Tea Blog

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.

How to choose a tea for your kombucha

So, you’ve discovered you love kombucha and you want to start making your own home brew? A key ingredient that is often overlooked but is so important to the flavor is the tea you choose.  There’s a ton of tea out there and picking just one  for your kombucha might seem intimidating. While we won’t tell you how to brew your kombucha, we can give you some solid advice on how to choose which teas to use.

Consider these tips to make the best tea selection for your kombucha:

  • Pick a tea you like. The tea is the base for your kombucha. Whether you do a second ferment or not, starting with a tea base you like is important.
  • Choose a tea your are comfortable brewing. When you make the tea for your kombucha, you should make it so it tastes good. We don’t recommend over brewing or making it too strong.   Your tea should be good enough to drink, whether you ferment it or not. Choose a tea you know how to brew – remember temperature and steeping time are two major factors when brewing tea.  We recommend 5g of loose leaf per 16 ounces of tea (or 40g per one gallon).
  • Quality tea often gives a “cleaner” taste.  Brewing with a quality tea improves your kombucha flavor. We have even found some teas are flavorful enough on their own so there is no second ferment needed.

Here are a few suggestions from our tea selection we have enjoyed brewing with:

Black –  Colombian BlackLet er Buck, Big Sky BlackSangamon
Green – Heritage GreenDragonwell
White – Pai Mu Tan
Puerh – Shou Puerh
Oolong – TieguanyinBlack Pearl

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong tea, and some might taste better to you than others. The tea you like is always the best one for your kombucha.

Note that wholesale discounts are available to kombucha companies.  Please contact [email protected] for more information.

written by Tashina and Heather Kreilick

Women in Tea Symbol

You might notice that we have different symbols on some of our bags of tea.  One of our symbols is our Women in Tea.  Bags with this symbol are teas that come from a farm that is woman owned and or managed.

One of our employees traveled to New Zealand where she learned the white camellia is the symbol of women’s suffrage.  In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to allow all women to vote. We borrowed their white camellia symbol and added a “W” to represent our women in tea concept.  This symbol recognizes women in both leadership and ownership roles at their farms in a male dominated industry.

New Directions for Tea in India

The seemingly impossible is happening at Nuxalbari Tea Estate in the Darjeeling District.  A woman is running this major tea operation in India.  She has paradigm shifting ideas for the people, animals and tea on her estate. Sonia Jabbar is responsible for the livelihoods of over 1,000 people who grow, pick and process tea on the 1,200 acre estate. Five years ago, she decided to transition to an organic farm and now has 200 acres of organic tea bushes. And she decided her estate would become an Elephant corridor.

Sonia’s management approach at Nuxalbari is collaborative and team centered. She’s not afraid to put women or men who were previously passed up into leadership positions.  Through lots of hard work and reflection on where the tea industry in India is headed, her vision is to produce larger quantities of premium loose-leaf teas for specialty markets and limit the amount of CTC tea they produce.

Sonia is committed to the environment and is planting 100 acres of rainforest for Elephants and other native wildlife. She started a children’s environmental education program called Hathi Sathi.  Through Hathi Sathi, the children of her staff understand the importance of living in an elephant corridor. Sonia has transformed her tea farm into an elephant sanctuary by educating her staff and their families on how to be calm around elephants. While we were there, she had a meeting with local farmers about Nuxalbari establishing an insurance program that would help them when the elephants eat their crops.

Sonia’s altruism is astounding.  This single mother to a little girl understands that all actions have reactions, and she is shooting for the moon in terms of protecting the environment and wild Asian elephants and implementing a sustainable development model providing better jobs and healthier people.

Watch as we bring in a new line of tea from Nuxalbari!  We anticipate tea arriving in November.

We thank Lisa Mills with Certified Elephant FriendlyTM, a program under Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, for introducing us to Sonia.  This introduction gave us the opportunity to learn more about the complexities of the Indian tea market and the many challenges Asian Elephants face in the 21st century.

Leopards, Elephants, Cobras and Tea, Oh My, Elephant Friendly Certification

Bodoland, Assam, India-Heather and I traveled to India during monsoon season. Water from the Himalayas blanket the steamy jungles, rice paddies and tea farms. It takes little exertion to sweat – heat and humidity – perfect growing conditions for tea.

Tea, elephants, and Elephant Friendly certification are the reasons we came to India. Acting at the behest of our friend Lisa Mills, who introduced us to Elephant Friendly certification, Lake Missoula Tea Company wanted to learn more about this certification that comes from the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. Lisa is an American ambassador for wild Asian Elephants (Elephas Maximus).

