Japanese Matcha and Ceremony

What is Matcha?Oku Midori Matcha

Matcha literally translates to mean ‘ground tea’. Eighty percent of matcha produced in Japan come from Uji, Japan. Typically, around six weeks before harvest, the Tencha leaves are covered to reduce the amount of light to the plants. Doing this decreases the amount of photosynthesis in the plant and increases chlorophyll, giving Matcha its signature green color. This process also adds amino acids giving the tea its intense umami flavor profile. The newest and youngest parts of the plant are harvested, the leaves at the tip of the new shoots, and are then sorted into grades. These Tencha leaves are then destemmed, deveined, and then ground slowly and gently to produce Matcha powder.

How to Prepare Matcha and the Matcha Ceremony

 Tea has been a large part of Japanese society for centuries. Tea ceremonies originate from the days of the samurai’s and was meant for the elites. The current Matcha ceremony has been unchanged for 450 years. The ceremony was originally practiced solely by men however as demand increased it was taught to females. Today it is commonly studied as a hobby.

The tea ceremony has four principles:

Peace and harmony– All participants must have an open mind.

Respect– This must be given to the visitors host, utensils, and bowl. Many of the items used are expensive and it is said a bowl can be exchanged for a castle.

Purity– The space, utensils, and persons should be purified before and after the ceremony. The host will use a silk cloth throughout the ceremony and the color is significant: green/purple masculine, orange for feminine.

Tranquility– Harmony, small sounds, being quiet lets the participants hear smaller sounds.

The ceremony has many steps. The front part of the bowl faces the person and the artists name is on the bottom left. The bowl is turned clockwise twice before drinking or passing to someone. The ceremony is not considered a social event and is like meditation. There is no speaking during the ceremony so to show appreciation for the tea or ceremony the participant will slurp while finishing the bowl. When finished, the drinker will purify the bowl by rubbing the bowls lid with their finger and will wipe their finger on a cloth. After serving the tea a discussion can take place, but politics and religion are off limits.

A casual ceremony will last 45 minutes where a more formal can take place for 2-3 hours. Tea ceremonies take place at a tea house and can take place during the changes of the seasons or special occasions. Participants should not wear jewelry as it could scratch or damage the bowls. Watches are also discouraged, participants should not be worried about time.

The ceremony is an exercise of enjoying the moment. Each ceremony is a once in a life time opportunity; It will never be repeated.

At Short and Stout Tea Lounge, we have many of the necessary tools to experience a similar experience at home. Matcha bowls, whisks, rests, and spoons are found in our accessories. We are also making it easier to experience Matcha in your favorite drink. Ask to upgrade any tea at the lounge with a shot of Matcha, giving you the health benefits of this experience with your favorite taste.

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Part I: Intro to Rooibos and Honeybush

Introduction

Rooibos (roy-boss), also known as ‘African red tea’ or ‘red bush tea’, is native to South Africa. Growrooibos bushn in the mountainous region of Cederberg, for centuries natives have used this plant for its taste and health benefits. Considered a ‘tisane’, as it does not derive from the traditional Camillia sinensis plant, Rooibos is naturally without caffeine and has a sweet, nutty flavor. Rooibos is commonly oxidized, giving it the signature red color of the leaves. However, leaves left unoxidized are known as ‘green Rooibos’ with a malty, grassy flavor different from traditional Rooibos. A cousin to Rooibos, Honeybush is also found in South Africa. Named for its honey smelling flowers, Honeybush has a similar but sweeter taste than Rooibos.

Rooibos Plant

History

For centuries, the Khosian tribe or bushmen of South Africa harvested and used Rooibos as a remedy for many ailments. Their same methods of harvesting and processing the tea are used today with improved technology. In the 1700s, Dutch Settlers came to South Africa and botanist Carl Humberg rediscovered the Rooibos bush, sparking its popularity to settlers missing their tea from home. Then in the early 1900s, Russian tea merchant Benjamin Ginsberg, cultivated Rooibos and exported it to the masses. Later during World War II, importing teas from Asia became more difficult and Rooibos became a popular alternative, however the high cost of Rooibos seeds made it difficult to buy. Finally, in the late 1960s Annique Theron wrote of the health benefits associated with Rooibos and Honeybush expanded their popularity.

