At Harney & Sons, we are not only dedicated to delivering our tea drinkers quality teas and tea products, but also passing on our passion for tea. This Is Tea is a collection of our tea knowledge, designed to enhance your tea drinking experience. Here you may find information regarding tea history, brewing techniques, frequently asked questions, basics of tea, and more useful tea information. We invite you to explore This Is Tea and expand your tea knowledge! Cheers, from our family to yours.
Basics of Tea
All tea comes from the same plant: the Camellia sinensis. How it is processed, however, determines the type of tea it will become.
There are four major types of teas green, oolong, black, and black scented teas. In general, each estate and garden uses a single style of processing which is usually determined by geography, including elevation, moisture level, and farming practices.
Tea grows fastest at sea level to 6,500 feet in sandy or clay soil. The climate should be hot and
moist with 80 to 150 inches of rain annually with high humidity and fog. Tea also grows at higher elevations
and in shaded areas, but at a much slower rate. This climatic change also produces a more intense flavor
tea, like that of a Darjeeling. It is reasonably safe to say that Japan only produces green teas, Formosa focuses
on oolongs, and Ceylon and India produce primarily black teas.
Types of Tea
White teas are among the rarest of teas in the world. They are the least processed. White tea is hand plucked, unopened buds, and often loaded with downy hairs. It brews up a subtle blend of sweetness and vegetal flavors. White teas are grown all over the world, however the best come from Fujian province in China and Sri Lanka in South Asia.
Black teas range from mellow teas from China to full-bodied teas from Assam, India. Often they are served with milk and sugar. Black teas are withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired in an oven. This process creates the warm toasty flavors. In the best teas complex flavors that are reminiscent of honey, malt, and cocoa develop.
Green teas are the most ancient teas. Originally from China, they were also transplanted to Japan many centuries ago. Green tea production methods vary but the focus is always to fix the green color. Thus, green teas are not oxidized.
Oolongs were developed after green and black teas. Originally they were developed in the Chinese coastal province of Fujian and eventually moved down the coast of China and across the waters to Taiwan. Repeated rolling brings the tea to the desired level of oxidation. All this work makes for very fragrant teas that are light in body with flavors reminiscent of peaches or tropical flowers.
This is our version of Chinese scented teas. All types of teas are used as a base. Then flavors, dried fruits, and flowers are added. These blends are a delight to drink. Some of our most popular flavored teas are: Hot Cinnamon Spice, Paris, and Pumpkin Spice.
Although not derived from the tea plant, thus not tea, these herbal infusions have an ancient pedigree. Flowers, seeds, bark, and special flavoring are used to make the best herbal blends. Traditionally, herbals have been used to calm or stimulate or treat minor ailments. Light in body, the colors of herbals vary from pale yellow to brilliant red, with flavors that range from mild to robust.
Preheat a teapot by pouring boiling water into it, raising the temperature of the pot to 180°F (82°C).
Discard the water. In a teapot holding up to 6 cups (1.5 liters), add 1 teaspoon (5g) of loose tea for each cup of tea you're brewing. For pots that hold up to 12 cups (3 liters), add an extra teaspoon of tea for the pot.
Pour fresh boiling water over the tea or tea bag. This super-saturates the tea, allowing the perfect extraction of the flavor.
For black tea, the water temperature should be 210°F (99°C), just under the boiling point. Let the tea steep for a full 5 minutes. Herb teas also require near boiling water and should be steeped for 5 minutes. For green tea, use water below the boiling point the temperature should be about 180° to 185°F (82 to 85°C). Steep for 3 minutes.
Pour the tea through a strainer into the cups.
These are general guidelines. If your tea container has brewing instructions I would follow those as they are probably ideal for that specific tea.
There's a favorite saying in the tea world: Water is the mother of tea.
Before you start your tea kettle, know that the chlorine and other chemicals in ordinary tap water will unfavorably affect the taste of these teas. Always use filtered water when tasting teas, unless you are fortunate enough to live near a spring; spring water is ideal.
