Tea Blog

Bodo Black Assam Selected in Tea Time Magazine

We are thrilled to have our Bodo Black Assam featured in “our favorites” in Tea Time magazine (Sept / Oct 2017 issue).  From Bodoland in Assam, India, this black tea is hearty with a sweet edge.  We serve it hot and cold, by the cup and by the bag.  Both of our Bodo Assam teas, we carry a black and a green, have the first ever Elephant FriendlyTM certification.  Besides being excellent tea, purchas of this tea in part goes to elephant conservation in Assam, India.

It’s worth mentioning that another tea we carry, the Colombian Andean Princess, was featured with Capital Teas.  It’s reassuring to know our tea selection is exemplary.

Thank you to Tea Time magazine for recognizing these fabulous black teas coming from great farms.

Faces in Tea – meet Joyce

Joyce is our tea source in Yunnan, China.  All of our ancient tea tree tea comes from Joyce and her family.  Joyce is Taiwanese and married into a tea family.  She and her husband own tea farms in Taiwan, Thailand, and Yunnan.  She graciously hosted us and took time out of her busy schedule when we visited the tea farm in China.  The Chinese government asked Joyce and her husband to manage the ancient tea tree tea farm.  They are widely respected for the quality of tea they produce and their stewardship to the farms they run. We are fortunate to carry such premium teas in Missoula, Montana.

Learn more about the teas we get from Joyce.

White tea cools in the summer heat

White tea has a subtle, sweet flavor profile with many health benefits. It is the least produced of all teas, basically it’s picked and whithered until it dries.   Stories say white tea was reserved for emperors and high ranking officials because of its short harvest time and it often (not always) consisits purely of buds. Infuse white tea in small volumes to bring out its subtlety. It also counteracts excessive heat and menopause and provides a high level of antioxidants.

Yin Zen (Silver Needles) is one type of white tea and is made from the buds of the tea plant.  The silver white “hairs” on the leaf give this tea its name.  The buds of the tea plant are sweeter and have more caffeine than the rest of the plant.

Yin Zhen became famous during the Song Dynasty around 1000 years ago.  A number of legends arose around it, including that it was only harvested on nights of a full moon, or only by naked young girls or virgins, or only harvested with scissors of gold.

Buy White Tea      Buy Yin Zhen Silver Needles

Chilled tea around the world & at Lake Missoula Tea Company

Every culture likes their iced teas prepared a little differently. Iced tea popularity parallels with the arrival of the refrigerator in each country. For example in China it only became popular in the late 1980’s because of an introduction of a more open market. Cooled tea was already popular throughout ancient times but refrigerated tea was only available to those with political connections.

Tea prices actually dropped* due to iced tea’s popularity. Other countries started growing more tea.  The demand created competition with China which was the main source of tea during that time.

Japan has one of the most important cold tea markets in the world (mostly unsweetened) and it’s readily available  on street corners and vending machines.

Thailand has their own version of iced teas and it’s commonly known as Thai Tea. With a base of black tea, they add sugar and sweetened condensed milk.

South Korea uses green tea and mugicha, roasted barley, as their staple for chilled teas.

In the U.S., ice tea makes up about 85% of all tea consumed.  80% is black tea and 16% green tea.

Most countries and cultures use bagged tea like Lipton or Nestle for iced tea due to price and availability.

The cookbook with the first printed recipe for chilled tea dates back to the 1840’s from Kentucky.  The trend exploded in 1904 when Richard Blechynden served Indian black iced tea due to hot temperatures at the World Fair in St. Louis.

In the south, everyone assumes tea is sweetened. As a joke, Georgia introduced a 2003 bill stating all Georgian restaurants that serve tea needed to serve sweet tea.

At Lake Missoula Tea Company, we make chilled tea.  Chilled tea is made hot and then chilled in the refrigerator.  The cold brings out the various flavors and is refreshing on a hot day.

*sourced from npr.com

written by Lauren Donat

What’s subtly sweet & highly fragrant? Yes, Jasmine Tea!

