Darjeeling Gets Its Knickers In A Knot

In truly international news, the Darjeeling Tea Board has won a legal battle in Taiwan against Delta, a French lingerie manufacturer. Delta had been selling thongs, bras, bikinis and other undergarments under the DARJEELING brand.  The Taiwan Court of Appeal agreed that tea and lingerie are quite different classes of goods and so there might only be a minimal risk of confusion between them but, given the immense reputation of the name Darjeeling in respect of tea, Delta’s activities threatened to dilute the value of the Darjeeling brand.  The DTB has been actively defending its brand around the world – Bvlgari and Jen-Luc Dusong have also had to drop plans to launch Darjeeling ranges.  But it seems to be having less success at home – it ironically lost a case in Calcutta to force a deluxe hotel to rename its “Darjeeling Lounge”. The court found that the Darjeeling Lounge had opened 2 years before Darjeeling gained protection as a Geographical Indication.

Ramsbury Tea’s Darjeeling is guaranteed single-estate and the very highest grade.  In addition we’re proud to say all our tea is ethically sourced, so you can rest assured you’re drinking the real thing every time.

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Tea Bush Harvesting Tea

Tea Bush – Harvesting Tea

 

Tea plants are propagated from seed or by cutting from existing bushes.  The art of any plant breeder can be a dark and mysterious one and this is no less true for breeders of camellia sinensis, who strive constantly to improve and develop quality, yields and flavour.  A tea bush can take several years (sometimes decades, and occasionally centuries) to prove itself worth breeding from.  So, even though a bush can start producing seeds from the age of about 4, propagating and crossing bushes to select for preferential characteristics is no quick process.

 

It’s not all in the genes either – nurture can trump nature and even the best pedigree won’t reach its true potential without a sympathetic environment.  C sinensis prefers acid conditions, and has particular requirements for minimum rainfall (lots) and temperature (not too hot, not too cold) that have traditionally limited its cultivation to areas of Asia andAfrica.  However, there are few absolutes in the natural world and plantations have now been successfully established in non-traditional locations such asEngland,Wales and the USA.  Depending on the blend and flavour required, tea can be grown in full sun or in shade.

 

Only the leaves from the top 2-5 cm of a tea bush stem are picked for harvest.  Bushes are trained into “tables” i.e. the tops are topiaried to give a flat accessible surface to maximise tip production at just the right height for picking.  The tips in question consist of an unopened leaf or “bud” and maybe the next one or two leaves depending on quality.  The younger the leaf, the fresher it is and, in tea terms, fresher is generally better.  But some decent quality teas don’t include the bud and one blend, kukicha, is unique in being made up of stems, stalks and twigs.  On the whoel though, a “bud and two leaves” is the yardstick of the industry and anything further down the stem (i.e. older) is there for photosynthesis only.

 

When a bush is ready for picking, it is said to be in “flush” and after a harvest it will grow a new flush of replacement tips every week or two during the growing season.  There’s a fine balance to be drawn between maximising yields and maintaining quality – better teas are said to come from slow grown leaves, and older bushes (like older vines) are also highly prized.  This concept is taken to its extreme in theWuyiMountainsofFujianprovince where the Four Great Teas are produced from bushes said to be planted during the reign of the Song – think of that in terms of Normans or Plantagenets and you’ll get an idea of the vintage!

Care needs to be taken in handling the tea as well. The leaves will start to “ferment” (actually, “oxidise”) as soon as they are picked, so some high-end teas are only picked by hand, and only using the fingertips (even fingernails would crush and bruise the leaves and open them up to premature aging.  Some merchants will tell you that their tea is so delicate that even this process is too clumsy and instead their tips are harvested by monkeys, thus justifying a sizeable premium.  They will tell you that only specially trained monkeys are nimble-fingered enough to pick the tips without spoiling them, and agile enough to reach the tenderest tips on the ends of branches.  However, the more prosaic truth is that no commercial tea bush grows so high as to require simian gymnastic intervention, and “monkey picked tea” is simply the name given to certain varieties such as Tieguanyin.

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Caffeine and Tea

Caffeine and Tea

 caffeine and teaOriginally called “theine”, caffeine was first discovered in tea in 1827 (it was later shown that theine was in fact the same substance as the “caffeine” which had already been identified and isolated in coffee and the term “theine” was subsequently dropped). While the caffeine in tea and coffee (and, indeed, chocolate) are in all respects identical, a drinker’s experience and perception may differ between the two beverages for various reasons.

