Blog

The Production, Effects, and Benefits of Gabacha Oolong

Currently, there are many uncertainties about what the upcoming weeks will look like when it comes to the health, well-being, and economic state of our communities and loved ones around the globe. Our normal daily routines and schedules have been reformatted, students are no longer reporting to schools, and those who can are working from home. During this time, while readjusting and learning how to adapt to all of these changes, the feelings of stress, anxiety, and worry are some many of us may be feeling. This is why we have chosen one of our favorite comforting and relaxing teas, Gabacha, as our tea of the month. 

Gabacha Loose

Gabacha is unique for its high levels of the amino acid and neurotransmitter gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Inside of us are neurons, cells that transmit information within the nervous system. Postsynaptic neurons are neurons that receive a signal. Neurotransmitters relay information to postsynaptic neurons, and this information can be either excitatory or inhibitory, meaning it increases or decreases the likelihood of a neuron to successfully communicate to a postsynaptic neuron. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and therefore inhibits the ability of neurons to send, receive, and create messages (1). 

All neurotransmitters play important roles in our emotions, behaviors, ideas, and thoughts. GABA is specifically linked to sleep and anxiety. Due to the presence of GABA in the nervous system, an excess of synaptic excitation is prevented. If GABA levels are too low, resulting conditions could include epilepsy or seizures. With an increase in GABA levels, neuron activity decreases, and anxiety and stress related messages are prevented from reaching postsynaptic neurons. With the increase of GABA, the less neuron communication, and the more overall sense of calm and relaxation in the brain. 

Many studies have been done on both humans and animals in an attempt to determine the effects of GABA supplements, foods containing GABA such as kimchi and kefir, and GABA teas. However, there is always more research to be done! It is not agreed upon if GABA can successfully enter the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system, or if it enters through the enteric nervous system, (the gastrointestinal system), more easily (2). It does seem to be more conclusive among scientists that GABA, consumed in conjunction with L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, seems to have measurable benefits. 

In Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London study, it was found that six weeks of tea consumption, in comparison with a placebo drink, led to “lower post stress cortisol and greater subjective relaxation, and may aid in stress recovery” (3). In a study conducted at the South China Agricultural University in the Department of Tea Sciences, it was found through tests that GABA tea may prevent depression in mice (4). In a 2019 research study, nine children with Autism Spectrum Conditions participated in a study where they consumed an oolong tea high in GABA, a gyokuro green tea high in L-theanine, and a placebo tea. The study found an improvement in fine motor skills, manual dexterity, anxiety levels, and balance highest among those who consumed GABA tea (5). Another 2019 study showed that, among thirty participants, the consumption of GABA tea led to a lower stress score, and an improvement in heart rate variability (6).  The consumption of GABA in conjunction with L-theanine and caffeine, all found in GABA tea, can lead to an improved attention span, decrease in stress, and an increased accuracy when performing tasks, according to clinical psychologist Michael J. Breus, Ph.D (7). It is also said that the combination of GABA and L-theanine have a positive effect on sleep quality and duration (8).

GABA tea was first produced at the National Institute for Tea Experimentation in 1987 by Dr. Tsushida Tojiro and other researchers (9). The process involves the decarboxylation of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring component of tea that gives it an umami flavor. Maocha, or unprocessed tea leaves, are placed in an anaerobic condition, meaning a sealed vacuum free of air for a period of about eight hours. While in the oxygen free environment, the leaves are exposed to nitrogen, and glutamic acid reproduces. The leaves are then exposed to aerobic conditions for a period of time, spun to break down cell walls, and then again put into the anaerobic conditions. During the repetition of this process, the tea leaves undergo chemical changes and the accumulated glutamic acid results in GABA (10).

The tea leaves are then put into machines that spin and fire them at high temperatures. After this, they are brought to a rolling machine that gently crushes them in order to soften and bring natural oils to the surface of the tea leaves. The tea leaves are then dried, reheated, and compressed into blocks. After the blocks are formed, the tea is rolled, and the process of rolling and forming the tea leaves back into blocks is repeated many times. Finally, the GABA oolong tea is formed into the smaller ball shape commonly seen in oolong teas, then roasted to achieve the desired flavor of the client. This whole process is shown in a very informative video, linked below (11). This is the general process of making GABA oolong teas, however, it may differ slightly based on the machinery available at the tea processing location. It may also differ based on what flavor notes the client desires, for example, how much to roast the tea leaves.

