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About Tea

Loose Tea vs. Teabags

Teabag tea is made with very small pieces of tea - called "Fannings & Dust." Because of their miniscule size, the tea pieces in a commercial teabag release all of their tannins and flavor at once.   This can result in a bitter brew if allowed to steep for more than a minute or two.   Conversely, Loose-Leaf Tea is made from either large pieces or whole-leaf teas.   These allow the tannins and flavors to be released slowly, and in a controlled manner.

You can only get one cup (or pot) of tea from teabags, but you can get up to four cups (or pots) from an equal amount of loose tea.   Loose tea is also more environmentally friendly - you don't have the box, the box liner, the paper or foil wrappers, the bag, string, staple & tag to dispose of.   When you're finished brewing a pot of loose-leaf tea, you can take the spent leaves and dump them on your garden, yard, flower or herb pots, or compost heap.   They bio-degrade and help to replenish the soil.   Of course, if you don't have a garden, yard or flower pots, you can dump them down the drain, or dispose of them in the trash, where they will also bio-degrade.  

And finally, when you factor in the fact that you're not paying for expensive packaging (it actually costs more than the tea!), and that you can get multiple cups or pots out of loose tea, it turns out that most Loose-Leaf teas are actually cheaper per serving than teabag teas!

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All teas come from 1 of 2 plants:

  • "Camellia Sinensis" (Chinese Tea)
  • "Camellia Assamica" (Indian Tea)

How the leaves are processed will determine their final classification as White, Green, Oolong or Black Tea.   The main difference between the many tea varieties is how much oxygen the leaves are allowed to absorb during processing.   Much oxygen produces dark-colored, black teas.   A little oxygen results in green tea.   Unprocessed leaves are called "white tea."

White and Yellow Teas are produced on a very limited scale in China and India.   They are the least processed of all teas.   The new tea buds are plucked before they open and simply allowed to dry.   The curled-up buds have a silvery appearance and produce a pale and very delicate cup of tea.

Green Tea is often referred to as “unfermented" tea.   The freshly picked leaves are allowed to dry, then they are heat-treated (steamed or fired) to stop any fermentation (also called oxidation).   In China, traditional hand-making methods are still employed in many places, particularly in the manufacture of the fine green teas you'll find offered here.

Oolong Tea is generally referred to as "semi-fermented" tea and is principally manufactured in China and Taiwan — often called Formosa, its old Dutch name.   For the manufacture of Oolongs, the leaves are wilted in direct sunlight, then shaken in bamboo trays to lightly bruise the edges.   Next, the leaves are spread out to dry until the surface of the leaf turns slightly yellow.   They are then usually smoked over pine charcoal, giving them their distinctive flavor and aroma.   Oolongs are always whole leaf teas, never broken by rolling.   The least fermented Oolong teas, almost green in appearance, are called "Pouchong."

Black Tea undergoes a full fermentation process composed of four basic steps - withering, rolling, fermenting, and firing.   First, the plucked leaves are spread out to wither.   The withered leaves are then rolled, in order to release the chemicals within the leaf that are essential to its final color and flavor.   The rolled leaves are spread out once more to absorb oxygen (oxidize / ferment), causing the leaves to turn from green to coppery red.   Finally, the oxidized leaves are fired in order to arrest fermentation, turning the leaf black and giving it the recognizable tea scent.

Pu-Erh is a special kind of Tea which is made from green or black tea, fermented (using a secret process passed down for centuries), and pressed into cakes or bricks and stored for several years before being offered for sale.   Aged Pu-Erh is also available as a loose tea.   Like a fine wine, Pu-Erh's flavor mellows and improves over time — some highly prized (and very expensive!) Pu-Erh Cakes are over 30 years old!

Indian Teas & Chai include Assam, Darjeeling, Earl Grey and other Teas from India & Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in White, Green and Black versions.   Chai (the Hindi word for Tea) is a blend of teas and spices.   Indian Darjeeling & Assam Black Teas (or Chinese or Ceylonese Blacks) are blended with cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, black pepper and other aromatic spices.   Chai can also be made with Green Tea or Rooibos for reduced caffeine levels.   Chai is usually served strong with Milk and Honey, although it is also wonderful all by itself!