Lisa facilitated our trip and introduced us to Tenzing Bodosa, a small tea farmer from Assam, and Sonia Jabbar, owner of Nuxalbari Tea Estate in Darjeeling District. Their commitment to Elephant conservation is evident in all they do. They provide forest corridors essential for elephant survival, use organic practices focused on long-term sustainability and social responsibility, and are true innovators with unique histories and different models that represent a harbinger of positive change in the Indian tea industry.

Tenzing is Bodo. Bodo are an indigenous tribe who inhabit the northern Assam bordering Bhutan. Tenzing’s infectious smile and charisma could fill up a room. Tenzing owns two organic tea gardens bordering Bhutan. He uses permaculture and grows native grasses, plants and trees in his nursery. He also hosts guests and world travelers in his extraordinary tree house in the middle of his tea farm.

The Bodo have waged a campaign for political and social standing since the 1980’s. In this struggle, Tenzing’s father and brother were murdered when he was young and so the political representation and socio-economic equality takes on special meaning.

Tenzing values Elephants and all wildlife-from leopards, wild pigs, tigers, cobras to porcupines — coming from the jungle to eat, drink, and live in his tea garden. Situated at the toe of Bhutan, he keeps his tea garden wild. He tolerates as well as welcomes elephants.

This involves the restoration of Elephant grass and rainforest trees that elephants eat. He encourages local people to accept elephants. Elephant habitat is shrinking and they come into increasing contact with people. One of the big issues for Elephants is the physical and verbal harassment they get from workers when they move through the tea estates and from local farmers.

At Tenzing’s tree house, we witnessed firsthand what Elephants endure. While cooking by the fire, we suddenly heard pops and Tenzing said nearby farmers were using firecrackers to frighten away the Elephants. A little while later we heard their bellows as they moved on. Their cries were mesmerizing as they reverberated through the jungle, transcending time. Though we didn’t see Elephants, we felt their presence.

Through education and the creation of jobs from sustainable forest products and services-bamboo, spices, fruits and nuts, eco-tourism and the myriad of recreational and wildlife-dependent activities-humans can live in the presence of Elephants and the species can thrive, even in an increasingly developed society.

Tenzing believes in the medicinal and recuperative powers of tea but he will not separate the tea from nature. He is fond of saying, “If you respect nature, nature will respect you.” Tenzing Bodosa’s philosophy of ecology intertwines in all that he does.

written by Jake Kreilick

True or False? Making tea is hard work.

It doesn’t take long to figure out the answer to that question when you visit a tea farm.  Aside from the patience and work necessary to grow the tea, it requires manufacturing at the tea factory.  The factory is full of loud, hot, expensive machines designed to do very specific tasks as the tea is processed.

Much of the tea processing is artisanal and needs spur of the moment decisions based on temperature, humidity, tea type, tea condition, and a hosts of other variables.  Machinery is one aspect of what happens in a tea factory to produce the brew that you love in your cup.  Machines require constant maintenance and upgrading.  When a machine goes down, it can impact tea production for an entire day or picking or more.  Many tea farms are far from industrial centers and need very skilled, innovative machinist to solve the problems that arise when working with machines.  It is for this reason you might spy the God of Machines while visiting a tea factory in India.

Talking Tea Taste with the Tea Master

Here we are comparing our two black teas (Bodo Black and Dom Dom Assam) at the organic Elephant Friendly Tea certified farm in Assam, India. Tea plants nestled with native rain forest plants make rich tasting tea.  The diversity of plants add to the taste of the tea.  The Bodo Black is sweet, like honey and raisins, the Dom Dom malty and layered. We are discussing the layers of flavor, mouthfeel, and consistency. Delivering a consistent, quality product is one of the challenges for a tea farm. It was good to share feedback in an informal setting.

At the Tree House Surrounded by Tea in Assam

Our first day in Assam at the Elephant Friendly Tea farm. We stayed in the tree house for the night, in the middle of the tea farm, at the edge of the jungle, surrounded by tea. We could hear the elephants, peacocks, and zili (like crickets). This is where our Bodo Black and Green and Dom Dom tea come from.

More Matcha, Please!

Matcha provides more antioxidants and caffeine than any other style of tea.  It’s as simple as shaking a teaspoon into a water bottle or using methods from the Japanese tea ceremony.  This video demonstrates how we make our organic Mammoth Matcha at our tea bar in Missoula, Montana!  Be prepared to feel energized after drinking matcha.  We also have a tasty Wild Strawberry Matcha if you like your matcha with a twist!