Gabacha Brewed

During stressful and uncertain times, the act of carving out a small piece of your day to make time for yourself can be an important practice. Throughout history, people have engaged in tea rituals, ranging from elaborate to simple. The complex flavor notes of Gabacha include dried fruit, sweet spice, and sweet potato. Between the combination of these comforting flavors, and the effects of GABA and L-theanine on the brain, Gabacha is a wonderful choice of tea to relax with. We encourage you to create your own personal tea ritual, brew a cup of Gabacha, and take time to breathe, de-stress, relax, meditate, or reflect.

 

Endnotes:

  1. Gazzaniga, Michael S. Psychological Science. New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2012.

  2. https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/health/gaba-supplements-glorious-gimmicky-or-just-garbage

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=17013636

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?Db=pubmed&Cmd=ShowDetailView&TermToSearch=28836632

  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1028415X.2019.1588486TEA & AUTISM - What's the connection?

  6. Hinton, Tina et al. “Effect of GABA-Fortified Oolong Tea on Reducing Stress in a University Student Cohort.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 6 27. 26 Mar. 2019, doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00027

  7. https://thesleepdoctor.com/2017/07/11/understanding-l-theanine-sleep-better-night-feel-relaxed-alert-day/

  8.  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13880209.2018.1557698

  9.   Production of a New Type Tea Containing a High Level of ϒ-Aminobutyric Acid Tojiro TSUSHIDA, Toshinobu MURAI, Masashi OMORI, Jyunko OKAMOTO

  10.  Sawai, Y., Yamaguchi, Y., Miyama, D. et al. Cycling treatment of anaerobic and aerobic incubation increases the content of γ-aminobutyric acid in tea shoots. Amino Acids 20, 331–334 (2001). https://doi.org/10.1007/s007260170049

  11.  Making GABA OOLONG TEA in Taiwan

Surprisingly Sweet Side Effects of Raw Honey! 🍯

It’s no surprise that here at Saratoga Tea & Honey Company, we are BIG fans of honey! From sweetening our tea to livening up our breakfast, we all know how absolutely delicious honey is. However, many people are not aware of the array of health benefits raw honey has to offer! It is important to note that not all honey is created equal, the benefits we will be discussing today are found only in raw honey, like the varieties we proudly sell!

So what is raw honey? Well, raw honey is honey “as it exists in the beehive” -- unprocessed, unpasteurized, and straight from the hive! Raw honey is scraped from the honeycomb, filtered lightly to remove any wax debris, and drained into jars.

Unfortunately most of the honey found at grocery stores and consumed today is pasteurized, meaning its been heated and filtered many times which removes and destroys the pollen, propolis, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that naturally occur in raw honey. The pasteurization process robs the honey of its incredible nutritional value and health benefits! Sadly, many commercial honeys are also deceitfully cut with brown rice syrup, which is undetectable to testing! Pure, raw honey is the only way to ensure you’re getting the real deal!
But enough about that counterfeit honey, let’s get on to discussing raw honey and all of its glorious benefits! 

Seasonal Allergy Relief

Probably the most well known health benefit of raw, specifically local, honey is its ability to alleviate seasonal allergies! Raw Honey contains small amounts of bee pollen, which is known to provide natural allergy relief and boost your immune system. This process of using small doses of the “allergen” to prevent allergies is referred to as immunotherapy. When people are treated for allergies generally one of two methods is used, antihistamines or immunotherapy. Antihistamines rarely treat the cause of the problems, they merely lessen the effects. Immunotherapy on the other hand, allows your body to slowly adapt and build up a self-resistance by introducing small and controlled amounts of the allergen into your system. This method of using bee pollen as an effective allergy treatment has become very popular. Likewise, local honey can be used in a similar and effective way!

Natural & Effective Cough Suppressant!

Most people already know this one, but did you know that studies show that raw honey is just as effective, if not more, than over-the-counter cough medicines that contain dextromethorphan? Just a single dose of honey can reduce mucus secretion and coughs! 

