The Nuts and Bolts of Tea Processing – How a tea leaf is maximized for steeping

Did you know that all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, and the categories of tea are distinguished by the type of processing that they undergo?

Do you remember those childhood days when your mind was able to ask simple questions, like how one went from Point A to Point B, or how things worked? Sadly, as we age and our minds become busier with responsibilities, we often forget to ask the simple questions of childhood that are so fundamental to our understanding and our enjoyment of the world around us.

We decided to get our childhood glasses on and ask just how the heck those tea plants growing the ground become the dry, curled, steepable leaves we sell in our store. Here’s what we found out:

There are three different ways of processing most teas – orthodox, CTC, and LTC. For our purposes, we focus on the orthodox, which consists of five or six stages of processing: Withering, Steaming, Rolling, Fermentation, Drying, and Sorting. Production of black tea involves all five processes, while other types of tea processing have variations of the five. For example, green tea omits the fermentation, oolong semi-ferments, and white tea processing elongates the steaming step in open-air.

Withering:

This process varies widely according to the type of tea; some are withered much longer than others. Freshly picked leaves are spread out on ventilated trays in order to extract up to 30% of the moisture. This makes the leaves soft and pliable for rolling.

Steaming:

Much as it sounds, leaves are steamed or dry heated in order to break down their natural enzymes. This retains their colour in further processing; as such, this step is emphasized more in green and white tea processing as opposed to black tea processing.

Rolling:

Rolling is performed manually or by machine depending on the type of tea. This breaks up the cells and allows for extraction of any sap, triggering the fermentation process. At the same time, essential oils that produce the tea aroma are also released. In many cases the leaf is rolled into an artistic shape following a tradition which dates back thousands of years. A short rolling time produces larger leaf grades, while longer breaks up the leaves more resulting in lower grade tea.

Fermentation:

Leaves are again spread out for fermentation. They are left over time for this process to occur. Oolong teas ferment the outer leaf, leaving the inside non-fermented, whereas black tea processing often ferments the entire leaf.

Drying and Sorting:

After fermentation is complete (or skipped), the leaves are stacked in hot-air rack driers or exposed to the natural heat of the sun.  Once dried, they are sorted by size into different grades -- leaf, fannings, or dust.

So there you have it – inner child satisfied. That is how the tea leaf becomes drinkable for your cup! Next time you enjoy that sip of Herbal Republic tea, know that it’s gone through a lot to get to your cup and taste as good as it does. Enjoy!

 Our Teaz Tea Boutique has teas on sale, please drop by and check out the deals.

 

 

 

Darjeeling – the Champagne of Teas

If you're a tea drinker, you've no doubt sampled a Darjeeling tea. Darjeeling  is one of the most popular teas in the world, and it is grown only in India.  Darjeeling has been around for many years, but even today, it is a best  seller.

Darjeeling tea is produced only in the Darjeeling region of India. The  Darjeeling region is an area of high altitude: 4,000-10,000 feet above sea  level. In this part of India there is a mist in the air almost constantly. This  mist, combined with the high altitude ensures that the tea trees are always cool  and moist. This moisture, combined with the soil's excellent drainage produce  tea leaves that have a very distinct flavor. It is often described as a  muscadine flavor, leading Darjeeling to be known as the "champagne" of teas.  Darjeeling is a lighter tea than many black teas, which is why the English  consider it to be one of the best afternoon teas.

The tea from the Darjeeling region of India is so popular that it has even  made the area popular with tourists. Each year, thousands of people ride the  Darjeeling Himalayan Railway up into these mountains to see the beautiful tea  gardens.

When you taste a good Darjeeling, you'll taste definite fruity notes, along  with nut and florals blending beautifully with that muscatel flavoring that  comes only from this part of the world. And, only Darjeeling has that particular  astringency. It's one of the things that make the flavor of Darjeeling so  unique. And, as a special treat, a really good Darjeeling offers an exquisite  bouquet, as well, often with the smell of a fine wine. But, finding a really  good Darjeeling can be difficult.

