Tea Blog

Iced Tea and The Cold Brew Contingent or Before Ice was cool..it was water

June is National Iced Tea month and in honor of this holiday we'll be offering some deep knowledge and deeper discounts to help keep you intellectually and actually insulated in the impending summer months. Starting on June 1st you can enjoy all our iced tea offerings at 20% off and while your sipping on that sweaty beverage we offer you some fodder from the pages of history.

The idea of icing this beverage is as old and celebrated as the union of this fair country.  However, the advent and origin are wildly debated.

Cookbooks and confederacies touted the incorporation of cold cubes and crisp flavors as early as the 1840's. The Kentucky Housewife was one of the first periodicals to preach the gospel of this lovely libation calling it "Cold-Tea" and even articulating a recipe calling for "scalding" your kettle and then adding 2 teaspoons of green tea to it. Hard to believe given we see so much black tea these days, but then Chinese and Japanese green dominated the market prior to World War I & II.

However, the most widely distributed tout of truth brings us nearly half a century later at the St. Louis fair where, Richard Blechynden, director of the East India pavilion, became frustrated as he tried to offer samples of the hot stuff in the midst of the sweltering Midwest summer. His idea had not yet inoculated this beverage with sub-zero cubed delight; instead he channeled his brewed benevolence through a series of lead pipes immersed in ice resulting in a cool, refreshing beverage that tamed the tongues of fair goers alike.

Today, the newest of iterations have begun to emerge in the way of something known as "cold brewing". This is an idea that incorporates steeping the leaves of the tea for longer periods of time and at much lower temperatures to abide a full-strength non-ice necessitating refreshment. The resulting infusion lends itself to a softer, silkier palate and at full strength. Zhi Tea is proud to have been an early originator providing cold brew at zhitea.com since 2011 and we are overjoyed to see the trend taking off with a swift "can't stop won't stop" attitude.

As the summer season opens up and we find a revitalization in the newness of our own lives, perhaps cleansing the palate with the crisp and fervent flavors of an icy libation becomes necessary; something that reminds us of backyard barbeques, new beginnings and better times to come.

Dr. Oolong talks Baked Oolongs

Wanting to build upon your tea experience?

Baked oolongs are a fantastic way to experience the wonder and flavor of oolong tea.  The baking process produces a rich, deep flavor.  Not only does it enhance the floral and fruit notes of a fine oolong, but it also creates a nutty, toasty taste that is unmistakable.

The baking process takes place at varying temperatures and varying times to produce a tea that is particular to the tea master’s style. The process can take several hours up to several days. One interesting and little known fact is that during this process, large amounts of caffeine is baked right out of the leaves! Dr. Oolong has seen first hand the stalagmites hanging from the ceilings in baking rooms. Pure caffeine!

Some great baked oolongs you may be familiar with include Royal Courtesan (gui fei), Ti Quan Yin, and Tung Ting. All are known for their depth of flavor and ability to hold up well to multiple steepings.  The time and attention that goes into making oolong teas is nothing short of impressive. Here at Zhi, we are truly grateful to the Taiwan tradition of care and creativity in giving the world some of the most remarkable teas on the planet!

The vast majority of the tea baking is only done in Taiwan under the supervision of, or by, the tea master himself. Only recently have a few handful of ambitious oolong fanatics have undertaken the challenge to bake oolongs in the United States. Solid training is necessary to do this, along with much trial and error. The advantage of this is the ability to create custom batches of tea. (Can you tell where this is going? :)

Yes, Dr. Oolong has thrown his tea leaves in the proverbial fire and has started baking oolongs in Austin. Stay tuned for small artisan custom batches of baked oolongs from Zhi Tea, coming soon.

 

Crave Coconut? Zhi’s new oolong option

Howdy, tea fans and coconut lovers!

May we introduce you to our Coconut Oolong?

By popular demand, Zhi has created an enticing, simple and luxurious flavored oolong. We have simply taken our stunning Emerald oolong and added organic essence of sweet, young coconut. The result is creamy smooth, silky sweet, with a long round finish.

Traditionalists would herald this move as blasphemous!

Well, to be honest, Dr. Oolong shuddered when faced with the thought of flavoring such a pure and perfect Bao Zhong. But he does like to to innovate and create new tastes. So, being the coconut freaks that we are, as well as known oolong fanatics, we could hardly resist the temptation. We tried it… and it was amazing!

So add another coconut tea to our list! We hope you love it as much as we do.

PS this tea is amazing hot and iced. Enjoy!