Rooibos Health BenefitsOrganic Rooibos

Many health benefits are attributed to Rooibos. After all, it was first drunk for a variety of aliments. Modern science has only started determining its direct affect on health. Headaches, insomnia, asthma, hypertension, and allergies all have been said to be soothed by drinking Rooibos. WebMD reports that they are high in antioxidants which is said to prevent cancer, boost immunity and slow aging process. In 2010, an article in the journal of Public Health Nutrition showed that Rooibos lowered blood pressure which decreases hypertension and lowers heart disease risk. Research has shown no side effects associated with Rooibos and is considered safe for children and pregnant women.

Find a variety of flavors of Rooibos and Honeybush online or in the lounge. Try a Rooibos latte style or try one of our CRAFTeas in the lounge like our Tiramisu Amaretto to satisfy your Rooibos craving!

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Introduction to Japanese Tea: Part 1

In Japan, tea is produced just about everywhere. Shizuoka, Kagoshima and Uji are three of the major tea- growing regions throughout Japan. Tea came to Japan from China in the 800s to Kyoto, just north of Uji by Buddhist Monks. Japan didn’t think tea was important and it wasn’t planted in the country until 1100s after another Buddhist monk popularized the health benefits of tea drinking. Today, the tea gardens that were planted in the 1100s are still producing today. They provide a variety of green teas most famously including gyokuro, sencha, and matcha (tencha leaves). Green tea has since then been a very important part of Japanese society and culture.

Shizuoka Tea Region

The Shizuoka growing region is also known as ‘The Kingdom of Green Tea’. Producing the largest amount of tea in Japan, this region lives up to its nickname. Shizuoka is responsible for producing almost half of Japan’s tea production between 40-45%. This region is located on the central coast of Japan, 150 km away from Tokyo, with a view of Mt. Fuji from the tea fields. Tea from the Shizuoka region is often referred to as the best tea in Japan. This region is mostly made up of small, family run operations growing a wide variety of tea. However, sencha tea is the region’s most famous variety, as they are the leaders of its production.

Kagoshima Tea Region

The Kagoshima region comes in second to Shizuoka for production rate. Kagoshima is responsible for 20% of Japan’s Tea. While other regions are leaders in a specific type of green tea, Kagoshima is the region that has the most variety of green teas grown. This region is in a volcanic region. There are many active volcanos nearby often leaving ash on the tea leaves to be washed off! Originally this region was insignificant to Japan’s tea production and only after WWII did they grow. Due to this, Kagoshima was seen more for its cheap price in tea rather than its quality. However, after WWII this all changed and Kagoshima is now comparable to the quality of teas of that from Uji and Shizuoka.

Uji Tea Region

The Uji region is famous not for their size of production but rather their high quality. Only 4% of this region makes up Japan’s tea production. Known around the world for their high quality of green tea, gyokuro and matcha are two of the most famous teas from this region. Located in this region is the oldest tea house in Japan, Tsuen Tea. This tea house has been in the same location since its opening in 1160. Today, the Tseun Tea house is still open and in operation for visitors to enjoy a cup of tea overlooking the Uji river.

Sencha, matcha, gyokuro, and other Japanese teas are available at the Short and Stout Tea Lounge or our online store. Check back next time when we’ll discuss what the differences in these green teas are and what makes them so different!

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Yerba Mate part I

Yerba Mate (yer-bah mah-tay) is made from the leaves of the Holly Tree found in the South American rainforest. Just like mint, chamomileyerba mate plant and rooibos, yerba mate does not derive from the Camellia Sinensis plant so it is not called a tea, rather it is a tisane. Unlike other tisanes found in the shop, yerba mate is naturally caffeinated carrying as much caffeine as coffee does without its common jitters or the acidic taste.

