Good Water. Good Tea.

Pouring hot water from an electric kettle in cup isolated on white background

 

You don’t have to be Erin Brockovitch to know that bad water is really bad for you.

(Good) water has so many health benefits that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day. Tea can often be included in that total since tea is basically just leaves steeped in (hopefully) good water. Water is essential, and the human body is, after all, 70% water. We can survive a month or so without food but no more than a week without water. And, I know I can’t survive a day without good tea.

I talk all the time about “good tea” and my commitment to sourcing and blending it is the foundation of Pearl Fine Teas. I won’t sell anything I myself wouldn’t drink. There may be a tea or two that I personally just don’t care for, but every single tea on our menu is of the highest quality I can afford to source. If you start with really good tea, you have to have really good water in order to make a really good cuppa. See how that works? There is just no way of getting around it and why would you want to?

I hear from many of my clients and customers that they often use the hot water spout in the office or heat up a mug in the microwave. My response to that is always: Yikes!

I also hear that when they have a cup of tea brewed by us at area farmers markets, they say the tea tastes better than what they make/drink at home. That’s in part to the water filtration system I use (see below). I had ours calibrated to deal with DC water and take out the stuff that makes things icky and taste awful. There is virtually no smell or weird taste to our water. It goes through a 3-chamber system and does a great job filtering and helping our tea taste really, really good. Below is some information on what water type/quality does to your beloved cuppa:

TYPES OF WATER FOR MAKING TEA

  • Distilled water: Distilled water is too soft (low in minerals) and will brew into flat-tasting tea. Avoid.
  • Spring water: Optimal for tea, but some types are better than others. The best spring water for tea should be neutral in pH (about 7) and in flavor.
  • Sparkling water: Not advised for making tea. Of course if you want to spike your bubbles with already made tea to flavor the water, you can certainly give it a try.
  • Well water: With any pH above 7, it’s best to filter before brewing to prevent the unwanted flavor of extra minerals. Well water poses a special problem for tea brewing because its pH is almost always above 7. Test your well water. If it’s above about 8.5, it is hard water and it will brew a bitter tea.
  • Microwaved water: A big No-No for tea making. Tea needs oxygen from the water for the flavor to come out and microwaved water is devoid of that leading to a rather awful tasting and lifeless cup of tea that will taste flat and weird. Avoid.
  • Filtered Tap Water: Depending on the city you live in, filtered tap water could be just fine for making tea. There are many counter top filtration systems that can be purchased to take out some of the things your city might put into the water to keep it “clean”.
  • RO / Reverse Osmosis: Also not recommended unless the water is remineralized. The tea will also taste flat and lifeless.

Some types of filtration systems for home use include the following and you can click on each one to read up on their offerings to see if it might be the right fit for you, your budget and your tea:

According to the CDC:  “…the top causes of disease outbreaks related to drinking water are Giardia intestinalis, hepatitis A, norovirus, and Shigella. Bad as that sounds, it’s far from a complete list. There are also health risks related to water contaminated with organic and inorganic matter, other bacteria and viruses and other pollutants. Some studies link high levels of lead in drinking water to delays in physical and mental development, short attention spans, and learning difficulties in children. There’s also evidence that arsenic in drinking water can lead to nerve, heart, skin, and blood vessel damage. And Cryptosporidium is responsible for potentially life-threatening diarrhea.”

Water and health are as interdependent as good water and good tea. So take care, filter your water, try not to use the microwave (buy a kettle), use good tea leaves and enjoy a great cuppa!

Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

 

Good Water. Good Tea.

Steep or Brew. What’s the difference?

 

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Hey there, it’s been a while…

… So, last weekend at one of my markets, a customer asked me what the difference was between steeping and brewing.

I’d written a past blog post about this before, but at that very moment all of a sudden I was under the control of a massive brain freeze and had a hard time defining it intelligently even though I knew the difference. I stumbled my way through the explanation with a lot of, “You know what I mean?” He assured me that he did and was very kind about my very long-winded explanation.

