Tea Blog

Puerh Tea and the Ancient Tea Horse Trade Route

Long ago, a trade routes existed between China and other Asian cultures called the ancient tea horse trade route.  Tibet was one of China’s primary trade partners.  The ancient tea horse road was a network of caravan trails and roads that spread across Tibet and southwestern China, mostly in the provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan.  Inf fact, sections of these ancient trails persist today

The main commodity being transported was Tibetan horses and Chinese puerh dark tea. The people of Tibet needed the tea for certain nutrients that they couldn’t otherwise get through their regular diets.  China was growing its army and needed the Tibetan horses to continue their military campaigns. Puerh tea was almost exclusively developed for transportation to far away destinations.  The puerh would often arrive in bricks of compressed tea leaves.

There are different methods to make puerh but the standard are Sheng and Shou and they go through a pan firing and drying process.  The tea is fermented (quickly is called Shou, over a long period of time is Sheng) and then compressed or left loose.  Sheng/raw Shou/ripe, bingcha, toucha and brick (Zhuancha) are some of the most common shapes and styles of compressed puerh.

To be called puerh, the tea must be grown in Yunnan.  Most sought after puerh comes from wild tea trees. The unique makeup of the wild tea trees gives the tea a deeper and more complex flavors, often with camphor notes from the camphor trees that grow in the same environment.  Puerh is perfect to be served Gongfu style as the taste evolves with each steep.

Written by Uriah Kreilick and Gunilla Gillette

Nuxalbari Tea Estate – Haven for Elephants

This from Sonia Jabbar, owner of Nuxalbari Tea Estate in Darjeeling District, India:

“Yesterday the Forest Dept. staff drove this herd of around 32 elephants out of Tukriajhar Forest. Chased by villagers, they ran into Nuxalbari and visibly relaxed once they entered. Our security was ready and safe passage ensured. But the elephants did not run further. They stayed in Section LB5E near the stream, bathing, foraging and relaxing until 10 PM. We watched from afar, delighting in the antics of the babies under the moonlight. Then they moved out to our eastern boundary into UCC Forest.”

Lake Missoula Tea Company is a proud purchaser of Nuxalbari Teas. In fact, when you buy any of our Earl Grey teas, including Earl Grey Blue, and our other flavored black blends, you support Nuxalbari’s efforts to create a safe haven for elephants. We encourage you to use this consumer power to forward the work Nuxalbari Tea Estate does for elephants.

For more information on teas from this estate, visit: https://lakemissoulateacompany.com/nu… This video is the property of Nuxalbari Tea Estate and Lake Missoula Tea Company was given permission to use this video.

Stress Less! and Adaptogenic Herbs

Learn about what herbs help your body deal with stress. Learn how adaptogens help build you immunity while at the same time strengthen your stamina and endurance to what life brings you. Several tea blends have these adaptogens in them and are blended to strengthen your body when it interacts with stress.

Thank you to Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) for making this video!

Tea Makes You Smarter – Study Shows

A study published in Aging states that “habitual tea drinking has positive effects on brain organization and gives rise to greater efficiency in functional and structural connectivity”.  All you tea drinkers already knew this!  The study further states that tea helps with cognitive function, mood and circulation.  This doesn’t happen over night.  Many of the study participants drank tea for 25 years or more.

One of the authors of the study compared the positive effects of drinking tea to that of driving on a road.  You can take a clear route or one that twists and turns.  Tea helps the brain build clear paths.  The cranial cocktail of L theanine, caffeine and antioxidants work together.  The effect is a more efficient, happy and healthy, smarter you.

As if you needed another reason to drink more tea.  Hats off to camelia sinensis and all of the tea we love to drink.  From this formidable plant comes so many tea choices- green tea, white tea, oolong tea, dark tea, yellow tea and black tea!  Drink tea daily and drink quality tea.  You just might find your step a little lighter and arriving earlier than everyone else with a smile on your face.

Read more about this at:

Scientists have found a new benefit of drinking tea for the brain

And a lot more about it in Aging at:

Habitual tea drinking modulates brain efficiency: evidence from brain connectivity evaluation

Stress Less with Adaptogenic Ashwagandha, Perspectives from a Clinical Herbalist

Ingredients: Ashwagandha*, Schisandra*, Cacao nibs*, Tulsi holy basil (Rama, Vana and Krishna)*, Orange peel*, Passionflower*, Butterfly pea flower,  *organic.

Stress Less is crafted with support for your immunity and adrenal glands in mind!

Regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs enhances the body’s capacity to maintain balance in the midst of a variety of stressors, of which there are many!  Overexposure to stress hormones can cause serious and long-lasting disruptions to the body’s primary biochemical processes. Adaptogens support our adrenal cortex in responding to the stresses of our modern lifestyles. Certain phytochemicals in these herbs give both the mind and body a deep, sustaining energy.

