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Tea Education

What is Green Tea?

You've probably heard the buzz-worthy news stories about how green tea is the healthiest tea or green tea is the best tea for weight loss or that green tea has the most caffeine. But what is green tea, really?

two cups of green tea served with a tea cake

So... what is green tea, really? 

While part of me wishes we could simply put a sentence here that says "Green tea is..." and give you a one line definition, the other part of me doesn't want to oversimplify a tradition literally thousands of years in the making. So first, I'm going to roll things back a bit and very briefly discuss tea as a whole before diving into what makes green tea green. (If you're too impatient, you can skip down to: How is Green Tea Made?)

What is tea (and where does tea come from)?

Tea is a beverage made from steeping the dried leaves of the tea tree (latin name camellia sinensis) in hot water. The tea tree is a plant native to China and other tropical and subtropical regions with a few notable variants. Over thousands of years, humans have cultivated tea trees, developed processes for creating a variety of delicious beverages from the camellia sinensis leaves, and fought many wars to ensure they can continue cultivating and drinking tea.

Do green tea and black tea come from different plants?

tea plants (camellia sinensis)

In a word, no. But if you thought green tea and black tea were different plants, don't spend too much time dwelling on it. The idea that green and black teas come from different plants is a common one - especially in Western countries where tea is consumed but not cultivated, like much of North America and Europe. In fact, until botanist Robert Fortune disguised himself as a tea merchant to gain access to Chinese tea gardens in the mid-19th century, most Europeans labored under this exact misconception because it makes so much sense. Black tea and green tea taste so wildly different, it's almost more fantastical to believe they come from the same leaves. (Aside: We're going to ignore the shady corporate espionage aspect of this discovery for now and save that for another day and another blog.)

All types of tea that we drink come from the same plant: camellia sinensis. As with many plants, there are different varieties that may lend themselves better to growth in certain regions or to the production of one type of tea over another.

Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is mainly cultivated in China and is used to produce all types of tea, from white to green to oolong to black to pu erh

Camellia sinensis var. assamica was discovered by Scottish Major Robert Bruce growing wild in the Assam region of India in the early 19th century, and it is now mainly grown in India, Africa, and Sri Lanka to produce black teas. 

Camellia sinensis var. cambodiensis is rarely used to cultivate teas since it is less aromatic and flavorful than the sinensis and assamica varietals, but it is often used in the creation of new cultivars. (Cultivars are hybridizations selected for their specific characteristics, like flavor, hardiness, etc. Some famous cultivars include Long Jing 43 or Tie Guan Yin.)

(Note: Most Pu Erh from the Yunnan province in China will be from var. assamica, which also grows wild in Yunnan, while Darjeeling is actually cultivated from var. sinensis plants the British transplanted from China.)

Does green tea have more caffeine than black tea? Learn more >>

How is Green Tea Made?

freshly picked tea leaves being sorted into baskets in Taiwan

There are six main stages to making green tea. These stages will vary based on country, tradition, and type of tea made. For purposes of this blog, we will only break out the most significant differences in production between the two most prolific producers of green tea in the world: China and Japan.

  1. Plucking
  2. Withering
  3. Panning (China) / Steaming (Japan)
  4. Rolling
  5. Drying
  6. Sifting

1. The Process of Making Green Tea: Plucking

Plucking is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: harvesting the tea leaves. For high quality teas, especially in China, much plucking is done by hand. Most green teas consist of the bud and first one or two leaves of each stem, though there are exceptions. Japanese green teas may be plucked by hand or by machine depending on the type of tea and region. 

2. The Process of Making Green Tea: Withering (Mostly China)

Once the leaves are plucked, they are immediately transferred to the factory where they will be withered to remove the water content of the leaves. Withering time will vary based on the leaves themselves, weather conditions, and the type of tea being made. Traditionally in China, leaves were withered on bamboo racks for 1-3 hours. Now they may be mechanically spun dry for a few minutes while fans blow air through the leaves. 

This is also the step where green tea begins to differ from oolong and black teas. As soon as the leaves are plucked, they begin to undergo a natural process of oxidation in which the enzymes in the leaves are reacting to the air. To create green teas, this process of oxidation must be interrupted and halted, which brings us to our next step in the process of making green tea.

3. The Process of Making Green Tea: Halting Oxidation

Chinese Green Teas: Panning

Stopping the natural oxidation reaction is a key part of creating the green teas we all know and love. In China, the traditional method to stop the natural oxidation reaction is called panning. Small quantities of the leaves are pressed to the bottom of pans or vats heated with wood, coal, or electricity. The leaves are stirred constantly to prevent them from burning. 

Panning may also be a mechanized process, in which leaves are heated in rotating cylinders at least three times.

Halting the oxidation in this manner gives Chinese green tea its characteristic nutty aroma. Try our Organic Long Jing Zhejiang (Dragonwell) for a stellar example of a lovely, nutty Chinese green tea.

Shop Chinese green teas >>

Japanese Green Teas: Steaming

While some Japanese tea producers will wither their leaves, many opt to send freshly plucked leaves straight to the steamer. 

How long the leaves are steamed has a surprisingly intense effect in regards to the aroma and flavor of the teas. Short steaming periods (20 to 40 seconds) produce light teas with larger, broken leaves and notes of green vegetables in the Asamushi style. Longer steaming periods (40 to 80 seconds) cause the leaves to soften, leading to smaller, more broken leaves with a more intense flavor and color. This is known as the Fukamushi style and is the type of Japanese green tea preferred by most in Japan today. Our Kabusecha Takamado is a lovely example of a longer-steam Japanese green tea. 

Japanese Green Teas: Cooling & First Drying

At this stage, Japanese green teas undergo two extra steps: cooling and first drying. Once the leaves are steamed, they are cooled in one of two ways: by being blown through tubes using air jets or being placed in large rotating cylinders. You can think of this as almost a reversal of the middle two steps in Chinese green tea processing: the Japanese remove the moisture and excess humidity from their green tea leaves after halting oxidation instead of before. 

