Orange Pekoe is the (not so) new Black; or what the FBOPFEXSP?

8/26/2014

One of the most frequently heard and misunderstood terms in the tea world is “pekoe.”   Whether you pronounce it “pea-ko” or “peck-o” it all means the same thing – a particular grade of loose leaf black tea.  Black teas are graded by both the location of the leaf on the plant (the closer to the tip the better,) and the wholeness of the leaf after processing.  The tea industry has an entire alphabet soup of terms and abbreviations to describe these in detail.  (You can learn much more in this Wikipedia article than we have space to cover here.)  So when you see something like FBOPFEXSP, never fear; it’s just Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe Fannings Extra Special tea.

Orange Pekoe, or OP for short, is a basic medium grade black tea.  When brewed, its liquor is an orange-amber color.  OP is just tea: it does not contain any orange peel, fruit, or juice.  However, it does often serve as the base tea to which fruits and spices of all kinds are added.  At Leaf Teahouse, we feature several OPs from Sri Lanka, including  Super Pekoe — a  malty,strong and highly caffeinated tea, and and a more mellow New Vithanakanda Extra Fancy Long Leaf OP (pictured).

De-Mystifying Matcha

8/19/2014

For centuries, matcha has been the centerpiece of the formal Japanese tea ceremony, chanoyu.  Students study for many years to master the transformative practice of  “the way of tea” to exhibit purity, harmony, respect, and tranquilty through the preparation and sharing of bowls of whisked tea.

In today’s world, health and culinary websites are buzzing about matcha. Dr. Oz and Dr. Weil endorse it, FoodNetwork chefs add it to nearly every type of dish, and you can find matcha used as an ingredient in an increasing variety of products. What is this strange green powder that keeps popping up everywhere?

Matcha is simply a whole leaf tea, that is dried in special way to remove the stems and veins of the leaf, then ground into a fine powder.   While traditional matcha is made from green tea, today’s tea drinkers can find matcha made from black, white and herbal teas as well. To make matcha into a beverage it is whisked into water, where it becomes a suspension, rather than an infusion. This means that you get all of the benefits of the whole tea leaf without waiting for it to infuse.  It’s a nearly instant dose of antioxidants and great flavor, too.

Tea Teaching Tuesdays Begin!

8/12/2014

We’re starting a new series of posts to learn more about tea.   We hope to share what we know and learn even more along the way. Today we’ll begin with a bit of the basics:

Black, Green, Oolong, Yellow, White and Pu ‘er teas all come from the same plant: Camellia sinensis.How can so many differnent products come from the same source?   Like any agricultural product teas reflect their origins.  The elevation, soil, rainfall, climate and seasonal variations shape the basic flavor of the tea, as does the way the leaves are processed after the harvest.  Other key elements are how long the tea is oxidized, what type of heat is used to dry the leaves, and how they are manipulated during the time from harvest to packaging.  All of  these factors cause natural chemical reactions that give each tea its own unique color and flavor profile.