Different teas require different temperatures to fully release their flavors; generally speaking, the darker the tea, the hotter the water needed. Water boils at 212° Fahrenheit, but that heat will scorch white and green teas. Their more delicate flavors best emerge between 160 and 190° Fahrenheit. Most of the finest black teas taste best brewed at only 205° Fahrenheit or so. You can buy electric water-dispensing pots, machines that heat water to precise temperatures. These machines are not necessary; just insert an instant-read thermometer into the spout of your kettle to gauge your water temperature before pouring the water over the leaves. The exact temperature for each batch of tea can vary, so experiment to see what temperature in the range works best.
Different teas brew best for different lengths of time; the darker the tea, the longer the brewing time. My brewing times (see above) are offered as guidelines only, as every tea is different; My box of Lung Ching may need three minutes, while yours may need only two. Observing both the tea liquor and body will help you gauge whether you have brewed your tea for the correct amount of time.
A rating of 0 indicates the tea has none of the particular characteristic and a rating of 5 indicates that it is a primary characteristic
Briskness refers to a tea's ability to make your mouth pucker, also known as astringency. Some astringency makes tea brisk & desirable (like white wine). Too much briskness can be a problem, but may be controlled by reducing the brewing time.
Body refers to whether or not a tea feels thick in the mouth such as Assam or light such as a white tea. Sometimes this body comes from dissolved solids from the leaves like the Assam, and sometimes it is from all the amino acids like Ichiban Sencha.
Aroma refers to whether or not the tea has a pleasant smell,
often the most prized part of tea. That makes sense, since humans can smell much better
than we can taste. Sometimes the pleasant smell is teased out of the tea leaf by a skilled
tea maker, sometimes it is flavor blended in here by our blenders.
Loose Tea generally makes for the very best cup of tea. The size of the tea leaves are generally large. Chinese green teas like Anji Baicha could never go into a teabag and taste good. The leaf size can indicate how brisk a tea will taste. When the fresh tea leaves are rolled the smaller particles turn brown the fastest, and make the tea the most brisk. That is why the British like small tea; it makes the strongest tea and goes well with milk and sugar. The larger leaf black teas are more mellow and complex. Loose tea has less packaging than teabags or sachets, so it has a smaller environmental impact, and is the most economical way to buy tea. For some, the problem is that loose tea is not that convenient to use. You need to have more equipment and a bit of experience. However we are here to help! We offer teapots, strainers, permanent filters, and more accessories; of course our brewing instructions help you make a very good cup of tea. As you get used to your water and your tea, you will quickly develop the experience to make a great cup of tea! Also some appreciate the ritual of making a pot, letting it brew and enjoying their work. In fact, the Japanese developed a whole ceremony around tea enjoyment.
Tea Bags are good for making tea under challenging conditions. If you are making a quick mug in the morning or the water might not get hot enough, the smaller broken leaves infuse the water quicker than loose tea. Also, you do not have to worry about the correct dose or straining out the leaves when the tea is ready. The broken leaves make for a brisker cup of tea, which might be desired.
Silken Sachets are a good compromise. The tea leaves or herbals are, mostly, larger than in teabags. So, you get a very nice cup of tea and one that is not as brisk as a tea made with a teabag. Yet, like teabags, you do not have to worry about how much tea to use or using a strainer. Many customers are switching to sachets as their lives get even more hectic. We offer a large variety of different teas and herbals in our silken sachets.
