Darjeeling Tea: 2017 First Flush Picking

Darjeeling tea is sometimes known as “the champagne of teas” due to its delicate taste and high quality. Darjeeling, aDarjeeling First Flush Picking region in India, is well known for tea and is home to over 80 tea estates, including Monteviot estate. Found in the Himalayan mountain region in West Bengal, Monteviot estate is home to high quality and consistently wonderful, organic tea. With Darjeeling teas, there are four different harvests throughout the year. Each harvest is called a flush and each flush produces a different flavor and profile of tea.

2017 Monteviot First Flush Darjeeling

Sitting on the counter of the tea lounge, is a bamboo box filled with a very special Darjeeling tea. The box contains 2017 First Flush Darjeeling black tea, which is both flavorful and smooth. This teas harvest, known as the first flush, refers to the first, summer harvest of the year. As stated before, each flush provides a different flavor with the first and second flushes being the most sought after. This year has been tough for Darjeeling tea as the first flush was almost unavailable due to droughts in the region. However luckily for tea lovers, the skies opened and provided Darjeeling with good rainfall to harvest a smaller batch of it’s high quality tea.

Political Unrest

Unfortunately, however, t his year political unrest has prevented a 2017 second flush from production. Strikes and demonstrations have occurred throughout the area this year. The conflict surrounds a desire for a separate homeland for the majority Gurkha community in the area. Business within the area including tea production has stopped, with many workers joining in the strike. Many say that even if tea production was to begin it would take weeks for the tea to be ready. Weeding, pruning, and harvesting the delicate leaves takes a lot of time that unfortunately the time sensitive tea plants do not have.

It is unfortunate we will not see a second flush this year, however Short and Stout still has a limited amount of the first flush available in the lounge to take home or to enjoy a pot in the lounge. Come in and try it before it is gone for good!

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Japanese Tea Part 4: Uji Genmaicha

 

Genmaicha OverviewUji Genmaicha Green Tea

Genmaicha tea is also known as ‘rice’ or ‘popcorn’ tea and literally translates to mean ‘brown rice tea’.  This tea is made up of green tea, roasted rice, and often has Matcha as well. Brown rice is first toasted and then combined with the green tea leaves to make Genmaicha. During the toasting process, some of the rice kernels pop making them look like popcorn, as their nickname suggests. Known for its unique flavor which is nutty and sweet, Genmaicha can be found in both a yellowish color and green color, which is effected by the addition of matcha to the blend.

Myths and Stories of Genmaicha’s History

 While the true history of Genmaicha is unknown, there are many stories that claim to be the true origins. The first story states that Genmaicha can be traced back to the 15th century. A feudal lord or samurai was enjoying his favorite green tea one day. His servant, pouring him his tea accidentally spilled rice into his cup. Angry and offended the man beheaded his servant. Following his reaction, he tasted the tea with the rice and found the flavor to be very good. Feeling remorse for his impulsive action, the man requested this tea everyday afterwards to honor the servant and named the tea Genmaicha after his servant, Genmai. A second origin claims that as tea was considered a luxury, not everyone could afford to have a cup daily. To make the tea last longer, housewives added toasted rice to the leaves to make the supply last longer and make it more affordable. A third explanation claims that a folk custom of roasting leftover kagami-mochi, or mirror rice cake, from the New Year celebrations and putting it into tea. Whichever the true story, today Genmaicha comes in different ways always including the signature brown rice.

Short and Stout carries Uji Genmaicha in the lounge and online. It is a great tea that when looking for something unique and different is worth giving a try!

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Japanese Tea Part 3: Gyokuro Green Tea

Gyokuro: IntroductionJapanese Gyokuro Green Tea

Gyokuro is a Japanese green tea that translates to mean “Jade Dew”, reflecting the brewed tea’s pale green color. It is of the most expensive tea in Japan and is considered to be of the highest grade. Unlike Sencha, Gyokuro is shaded from the sun before it is harvested. Normally shaded for three weeks, this process increases the theanine and chlorophyll in the tea giving it its signature sweet flavor. The leaves for Gyokuro are a dark green color after harvested. Once brewed the tea has a sweet, soft marine- like and nutty flavor that tickles the fifth taste bud, umami!