After cooling, the Japanese green tea leaves are then dried in a rotating cylinder at 210 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 min, then again in a similar machine at a lower temperature (about 175 degrees Fahrenheit). These cylinders contain mechanical arms made of bamboo that mix the leaves continuously and affect color, tannin, and - of course! - taste.

Shop Japanese green teas >>

4. The Process of Making Green Tea: Rolling

After stopping natural oxidation, the tea leaves are rolled. In Chinese teas, this step gives them their characteristic shapes and breaks down the cell structures to release aromatic oils. Rolling Japanese green teas softens stems and similarly releases aromatic oils.

5. The Process of Making Green Tea: Drying 

Chinese green teas are dried to stabilize the aromas released during rolling and reduce any remaining moisture content to about 2-4%, eliminating the risk of mold. 

Japanese green teas also go through a second drying after rolling for 20 to 40 minutes at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Similar to the reasoning for the drying in processing Chinese green tea, this step stabilizes the aromas and oils released in rolling and reducing moisture content further.

Japanese Green Teas: Shaping & 3rd Drying

After the second drying, Japanese green teas are then manipulated into their characteristic needle-like shape in a mechanized process that takes 40 to 60 minutes at high temperatures (between 158 to 248 degrees Fahrenheit). 

After shaping, Japanese green teas will then circulate on a conveyor belt for about 30 minutes for a third drying at about 185 degrees Fahrenheit. 

6. The Process of Making Green Tea: Sifting & Sorting

Both Japanese and Chinese green teas are sifted and sorted to remove leaves that broke during the process, sort out stems, etc. Different batches may be grouped together and blended. 

Japanese Green Teas: Final Drying

After grouping, sifting, and sorting, Japanese green teas will undergo one final drying at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit, though temperature and time will depend on the type of tea and desired taste. As with Chinese green teas, the longer the Japanese green tea leaves are fired in this final drying, the more the leaves will move away from their fresh, grassy notes towards aromas of fresh, grilled nuts. 

Why is green tea called green tea?

And now we come to the 'Thank you, Captain Obvious' portion of our blog where I get to tell you that green tea is called green tea because... it's green! 

Green tea is prized for being as close to the original color and flavor of the tea plant as it is possible to get. Thanks to the many, many people who figured out how to process tea leaves over thousands of years, we are able to halt the natural oxidation process and create the drink that truly resembles the fresh, vibrancy of the living tea plant. This is why tasting notes for green teas will often include words like vegetal, spring shoots, or even grassy. 

Which is your favorite green tea? Explore our collection of Chinese and Japanese green teas and let us know which style you prefer on Facebook or Instagram!

Green button reading: Shop Green Tea

Sources: 

Gascoyne, K., Marchand François, Desharnais, J., & Américi Hugo. (2016). Tea: History, terroirs, varieties. Firefly Books. Ltd.

Does Green Tea Have More Caffeine Than Black Tea?

A seemingly innocuous question with a surprisingly complicated answer, we both relish and dread the frequently asked: "how much caffeine is in X tea?". 

We relish this question about caffeine in tea because the answer is fun, but we dread it because the answer is anything but straightforward. In a day and age when you can pull out your phone, google "how much caffeine is in black tea versus green tea," and have a conversion chart pop up on your screen, most people just want a number. 

We've compromised over the years and developed a chart with a caffeination range for each type of tea (below). But if you want the whole story about how much caffeine is in your daily cuppa, keep reading. 

green tea steeping in a traditional gaiwan set on a bamboo tea boat

How Much Caffeine is in Tea?

How much caffeine is in your tea is a complicated combination of factors, not the least of which are: brew time, water temp, quantity of tea, and amount of water used. There's also some really cool science stuff to do with how the caffeine molecule in tea binds with a specific phenol that we will get to in a bit. 

Why we beat around the bush about how much caffeine is in your tea

If a guest asks us which tea to buy to get the most caffeine, the answer is easy: Matcha. Since matcha is powdered green tea, you're consuming the entire tea leaf and ingesting all of its amazing nutrients, antioxidants, and - yes! - caffeine molecules. Ergo, matcha has similar amounts of caffeine as coffee!

Find out if matcha is a good replacement for your daily coffee! >>

When it comes to how much caffeine is extracted by infusing tea leaves, however, the story gets a bit more complicated. 

How much caffeine is in any particular cup is going to be very dependent on the strength of your cup: ie., brew time, temp, quantity of tea, and amount of water used.

A few obvious notes about tea and caffeine:

  • More tea = more caffeine
  • Longer steep = more caffeine
  • Second steep = less caffeine 

Just those few variables can make quite a bit of difference in how much caffeine is in your tea. And don't even get us started on cold brew versus hot brew iced tea! (Hint: Cold brew tea has less caffeine and mellower tannins.)

But honestly? That's not even the most interesting reason we hesitate when it comes to telling you how much caffeine is in your tea. (See below: the cool science stuff about how your body processes caffeine in tea.)

A few less obvious notes about caffeine in tea:

Growing, harvesting, and processing techniques also all play a role in how much caffeine is in your cup of tea. 

  • Green and white teas made from early buds and leaves = more caffeine in laboratory tests 
  • Roasted tea = less caffeine
  • Stem tea = less caffeine
  • Added spices and herbs = less caffeine

For this reason, pu erh (aged) teas and oolongs are generally lower in caffeine than green and black teas. Scented teas will also be lower in caffeine simply because there is less tea per volume in your cup. 

Why the amount of caffeine in tea might not correspond to how your body processes it

Caffeine in tea is processed differently in the body than the caffeine in other drinks like coffee because tea contains an antioxidant called catechin.

Catechins have a lot of awesome properties, but the most interesting is how they bind with caffeine in tea. This bound molecule is much harder for your body to digest than regular caffeine, which is why many people report that the caffeine in tea does not make them jittery, improves focus, and lasts longer than a cup of coffee. 