Darjeeling is one of the most popular tea blends, and the demand often  exceeds the supply. For this reason, the Darjeeling you purchase from many tea  purveyors is only part Darjeeling, having been mixed with other types of black  tea, but labeled Darjeeling. If you read the label closely, you'll see the true  mix; usually about 50%.

The rest is filler - mostly dust from poor grade Darjeeling or other black  teas. In fact, it is estimated that each year, about ten thousand pounds of  Darjeeling tea is grown, but over forty thousand pounds of tea is sold each year  as Darjeeling!

Tending a quality tea garden is a year round job. The first work of the year  begins in March, when the tea plants are pruned one last time before the first  pluckings begin. Then, in April or May, the tea begins being harvested.  Typically, tea made from the first plucking of the year will be the best for the  entire growing season. This is because the tea leaves are the most tender during  the spring.

Once the first harvest is plucked, the tea is processed. The black tea leaves  will be fully fermented and processed according to grade.

During the rest of the year, the tea garden must be tended to keep it at its  best. The plants must be weeded all throughout the summer along with harvesting  additional crops of tea. Tea plants do most of their growing during the autumn,  so the plants must be fertilized during this time.

Around October, the tea plants will be pruned in preparation for the winter.  Then throughout the winter, the tea gardener must pay special attention to any  tea plants under four years of age, ensuring that they are protected from the  cold.

Darjeeling tea is easy to find. Exceptional Darjeeling is a rare treat. If  you've never had really high quality Darjeeling tea froma quality supplier,  you're missing out on one of the world's greatest tea experiences. Don't skimp  when it comes to Darjeeling.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/744548

Ezine @rticles - By Jon Stout

 

9 Varieties of Japanese Green Tea

From the website True Beauty Tips

It seems we in the West are finally learning that Japanese Green Tea is healthy and good for us. Choose the one you like from nine varieties of Green Tea.

The world of Japanese green tea is vast, with literally thousands of varieties, each featuring subtle differences in taste and aroma.  However, a fair number of those new to Japanese green tea, seem to be taking a strong dislike to the flavour.  If you don’t like the flavour the answer isn’t to give up on green tea but to try another type.  You may have mistakenly tried Chinese Green Tea or teabags from one of the brand name tea makers – a big mistake.

Many are available at natural food stores, some supermarkets and fine tea boutiques.  Just find one you like and enjoy the taste along with the health benefits.

Matcha …

  • Drink Japanese Matcha Green TeaMatcha is the quintessential experience of Japanese green tea. It is made from skillfully cultivated, shade-grown tea leaves that have been meticulously stone-ground into a fine powder.

    To prepare Matcha, take a teaspoon of matcha and stir it vigorously with hot water using a bamboo whisk. Because it is made from the entire tea leaf, matcha has a bold, rich herbaceous flavour in the mouth. It is traditionally served with delicately flavored sweets to balance this intense flavor.

  • Sencha …

    • Drink Japanese Sencha Green Tea

      Sencha refers to a broad category of loose leaf green tea meant to be infused. Senchas can range from simple, unassertive teas that may be enjoyed daily to bolder teas.

      In general the top few tea leaves from the shoot are used since they are rich in flavouur. The finished tea may consist of small, almost powdery particles, or long, delicate, slender strands. For the best balance of flavor and color, many senchas are a mix of leaves of different sizes and shapes. The final brew will be yellow-green to a deeper green in color. The taste will range from mellow with a hint of maize or wildflower to lively and herbaceous with a palate-cleansing astringency. Sometimes the leaves are deeply steamed to create a bolder sencha known as fukamushi-cha.

