Absolute Tea

Tuesday, February 28

White Tea History Bits

White tea was the first ever consumed in ancient China, which makes its history the longest and the truest of any tea. Of course, the white tea of ancient times and the white tea of today are slightly different due to the discovery of better refining methods. Overall though, white tea has changed little and is hardly processed at all.

To help you get a sense of what the processing of tea is like you should visit this page by Special Teas. You may have to scroll down, but on the page you will find an excellent graph of how each tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis leaves. The graph will clearly show you that white tea is as pure as the leaves it comes from.

A Better Way

Something I realized while writing the Bit O’ History post for black tea was that it is a lot of work. It took me awhile to find what I wanted to tell about and when I did find information on the sites I stopped at they had way more information then I had time to sift through. So I think I’m going to cut back on giving history of teas.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love talking about tea history and anything tea, but I just can’t spare the time being a busy college student that I am. It’s kind of sad to me because I feel that my assembling of tea history was important work – no one else put that much time into a wide set of details and overall comprehensiveness of tea.

So to in order to solve this dilemma I’ve decided to provide a best of both worlds and use the technology of blogs (or rather their best features) to deliver the history I want people to know. Instead of giving lengthy exposition I’ll just say a few small details and give links to where you can look up the important history. So really it will just be an assembled group of sites where you can find the best information like the medium of blogging is best suited for.

The Bits

After some scouring of tea sites, I found a great page for white tea history. It has pretty much everything you would want to know about how white tea came to be. You can check it out at Tea Muse, a monthly news letter from Adagio Teas.

The article name is: White Tea: Culmination of Elegance

Another good place to look for white tea history is at Wikipedia. The site doesn’t really have much information to look at right now but it does provide a great place to see where white tea comes from. Just type in white tea at the start page or click on the link here. If you scroll down further you can find many other links to info on white tea as well as tea in general.

If you want some history on the tea I reviewed on Monday you can check out this site. It doesn’t have a lot of info but it does do a good job with specifics of White Peony tea.

Personal History with White Tea

The first time I ever tried a white tea was in fact, Monday. I’ve known about white tea for a long time, but just never got around to trying one. I’ve had all the other kinds of tea many times, but somehow failed to try white tea until now.

A big reason for this is that I have researched green tea a bunch and have tried it many times. How this relates to white tea is that I know green and white teas are made very similar to each other and I really don’t like the taste of green tea. It’s a little to vegetative for my liking.

I must admit though that I was pleasantly surprised when I tried white tea and found that it wasn’t as grass like as I thought it would be. In fact it was sort of sweet and smooth. This just goes to prove that even a veteran of tea can still discover new things. Either that or my taste buds are finally changing to accommodate the intricacies of fine teas.

White tea is not very easy to find in tea shops, and if you do find it there aren’t many flavors to choose from. I’ve also noticed how much more expensive white tea is. It really shouldn’t be because the demand for it isn’t that great but overall it still is pretty cheap.

Well I hope you learned something.

Monday, February 27

A Week of White Tea

Due to last week being about black tea, I thought to discuss its opposite this time around - White Tea. The differences are truly night and day, especially with taste. The methods to make white tea, as well as the qualities it possesses are so contrasting to black tea that white tea becomes as delicate as a Camellia Sinensis flower.

So today I present to you an uncommon flavor known simply as:

White Peony

Image Courtesy of Adagio Teas

The truest tea you can possibly buy, as there has been very little done to the leaves other than pick them. When you smell the tea prior to steeping you can really get a sense of what this tea will taste like. It is a bit of a grassy smell, but with very sweet undertones.

The name Peony comes from the way the leaves unfold - like a peony flower. Not only that but this tea is so fragile that being named after a flower helps identify the light flavor. To more closely describe this flavor you could say that it…

  • is mellow and smooth along the tongue

  • is gentle in its natural sweetness

  • has a light if non-existent aftertaste

  • is reminiscent of green tea with the slight vegetal flare

  • matches its own aroma perfectly

  • creates a refreshing sensation

White Peony’s color when brewed is deep yellow or light orange depending on how it is steeped and what the leaf content is.

A white porcelain China doll is what this tea reminds me of, and I think it is absolutely fitting, as this tea is a specialty of China, grown in the Fujian province. You must take care with this tea otherwise you will never know its true beauty.