Chemical Components

The plant contains numerous vitamins and minerals including, Vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, Niacin, B5, B Complex, Calcium, Manganese, Iron, Selenium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Zinc, 15 Amino Acids among many others. The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 were interested in the plants health benefits and did a complete study. The investigators concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that yerba mate contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”

Close Cousins

Another caffeinated tisane that derives from another Holly Tree is called guayusa (gwhy-you-suh). Like its yerba mate cousin, this tisane contains many health benefits. Guayusa contains, vitamins C and D, potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, and all 15 essential amino acids. Full of antioxidants, guayusa has even more than antioxidant rich green tea. Commonly found in energy drinks, guayusa is a great source for a caffeine fix. Yaupon is a holly plant that was steeped in hot water and enjoyed by the Native Americans.

These tisanes are grown in similar conditions. They are cultivated under the shade of taller trees to protect their leaves from direct sunlight, meaning more trees in the rainforest. Legends and ceremonies surround these unique tisanes, which will be explored in Yerba Mate Part II.

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5 Functional Herbs You Should Know

The new year brings new resolutions and many are looking to make changes and become healthier in their daily lives. One way to stay healthy this year is through drinking tea. At Short and Stout, we believe that drinking your favorite tea is the best way to stay healthy. While your favorite tea provides numerous benefits, at the shop there is a collection of ‘functional teas’ that can boost your health as well. This list focuses on five of the herbs used in these herbal teas or tisanes that are well known to provide an extra boost to your daily health routine.

  1. Valerian Root- Valerian root has a long history as an herbal remedy and was often used by ancient Greeks and Chinese. Today, it is most well-known for its use as a sleep aid and studies have shown that valerian root works to provide relief for sleep disorders. Among other uses valerian root has been used in relationship to anxiety, muscle and joint pain, and migraines to name a few.
  2. Tulsi- Tulsi, also known as holy basil is a member of the mint family packed with health benefits. Tulsi is traditionally used in the Indian Ayurvedic tradition and today is most well-known for its stress relieving qualities. Studies have shown that tulsi may be helpful to reduce blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics and improve breathing in those with asthma.
  3. Organic Honeybush- Organic honeybush is a cousin of the rooibos plant. Naturally decaffeinated and sweet in taste this plant has many health benefits both long term and short term. Some of the many health benefits include improving the immune system and inflammatory relief.
  4. Elderflowers- Elderflowers are traditionally used in German medicine and have been used for a long time. High in vitamin C, elderflowers can be used to aid in the prevention of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Additionally, studies have shown elderflowers can be effective in fighting the flu.d
  5. Chamomile- Chamomile is a powerful flower that has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Chamomile is often used in small quantities to relax and in large quantities to assist in sleep but also provides other health benefits. Studies have shown that chamomile works as an immunity booster, relief for menstrual cramps and tension, and skin conditions. Lastly, chamomile is strong enough to aid in these ailments but is gentle enough to aid infants and children as well—with the right amount and a doctor’s approval, chamomile can soothe upset stomachs and assist with colic.

These herbs and more can be found at Short and Stout in a variety of our teas and tisanes.

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Brewing Iced Tea: It’s about time

In the previous post we talked about the basics of brewing tea. Amount of tea, Temperature and Time are are measured for a single strong, but not too bitter cup or pot. However, there are several ways to adjust the method to make the perfect iced tea for you and the time you have to enjoy it.

  1. Cold Brewing: Using 1 teaspoon of tea per 8 ounces of cold water and steep for 6-8 hours. The cold water reduces the extraction of the bitter compounds of tea. As a result the long steep produces a lighter more floral infusion. If you steeped it longer and it is a touch bitter, add water to dilute to taste. This works well with Black and Green tea, but Oolong is my favorite.
    Iced Brewed Green Tea

    Iced Brewed Green Tea

  2. Ice Brewing: This is a perfect way to enjoy a warm and relaxing afternoon. Stack as much ice in a cup or a wide mouthed pot and pour 1 teaspoon of tea per 8 ounces. After 20 minutes of partaking in your favorite lounging activity, you are ready for your first pour. White Tea and Green Tea are best for this method. Feel free to add more ice to keep the pot going.

3. Instant Iced Tea: This is the quickest way to a cup of tea in the list, but “instant” is a little exaggeration. In this tea brewing method you would brew everything as you would for a hot cup of tea, but are suggested to add double the amount of tea. The result is a concentrate that can be diluted with ice and be chilled without being watered down.