  • Gyokuro …

    • Drink Japanese Gyokuro Green TeaGyokuro translates as Jade Dew, referring to the deep green color of its leaves.  An elaborate form of Sencha, Gyokuro leaves are meticulously shade-grown in the same manner as leaves for matcha. The shading creates a tea that is intensely rich in flavour and low in astringency. The intense labor required to produce Gyokuro, make it one of Japan’s most expensive teas.
    • Kabusecha …

      • Drink Japanese Kabusecha Green TeaKabusecha is similar to gyokuro in that it is also shade-grown, but for a shorter length of time.  Its flavor lies between sencha and gyokuro, offering a mild sweetness and great depth of character.
      • Bancha …

        • Japanese Bancha TeaBancha is made from more mature leaves than sencha, picked during the later harvest season.  Not as complex a flavor as sencha, but it is mellow and easy to drink. It is also low in caffeine and high in antioxidants, making it an ideal tea to drink daily.
        • Genmaicha …

          • Japanese Genmaicha TeaGenmaicha is one of the most popular Japanese green teas. It consists of a mix of roasted rice and either sencha or bancha tea. The roasted rice imparts a warm, toasty flavor to the green tea, creating a rich, smooth taste. Genmaicha’s popularity grew out of the lean war years when fresh tea was scarce and the small amounts available were mixed with rice to make it go further.
          • Hojicha …

            • Japanese Hojicha Tea

              This tea takes its name from the Japanese words hoji, meaning roasted and cha meaning tea.  The Hojicha story relates how a Kyoto tea merchant had a large stock of green tea that he was an unable to sell and instead of disposing of the tea, he roasted the tea leaves and offered free tastings to the public, who took an instant liking to it.

              To create hojicha, the finished tea leaves or stems are roasted for a few minutes, which turns them a dark brown color. The resulting tea has a smooth flavor with no astringency, making it ideal with to have with meals.

            • Kukicha …

              • Drink Japanese Kukicha Green Tea

                Kukicha is a tea made mainly from stems, or kuki. Its flavor is vibrant with a mild astringency. Kukicha is often referred to in macrobiotic circles, but this is actually Hojicha made from stems.

                Kukicha is strictly made from stalks produced by the harvesting of one type of bud and three types of tea leaf. The leaves go on to make gyokuro and high graded sencha. The main characteristics of Kukicha are its light flavour, and fresh green aroma with a very light yellow-green colour. For Kukicha drinkers, the thinner and less green the infusion; the higher the quality of the tea. The flavor of the best Kukicha tea is considered to be as good as the highest quality sencha. It is an inexpensive and an enthusiasts tea, rarely seen outside Japan.

              • Konacha …

                • Drink Japanese Konacha Green Tea

                  Konacha is made from from fine, powdery tea leaves. It brews to a vibrant green and yields a clean, brisk taste. It cleans the palate and is often the recommended tea to have with sushi.

                  Konacha is the tea served by most sushi shops in Japan, because of its refreshing astringency.

                  While processing Gyokuro and Sencha, the components are categorized into three groups: stem, leaf and powder. Konacha is made from the powder and the small parts of the leaves. It is best brewed with steaming hot water and poured through a fine mesh strainer, which keeps the smaller parts of the tea leaves our of your cup. This tea is prepared quickly and is often used when large groups have to be served quickly.

7 Herbal Teas That Will Make You Healthier

By Meredith Dault - Best Health Reader's Digest

Need a health boost? Reach for a soothing cup of herbal tea to relieve nausea, bloating and other common ailments.  But besides being a tasty, warming, caffeine-free pick-me-up, herbal tea has lots of wonderful health benefits. From soothing a troubled tummy to easing insomnia and calming a troubled mind, herbs have all sorts of healing powers. Drinking herbal tea can also be a great source of vitamins and minerals.

What is herbal tea?

Herbal tea isn’t really made from tea—which is a specific kind of plant. The French use the word tisane, which is a little more accurate, since herbal tea is really just an infusion of leaves, seeds, roots or bark, extracted in hot water. In drinking a well-steeped herbal tea, we get all the plant’s benefits in an easily digestible form.

