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April tea hero: Discover Tea and Terroir with LaKyrsiew

12 Apr

Stunning (image courtesy of Lakyrsiew Tea Co)

As you may know already we have been looking at how terroir determines a tea’s unique characteristics. This month’s loose leaf tea hero is one of our newest teas and producers but is already an all time favourite with us and our customers: Awakening.

Awakening is from the beautiful LaKyrsiew Indian boutique tea garden. It is an “addictively caramel-chocolatey sweet black loose leaf tea that oozes opulence.” Full of shiny tea tips, an opulent aroma and a smooth, lingering sweetness, this unique tea takes you on a journey of your senses in every way!

I chose Awakening for April’s tea hero because LaKyrsiew make stunning teas that take you on the most beautiful voyage to begin to understand terroir.

The story of the LaKyrsiew tea garden is fascinating! Two hundred years ago, the forest covered hills of Meghalaya, a province that lies between Darjeeling and Assam, were discovered to be perfect for growing beautiful tea. However, growing tea here was deemed too costly due to the remoteness and the high yields that neighboring Assam could reap, and so the land was left wild.

Two centuries later, the old tea garden plans were discovered, virgin scrubland and woodland was cultivated and LaKyrsiew “The Awakening” tea garden was born.

Organic from the start, working with the contours of the land to protect the ancient fertile topsoil from monsoon rains and watered by a spring high on the jungle slopes, the flavours produced by the tea garden are unrivaled.

Geert and Nayan, the owners of LaKyrsiew, are passionate about the beautiful loose leaf teas they produce. Their focus is quality not quantity; in 2009 only 650kg of tea were made. They carefully pluck the top two leaves and a bud then wither, roll and fire the tea themselves. They even have their own bespoke brass rolling table that improves the flavour of the tea!

Although comparable to teas made in neighboring Darjeeling, the slow growth, favourable weather and strict leaf picking, LaKyrsiew tea has its own unique character – opulent and smooth with a lingering sweetness.

Try both Awakening and their stunning white tea, Silver Tips and you’ll see what I mean!

Tea and Terroir: what gives tea its unique characteristics? Topography?

11 Apr

Wow! Where did the last week go? Sometimes in a small business there just aren’t enough hands on deck, hours in the day or days in the week! Well, this week was one of those so apologies for my delay in posting the next part of the Tea and Terroir blog. A little delayed, but here you go…

So we’ve already learnt that climate plays a huge part in the magic of a tea’s unique characteristics, but what else plays a part?

Topography (the relief of the land) – in a nutshell this takes into account how the altitude and latitude (the degree of the slope of the mountain) of a particular place determine the tea garden’s exposure to wind, rain, frost, sunshine, shade and drainage.

Having recently been to Sri Lanka I have been lucky enough to experience the diverse climate and topography and therefore flavour and characteristics of its tea, first hand. I loved chatting to the wonderful Herman, owner of the tropical Handunugoda tea estate, about Sri Lanka’s unique topography and how it determines how their tea is grown and therefore, how it tastes.

IMG_0173

 

Herman explained that Sri Lankan teas are not classified by season or climate but instead by elevations: low, mid and high-grown tea. Each elevation lends itself to unique flavours and characteristics – mellow and rich low-grown, aromatic citrusy mid-grown and intense high-grown – and even price point!

In the high mountain tea growing areas, the native China tea bush, the Camellia Sinensis, flourishes even on incredibly steep slopes as high as almost 8000 feet. At this height the thin air slows the leaf growth. This growth is focused around an optimum picking period so their yield is half that of the tea bushes grown in the much lower tropical tea gardens.

Sri Lanka tea

In the tropical Southern tea growing parts of the island where Herman’s beautiful estate is, the tea bush flourishes more consistently all year round and produces a more mellow and rich flavour and the teas are easier to harvest.

The lower yields, coupled with the difficulty in harvesting the tea in the highlands lead to a more intense flavour and a much higher price point for the high elevation teas.

Next time, the final focus will be on geology and terroir.

Put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea with Victoria Wood

8 Apr

Since I was a little girl, I have been a huge fan of comedy legend, Victoria Wood. She never fails to have me rolling around in stitches! I’m also a massive ambassador for reigniting Britain’s love affair with tea.

I was really pleased to see that the BBC are showing a two-part documentary featuring Victoria Wood and her travels to discover just how this little plant changed the world.

From the back streets of Kolkata to the mega city of Shanghai, Victoria reveals how the cosy cuppa united east and west, triggered wars and helped us win them. Along the way she peeks into a fascinating world of chai wallahs, opium smokers, Assam tea pickers and grumpy elephants. She asks: how did this strange exotic leaf become such an important part of British life?

It’s a really fab program so put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea with Victoria Wood http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rx1xc

I have my own ideas why we love tea so much in the UK, but what do you think it is about tea we love so much, and how did we all end up hooked?

Tea and terroir: what gives a tea its unique characteristics? Climate.