Even more interesting, different teas have varied levels of catechins. Green teas have much more catechin than black teas because oxidation breaks down the catechins and creates a more complex polyphenol. These new polyphenols in black tea do not bind to the caffeine in the same way, making the caffeine much more easily digestible.

For this reason, even though a green tea may test higher in caffeine in a laboratory setting, you may not notice its effects in the same way you would the more easily digestible caffeine in a black tea that tested lower in caffeine. In fact, you are more likely to report that green tea improved your focus for a longer amount of time because your body took longer to process the caffeine.

Cool, right?

Finally, a chart on caffeine in tea

Because there are so many variables contributing to how many milligrams of caffeine there are in any given cup of tea, not to mention how your body processes it, we have put together a chart with caffeine ranges for each type of tea. 

As a general rule of thumb, tea has much less caffeine than coffee (with the notable exception of matcha). Green and black teas will have comparable levels of caffeine, but your body will process the caffeine differently, so it may seem like black tea has more caffeine per cup in terms of how you experience the effects of caffeination.

If you're looking for caffeine free options, check out our naturally caffeine-free herbal tisanes! >>

Caffeine content of tea versus coffee

*Caffeine Content range based on liquid chromatography-UV of teas infused in a teapot with 2 cups water; matcha was whisked in a bowl with 1/2 cup of water.

What is Boba and How Do You Make Bubble Tea?

A cup of boba sits on the counter at Saratoga Tea and Honey with the chalkboard menu visible in the background

 

You asked and we answered! Saratoga Tea and Honey has been working behind the scenes to bring you boba, also known as bubble tea. Of course we wanted to make sure you got what you wanted but it had to meet certain standards for us. Instead of just adding boba to any of our teas, we have been working to make sure that you get the full experience of the tapioca pearls (boba) blending with our tea and honey. 

Where Did Boba Come From?

The history of boba includes a story that seems almost like a made-for-tv movie. In the 1980s, several different people claim to have created the tea that has become the unofficial, official drink of Taiwan. Some of the stories seem to be more believable than others though.

In the first story, there is a teahouse in Taichung whose owner noticed that people from Japan enjoyed iced coffee, so he decided to try doing the same thing to teas, and it became a hit! He was having a meeting one day and the product manager decided to add tapioca balls to her iced tea and the staff loved it. Bubble tea eventually made its way to their menu.

In another story, an artist was visiting a market in Tainan and saw vendors selling tapioca balls which were a childhood favorite snack. He decided to add the white tapioca pearls to his green tea and decided to sell it. He also experimented with adding the bigger black tapioca pearls, which are the boba that we have come to love in our bubble teas today. 

So I know you are asking yourself sure this is dramatic but what makes it a story built for a made-for-tv movie? Well, there was a lawsuit filed in order to have the court decide who the rightful creator of boba was. This lawsuit dragged on for 10 years! In the end, there wasn't an "Aha!" moment where the court announced the creator like the winner of American Idol though. The court decided that it didn't matter who the creator was, it only mattered that anyone could make bubble tea and everyone can enjoy the experience of drinking it.

How to Make Boba

While it is easy to go out and buy boba already made, there are ways to make your own at home. This recipe could come in handy with the possibility of a boba shortage due to the pandemic. 

What you will need:

1/4 cup buckwheat honey

70 mL (or 70g weight) water 

1/2 cup tapioca flour plus more to coat

1. Bring honey and water to a rolling boil. Add a few tablespoons of tapioca flour and mix in really well. Add remaining flour and work in until it forms a soft ball. You may need to add another dusting of flour to coat dough before transferring to work surface. 
2. Knead the dough until smooth. It will be hot so be careful, but don’t let it cool too much because it gets harder to work with as it cools, which is important for the next step.
A ball of uncooked boba dough sits on a glass cutting board on a marble kitchen counter
3. Divide into three parts and roll each part into approximately a 1/4” diameter snake, then cut into about 1/8” pieces to form balls.
A glass bowl is full of uncooked boba pearls on a marble kitchen counter
4. Toss with a dusting of tapioca flour to keep them from sticking. 

*Yields: 75-100 pearls depending on the size 

To make boba for bubble tea:

Bring 400 ml water and 1tbsp buckwheat honey to a boil. Drop in tapioca balls and boil for 3-4 min. Remove from heat, strain boba if using right away or reserve simple syrup for boba storage. 

A mason jar with uncooked boba pearls sits on a marble kitchen counter next to a honey jar with cooked boba in a simple syrup

How to Make a Bubble Tea

There are a few elements that are necessary in order to make a bubble tea also known as boba. There are the obvious ingredients such as the tapioca pearls and tea, but most boba also contains milk or a nondairy milk option. 

In a cup, add about 100 boba pearls with buckwheat simple syrup. In a cocktail shaker, add ice to fill up halfway then top with approximately 4 oz. of milk or oat milk. Top off the rest of the shaker with iced tea that has been brewed to be super strong. We have been using Russian Caravan for a traditional black tea or One Night in Rio to provide a fruity option. Shake well and pour over boba pearls to serve.

Resources:

McEneaney, Ciaran. “A Brief History of Pearl Milk Tea.” Culture Trip, The Culture Trip, 26 May 2017, theculturetrip.com/asia/taiwan/articles/a-brief-history-of-pearl-milk-tea/.

Wong, Maggie Hiufu. “The Rise of Bubble Tea, One of Taiwan's Most Beloved Beverages.” CNN, Cable News Network, 30 Apr. 2020, www.cnn.com/travel/article/taiwan-bubble-tea-origins/index.html.

15 Most Refreshing Iced Teas for Summer 2021

three cups of iced tea with green and white striped straws

The sun is shining, little bits of green are already starting to peek through in our upstate gardens, and the days are getting longer and warmer...  This of course has us thinking about what iced teas we're going to be enjoying at home, on the lake, and at our Tea Bar this summer!

