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In places like the United Kingdom and to a lesser extent here in the United States green tea is still something of a newcomer, although it’s gained a great deal of popularity in recent years. In Japan, the equation is flipped. While black tea and other varieties are not completely unknown there, the Japanese are best known for growing and consuming one kind of tea – and that would be green.

Japanese teas (ETS image)

Japanese teas (ETS image)

So perhaps it’s not surprising that The World Green Tea Association makes its headquarters in Japan. At their home in virtual space, which thankfully has an English version, they describe themselves, in part, as, “an organization established by the government of Shizuoka Prefecture to further the development of green tea production, culture, and understanding through the spread of green tea’s traditions and knowledge of its healthful and commercial properties.” The Shizuoka Prefecture region, as they remark, is Japan’s top producer and distributor of green tea.

One of the events the group sponsors is the World O-CHA (Tea) Festival. The spring festival was held in May 2013 and the fall festival in November and was the fifth such event. Presumably there will be more. Among the events that made up the festival were a green tea contest, a trade fair, and tea industry and culture exchange tours to various points throughout the region. Find out more about past and future events here.

While trade organizations often tend to be geared more toward members of the industry they serve, The World Green Tea Association’s web site is worth a look even if you’re a more casual observer. I made a quick skim through the site and found a variety of articles on various aspects of tea. Some are rather basic, such as cooking with tea or making desserts using tea. Others are kind of off the wall, including brief primers on using tea trees to make a fence, doing bonsai with tea trees and cooking with tea leaves that have already been used to make tea. All that and much more is located right here.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I never gave much thought to the concept of wild tea until recently. When I ran across Wild Tea Hunter, a book about wild tea. Which I haven’t actually read yet. But one of the interesting claims the author makes for the book is this one, “Discover how wild and ancient tea trees contain a multiple of the nutrients of standard farmed tea and be introduced to the unique energetic qualities found only in the tea trees in the wild.”

Which is an interesting notion and not one that I’ve given much thought to before. I’m not particularly knowledgeable when it comes to the finer points of tea cultivation, but I’d gather that, if tea plants grew wild prior to the time that they began to be cultivated, then they must still be growing in the wild in some places today.

If you go to the Internet to search for wild tea, you’re likely to find something that’s not Camellia sinensis, the plant that produces “real” tea. There are plenty of other plant-based beverages that are given this designation, largely due to the fact that they’re made from various plants collected in the wild. I’d venture to say that “real” wild tea is a relatively rare commodity. Which makes sense, give that tea plants that are grown in the wild and accessible must surely be vastly outnumbered by the domesticated ones.

Some research on the matter turned up a few examples of retailers selling what is apparently “real” tea from plants growing in the wild. One of these is described as a Wild Mountain Black Tea, from Taiwan, a place that’s much better known for its output of oolong than black tea. Another merchant offers three wild varieties, of different types, all of which seem to hail from China.

As for this notion that wild tea has a more pronounced effect on the body’s chi or qi, it’s a concept that turns up in more than one place. Which doesn’t necessarily make it true, of course, but makes it worth considering. Here’s a rather in-depth article from a few years back that tackles this exact topic. It’s worth a look, but to summarize very briefly, wild tea is thought to grow more “in harmony” with nature and thus absorbs more “natural energy.”

It’s a concept that’s also mentioned in this brief article from the International Tea Masters Association. Which also notes that numerous wild tea trees, some of them quite old and large, are still found growing in remote regions of China’s Yunnan province. One of these was analyzed some time ago by Chinese scientists and was found to be 112 feet tall and more than 1,800 years old.

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© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Occasionally I take a look at a book here that I might have overlooked and this time around its Wild Tea Hunter, by JT Hunter, who “has studied with Taoist masters, Buddhist monks, and the tribal people of Yunnan in their mysterious tea cultures.” The book currently appears to be available only in an electronic edition and, though it’s only 152 pages, it promises quite a lot to prospective readers. Check out the description of the book and more at the web site. You can also find out more about the author at his web site, Wild Tea Qi.