That got me thinking that it was time to jump back on to the TeaLove Blog (and why not start with this topic for 2020) with a very succinct definition of the differences:

  • Brewing and Steeping are both pretty much of the same process.
  • Brewing is the ACT of making tea, while Steeping is the PROCESS involved.
  • Brewing the perfect cup of tea requires carefully Steeping loose tea leaves in fresh water that’s heated correctly.

Basically “To Steep” something means “to soak” and that’s what we do when make tea. We take leaves, often dried and add them to hot (or cold) water to soak and extract whats in them into water. Steeping is reserved for tea. You wouldn’t hear someone say they are steeping coffee.

BREWING A CUPPA

How does one go about this? First you need to gather the correct tools and ingredients: tea leaves, a vessel (pot, mug, cup), an infuser of some kind and really good water. (Water is as important as the tea you are about to make, but we’ll reserve the topic of water quality for a future post.)

STEEPING YOUR TEA

Here’s where you can make or break your cuppa. Though some consider steeping tea an art form, it’s really quite a simple process that begins the moment you pour hot (or cold) water over tea leaves. The temperature and length of time is dependent upon the type of tea you are making. I often use these guidelines for tea making and it’s on our packages to give people easy-to-follow tea-making instructions. That said, you can always play around with time and temperature to figure out what tastes best to your palate:

  • White Tea: 170˚–175˚F (2–4 minutes)
  • Green Tea: 140˚–175˚F (:45–2 minutes)
  • Yellow Tea: 170˚–175˚F (2–3 minutes)
  • Light Oolong Tea: 165˚–175˚F (:30–1 minute)
  • Dark Oolong Tea: 180˚–185˚F (:45–2 minutes)
  • Black Tea + Pu’erh: 200˚–205˚F (1–3 minutes)
  • Rooibos + Herbals: 205˚–212˚F (3–5+ minutes)

Now that you are set with a good understanding you can go forth to brew and steep. The next important decision is: What tea will you choose? You can head on over to the Pearl Fine Teas website and likely find something splendid.

I’m armed with a Tippy Assam sample in my cup (that just arrived from India yesterday) and will steep this tea until it turns to water!

Happy 2020!
Happy Sipping!

~The Chief Leaf

Steep or Brew. What’s the difference?

12 Books. 12 Teas: #04 Wabi Sabi

 

Cast Iron Tea Pot

 

“In traditional Japanese aesthetics, wabisabi (侘寂) is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.”

For April, let’s settle into the notion that there is beauty in imperfection – even tea. This brings us to this months choice for our fourth Book and Tea pairing which will explore these ideas and help us all understand that it’s perfectly ok not to be perfect.

April 2019
• Book 4: Wabi Sabi
• Tea 4: Matcha

Beth Kempton has a Masters Degree in Japanese and has spent many years living and working in Japan. Over the years she has studied papermaking, flower arranging, pottery, calligraphy, the tea ceremony and weaving in Japan. Collectively these experiences have led to a deep love the country and a rare understanding of cultural and linguistic nuances. As founder and CEO of Do What You Love, Beth has produced and delivered online course and workshops that have helped thousands of people all over the world. Her blog was recently named Best Happiness Blogs on the Planet.

Wabi Sabi

pearl_WabiSabi“Wabi Sabi is a whole new way of looking at the world – and your life – inspired by centuries-old Japanese wisdom. Wabi sabi (“wah-bi sah-bi”) is a captivating concept from Japanese aesthetics, which helps us to see beauty in imperfection, appreciate simplicity and accept the transient nature of all things. With roots in Zen and the Way of Tea, the timeless wisdom of wabi sabi is more relevant than ever for modern life, as we search for new ways to approach life’s challenges and seek meaning beyond materialism. From honouring the rhythm of the seasons to creating a welcoming home, from reframing failure to ageing with grace, Wabi Sabi will teach you find more joy and inspiration throughout your perfectly imperfect life.”