 First off, let’s not ignore the power of the placebo effect: someone enjoying a cup of tea at the end of the day may be doing so in the expectation of feeling calm and relaxed, whereas the same person drinking coffee may be doing so in more stressful circumstances (e.g. at work) and expecting to feel “energised” as a result.  Both these expectations may to some extent be self-fulfilling.

 The effects of tea-based caffeine may also be counteracted by other constituent chemicals such as L-theanine (an amino acid which has a relaxing effect that has been noted to smooth out the “jitters” of caffeine), or antioxidants (found in large quantities in some teas, and which may slow the body’s absorption of caffeine).

 In any case, although tea contains more caffeine per dry weight than coffee, even allowing for variations between types of tea, processing methods, brewing techniques etc, tea is usually brewed and served to a much weaker concentration than coffee.  A typical “cuppa” tea may be made with 2 grams of dry tea, compared with 10 grams of dry coffee in a comparable cup, so the tea will contain significantly less caffeine than the equivalent volume of coffee.  Indeed, a British study in 2004 looked at 200 cups prepared by consumers going about their normal brewing routines. It found that the average caffeine level in the cups of tea (black English style teas) was 40mg as against 105mg in the coffee.

 The amount of caffeine in any particular tea depends on many factors, including the variety  grown, whether the tea is high grown or low grown, the amount of direct sunlight received, the processing it undergoes (especially the eventual size of leaf), and how it is finally brewed. Younger leaves, higher on the plant, contain greater concentrations of both caffeine AND antioxidants than their older neighbours.  Oxidation does not act to concentrate caffeine in tea, so colour (whether of leaves or their liquor) is not a great indicator of caffeine content – not only does darker not necessarily mean stronger, it doesn’t necessarily mean weaker either!

 While it’s difficult (and usually incorrect) to make broad generalisations about the caffeine content of any particular tea, the following teas are notable for their caffeine “strength”:

Relatively low caffeine  Relatively high caffeine 
Jade (Green) Pai White (White)
  Assam(Black)
  Ceylon(Black)
  Darjeeling(Black)

In fact, the greatest impact on the caffeine content of tea is the water temperature and length of brewing time. Black, Green and White teas have very similar caffeine contents, but a tea steeped for five minutes in boiling water will infuse a LOT more caffeine into the liquor than one brewed for only two minutes in merely hot water.

 Tea can be decaffeinated by a number of methods.  In the “direct method”, the tea is steamed for 30 minutes and then repeatedly rinsed with a solvent which flushes the caffeine away. The “carbon dioxide process”: involves dissolving the caffeine in carbon dioxide which is passed over the tea at supercritical pressure.  In both processes, the caffeine is captured in carbon filters and recovered for later use (e.g. in soft drinks). 

 However, since all “real” teas come from the same plant (camellia sinensis) which contains caffeine, even decaffeinated tea is not completely caffeine-free – it may still contain 5-10 mg per cup, enough to be noticeable to a more caffeine-sensitive individual. To eliminate caffeine intake completely, one must switch to uncaffeinated infusions e.g. herbal teas and tisanes such as Camomile, Rooibos or Peppermint which are naturally caffeine free.

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Tea and Food

 

Tea and Food the Best Food Pairings for Tea

 Do you ever think about what tea and food work well together?  A piece of toast at breakfast?  A chocolate biscuit?  A dainty sandwich?  All good suggestions, but don’t draw the line there.  Like fine wines, fine teas can be paired with many different foods, from the exotic to the homely.

Any wine drinker will tell you that whites go well with light dishes – poultry, fish and salads – while reds sit nicely alongside red meats and heartier fare like stews and soups.  But that’s beginners’ stuff: a true connoisseur would go further and break these simplistic rules, safe in the knowledge that the world is not so black and white (or even red and white).  There are so many fascinating discoveries awaiting the adventurous.

As a matter of longstanding tradition, Europeans seem to hold that only black teas can be taken with food – all other varieties are seen as standalones. Countless tearooms from the days of Victoria to the 21st century are testimony to this belief: a single estate Darjeeling with cucumber sandwiches (white bread, no crusts); an Orange Pekoe from Ceylon with a delicate finger of sponge cake.  It’s still uncommon to find a Pai Mu Tan white, or even a Jasmine, offered as an alternative to an Earl Grey or an English Afternoon blend. However, in tea’s ancestral homelands, all sorts of teas are drunk with nearly every meal.  Surely the time has come for us to re-evaluate the place of tea alongside our daily bread?  