It is fresh air, oxygen to be specific, which robs the flavor from loose-leaf teas. Store the teas in an airtight container away from moisture and direct sunlight. Don't store teas in the refrigerator or freezer. The cooler temperatures will not preserve freshness of tea, and moisture and odors from the refrigerator or freezer will give your tea an unpleasant taste.Close
No, tea should not be kept in the freezer. There are strong aromas and moisture in your freezer. Tea should be stored in a closed container, out of the light. Remember that tea is a blotter and will absorb strong smells!Close
No, our tea does not have an expiration date. We do put lot numbers on our tea, which lets us know when it was produced. We recommend the product be consumed within two years of that date, simply to ensure the best flavor. Of course, we guarantee all of our products, and if you are unhappy with a Harney & Sons product, please let us know.Close
It is quite difficult to gauge how much caffeine is in a cup of tea, because it depends on so many factors: the tea itself, how much is used in a cup, and how long it is brewed. But the general rule is a cup of green tea contains about one-third as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.Close
Our tea sachets are pyramid-shaped silky nylon bags that are filled with whole-leaf loose tea. The benefit of the pyramid shape is to allow the tea leaves to expand fully, thus allowing the full tea taste to develop.Close
Well, if the question is whether or not our tea is grown in England, the answer is no. Until recently there was no tea grown in England, due to the climate. Now there is one small garden in Cornwall. However, we do have an English Breakfast Tea, which is 100% Keemun (the original English Breakfast blend). Also, our teas are used in one of London's finest hotels: The Dorchester.Close
Decaffeinated tea is tea from which the caffeine has been removed, through one of two possible decaffeination processes. Herbal tea, on the other hand, is not really tea at all, but is herbs brewed in the same way that tea is brewed. Herbals, sometimes referred to as tisanes, never had any caffeine to begin with.Close
Oolong tea is sometimes referred to as Brown Tea, halfway between a black and green tea. In many respects it is the most complicated tea to make, because the tea is only partially oxidized. That is like keeping a banana perfectly ripe when nature wants to keep moving it toward being overripe. However the reward for all that hard work is tea with great body, and the most intense,varied aroma and flavors.Close
All teas originate from the same species, the Camelia Sinensis. To make green tea, the fresh tea is briefly cooked using either steam or dry heat. This process fixes the green colors and fresh flavors. Black tea leaves are left outside and becomes limp (withered), then put into machines that roll the leaves and damage them. The damaged leaves change color to brown, then black. This natural process is called oxidation and is similar to the ripening of a banana (from yellow to brown and finally becoming black.) After all the tea is dried, it can be shipped great distances. The oxidation process changes the flavor of the tea (now black) and gives it more body.Close
We all know of the terrible tragedy that happened in Fukashima in 2011. At that time there was evidence that some of the radiation drifted over Tokyo and even went as far as the northern limits of Japan's Shizuoka tea growing area. At that time, the Japanese and US governments set up radiation tests on tea. We also did tests on teas that arrived from south of the affected area. Our tests did not detect any radiation in 2011.
In 2012, testing continued by the Japanese government. None was detected. The type of radiation that was spread rapidly degrades.
Since 2013, testing has been relaxed. However, recently there has been notice about the radiation leaking from ruined plant. Combined with the lives that have been forever altered by the nuclear explosion, this is a continuing tragedy. However, unless there is another explosion, and radiation drifts over the tea growing area, tea is not affected.
If you feel that you would like to be sure, I would counsel to choose teas from the Uji area, which is several hundred miles south. There was never any radiation detected there. That would be Matsuda's, Organic Sencha, Yanagi, and Gyokuro. Also the most southern area of Japan: Kagoshima was very far south.
We do test our large tea purchases for pesticide residues and they do not exceed the stringent EU limits. We do offer certified organic teas that are certified organic under the USDAs National Organic Program. That means that the growers do not use banned pesticides or artificial fertilizers on the plants. Just to be sure, we test them too. This program is designed to insure that there are not any pesticide problem.Close
One does not find GMOs in tea, Genetically modified organisms are found mostly on big cash crops like corn or soy. We will be registering as a GMO free organization later this year.Close
We do offer a wide variety of teas: some have no flavors added, some use 100% natural flavors, and a few are a blend of natural and artificial flavors. Since there is no evidence that these blended flavors pose a risk, we have no problem using them. We do understand that some people like to avoid them, so that is why we offer a wide teas only containing 100% natural flavors (or unflavored teas).Close