 

Matcha
matcha“The origins of matcha can be traced all the way back to the Tang Dynasty in China. … Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist Monk, spent the better part of his life studying Buddhism in China. In 1191, Eisai returned permanently to Japan, bringing with him tea seeds along with the Zen Buddhist methods of preparing powdered green tea.”

Have you tried Matcha? Experienced its duality of both stimulating and relaxing the body, mind and spirit?

Made from tencha leaves that are shaded for at least one month before harvest. The best leaves are plucked carefully  from organic tea fields during harvest season, from May – July. Tea leaves are then ground into a powder, but not before the plucked tea leaves are de-stemmed and de-veined, to reduce  bitter flavors. The super fine powder is the result of using traditional granite stone grinders to ensure and achieve a high quality finished matcha product that has little to no bitterness.

I hope you decided to join in, find a new book and tea to make you feel joyful and connected. If you don’t already follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, we hope you will and share your thoughts about the book and the tea.

Tag us if you decide to post any photos of you reading the suggested book, drinking the suggested tea and be sure to use the hashtags:

#12Books12Teas
#PearlFineTeas

Lastly, please consider purchasing your book(s) from a small local independent bookshops. We have a few of these still left in DC.

Happy Reading!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

12 Books. 12 Teas: #04 Wabi Sabi

12 Books. 12 Teas: #03

pearl_BlogPost3
“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”  ― Robert Louis Stevenson,

For those of you that wander but are not lost, the quote above will reasonate deeply. A life without travel is much like a life without tea: tragic. Being a self-professed “flâneur” the idea of travel for travel sake are words to live by. Though the goal is to arrive at ones destination, it is the act of getting there that is part of the fun. And even when we do arrive at our chosen destination, we realize that each day offers its own micro-journey by the mere act of exploring. This applies to one who just travels their own city too, for it’s the act of moving through life and being present that matters.

If you look it up flâneur in the dictionary it will say: “An idler or lounger; from flâner “saunter, lounge” but indeed it is much more than that:

“It was French Poet Baudelaire who identified the flâneur in his essay The Painter of Modern Life (1863) as the dilettante observer. The flâneur carried a set of rich associations: the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. Such a figure can be seen featured in may impressionist paintings.”

An even more profound explanation into understanding flâneur might be: “—the stroller, the passionate wanderer emblematic of nineteenth-century French literary culture—has always been essentially timeless; he removes himself from the world while he stands astride its heart.

How utterly delicious. As we take a first step into March let us work to make the goal to just enjoy the ride. Whatever that ride might be or wherever it might take us. Because there is value in even just that.

Sounds simple enough, but maybe not so easy living in a digital world. Thankfully we have books. And we have tea. And we have mobility, maybe a car, maybe access to a train, and maybe even the good fortune to be able to board a plane and just travel for travels sake to basically just enjoy the ride. And if you can’t do any of that, just walk… and see what crosses your path.

This brings us to this months choice for our third Book and Tea pairing. Though the book is is a few years old (2007), the tea is even older!

March 2019
• Book 3: Breakfast with Buddha
• Tea 3: Genmai Cha

Roland Merullo is an American author originally from Massachusetts. You can read a bit more about him and his novels by visiting his website. One of my favorite quotes of his which seems to aptly reveal much of who he is and why he writes what he does is this: “The problem for me is that I’m interested in everything and everybody.”  Many of his books work to explore questions like “What are we doing here on this spinning ball of stone?” and “What might await us after our time here is finished?”

Breakfast with Buddha

516i9qAnHeL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“When Otto Ringling, a husband, father, and editor, departs on a cross-country drive from his home in a New York City suburb to the North Dakota farmhouse in which he grew up, he is a man on a no-nonsense mission: to settle the estate of his recently deceased parents. However, when his flaky sister convinces him to give a ride to her guru, a crimson-robed Skovordinian monk, Otto knows there will be a few bumps in the road.  As they venture across America, Otto and the affable, wise, irritating, and inscrutable holy man engage in a battle of wits and wisdom. Otto, a born skeptic, sees his unwanted passenger as a challenge: a man who assumes the knowledge of the ages yet walks a mortal’s path.”