Promising studies have also shown that raw honey, specifically the dark varieties which tend to be richer in antioxidants, can help inhibit the growth of the Streptococcus mutans, which in some forms causes strep throat, sometimes pneumonia, and also is responsible for dental plaque build-up and cavities! Impressed yet? Hold on, we have many more benefits to discuss!

 * Note, it is important that children under the age of 18 months not consume raw honey because it can sometimes contain small amounts of a bacteria that while harmless to older kids and adults, can be harmful to infants' digestive systems that are not mature enough to process it. 

Manage Weight

A study conducted by the University of Wyoming concluded that the consumption of raw honey with breakfast can activate hormones that help suppress the appetite. Meanwhile, the San Diego State University found that replacing sugar with honey can lower overall sugar consumption, which helps with weight control and lower blood sugar. A study on people with type 2 diabetes found that when compared to sugar, honey didn’t raise glucose levels as much but did increase insulin levels! This would indicate that honey can trigger the secretion of insulin which helps in keeping the blood sugar levels in check.

Rich in Antioxidants

Studies have shown that honey increases the antioxidant value of your blood. Honey contains varying concentrations of polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants that protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are essentially molecules that are out of balance, and high levels of them are believed to make us more susceptible to many diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. One particular antioxidant called pinocembrin is only found in honey, is particularly associated with improved cognitive function and may be protective against Alzheimer’s disease! 

Improves Cholesterol Levels

In addition to honey’s other heart-healthy properties, studies have shown that consuming raw honey lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol by 6–11% and triglyceride levels by as much as 11%. It also may also increase "good" HDL cholesterol by about 2%! Combined with the antioxidant level and anti-inflammatory properties make honey an excellent choice to give you an extra edge in fighting cardiovascular disease!

Excellent Source of Energy

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel our bodies like to use for energy. Honey is carbohydrate rich due to its glucose and fructose content, making it a high-powered, natural energy food! Refined sugar provides empty calories, but raw honey contains small amounts of enzymes, amino acids, minerals and trace elements. And because it contains glucose it provides an easily absorbed supply of energy in the form of liver glycogen, which makes it an ideal choice for pre-workout energy fuel and post-workout recovery!

Promotes Restorative Sleep

Seems counterintuitive following the previous benefit, doesn't it? I guess you could say that raw honey is adaptogenic in that it provides equilibrium when and where you need it most! Consuming a spoonful of honey before bed also promotes the production of melatonin in the brain by creating a small spike in insulin levels which stimulates the release of tryptophan in the brain which then converts to serotonin, which then converts to melatonin. Wow, just thinking about all of the work our bodies do is making me tired! Long story short, eat honey before bed so your brain and your body can get to work rebuilding tissue and boosting your immune system while you get some shut-eye!

Topical Benefits: First Aid & Beauty

If you’re not already blown away by the plethora of health benefits from consuming honey, perhaps you will find these benefits from topical applications of honey impressive! Honey is anti-everything nasty, it is antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory. This makes it tremendously beneficial for any skin issues you may be battling; whether you have acne, psoriasis, eczema, wrinkles, dull skin, scarring, mild irritations, burns, and wounds, honey can help with healing and calming down irritation. Multiple studies have shown that honey is a natural antibacterial with wound-healing effects. It does some magic when it reacts with the body’s fluids and it creates hydrogen peroxide, making it an inhospitable environment for bacteria! Incredible! These same effects combined with it’s nourishing and moisturizing properties are what also makes honey effective against acne and some types of dermatitis such as psoriasis, eczema and dandruff. Honey can be used as a spot treatment, a mask, or added to face washes and moisturizers; a few drops emulsifies surprisingly easily with water, with no stickiness!

So there you have it folks! Honey not only tastes delicious, it has an impressive profile of health benefits, many of them well documented by science! It is recorded that the average person consumes more than 150 pounds of sweetener per year! Why not, swap your sugar and other sweeteners for raw honey and take advantage of all this golden nectar has to offer! 