The Western term “adaptogen” defines herbs that help “protect the body against physical, mental and emotional stress by strengthening the immune system”. Consumption of adaptogenic herbs can reduce the occurrence of lifestyle-induced chronic diseases, as has been known and well-utilized in traditional cultures.  Scientific research into adaptogenic herbs confirms the protection of organs and tissues from the mounting physical, chemical, metabolic and psychological stresses of our modern world. 

The three “heavy hitters” in this tea blend are Ashwagandha, Schisandra and Tulsi:

Ashwagandha is a leading traditional Ayurvedic herb, in recorded use for over 6,000 years.  (Ayurveda is the world’s first recorded medical system and remains intact and thriving today.) The people credited with broadly introducing Ayurvedic herbs to westerners were my teachers Dr. Vasant Lad, and Dr. David Frawley, who published “The Yoga of Herbs”  in 1986.  Ashwagandha holds a place in the Ayurvedic pharmacology similar to Ginseng in Chinese Medicine.  It is less expensive and is fairly simple to cultivate, not needing specific habitat types like the undisturbed Eastern Hardwood forests required by our threatened Wild American Ginseng. In this regard, it is a great alternative to wild-harvested Ginseng. See the monograph farther below for details on all the wonderful qualities Ashwagandha can impart. 

Schisandra is an important and popular herb in Chinese Medicine, and is also eaten as a fruit. If you steep Stress Less long enough, or repeatedly like the Eastern style of steeping, you will taste the pleasantly sour tang of Schisandra which is the only herb possessing all 5 flavors! It has a long recorded history of increasing energy and mental and physical performance and endurance, as well increasing as our resistance to stress, in classic Adaptogen fashion. It normalizes blood pressure, and blood sugar and stimulates the immune system.  The phytochemicals in Schisandra improve liver function by stimulating enzymes in the liver and promoting cell growth. In this regard, we can say Schisandra helps the liver clear the body of stress hormones. 

Tulsi (Holy Basil) is known in Ayurveda as “The Incomparable One” and revered as one of those Elixers of Life that is “without equal for it’s medicinal and spiritual properties”. Tulsi acts as a buffer against physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, exposure to cold and excessive noise-a great herb for northern city dwellers!  Tulsi has been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels. Further, Tulsi relieves psychological stress through its anxiolytic and anti-depressant properties, and improves memory and cognitive function. Tulsi is used in daily rituals, an important component of a daily spiritual practice grounded in ancient knowledge.  Even further, Tulsi possesses broad-spectrum antimicrobial action, so not only will it pacify your stress response, it will kill bad bugs that are out to get you! 

Enjoy this tea regularly.  It will help you cruise through stressful times, be ready for the cold impacts of winter, and adapt to the physical stress of athletic efforts.  Specifically blended with herbs that will nourish, nurture and protect our vital organs, Stress Less Tea is tasty and effective at all temperatures and can be drank daily.  Add a splash of blueberry juice and leave Survival Mode behind!  

Small children under 6 should not be served this tea in quantity, as Ashwagandha is a builder of tissue and their bodies are already busy doing just that! 

Ingredient overview: 

Ashwagandha or Winter Cherry (Withania somnifera) is a rejuvenative root, strengthening to the body and mind. It is in the Solanaceae family, or Nightshade. Primarily used for treating exhaustion and simple overwork, Ashwagandha is recorded in the ancient Ayurvedic sutras and texts to “give the vitality of a horse”. It nourishes the tissues of muscle, fat, bone, marrow and nerve and reproductive systems. It is indicated for general debility, overwork, sexual debility, nerve exhaustion, convalescence, old age, loss of muscle energy, insomnia, fatigue, and infertility.  It helps stabilize the fetus, regenerates the hormonal system and can be used externally on wounds and sores. It is calming and promotes deep, dreamless sleep.

Schisandra (Schizandra sinensis), the quintessential tonic herb, possesses all of the 5 flavors: salty, sour, bitter, sweet and umami (savory). Schizandra is an herb that “does it all”, protecting the primary energies of life. 

Tulsi holy basil (Ocimum sanctum, tenuiflorum) an aromatic shrub in the basil family, is anti-inflammatory and is full of antioxidants.  Holy Basil mitigates the damaging effects of stress and anxiety by helping us relax. All three Holy Basils used together are one of the best ways to reduce cortisol, your body’s primary stress hormone. 

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is used to treat anxiety and insomnia.  When blended with these other herbs, it will promote restful and deeply nourishing sleep.  It promotes an increased level of GABA in the brain, a compound that lowers brain activity. 

Cacao (Thoeobroma cacao) nibs are unroasted and superior to cocoa powder, which is heated at high temperatures, killing the living enzymes. Cacao is high in potassium and rich in polyphenols which increase blood flow to the brain.  