The benefits of herbal tea

“In a lot of ways, we might get more benefit from a good organic tea than from a vitamin pill,” says herbalist Marianne Beacon of Elderberry Herbals in Peterborough, Ont. "You’re getting the benefits of hydration. There’s the social element: Tea is something that you can share with people. And when you’re drinking herbal tea, you get aromatherapy at the same time—and that’s something you don’t get from a tablet!”

That’s why Toronto-based herbalist Marcia Dixon says herbal tea should always be steeped in a covered vessel to contain the beneficial essential oils. “Otherwise, your room smells nice but you aren’t retaining the medicinal properties.”

How to choose a herbal tea

When it comes to choosing a herbal tea, both Dixon and Beacon agree that it’s important to look for a well-sourced product made from high-quality ingredients. If you’re drinking tea for the medicinal benefits, then definitely steer clear of products that add things like essential oils or flavours. And to really get the full benefits from drinking herbal tea, make sure you steep your loose tea or tea bags long enough—in some cases, as long as 10 to 15 minutes—to really bring out all the healthful properties.

“Anytime you’re ingesting something, you’re giving your body the building blocks it needs to manufacture tissues and hormones,” says Dixon. “If you drink tea every day, you can make all sorts of significant changes to your mood, your skin, your sense of well-being and energy.”
There are so many wonderful herbal teas to choose from. Here are a few of the most common. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Peppermint tea

Halifax naturopath Colin Huska recommends drinking peppermint tea to relieve the symptoms of abdominal gas and bloating, and to relieve muscle spasms. It’s also good for nausea (without vomiting) and for heating up the body and making it sweat. If indigestion or heartburn are problems, however, then Dixon recommends avoiding peppermint altogether. Peppermint tea can also be made using fresh herbs from the garden—and it's one of the easiest herbs to grow.

Ginger tea

Another great digestive aid, ginger can be used to curb nausea, vomiting or upset stomach due to motion sickness. Make fresh ginger tea by simmering a piece of ginger root on the stove for 10 to 15 minutes—add fresh lemon juice and honey when you have a cold for a powerful germ-fighting combination. Beacon also suggests making tea from powdered ginger to ward off a chill.

Chamomile tea

A gentle calming and sedative tea made from flowers, chamomile tea can be helpful for insomnia. It can also be helpful with digestion after a meal. Huska recommends chamomile in cases of cough and bronchitis, when you have a cold or fever, or as a gargle for inflammation of the mouth. Be sure to steep it well to get all the medicinal benefits.

Rooibos tea

High in vitamin C as well as other minerals, rooibos has all sorts of health benefits. An easy drinking tea, it’s largely grown in South Africa and has been touted for its antioxidant properties—which may in turn help ward off disease and the signs of aging. It has also been shown to help with common skin concerns, such as eczema.

Lemon balm tea

An easy-to-grow plant, lemon balm is helpful for lifting the spirits. “It’s good for the winter blahs,” says Deacon, “and it can help improve concentration.” She adds that lemon balm is safe for children and may help prevent nightmares when consumed before bed. This herb also makes a refreshing iced tea, and can be flavoured with lemon or maple syrup.

Milk thistle and dandelion tea

When consumed as a tea, milk thistle or dandelion are gentle liver cleansers. “They help the liver to regenerate and function at a higher capacity,” says Huska. “They can also assist in the production of bile, which can help with our digestive process.”

Rosehip tea

Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant and are one of the best plant sources of vitamin C, which is important for the immune system, skin and tissue health and adrenal function. Consider reaching for rosehip tea next time you need a health boost.

10 Interesting Facts About Tea

From the website www.foodeditorials.com

It turns out that tea has many other benefits other than those that we receive when we drink it, below are 10 interesting facts about tea - enjoy!

Tea comes from the leaves of a tree called Camellia sinensis. The three main types of tea are Black, Oolong and Green. Herbal tea does not come from the leaves of a tea plant, therefore, is not considered to be real tea.  Roots, stems, flowers and parts of plants are used to make herbal tea.