More resources to find information on white tea can be located at Wikipedia.

Absolute Rating: ( * ) ( * ) ( * ) ( ) ( )

This might be a little off-putting for me to rate such a high quality tea with only 3 stars, but it must be done. My reasons for a mediocre score are not so much about the taste, but rather for the overall process of making the tea combined with the end result. There are a lot of careful timing and steeping procedures to consider and if you screw something up a whole pot of tea will be wasted. With all of this delicate work you would expect to get a spectacular tasting tea that is deep in its flavor nuances, but this is just not the case. The final product is a taste so slight and refined that you could only enjoy it if you had been drinking tea for a few years and your taste buds were sensitized.

On top of this, there is the vegetal taste that I just can’t get past. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate this tea very much, but it reminds me too much of eating leaves. So when it comes down to it, I spend too much time preparing this tea to be able to enjoy the subtlety of it. Again, in contrast to the rookie favorite English Breakfast Tea, White Peony tea is not for novice tea drinkers.

Suggested Brewing Method

White tea, like green tea, is a very touchy and versatile drink to make. There are many variables that can be adjusted to achieve a personal desired taste, but if you want to truly discover the full details of White Peony then I would follow these instructions.

~What you will need~

  1. One ounce of loose leaf, White Peony tea

  2. A 4-6 cup teapot with a very large strainer

  3. Your teaspoon devoted to tea only

  4. Automatic shut-off boiler or a teakettle

  5. Purified water

  6. A digital timer

  7. Thermometer that goes to 200°

  8. Patients


  1. Fill boiler with filtered water and start to boil

  2. Rinse teapot with hot water until warm

  3. Place 2 heaping teaspoons of tea into strainer for every 1 cup of tea (1 cup = 6 ounces)

  4. After water boils, let cool down to 160° (Do not use boiling water)

  5. Steep for 2-3 minutes (Do not over steep)

  6. Remove strainer and loose tea

  7. Enjoy with Enya or Classical music in a rocking chair

As I said before, this tea can be adjusted within its brewing methods to create different flavors of the leaves, but these directions should yield the classic flavors. If you want to play around with the taste you can adjust the temperature between 160-180° and add more or less tea to the steep. The general rules to follow here are, if you increase the temperature you should decrease the steep time vise versa. Never use water hotter than 180°, as you will scorch the leaves and ruin the delicate flavors that they produce. Also, similar to black tea, white tea contains tannins and will become bitter if you steep it for too long, thus temperature and leave quantity are important to pay attention to when judging how long to steep.

An interesting quality with white tea is that if you mess up your first time you can reuse the same leaves in your strainer, so don’t immediately throw them away. You can usually reuse the same leaves about three times before they lose their potency. All you need to do is reheat the water to the proper temperature and infuse the leaves once again. The tea won’t taste as strong as the first batch did, but each consecutive infusion will have slight variations in its flavor. You really get a lot of bang for your buck with white tea.

Friday, February 24

Poetic Conversation for a Cup of Tea

At least once a week I would like to reserve a post for some poetry. You can think of it as a conversation piece that can be explored while you enjoy a cup of black tea.

I'll try to keep the subjects in line with the properties of the tea of the week.

So to compliment the zest of black tea I would like to present 2 poems of mine that were written trying to imitate the style of poet Bukowski.

What’s Her Name

She woke up dissatisfied
I asked her “what’s wrong”
She said “you don’t please me”
I didn’t stay long

She dreams out loud
I know I’m always right
She likes that about me
I stayed one more night

An Evening Out

I saw a mirror
That handsome devil
Just look at that jaw

A cock on the walk
Macho Prima Donna
El Numero uno

Two wrists sink
Splash of water
Sleek and slick

“Good evening, how are you?”
Manners are rich
Those famous smiles

Looking for my table
A wink at the bar
Spotting that skirt

Across the room
My lover’s wave
I strut towards

Sitting straight
Sharp locked eyes
Candle light twinkles


Waiting for my song
She listens hard
A smooth talker I am

When I turn my head
She starts to sob
“My dear, what’s wrong?”

“You don’t love me anymore.”
“It’s all right baby, relax
We can still be friends.”