Lapsang Souchong & Orange Baked Calypso Beans

Tea can be a really wonderful ingredient in your kitchen. It can provide great flavor to soups, baked goods, cures, and cocktails.  We love using Lapsang Souchong, a smoked black Chinese tea, to add a depth of flavor to stews and we were really happy with this recipe using tea and orange peel in the bean cooking liquid.  The smoky flavor can be an economical and vegan replacement to bacon and the citrus compliments the tea and lightens the flavor.  We decided to pair it with duck and sautéed garlic swiss chard, but it would be a great side dish to any dinner, or satisfying as a stand alone with yogurt and hot sauce!  Enjoy!

Lapsang Souchong Mise En Place

Equipment needed: Pot for Beans, sauté pan, cheesecloth, twine, peeler.

Ingredients:

2 c dried beans, rinsed and soaked over night in water, rinsed again
1/4 c Lapsang Souchong tea
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 bay leaf
1 handful thyme
1 orange, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 large carrot, medium dice
1 yellow onion, medium dice
5 c vegetable or chicken stock
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt, to taste

Procedure:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  

2.  Place the tea, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme, orange, and garlic in the cheesecloth sachet and tie it with twine. Double up if necessary.

3. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sweat the carrots and onion with a pinch of salt.  Remove once translucent and slightly golden and add to the bean pot.

4. Add the beans and mix with a wooden spoon. Add in the sachet and pour over the stock. Season with salt.  Cover and back for 1.5 - 2hr or until the beans have softened but still have a 'tooth'.

5. Remove from the oven and adjust seasoning.  Serve as a side dish to dinner or  with yogurt and hot sauce.

Duck with Lapsang Souchong 

Strengthen your Immuni-tea!

Now more than ever, we all seem to be making a more conscious effort to keep our immune systems strong and healthy to help our bodies fight the nasties we may come in contact with. While we will not promise any miracle cures or preventatives, we do promise you the best tasting, organic herbal tisanes to add to your wellness routine! 

This month our featured wellness tisane is Flu Shot ®,  one of our most popular herbals in our “medicine cabinet.” This house blend of citrus and spices is loaded with immune-strengthening herbs, roots and spices and it is so delicious!  Our customers will testify, it just makes you feel better and have a happier day! Who doesn’t need that these days? Keep reading for the health benefits of the ingredients that make up our beloved blend.

Our Flu Shot ® tisane is crafted with the perfect combination of sweet and spice. The citrusy notes from lemongrass, lemon verbena and lemon peel compliment the sweetness of ceylon cinnamon and sarsaparilla, and soften the astringency and spice from turmeric, ginger and black pepper. 

Bright, slightly sweet, and herbaceous lemon verbena has long been used by herbalist as an expectorant; loosening up and removing mucus from the lungs and sinus passages, verbena can aid in providing relief from the symptoms of colds, coughs, flu, asthma, and sinus and respiratory infections. It is also helpful in reducing fever in the body. Sharp and tangy lemongrass has antibacterial properties that can help you cope with a cold, allergies or the flu. Plus, it is loaded with Vitamin C that strengthens your immunity. It also is packed with antioxidants, which means that it can lower your body’s levels of free radicals. Free radicals are essentially molecules that are out of balance, and high levels of them are believed to make us more susceptible to many diseases. The addition of lemon peel, not only adds a lovely brightness to Flu Shot ®, it also contributes an impressive nutritional boost of vitamin C, the minerals calcium and potassium and flavonoids which may stimulate your body’s immune system to protect your health!

Flu Shot ® features naturally sweet Ceylon cinnamon, the good stuff! Ceylon cinnamon contains potent antibacterial, antiviral, analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as large amounts of highly potent polyphenol antioxidants.  Long used in Ayurvedic medicine to control inflammation and pain and for upper respiratory issues, turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Zesty and warming ginger also revered for its anti-inflammatory properties, is another ingredient that helps to break down mucus and improve circulation to the lungs.

Lastly, we’ve included both black peppercorn and sweet sarsaparilla in this blend. Both are often used in herbal mixes to act as a “synergist.” In other words, it’s thought that they increase the bioavailability and absorption of other herbs, making their health promoting properties more effective! Sarsaparilla is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and has also been studied to show activity against harmful bacteria and other microorganisms. Though surely not as effective as modern-day antibiotics, it has proven useful to help lighten the bacterial load in the body. 

