Tea Blog

New Season New Teas

We see this every year, the sun comes out, the temperature rises and like magic people are buying fruity, lighter teas in the spring.

Fruity Teas

For the same reason we crave hearty, heavy soups in the colder months, our bodies yearn for teas blended with fruit as the days grow longer and temperatures rise. Teas that earlier gave us comfort, like a rich chai, are pushed to the back of the shelf, making room for stone fruit blends with peach and apricot. Elderberry’s tang sounds uplifting and fresh as spring folds into summer.

Green Tea

Fruity green tea grows more popular as spring rolls into summer. Greens offer a fresh approach to tea. Green tea is as close as possible to the tea leaf off the bush. It’s minimally processed, and heat is applied to the leaf (called “kill green”) in order to prevent further oxidation of the leaf. Green tea naturally offers antioxidant attributes. These come in the form of epigallocatechin gallate, EGCG, or plant compounds called catechins. Benefits of EGCG can include anti inflammation, heart and circulation health, and other free radical fighting benefits.

Perhaps your body’s craving for green is also craving the added benefits of a healthy body.

Light Tea

Green and fruity teas tend to have a lighter body than a rich black or chai blend. Many of our herbals, or botanicals, also lend themselves to a lighter mouthfeel and body. Try a green tea you’ve never had before. Perhaps you are more of a single origin kind of person, you want a clean fresh flavor. Or maybe you’d rather try a green blend, built up with floral and fruit notes. Listen to your body, it might just know that it craves a variety of tea and it’s time to switch it up in the spring!

The Tea Shelf

Embrace these tea flavor urges by keeping your spring teas close. The occasional spring shower may have you reaching towards the back of the shelf, but keep your fresh, bright fruity teas near!

Written by Heather Kreilick

Yerba Maté – A South American Beverage with Caffeine

Yerba Maté (Ilex paraguariensis)

If you love botanicals, but still want a boost of caffeine, yerba maté may be for you! Yerba maté is herbal, but has plenty of caffeine to fuel you through your day. Read more information on this botanical form of caffeine and how to incorporate it into your tea-drinking routine!

Origins & Traditions

Yerba maté is the dried leaves harvested from an evergreen tree native to South American Atlantic rainforests. It is primarily harvested by yerbateros (cultivators) on small farms in Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. In Argentina, “yerba mate” originally translated as “the gourd herb”, i.e. the herb one drinks from a gourd. It is also known as ka’a (“herb”) by the indigenous Guarani people who first used it. 

Traditionally, after mate leaves are dried and ground, a dried hollowed calabash gourd is filled with the leaves and hot water. Using a special metal straw (or bombilla), the caffeine-rich, stimulating tea is drunk with close friends or family in a rotating fashion. Take a sip and pass it on! The brewer gives the gourd to each person, often in a circle. The recipient gives thanks, drinks the few mouthfuls in the container, and then returns the mate to the brewer, who refills it and passes it to the next person in clockwise order. 

In southern Chile, the ritual differs a bit. The recipient does not give thanks until he or she is done drinking. This strong social and cultural tradition brings people together and creates community. Being offered maté is a sign of respect, and in many instances an important precursor to making new friends on the road. 

Maté Properties

Yerba maté leaves contain 24 different vitamins and minerals, alkaloids, 15 amino acids and abundant polyphenols, making it a highly nourishing caffeinated beverage! The 85 mg of caffeine in a cup of maté (and several other chemicals) stimulate the brain, heart, and muscles lining the blood vessels. The average caffeine quantity of a cup of maté is less than coffee, but more than black tea. 

“Stimulating like coffee, euphoric like chocolate, and with the health benefits of tea”, yerba maté is not for the faint of heart. It is a tonic, laxative diuretic, and muscle relaxant, and can reduce appetite. It is also said to increase intellectual vigor. Some say it helps with diabetes, lowering blood sugar if taken regularly. Similar attitudes believe it can help lower LDL cholesterol or “bad” cholesterol. 

As with all herbs, moderation is best. Refrain from consuming maté if you are pregnant, nursing, or have sleep issues. Caffeine also slows blood clotting, so people with bleeding disorders should avoid it. Overall, maté should not be consumed in large amounts due to its high caffeine content. 

Flavor Profile & Fun Blends

When yerba maté leaves are harvested, they are often dried by a wood fire, imparting a smoky flavor. This roasty-ness is the main flavor that maté is known for! Maté also has the ability to get rather bitter if steeped for a long time. However, this bitterness is what some crave when drinking maté, whereas others may want to steep it for a shorter period or use fewer leaves when brewing to limit its bitter flavor. 

Yerba maté adds layers of flavor to tea blends! Its herb-like taste fits well with other botanicals, and its kick of caffeine can also be beneficial. Blends we incorporate yerba maté in are: Beat the Snot out of You, Spicy Yerba Chai, Have a Headache?, and Sabertooth Green. Of course, we sell straight yerba maté too! 

Written by: Greta de la Montagne, edited by: Boo Curry and Heather Kreilick

Tea Tips

Welcome to the world of premium, loose-leaf tea. Making tea is very simple, and there are a few nuances to be aware of.

