Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Perfect Cup of Tea!

I love a good cup of tea! I am continually on a search for the best tea. My friend and I share teas that we find but our tastes are different. I end up with her rejects because she thinks most teas taste like dirty feet. It might not be the best tasting tea but nothing a little honey can't fix. 

                        soothing cup of tea

                          Over Christmas I found a tea I really love from Harney & Sons


This Paris tea is strong but has great flavor and aroma! I am usually not a vanilla fan but this is wonderful.

Paris Tea

Try it out! You can order online or I found it at Fresh Market. I love the container too. I can't wait to do a DIY project with all my collected containers.

Here is their story: 
John Harney
It was 29 years ago that John Harney made the decision to found Harney & Sons. He had worked for others all of his life and felt (at the age of 53) it was time to run his own show. Since he had worked with Stanley Mason at Sarum Tea for 13 years, he understood the basics of tea.
However "tea" back then was much different. China had opened only recently and there few teas coming out there in 1983. So Taiwan was the source of the basic "Chinese" teas: Gunpowder, Oolongs, and keemun. These teas did not taste like the real thing, but rather, were a version. The Taiwanese had not yet begun to make the great greenish oolongs that they do today. India's teas were still strongly influenced by the British, so Darjeelings and Assams were dark and monotone, just right for milk and sugar. The Indians had only just begun to experiment with changing style of teas to make the teas taste more seasonal and more flavorful. Japan kept its Senchas to themselves. So back in 1983, the tea world did not offer many great teas. And that was fine, because few people drank tea. How that has changed, and for the better.
The Story From John Harney Himself.
Who would have thought this is possible? All those years ago, when we had tea chests (when they still used those bulky wooden boxes) down in our basement, I surely did not. Our youngest, Paul, was still in school, so he would have to lug them down the narrow stairs. I would take the light boxes back up to be shipped out to those few people that bought from us in 1983. It seemed busy at the time (little did I know). I remember the phone call from this guy who said his name was Chuck Williams, and he said he had some cook shops and wanted to carry my teas. Williams-Sonoma still is a valued customer.
After a few years, I convinced my son Michael to join me. Now there were two full-time employees! We moved to a new house with old sheds, and we grew. And we grew. My only daughter, Lyse, did sales calls in New York one college vacation. She walked into the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel in New York. She told the manager that they had to use Harney & Sons. And they still do.
Baby Paul got bigger, but he never lost his love of machines. When he joined the company (after being a USMC officer) he brought us into a new world: one of tea packing machines. I still do not know how to turn one on, but they are efficient and help the company grow. They allow us to offer the best tasting teas in convenient ways. Michael travels the globe in search of the best tasting teas. Now the next generation is coming on board. Alex manages the restaurant at our Tasting Room and Emeric manages the Tasting Room in SoHo.

My wife Elyse and I travel when I am not here at the tea company. As we travel, it is humbling to be welcomed at great hotels and restaurants. Such a change, traveling so much. When I started in the business, I considered Boston a trip!

For someone who devoted himself to tea at 53 years of age, it is a dream come true. My mentor, Stanley Mason, taught me so much. I loved learning about British Legacy teas from a Brit. He taught me how to make the best Earl Grey. Stanley started me down this long road, but now we sell teas which he never even considered . The world of tea has expanded considerably in the last 25 years. I stay committed to offering the finest teas. My love of tea has spread to my family and our customers worldwide. I know that we have a tradition of tea that will endure.

We make our teas for your enjoyment, so if you have any questions or problems, please call us at (800) TEA-TIME or e-mail us at We always love to discuss our favorite subject!
I drink to your health.
John Harney

Here is a little bit about the different teas:

Types of Tea:

                 Teas are divided into different types:

                  Japanese Green
                  Black - Chinese and British
Below is the description from Harney & Sons Teas:

Chinese Silver Needle

White Tea is the dried buds and very young leaves
of the tea plant. These are the baby of the tea plant
and are given extra "stuff" to survive in the cold,
cruel world. The tea plant gives buds extra sugars
for energy, extra antioxidants as a type of sunblock
to temper the strong rays of the sun, extra amino
acids to build the proteins to make more leaves, and extra c
affeine to ward off hungry bugs that would devour the tender buds. White Tea is dried in covered sheds or dried in ovens.
So that is why White Tea is so special. It is light and slightly sweet. Please note, contrary to many opinions, there is caffeine in white tea. Also there are tiny hairs on the buds.
Lung Ching Tea
Lung Ching

Green Tea is, probably, the original tea. Ancient Chinese put the green leaves into hot water to make a healthy broth. However, they needed to preserve the leaves, so they decided to "fix" the leaves green. After several centuries of experiments, the less-ancient Chinese settled upon throwing the green leaves into a hot pan and turning them around with their hands. The leaves would stay green and not turn brown. They found that using this method also allowed for pretty shapes.And the leaves developed more complex and pleasant flavors because of the sugars and amino acids combined within the hot pans. This is like the crust of bread or a steak. Still today, many Chinese teas are "fixed" green in hot pans carefully attended to by artisans (with calloused hands.)
Chinese green teas have vegetal flavors, but with more pleasant and complex flavors like roasted nuts. 
Ichiban Sencha
Ichiban Sencha