Gyokuro’s History

Gyokuro’s history begins in the Edo period, in 1835. Yamamoto Kahei the Sixth, traveled to the Uji region of Japan to study their tea processes. While there, he loved the taste of the teas he consumed. After returning home, he attempted to recreate the process and was unable to replicate the sweet taste and process. Unsuccessful in recreating the tea, he did however create a different kind of tea known as tamanotsuyu. In 1841, Eguchi Shigejuro was able to recreate the process by covering the leaves and completed the process of making Gyokuro as we know it today.

Umami?

We have all learned about sweet, salty, sour and bitter, but there is a new kid on the block. Umami as a flavor distinct from all the others and was adopted scientifically in 1985. This flavor is described as richness in flavor. This adds another whole dimension to tea since American’s typically think tea is just bitter! The very best Gyokuro that we tried has so much umami and tasted so creamy that we thought we were drinking a latte. In addition to drinking Gyokuro for its health benefits and taste, many consume the leaves after steeping either as a salad with soy sauce and lemon juice or adding them to meals like stir fry!

Gyokuro is available at Short and Stout Tea Lounge everyday as well as for purchase in our online store. Give this delicacy a try and let us know what you think!

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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 III: Legends

In our final installment of the yerba mate series, we highlight a few of the legends surrounding yerba mate. While consuming yerba mate, stories are shared amongst friends and are a very important aspect of enjoying the drink.

Legend of YariYerba Mate

In this legend, Yari, the moon, and Tupa, the powerful god of the Guaranies, travel to Earth together. On Earth, they turn into two beautiful women and walk through the forest. After a while they became tired and decided to head towards a nearby cottage. Before arriving, a jaguar jumped out to attack them. A nearby Guarani man shot an arrow through the jaguar, saving them and then offered hospitality in his hut to the two women. After spending the night Tupa and Yari left, and went up to heaven to decide how to reward the family. One night they guided the family into a deep sleep and while they slept they sowed light blue seeds in front of their house. In the morning Yari told the family that through their hospitality the gods rewarded them with the yerba mate plant to share with the region, the symbol of friendship. They also granted immortality to their daughter, so that she would never lose her goodness and innocence in her heart. She then taught them how to toast and drink the mate. After many years, the old couple passed and the daughter had fulfilled her ritual obligations and disappeared from earth. It is said that from time to time it is possible to see her amongst the Paraguayan fields, a beautiful blonde girl reflecting innocence.

The Tupi Brothers Legend

This well-known legend takes place in Paraguay and discusses the origins of the Guarani people. Ancient ancestors of the Guarani crossed a vast ocean from a distant land to settle into the Americas. Two brothers, Tupi and Guarani led their people throughout this journey and feuded. Their feud divided the tribe into two groups named after the brothers. The Tupi people were more nomadic and fierce compared to the God fearing, agricultural Guarani. The Guarani people looked forward to the arrival of the tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed and bearded God, Pa’i Shume. When he did arrive, he unlocked the secrets and health benefits of the yerba mate plant to the Guarani people. While this ancient tradition is today recognized only as a legend, the truth behind the health benefits of the plant have survived.

The Guarani Legend

Like the legend of the Tupi Brothers, the legend of the Guarani revolves around the god Pa’i Shume. The legend begins with an old farmer and his daughter. The old farmer falls ill and decides that he will not move again with the tribe, that he would rather live alone. His daughter refuses to leave his side and stays with him even after the rest of the tribe moves on. As a reward to the daughter, the god Pa’i Shume disguises himself as a shaman and gives the old farmer the yerba mate plant and teaches him how to roast and prepare it. After drinking the mate, the man gains the strength to accompany his daughter to reunite with their tribe. The old farmer and his daughter then shared the secrets of mate to them. From then on the Guarani people have consumed mate and used its health benefits.