As you can see Flu Shot ® contains an arsenal of “antis”, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory! Added to your daily routine, tisanes like Flu Shot ® may help to decrease inflammation in your body. While inflammation is incredibly important, as it helps your body fight infections and repair tissue damage, it is harmful if it becomes chronic. Many of the foods we like to consume combined with the stressful lives we live, can create unnecessary inflammation in our bodies. Adding ingredients like those found in our Flu Shot ® can help balance out some of those stressors. Also worth mentioning, and the note I will end this blog on, whether enjoying a hot cup of Flu Shot ® or one of our other eighty-something teas and tisanes… scientists in the UK have studied and found that preparing and enjoying hot tea reduces stress levels by up to a quarter! All the more reason to put on the kettle and prepare yourself a cuppa!

Through April 14th, Flu Shot ® is on sale for $10 a bag, you can order online to pickup in-store (sidewalk/curbside to be more specific) or shipped to your door! At this moment, we are also still preparing cups of tea to-go, just call and pay ahead and we will bring it outside to you, with a smile! By the cup, Flu Shot ® is on sale for $2.50. We so look forward to the day when we can open our doors and welcome our communiTEA back into the store to catch up and enjoy a cup together once again! We love you all and we thank you so much for supporting our small business during these trying times. Bee well and stay strong! We are all in this together <3

 

Discovering White Tea

Of all the tea categories white tea seems to be one of the most misunderstood, and yet quite neatly, the simplest of all. From bud to cup, it is the most minimally crafted of all the camellia sinensis tea categories. Very plainly, high quality white tea is the first glorious bud of spring, plucked carefully after emerging from a short winter dormancy.

Awakening in the spring, the tea plant shoots out the bud of new life which carries the energy, nutrients and glucose needed to develop into leaves and if plucked and dried, has the potential to make a most delicious cup of tea.  The bud itself or 'tip' is covered with a soft downy fur, called 'trinomes', that defend against water loss and bugs.  Caffeine and polyphenols also act as natural deflecting agents against insects and UV rays. 

Bai Mu Dan Wang

White tea buds are carefully plucked and brought to a factory to be withered and dried. It is a short recipe that requires, for good result, the original product to be treated well after it's departure from a very carefully tended tea garden. It is also a tea of prestige, the spring buds are the most precious, and the yield of harvesting only the bud, is so minimal. The varietals used in white tea production in China are the results of years of propagation to reach the desired profile and the polyphenol and caffeine levels are higher than what is often marketed.

Classically, the finest white teas come from Fujian Province, China, but we are also experiencing white teas being produced well in other parts of Asia, Hawaii and South America.  

We carry two white teas, Bai Mu Dan Wang (pictured here), also called White Peony, which consists of buds and leaves, from Fuding, Fujian Province.  Also from Fuding, Bai Hao Yin Zhen (also known as Silver Needles) is the result of more punctilious harvesting, and consists of pure bud.  Nan Mei Wild Tea Trees, from Lincang, Yunnan Province, is the result of the harvesting of wild old tea tree buds and takes quite a bit longer steep than the others.

When steeping white tea, we suggest measuring the quantity of tea by weight, not by volume as with teaspoons.  This is important because white tea is very voluminous, and measuring by weight will give you a much richer cup of tea.

Our recommended steeping times for 2.5 grams of tea per 8oz:

Bai Hao Yin Zhen  185° / 3 minutes

Bai Mu Dan Wang  185° / 3 minutes

Nan Mei Wild Tea Trees  185° / 5 - 7 minutes

Scented White Teas:

The Canfield in Red  185° / 3 minutes

Yaddo Rose Garden  185° / 3 minutes

For continued enjoyment, re-steep the leaves!

Love Your Liver ♥

 

Welcome back to another Wellness Wednesday! This month we are featuring an herbal tisane crafted specifically to detox our livers, Teatoxify

Toxins are literally everywhere; they are in our food, our air, our water, in the products we clean with and those we apply to our skin. Our livers are one of the most important organs; responsible for filtering out those toxins, neutralizing chemicals, manufacturing bile, and a variety of enzymatic processes to both break down and create compounds necessary for our bodies to function! Our livers work very VERY hard, and non-stop, and sometimes it can get overburdened and need our support. Now, don’t you want to support your liver? It tries its gosh darndest to take good care of you, so we should be diligent about protecting it from damage and keeping it functioning at its optimum best! So show your liver some love with Teatoxify, our herbal tisane blend intended to support and detoxify, so your liver can continue to do its job and do it more effectively. A healthy liver makes a healthy person!