Japanese Green Teas began when Buddhist monks studied at Chinese monasteries. However, Japanese Green Teas are prepared differently than Chinese Green, as the green leaves are "fixed"using hot steam for 30 - 90 seconds. And the extra seconds sure can make a difference, just like when you leave asparagus in a steamer for too long- it becomes mush. After this steam treatment, the leaves are rolled to straighten them out and dry them. The bright green color is preserved using this method. It is the moist steam (versus the dry heat of the Chinese) that defines Japanese Green Teas. Japanese green teas are very vegetal in flavor, like cooked spinach.
Most medical studies on the possible health benefits are done in China and Japan, so most studies are done on green tea. Green has highest concentrations of the most probable compounds that promote continued health the flavonols: EC, EG, ECG and EGCG. These all sound similar, however the one with the most initials (ECGC) is considered the best anti-oxidant. The highest levels of ECGC are found in Spring teas from China and Japan, such as Mejiawu Lung Ching and Ichiban Sencha.
Yellow Sprout
Hunan Yellow Sprout
Yellow teas are a class of rare teas that come from China. The process is secret. However, what Mike has gleaned, is that the green teas used are not completely "fixed" green. The Chinese artisans cover them over with a cloth and the leaves continue to turn color or oxidize slowly and slightly. Yellow teas are vegetal with slightly sweet fruity flavors and aromas.

Oolong teas were developed in the coastal Chinese province of Fujian, sbout 300 - 400 years ago.We think that oolongs were developed last, because they take much skill to "tease" out the delicious flavors and wonderful colors found in various oolongs. The leaves are Ti Quan Yin Spring Floralplucked in late spring, when the leaves are bigger and tougher. The Chinese have found that leaving the fresh leaves in the hot sunshine of late Spring is very important to bring out the complex and fruity flavors that are prized in oolongs. Then the tea is slowly, slowly rolled either into a long twist or into a tight ball. What is happening is that the leaves are slowly falling apart. All the sugars, amino acids, anti-oxidants found in white tea have become complex parts of the green leaf, and now they slowly fall apart, and recombine into other compounds. Mike calls this the "Death of a Leaf" and he is very happy to enjoy the results: great flavors and creamy body. In the olden days the dried teas were finished over charcoal fires, so they would be good for many months. Nowadays, ovens are used so the bright flavors and aromas of oolongs can be appreciated. However, there are some that appreciate the smokier taste of the traditional "charcoal-fired" oolongs.
Oolongs from China and Taiwan have complex floral and fruity flavors and lovely colors.

Black teas are the ones that we are most familiar with in the West. These were developed in China around the time when teas were first being sold to Europe and America. It probably happened when a Chinese artisan made a mistake and did not fix green teas. And the tea turned black. The Chinese were not quite sure what to do withFirst Flush Singbullithese teas, so they sold them to the Westerners. That is why most Westerners like black tea and most Asians love green tea. Over the years, more and more Westerners asked for black tea, soon the Chinese were "harvesting mountains" of black tea. The only problem was paying for all that black tea. So the British tried several different ways to overcome this problem,none of them would be politically correct today. They ended up growing teas in India and Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka.) So there are two schools of black tea: the Chinese Teas and the British Legacy Teas (BLT.)
What happens with black tea is that the green leaves are allowed to lose the moisture found in the fresh leaves, that is they "wither." Then the leaves are put into large machines that automate what used to take many Chinese to do, "rolling" the withered leaves in their hands. This strong action mixes up compounds that are used to defend the tea plants and leaves from hungry bugs that would devour and destroy the plant. These self-defense compounds change the anti-oxidants into big, brown compounds that are hard for bugs to digest, so with an upset tummy, the bug bugs off! And we are left with a black tea.
A large factor in how tea tastes in the speed of going from fresh green leaves to the black tea. The British Legacy teas are rushed through the process fairly quickly. While, often, the Chinese find ways to slowPanyang Golden Tips that change in color and all the other changes (and there are many changes.)
British Legacy Teas (India, Sri Lanka, and Africa) are more brisk and assertive. Many people find they need to add milk and sugar to enjoy them.
Chinese Black Teas are mellow, complex, and slightly sweet. They may be drunk without milk and sugar.
Puerhs are teas from Yunnan Province in China. They are truly fermented teas, because variousmicrobes are allowed to react with the tea. They come in many Chamomilecolors, shapes and sizes. Some are drunk immediately and some are aged for decades. Puerhs have earthy flavors. The olderones can be quite complex.
Herbals are dried plant parts and are sometimes called Tisanes. These generally do not have caffeine and are light in body. They are not from the tea plant. However there are many types of herbals.

Rating Teas: 

Briskness refers to the teas ability to make your mouth pucker, also known as astringency. Some astringency makes tea brisk & desirable (like white wine). Too much briskness can be a problem, but may be controlled by reducing the brewing time.

Body refers to whether or not a tea feels thick in the mouth such as Assam or light such as a white tea. Sometimes this body comes from dissolved solids from the leaves like the Assam, and sometimes it is from all the amino acids like Ichiban Sencha.

Aroma refers to whether or not the tea has a pleasant smell, often the most prized part of tea. That makes sense, since humans can smell much better than we can taste. Sometimes the pleasant smell is teased out of the tea leaf by a skilled tea maker, sometimes it is flavor blended in here by our blenders.


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