For this second installment of Mike Harney (that’s me) Spills the Tea, I thought our audience might be interested in why some teas with similar names or categories or origins can be very different. It’s one of the things I love best about the tea business: the nuances of teas, the subtle things that make a not-so-subtle difference. Some of that occurs naturally, some it is the art of blending tea. For a tea nerd like myself, this is all fascinating stuff. Hopefully, it is to you, too!
I’ve put together a list of some teas and then broken down their differences for you. I encourage you to take some time to be mindful of the different aromas and tastes you experience the next time you sit down with a cuppa. It makes doing so that much more enjoyable. Up first...
Earl Grey is the original blend of this genre. Our recipe was devised by Stanley Mason (who you will remember from our Harney History blog as an older British gentleman who got my Dad, John Harney, into the tea biz) and he handed it down to Dad. The rest are versions:
Well you have breakfast most mornings, so we offer options. You can keep to your tried and trusted start to the morning, or you can change it up.
Matcha is the ground tea leaves that we get from my friend Tsuyoshi from Uji, Japan. They are very nice teas that you can whisk up into a foam, so none are a culinary matcha that one uses for lattes and muffins. They are good, better and best. It turns out the closer you get to Uji, the better the terroir (a fancy French word for “environment,” my wife is French so it’s ok if I use it).
The terroir affects the amount of umami in these matchas. Umami means mouth-filling sweetness in English (not really, but it might as well). None of these matchas are ordinary, just a question as to how much you think umami is worth to you.
Both of these whites look sort of similar, except the Ceylon is a bit more bleach blond and combed straight, too.
When I joined my father in the tea company many decades ago, I learned that tea came from India. Little did I know about tea. Later I learned that Indians loved to mix their spices with milk and sugar. And that they call it chai (just like southern Chinese do-- but that is another story).
A category all their own, you either love ‘em or you don’t. Think campfire in a cup.
When the cold fog settles over the Highlands of Scotland, it is hard to tell the morn from the afternoon. Both of these teas are strong enough to warm a soul up there.
A Tale of One City! These two teas have different origins and very different flavors, the only bond is the city along the Thames River.
Fujian Province is the center of many great Chinese teas, so I always love visiting bustling Province. One of the jewels they make are all the different jasmines up in the eastern corner in Fuan and Fuding. There they grow special tea plants that can make big white buds (also made in various white teas). So in April and May, they pluck the tea and steam it to fix it white or green. Later in the year, the tea is shipped south to Guangxi Province, and then jasmine flowers are mixed in to scent the tea. The difference between our regular Jasmine and Yin Hao is two parts: the Yin Hao is a better tea because (1) it is made earlier in the year with smaller leaves and a bud that turns white (the chlorophyll is not mature), so the resulting tea is sweeter and fills your mouth up. Also, (2) there is more attention taken during the scenting phase. For six nights, the jasmine flowers are mixed to make a more floral scent. Now, we do offer many other jasmines, so this is just part of the story.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all the tea I have to spill today. Hope you enjoyed what you learned and didn’t get too soaked in the spilling process. Stay tuned to see what I overfill your cuppa with next time!
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by Emeric Harney October 21, 2021 9 min read
by Mike Harney October 14, 2021 5 min read
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