With so many options for tea available, it’s often tough to find a company that honors the centuries-old traditions developed by master tea makers. When purchasing tea, it’s important to find a company that hasn’t grown too big for its britches. Tea is highly coveted for its healing properties, including the ability to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower fasting blood sugar and to decrease the risk from any cause with just one properly brewed cup per day.
Major Tea Growing Regions
When most people think of high-quality tea, wood-block prints showcasing geisha drinking green tea often leap to mind. While China offers vast tea brewing regions, tea that comes from China often takes on an earthy taste in comparison to tea from Japan. Chinese tea typically uses oven- or sun-dried processes to produce their teas. Japanese tea farmers tend to be locally-owned and family operated, which makes Japanese tea a true artisanal experience.
Chinese Tea Reaches the Japanese Shores
In 1191, a Japanese Buddhist priest named My?an Eisai is credited with bringing tea from China to Japan. However, the isolated geography of Japan and unique environment ended up producing a tea that can be considered uniquely Japanese. Tea cultivators like Kenko Ashitaba Tea uphold the tradition of authentic Japanese tea-growing by working closely with local Japanese farmers to produce high-quality, traditional green tea from Japan.
Proper Brewing Methods
The manner of brewing tea is as important as the tea growing process. Water that is too hot will burn the leaves and result in a burnt or rubbery tasting tea. If the water isn’t hot enough, the tea will end up being under-extracted and the full flavor of the tea won’t fill the cup.
Use water that is heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and add one-half teaspoon of powdered tea results to obtain a superior tasting experience. Proper brewing ensures that the tea gets the maximum amount of antioxidants per cup to battle harmful free radicals in the body.
Use only good-quality water when brewing tea. Tap water, hard water, reverse osmosis water and distilled water are not ideal options for brewing tea. Using soft water with minimal minerals offers the best brewing experience.
The Art of Serving Tea
Enjoying a cup of tea is a personal experience, and it should be enjoyed in the manner that suits the personality of the person drinking the tea. Getting a full appreciation for a quality cup of tea requires the use of a proper tea cup. The cup should have a light-colored interior. White is the ideal color.
In a true Japanese tea ceremony, the tea cups are typically handmade from porous materials like ceramic. Additionally, it’s important to use a bowl that is not too shallow. This prevents the tea from cooling too rapidly. Tea should be enjoyed in small amounts and the cup should be pre-warmed with hot water to ensure it maintains its flavor throughout the tasting experience.
Keeping Tea Fresh
While tea may look like a collection of dried leaves, tea can and does go bad if it’s not stored properly. The conditions that tea is stored in can dramatically impact the flavor and overall quality of the tea.
Tea can grow mold, so it needs to be stored away from heat, light, air and moisture. It’s important to store tea at room temperature in an air-tight container. If your tea comes in a box, it’s a good idea to use a plastic zipper bag to prolong the life of the tea. Make sure to remove as much air as possible to reduce the chance of spoilage.
Green tea should be consumed regularly upon opening. It typically only has a shelf-life of one year. The storage life can also be improved when using techniques designed to eliminate oxygen. Vacuum sealing or oxygen-absorbing packets can help to extend the life of green tea. Never put green tea in the refrigerator or freezer. While this is fine for black tea, these methods will destroy the integrity of green tea.
Reaping the Benefits
Japanese tea can be enjoyed on its own or in conjunction with a meal. While there has been significant research into the health benefits of green tea, many of the benefits come from sitting quietly and enjoying a mindful appreciation of the subtle flavors and aromas of the tea.
Green tea has only one calorie per 100-milliliter serving. It contains phytochemicals and polyphenols to help support a healthy lifestyle. Phytochemicals occur naturally in plants and are largely responsible for the plant’s color. Polyphenols are reported to provide numerous potential health benefits. A cup of tea in the morning can boost energy and provide a more relaxed and focused attitude throughout the day.
Enjoy the Experience
No matter how you choose to enjoy your tea, remember the long history and tradition associated with every cup of tea. Learning to get the best flavors out of various teas can quickly turn into a lifelong passion that borders on obsession. With each cup, strive for mindfulness to gain an increasingly deeper appreciation for quality tea.