Studies in the Netherlands have shown that men who drink black tea which contains catechins are 50 percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease. This takes place when our arteries become clogged and are unable to work properly because of constriction.

Recent studies have shown that drinking between one and two cups of tea per day may promote fertility by stopping abnormalities in our chromosomes. In a recent test 250 women drank as little as half a cup of tea per day and their pregnancy rates were twice as high as those who did not.

To cure puffy eyes lie in a horizontal position and place either a moist teabag or tea compress over both eyes and leave for about 20 minutes. The swelling around the eyes will to your amazement disappear and your eyes will return to their former glory.

Tea will absorb odors around it. Here is a tip for removing food odors from your hands. Pour some tea over your hands and the tea will remove all odors from your fingers, and leave them smelling great. It even works great with fish odors!

Black tea bags can be used to treat planter warts. Tannin in tea is acidic and can be just as effective in removing warts as various over the counter wart removers! Leave a cooled bag on the wart for about 15 minutes three times daily and slowly the wart will shrink and disappear.

Scientists have reported for many years that men in Asian countries who drink green tea have very low instances of prostate cancer. Many prominent researchers believe that this is due to green tea containing many powerful antioxidants and preventative anti-cancer agents.

In recent Australian studies CSIRO scientists found that the occurrence of skin cancer in laboratory mice was greatly reduced when they were given black tea. It is thought that polyphenols which are very strong antioxidants and are contained in the tea are the most likely reason for this phenomenon.

Tea can be used to soothe burns and sunburns. Put wet tea bags onto the affected areas or keep in place with gauze. You can also put tea into your bath water. This works for other types of burns as well.

The costliest teabag ever was created for the 75th anniversary of the PG TIPS tea company. The bag was filled with two hundred and eighty diamonds and expensive limited edition tea leaves. The bag cost 7,500 pounds and would be auctioned to raise money for a Children's hospital in Britain.

“Green Tea is Beyond a Superfood” – Dr. Christopher Ochner

Article by Paula Spencer Scott - WebMD Feature

Green tea is so good for you that it's even got researchers raving.

"It's the healthiest thing I can think of to drink," says Christopher Ochner, PhD. He's a research scientist in nutrition at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. "Green tea is beyond a super food."

In the past 20 years, thousands of studies have shown green tea’s benefits.

Healthy Cells

Why is green tea so good for you? "It's all about the catechin content," says Beth Reardon, RD, a Boston nutritionist. Catechins are antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Green tea is not processed much before it is poured in your cup, so it is rich in catechins.

Healthy Heart

Green tea has been shown to improve blood flow and lower cholesterol. A 2013 review of many studies found green tea helped prevent a range of heart-related issues, from high blood pressure to congestive heart failure. 

Brain Health

What’s good for the heart is usually good for the brain; your brain needs healthy blood vessels too. In one Swiss study, MRIs revealed that people who drank green tea had greater activity in the working-memory area of their brains. Green tea has also been shown to help block the formation of plaques that are linked to Alzheimer's disease.

Diabetes

Green tea seems to help keep blood sugar stable in people with diabetes. Because catechins lower cholesterol and blood pressure they can help protect against the damage a high-fat diet can cause, Ochner says.

Weight Loss

Green tea can help increase and even change your metabolism, so you burn more calories from fat. Studies show that green tea can also help you keep weight off once you’ve lost it.

It's a smart swap for sugary drinks. "All things being equal, if you sub 1-2 cups of green tea for one can of soda, over the next year you'd save over 50,000 calories," Ochner says. That's more than 15 pounds.

Cancer Role

Studies on green tea’s impact on cancer have been mixed. But green tea is known to aid healthy cells in all stages of growth. There are some indications green tea may help destroy cancer cells.

Less Stress

Sipping tea helps you slow down and relax, Reardon says. An amino acid called theanine found in green tea can provide a calming effect.

For a Healthy Cuppa:

·        Don't add green tea to boiling water. You'll kill helpful catechins. Better: 160-170 degree water.