Delicate green teas like Ganlu (Sweet Dew) or Gyokuro (Jade Dew) are wonderful with seafood, salads, or chicken. Bright, lively teas, such as Ceylons and Assams are great with red meat or spicy food. Although it may be traditional to keep Oolongs for Chinese dishes, you could argue that rich, spicy teas like a decent Keemun black add more complexity and layers of flavour and aroma to a meal.

Tea and food like desserts can range from a simple sorbet to a rich sticky pudding.  Depending on your preference, why not think about a Golden Monkey or a good English Breakfast, either of which can be as exquisite as any dessert wine. Assams go well with dark chocolate but can also be a good foil for a lemon tart or a vanilla custard. With its naturally sweet, floral bouquet, Jasmine tea is also perfect for light puddings – and it goes beautifully with chicken and dim sum too!

As a digestif, nothing is better or more relaxing than a well aged Pu’erh.  A post-fermented tea with a clean, mellow, earthy quality, this is particularly good after a hearty meal. If you’re worried the caffeine might keep you awake, try a herbal or fruit infusion instead – Camomile, Peppermint or Rooibos. You’ll sleep better, and you’ll wake up feeling refreshed.

But it’s not all about food AND drink – some teas, such as a Formosa Oolong, a Pouchong or the revered Tieguanyin (Iron Mercy Goddess), seem to demand solo drinking.  You almost need to give them space, silence, and respect for them to show their true character. Or maybe that’s just us!

The days when tea was just about a full English or scones and jam are not gone, but don’t be afraid to make room on your table for some new creative combinations. There are so many teas worth trying, and so many styles of cuisine now available, that the possibilities are endless and you’re bound to find something that pleases you – or at least surprises you. The art of matching tea and food is just that – it’s not an exact science. Discovering what tastes fit individual palates is something that can only be done on a personal level and it can’t be learned from a book.  Put the kettle on and try something new!

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All the Tea from China

 

All the Tea from China

tea from china
Tea from China

Tea is now grown all round the world, but it has never forgotten its Chinese roots. Tea has always been an important part of Chinese culture and a crucial part of the Chinese diet. Tea from China is widely considered the best, the finest, and the most authentic of all teas.

Lu Yu’s famous 8th-century treatise “The Classic of Tea” dates consumption of Chinese tea back more than 4,000 years. This book details all necessary information associated with tea from China including its history, growth, processing, consumption, and ceremony etiquette. In large part, this book and the many similar publications it inspired was responsible for popularising tea throughout Chinese society.

A popular legend in China tells of the discovery of tea by the Emperor Shennong when a Camellia leaf accidentally fell into the pot of water he was boiling to purify it. It is also said that he further discovered the healing properties of tea which has long been considered an important herbal medicine in China. Today, Chinese tea is one of the Seven Necessities of Chinese life, along with rice, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, and firewood.

There are hundreds of Chinese tea varieties available in the local and world markets. However , all these hundreds fall into just six major categories: green tea, yellow tea, white tea, black tea, oolong and pu-erh. All come from one species of plant – Camellia sinensis, also known as the tea bush, and differ only in the form of processing.

Green tea is the most popular tea from China, as well as among non-Chinese drinkers. It comes from lightly oxidised leaves which retain much of their potent antioxidants (catechin polyphenols).

Yellow tea is similar to green, but is comparatively rare – it is allow to age slightly so the leaves adopt a yellowish colour.

White tea from China is considered to be the oldest and most sophisticated tea, traditionally consumed by Chinese royalty. It is made from slightly processed immature or young buds that appear silvery in colour. Like green tea, it also contains high amounts of antioxidants due to its minimal processing.

Partial or full oxidization produces oolongs and black teas respectively.

Pu-erh (or “post-fermented”) teas are green teas which are left to ferment in controlled, damp conditions which gives them a characteristically “earthy” flavour.

All teas can be scented, although green is the best candidate owing to its more delicate underlying flavour.  Different flowers or herbs can be added, e.g. such as rose, orchid, plum, and jasmine, the latter being the most common.

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Winter Fruits Mulled Wine

mulled wine recipe
Mulled Wine with Berry Mix

Winter Fruits Mulled Wine

from Ramsbury Tea

 

 
 
 
 

This is an easy mulled wine recipe that will have everyone asking what your secret ingredient is! To make a seasonal warming brew, try adding a couple of fruity Berry Mix tea bags to your favourite mulled wine recipe – or read on…

The following will make 4-6 glasses of mulled wine – scale the amounts depending on how many thirsty guests you have.