Scented or Flavored White, Green and Black Teas are created when additional flavorings are mixed with the leaf as a final stage before the tea is packed.   For Premium Jasmine tea, whole, fresh jasmine blossoms are added to the green tea during the drying process, new blossoms are added every night, and the old ones are removed.   This process is repeated for up to 10 nights.   For other grades of Jasmine tea, the blossoms are added when the tea is packed.   For other floral-scented or flavored teas, flower blossoms or petals may be added to the tea either during drying, or just prior to packing.   Fruit and spice flavored teas are generally made by combining a fruit's or spice's essential oils, or actual pieces of the fruit or spice, with tea from China, India or Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

"Red" Teas are not really teas.   They are made from South African Herbs called "Rooibos" and "Honeybush." Both are naturally caffeine-free, with distinctive flavors and aromas.   Rooibos' flavor is reminiscent of Chinese Black Tea, but somewhat milder and sweeter.   Honeybush is a honey-scented flowering bush and creates an enticing, rich brew with sweet honey overtones.   Rich in anti-oxidants, phytoestrogens and essential minerals, both of these organic South African herbals are delicious and healthy, and ARE naturally caffeine-free.

Another type of "Red" Tea is "Yerba Maté," a South American herb with a sweet, tea-like flavor, high antioxidant and mineral content and the stimulating properties of caffeine.   Maté has great social significance in Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil, where people carry their Maté with them in a "gourda & bombilla" through which they sip all day long, adding water as they go.   Maté is NOT caffeine-free!

Herbal Teas (Tisanes) are not "true teas" as they are not made with tea leaves.   Herbal teas are made from flowers, herbs, spices and other botanicals, specially blended to be soothing and rejuvenating.   These "teas" are naturally caffeine-free.

Our Decaffeinated Teas are decaffeinated using either a natural CO-2 process or a water process that allows the leaves to retain their delicate shape and flavor.   Made from Ceylonese (Sri Lankan), Indian or Chinese Green and Black Teas, they come in several varieties and flavors.  

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Approximate Caffeine Levels: (Per 8 oz. cup)

  • Espresso Double Strong: up to 400 mg.
  • Regular Espresso: 200+ mg.
  • Regular Coffee: 100 ~ 150 mg.
  • Decaf Coffee: 5 ~ 10 mg.
  • Cola: 45 mg.
  • Chai & Maté: 40 ~ 50 mg.
  • Black, Flavored Black & Pu-Erh Teas: 40 mg.
  • Oolong Tea: 30 mg.
  • Green & Flavored Green Tea: 20 mg.  
  • White, Yellow & Flavored White Tea: 15 mg.
  • Decaf Tea: less than 5 mg.
  • "Red" & Herbal Teas: 0 mg.

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How many servings can you expect to get from a pound of loose tea?

The answer depends on several factors: the type of tea, how much tea you use, how big a "serving" is and how many times you infuse the tea.   As a general rule of thumb, you can expect to get 200 to 300 - 8 oz servings from one pound of tea, infusing it only once.   However, since most loose teas can be infused up to 4 (or more) times, you can get up to 1,200 servings per pound.   White, Yellow and Green Teas and Herbal Tisanes, however, are usually infused only once or twice, so you'll get just 200 to 400 servings per pound.

Even the most expensive loose tea we offer PQM Dragonwell at $ 149.00 per Lb.) costs only about $ 0.50 per 8 oz serving using just 1 infusion — less if you infuse it multiple times.   A $ 30.00 per lb tea costs just $ 0.10 per serving, again using only 1 infusion.

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Some of the Teas are weighed in grams - What is that in ounces?

Most of our Teas are weighed in Ounces, those weighed in Grams usually have the Ounce equivalent listed as well.   For your reference, here is a Gram - to - Ounce Conversion Table:

  • 14 grams = about 1/2 ounce.
  • 28.4 grams = about 1 ounce.
  • 114 grams = about 4 ounces.
  • 227 grams = about 8 ounces.
  • 454.4 grams = about 16 ounces (1 lb).
  • 500 grams (1/2 Kg) = about 17.5 ounces (1.1 lb).
  • 1,000 grams (1 Kg) = about 35.25 ounces (2.2 lb).

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What do the abbreviations after a tea name mean?