Wednesday, February 22

Black Tea is Good for You

The subject of health and tea has long been argued over. Recently, tea has seen a surge of many medical claims that change frequently and are hard to prove. This bothers me immensely as a promoter of good teas. If people continue to treat tea this way, like a new diet fad, then its lifespan as a remarkable drink will be short.

Tea is not a fad. It has been around for thousands of years and will most likely be here for another 1,000. The reputation tea has at the moment is quite good, so lets keep it that way and not get overzealous with its magic properties, and all the other voodoo nonsense. Tea is also about taste so let's not forget why people drink it in the first place.

As a result of all of this I have decided to not go extensively into the health properties of tea.

Okay, now that my little rant is over lets talk about the secondary aspect that tea can provide.

Healthy Properties of Black Tea

All tea, even the "untrue" herbal teas provide health benefits when you drink them. Because of the various ways that tea is processed, there are many different health effects associated with different teas. The benefits that I will be discussing below come from the full oxidizing process that is applied to black tea.

Here is a general list of what is beneficial about black tea:

  • Provide lots of Polyphenols (anti-cancer fighters)

  • Contain catechins

  • Antioxidants

  • Contains many tannins, which reduce bad bacteria in the mouth & stomach

  • A natural source of fluoride

  • Contains no calories

  • Has a high level of minerals

  • Fat oxidant

This is about all I want to say on the subject of health and tea. I might decide to add more on the subject of black tea and health, but not until something conclusive and solid comes out. I would rather enjoy tea for its wonderful taste and have the side benefit of it being healthy, instead of drinking tea for its health properties with the added benefit that it tastes good. Besides, not all tea will taste spectacular to everyone, but all tea will be beneficial to everyone’s health.

If you would like more information about black tea and health you can try these sites:

Uk Tea Council
Enjoying Tea
Celestial Seasonings    

Tuesday, February 21

A Bit O' History and Some Facts

Continuing this week's focus on Black Tea, I'd like to talk a little about its roots, so to speak.

In the Beginning

China is where the story of tea originates. Legend has it that an emperor, named Shen Nung, was boiling some water as a health precaution, which he himself enforced. This boiling water was next to a tea tree and some leaves fell into the pot. When Nung drank this leafy water he felt refreshed and revitalized. The discovery prompted the emperor to encourage tea drinking for its healing properties and from there it expanded into a whole industry.

The exact truth of how tea came to be discovered is not known; however, because of the practical nature of the legend, historians believe this to be a very likely factualism.

Enter Black Tea

Not long after the discovery of tea was made, the Chinese discovered that if they dried the leaves and broke them apart they could create different flavors. This is how the refinement
processes started to crop up, and it is from this that we get black tea.

Image courtasy of Unversity of Shizuoka

Camellia Sinensis is the scientific name of the plant we know as the tea shrub or tea tree. This is important to understand because in order to call a flavor "true tea" it absolutely must come from this plant. Other "untrue teas" that don't include Camellia Sinensis are usually known as herbal tea. This type of tea has been around just as long if not longer than regular tea, but the difference is that these drinks are infused with a variety of different plants used in conjunction as a medicinal remedy.


Camellia Sinensis
is refined to make 4 different categories of tea:
  • Green - barely oxidized
  • Black - completely oxidized
  • Oolong - partially oxidized
  • White - non-oxidized leaf tips

Being completely oxidized is what gives black tea its name. In Asia, it is known as red tea because that is truly its color after it has been brewed; however, because of the other red tea known as Rooibos, the Western culture choose the color black, naming it after the dark oxidized leaves.

The process of oxidization is oxygen reacting to the chemicals of the tea leaves. This begins after the leaves have been picked and withered, and is stopped when they fire the leaves - similar to pottery firing. This process is also known as fermentation, but that term is disliked in the tea industry because it connotates the production of fruit to alcohol, as with wine. Oxidize is the more proper term.

Best Black Tea Regions

Some the best black teas grown in the world come from India and Sri Lanka. China grows many black teas too, but few are near to the quality that India and Sri Lanka produce.

Below are the four best, and most popular black teas sorted by country and named for the region they grow in.

  • Keemun
  • Assum
  • Darjeeling
Sri Lanka
  • Ceylon

The American Experience

90% of all tea consumed in the world comes in the black tea variety. Needless to say America has kept up with that percentage with Lipton being the biggest producer of black tea in the world. If you have drank tea in the States, chances are that you've had black tea.

