Oriental Beauty: An Incredible Tea to Remember

oriental beautyDong Fang Mei Ren (also called Bai Hao) is a Taiwanese oolong unlike any other.  Its English name, Oriental Beauty, was given by Queen Elizabeth II in the early 20th century when she tasted this tea for the first time.   The tea is hand-harvested and crafted by a tea master in Taiwan using two leaves and a bud. Enzymes change the color of the leaf edges to a deep red, and cause the plant to give off the aroma of honey and fruit, and an unusually sweet flavor.

Oriental Beauty is named for the unique appearance of its tea leaves, which are mostly dark in color with the very best and rarest distinguished by silvery tips.  The leaves are naturally oxidized by leaf hoppers that chew on the leaf edges while still growing on the tea bushes.  As such, it is harvested only in the early summer.  It yields a rich, strong honeyed liquor which produces a sweet tasting bright-reddish orange tea liquor without any astringency or bitterness.

oriental beauty 2The best Oriental Beauty is made from a cultivar called Qing Xin Da Mao.  Teas produced using this cultivar have an incredible cooling sensation on the palate, and when layered on top of the sweet aroma and smooth taste produced by the response to leaf hoppers, it produces an incredibly balanced and complex cup of tea.

The top grade of organic Oriental Beauty we tasted and evaluated comes from where it was originally produced in Taiwan.   It had both wonderfully complex aromas (peach, orange, pineapple…), and also a sweet, round mouth-feel and aftertaste. Although we steeped it in a Yixing teapot for only two minutes at 170 F, it can brew oriental beauty 3longer without turning astringent, a trait of the very best teas.  We were delighted to experience one teaspoon (2.5g) of Oriental Beauty producing six wonderful infusions of tea.

Oriental Beauty is one of the most precious oolongs to come from Taiwan, a superb example of one of the world’s most extraordinary teas.  Truly a “beauty” not to be missed.

Oriental Beauty available online from:  Adagio Teas $49.00 for 2 oz.

Summertime or Anytime Great Iced Tea

by Chas Kroll, ITMA Certified Tea Master

iced_teaAs the warm summer months approach, our tastes begin to shift from wintertime warmers to summertime coolers. In the U.S., iced tea dominates the list of summertime thirst quenchers.

Making iced tea is simple. Making great iced tea is another matter. It takes more than simply boiling water and dropping in a couple of tea bags.

A few important facts. About 80 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. is served iced. The average American drinks nearly 6.5 gallons of iced tea per year. As much as 60 percent of the tea consumed in the U.S. occurs in the Southern states, most of which (90 percent) is iced.

A few important tips. Fresh tea makes the best iced tea, so don’t refrigerate it for days after you make it. Make it and drink it. Adjust sugar or sweetener to personal taste if used. Thoroughly chill the tea before serving. If you add ice, use cubes, not chips.

Most important. You make great iced tea by starting with a great tea, one that is full of flavor and will satisfy your tastes. Great chefs sauté their cuisine using a wine they would serve their guests. The same principle applies to making great iced tea.

Preparing great iced tea. Measure out the amount of tea according to this formula: Four heaping teaspoons of loose-leaf tea for each quart you want to prepare. Add it to your serving pitcher.

The big surprise. Add spring water at room-temperature, 18°-24°C (65°-75°F), not boiling water, to the pitcher. Set it aside and allow the tea to steep for an hour or so in your refrigerator. Because the tea leaves can be used again, set them aside and refrigerate. You will be able to make at least two more pitchers when you start with a quality, loose-leaf tea.

About lemon. The purpose of lemon is not just to make the glass look attractive. For many serious iced tea drinkers, lemon is a required accoutrement. So, cut a lemon into eight wedges, and serve one alongside each glass. Serve in ice-filled glasses.

About sun tea. We are often asked about “Sun Tea.” Scientific evidence supports the idea that the sun provides the perfect medium for bacteria to grow.

Waldorf in London Hosted ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course™

waldorf-londonThe luxurious Waldorf Hilton in London was the stunning backdrop for the recently-held  ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course for becoming an ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier. A symbol of English heritage, the Waldorf is steeped in Edwardian tradition. Its fabulous West End location leaves London at one’s fingertips with many of the city’s most exciting attractions within walking distance or just a quick tube ride away.

waldorf-london-afternoon-teaRegistrants attending the course were invited to experience the British tradition of Afternoon Tea at the Waldorf with its historic, elegant surroundings. They enjoyed a glass of Champagne and chose from a selection of 13 fine loose leaf teas, including the hotel’s signature Waldorf Tribute Blend that was created by Twinings exclusively for and only available at the hotel. They also savored a selection of finely cut finger sandwiches, warm freshly baked scones and delicate pastries that were beautifully served on a three-tiered stand made of Royal Crown Derby fine bone china. Royal Crown Derby is a Royal Warrant holder and supplier to The Royal Household.