 

Genmai Cha
4E982665-5BEB-412C-B156-DE39F7213751 2It wouldn’t be tea without some saga or story attached to it. The legend of Genmai Cha begins with a feudal lord sitting around drinking green tea when his man-servant accidentally spilled rice into his cup. Highly offended, the feudal lord cuts off the servants head. He then decides to taste the tea and discovers that its quite good. So, in honor of the servant, whose name was Genmai, the tea was named Genmaicha.

A more likely explanation is believed to be that Genmai Cha got its origins as a way to extended the life of tea that had gotten old. The story that is told in Japan is that it comes from a folk custom of roasting leftover kagami-mochi, a kind of rice cake that is eaten during the New Year holidays, and putting the roasted mochi into tea.

In any case, this tea is delicious! It offers a weight to green tea that isn’t often associated with it. Its nutty, earthy and yes, rice-y. It almost tastes like having a mini meal sip after sip because it leaves the body satiated with a feeling of fullness.

I hope you decided to join in, find a new book and tea to make you feel joyful and connected. If you don’t already follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, we hope you will and share your thoughts about the book and the tea.

Tag us if you decide to post any photos of you reading the suggested book, drinking the suggested tea and be sure to use the hashtags:

#12Books12Teas
#PearlFineTeas

Lastly, please consider purchasing your book(s) from a small local independent bookshops. We have a few of these still left in DC.

March on like a lion!

Happy Reading!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

12 Books. 12 Teas: #03

12 Books. 12 Teas: #02

pearl_TheBookShop
“A good book is the precious life-blood of a master-spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life, and as such it must surely be a necessary commodity.” 
― Penelope Fitzgerald

We’re 8 days into February realizing I’m 8 days late announcing the next book to read. January was lazy and seemed to go on forever and now here we are creeping up on Valentine’s Day.

After careful consideration and a lot of roaming around our 2 favorite bookstores in DC, the next book to read and the next tea to pair should be… without a doubt….

February 2019
• Book 2: The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
• Tea 2: Classic Breakfast Blend

Penelope Fitzgerald was in her 60s when she first got published. A wonderful lesson in not allowing barriers including age get in the way of living out a dream. You can read a piece in the New Yorker about her here.

The book was first published in 1978, and we’re hearing more about it because it was just made into a movie starring Emily Mortimer. So before rushing to watch the moving image, perhaps read the book first which is only a mere 156 pages. Some of you might be able to plow through that in a weekend with a fully loaded pot of tea by your side. What a gorgeous thought.

The Bookshop
“Florence Green, a free-spirited widow, puts grief behind her and risks everything to open up a bookshop — the first such shop in the sleepy seaside town of Hardborough, England. But this mini social revolution soon brings her fierce enemies: she invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers and also crosses Mrs. Gamart, Harborough’s vengeful, embittered alpha female who is a wannabe doyenne of the local arts scene.”

Breakfast Blend:
If you follow this blog then you already know that English Breakfast Tea really originated and was “invented” in Scotland and that it was English Merchants that rebranded it to be English Breakfast. Quite cheeky of them actually.

Our Classic Breakfast tea is smooth, aromatic and lacking smoke or bitterness. Holds up well to milk and sugar if one desires to add such things, but we drink ours straight so we don’t miss out on the amazing natural flavor. This tea is great way to welcome morning or to have sitting by your side as you plow through this months book suggestion!

I hope you decided to join in, find a new book and tea to make you feel joyful and connected. If you don’t already follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter, we hope you will and share your thoughts about the book and the tea.

Tag us if you decide to post any photos of you reading the suggested book, drinking the suggested tea and be sure to use the hashtags:

#12Books12Teas
#PearlFineTeas

Lastly, please consider purchasing your book(s) from a small local independent bookshops. We have a few of these still left in DC. (We got our copy from  Kramer Books & Afterwords in Dupont Circle.)

Let month two of nerdish delight continue!

Happy Reading!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

12 Books. 12 Teas: #02

12 Books. 12 Teas.

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C.S. Lewis

Is there a better way to start a new year than with a day off that isn’t on the weekend? It feels kind of… a stolen, right?

