Often when visiting a high end spa, you are offered a cup of tea while waiting for your attendant. This is a time to relax and it is a perfect opportunity to indulge in a drink that maximizes your relaxation experience. This is certainly something I look for when I seek out a favourite spa haven.
Did you know that the water that is used to make a cup of tea is very important in maximizing a tea's taste? But, who has the best water? Tap water (hopefully filtered) with low mineral content creates the best cup of tea. Where in American can you enjoy the best natural tea water? If you are in New York, Seattle or San Francisco, be sure to check out a local tea shop as their water reins supreme. Here at home in Toronto, our mineral content varies from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and we rank somewhere in the mid to low range. But, if you are in Phoenix Arizona, you may want to skip tea drinking until you get back home as they are ranked the worst place to drink a cup of tea. Look also to obtain the freshest, clearest running water to maximize your tea drinking experience.
Okay, now that we have discussed water, let's discuss tea leaves. It took a while for the Chinese to perfect the making of tea and this started in the early Hun and Tang Dynasties. As tea making evolved, during the Tang to Song Dynasties, it became very fashionable to develop the skill of tea making and contests became a very popular pass time and preoccupation with society as a whole. During this time, the Japanese also developed their skills in making Matcha tea. But it was not until the Ming Dynasty that they figured out how to control the rate of oxidation and this is when loose leaf teas including oolongs, floral and scented teas were developed into the crafted product that we enjoy today. The tea leaves all start out the same. It is how the tea is processed that determines its type and to a large extent, its price.
During my recent studies, we sat and enjoyed teas from the Meng Ding region of China amongst others. These teas were purchased from the seven cups website. Please see the link below to purchase their teas online. They also offer tea tours in China which is touted to be the latest hot new tourism experience.
I have listed in order of least oxidation, tea choices offered in fine shops across the country:
White Tea - This is the least oxidized tea made mainly of leaf buds. Look for teas made in the Fujian Province as they are deemed to have perfected their skill in making this very high end tea. I would suggest trying "The Tea House" at Yonge & Bloor in Toronto for its fine white tea blends amongst many other tea blends.
Green Teas - The second least oxidized tea. Leaf will have some degree of green colour and often has herbaceous notes. My favourite tea is Green Tea Dragon Well Long Jing 1st Grade (2009) from the Chinese Tea Culture Canada Inc. Unit price cost is $24.00 for a small bag which is about double of most high end teas but in my opinion, worth it. This is described as China's most famous tea and, it is considered the epitome of pan-fried. I would recommend it if your searching for a cup that says, Ahhhhhhh.....
Can be found at: www.c-TEA-ca.com
Yellow Tea - A very special low oxidized tea which few tea purveyors have perfected. Implies a special tea processed similarly to green tea, but with a slower drying phase.
Oolong - Made with a unique firing process which is very labour intensive to make and requires upwards of 30 hours per batch. This tea is special because the leaves can be brewed over and over again before they lose their flavour. In fact, they say to pour the first steep down the sink and drink the second steep. Tea leaves are thicker and more leathery in appearance than other loose leaf varieties. They may be rolled into balls or may be available in a full leaf.
Black Tea - One of the best teas to make flavoured tea blends in my opinion and is the highest oxidized tea available. If you live in Toronto, I was advised to try "The Tea Leaf" at Bayview Village - if you enjoy Lavender, Rose and Jasmine, their Bouquet Blend mixed with black assam is devine.
Pu-erh - A specialty tea described as the "champagne" of teas, unique to China and known for its aging process. This tea is often collected in the same way as people who source out fine wines and good cigars. Usually sold in compressed cakes. Originally produced for the Tibet market. 100% organic and known to be produced from wild tree plants.
See also on line, Les Banks story and his website of teas.
I would like to suggest Costco for buying tea as a gift. You can get a set of three vacuum packed tins which include a diffuser. The first tin is Yunnan full leaf black tea. The second is Dao Ren Mao Feng full leaf green tea from their spring harvest and the third is a tin of Jasmine Green tea which is scented with natural jasmine flowers ---enjoy. To add a rose taste to black tea, I would suggesting buying a bag of loose rose hips at T & T on Cherry Street. A small handful will do it.
If tea bags are more your style, Costco offers a bamboo container of flavours of tea by Starbucks. Home Sense offers a very elegant tea chest from Touch Organic with a wood box and eight flavours They also have a tea bag chest for $20.00 with the brand name of The Connoisseur's Favorite.
I would be delighted if readers would like to share their favourite teas and where you have found them wherever it is that you live, please attach your comments to our blog. I would be happy to report your choice selections on to our fine tea readers.
Until next time we sip together...
Post and Photo Credits by Tracey
Post and Photo Credits by Tracey