The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
The Tea in Special-ty
Specialty and gourmet teas possess unique qualities that set them apart from
regular teas for a variety of reasons.  For some it's a special step in processing,
a unique flavor, or the locale in which they're grown that separates them from
the pack.
One of these is Lapsang Sou-
chong tea (also known as
Russian Caravan).  Deep in the Wuyi mountain
forests in China's northwest Fujian Province, lie
smoking sheds where the finished black tea is
taken to receive one final step in processing.

Laid out in thin layers in the sheds, the tea will
receive a long, hard smoke, infusing it with a
strong, smoky flavor that's loved by millions
worldwide.

Another special tea is
chai tea (also called
masala chai).  If you love your tea sweet and
spicy, then this is the one for you.

The original recipe for this
Indian black tea is
made with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and sugar, although every tea shop has their
own rendition of what it should taste like.

                                                   During China's last four dynasties (the
Tang, Song, Ming and       
                                                   Qing), the emperor received a special tea as a tax payment to
                                                   the throne.  Known as Imperial Tribute Teas, these teas were of
                                                   the highest quality and made exclusively at each emperor's         
                                                   request.

                                                   Although the days of Imperial China ended in 1912, the Tribute
                                                   Teas lived on.  Today they're known as China's "Famous Teas,"
                                                   and are still of the very highest quality and proudly produced by
                                                   the region in which they're grown.

Some are named after the mountains in which they're grown, such as Huang Shan Mao Feng
(
Anhui Province), Lu Shan Yun Wu, also called Lu Shan Clouds and Mist (Jiangxi Province), and
Tianmu Shan Clouds and Mist (Zhejiang Province).

Others bear more ethereal, poetic names,
such as Mengding Mountain Snow Buds
(Sichuan Province).  Still others are tied to
myths or legends such as one of China's
most famous
green teas, Longjing or
Dragonwell tea (Zhejiang Province), or Da
Hong Pao, grown in the loose rocky soil
on the Wuyi Cliffs in
Fujian Province, also
known in legend as Royal Red Robe.

Also from the Fujian Province and one of
the "Famous Teas" is Tieguanyin.  This
oolong tea also goes by the name Iron
Goddess of Mercy, and is tied to local le-
gend.  This is one of the most famous and
popular
oolong teas available.

These Fujian oolongs are also known as Min-Nan
Oolong (grown south of the Min River), or Min-Bei
oolong (grown north of the Min River).  This popular
style of oolongs also include Wuyi and rock oolongs.
A similar style of
Tieguanyin oolong is also grown and made in Taiwan.

                                                Among the "famous teas" you'll also find
traditional budset white
                                                teas - Bai Hao Yin Zhen (Flowery White Pekoe or Silver Needle),
                                                also grown in the Fujian Province.  These special teas require
                                                more than 10,000 handpicked buds to make just 2.2 lbs. of tea,
                                                making it one of the most expensive white teas (yet still only
                                                pennies a cup), but worth every cent.

Another gourmet tea is the Japanese ceremonial tea,
Matcha.  This
green tea is steamed during processing (rather than the basket or
oven dried teas of China), and is ground into a very fine powder.

The ceremonial grade of Matcha is
very expensive, but the regular,
or culinary grade Matcha costs much less and is great for
cooking,
added to salad dressings or marinades.

Lastly, one of my favorites are
blooming teas.  These teas go by
many different names, including artisan, presentation teas, display
teas, and treasure teas.  The bundles of supple, high quality teas are wrapped with silk threads
and transform into beautiful, fascinating shapes while steeping, such as bird's nests, baskets,
and flowers.

                                                They make wonderful
gifts or centerpieces at anniversary, dinner,
                                                or birthday parties, or wedding and baby showers.  Your guests
                                                will not only be fascinated watching as the forms take shape
                                                before their eyes, but the tea is also delicious.

                                                Tea is definitely a versatile beverage with many sides and charac-
                                                teristics.  Because of the vast array of teas available, it can be a
                                                little confusing at times, but I hope our information helps you
                                                along the way.

I love the variety and it's fun knowing you can try a different tea every day of the week, and not
run out of choices for literally years.  
Enjoy.  
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