Teatoxify is composed of some incredible ingredients, some you may know very well and some you may have never heard of! One of the latter may be, Burdock Root, which is well-known for supporting your liver. It contains a large number of minerals to replenish what can be lost in the detox process, and because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, has also been shown heal liver cells from damage caused by alcohol, acetaminophen, and other liver-damaging toxins. It also increases glutathione production, the body's most powerful detoxifier! Milk Thistle Seed is another liver-loving herb, you may have heard. Similar to Burdock, it has the incredible ability to help ease inflammation and promote cell repair, healing damage inflicted onto our livers. Milk Thistle was once used to prevent death from the ingestion of poisonous plants and to this day, many poison control centers in Europe keep it on hand for such cases. Dandelion, the same weed you find all over your yard, is well-known to help maintain proper liver function by detoxifying the liver and improving the flow of bile. One of the lesser known ingredients we have in our blends is Pau d’Arco. This bark is rich in Quercetin, an antioxidant flavonol shown to neutralize toxins, therefore aiding the liver in its blood cleansing function! Last, but not least, one of our favorite superstar spices, ginger! Ginger is shown to reduce oxidative stress on the liver, decrease insulin resistance and inhibit inflammation, protecting against fatty liver disease, an increasingly common condition nearing epidemic proportions. Ginger, you never cease to amaze us...

Combined, these botanicals have a warm, comforting flavor. Stop in today to enjoy a cup or buy a bag, Teatoxify is on sale for a limited time! 

Disclaimer: You may drink up to 2 servings of this tisane daily, but as with any of our medicinal herbal blends, we recommend speaking to your doctor before consuming if you have any serious health concerns.

Introducing Wellness Wednesday!

Did you know that herbs and spices have been historically used for centuries for their antimicrobial properties to increase the safety and shelf life of food products by acting as a shield against pathogens and bacteria that would otherwise spoil the foods? Plants with antimicrobial properties have also been long used in traditional medicine as treatment for viruses and bacterial infections! Here at Tea & Honey, we like to keep things as natural as possible, so when our throats start to itch and our noses begin to get a little sniffly, we brew up a pot of one of our medicinal tisanes... and take a few teaspoons of raw honey for good measure!

We want to keep our communiTEA healthy and happy because getting sick is no fun, so we’re starting off this new year with a new special! Each month, we will feature an herbal tisane from our Wellness Collection and offer it at a discounted price by the cup and by the bag! This month we are featuring one of our newer tisanes, and one that we think will help many in our communiTEA during this cold and flu season; Inhale.

Inhale was created using only the best organic and wildcrafted ingredients known to support the respiratory system and soothe the nervous system. Who doesn’t need a little of that this time of year? You may be wondering what these magical herbs and spices are and why they are beneficial… so here’s the rundown!

The main ingredient and rockstar in Inhale is *Blue Vervain. This herb, from the Verbenaceae family, has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antispasmodic, and analgesic properties and has long been used to treat upper respiratory infections. Blue Vervain acts as an expectorant and can help expel mucus and phlegm that accumulate in the respiratory tracts. We’ve included peppermint to help this whole process along, by soothing the throat, opening the sinuses, and helping to break down mucus. Perhaps one of the more unexpected ingredients, licorice, is known to help relax bronchial spasms, and may provide alleviation from upper respiratory infections.

Now to spice things up! Ginger, revered for its anti-inflammatory properties, also helps to break down mucus and improve circulation to the lungs.  Fennel seeds are packed with anti-inflammatory volatile oils and antioxidants that can help keep the risk of a cold or the flu at bay. Cinnamon and cardamom, both antibacterial and antimicrobial, can help prevent a bacterial infection that could affect the lungs. They also taste pretty amazing! Cardamom has the added benefit of being analgesic, it is not only cooling and soothing but also acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory. And that’s it! As you can see, Inhale is an all natural herbal infusion made up of some pretty amazing antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Now for our little testimony… Our Queen Bee, Hayley, caught a cold when we were blending new tisanes last spring; before this hit the shelves she decided to put it to the test. She drank this infusion 3-4 times a day for a couple of days and by the third day she was feeling great! Now, we’re not saying that this tisane is going to make your sickness disappear immediately but it may help shorten the duration of your cold or flu! So, what do you think? Will you come in and enjoy a deep breath with this uplifting, purifying herbal infusion?

