Blends often begin as a regional or cultural preference toward a particular
strength or style of tea, and as people travel to these areas, they too gain an appreciation for
that unique style of tea -- hence the popularity of many classic blends.
East Frisian Blend:
East Frisia is a tiny German province, located along the North Sea near Holland, where tea is a grand tradition.
The residents of East Frisia (Ostfriesen) have fully integrated tea into their daily lives. Here,
strong black tea is highly valued. Hot tea is poured over a large crystal of sugar that
has been placed at the bottom of the teacup; a sharp crackling sound fills the air as the
sugar begins to fracture from the heat. The tea is then allowed to steep for no less than
five full minutes. The drink is completed with a spoonful of heavy cream that is not stirred,
but rather left to form a cloud in the center of the cup.
English Breakfast tea, while falling under no clear and universal
definition, is generally blended to create a strong morning cup that goes nicely with
the addition of milk. Some allege that "traditional" English Breakfast teas must contain
Chinese Keemun, but there is little historical evidence to substantiate this claim; the
English were enjoying hearty tea long before Keemun was introduced into the market.
Typically a blend of strong Assams, Irish Breakfast style tea is recognized
for its full-bodied character and malty flavor. Only teas with the darkest hue and strongest
flavor are chosen for blending this eye-opener. Today, Ireland is the largest per capita tea
drinking country in the world!
Through a caravan treaty with China, Russia gained exposure to a multitude
of treasures from the Far East -- one of which was tea. These days of rugged trade are revived
in contemporary Russian Caravan blends that attempt to recreate the high grade loose leaf tea
which was imported only for Russia's wealthiest citizens. (The lower classes could afford only
the more standard grade found in Chinese tea bricks.) Often, the inclusion of Lapsang Souchong in
these style teas yields a gently smoky cup that is often enjoyed in the afternoon or early evening.
Scented, Spiced, and Flavored Teas
Like blends, scented teas can also begin as regional or cultural
preferences toward particular flavors. The most popular scented teas are usually flavored
with fruit, natural oils, or flowers, but as is evident with the popularity of Lapsang Souchong,
any style of flavored tea may gain worldwide appreciation.
How Earl Grey tea originated is still somewhat of a mystery, and a
number of different accounts attempt to retell this famed tea's beginning. One version
declares that the Earl was in China on a diplomatic mission when he was given the
tea recipe as a gift from a grateful mandarin. In another version of the tale, he
received the recipe after he left his post in the government. The quirk of history is that
the Chinese have never produced nor consumed any style of tea scented with bergamot.
Whatever its historical origin, Earl Grey is perhaps one of the
most well-known teas in the United States and Europe, and the citrus flavor of bergamot
oil is surely unforgettable to anyone who has tasted it.
Jasmine teas are celebrated throughout the world for their light, floral
quality. Fresh green or pouchong tea base is dried with freshly picked jasmine flowers,
which are occasionally left in the tea for visual appeal. After the scenting process, the leaves
are then refired to remove any moisture imparted by the jasmine blossoms. Chun Hao: Literally translated, "Spring hair or fur." Yin Hao: Literally translated, "silver hair or fur."
Lapsang Souchong is one of the most distinctive teas in the world.
During production, large souchong grade leaves are placed over smoky pine fires until
the strong scent permeates the tea. China and Taiwan are currently the only two countries in
the world that produce this intensely flavored tea, which can be enjoyed at any time of day.
Because it is naturally low in caffeine, Lapsang Souchong is a popular choice for an evening
cup of tea.
With a taste reminiscent of light citrus, Lychee tea is made from a black
tea base and lychee fruit from southern Chinese evergreens. This unique fruit is popularly
known in China as "Feizi Xiao" (Feizi's Smile) from the story of a Tang emperor who had lychee
fruit imported daily to please his favorite concubine, Feizi.
The Chinese create rose tea by blending a standard grade of green or black
tea with petals from the native Rosa odorata, or "tea rose." The result is a floral aroma
with a refreshingly floral flavor. Like jasmine, the tea is dried with fresh petals which may or
may not be left in the final product.
Japanese Green Teas
The different types of Japanese teas are best understood as variations on a continual
theme -- quality green tea. This does not mean, however, that all Japanese green teas taste the same,
as anyone comparing a cup of Genmaicha and Gyokuro could easily tell you. Within Japanese teas there is a
wide array of choices available to the loose tea connoisseur.
Savored throughout the day, Bancha greens are the "everyday" teas of
Japan. Because this tea is gathered in the last few pluckings of the year, old and new leaves
are often mixed together. Because it is the lowest grade of Japanese green tea, Bancha is often
used as the tea base for Genmaicha or scented with fruit flavoring to impart a unique
fragrance and taste.
Puffed rice is added to a Bancha or Sencha tea base to create Genmaicha. The
result is a delightful, toasty tea with an equally interesting aroma.