There's nothing more refreshing than an ice cold glass of cold brewed tea on a hot summer's day, and we're going to share a few of the best teas for making iced tea based on customer reviews and our experience of how well they brew. 

Whether you are looking for an invigorating boost of morning caffeine or a refreshing afternoon thirst-quencher, our favorite teas and caffeine-free herbal tisanes for making iced tea are sure to be a hit with you and yours. 

The Best Iced Teas for Summer

Since taste is a rather subjective measure, we are organizing our best iced teas by category and caffeine content rather than a ranking system. But stick around to the end of the article to find out what our most-requested, number one best iced tea is according to our CommuniTEA!

Best Iced Green Teas

Matcha

A wonderfully vibrant and brisk green tea made from powdered green tea leaves, Matcha is a highly caffeinated and invigorating drink - especially iced! Shake your matcha in a cocktail shaker with ice, water, and a little Mango Honey simple syrup for a delightfully tropical start to your morning!

Long Jing

One of the most famous Chinese green teas, the lightly vegetal and sweetly nutty character of Long Jing green tea makes for a refreshingly light iced green tea. We recommend pairing this delightful iced Chinese green tea with Peach Honey to make a luscious and thirst-quenching peach tea.

Kukicha

Bright and sweet, Kukicha cold brews to a brilliant lime green and has just as much lively character as its color would suggest. One of our absolute favorites iced, Kukicha pairs well with our fruit infused honeys (but we think it's best enjoyed plain)!

Best Iced Black Teas

Darjeeling

Darjeeling has long been one of the world's most popular black teas for a reason: it's absolutely delicious and extremely versatile! Well-balanced tannins with notes of malt and dried fruit make Darjeeling the perfect answer to both cold winter mornings and hot summer afternoons. We love how our Darjeeling cold brews to perfection for an excellently balanced iced black tea. Pair with local Wildflower Honey for sweet tea sippin' and front porch sittin'. 

Keemun Mao Feng

Keemun Mao Feng is probably the most-brewed iced black tea on our Tea Bar menu here at our Saratoga Springs flagship store. The lovely and mellow notes of sweet potato and chocolate give way to even tannins, making Mao Feng the perfect choice for iced black tea - whether you plan to brew it cold or hot. We recommend our Mao Feng without honey, but sweet tea lovers will enjoy Tupelo Honey in this delightfully balanced black iced tea.

Best Iced Oolong Tea

Da Hong Pao

One of our more oxidized rock oolongs, Da Hong Pao has excellent character iced. Brisk and rustic enough for the tannins to come through even cold-brewed, we love the rugged quality of this oolong for beating back the heat of summer. If you're enjoying your Da Hong Pao hot in the morning, brew your second or third steep extra long and then cool down for a refreshing iced treat in the afternoon!

Get Started on Iced Tea Season with our Good Libations Iced Tea Sampler....

Best Flavored Iced Teas

Blueberry Bumble

Lightly fruity and perfectly refreshing, this blueberry scented white tea is a makes an excellent afternoon pick-me-up or way to cool down at Fourth-of-July BBQs. Cold brew this tea for best results and enjoy a berry iced tea that's uniquely satisfying. We recommend this blueberry tea with our Lemon Tree Honey for a light and refreshing afternoon drink. 

Moroccan Mint

Nothing quenches thirst quite like a mint green tea on a hot, steamy day. The refreshing combination of invigorating mint and energizing green tea is sure to cut through any heat-induced stupor and get you going for a fun afternoon in the sun. Pair our Moroccan Mint green tea with Wildflower Honey for a sweet but refreshing pairing.

One Night in Rio

Sipping this gorgeous combination of black tea, pineapple, and coconut will transport you immediately to white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. We recommend adding a splash of Mango Honey for extra tropical vibes and think this iced tea pairs particularly well with rum for adult drinks!

Strawberry Fields

Fruity drinks have a particularly thirst-quenching quality, and iced Strawberry Fields is no exception. Delightfully light, Strawberry Fields is a refreshing blend of berries, green, and white teas. We recommend cold brewing this tea and serving lightly sweetened with Lemon Tree Honey.

Best Caffeine-Free Iced Teas

Blood Orange Hibiscus

Citrusy blood orange and tart hibiscus combine with stevia in this caffeine-free tea to make a naturally sweet and refreshing iced tea. Blood Orange Hibiscus is one of our favorite recommendations for iced tea because its sweet-tart flavor profile makes for a particularly satisfying glass. Brew this tea hot and then cool overnight in the refrigerator before straining for best results. Pair with Lemon Tree Honey for extra sweetness.

Crimson Berry

Even in winter, this sweet-tart combination of ripe berries and hibiscus is popular iced at our tea bar. A particularly refreshing combination of black currants, cranberries, elderberries, and hibiscus, our Crimson Berry is reminiscent of some Teavana faves. Brew this herbal tisane hot and cool in the refrigerator for several hours before straining for best results. Our CommuniTEA loves Crimson Berry plain with Mango or Wildflower Honey or shaken with Matcha for a berry-kick.

Fountain of Youth

On the other end of the caffeine-free spectrum we have this turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon tisane that will appeal to black tea and coffee drinkers looking for a way to quench their summer thirst without caffeine. Wonderfully spicy and revitalizing, you'll definitely want this anti-inflammatory tisane in your summer rotation. Brew this herbal tisane hot and cool overnight in the refirgerator. Pair with Ghost Pepper Honey for a surprising, extra kick!

La Provençale

Named for southern France's famous lavender fields, La Provençale is a gorgeous blend of lavender, mint, rosemary and other herbs that will immediately transport you to summer in the French countryside. Brew this herbal tisane cold and steep overnight in the refrigerator. Shake your iced La Provençale with Matcha and Lavender Honey for a CommuniTEA favorite: the French Matcha.