So there are three options to enjoy a cup or pot of iced tea. Always feel free to adjust the time, temperature or amount to come up with the perfect brewing technique for you.

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Brewing Tea: It’s about time

Brewing tea is easy! Regardless of how you made it, if the taste suits you, you brewed it right! If you didn’t care for the taste, because it wasn’t strong enough or too bitter then this post might help you.

Each type of tea has a recommended water temperature and steeping time for optimal flavor. But if you aren’t too fussy or you are too busy to fuss, the water temperature is the number 1 thing to pay attention to. Green tea typically requires lower temperature water, which means you should stop applying heat before water comes to a boil or let the pot cool off for 3 minutes after a boil. Green tea requires the least amount of time for steeping. 3 Minutes. That’s it. Green tea will get very bitter if any longer than that. Black tea can go for a maximum of 5 minutes, but I actually prefer 4. White Tea and Oolong can go for a full 5 minutes because these teas don’t get bitter as quickly as Green or Black Teas.

Tea Brewing Chart

Above is a chart that serves as an overview of the brewing requirement for tea. It serves as a guideline and can be adjusted for personal tastes. If you typically require sugar with your cup of tea, you’ll be surprised by how little you’ll need if you reduce the amount of steeping time.

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3 Essential Things you need to known about Kombucha Tea

There seems to be two different types of people 1) Those who love kombucha and 2) Those that know nothing about it. In this short article I want to go over some basics.

  1. Kombucha is the drink that is derived from a sweet tea fermented by a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). A green, oolong or black tea is mixed with sugar and the Scoby also known as Mother is added to the mix for 2 to 4 weeks. The result is fizy slightly sweet and slightly sour drink.
  2. Kombucha is commonly found in many grocery stores but can be made at home. Dehydrated Scoby can be bought over the internet, however it is best to get an established Mother from a friend. When trying kombucha for the first time, it is wise to drink a little at a time for your body to get used to this most unusual drink.
  3. Most bottled kombuchas are flavored with fruit, herbs and hibiscus. Home made kombucha can be flavored after the scoby is removed from the tea mixture. This steeping of fruit should be done in the refrigerator to reduce the production of carbon dioxide.

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Spring Tea Talks with Matthew

Tea in History: Thursday, March 3rd at 7pm at Guilderland Public Library

Tea is the second most popular beverage in the world (only second to water), its origins date back five thousand years and encompasses the world; there has to be a good story or two in its history. This is a fun interactive session that will reveal “Who was Earl Grey, Anyway?”, “John Fortune’s Misfortunes” and “Name that Culture”. Registration is Free at www.guilpl.org

 

Tea and Cheese Pairing: Thursday, March 10th at 6pm at Honest Weight Food Co-op

Looking for more knowledge on tea, cheese or both? Short and Stout and the HWFC Cheese Department has came up with 5 pairings that will delight the senses and inform the curious mind. Learn what makes for a good pairing, preparation tea and effective garnishing. Registration is free at eventbrite.com

 

Thailand Tea Tasting: Tuesday, March 22nd at 6pm at Short and Stout Tea Lounge (Note Date Change)

Our travels to Thailand earlier this year provided us with an opportunity to procure a variety of unique teas. We will be offering a tasting with our USDA Organic Certified Matcha and several grades of oolong including one Frost Tea that is only picked during an overnight frost. Traditional Thai food will be offered. Register at the lounge, Cost $10.

 

The Next Generation of Tea: Thursday, April 7th at 7pm at Guilderland Public Library

Can’t teach a 5000 year old dog new tricks? I beg to differ. The culture of tea has ever evolved and this tea talk will build on March’s session on tea history and discuss where tea is going. Will it be traditional, will it be organic? What is Bubble Tea anyway? Registration is Free at www.guilpl.org


Herbal Teas from Your Garden: Thursday, May 5th at 7pm at Guilderland Public Library

Learn how to make and enjoy herbal teas grown from your garden. A discussion on health benefits and a tasting will be provided. Registration is Free at www.guilpl.org. This session will also be given March 20th during the Garden and Flower Show at Hudson Valley Community College, Troy.

 

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