Gyokuro (literally translated "Pearl dew") is the finest of all Japanese teas.
The bushes are covered with straw or dark cloth shades three weeks before the first buds are
expected to "flush." Sleek, dark green leaves are the unique result. This shading also creates a
chemical change where flavanol levels are slightly reduced while caffeine content remains at a
higher concentration. Pleasingly vegetal, Gyokuro offers a full green flavor with a slightly
During the production of Hojicha, Bancha leaves are lightly roasted. The
delicate, earthy liquor is characterized by a subtle nutty quality.
Kokeicha begins as a paste of Matcha and water which is then extruded
through tiny holes to make long, spaghetti-like strings. This pale yellow tea is known
for its vegetal quality.
Made from twigs of Camellia Sinensis, Kukicha is a mild, earthy
tea that is low in caffeine. The woody character is pleasingly subtle.
Used in Cha-no-yu, the Japanese tea ceremony, Matcha is a powdered form
of the highly valued Gyokuro. Tencha leaves (the storage form between Gyokuro and Matcha)
are mechanically ground into very fine particles. When infused, Matcha has a slightly bitter
flavor that can be controlled by stirring the tea with a bamboo wisk to create more froth.
Sencha tea is well-known for its beautiful long, flat, green leaves that infuse
to yield a pale green cup with a vegetal, grassy quality. Ichiban-cha: Is a first flush Sencha. Niban-cha: Is a second flush Sencha.
Gyokuro leaves are cut up into these smaller pieces for storage until
they are needed for the Cha-no-yu ceremony. Then, they are ground into the fine
powder known as Matcha.
Chinese Green Teas
As Chinese history is full of rich tales and legends, so too are the individual
backgrounds of the country's exquisite teas. Different regions produce the unique styles which
are well-known throughout the world, but perhaps their individual tales are not as familiar.
A form of "eyebrow" tea whose name originated because the Chinese believed
that the delicately shaped leaf resembled a lady's plucked eyebrow. Literally translated,
Chunmee means "precious eyebrow." The twisted leaves yield a pleasing plum flavor.
Literally translated, "point or peak" (as in a mountain).
Because the tightly rolled leaves preserve moisture and freshness,
gunpowder greens were some of the first teas to be exported from China to Europe. The
small pellets earned the gunpowder reference because they supposedly resembled ammunition.
As the leaves infuse, the compact balls unfurl and yield a dark liquor that often has a slight
Temple of Heaven:
This premier style of gunpowder from the Zhejiang province has an aromatic
cup with a sweet, grassy character. Temple of Heaven is more delicate than other
Gu Zhang Mao Jian:
Gu Zhang Mao Jian is a springtime tea that is harvested only once
a year during a brief ten-day period. Grown in the Yellow Mountains of the Anhui province,
these leaves are often flecked with silver tips. When infused, Gu Zhang Mao Jian yields
a dark yellow liquor with a pleasingly smooth flavor.
Long Jing (or Lung Ching) is perhaps one of China's best-loved green
teas. Chinese legend retells the story of a drought that devastated the farming monks of the
Dragon's Well (Long Jing) monastery around 250AD. One desperate monk prayed directly to the
dragon, the king of water, and shortly thereafter, the dragon honored his prayers with
much-needed rain. Today, all Long Jing teas are picked in the Zheijiang province near
this famed well.
Tasters identify the quality of a Long Jing using four
characteristics: se, xiang, wei, and xing (color, aroma, taste, and shape).
The flat, smooth, uniform leaves infuse to a pale yellow flavor with a distinctively
Pan Long Yin Hao:
Grown in the Zheijiang province, Pan Long Yin Hao is a delightfully
complex tea with subtle flavor notes. The vegetal yet sweet flavor is truly unique.
Pi Lo Chun:
Pi Lo Chun, or "Green Snail Spring," was traditionally called "Astounding Fragrance"
for hundreds of years before a Manchu emperor renamed the tea in the 1700s. The original
name is thought to refer to the legendary belief that the tea gained its wonderful aroma from
the gardens of surrounding fruit trees. Pale yellow in the cup, Pi Lo Chun is arguably one of
the most prized teas in China. The delicate, twisted leaves unfurl to yield a sweet aroma and
liquor with a well-rounded body.
Another of the "eyebrow" teas, Shou Mei is literally translated as
"longevity eyebrow" because the leaves seemed to resemble the wiry brows of wise, older
Literally translated, "clouds and mist."
Literally translated, "flower rains." Elegant, pointed leaves yield a
clear tea with delicate flavor notes that are similar to those found in Pi Lo Chun.
"Upton Tea Imports was founded in 1989 with the objective of providing the North American tea drinker with
the finest teas available. We purchase teas from reputable brokers and estates worldwide, dealing only with
sources who are capable of providing top quality teas. We sell directly to the consumer, thus ensuring the
freshest product and fairest pricing."