Mulled wine ingredients 

2 Ramsbury Berry Mix tea bags
100g sugar (brown is nicer, white will do, or you could try honey or golden syrup)
2 inches of cinnamon stick   
5 cloves    
1 whole star anise   
1 inch root ginger
1 orange 
1 lemon
1 handful of dried cranberries
½ vanilla pod (optional)   
4 allspice berries (optional)
1 bottle of red wine (or apple juice for a non-alcoholic version)
1 dash of brandy (optional)
 

 How to make Mulled Wine: Method

1.         Boil a kettle of freshly drawn water. 

2.         Put both Berry Mix tea bags in one cup and top up with boiling water, squeezing the bags with a spoon to extract all the flavour.  Allow to brew for 4-5 minutes.

3.         Pour the liquor into a pan and top up the cup again for another 4-5 minutes to make sure you get the last bits of flavour from the bags.  Add this second cup to the pan.

4.         Slice the ginger, lemon and orange and add the sugar, fruit and spices to the pan.  Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer gently for at least 10 minutes – the longer you leave it, the more intense the spicy flavours!

5.         Add the wine or apple juice and brandy.  Heat but do not boil – when the mixture is warm enough, serve in glasses making sure everyone gets a generous helping of fruit. 

 The above recipe will be caffeine-free (and alcohol-free if you skip the hooch!).  For a stronger taste and a really spicy kick, add a bag of Ramsbury Chai Medley to the 2 Berry Mix bags.

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White Tea: A Miracle Tea?

White tea white pai
White Pai

White Tea: A Miracle Tea?

All teas, (white tea, balck tea, green tea etc), of whatever colour, are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea bush.  The differences come from how they are processed after picking.  White tea is the least processed of all teas and undergoes very minimal processing, dispensing with much of the oxidation process which might turn it into, for example, yellow tea, blue tea, green tea or black tea.  Most white teas come from China, mainly Fujian province in the southeast and boast a unique colour and aroma.  Contrary to what you might expect, white teas look very similar to green teas, and their liquor can actually be a darker green than green tea!  The name comes from the silvery-white appearance of the tea tips, which are covered in fine downy hairs.

White tea is believed to be the oldest type of all teas and dates back to at least the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) when it was a favorite beverage of Chinese royalty.  But its true origins are lost in Chinese myth – a legendary emperor is reputed to have been pleasantly surprised by the taste and aroma of a cup of boiled water into which some tea leaves had fall by happenstance, and the rest is, as they say, history… 

Today, varieties of white tea are widely sold around the globe under various names.  Types of white tea vary depending on region, age, quality of leaf, time of picking, and flavour.

The four main grades of Chinese white tea are Silver Needle, White Peony, Longevity Eyebrow, and Tribute Eyebrow. Our Ramsbury Pai White tea is White Peony grade, often considered to be the finest, and made only from freshly picked and well-chosen silvery leaves. It is one of the most famous white teas and is characterised by a delicate, light, smooth, and slightly sweet nutty flavour.  Indeed, many connoisseurs prefer it to the more refined flavour of the (allegedly superior) Silver Needle!

White tea contains more antioxidants (known as catechin polyphenols) than other teas due to its minimal processing. These compounds are believed to have positive health effects especially in respect of
Ramsbury Tea White Pai graphic
White Pai from Ramsbury Tea

atherosclerosis, cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and weight loss.

Polyphenols have also been reported to contain antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-cancer properties.
 
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Grand Christmas Lights Switch-On in Marlborough

 we love marlborough

 

 

We’ll be exhibiting our gorgeous fine teas and artisan tea accessories at the Christmas Gift Fair in MarlboroughTown Hall on Thursday 24 November 2011.  We’ll have some great deals across our entire range and we reckon we’ve got something for everyone.  Try some tea for yourself or spoil your friends and family with our beautiful teapots, mugs and spoons.  It’s our first year in business so you can be sure no one’s ever given them Ramsbury Tea for Christmas before!

 Come and say hi from 3pm onwards.  You’ll find us on the ground floor of the Town Hall – we’ll be the ones in the Christmas hats!  Hmm, actually, that might not help you – the entire High Street is going to be a Christmas wonderland, with the Gift Fair, Santa’s grotto, children’s art activities, a choir competition and late-night shopping.  So there could actually be a fair few santa hats knocking around…  But we’ll be the only ones with santa hats and teapots!

3pm – Gift Fair and Santa’s grotto in the Town Hall

3.30pm, 4.30pm, 5.30pm, 6.30pm – Sing-along-a-Santa and Christmas story telling (Town Hall)

4pm – Hot dogs (yum!) served in Town Hall

7pm – Christmas lights are switched on (oooh! ahhhh!) in the High Street

8pm – event finishes – but the lights stay on!