One of the topics Hunter tackles in his book are the alleged health benefits of tea. A topic that’s expanded to book length in The Healing Power of Tea: Simple Teas & Tisanes to Remedy and Rejuvenate Your Health, by Caroline Dow. The author makes what may be the unique claim of being “a tea-leaf reader and herbalist for thirty years, and conducts popular workshops on tea-leaf reading all over the country.” [Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.]

While the book contains the obligatory sections on the history of tea and other common topics, it’s obviously focused on health and also includes sections on recipes, specific health benefits and how to grow a tea garden of your own. Look for it at the end of 2014. If you’re interested in the subject of tea leaf reading, then have a look at Dow’s Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners: Your Fortune in a Tea Cup, which came out a few years ago.

Tea person Lisa Boalt Richardson, who was profiled on this blog recently, has written a few books about tea thus far and she’s got another in the pipeline. In the last few years she’s come out with such titles as Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea and The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far. I wasn’t able to find much in the way of details for her latest – Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage – but look for it in late 2014.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A great tea from India: Darjeeling (ETS Image)

A great tea from India: Darjeeling (ETS Image)

So which great people throughout history drank tea and which did not? This is hardly the place to do an in-depth review of the topic, but we can be pretty sure about the tea drinking habits – or lack thereof – of certain great historical figures based on where and when they lived. It’s likely that Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, and William the Conqueror never drank tea, simply because they lived in Europe long before tea is known to have been introduced there.

Then there are those historical types whom we might expect to be tea lovers but who weren’t. Take Gandhi, for instance, who lived in India, a country that by the time he lived was already a powerhouse of tea production. Though Gandhi was once a tea drinker, he came to believe that tea was an intoxicant and that the tannins it contained were bad for health. Thus he gave it up. Take a look at his tea-free ginger lemon alternative at his grandson’s web site.

Another great head of state, Winston Churchill, apparently was not all that enamored of tea either, according to the National Churchill Museum, who claim that he avoided it. He tended to forego that time-honored ritual of afternoon tea and apparently preferred to drink something with a little more of a kick than tea.

Like the English, the Russians were hardly slouches when it came to tea drinking and even gave the world a tea prep gadget known as the samovar. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Russian dictator Vladimir Lenin was a tea drinker. As a contemporary biography recalls, black bread, tea, and porridge was a common meal for Lenin and in the those early violent days of the revolution he often drank his tea without sugar as a measure of solidarity with the rest of the population.

Then there are our presidents. As this page on presidential eating habits recounts, tea and coffee were served at breakfast in the household of our first president, while Jefferson apparently bought some of a tea he sampled in Amsterdam to take back home. Mary Lincoln is known to have served tea and cakes to her guests while Rutherford B. Hayes mixed it up, with a cup of coffee at breakfast and one of tea at lunch. As for Honest Abe Lincoln, one legend recounts that when he was a storekeeper in his early days, he walked a great distance just to make a customer’s tea order right.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There is no shortage of legends about our sixteenth president, Mr. Abraham Lincoln. You probably heard a few of them in school when you were growing up. One persistent tea-related legend is the notion that he once said, “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.” It would take a better researcher than I to determine whether Lincoln actually said this, though I’m a bit dubious.

Civil War era Small tin tea or coffee pot (From Yahoo! Images)

Civil War era Small tin tea or coffee pot (From Yahoo! Images)

But it’s a witty thing to say, regardless of who said it first, and it’s as good a way as any to introduce an article about tea drinking in the United States during the Civil War. Which was still going fairly strong at that time, mind you. Some people seem to have the perception that after the Boston Tea Party Americans abandoned tea drinking, never again to touch a teacup to their collective lips. But that’s not so.

Tea drinking was affected during the Revolutionary War, however, as I noticed recently when writing about a tea-related book that was published just as the Civil War was getting started. It recalls that during that previous conflict those who preferred not to drink tea for political or other reasons turned to something called Liberty Tea, which was made from the leaves of a plant called loose strife.