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Yerba Mate part II: The Ceremony

Yerba Mate derives from South America and is especially popular in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Similarly, guayusa also derives from South America and is very popular in Ecuador.  A common way to consume both yerba mate and guayusa is in a gourd ceremony.

Gourd Ceremony            yerba mate

The yerba mate gourd ceremony is a symbol of hospitality and friendship. These very social events bring groups together and traditionally stories and legends were shared at this event. To begin a cebador or a mate server prepares the mate for the group. The most important role of the cebador in preparing the mate is making sure that the mate is properly steeped resulting in a rich and smooth tasting brew. Each person drinks from the gourd through a straw filter called a bombilla. There is no rush to finish the gourd and when the recipient has had enough they say gracias (thank you) indicating that they are finished. The cebador refills the gourd as needed and it continues to be passed until the mate is lavado (flat).  The trick to drinking the yerba mate in this way is not to move the bombilla once the mate has been prepared.

Guayusa Ceremony

Similar to the yerba mate gourd ceremony, the guayusa ceremony brings groups together. For thousands of years, Ecuadorian families have woken up early and share the gourd, sharing stories and legends around the fire. Hunters would drink guayusa before nighttime hunting trips allowing them to focus and get closer to the environment around them, guayusa is nicknamed “The Night Watchman” for this reason. In our third and final yerba mate blog series, the legends and stories evolved from both yerba mate and guayusa will be explored!

It is fascinating to learn that regardless of the continent, tea and in this case tisane ceremonies are important rituals for cultures. In our busy lives shouldn’t we too take time to continue a ritual of tea.

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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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Pu-erh a Perfect Flavor for Fall

Since the change in seasons, my tea preference has changed. I am now navigating to something more rich, robust and yet less bite. Pu-erh has been my drink of choice for the past few weeks.

Simply put, Pu-erh (Pooh-Air) is an aged black tea. When we think of black tea we typically think of bitter and harsh. The aging process affects tea just like a couple of days affects stew. That is all the sharp flavors mellow into a nice smooth wholesome broth. The same holds true for aged Pu-erh.

Digging deeper into the history and process there are two types of Pu-erh. The most traditional Raw Pu-erh uses tea from the Yunnan Province in Southern China. The un-aged tea is very bitter so the aging process was born out of necessity for drinkability and storage. Raw Pu-erh is packed in compressed disks called cakes and aged a minimum of 15 years. These leaves hold up to several infusions and is often used in Gong Fu which is a Chinese method of preparing tea utilizing many infusions.

Ripe Pu-erh is a product of the modern age. This tea is typically found in loose form and produced by using moisture controlled rooms to speed up the aging process. Ripe Pu-erh can reach drinkability in 5 years. The downside is that Ripe Pu-erh tends to be generic in flavor where Raw will have more variability from cake to cake.

So whether you knew about Pu-erh or not hopefully you’ve learned something about this very important tea category.

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3 Tea Talks Scheduled at the Guilderland Public Library

Guilderland Public Library Tea Talks

 

 

We have teamed up with the Guilderland Public Library to give you our better than ever tea talks. Register for the events here: Guilderland Public Library Calendar

Introduction to Tea – November 12th

What is tea, anyway? Most people don’t know that white, green, oolong and black tea all come from the same tea plant, just what happen after it is plucked makes tea those different kind of styles. In this informative session we will discuss topics on tea basics including: what is tea, history of tea, how to brew tea and of course a tea tasting.

Herbal Teas and Tisanes – December 17th

Steeping an herb in boiling water makes tisanes, not tea. Tea only comes from the tea plant. In this session we will discuss topics regarding flavorful, easy to make and healthy tisanes. Of course the talk wouldn’t be complete without a tasting.

Health Benefits of Tea and Tisanes – January 28th

A lot of people drink tea because it tastes great and others drink it because it is healthy. Fortunately, both are right and the most healthiest tea is the one you drink the most. In this session we will discuss the health considerations of tea and tisanes. Brewing techniques will be discussed and tea samples will be provided.

 

Short and Stout Tea
Specialty Tea Shop and Lounge
1736a Western Av.
Albany, NY 12203

At Short and Stout, It’s Time for Tea!

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