Spirit of Life

A refreshing combination of grapefruit, apple, and spices, Spirit of Life is one of those fruity teas that will appeal to almost all palates. Invigorating spice from the cinnamon and cardamom will win over lovers of black tea and coffee while the grapefruit and apple appeal to lovers of bright fruit flavors. Brew this herbal tisane hot and steep overnight for best results. Pair with Orange Blossom Honey for a little extra sweetness. 

The Number 1 Iced Tea in Saratoga

iced matcha green tea in a mason jar being presented on a tray

Have you guessed which one of these iced teas is consistently considered the best in Saratoga by popular demand? If you guessed either Matcha or Crimson Berry, you'd be right! Iced Matchas are hands-down our most popular iced caffeinated drink and weeks without Crimson Berry on the menu have been known to inspire an increase in submissions to our suggestions email. 

Crimson Berry + Matcha

That said, lots of teas make excellent iced teas - even those that didn't make our short list. Learn how to cold brew iced tea below and let us know your favorite iced tea on Instagram or Facebook - or in person the next time you're in our Saratoga Springs store!

How to Cold Brew Iced Tea

We find that cold brewing makes the best iced tea when you are brewing traditional teas in the green, black, white, or oolong families (yes, this includes scented or flavored teas with traditional tea bases). Many herbal tisanes, on the other hand, benefit from being started hot (though we do recommend letting them steep overnight as well). 

Ingredients:

12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water. 

Directions for Teas:

Steep 12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water in tap water overnight in the refrigerator (~12 hours). Strain in the morning (or after 12 hours) and enjoy within a week or two. 

Directions for Herbal Tisanes:

Steep 12 grams of tea per 1 quart of water in 205F hot water. Cool to room temperature and steep overnight in the refrigerator (~12 hours) before straining. 

Recommended Iced Tea Pitchers

two glass iced tea pitchers with infusers

We've made a lot of iced tea over the years and have finally decided on our two favorite pitchers for brewing iced tea at home. We love the Takeya 2 quart pitcher with infuser basket and the 64oz Mist Iced Tea Jug. Both are excellent for brewing iced tea at home, though they are perhaps for different audiences. 

While both pitchers are excellent quality and wonderful for brewing iced tea, we do recommend them for different purposes. The Takeya pitcher is a workhorse - we use these pitchers behind our tea bar and they are great for families where small hands pour glasses of tea and fridge space is limited. The Mist Jug is more elegant and refined, making a gorgeous addition to summer tablescapes and afternoons on the porch. 

 Image of three iced teas with the words "Buy Your Iced Tea Starter Kit"

How Much Caffeine is in Chai Tea?

chai latte surrounded by loose leaf masala chai tea on wood background

Chai lattes are a perennial favorite at our Tea Bar, served hot for a cozy pick-me-up during the winter months or iced for a refreshing summertime treat. We generally have two types of chai available at the bar: one with caffeine and one naturally caffeine-free for our caffeine-conscious CommuniTEA. But recently we've found ourselves wondering - what is the actual caffeine content of traditional Masala Chai (spiced black tea), and how does the caffeine in chai compare to coffee or other teas?

Does chai tea have caffeine?

To answer this frequently asked question in a nutshell: yes, traditional black tea chai contains caffeine. (Which is why we've created a spicy herbal chai with a rooibos base for chai lovers who want to enjoy a cup of sweet and spicy deliciousness without the added kick of caffeine.)

But first, let's back up a step and talk about what chai is, exactly, and why there's some confusion about its caffeine content. 

What is Chai Tea?

A cup of "tea tea," anyone?

Masala Chai literally translates to "Spiced Tea," with "Chai" as the word for tea and "Masala" referring to any number of traditional Indian spice mixes that generally contain spices like cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black pepper, and other similar spices (depending on personal taste and family recipe, your masala might also contain cloves, star anise, cumin, coriander, or even mace!). Masala Chai is a combination of this Masala spice mix and Indian black tea, traditionally Assam, though some recipes use Ceylon Orange Pekoe instead.

Referring to Masala Chai as chai tea (or "tea tea") is a redundant habit that Western tea drinkers have developed due a lot of complicated linguistic and political history. But the gist is that somewhere along the line in late-colonial and post-colonial India, the word "chai" became synonymous for English-speakers with spiced black tea served sweet with warmed milk, instead of the entire phrase: "Masala Chai". Decades later, Merriam-Webster has officially defined chai in the English language as "a beverage that is a blend of black tea, honey, spices, and milk." In an effort to avoid confusion and appease the search engines, we will use it that way. 

What is a Chai Latte, anyway?

The next source of confusion for many people is the word latte in Chai Latte. In Italian, latte is simply the word for milk. English-speakers, however, have started to associate the word latte with espresso drinks. Often these drinks are ordered dropping the caffe from the original Caffe Latte. It is now very common for someone in the US to ask their local barista for a small latte with skim milk, for example, and as long as you're not in Italy - or faced with a particularly pedantic barista - this probably works just fine! But using latte in this way has lead to some confusion when it comes to other drinks with milk.

Unlike the simple redundancy of chai tea, using latte in this way has lead to some confusion when other drinks with foamed milk are ordered - like a Chai Latte or a Matcha Latte. Both Chai Lattes and Matcha Lattes are teas served with foamed milk and nary a drop of espresso to be found (unless you order your chai dirty...). As you can imagine, this has lead to many questions about whether or not there is coffee in Chai Lattes. The simple answer is: not unless you put it there!  

So, long story short: we are going to continue to use chai to refer to spiced tea, but use the original definition of latte to indicate a drink made with milk, not a specific type of espresso drink.

To differentiate between our traditional Indian spiced chai teas and Westernized versions when you're browsing our website or ordering at the Tea Bar, you can look to the first word in the name - our Masala Chai is our traditional offering, while Golden Dragon Chai, Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai, and Saratoga Red Chai are spiced teas.