·        Add lemon. Vitamin C makes the healthy compounds in green tea easier to absorb. Dairy, on the other hand, makes it harder to absorb the catechins.

·        Levels of the healthful compounds in green tea can vary. Pricier teas usually have more, and canned green-tea drinks generally have less.

Aim for at least 4 cups a day, 2 with caffeine and 2 without. Even more than that seems to have little health downside, other than the possible effects of caffeine, Ochner says. "There could not be a more simple way to improve your health," he says.

 

What do you know about tea and it’s production? At Herbal Republic we believe that knowledge is power.

Tea field

At Herbal Republic, we believe that knowledge is power. The more we know about our product and its production, the more empowered we feel to make choices regarding our health and environmental impact. That said, we are constantly searching for more nuanced understanding about the complex and ancient practice of tea cultivation, harvest, and consumption.

 In the spirit of knowledge, here are some interesting facts about tea. Now get empowered!

 Are original tea plants still used today?

The basis for all tea cultures and plants in today’s world come from two original plants, one from China and the other India. Thea sinensis (or Chinese tea) is a shrub-like plant that can survive frost and often reaches a maximum height of 3-4 m. Thea assamica (or Assam tea) is a more robust tree reaching a height of 15-20 m which grows exclusively in the tropics.

What are the active ingredient in tea?

Tea must be infused in order for its active ingredients to be consumed. Approximately 32% of the leaves’ ingredients pass into the infusion. Tea contains caffeine (teine), tannins, amino acids, proteins, and trace amounts of fluoride, potassium, calcium, manganese, niacin, Vitamin B1 and B2.

How does tea stimulate us?

The caffeine in tea does not act on central circulation via the heart and blood vessels; rather it directly affects the brain and central nervous system because it is bonded to the tannins. This is why the caffeine itself can help to increase concentration and responsiveness.

How is tea cultivated?

Tea is propagated by taking cuttings from parent plants, and kept in its vegetative phase by regular pruning to prevent flowering and fruit formation. This practice also makes it easier for tea pickers to gather the leaves most relevant to the harvest – the 2 uppermost leaves and the newest bud. Most picking is still done by hand in order to preserve the quality of the harvest, although some countries are now shifting to mechanical methods.

Where is tea most commonly cultivated?

Tea is cultivated in a few major areas of the world, including India, Sri Lanka, China and Japan. Northern Indian regions including Darjeeling and Assam are famous for producing black teas, and on the island of Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), a bitter, aromatic tea is produced in Dimbula, Nuwara Eliya and Uva. A large proportion of tea is cultivated in Chinese provinces such as Yunnan and Zhejiang, and Japan produced exclusively green tea. Other tea-producing countries are Africa, Indonesia, Taiwan and Argentina as well as Thailand, Russia and Turkey, though these are relatively insignificant in terms of production volume.

3 Methods for the Perfect Iced Tea

Article by Alex Fullerton posted on the United Kingdom Tea Council.

With all the health benefits of normal tea, including the high levels of antioxidants tea contains, iced tea also offers drinkers plenty of room for flavour experimentation. You can customize your drink with any number of additions although lemon, lime and mint are the most popular and tasty add-ons. There are a multitude of bottled and ready prepared iced teas on the market, if you're short on time, but to ensure you get the freshest, healthiest and most delicious drink it's easy to make iced tea yourself.

Follow these methods for perfect iced tea......

The Basic method

To make a jug-full of tea, place 4 of 5 tea bag, or the equivalent amount of loose tea, into a jug. Boil 2 cups of cold, filtered water and pour this onto the tea. Steep for up to 5 minutes, depending on the tea and your strength preference, then add 2 more cups of cold water. Remove the tea bag or strain and serve over ice.

The Fridge method

The simplest method, there's no need to boil the kettle! Fill a jug with 4 cups of cold, filtered water and 6 tea bags. Place in the fridge overnight. Remove the bags and serve the drink over ice, adding any garnishes you like. Slices of lemon and orange are especially good in black tea.