Sitting here on the first official holi-day-off of 2019 – and a Tuesday no less – it occurred to me that it might be nice for the first blog post of this year to be aspirational yet attainable and something we can do together. Something that makes us feel good and accomplished by years end. And of course, something tea related.

As I sat here today thinking about all the possibilities for 2019, the resolutions that are made, the promises to ourselves to do better, it occurred to me that it might be nice to do a book and tea pairing/recommendation each month until the end of the year.  On the 1st of each month, I’ll post a suggested book to read and a tea that might be a lovely compliment. Perhaps it might be one you’ve tried before or maybe one you’ve never had and would be willing to try. If you’ve read the book suggested, perhaps it’s timely to read it again? In any case, this is a great way to introduce ourselves to 24 new things in this new year to stimulate our minds and our senses. Let the nerdish fun begin!

January 1, 2019
• Book 1: The Alchemist
• Tea 1: Jasmine Yin Hao

The Alchemist:
“Author Paulo Coelho, born in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, is one of the bestselling and most influential authors in the world. The Alchemist has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over 360 weeks. The Alchemist follows the journey of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. Believing a recurring dream to be prophetic, he asks a Romani fortune teller in a nearby town about its meaning. The woman interprets the dream as a prophecy telling the boy that he will discover a treasure at the Egyptian pyramids.”

Have you read the this book? If so, it’s another chance to re-read it for its 25th Year Anniversary. If not, you might find this book life changing. There is simply no better way to begin the new year than with a magical book like The Alchemist.

Jasmine Yin Hao:
Are you a Jasmine Tea lover? If so, Jasmine Yin Hao is one not to miss. Technically a Pouchong, it’s one of our most favorite scented Jasmine teas. Spring-harvested green tea for the base tea. The buds are handpicked, then withered and dried. The finished tea is then stored to await the blossoming of late summer jasmine. Pouchong is known as Chinese Green, however, it is only slightly fermented (10%-20%). When brewed, it produces a light yellow hue, a milder flavor than Oolong tea yet stronger than Green tea and is recognized as the finest in the world.

I hope you decide to join in, find a new book and tea to make you feel joyful and connected. If you don’t already follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we hope you will and share your thoughts about the book and the tea.

Tag us if you decide to post any photos of you reading the suggested book, drinking the suggested tea and be sure to use the hashtags:

#12Books12Teas
#PearlFineTeas

Welcome 2019! May it expand your mind and tastebuds!

Happy Reading!
Happy Sipping!
~The Chief Leaf

 

12 Books. 12 Teas.

Thankful

pearl_CHristmasMarketIllustration2“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it
is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

– William Arthur Ward

It’s been a whirl-wind since November 1st, when our Holiday Events kicked-off! This year we added on 13 (in addition to our weekly markets) which is more than we’ve ever participated in! So many people found us in more than one location. Lots of our regulars stocked up and shared wonderful words of encouragement like, “Please, never stop selling tea!”

If you followed Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro Area this holiday season or shopped with us online – We thank you from the bottom of our tea-infused hearts for supporting micro-businesses like ours!

You cracked us up weekly at our markets, wrote amazing e-mails and notes of support, were understanding when we made mistakes and showed up even when the weather was not cooperating – which was often! We are also extremely grateful to those of you that shopped and helped with our fundraiser to help the NOVA CAT CLINICs Chris Griffey Feline Memorial Foundation by purchasing the now Famous FRANCIS! Tea Blend.

All of the positive feedback and TeaLove we receive keeps us going and makes it all worth while. For us, tea is a magical daily necessity and if we can share that and make people happy, well then… that’s really all there is.

Whatever holiday tradition you celebrate, even if you just spend a quiet day alone, we hope it’s warm, cozy, full of love and includes endless pots of tea!

Our gratitude to and for YOU, our tea-loving customers and supporters expands far beyond the known universe!

Thank you!
Happy… Everything!

~The Chief Leaf

 

Thankful