At the moment, the US is a proud coffee drinking country, which wasn't always the case. So in the shortest possible space I'm going to try and explain how this happened.

England colonized this country, they liked tea and so did the colonists. England made the colonies angry and we had our last Boston Tea Party. We fought each other, we won, we decided to be different in every possible way. Cars drive on the right side, and we drink coffee.

It's truly sad that we had to protest everything right down to the tea. Especially since black tea is similar to coffee and frankly, a whole lot better. I'm glad to see America is finally coming around to enjoying tea again, as well as discovering its healthy properties. So if you're just discovering tea for the first time, or maybe rediscovering it, what not a better way then to start with the classic black teas.

Some information was gathered from:


Sunday, February 19

A Week of Black Tea

This week, which starts Sunday according to blogger archives, is devoted to that staple of all teas - Black Tea.

To kick things off and set the mood for this first topic-driven week, I feel a review is necessary of the most basic and popular black tea drink of them all. So without further ado, I present to you...

English Breakfast Tea

Image courtesy of Adagio Teas

The coffee of tea as I like to think of it. Like the name suggests, this tea is incredibly popular in England, especially at breakfast time. The reason for this is because the English like to have a heavy meal for breakfast and the zest of this blended tea compliments it well. For those newbies who have never tried any kind of tea at all, this would be the one to start with. I say this because most Americans are coffee fiends, and it is an excellent transition-tea to start developing taste buds with a real culture. It is also very versatile in that you can add cream, milk or sugar and still have the original flavor come through.

So what does it taste like? Well, when brewed right English Breakfast Tea...
  • is tart and full bodied.
  • can have a slight spicy aftertaste.
  • provides a brisk punch.
  • is very aromatic.
  • has a hard, good bite.
  • can remind you of coffee.
  • is sometimes referred to as coppery.
The unique flavor is made from the collection of different leaves, which when put together right, create this wonderful pungent brew. There are many varieties of English Breakfast tea depending on where you buy it. The most common ingredients found in this blend tend to be broken Ceylon and Assam leaves as well as other leaves from India. These leaves are all from the same plant, but they are grown in different regions of the world. Names like Ceylon and Assam are just describing the region where the leaves have been cultivated. For more information check out Wikipedia.

Absolute rating: ( * ) ( * ) ( * ) ( * ) ( * )

Giving this tea 5 out of 5 stars is nothing to be taken lightly. I am a very picky tea drinker and if I am putting this tea on a pedestal then you absolutely must try it yourself. I highly recommend English Breakfast tea because of its ability to replace coffee in every facet. There is just enough caffeine in it to get your morning pick-me-up without draining your body later in the day, unlike coffee. It also has associated digestive benefits as well as antioxidents. Most importantly though, English Breakfast tea tastes great. It has the ability to satisfy anyone's preference of sugar, cream, milk, honey, or whatever else is used to flavor drinks while retaining its basic qualities. In fact, this tea holds its flavor so well that you could even buy it in off-the-shelf boxed brands and lose very little of the brisk punch. I don't suggest you do this though as tea in bags is a detriment to the entire tea industry.

Suggested Brewing Method

To get the full experience of English Breakfast tea, there is a proper way to make it. Everyone will have a different preference when it comes to tea, but this guide will allow you to adjust it accordingly.

-What you will need-
  1. At least 1 ounce of loose leaf English Breakfast tea.
  2. 4-6 cup teapot with a large and deep strainer.
  3. A teaspoon devoted to tea only (for consistency).
  4. Automatic shut-off, electronic boiler
  5. Purified water or water filter
  6. A digital timer
  1. Fill boiler with purified or filtered water and start the boiling
  2. Rinse teapot with hot water until the entire teapot is sufficiently warm
  3. Place 1 level teaspoon of tea in the strainer for every 1 cup of tea (4-6 teaspoons)
  4. Start timer immediately when pouring water into teapot
  5. Let it steep for 2-3 minutes (do not over steep)
  6. Remove strainer and loose tea
  7. Pour into a wide, 6 ounce cup and add sugar or milk or any other desired flavors
  8. Allow cup to cool to a lukewarm temperature
  9. Savor and enjoy with a hearty breakfast
Add more or less tea during the steeping process to suit taste, as well as increase or decrease the steep time. I must caution you at this though, as allowing any black tea to steep for too long will cause it to taste very bitter. This is caused from the tannins, which although good for you do not taste very pleasant in strong quantities.