Caffeine in Tea ( ...and a little about its health benefits)

All traditional teas have caffeine, so any chai made with a black, green, or oolong tea base will contain some amount of caffeine. The caffeine content of your cup of tea will vary depending on the ratio of tea to water, steep time, and proportions of tea to scents (like the spices in Masala Chai). The chart below is a good place to start with understanding how much caffeine is likely in your cup of traditional tea, with the ranges given for each type of tea being a typical though by no means exhaustive representation of that type of tea. 

 

Chart of caffeine in tea versus coffee per 16oz To-Go Cup. Coffee: 192 mg, Black Tea: 22-58 mg, Green Tea: 27-50 mg, White Tea: 15-32 mg, Oolong Tea: 17-49 mg, Aged Tea: 19-23 mg, Matcha: 126 mg

*Caffeine Content range based on liquid chromatography-UV of teas infused in a teapot with 2 cups water; matcha was whisked in a bowl with 1/2 cup of water.

Before we delve further into the complicated sorcery of divining how much caffeine is in your chai latte, we want to take a moment to talk about caffeine in tea and how its affects may differ from the caffeine you're used to experiencing from coffee. 

While the caffeine in tea is the same compound found in coffee, caffeine in tea bonds differently with other substances than the caffeine in coffee. Specifically, the caffeine bonds with the tannins in tea, and the tannins then prevent the caffeine from being released rapidly into the body. This is why tea produces a longer and more stable caffeination than coffee.

Another difference between the two types of caffeination is how the caffeine in tea affects and interacts with the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. Unlike the direct effect that caffeine in coffee has on the blood circulation and therefore heart rate, the caffeine in tea instead enlarges the diameter of the vessels in the cerebral cortex. In other words, the caffeine in tea is more of a stimulant than an excitant, sharpening the mind and decreasing fatigue (according to Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties; Second Edition). 

Caffeine in Chai Tea & Chai Lattes

You probably noticed we did not include Masala Chai in the above chart about caffeine in tea. Mostly, that's because we do not want to be reductive, so we are giving it its own chart below.

The caffeine content of your chai is going to depend on a lot of factors:

  • What is the ratio of tea to spices in your chai recipe?
  • Are you drinking your chai as a regular infusion of 5-8g in about 16oz of water?
  • Is your chai a concentrate that was steeped for a long period of time and then reduced? 

Assuming that your chai is about a half/half ratio of tea to spices, we can infer that a regular infusion of chai would have about half the caffeine of a regular black tea, or 11-24mg. However, there's one big factor that we haven't addressed yet: the length of your infusion will change the amount of caffeine in your tea. 

Studies show that while the majority of caffeine in tea is released in the first 3 minutes of steeping, caffeine is still released after those initial minutes with the curve beginning to level out around 10 minutes. In an infusion of the same Huiming green tea, a 4.5 minute steep in 1 cup of water released 13mg of caffeine while a 10 minute steep released 21mg. Comparing that to our 16oz to-go cups in the chart above, the 4.5 minute steep would contain about 26mg while the 10 minute steep would contain about 42mg, not quite double the caffeine in a little over double the time! Because of this, the caffeine content of a chai concentrate like the one we use at our Tea Bar for chai lattes is going to be higher than a regular cup of chai at a one-to-one ratio.

But things are about to get complicated again because chai concentrate is generally served with milk to make what we call a chai latte, while a regular infusion of chai would be drunk black or slightly sweetened... so we can't do a simple one-to-one comparison.

Ready to tear your hair out yet? (If so, the main takeaway here is that Masala Chai tea has caffeine, and if you want a caffeine-free substitute we recommend Saratoga Red Chai!)

Still, we will do our best to break down for you the ranges of caffeine in chai based on how you are consuming the beverage in the chart below!

Chart of caffeine in chai and chai lattes per 16oz to-go cup. Masala Chai (black tea): 11-24 mg, Masala Chai Latte: 30-40 mg, Golden Dragon Green Tea Chai: 13-25 mg, Golden Dragon Green Tea Latte: 35-45 mg, Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai (black tea): 11-24 mg, Pumpkin Pie Spice Chai Latte: 30-40 mg, Saratoga Red Chai (herbal tea): 0 mg, Saratoga Red Chai Latte: 0 mg

 

*Approximate caffeine levels based on standard latte concentrates and proportions; caffeine levels will vary based on steep time and ratio of concentrate to milk. 

 

click through image of chai latte and green plant with the words Shop Chai

 

Resources:

Gascoyne, K., Marchand, F., & Desharnais, J. (2013). Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties (Second ed.). Firefly Books.

USDA. (n.d.). FoodData Central - Tea, hot, chai, with milk. FoodData Central. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1104278/nutrients

Introducing: Anji Bai Cha

Every once in a while we come across a tea so special, we just have to share it with our CommuniTEA - even when we can only get a very limited quantity. This gorgeous green tea is one of those exceptional teas (we were only able to get 16, 2-oz bags!). So without further ado, we are excited to introduce to you a small batch of a very special green tea: Anji Bai Cha from Zhejiang Province, China.

Teapot Pouring Anji Bai Cha

The history of Anji Bai Cha green tea

'Bai Ye', or white leaf, is the cultivar responsible for Anji Bai Cha green tea, and refers to a leaf made lighter in color due to a lower concentration of chlorophyll. Not to be confused with white tea, Anji Bai Cha is a green tea praised for its high minerality and balancing amino acids. 

Anji Bai Cha was 'rediscovered' as a varietal as recently as the 1980's, when two mother bushes were cloned and cultivated in Anji County, Zhejiang Province. Only one mother bush is said to remain, having survived an astonishing three centuries.