Water, Temperature, Time, & Storage

Water The Chinese say, “Water is the mother of tea.” Good water can elevate the taste of bad tea, and poor water can diminish good tea flavor. Depending on your location, filtered water is typically best.

Temperature & Time Brew black, dark and most oolongs at just under a boil (200°F to 212°F). Tea should never taste bitter or harsh. If it does, try cooler water or a shorter steep. A thermometer can help, but it’s not necessary.

Try brewing green and white tea (~ 170°F) when your kettle starts to rumble, but before the sound deepens. You can also let boiled water sit for a few minutes, or add a little cold water. If you experiment and then note how your tea responds, you’ll find your method.

Most botanicals (also known as herbal) prefer boiling (212°F) water. The flavor intensifies with time, so steeping time can vary depending on your preference. Some botanicals improve the longer they steep. Follow your taste buds.

Steeping Device Loose leaf tea will expand while steeping, so use a vessel with plenty of space, you’ll get a better flavor. Try steeping more than once: many teas are good for two or more steeps, even some large-leaf black teas.

Storage Light and air degrade tea quality. Press the air out of your storage bag, your tea will stay fresh longer.

Tea Basics

All proper tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. Variation in flavor develops with a) the climate and soil of different growing regions and b) how the tea is processed: black, oolong, green, white, and Puerh teas. The concept around the flavor of tea and why it varies is called terroir.

Caffeine All tea has caffeine, although the less-oxidized teas (green, white), which steep up best at a cooler temperature, will have less. Most caffeine is released in the first 30 seconds of steeping, so if you want to reduce your caffeine intake, you can pour off a first, short steep and then brew again as usual.  

Single-origin A single tea from just one tea farm is referred to as a single origin tea and offers its own unique flavor. A few of our tea blends, like our breakfast teas, combine single-origin teas. Other blends add botanicals, spices, fruit, and natural flavoring to evoke different exciting flavors.  

Rooibos Red tea, or Rooibos, and its cousin Honeybush grow exclusively in a region of South Africa. Both steep up full-bodied and deliver high levels of antioxidants, but without the caffeine. Many of our favorite herbal blends use these as a base.

Botanicals The rest of the tea world—botanicals (herbal and caffeine-free)—is vast and complex: anything you can pour hot water on! Many flowers and herbs have their own long history and lore, which means there’s always another tea you haven’t tried yet.

Written by Nathan Bendickson

“Mellow” like Marshmallow

Althaea officinalis, Malvaceae family (Mallow family) 

When looking for a soothing and healing plant to add to your arsenal of healing herbs, look no further than marshmallow. Marshmallow was used medicinally for centuries by the Arabs, Greeks, and Romans, and is used today as food, tea and medicine by herbalists. 

Marshmallow owes its wide acceptance and usage to its gentle nature and healing properties. Its genus name, Althaea, derives from the Greek altho (“to cure”), and the family name Malvaceae comes from the Greek word “malake” which means “soft”. Both names reiterate marshmallow’s ability to heal and soothe. 

Mothering Marshmallow 

This plant is an easy growing tall perennial that blooms pale pink blossoms in late spring to early summer. The fresh young leaves and whole seed pods are edible. In countries where crop failures bring famine, marshmallow (and the mallows in general), is an important food for subsistence. 

Both the leaves and root are also used as soothing agents in traditional herbalism. The leaves, flowers, and whole plant have milder properties and can be used interchangeably. Most often, however, the plant’s roots are used as the main source of medicine. Mallow roots are the most potent medicinally and contain 25%-40% mucilage (the active soothing agent) in the fall. Herbalists rely on marshmallow root for subduing inflammation and irritation of the esophagus, stomach and intestines, and urinary and respiratory organs. Drinking marshmallow coats the stomach lining with its mucilage and has a relaxing effect on the body’s internal passages. 

Marshmallow Goodness

Marshmallow root was historically used in – guess what – the first marshmallows! The first marshmallow-like dessert originated in France. The sweet concoction mixed marshmallow root, rose water and meringue. Today, an authentic French confectioner’s paste, pâté de guimauve, is still made from the roots of the marshmallow.

Our Teas with Marshmallow

We love to blend with marshmallow root, as it offers a smooth, unobtrusive taste and wonderful health benefits. Our Sweet Rhapsody, Follow Your Bliss, No Thyme for Cold & Flu, and Zen Cleanse feature this soothing root. Marshmallow root brings a malty sweetness, making it well suited for our herbal concoctions. Truly, nothing says “mellow” like marshmallow. 

Written by: Greta de la Montagne  Edited by: Heather Kreilick and Boo Curry

References:

Herbal Medicine by Rudolf Fritz Weiss, MD; Culpeper’s Color Herbal ed. Sterling; Textbook of Modern Herbology by Terry Willard, PhD; The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics by H.W.Felter, MD; Herbal Medicine from the Heart of the Earth by Sharol Tilgner, ND; Health Secrets of Medicinal Herbs by Michelle Mairesse; Herbs; Partners in Life by Adele G. Dawson