If you don't have the time for this (it really doesn't take that much time) or you are simply lazy, I would recommend to try the tea bags from Adagio Teas. Better yet, make your own tea bags from loose leaf tea. It's cheaper and you don't have to lower yourself to floor sweepings.

Wednesday, February 15

Terminology of a Tea Taster

In future postings I expect that I will be reviewing many different types of tea. In the process of doing this I will most likely use certain terms that help describe what I am tasting. These terms will have some specific meanings to help standardize the sensory receptors of the tongue, which are unique for every person.

Therefore, I have constructed a list of the most common terms I will use. This list will be referred to on occasion and it will be added to in the future if I find that people are needing clearer explanations.

Alphabetized Tea Terms

Astringency: The pallet registers a dry, harshness or coarseness compared to a soft mellowness.
Autumnal: A seasonal term applied to teas grown during the period of processing with varying degrees of flavor.
Bakey: Unpleasant taste usually caused by very high temperatures and driving out of too much moisture.
Biscuity: Pleasant characteristic, toasty or a taste of of fresh baked bread.
Body: Denotes heaviness, fullness and strength of the liquor on the tongue. Similar to thickness.
Bright: Ability of the liqour to reflect light from the surface, varying from mirror-like to total lack of reflection.
Brisk: A lively taste opposed to flat or soft.
Character: An intangible quality in a tea that identifies its origin of growth.
Clean: lacking in character but no unpleasant taint or taste.
Dry: Sliglty bakey.
Earthy: An unpleasant liquor taste found in tea stored under damp conditions.
Fine: Exceptional quality or flavor.
Flat: Lacking in briskness.
Full: Posessing color, strength and substance.
Grassy: Actual taste and also, tea without physical or chemical wither.
Green/Greenish: Raw almost vegitative taste. Can refere to first flush black tea.
Hard: Penetrating and desirable strength.
Heavy: Thick without briskness.
Malty: Desirable character with a thick, reamy mouth feel.
Mellow: Well matured as oppposed to raw.
Metallic: Bitter metallic taste.
Papery: A taint with a dry & flat character.
Point: Desirable brightness and acidity creating a fresh "sparkel" on the tongue.
Pungent: Ideal combination of briskness, brightness, strength and flavor, highly desirable.
Rich: Mellow liquor, abundant in quality and thickness.
Round: Full smooth liquor.
Scorched: Associated with dryness.
Smokey: A sharp acrid or smokey taste.
Soft: Opposite of brisk.
Spicy: Suggestive of spices.
Strong: A bold, heavy cup or sharp.
Taint: Foreign characteristic.
Thickness: Describing viscosity, ranging from light, almost water to a heavy, juice consistency.
Tired: Stale.
Wild: Liquor character found in end-of-the-season teas. Undesirable.
Woody: Sawdust-like character. Usually older teas have this quality.

Term Definitions assembled from:
Plymouth Tea
Harvest Fields
Holy Mountain Trading Company
NB Tea

Tuesday, February 14

What to Expect

Beginning in a day or so I will be posting about tea. I am taking this time to explain a little how this blog is going to function in case it is not obvious with the first few posts.

This is a topic-per-day driven blog with a general tying theme held throughout the week. The archives will be listed by weeks to help organize these themes better and hold the daily postings together. You will only find 1 days postings on the main site at a time so if you want to see yesterdays or 2 days ago you will need to check that weeks archive.

This may seem over analysed, but it is important to the overall structure of the blog.

If you would like a more detailed desciption of what to expect in future postings (because you're antcy) you can check out my projects proposed ideas on my wiki page found here: ProjectProposal.

Since I havn't yet gathered certain materials I want to implement in Absolute Tea, I will focus this weeks theme on hype, structures, and fun facts.

Fun Fact About Tea: After water, tea is the worlds second most consumed beverage, according to Speacial Teas (possibly biased, but I think it's true).

Saturday, February 11

Planted and Growing

This weblog is currently under construction, and extensive tea roots are forming. It should be up and running in a week or so.

Stay tuned.

Drink tea.