Still largely unknown in the west, the Anji Bai Cha cultivar is highly appreciated in China for its aroma and aesthetic. The leaves unfurl with such beauty, and the finest Anji Bai Cha leaves are said to stand parallel with the sides of the infusion glass. As a result of this increasing demand, the cultivar has been planted in other regions of China, and it is now possible to find Anji Bai Cha not from the Zhejiang Province. But just as with wines, we find that terroir plays a big role in the flavor and experience of Anji Bai Cha (more on that below!).  

The terroir of Zhejiang Province

While we have been known to offer the occasional style-representative that is grown/produced outside of its province of origin because they are, in-of-themselves exemplary teas (think: Bai Hao Jingmai), we take great pride in offering teas directly from their native region. We respect that an authentic tea experience is born first in the garden, and then again revived in the infusion in your cup.

Zhejiang Province is a lush coastal province that is home to some of the most highly prized teas from China made by traditional methods, such as Long Jing and Anji Bai Cha. Anji Bai Cha is produced only in very small quantities in this region, as there is extensive regulation protecting the bamboo forests. 

By virtue of Zhejiang Province's diverse landscape, the mountainous areas produce the highest quality teas and the lower lying areas produce more industrial-style tea.  One may note that the same rules of quality apply to wine and many agricultural products, as a bit of climatic stress brings a more interesting product and nuanced taste. Tea bushes are no exception in benefiting from the good drainage and climatic variations of altitude and slope.  

What to expect from a cup of Anji Bai Cha

From the first glance, you will notice the distinctive nature of Anji Bai Cha. Comprised of leaves with a pine needle-like appearance, Anj Bai Cha's crisp leaves are pale and almost silvery, living up to their Bai Ye (white leaf) name. Expect the infusion to be jade in color and, true to the Bai Ye cultivar, hardly tannic at all. Flushed with herbaceous savory notes and a mild nuttiness, Anji Bai Cha retains the characteristics of its fellow green teas while also exhibiting a unique balance that is soft on the palate and almost makes us want to invoke the entirely Japanese concept of umami to describe a Chinese green tea! 

If you live in Saratoga or near a spring, we highly recommend tasting this tea with low mineral spring water. Our local suggestion: State Seal Spring in Saratoga State Park. Brew for 2 minutes at 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

image of green tea with the words shop anji bai cha

Tea Event Plan 10/21 at Saratoga Performing Art Center

We welcome you to join us for an evening of enjoying tea, surrounded by the beauty and energy of Saratoga Performing Art Center.  Please read the protocol thoroughly before signing up.  May we all enjoy an early evening in good health with good tea.

Event Registration

  • All guests are required to pre-register for this event. Walk-ups will not be permitted.

Event Instructions – Arrival through Departure

  • Parking: Please enter from the Avenue of the Pines at the Saratoga Auto Museum (110 Avenue of the Pines).  Please follow the signs upon arrival. Unfortunately, due to the circumstances surrounding Covid-19, golf cart rides to and from the parking area will not be available. 
    • Entrance: All attendees will enter through the Hall of Springs Gate.  Please follow posted signage.
      • Check-in and Screening: Check in will be at the Hall of Springs Box Office where each guest will need to complete a health screening questionnaire as required by the New York State Department of Health for contact tracing purposes.  Those questions are below.  If the answer to any of those questions is “yes” entry will not be allowed.
        • In the last 14 days, have you experienced any of these symptoms? Fever greater than 100°, cough, sore throat, respiratory illness or difficulty breathing.
        • In the last 14 days, have you tested positive for COVID-19?
        • In the last 14 days, have you knowingly been in close or proximate contact with anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has tested positive?
        • PPE: All guests are required to wear a facemask that covers the mouth and nose.  Masks must be worn at all times when patrons are moving throughout the grounds. Guests may choose to remove their masks only if they are seated. 
          • Social Distancing: While inside the gates, guests are responsible for maintaining social distancing, remaining 6ft apart whenever possible. Seating areas will be predetermined by the venue and separated appropriately for social distancing. 
            • Restrooms: Restrooms will be available and will modified to accommodate social distancing and maximum occupancy will be monitored. Restrooms will be cleaned and high-risk contact areas and touch points will be sanitized frequently. 
            Permitted Items: Guests will be asked to keep items brought with them to a minimum.  
                • Permitted
                  • Only essential personal belongings (e.g. immediate medical needs)
                  • Factory Sealed Water
                • Prohibited
                  • Non-essential items (Frisbees, yard games, etc)
                  • Wagons/Soft or Hard Coolers
                  • Food 
                  • Alcohol
                  • Tents
            1. Weather: This is a rain or shine event, please plan accordingly.  If the venue is the Adirondack Pavilion, please bring a blanket and warm clothing.
            2. Abacus-cadabacus, Focus Pocus! 🔮 📚

              It’s back to school time and whether you’re doing your classes in person or virtually, you’ll probably need a little mental pick-me-up! To help you out with this, we’re featuring Focus Pocus as our Wellness Tea of the Month! Our brain-fog busting blend of powerful organic adaptogenic herbs; Ashwaganda, Tulsi, Brahmi, and Yerba Maté, give you the boost and peace of mind needed when those classes start up again! 

              Focus Pocus contains caffeine from Yerba Maté. Yerba Maté has the strength of coffee and the health benefits of tea! Scientific studies (on animals) show that Yerba Maté improves short-term memory, enhances cognitive function and delivers a megadose of nutrition to your brain! Yerba Maté leaves contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and an abundance of antioxidants, no other plant in the world has a higher nutritional value!

              Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is another herb you may be familiar with, it is one of the most widely-known adaptogenic herbs on the market. An adaptogen is a natural substance that helps your body adapt to stress and promotes mental balance. Scientific studies shows that holy basil has pharmacological properties that help your mind cope with many types of stress, exhaustion, sleep problems and forgetfulness. According to studies done by the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Holy Basil has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties comparable to diazepam and other antidepressant drugs. These studies found that people who took Holy Basil as a supplement felt less anxious, stressed, depressed, and alternatively more social!