On sale from 1/15/20 - 2/11/20 for $2.50 by the cup and $10 for a bag!

 

* Blue Vervain is not recommended for use during pregnancy or lactation.

2019 Stocking Stuffer Wishlist 🐝

We've curated our 2019 stocking stuffer picks for the tea and honey lover alike! You'll find something unique to each brewing style and find bee related products for an extra special gift.

Stocking Stuffer 2019

1.  The Little Tea Book  is a sweet, concise, and creatively informative book about tea production, culture and travels. $20

2. The Bee Stir Stick for stirring cocktails, honey or iced tea with style. $5

3. The Wooden Honey Dipper is the dipper your Grandma owned, and is still a minimalist classic for serving honey. $5

4. Hoarfrost Tea Tin is a re-steepable floral and fruity oolong that will transport you to the far east in every cup. $7

5. Bee's Wrap natural cotton and beeswax food grade reusable wrap for citrus, avocado, breads, sandwiches, leftovers, cheese and more.  A necessary item for an eco-conscience world. $6.50-$18

6. Chinese porcelain teacups for a meditative tea service.  A wide selection is available in-store only!

7. 2013 Three Cranes Liu Bao Heicha is for the lover of aged and fermented teas.  It's smooth, earthy and utterly delicious. $18.50

8. Japanese paper wrapped tea tins for tea storage. Elegant, eco-friendly, and available in an assortment of prints in-store only!

9. Matcha Wakatake White Chocolate Bar in collaboration with Saratoga Chocolate Co.. Get your matcha fix with the creamiest white chocolate, like a latté with a 'snap'. $8

10. Honey Bee Rich Body Soaps are made with all natural ingredients, honey and tea!

11. Folding Handle Tea Strainer with Carrying Case is the most useful tool in your tea cabinet.  A must for loose tea beginners or the more practiced brewer alike. $15

12. Black Tea Cured in a King Orange is a novelty for the curious tea lover. $4.25

13. Pure Beeswax Candles are made by our apiaries and burn cleanly and slowly. $5 & up

14. Vietnamese Mung Bean Cakes are a vegan/gluten free treat like no-other and reminiscent of the best part of a peanut butter cup, the interior. $7.50

15. Earth Sunflower Bamboo & Stainless Steel Straws come with a cleaner and carrying pouch and are a thoughtful gift for your friend who loves to-go beverages! $11-$13

16. Matcha Chasen for the matcha lover who likes to do things the right way. The foam the natural bamboo whisk makes is like no electrical gadget could. $20

17. Cigarillo Tea Needle for carefully opening up pressed tea cakes such as our heicha or pu er bingcha.  $12

18. The Ultimate Honey Variety Pack of our customer's favorites, Mango, Cinnamon and Local Wildflower Honey! $24

Pu Er, Say What?

At the tea shop, we have budding interest curious in our traditional tea selection, including our special aged teas or hei-cha.  In this brief article we are going to begin to touch upon what is pu er tea, a subcategory to hei-cha teas that are produced exclusively in Yunnan Province, China. At the shop, we are experiencing more and more interest in pu er from several different directions:

- Loose leaf tea is becoming more popular in the US, as doctors are advising people to cut back on their coffee intake and people are looking for a more healthful, sustained energy beverage.

- The interest in traditional tea parallels the movement of craft beer, natural wine, single origin coffee & bean to bar chocolate and people are more interested in discovering the vast world of the tea plant.

-The recent popularity of the book, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See, has created specific interest in the aged teas of Yunnan Province, pu er.

Pu Er and Yixing Teapot

So, what is Pu Er?