The Sun method

This will give your tea a mellower flavour. It's more environmentally-friendly too, as it doesn't use any electricity or fuel to produce. Place 6 tea bags, or equivalent loose tea, into a bowl and add 4 cups of fresh, cold, filtered water. Cover and leave in direct sunlight for up to 4 hours. Strain or remove the bags then serve over ice.

However you decide to drink your tea, keep cool and try it iced!

The Glenburn Tea Estate has come to Herbal Republic

darjeeling estate tea image glenburn

The Glenburn Tea Estate of Darjeeling, India has been producing award-winning teas since its inception in 1859. Neslted above the River Rungeet, up in the Himalayas and overlooked by the rolling Kanchenjunga mountain range is where you'll find these three exceptional teas we have brought in direct from the Prakashes family. Be sure to check out our online blog over the next few days because we will be updating it with lots information about Glenburn's FTGFOP1, Moonshine Oolong and Silver Needles (which recently won an award from the World Tea Expo event- So amazing!! )

 

To get a better understanding of why Darjeeling teas are so highly regarded and to get you started on your tea education view these videos created by Glenburn's managers,

1) video about the award winning Silver Needles

2) video about the Glenburn Estate and Boutique Hotel

Southeast Asia Teas and the Monsoon Effect

tea in clouds
Reposted from T Ching!


There are many ways to appreciate tea, and for some what starts as the enjoyment of an occasional cup turns into an obsession, a vocation, or both. As one continues along the path of tea knowledge, somewhere along the way, if fortunes and time permit, a pilgrimage to a commercial tea estate might be made.

Through unexpected opportunities and friendships, very early in the process of learning more about teas, I was able to visit tea farmers in China, Japan and Thailand. Although wonderful experiences, the timing of some of the trips was not ideal with respect to the tea growing and harvesting calendar. This year planning began early for another trip and yet somehow the spring harvest months slipped away. Then summer became impossible to schedule and the best that could be arranged was a trip in September. We would be in time for some early fall harvests but we would also be straddling the rainy season in Southeast Asia.

Calling it a “rainy season” is rather quaint, depending on your location, it is typhoon/cyclone/hurricane season or monsoon season. The first three are all the same, intense storms over a body of water; east of the International Dateline they are named “hurricanes”, west of it “typhoons” and on either side of the Indian subcontinent “cyclones”. Monsoon season is a low-pressure system over a landmass that creates an extended period of rainfall and typically, flooding in many countries across Southeast Asia.

For tea growers affected by these conditions, managing the optimum times for tea harvesting and processing around significant periods of rain is critical. Tea leaves plucked before the heaviest rains will usually have a different flavor profile than harvests during or just after monsoon season. In some regions, monsoon harvest teas, weaker in flavor, are some of the lowest priced teas produced by tea estate.

Our travels began in Bangkok, Thailand the first week in September and then headed south for a few days before making a long trek to the northern border and Myanmar. More through dumb luck than careful planning we managed to avoid any heavy rain, just the occasional afternoon or evening thunderstorm. As morning mists lifted, we had the opportunity to walk among rows of carefully cultivated tea bushes just before plucking began. On some estates larger “wild” assamica varietal bushes were interspersed among the manicured rows, the debated third botanical category of tea bush found in the Golden Triangle region.

Eventually, our luck ran out as we returned to Bangkok for a short side trip to Singapore. One person who was to join us from Hong Kong was grounded when a typhoon cancelled all flights out of the airport. In Singapore, with each passing day the afternoon storms became longer in duration with apocalyptic levels of rainfall. On our return to Thailand, flooding was already a problem in the central provinces.

For tea lovers, it pays to keep an eye on the global weather, especially in the growing region of your favorite teas. Bad weather may mean having to modify your expectations for a tea until the next harvest cycle. It also becomes important for some teas to know which harvest during the year is being sold. To say a tea is a “2013 Harvest” isn’t enough information as spring or early summer teas will be distinctly different than late summer or autumn.