Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tea is more than just dry leaves.

After water, Tea is the most consumed beverage on Earth. Today we can go to almost any store and buy tea and hardly think anything of it, but throughout history tea was much more of a commodity. It has blazed trade routes across continents and vast oceans. It has been the cause of wars and the link between empires. Tea helped to shape a the world into what it is today.

The history of tea is long but being a cafe I think for now it would be more interesting to tell you a little about the different kinds of teas. First of all, all tea (except herbal teas of course) comes from the same plant. Camellia sinensis is the species but there are 3 origin specific varietal bushes, the China bush, Assam bush, and Java bush. Beyond this there are a variety of ways to prepare tea leaves.

Black tea (or in the east Red Tea) is very well known to the western world. Black tea has the most caffeine of any tea. What most people don't know about black tea is in China when westerners first started trading for tea Black tea was to the Chinese their "junk" tea, or export quality. Black tea is fully oxidized (not fermented as many believe). Being exposed to the air and allowed to dry. These teas are still more popular in the western world where the British had their trade empire. The British drink their tea with milk because when they made contact with the Chinese emperor he drank his tea with milk so they assumed this was the proper Chinese preparation of tea. What they did not know was that at the time the Chinese emperor was actually Mongolian. Traditionally the Chinese never drink their tea with milk.
At Capo we serve Earl Grey, Assam, Mountain High Chai, and Darjeeling.

Oolong tea is partially oxidized and considered to have medicinal value to it. Oolong is the most complicated tea to prepare as it must be carefully selected and prepared for every step of it's oxidation process and oxidation must be stopped at precisely the right time.
We do not currently have any Oolong teas at Capogiro.

Green tea is gaining popularity in the West for it's antioxidant properties. It has about half the caffeine of black tea. Green tea is more often served in whole leaf form where as black teas are often crushed or in brick form. When steeping you can watch the balls unfurl into very natural looking soft green leaves. Green tea must be hand picked daily so the leaves can be hand selected for proper ripeness. Oxidation must be avoided in green tea and so it must be dried quickly.
We serve Jasmine, Tamayokucha (a very strong plain green tea), Gen Mai Cha (green tea combined with toasty, nutty, roasted green rice), and Tropical Goji Berry.

White tea used to be the most treasured form of tea and until recently there were certain varieties that were strictly reserved for the imperial family such as Silver Needle. White tea should consist only of the most tender, unopened budsets of a few particular varietal bushes. It is very slightly oxidized. These have less caffeine in them than a green tea but only slightly. White tea is my favorite personally and I prefer it totally unadulterated. No sweeteners and certainly no milk.
We serve two kinds Acai White Tea (with Acai berries to give it a brighter sweeter flavor), and White Peony (the more traditional variety with a floral scent not to be confused with white pony though we do love ponies I don't think I'd like them very much in my tea).

The rest of our tea option are herbal and so technically are not really teas as they are not made with Camellia sinensis but are herbal infusions. We have Chamomile known for centuries for it's soothing, calming effect, Alpine Berry with hibiscus, apple peel, rose hips, blackberry leaves, orange peel, and an assortment of berry flavors, African Sunset a rooibas (redbush) herbal tea with lemongrass and lemon peel great for a sore throat with some honey added, and Pomi-berry with chamomile, lemon balm, lavender, apple, linden flowers, lemongrass, hibiscus, strawberries, raspberries, and other natural berry flavors.

So when you next order a tea don't think you are ordering "just" tea. You are getting a handcrafted beverage perfected over hundreds of years that has helped shape the modern world into what it is today. Try them all and try to really experience the subtleties of every cup.

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