Due to a lack of information on the subject, there is great confusion over one of the simplest of tea terms, OP (Orange Pekoe).   Contrary to popular opinion, Orange Pekoe does not refer to a particular flavor, or even to a specific variety or quality of tea.   "Orange" is from the Dutch Royal House of Orange - from back when the Dutch controlled the Tea Trade before the Brits got into the act. Teas of a certain quality were designated as Orange to mean that they were acceptable to the Dutch for trading purposes.

"Pekoe" (in Chinese pidgin) literally means "Large Leaf" and is a designation of Leaf Size, so "Orange Pekoe" is nothing more than a designation for teas of a certain quality and leaf size.

As a result of the manufacturing process, the final product is comprised of leaf particles of varying sizes.   Because the finer particles steep quickly, the tea is sifted into lots of uniform leaf size.   Teas designated OP are comprised of larger leaf particles or whole leaves that will not pass through a sieve of a particular gauge.   BOP (Broken Orange Pekoe) designates a grade that is finer than OP.   Grades finer than BOP are called fannings, PF for Pekoe Fannings, and the smallest particles are referred to as dust.   Dust grades are used primarily in teabags.  

Other letters are often appended to the grade of tea to produce a baffling list of designations such as SFTGFOP1 (Super-Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, grade 1).   While there is a general correlation between acronyms and the general appearance and character of the tea, there is no strict correlation between the acronyms and the value or flavor of the tea.   While these lengthy acronyms appear on nearly every chest of single-estate tea, the real value of the tea is in its appeal to the palate.  

A Quick Guide to Nomenclature

Dust = Teabag Grade Tea
PF = Pekoe Fannings
BOP = Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOP = Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
TGBOP = Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
OP = Orange Pekoe
FOP = Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOP = Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOP = Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
STGFOP = Super Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP = Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FTGFOP-1 = Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1
SFTGFOP-1 = Super-Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1
SFSTGFOP-1 = Super-Fine, Super-Tippy, Flowery Orange Pekoe, Grade 1

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What do some of the terms in the descriptions mean?

Professional Tasters' Lexicon:

Dry Leaf:

  • Bloom: sheen or luster on black leaf.
  • Bold: large leaf or sometimes pieces of leaf too big for a grade, outsized.
  • Chesty: resinous odor/taste imparted by uncured wood in tea chest.
  • Common: poor quality.
  • Dull: leaf without sheen, i.e., "bloom."
  • Flaky: poorly made leaf that's flat and easily broken; nonpejoratively, small grades.
  • Shotty: well-made Gunpowder; sometimes also applied to Souchong.
  • Tippy: generous amounts of white or golden tip, i.e., budding leaf.
  • Well-twisted: fully withered, tightly rolled leaf.
  • Wiry: stylish, thin whole leaves; quite often OP grade.


  • Agony of the leaves: unfolding of the leaves in boiling water.

Tea Liquor:

  • Bakey: unpleasant taste caused by firing leaf at too high a temperature; not as strong as "burnt.
  • Biscuity: pleasant characteristic often associated with Assam teas.
  • Bite: not a taste but the astringent puckeriness that gives Black Tea its refreshing quality.
  • Body: viscosity, the strength of the liquor combined with its weight on the tongue; body may be "full," "light," etc.
  • Brassy: unpleasant tang caused by under-withering.
  • Bright: sparkling liquor characteristic of all fine teas; also describes taste opposite of "dull."
  • Brisk: lively, not flat.
  • Complex: the harmonious melange of various flavors characteristic of the very finest teas.
  • Dull: muddy looking liquor, the opposite of "bright"; "flat" tasting.
  • Flat: soft, rather flabby-bodied tea lacking "bite" and "briskness."
  • Fruity: piquant quality, characteristic of good Oolongs, some Keemuns, etc.
  • Gone off: tea that's been spoiled by improper storage or packing or is simply past its prime and stale.
  • Malty: a subtle underlying flavor often characteristic of Assam.
  • Peak: the high point of the tasting experience when, some instants after the liquor enters the mouth, its body, flavor, and astringency make themselves fully felt.   Greens and Oolongs do not peak but stand immediately and fully revealed.
  • Pointy: a liquor is said to "have point" if it shows some desirable property - for example, briskness or fine fragrance.
  • Pungent: astringent; what gives a tea its "bite."
  • Self-drinking: any tea with sufficient aroma, flavor, body, and color to stand alone and in no need of blending or the addition of milk and / or sugar for improvement.
  • Stewed or stewy: poorly fired tea giving soft liquor without "point"; also used for tea that's brewed too long and has become bitter.
  • Tarry: the smoky flavor associated with Lapsang Souchong.
  • Thin: lacking body and/or color.
  • Weedy: may be applied to thin, cabbagy Black Teas; non-pejoratively, a Green Tea may be called weedy if it has a not-unpleasant vegetative aroma and flavor, varying from simple "herbaceousness" to scents of new-mown hay.
  • Winey: usually descriptive of a mellow quality fine Darjeelings or Keemuns acquire with six months to a year or more of age; more rarely used to describe overfermented tea.