Orange (Citrus sp.) peel is immune boosting and tasty, and high in terpenes and Vitamin C.

Butterfly pea flower (Clitoria ternatea)  adds color to the steeped tea.

Written by Greta de la Montagne, our herbalist consultant.  Read more about Greta.

Tea in Lunch Boxes – a Bottle of Love and a Healthy Drink for Kids

Here in Missoula, Montana, we’re lucky to live in an area that prioritizes tasty, nutritious, affordable ‘hot’ school lunches. That being said, I have always felt that packed lunches are a true expression of love.

Like a lot of opinions, this one is probably a product of my childhood. Growing up, my mom always packed our lunches and would often include a note (‘Good luck on your fractions test, you are a math STAR!’). We had a lot of sandwiches on homemade bread, soups in thermoses, and occasionally one of my Dad’s famous Finnish pasties but never, and I mean NEVER, juice boxes. Even in the 80’s my Mom knew intuitively that fruit was best consumed in whole-fruit-form. Juice wasn’t much better than sugar-water – a concept now echoed by countless studies and bevy of posters on our pediatrician’s walls.

Time passed, I grew up and had children of my own. When I packed lunches for them, I soon realized that while sandwiches, soups, and Finnish pasties were all winning options, water was probably not going to cut it for us. Time and time again my daughter would return from school with a full water bottle. Completely full! I started worrying that she wasn’t getting enough to drink and nobody is at their best when they’re dehydrated. Hmm… I needed something too tempting to resist.  Something she would actually look forward to drinking. What about tea? Yes! She loved it! And I loved the fact that I was giving her something that was both hydrating and healthy.

So far her favorites include Turmeric Twirl, Rooibos Rose and Honey Bear (which, it turns out, is a firm favorite tea among many of the kiddos we know). Surprise, surprise – she prefers her tea with a spoonful of local honey (which, conveniently, is said to boost immunity and help with allergies).  She happily drinks it plain as well. She drinks it warm or cold out of a thermos we found at the Goodwill.

I took my mom’s love-packed lunch template and tweaked it slightly. I upgraded the plain water to tea, a drink that manages to appeal to us both. And of course, I always include the note because sometimes there’s room for improvement but we all know there can be no improving on perfection.

Written by Geneva Ristau.  Geneva is a guest writer for Lake Missoula Tea Company, professional food photographer, and co-founder of One Acre Films.

This Green Tea Improves with Age

I opened our recent shipment of Heritage Green last week and was surprised by what I saw.  The leaf was big and leafy and a very bright green.  A fluorescent green.  This was different from the tighter, darker leaf of previous shipments.

We quickly whipped up a cup of both teas to compare the flavor.  The new, brighter green had a light, creamy taste.  Our current tea had a bolder, sweeter taste.  (Make no mistake, both of these teas are delicious!) I WhatsApped Jason, our tea source, to confirm we got the right tea.  I wanted to check that it as still coming from the Ancient Tea Trees, too.  Jason confirmed the new shipment was indeed from the Ancient Tea Trees.

He also shared a few other points with me about our recent shipment of Heritage Green that was a good reminder when thinking about tea.  The tea was picked in a different season, so the leaf color and flavor varied from previous pluckings.  He said that it is a characteristic of the Ancient Tea Trees for the flavor to enhance with age.  This makes sense.  As this shipment of green tea ages, it will darken and the flavor will become more complex and sweet.

These points about tea directly relate to the concept of terroir.  Terroir, as many of you know, is the concept that the flavor of a tea (like wine) is determined by where it comes from-the geography, soil, and culture, when it’s picked, and the climate.

Keep this in mind as you open a new bag of tea, the factors that affect terroir will impact the flavor from batch to batch.  Enjoy these nuances and appreciate that much thought and consideration goes into each cup your tea!

Is Rooibos Tea?

Many people ask, “what is rooibos exactly? I mean, is it a kind of tea?” Although rooibos (roy-boss) is often called redbush tea or bush tea, it does not come from the Asian evergreen bush, camellia sinensis, that produces tea. Rather, it is from the wonderfully woody, needle-like leaved South African bush, Aspalathus linearis.

Endemic to South Africa

So, no, it isn’t tea, however South Africans have been serving up this delicious leaf as a warm, steeped, tea-like beverage for centuries, especially when high tea prices push tea out of reach. Rooibos shares a similar step in processing with black tea – it is typically bruised and then oxidized, which gives it a rich red hue and bold spicy, woody, honey-like flavors. Unoxidized rooibos, green rooibos, has grassy, herbaceous flavors akin to green tea.

Caffeine-free

Unlike tea, it is caffeine-free and is popular as a caffeine-free alternative to coffee in lattes and other espresso drinks. Rooibos’ appeal as a tea and coffee alternative is matched by its wealth of health benefits, including:

  • free-radical fighting aspalathin and nothofagin.
  • anti-inflammatory flavanones, flavones, and flavanols attributed with fighting cancer and supporting skin, brain, and blood functioning.
  • minerals, such as zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron fluoride, and copper.