While there’s a popular notion that the old American favorite – iced tea – didn’t appear until the early twentieth century, it was a tradition that was actually in place by the time of the Civil War and probably had been for at least several decades. Though for an army on the march in the 1860s the availability of ice could be a bit spotty, to say the least.

Also, depending on which side you were on, the availability of tea itself might have been a bit spotty as well. While this list (PDF) of Civil War foods lists coffee and tea as staples for both sides it indicates that supplies of coffee for the Southerners were affected by Union blockades, which suggests that tea might have been similarly affected. Coffee substitutes were common during this time and here’s a recipe for Blueberry Tea that’s said to date from the Civil War era.

If you’d like to get some idea of what type of tea might have been consumed in the United States during the Civil War era you might want to try a commemorative tea (American Civil War Gunpowder Tea) offered by noted tea person Bruce Richardson, who was profiled at this site previously. His tea would have been similar to the tea that might have been consumed by some of the masses of troops who occupied the area around Richardson’s Elmwood Inn, in Kentucky. Gunpowder is a type of green tea of strongly flavored green tea that’s shaped into small pellet shapes.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tea Sub Yellow (screen capture from site)

Tea Sub Yellow (screen capture from site)

When it comes to offbeat Beatles-related merchandise, Beatles hair spray has to rank pretty high on the list. But of course this site is all about tea, and so it’s only fitting that we make reference to a few tea-themed items. There’s a Yellow Submarine tea infuser, for example.

To top that, one well-known tea company came up with a tea they call Beatles’ Blend. Though their web site no longer lists it as being available and doesn’t indicate what it had to do with the Fab Four, another source offers the original description for the blend, “A classic twist on Earl Grey black tea, Beatles Blend black tea hearkens back to the roots of the Beatles’ homeland. We start with traditional Earl Grey, and then add in a rich, malty tea from China, reminiscent of an English Breakfast tea. We balance the blend with an Indian tea that speaks to the Beatles’ avid fascination with and travels to India. Finally, we top it off with a twist of jasmine culminating in a blend destined to become a star.”

To go even one step better than that, a New York-based tea house came up with a special Peace & Love Tea a few years back to commemorate the observance of Ringo Starr’s seventieth birthday (feeling old, Beatles fans?).

To judge by their songs, tea was indeed one of the Beatles favorite drinks. As one might rightly have suspected, given that they were a quartet of British lads, after all. According to Martin Lewis, who claims to be one of the world’s leading Beatles historians, references to tea turned up in more than a dozen Beatles songs, including five that were recorded during one three-month period in 1967 alone.

References to tea in Beatles songs even turned up in the post-Beatles years and one of the most notable of these was Paul McCartney’s (that’s Sir Paul to you) 2005 track, English Tea, which was a tribute to…that’s right. As for John Lennon, some decades after his death his widow wrote in a New York Times piece about his tea prep and drinking habits and discussed the questions they had over whether the tea bags should go in before the hot water or vice versa.

If there is still any doubt that the Beatles were a proper bunch of tea-drinking British lads, then let the photographic evidence on this page be the final word. After all, fifty-plus photos of one or more Beatles drinking tea makes a pretty good case.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Great smile! (screen capture from her web site)

Great smile! (screen capture from her web site)

If you want to peruse the full range of Lisa Boalt Richardson’s tea-related achievements, consult her web site here. There are quite a few of these achievements, but we’ll just touch on some of the highlights. She claims to be “one of the first 15 in the world to graduate from the Specialty Tea Institute (STI) with a ‘Certified Tea Specialist’ title in 2008″ and has trained and worked with various other tea organizations.