              Brahmi, also known as bacopa, water hyssop, and herb of grace, has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as a memory and learning enhancer. Brahmi enhances the three aspects of memory which include long term memory, short term memory and retaining capacity. It has a positive effect on the hippocampus part of the brain that is responsible for intelligence, concentration and memory. Interestingly, the Brahmi leaf is shaped like a cerebellum, the part of the brain which helps in controlling concentration and memory.  Brahmi decreases the levels of cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone.  Research has also shown that Brahmi may help reduce ADHD symptoms; two studies in children found that supplementation of Brahmi significantly reduced ADHD symptoms, such as restlessness, poor self-control, inattention, and impulsivity in 85% of the test group! Other studies have proven Brahmi to be effective at lowering cortisol levels, thus reducing stress and anxiety.

              A rising star on the herbal adaptogenic scene, Ashwaganda nourishes adrenal fatigue and a tapped-out nervous system. Ashwaganda root helps balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis, the central part of the stress response system, reducing cortisol levels, improving our ability to deal with stress, and improving sleep patterns! Anxiety is one of the main causes of insomnia and disruptive sleep cycles, so Ashwagandha is superb for those who are chronically tired and suffering from stress-related exhaustion.

              Though not the main ingredients in this blend, cacao and peppermint add to the brain boosting effects of this tea! Regularly eating cacao was linked to improvements in working memory and visual information processing. Polyphenols in cacao were also found to increase calmness and contentedness and the flavanols could also enhance normal cognitive functioning and have a protective role on cognitive performance. Peppermint is shown to stimulate the hippocampus and increase oxygen saturation thus increasing alertness, memory, and enhancing cognitive functions. These two ingredients also adds a light mint-chocolatey taste that complements the Yerba Maté base!

              Pair this with our Cinnamon Honey for an extra serotonin and dopamine boost!

              Grab a bag of Focus Pocus for the student in your life, on sale through September 15th for $8!

              Antioxidants & the Spirit of Life!

               

              Like traditional teas, herbal infusions are very often rich in antioxidants, and this month's Wellness Tea of the Month is no exception! What makes Spirit of Life so special is the type of antioxidants it contains, glutathione and aspalathin.

              Aspalathin, which is found only in rooibos tea, has anti-diabetic properties, meaning it helps people with diabetes reduce their risk of vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis.

              Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, is one of the most protective molecules in the human body and has been shown to protect against inflammation, toxins, free radicals and pathogens. Think of it as your body’s own natural detoxifier. Without adequate levels of glutathione, you are at increased risk of some of the most serious health conditions, including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. When levels are adequate or high, you’ll not only have protection from the conditions above, but you’ll have amazing energy, glowing skin, healthy detoxification, and stronger heart and brain function.

              Talk about the Spirit of LifeAlmost all of the ingredients, including ginger, cinnamon, lemongrass and cardamom, have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, as well as diuretic and detoxifying effects! It seems that whatever ails you or has you dragging a bit, this tisane can help! It really covers so many bases and is the epitome of a wellness tea!

              We love Spirit of Life paired with our Orange Blossom Honey for a bigger antioxidant boost! Read more about the "Surprisingly Sweet Side Effect of Raw Honey" on your health here!


              *On Sale from July 15th- August 12th*
              $12 a bag or $2.50 at the bar!

              How To Keep Tea Fresh

              by Kyra Fiber

              If you are an avid tea collector, you may not get around to drinking all of your teas as quickly as you had hoped when you bought them. And although tea, if kept dry, won’t go rancid, it can get old and stale. But don’t worry! We at Saratoga Tea and Honey are here to help you keep your tea fresh; plus, we can also help you identify which of your green teas have gone old.

              Green tea

              How Do I Keep My Green Tea Fresh?

              Green tea, especially Japanese green tea, is quick to get old and lose flavor. It is important to store your tea properly to allow it a long, happy lifespan. Here are some simple rules to follow to keep your tea from losing its flavor:

              1. If it is in a sealed container, refrigerate it.

              Keeping tea in the refrigerator can be hazardous due to the higher humidity, but if your green tea is unopened and sealed, you can keep it in the refrigerator for a short period of time to prolong freshness.

              1. Store away from sunlight.

              All tea should be kept in opaque containers in a cabinet to avoid contact with too much light. If the tea is warmed from sunlight, it can change its flavor.

              1. Store in an airtight container.

              With air comes moisture and other odors. Moisture can change the flavor of the tea and can grow mold; surrounding smells can change the flavor of your tea. Do not store your tea with potent aromatics, such as spices.

              1. Store away from heat.

              Try to find a cool, temperate place to keep your tea. Storing it in a place with large fluctuations can change its flavor.

              I keep my own tea in a large metal tin (once home to Christmas cookies) with other similar teas so that the flavor isn’t largely affected. I keep this tin stored away in the pantry, away from anything with too strong of a scent!

              How Do I Know When My Green Tea Has Passed Its Prime?

              A clear indicator of the quality of all tea is its aroma and its flavor. Smell your tea leaves. You should be able to smell a fresh aroma; if you can’t, then your tea might be a bit too old. Once steeped, smell the liquor itself along with the steeped leaves. If you still don’t get a strong aroma, your tea is likely too old. This will be clear when you take a sip and taste slightly leafy water. It may be time to say farewell and fetch a new bag of tea…

              With green tea, the color is a great indicator of its quality. To demonstrate this, I used two teas of my own that I got from Saratoga Tea and Honey of course. I used two Japanese green teas with the staler being Miyabi Shincha (top) and the fresher being Sencha Sumire (bottom).

              Sencha SumireMiyabi Sencha

              The older tea is yellower and has almost no flavor whatsoever. The fresher tea has a bright green color and a rich, vegetal aroma, indicative of a steamed green tea.

              As always, we are happy to help with any specific questions: Email Us, we love to hear from you! We wish you many happy steeps! 

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