Give rooibos a try

Rooibos is a nice start if you want a new exploration into botanicals. We have it straight and in a variety of tasty blends that offer other health benefits. For a complex flavor, drink our Turmeric Twirl, with a rooibos base, complemented by ginger, turmeric, and clove and other delicious and nutritious ingredients.  Want a sweeter blend, and one that makes kids and adults alike smile?  Brew a cup of Honey Bear, with rooibos and bee pollen.

Can’t decide which rooibos to order, stop in at our tea bar the next time you’re in Missoula, Montana.  We carry an extensive list of over 15 blends of rooibos from which to choose.  See you soon!

by Lindsey Tucker

How Bitaco Tea Invests in its Community and Why

Bitaco Tea, a Model in Community Investment

My mother Heather and I recently boarded the “bare bone of flying” Spirit Airlines to Cali, Colombia.  Our mission was to learn about the only tea farm in Colombia – Bitaco Tea – and incorporate that knowledge back to our tea company in Missoula, Montana. While in Cali, we took two free walking tours around the city and ate the best plantain tortillas and fresh fruit ever. We stayed in San Antonio, the historic neighborhood, which is slightly perched above the city, giving us excellent views and plenty of walking opportunities. The fun didn’t stop there – we stayed at the tea farm guesthouse and explored the tea gardens.  We saw all of the great things the farm does and learned what they hope to do in the future.

Bitaco Tea takes many steps to lessen its impact on the land and support their employees. The company, owned by Carlotta Llano and her family, wishes to give more to the people than it takes. While a work in progress, as it will take many generations to perfect, they understand this needs to happen. They are leaders in sustainability. Their investment in community schools, safe learning centers for children, an active nursery for native plants, and water preservation for the tea farm and region prove this.

Bitaco Tea is invests in its people and community. They donated buildings and support a daycare and primary school for children whose parents work not only at the tea farm but also other jobs around the mountain. They teach the children to recycle and have a vegetable garden which they all work on together and then use the food for their meals at school. Their recycling building foundation is made with plastic jugs and bottles filled with micro trash to help clean up their community. While it’s up to the parents and their children to preserve the school and playground equipment, it’s important that they see it as their responsibility and are proud to own it. Every Saturday children of all ages are brought to the tea farm to participate in either a choir group, taekwondo, or painting and other art forms. While we were there, the choir performed an impressive and funny skit/song and sang their national anthem.

One of the first places that we visited was their native plants nursery. The native plants are hand-picked from the rainforest while they are still young and transferred to the nursery where workers take care of them until they are ready to be replanted – this time to a permanent home at one of the many village residences. The plants take the place of empty land and help reforest the region.

The tea company takes steps to preserve the spring fresh water that the town of Bitaco uses and the same sweet water that the tea farm uses. In recent years Bitaco noticed the spring water yielding less and less so their solution has been to dig out two large watering holes that will capture and fill so that they have a much larger on- hand supply. Their hope is that with these pools they will lessen their impact on the town of Bitaco and have their own supply built up for when water is less abundant.

Bitaco Tea does all this and more with the hopes that the town and the community will benefit from the tea farm. They want to be a positive impact and a leader in sustainable business for generations to come.  Lake Missoula Tea Company is proud to work with such a model tea company.

By Uriah Kreilick

International Women’s Day and Tea

Why is International Women’s Day important?  It’s an opportunity to recognize women in our personal and professional lives.  While women have always been an integral part of tea, their culture can often determine what a woman’s role in tea will be.  This year we took a snapshot of all the women we could find pictures of that impact Lake Missoula Tea Company.  They come from all over the globe and their roles are as varied as the places from which they come.  I’m sure we’ve left a few out, and we didn’t have photos of everyone.

  • Two of these women are the wives of tea farmers.  One of them sells their tea in her local shop and they both help process the tea.
  • One of these women helped bring Kenyan Purple to North America.  She has since passed away but her memory and enthusiasm stay with us.
  • Three women own tea shops, two in Taiwan and one in China.
  • Three of these women used to be tea tenders at our tea bar and still send ideas and teas back to the our shop.
  • One of these women received the Nari Shakti 2018 award from the Indian president for wildlife conservation on her tea estate.
  • Two women manage educational outreach programs for their tea farm communities.
  • One woman is our lead tea blender.
  • Two of these women recently became citizens of the United States, one we contract with and the other works directly in the tea shop.
  • One of these women is my kombucha consultant.
  • One is our online sales manager.
  • One is a physicist and our database lead.
  • Three run and or manage multi million dollar tea companies.
  • One is a tea picker.

All of these women have contributed to the success of Lake Misosula Tea Company.