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Herbal Teas: What are they?

Herbal Teas: What are they?

Here at Ramsbury Tea, we love our Herbal teas. Herbal teas are also known as tisanes, a generic term used to describe any beverage made out of steeping of leaf, fruit, flower, root, stem, or bark sourced from any plant besides Camellia sinensis, the true tea. It is simply composed of boiled water and any dried or fresh part of a plant with perceived medicinal benefits.

herbal teas camomile 3D tea bag
Whole Camomile flowers in Ramsbury's 3D Tea Bag

Preparing herbal tea is as simple as steeping fresh or dried leaves, flowers, roots, or bark into hot or boiling water for few minutes. The liquid is then filtered and added with sweetener or flavor if desired.

Consumption of herbal tea dates back in the early civilizations such as the Ancient Egyptians and Ancient Chinese. Even today,

non caffeine tea or infusions are considered an important part of the diet of the Chinese and Japanese and is continuously gaining popularity in many countries. For one, the uses and benefits of this beverage have been widely reported.

Here are our most popular herbal teas and their perceived health benefits:

#1 Camomile – Camomile tea is perhaps the most common herbal tea people drink. Due to its mild sedative effect, it is often used by people suffering from sleep disorders or too much stress to aid in the relaxation of the nerves. In women, it is helpful in easing menstrual cramps, as well as stomachaches.

#2 Peppermint – Peppermint tea is another variety of herbal teas that are widely consumed. When taken along camomile, it is most helpful in alleviating an upset stomach. It has also been reported to ease the symptoms of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome disease in women.

#3 Rooibos – Rooibos or Red Bush is gaining in popularity as an alternative to black tea due to it’s flavour and the fact it contains no caffeine.

peppermint tea
Minty Tingles Peppermint Tea

 

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Green Tea – Nature’s Way to Combat Disease

Green Tea – Nature’s Way to Combat Disease

 

All teas are produced from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that undergo different processes – Green tea, black tea, and oolong are the three main types of tea.

Green Tea by Ramsbury Tea in 3D Tea Bag
Green Tea by Ramsbury Tea in a 3D Tea Bag

When the leaves are gently steamed, green tea is produced. The leaves are not fermented and only undergo very minimal oxidation, thus retaining a higher concentration of antioxidants, known as polyphenols, than any other types of tea. In contrast, oolong and black tea are produced from fermented Camellia sinensis leaves that results into the oxidation of polyphenols into other substances that aren’t as effective in the treatment and prevention of certain diseases.

 Green tea has its origins inChinadating back to more than 4,000 years ago and has now been associated with many cultures throughoutAsia. An important history of green tea was well-documented in the book entitled “Tea Classic” written during the Tang Dynasty inChina. Today, tea is the second most consumed beverage around the world, next to water. Different varieties of green tea are now widely available in many forms Ramsbury Tea has a premium whole leaf Jade Green in it’s fine tea range.

Consumed in many forms as a casual beverage, a traditional medicine, and even a food supplement, green tea is perceived to have profound health benefits, and animals too! The secret lies in its powerful antioxidant called catechin polyphenols, specifically epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). This compound is believed to fight harmful free radicals and prevent certain diseases from occurring or further exacerbating. Among its reported positive medicinal effects include lowered bad cholesterol, detoxification of liver, prevention of abnormal blood clots, increased fat oxidation, and inhibited proliferation of cancer cells.

Jade Green by Ramsbury Tea
Jade Green premium tea by Ramsbury Tea

In some laboratory tests, EGCG was found to improve conditions of AIDS’ patients by preventing the virus from attacking the T-Cells. However, this finding is yet to be tested on humans. In another clinical study, it was found out that habitual green tea drinkers are less likely to develop severe liver and heart problems than non-drinkers. This was accounted to the cleansing and detoxifying properties of catechins in green tea.

Aside from its antioxidant properties, green tea is also rich in vitamins, minerals, and certain phytochemical compounds. It contains good amounts of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, carotenoids, and minerals such as manganese, zinc, selenium, and chromium.

Among other reported health benefits, the effect of green tea on weight management is most considered by many consumers. EGCG, along with minimal caffeine, hastens metabolism through increased fat oxidation at a rate of 4%. Several studies show that regular drinkers are able to lose significant excess body fat, particularly belly and visceral fats, which enable them to maintain a favorable weight over time. This also reduces the risk of high blood pressure and obesity in the future.

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