Registrants attending the initial ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course experienced some of the most exquisite loose-leaf teas from around the world. This training was followed a week later with the ITMA Tea Sommelier Tasting Course™ involving tasting and evaluating 18 different teas, as well as a Mystery Tea, a Report (oral or written) on a topic assigned by ITMA, and a Final Examination.

stijn-van-schoonlandtThe training was conducted in English by ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier and  ITMA Certified Tea Blender™ Stijn Van Schoonlandt. With a strong background in tea and blending, and proprietor of his own coffee and tea establishment in Belgium, he made this an especially memorable, life-changing experience for everyone.

The course contained all the educational requirements an individual needed for achieving the association’s prestigious ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier designation once the program was successfully completed.

Tuition for the complete program is $1,475 for ITMA Members ($1,975 for Non-Members).

The next  ITMA Tea Sommelier Certification Course for becoming an ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier at the Waldorf will be held in September or October.  The exact dates will be announced on our home page on June 30th.

Upcoming Tea Mastery Courses
in March & April

Click On A Blue Text Link Below For Details:

One Day Tea Extravaganza

Starts March 18, 2017, Billings, MTThe Northern Hotel.  Admission $199

ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier Course™

Starts March 11, 2017, London, EnglandWaldorf Hilton, London.  Tuition $1475

Starts March 11, 2017, Mexico City, MexicoStadía Suites Santa Fe.  Tuition $975

Inicia 11 de Marzo 2017, Ciudad de México, MéxicoStadía Suites Santa Fe.  Matrícula $975

Starts March 22, 2017, Guwahati, Assam, IndiaFive Star Hotels to reasonably priced Guest Houses.  Tuition $975

Starts April 6, 2017, Guwahati, Assam, India, Five Star Hotels to reasonably priced Guest Houses.  Tuition $975

Starts April 8, 2017, Bozeman MT, The Voss Inn.  Tuition $975

Starts April 15, 2017, San Diego, California, Horton Grand Hotel.  Tuition $1,475 – Available Discount

Starts April 21, 2017, Manila, Philippines, Acacia Hotel Manila.  Tuition $975

Starts April 29, 2017, New York, NY, Cambria Hotel & Suites New York – Chelsea.  Tuition $1,475 – Available Discount
Starts By Appointment
ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier Training Via Skype.  Tuition $1,975


Enhancing the Tea Experience with Mindfulness

by ITMA Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll

prayer-meditationMindfulness is one of the keys to expanding the ability of the mind to pay attention to the thoughts, feelings and sensations experienced in the Now. One way to do this is by being present in the moment while preparing and consuming tea as a meditative practice. Brewing tea Gongfu cha (the formal presentation of tea) slows the experience and allows the mind to be still with the tea.

In the practice of mindfulness, it is important not to judge the experience, but rather observe it without aversion or attachment. Similarly, when drinking tea, it is important not to judge aromas, tastes, or textures, but simply observe them without aversion or attachment.

When your mind wanders, it takes away from your true enjoyment of the tea and out of the present moment. By focusing the mind and body on each sip of tea, subtle nuances will be noticed, appreciated, and enjoyed.

Mindfulness of tea should also pay attention to the way it affects your body. What are the qualities of the cha qi (energy of the tea)? Does it make you jittery? Calm? Anxious? How does it affect your productivity and focus? Noting these things helps you determine if you should consume the tea again.

Even if you aren’t a mindfulness practitioner, drinking tea while being present to the experience in the present moment allows you to notice subtle flavors, aromas, and textures. It can even allow you to notice subtle feelings and emotions created by the tea.

Mindful tea drinking allows for the mind to relax in the present moment. Remember to slow down and enjoy the experience.

It is important not to let the mind wander into judgments about the tea while we are drinking it. Doing so will often result in the mind missing subtleties offered by the tea from one steeping to the next.

To become more acquainted with the concept of aversion and attachment, try this simple mindfulness exercise:

  1. Become centered and grounded in your space.
  1. With your eyes closed, take in a slow, deep “Cleansing Breath” through your nose, tongue to the roof of your mouth, filling your lungs completely. Hold the breath for a few moments and exhale slowly through your mouth (repeat three times).
  1. State your intention (non-verbally) in the moment, that is, “My intention is to:” say to yourself whatever you wish to create right now.
  1. Take in another “Cleansing Breath”, hold it and slowly release it.
  1. Give thanks and acknowledgment to Source for all your Blessings and Gifts.
  1. Take whatever time you may need to contemplate your own healing (replacing unhealthy cell production with only healthy cells; quieting your nerve endings to eliminate discomfort; restoring your energy; or whatever is analogous to your present situation).
  1. When finished, take in another “Cleansing Breath”, hold it and slowly release it.
  1. Open your eyes and become aware of what you created for yourself.

When you begin to acquire the information necessary to embark upon your own program of mindful meditation is immaterial. Just begin. Take the first step and the rest of your journey will take care of itself.

Bringing awareness to aversion and attachment in tea drinking is an easy way to enhance your experience and notice subtle flavors, aromas, and even feelings that the tea induces. Try it out for yourself and see how it affects your senses as you sip your favorite tea!