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Brewing the Perfect Cup:
(We include brewing instructions with every tea you order)

Start with good-tasting water.   Experiment with different spring waters.   Do NOT use boiling water when brewing a White, Yellow, Green or Oolong tea.   Boiling water "cooks" the leaves of these teas, destroying their flavor.

Here are some suggested water temperatures and steeping times:

  • Japanese Green Teas: Warm to Hot, 60° - 70°C.   (140° - 160°F.) Steep for 1 to 3 minutes.
  • White, Yellow & Green Teas: Hot, 70° - 80°C.   (160° - 180°F.) Steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Most Darjeeling Teas: Hot, 75° - 85°C.   (170° - 185°F.) Steep for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Flavored Green Teas: Very Hot, 80° - 90°C.   (180° - 195°F.) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Oolong Teas: Very Hot, 80° - 90°C.   (180° - 195°F.) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • "Red" Teas (Rooibos & Honeybush) & Chai: Near Boiling to Boiling, 95° - 100°C.   (200° - 212°F.) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Blooming Teas: Boiling, 100°C.   (212°F.) Steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Black & Pu-Erh Teas: Full, Rolling Boil, 100°C.   (212°F.) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.  
  • Flavored Black Teas: Full, Rolling Boil, 100°C.   (212°F.) Steep for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Herbal Tisanes: Very Hot to Boiling, 90° - 100°C.   (195° - 212°F.) Steep for 5 to 10 minutes.

Choose a ceramic teapot, or covered cup, with a twelve to sixteen-ounce capacity for one or two people, use a larger pot for more people.   A teapot with a built-in strainer will prevent leaves from entering the spout (and your cup!).   If you don't have a teapot with a built-in strainer, you can pour the tea through a small, fine-mesh strainer into your cup.   Preheat the teapot with hot water, then discard that water.   Place the suggested amount of Tea in the warmed pot, fill with the proper temperature water and steep as directed.  

  • For most loose teas, use approximately 2 teaspoons to 1 Tablespoon of tea per 16 to 24 ounces of water.
  • Use about 1 Tablespoon for Oolongs and Pu-Erhs.
  • Use up to 2 Tablespoons for Flavored White & Green Teas, Herbal Tisanes & “Red” Teas.
Brew the tea loose or in an infuser or tea ball, to allow the leaves to expand and the flavor to develop fully.  

At first — until familiar with a particular tea — steep it for about 1 to 2 minutes LESS than the suggested brewing time, then taste.   Pay attention to the taste rather than the color.   When the tea tastes right to you, serve or pour off the entire contents to avoid over-steeping.   Most loose teas are meant to be infused several times; simply add more hot water when needed, increasing steeping times with subsequent infusions.  

Feel free to experiment with brewing time and the proportion of tea to water.   If you like your tea strong, use more tea instead of steeping it for a longer time!   Don't overlook the beautiful colors and shapes of the leaves while brewing; appearance is very much a part of the experience.  

For those of you who like a nice, rich, strong Tea but can't tolerate the caffeine, here's a little trick for reducing the caffeine content of Oolong, Black & Pu-Erh teas: Place the tea in your warmed pot, pour some hot water into it — just enough to cover the leaves — wait 30 ~ 45 seconds, then pour off and discard the water.   Refill the pot with hot water and steep as usual.   This removes 50% to 70% of the caffeine!   Do NOT do this to White, Yellow, Green, Herbal, Decaf or Rooibos Teas — they're already very low in caffeine, or are caffeine-free.  