28 Mar

Last time we looked at what term terroir means. Despite having a broad understanding of terroir and how it affects tea, this series is giving me a whole load of fascinating new information. I have a naturally inquisitive nature and I love learning! So here’s what I have discovered…

So, what factors contribute to terroir? There are various trains of thought on what exactly makes up terroir, but there  is a general consensus that the following elements determine a tea’s unique flavour, aroma, health benefits and even its cost:

Climate: everything about a places’ unique climate – the temperature, how much the sun shines, how much it rains and how windy it is – affect how well and when tea grows.

Take the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka, I was lucky enough to visit recently, for example. Despite being small it has a really varied climate. This means that the island can produce an array of different teas in abundance all year round,  making it the fourth largest tea producer in the World!

Sri Lanka tea

In places like Uva in the eastern highlands of Sri Lanka there have very hot and dry Cachan winds from July to September that cause the tea trees’ leaves to curl up to protect them from the draught. This encourages the cells of the leaves to replace lost moisture, so the teas made in Uva at this time of year are really juicy and full fo flavour. Nowhere else in the world experiences this windy climate, it’s unique. Therefore these Uva teas are – understandably – very pricey!

Tomorrow, how topography affects a tea’s unique characteristics.

Tea and Terroir: what does it mean?

17 Mar
Tea leaves

Camellia Sinensis (tea plant)

You may or may not already know, that all tea – black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, yellow tea and puerh tea- comes from just one plant, the Camellia Sinensis. The Camellia Sinensis grows all over the world so why, even when considering different production methods, does a tea grown in similar conditions in India and Nepal, which is just a stone’s throw away, taste completely different?

The secret lies in terroir. Terroir is a French term that comes from the word terre, meaning land. We don’t have a direct translation in English but in one word terroir perfectly describes the impact that geology, geography and climate and the variety and age of the plant has on the flavour of food and drink.

The easiest way to describe it is ‘the sense of a place’ where the magic qualities of that specific place and plant come together to produce the finest aromas and flavours. When terroir is applied to tea, wine, chocolate, tomatoes, coffee, spices, olive oil (and much more) you can really begin to explore the desirable nuances of each country.

I hope that helps a little. I’ll look a little more into why and how terroir changes a tea’s character in the next post.

 

A fantastic start to 2013: Sri Lankan tea travels

8 Jan

I hope you new year has got off to a cracking start! I love starting the year by reflecting on the last.

2012 was fun-filled and jam-packed to say the least! As a business, we grew by more than a whopping 200%! It was a year of fun, a little stress, not a lot of sleep, steep learning curves and quick thinking! This didn’t give me much time to enjoy some of the things I used to have plenty of time to do – traveling, tasting, discovering, relaxing!

But after a relaxing, friends and family filled Christmas break, I have enjoyed a lovely steady, slow paced venture back into the world of tea and fuelled by pots of nutty buckwheat tea Sobacha, as part of Lahloo’s herbal therapy month, I have been planning for what is going to be an exciting year ahead!

With a brilliant team helping me at both Lahloo Tea and at our tea store, Lahloo Pantry, I’m taking advantage of some space to rediscover those things that make me tick. And I’m starting with an exciting trip to southern Sri Lanka.

I’ve been flicking through my go-to (and fellow South West company) travel companion, i-escapes, for tips and I can’t wait! I’m so looking forward to the colours – the turquoise sea, blue sky, green tea hills, golden beaches, vibrant food markets and saris – the people, their culture, the tastes and the aromas!  A feast for the senses!

Sri Lanka

The people (courtesy of http://www.i-escape.com/sri-lanka)

Sri Lanka

The tea (courtesy of http://www.i-escape.com/sri-lanka)

Not only will I experience Sri Lanka’s gems, I will be visiting the garden who make our’s and Tom Herbert’s favourite cinnamon-smoked version of lapsang souchong tea – Smoky – and other amazing artisans to hunt out new herbal infusions and maybe another tea to bring back.

Now, that’s what I call a cracking start to 2013,  here’s to more to come! What about you, I’d love to hear what you’re looking forward to this year?

Kate

DIY tea-scented heat bag

5 Dec

Heat bags can be easily made with rice or corn, and their dry heat provides comfort and relief for sore muscles. You can add flowers, herbs or essential oils and enjoy an aromatherapeutical experience too! This is why we thought of using Wild Rose, a blend of White Peony and pink rosebuds: the gorgeous scent of rose has calming and uplifting properties!

You’ll need a soft cotton fabric for the inside pouch. Fill it with the rice and Wild Rose and sew it closed. Don’t overfill it, as it should mold itself around your body. We also made a removable cover using felt. The removable cover can be made and decorated with any material you like, as it won’t go in the microwave.

To use your heat bag, microwave the inside pouch for one minute. Make sure that you put a cup of water next to it to add moisture, and do not microwave any other fabrics that aren’t cotton. Do not overheat and don’t leave it unattended. Before you place it on your skin, check that the temperature is OK. Enjoy!

P.S. We love it with Spice Chai too!

wrose

diy2

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