Pu Er, Pu'er, Puerh (different Pinyin, but the same tea) is a town in Yunnan Province, China where historically tea farmers would bring their tea to be traded in the far regions of Tibet and Mongolia.  Now pu er is the name of a category of post-fermented teas specific to Yunnan Province, whose oxidation is not enzymatic and whose special bacteria fermentation & processing allows for improvement in flavor overtime. Pu er can be separated into two styles of production:

Sheng: "raw" or "green" tea leaves from centuries old trees (camellia sinensis assamica) heated slowly and most often pressed into cakes, which slows oxidation and develops flavor. Ambient yeasts and bacteria in a storage environment of varying temperatures and humidity, take the tea on an interesting journey of development.  Sheng pu er is fermented from 10 to 50 years and not considered mature or vintage until 30 years have passed. Flavor profiles can be very vibrant fruit, mint & spice.

2008 Daxue Tsnuami

Our 2008 Daxue Tsunami Sheng Pu Er

Shou: "cooked" or "ripe" tea leaves from gardens are processed in a similar way as sheng pu er, but exposed to rapid 45-60 day fermentation in pile heaps for an accelerated aging process. Humidity and moisture is under careful watch and is adjusted as needed to encourage fermentation.  Shou pu er may be pressed into cakes or sold loose.  This style of Pu Er was developed in the 1970s in response to the increased interest in sheng pu er. Their flavor profile may improve with some aging, but they are ready to drink after processing and often times have very earthy qualities of leather, forest floor and vanilla.

2012 Menghai Shou Pu Er

This month, our tea of the month is 2012 Menghai, a pile fermented shou pu er that has been pressed into mini cakes or nests, called tuocha.

This is just the beginning of our discussion on aged tea and specifically, pu er.  There is so much more to speak about in terms of culture, styles and pu er as medicine.  More to come in further articles.

 

 

Exploring Mae Salong, Thailand

In the remote woodland hill regions of northern Thailand, in the province of Chiang Rai, tea trees flourish in the tropical climate.  This area is part of the historical tea regions that anthropologists have found as the birth place of tea. This tea belt traverses through Yunnan Province, China to northern Assam, India, Laos and present day Myanmar, into Northern Thailand and Vietnam.

A little town, with a big history lies just south of the Thai border with Myanmar and in the province of Chiang Rai, and it is called Mae Salong. A little group of us, Joe, owner and operator of Saratoga Food and Ghost Tours, his wonderful partner Kim, ​Marcus my fiancé, photographer and videographer and I, set out on a four hour journey north of Chiang Mai in search of Mae Salong.  Though situated in Thailand, this particular village is home to people of Yunnanese (Chinese) descent.  Everything was written and spoken in Chinese and all of our communications were about to be with google translate and gestures.
 
A little on the interesting history of this area:  The ancestors of these people arrived at the conclusion of the 1949 Chinese Civil War as the 'lost soldiers' who refused to surrender.  For protection, they escaped China, settled briefly in Burma, and found their way to northern Thailand for asylum. In exchange for safety, the Thai government sought assistance to push back communist insurgencies at the frontier.
 

​This geographical region bordering Laos and Myanmar was known as 'The Golden Triangle' as it was a hot spot for the production of opium. Today, this area has been turned over by the Thai government to a more sustainable crop, tea.  Tea shares the landscape with cherries, coffee, lychee and wonderful citrus.

We discovered Mae Salong to be a quiet village, with many vendors of tea.  As we explored and stopped for tea tastings, we came across the production of Assam black tea at one of the villages producers.  It is always amazing to experience the fragrance of freshly harvested wilting tea leaves.  It is too beautiful for words.

Many of the tea varieties in this area were brought over from Taiwan decades ago and their style of tea is similar to that of the mountain producers in central Taiwan.  We tasted Jin Xuan No. 12, Oriental Beauty, Qing Xin No. 17 amongst others.  I decided to bring home a Hoarfrost, or winter frost harvest, oolong that has a unique sweetness and is unlike any tea I have tasted.  I also choose a Rose Scented Oolong, as its fragrance and delicacy was enchanting and unique.

  

Fresh Tea Leaves Withering

Women sorting through the fresh black tea, removing stems.

That evening, we were welcomed by the indigenous Ahka tribe just a few miles away.  Their children toured us around their little village, we dined on their local food cooked over a fire and slept in mud huts.  It was really a remarkable experience.

Ahka Children with Hayley and Marcus

I am excited to share some of their tea with you!
  • Page 1 of 5
  • Page 1 of 5