The most important part of brewing teas is consistency.   Once you find a method for a particular tea that suits your taste — stick with it!   If there is one thing for sure, it is that teas will change flavor when you change the way you brew them.

Most importantly, enjoy the tea!

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Brewing Iced Tea:

Use 1 to 1-1/3 ounces of tea per gallon of water.   Use 1/2 glaaon (64 oz) of water, heat the water and brew the tea as usual — it will be very strong!   Fill the pitcher with ice cubes and pour the hot, steeped tea over it, top it off with cold water and place it in the refrigerator until it's nice and cold.   To keep your tea from becoming diluted & "weak" when the ice melts — brew some of the same tea ahead (at the "regular" strength) and use it to make the ice cubes!   Almost any tea can be used for Iced Tea — however; Artisan Teas, White, Yellow and un-flavored Greens do not work well for Iced Tea.  

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Brewing Blooming Teas:

Use Boiling water, 100°C.   (212°F.).   The general practice is to use a medium (24 to 35 ounce) glass pot, and to use ONE piece of tea per pot.   When the tea has fully bloomed, it is ready to drink, although feel free to steep it longer if you like.   Blooming teas are meant to be infused up to 4 times, with longer steeping times for subsequent infusions.

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To Prepare Loose-Leaf Pu-Erh:

Place 1 Tablespoon of tea per 16 t 24 ounces of water in a teapot, teacup or "gaiwan." Fill with Boiling water, steep for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.   The tea should be dark red to black in color.   After the first infusion, a Loose-Leaf Pu-Erh may be re-steeped multiple times, just add more Boiling water.

To Prepare a Pu-Erh Tea Cake:

Steam it for several minutes until it softens, then cut or break off as much tea as needed — usually 1 Tablespoon per 16 t 24 ounces of water.   Put the tea in a teapot, teacup or "gaiwan." Continue as for the Loose-Leaf Pu-Erh, above.   After the first infusion, the Tea may be re-steeped multiple times, just add more Boiling water.   Allow the cake to dry, then re-wrap it and store it in a cool, dry, dark place until wanted again.   Pu-Erh gets better the longer it ages!

To Prepare a Pu-Erh Mini Tuo Cha:

Remove the paper wrapping and place one piece per 8 to 12 ounces of water in a teapot, teacup or "gaiwan." Continue as for the Loose-Leaf Pu-Erh, above.   After the first infusion, a Mini Tuo Cha may be re-steeped multiple times, just add more Boiling water.  

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Pairing Tea with Food:

These are general guidelines; as with all other things pertaining to food, you should feel free to experiment with different pairings.   Of course, teas are also great all by themselves!

  • Artisan, White, Yellow, Green and “Red” Teas are best with desserts or light foods; such as seafood, poultry, veal, egg-based, steamed or sautéed dishes.
  • Oolong, Black and Chais are best with heavier foods; such as duck and other game birds and meats, pork and beef steaks, chops and roasts, fried foods and curries.
  • Flavored Green & Black Teas and Herbal Tisanes are good with almost any dessert.
  • Pu-Erh Tea is an excellent digestif during or after an especially heavy, fatty or rich meal; as it has been shown to aid in the passage of fats through the digestive system and also helps to alleviate the heartburn typical after a heavy or rich meal.

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Storing Tea:

All tea has a shelf life — Green, White, Yellow and Flavored or Herbal Teas keep for about 3 to 6 months.   Oolongs, Black, Chai & "Red" Teas keep for 6 months to 1 year (some Oolongs - such as Da Hong Pao - can be kept for 3 to 5 years).   Pu-Erh Tea is a special case — it is usually aged for several years before being sold, and can be kept for 10 to 30 years or more! Pu-Erh gets better the longer it ages!

All teas require proper storage to prolong freshness and preserve flavor & aroma:

  • Store tea in opaque containers to avoid exposure to light.
  • Use containers with tight-sealing lids to guard against moisture.
  • If you're using bags for short-term storage, do NOT store them next to strong-smelling herbs and spices, they may absorb some of those flavors or aromas.
  • Keep them in a cool, dry place (a rack above the stove is NOT a good place!).


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