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A tea tutorial
Ingo Groger shouldn't have to oversell his product.
After all, tea has been around for thousands of years (we're talking B.C.s). Not counting water, it is the most consumed beverage worldwide, and its health benefits tea is chock-full of antioxidants have been well noted.
Still, America is coffee country and there's some question of public perception, says Groger, who owns El Tea, a tea shop in the Piccadilly Square shopping center.
They think it's Victorian style, ladies wearing some kind of funny clothes and serving tea with some kind of weird British food.
It so is not.
There are thousands of types of teas, Groger says. He carries several hundred in the metal and glass canisters around his shop. Like wine, tea preferences (and price) are based on things like rarity, flavor and post-harvest artistry, Groger says.
Because it is an art to produce certain teas.
And, yes, it can cost.
One brand sold a kilogram for $400 in 2003 the highest bid for any variety of tea at the time. Last year, a Chinese man paid $14,000 for 200 grams of tea leaves during an auction in the International Tea Expo Exhibition in China. Even in Fresno, where such things can take a while to catch on, the customer base is growing.
There are serious tea drinkers who spend $200 on tea each month.
Groger is working to increase his business with restaurants and coffee shops (Java Wava sells its tea).
For those looking to taste, the shop will host a Gong Fu tea ceremony at 1 p.m. Jan. 19, which will feature seven to eight fine green and oolong teas prepared in small clay teapots through a traditional Chinese method.
For beginners, here are some quick basics:
Green tea Non-fermented, green teas contain the most antioxidants (100 times more than orange juice, Groger says) and has a variety of flavors, ranging from fruity to nutty. Of note: Long Ching tea, from China, which has been grown and produced in the same area for 1,000 years.
White tea Can be slightly fermented, with a mild flavor that may take a while to get used to. Of note: Silver Needle tea, which is hand-plucked in China.
Oolong tea A semi-fermented tea leaf, oolong is preferred for its complex flavors, and may have an orchid-like aroma. Of note: Tong Ting Jade Oolong from Taiwan.
Black tea Fully fermented, this tea has the fullest flavor and is great for making iced tea. Of note: Darjeeling tea from India.
A brew how to:
Loose-leaf tea (unpackaged and not in bags) is best. Store-bought tea bags are mostly powder and can be cost inefficient, Groger says. You're paying for the packaging and the marketing.
But it's easy to make your own from silk tea bags available at El Tea. For single servings, there are also loose-leaf brewing baskets and the Smart Tea maker, which fits directly on top your cup. If you drink a lot of tea, loose-leaf tea prepared in a tea pot is probably most cost effective.
Use one teaspoon of tea per 6 ounces of filtered water and let the leaves steep for two to three minutes at a temperature between 180 and 205 degrees, depending on the tea type. A rolling boil is not necessary and can actually damage the tea leaves, leaving a flat and bitter taste. To be sure, you can listen for the sound of steam rising in the pot, Groger says.