Then there are the books. There’s Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea, which came along first, in 2009, and in which the author “inspires readers to set their tables for fun and serve up any of her eight contemporary tea parties.” The next year saw publication of The World in Your Teacup: Celebrating Tea Traditions, Near and Far, which finds the author “leading tea-lovers on a fact-filled, taste-as-you-go journey around the world.” The latest of Richardson’s books, which is so recent that it’s not even out yet, is Modern Tea: A Fresh Look at an Ancient Beverage, which is set to be released in late 2014. Richardson has also been featured in or written for such august publications as the New York Times, Woman’s Health, Real Simple and Cooking With Paula Deen, as well as many, many others.

In an interview with the National Geographic Intelligent Travel site, Richardson said that her love for tea came about first because she liked the taste of tea. Following that she became enamored of the contemplative aspects of tea drinking and culture and the ability it gives one to slow down. Finally, she said, “When I really began to study tea as a career, my interest in tea grew to discovering and loving tea traditions and culture from around the world. Learning where tea is grown, who grows it, and how it is experienced all over the globe became fascinating to me.”

When asked her favorite tea, however, Richardson declined to pin things down, citing some of the following as favorites, “Darjeeling first flush, keemun, golden monkey, oolongs of all kinds, jasmine pearl green tea, and dragon well.”

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

If you’ve ever noted some of the weighty titles and subtitles of books that are published nowadays, rest assured that this is hardly a recent trend. Older books equaled or surpassed anything that modern-day publishers and authors can come up with. If you want proof of this then look to the subject of this article, Breakfast, Dinner, and Tea: Viewed Classically, Poetically, and Practically: Containing Numerous Curious Dishes and Feasts of All Times and All Countries, by Julia C. Andrews.

The book was published in 1860 and as the title suggests it’s a somewhat unusual take on the cookbook. Obviously tea is not the focus of the book and the “tea” in the title refers to tea in the sense of a meal rather than a beverage. But the tea section is an interesting one nonetheless and is further divided into five chapters.

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Black tea boiled for 15-20 minutes? Yikes! (ETS Image)

Three of these look at the Tea-Biscuits and Cakes, preserves and other things that might be served at a tea, including such items as rye drop cake and Mrs. Grundy’s Cake. There are a few short chapters on tea the beverage as well, which are certainly worth a look. Tea as a Beverage considers the origins of the drink, pinpointing it no further than some unknown date in “the Chinese Empire.”

What follows is a brief sketch of the history of tea after it was first introduced into England, a time when it might sell for nearly fifty dollars a pound. The author claims that tea first came into use in New England in about 1720 and goes on to briefly cover tea during the time of the Revolutionary War and some of the tea substitutes used then.

The author claims that the variety of black teas at the time were Bohea, Congou, Campoi, Souchong, Caper, and Pekoe, while the green teas were Imperial, Hyson, Twankay and Hyson. She also remarks on the cheering effects of tea, which are “unanimous” in every country where it is used. And I’m certainly not going to argue that point.

From there it’s on to preparation. Andrews gets it half-right here, remarking that green tea should not be boiled, which is great advice. However, I’d shudder to think what her black tea must have tasted like after it had been boiled for the fifteen to twenty minutes she recommends.

But as long as you’re not adhering too closely to the author’s advice on tea prep this one’s worth a look for yet another glimpse at how tea was perceived in an earlier time. Take a look at it here.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Once upon a time there was tea. It was black – for the most part. It was a time, here in the West, when tea and black tea were nearly synonymous. But in the last decade or so it’s green tea that’s grabbed the overwhelming share of attention.

With the popularity of green tea there’s also been a search for the next big thing in tea – a search that has turned up the likes of white tea, oolong, and even puerh. The latter is a type of tea that’s not known to most people and isn’t even known to many tea drinkers.

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

Pu-erhs to consider, with flavored versions becoming more popular. (ETS Image)

The super-condensed version of what puerh is: a type of tea that’s produced in Yunnan, China, and that’s notable for being fermented after the processing stages. If you do even a cursory scan of the web, you could be forgiven for believing that puerh is something of a magic elixir brimming over with health benefits.