If you’ve had Jasmine, you know it’s subtly sweet and highly fragrant.  Not only is pleasing to the nose and tongue, but it is said to have several health benefits:

  • heart health – helps unclog arteries while lowering bad cholesterol and fatty acids
  • rich with antioxidants and polyphenol (EGCG)
  • considered (not proven) that Jasmine tea has anticancer properties (specifically esophageal cancer)
  • common known benefits of this flower are the anti anxiety properties
  • help with weight loss

Jasmine tea cultivation generally starts in June and only last a few months. The more traditional method is placing the flowers in basket trays layered over the tea leaves (typically green and white) and left for four hours in what they call “scenting houses”. This absorbs the fragrance and flavor of the jasmine flowers.  As you might imagine, this is an intricate and delicate process. Higher grades of jasmine tea can repeat this process up to seven times to get the most flavor.

The flower is speculated to originate in Persia (now Iran) and in the Himalayan mountains in China.  Jasmine is very popular in many countries.  It is valued for symbols of marriage, religious ceremonies, and festivals in many nations and religions.

We carry 3 deliscious jamsine teas:  Jasmine Green, Jasmine Pearls, and Jasmine Puerh.

by Lauren Donat

Jasmine traditional flower ceremony
Jasmine traditional flower ceremony
jasmine flowers
jasmine flowers
Wesham Tea Farm God of Good Fortune
Wesham Tea Farm God of Good Fortune

Flowering Teas – get your Double Happiness at Lake Missoula Tea Company

Flowering, or blooming, tea consists of a bundle of tea leaves wrapped and bound around dried flowers. It is considered an art of folding tea in some circles.  The flowering tea is often purposefully unlabeled so that people will not know what to expect when the tea leaves unfurl.

Some teas are assembled and hand sewn by artisans and is referred to as performance or decorative tea. Blooming teas are often made in Yunnan, China. Flowers commonly used are globe amaranth, chrysanthemum, jasmine, lily, hibiscus, and omanthus. The possibilities are endless.

Our Double Happiness tea has a two chrysanthemum, one amaranth globe, and jasmine flowers hand wrapped in Chinese green tea.  The Double Happiness is brewed in a glass pot so you can watch it blossom.

written by Lauren Donat

flowering tea
image by Geneva Liimatta
image by Geneva Liimatta

A tea company in Missoula, Montana visits London

A tea company in Missoula, Montana visits London – yes, we travelled to London to see what the response would be to our Kenyan Hand Rolled Purple and Beliote Black teas as well as our Bodo Black Assam Elephant Friendly TM tea from India.  Folks at the trade show loved the taste of our tea and we made loads of contacts.

After the trade show, we wanted to get a sense of the tea scene in London (and potential buyers).  We got a lead on two tea shops similar to our tea company – Postcard Teas and Yumchaa.  Tim of Postcard Teas is recognized as an expert in fine, loose, Asian teas and we had two oolongs on the house.  Postcard Teas was cozy and intimate and reminded us of our tea bar where folks enter as strangers and leave as friends.

Our next stop was Yumchaa (yummy tea), which has a several shops around London.  Yumchaa was hip and  a good place to sit down and catch up on email while drinking tea and eating a pastry.  Like Postcard Teas, Yumchaa saw the gap in loose leaf tea in London and grew from market stand to brick and mortor.

Subsequent stops in pubs and restaurants confirmed that London is otherwise loaded with tea, albeit in a bag.

Fine tuning our scone and tea service was another goal.  Finding an afternoon tea that wouldn’t break the daily food budget was harder than one might think.  I sought local wisdom from a gal in a thrift (charity shop) store to point me to a solid afternoon tea.  From her perspective, if the average bear in London wanted afternoon tea, this meant tea and cake in a cafe with a friend.  But, to get the experience I was after, I would need to go to a hotel, or high end department store with a cafe.  She suggested I look for vouchers online for the finer hotels.

After much online searching, we had a deliscious cream tea at our hotel.  We got ideas on how to enhance our scone service and were pleased to know we had a leg up on one thing – we don’t serve our whites and greens at boiling.

While we never made it into a real grocery store, we were able to pop into a health food store in Pimlico, where the tea was all tea bag options.  While tea permeates the London beverage scene, it’s not exaclty brimming with loose leaf.

