on tea, James Norwood Pratt’s Tea Dictionary. Enjoy this video where he chats with the viewer about his take on tea.

Valentine’s Day Tea Tips: 5 Ways to Express Your Affection

February 7th, 2011 by admin

Valentine’s Day conjures up images of chocolate and flowers, but what about tea? Herbal potions, balms and other assorted plants and flowers have been used for centuries in connection with the pursuit of romance. So why not go old school and spice up your Valentine’s Day with some tea. Of course, you can always complement the gift with flowers and chocolate if necessary. We have 5 Valentine’s Day tips to share.

#1 Throw a Tea Party

Create your own tea party for two by pairing tea with fun and playful teaware. Our Matryoshka Tea Set for Two with stackable Russian doll tea cups is the perfect place to start. The teapot will put a smile on their face everytime they see it in the kitchen. If you make some sweets or sandwhiches to accompany the tea party, it will be an event to remember.

#2 Morning Tea in Bed

Start the special day off by preparing your loved one with morning tea in bed. Wake them up with our Organic Earl Grey, Vanilla Bean or Orange Dulce. Add some pastries, some sweets, fruit and, of course, lighting some candles can never hurt. Throw in the morning paper and the surprise is complete.

#3 Spa Treatment

Be good to someone you love and pamper them with a spa tea gift designed to soothe, restore and delight mind and body. Choose from our unique selection including our Matcha Clay Mask , a Spa Tea Book or our Oasia TeaFusion Spa Bath Pouches. For a unique twist, instead of using cucumbers on the eyes to reduce stress and tension, try using our tea pouches.

#4 Chocolate Truffle Tea

Satisfy their urge for chocolate with a healthy and flavorful chocolate truffle tea alternative. Made from the finest tea, chocolate, fruits and spices, our truffle teas make an indulgent and memorable gift.

#5 Tea Cocktails

Shake it up on Valentine’s Day with a new tea twist on cocktails. Serve up their favorite champagne, gin, vodka, sake or other spirits blended with our versatile tea infused Aperi-Tea mixers. Awaken and refresh with Chamomile Citrus Berry, Green Tea Tropical and Orange Jasmine Mango.

Of course, you can also make cocktails using our tea pouches or loose tea infusions as mixers for your favorite celebratory beverage. Check out this video on how to brew tea cocktails along with some tasty new recipes.

Happy Valentines Day All!

Episode #1: Where in the World is Your Mighty Leaf?

Bliss DakeMay 17th, 2010 by Bliss Dake

You just never know where in the world Mighty Leaf Tea can turn up? It’s certainly fun to drink, but the tea pouch is no ordinary tea bag. We invite you to check out our new web video series “Where in the World is Your Mighty Leaf” to discover how “mighty” versatile this little tea pouch can be. And of course, we want to hear about where and how you enjoy your Mighty Leaf, too. Submit your photos on our blog or Facebook Fan page to share the love.

Lapsang What?

Bliss DakeMarch 18th, 2010 by Bliss Dake

Lapsang Souchong is either a love or hate thing for tea fans. A familiar refrain is that it’s like drinking a campfire. If Smokey the Bear had a favorite tea, perhaps this would be the one. With its famous smokey taste and aroma, Lapsang Souchong is produced in the Wuyi Mountains of Fujian, China by smoking black tea in bamboo baskets over pine fires. (more…)

Tea Pouring Reaches New Heights

Bliss DakeFebruary 18th, 2010 by Bliss Dake

Pouring tea is one of my favorite parts of the tea ritual. The weight of the teapot in hand, the steady stream of clear water and the soft sound of water hitting cup ground me in the moment. The art of tea pouring reaches new heights as shown in this video of a tea master pouring in a tea house in Chengdu, China. So watch closely, then get your own long spouted teapot and practice your pour. Your friends and tea drinking peers will certainly be dazzled.

Tea Making Tips from 1941

Bliss DakeFebruary 4th, 2010 by Bliss Dake

“Tea Making Tips” is a short film released in 1941 and sponsored by the Empire Tea Bureau of England. A classic video that demonstrates in detail methods of storing and preparing tea, it imparts that one should not waste a drop of tea because of carelessness. Watch and get your fill of crisp white tea cups, tea pots, classic tea chests and more. The Empire Tea Bureau also published a booklet during the war titled “Tea Will Help”(more…)