What you’ll also notice is that a lot of those making claims for puerh seem to have a horse in the race, as the saying goes. Which is to say a lot of the claims for puerh’s benefits come from merchants who are keen to sell you…puerh tea. Which is an easy enough claim to make about a type of tea that’s considered to be rather exotic.

But is there any truth to the health claims made for puerh tea? This is no place for an in-depth study, but we’ll look at a few of them. Though it’s also worth considering whether any benefits said to arise from puerh have to do with puerh specifically or tea in general.

As the popular Dr. Andrew Weil notes at his web site, some of the claims made for puerh are “promotion of weight loss, reduction of serum cholesterol, and cardiovascular protection.” However, he goes on to claim, “not many scientific studies exist on pu-erh tea, so we don’t know how valid these health claims are. Some research suggests that pu-erh may help lower cholesterol and reduce heart disease risk, but this hasn’t been confirmed in humans.” An article at one major city paper echoes some of these claims and references a 2009 Chinese study that indicates that puerh lowers cholesterol. It also points to a 2011 study that suggests that puerh can inhibit tumor growth.

As for those claims regarding puerh and weight loss, there are actually several studies that have looked at this topic. All were carried out by Chinese researchers, not surprisingly. This one used rats as subjects and suggested that puerh might have some benefits with regard to weight loss and cholesterol reduction.

This study used puerh extract and human subjects and claimed a slight reduction in weight over a three-month period, but no significant reduction in cholesterol. Here’s a study that summarizes “current progress on understanding the mechanisms and bioactive components of Pu-erh’s weight-cutting effects as well as highlighting current weaknesses in the field.” Last up, a study that compares antioxidant content of puerh and various other teas and finds that it compares favorably.

Which is just a brief look at a topic that probably merits a closer look. It also merits at least a tiny bit of healthy skepticism. But that’s probably true any time health claims are being made for foods or beverages.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

C Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation (from Amazon.com)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: A Pop-up Adaptation (from Amazon.com)

As I research assorted and sundry articles dealing with various aspects of tea history, I’ve run across a number of important historical events that have taken place in the month of April (or more specifically on the 1st). Here are a few of them:

April 1, 2813 BC
Chinese emperor Shung Mung discovers tea and the tea bag at the exact same moment. The Emperor is folding pieces of paper (which he’d invented the year before) into little kitty shapes when a sudden windstorm blows a bunch of leaves from off of the tea plant located right next to the window of his workshop. As he happens to look away for a moment a number of the leaves happen to blow directly into the paper kitty he is working on. At this very moment he just happens to drop the paper packet and tea leaves into a pot of water that was boiling on a fire next to him – for no apparent reason.

April 1, 1703
At the request of the eccentric inventor Baron Percival Egspeth Snork, a blacksmith creates what is believed to be one of the first tea infusers. It is a large, unwieldy device fashioned out a heavy piece of cast iron and tends to crush the dainty porcelain tea cups it’s tested on. Unfortunately, while working on the design of a second prototype of this device, Snork dies in a bizarre whittling accident that remains unexplained to this day.

April 1, 1773
Mrs. Edna Winkerbean holds the first tea party in what will soon become the United States. The party is held at her home in Boston. It is a very nice affair and is attended by several ladies in the neighborhood. Crumpets are served. The participants refer to this momentous event as the Boston Tea Party, which turns out to be a bad choice of names.

April 1, 1899
Jedediah Whufflesnorfer invents the Teafflesnorfer, which he insists is not named after himself. It’s a device that automatically begins to prepare tea at the sound of a rooster crowing. Through a complicated system of gears, belts, and levers, it cleans itself after each use and refills itself with tea leaves and water. It does not do windows. So don’t even ask.

April 1, 2013
Alarmed by the news that the Dormouse kept dozing off during the Mad Tea-Party in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a number of tea companies begin research into tea products that are “enhanced” with extra caffeine.

See more of William I. Lengeman’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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