Ideals Flourish in the Colombian Cloud Forest Tea Farm

When the mosquitos were bad Paulo pulled blades of citronella and gave us some to smear on our skin. He told us the citronella also protected the tea plants from insects. As the manager of the fully organic farm, Paulo is proficient in the ways different species work together for mutual benefit. Pesticides aren’t used on the tea farm so Paulo and his team rely on plants like citronella and the abundant bird population to protect the tea plants from insects.

The farm itself is tucked inside a nature reserve where tree removal is forbidden. To expand the treeline, Paulo and his team nurture young ones until they are strong enough to be planted in the farm or made available to the public.  As we walked through rows of saplings in the nursery, I thought about the three tenets of the farm’s mission: sustainable farming, social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. I wondered how many companies that claim these values actually fulfill them?

The plantation is so healthy more species of animals live on it than in the surrounding forest. The company’s efforts to restore the neighboring river, the water source for the farm and the locals, have been recognized by a German organization that is investing in its continued decontamination. The tea farm has in fact had a positive impact on the local ecosystem and environment.

Paulo led us up a ravine and through the overgrowth to an expanse of leafy tea bushes. The pickers plucked at impressive speed. Each wore a hat and mask to protect them from mosquitos. They carried baskets in front instead to protect their backs. As effortless as they make it seem, their work is hard. They are standing all day with backs bent, sweat dripping off their noses, mosquitoes whirring in their ears, and snakes sunbathing in the nearby bushes.

These employees receive a standard wage so they have greater security (common practice on tea plantations is to pay pickers by the bushel). They live in the town encircling the farm and their children attend the schools the tea company helps support.  The wonderful Sonia, who manages these projects, later showed us around the schools. She introduced us to the kids who playfully yelled random English words at us. Some of the programs the company sponsors are computer classes and environmental classes for which they’ve hired teachers and supplied computers.

We walked to town at sunset – trying to avoid death by moto. Music spilled into the street where smiling women braided their daughters’ hair and middle-aged men in plastic lawn chairs drank and teased each other.

In other places I visited in Colombia, I saw people finish their bag of chips and toss the empty plastic behind them. I took long bus rides with schoolchildren on their daily commute to distant cities and later saw them doing homework in internet cafes. Against this backdrop, the tea farm’s commitments to environmental and social sustainability seem radical, especially when you remember that it is tea that made it all possible!

written by Christina Bovinette

A Tea Farm in Coffee Land Colombia

Coffee is king in Colombia, but some folks in Colombia are trying to make tea queen.  In the supermarkets tea options are skimpy. You will find a lot of herbal tea bags and maybe, if you’re lucky, one lone box of green tea.  During a month of travel I witnessed “tea” drinking only once and that was a lemongrass and mint infusion.

So, why start a tea farm in coffee country?

In 1946, the government of Colombia wanted to diversify agriculture and received the first tea plants. The mile high elevation, with its rapidly changing weather and naturally rich soil, made the Llanos family’s land ideal for tea. At first, the Llanos wanted to begin the tried and true path to success through coffee cultivation but one of the Llano sons pushed for tea. He had lived in England and developed a taste for tea.

Over the past 55 years the company has slowly carved out a foothold in the Colombian market with herbal tea bags and recently has broken into the domestic and international scene with fine loose leaf varieties (Cloud Forest Green, Andean Princess Black).

We got to see the present day operations with a new state-of-the-art tea processing facility with plenty of space for expansion. In our minds, their future is secure because one thing is abundantly clear, the tea tastes good and stands up next to its Eastern counterparts. But they have a lot of work to do by way of shifting the collective tea drinkers’ consciousness from the old world heavyweights of China, India, Japan. If Chile and Argentina could establish an independent wine culture from their European forebearers, then why not Colombian tea?

Selling this tea in Missoula, Montana shows we recommend its flavor profile – it’s a good tea! – but it’s more than that. After experiencing the culture and community that supports it, standing behind this farm tucked away in the Colombian cloud forest is our pleasure.

Written by Christina Bovinette

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