Brandy Oolong

oolong tea

Happy spring, tea lovers.

Today, I wanted to talk about Brandy Oolong.

Known for its unique flavor profile and creamy body, Brandy Oolong is quickly growing in popularity among oolong lovers.

Unique toTaiwan, this heavily oxidized oolong could initially be mistaken for a black tea; but at about 85% oxidation, it indeed is an oolong. Although Brandy Oolong can come from several different cultivars or varietals, the resulting liquor is dark amber with aromatic notes of roasted sugar and stone fruit. We love the mouth feel on this tea! It is so smooth and complex and has a great sweet finish. Some people experience a subtle camphor taste as well.

The Taiwanese are quite creative and diligent in creating new teas. One particular cultivar known as Ruby 18 (which is great for creating Brandy Oolong) took decades in testing before being released to farmers for planting. It was worth the wait. Ruby 18 is a unique hybrid of anassam and an indigenous varietal.

Brandy Oolongs, while still pretty rare in the US, can be a great alternative to black teas.  Zhi is quite excited about this new tea choice in the growing stable of Taiwanese Oolongs.

See “Jeffrey’s Personal Stash” if you are curious and find all Zhi’s ”Oolongs” at zhitea.com.

The Very Patient Old Man Dong Ding

Dr. OolongHowdy folks.  Dr. Oolong here.

Having recently arrived back from a most pleasant journey to Taiwan, I can safely say I am a changed man. The person I was when I set out to explore the world of Taiwanese teas, on the ground, at source, is no longer with us. The man that emerged is even more in awe and wonder of the beauty and mystery of Taiwanese teas and the Taiwanese people.

The first thing that really struck me was the incredible amount of work that goes into making a batch of oolong tea. Wow! Having participated first hand in several steps in the making of the tea itself, I can say my respect for the tea workers is quite high! It is a hard job!

I was lucky enough to share numerous tea cupping/tastings during my three weeks in Taiwan. I sampled various cultivars and methods of production, from low oxidized to highly oxidized, and unbaked, to strongly baked. Aside from my personal preferences, several things stood out to me. The first of which is the concept of ‘patience’.

The more patient a tea measures the number of steeps one can get out of it. This is one of many ways to assess quality and value in an oolong tea. Regardless if you steep Western-style (small amount of leaf to water) or Eastern-style (large amount of leaf to water), or somewhere in between, the number of flavorful and aromatic steeps of a given oolong is a fantastic indicator of its inherent quality.

One of the simple treasures I was fortunate enough to acquire on this trip was a small amount of a Tung Ting made in the traditional fashion: organically, hand picked, and strong roasted. It is called Old Man Tung Tung. It is named after the gentleman who has been making this tea since he was a teenager; he is now in his 70’s! The tea is a fantastic example of a tea with tons of patience. We steeped about ten grams in a ten ounce yi xing pot last weekend and had to stop after 15 steeps!

Experiencing the flavors unfold with each steep is a remarkable experience and one that should not be missed. We hope you share in the journey with us too! Stay tuned for more articles on amber oolongs and have a great day!

Winter Harvest Teas are in! Plus, Zhi’s new Darjeeling

Stenthal Darjeeling Organic Tea

Hello, tea lovers!

Dr. Oolong here, writing to you while steeping a cup of one of our new teas: Stenthal Darjeeling.

As you know, Zhi hasn’t carried Darjeeling for a few years. While a very popular tea, we just never came across an organic one that had lived up to the hype. Happily, this one does, and it is priced right too! This true Darjeeling has the pleasant, smooth complexity that we were looking for, while also boasting muscatel undertones. There’s a faint hint of astringency, but just enough to pull the cup’s complexity together. We trust you’ll love it as much as we do :) Quantities limited: enjoy while you can!

Speaking of exquisite, rare teas, winter oolongs are in! This year’s harvest will prove to be one of the most delightful, and we invite you to enjoy the small artisan batches of Zhi’s direct sourced Frozen Summit Tung Ting, Jade Oolong, Golden Lily and Four Season varieties. Be sure to extract your multiple steepings as these very patient leaves are really expressing themselves over multiple infusions.

Next month, I will be traveling to Yunnan, China to visit the ancient tea trees and drink pu’erh. I’ll be sure to tweet and sent pictures via Instagram so follow us today @zhitea. We will be carrying even more amazing pu’erh options soon, in addition to our outstanding ripe, loose leaf version that you know and love.

Well, my tea is ready! Gotta go. Until next time,

Dr. Oolong