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Saturday, 1 June 2013

Konichiwa hojicha!

If you're a tea aficionado, you may have noticed something missing in Teaism's broad selection of teas: the Japanese varieties. Our toasted rice, roasted stems, and buckwheat infusion have been off the menu for almost two years. I'm excited to say that they're all back now, and so I've prepared a short tutorial for you on the different brews, using The New Tea Companion and Harney and Son's Guide to Tea, as well as my own tasting notes. 

Genmaicha: Broad, deep green sencha leaves mixed with toasted brown rice, some crunchy whole kernels and some popped like baby popcorn. The brewed tea has a pleasing aroma of roasted rice. “An eloquent unification of the two crops central to Japanese culture:  tea and rice. The light bodied tea is a blend of genmai, or unpolished brown rice, and cha, or tea,” (Harney & Sons, 65).

Genmaicha in the canister

Gyokuro: A lovely shade-grown tea, gyokuro is one of Japan’s most expensive, highest quality brews. It is grown, picked, and processed with the utmost care so that over-exposure to sunlight doesn’t damage its delicate character. This is where it differs from its cousin sencha okabe – gyokuro is grown in the shade, which forces the plant to produce extra chlorophyll, whereas sencha stays in the sun. The needle-like leaves give of gyokuro off a spinach and seaweed aroma, while the brewed tea produces a clear pale yellow infusion with a sweet, mild, and smooth flavor with soothing roasted notes.

Hojicha: toasted stems, stalks, and coarse leaves, from Japan. These by-products of the tea process can be consumed green, or roasted to create this blend, which was invented in 1920 by an enterprising tea merchant with an excess of old green tea which he did not want to waste. It is naturally low in caffeine and has a nutty flavor with notes of wood and a slightly caramel finish – the perfect tea to introduce the avid coffee drinker to the world of tea.

Hojicha in a teacup

Soba Cha: buckwheat infusion from Japan, with a malty, toasted grain flavor. This tisane is great hot or iced, and naturally caffeine free. A great alternative to the more fruity tisanes, the soba cha tastes more like a hojicha or kukicha. The toasted buckwheat berries can also be eaten on their own or used to top your favorite salad.

Soba cha in a tea ball brewer, inside a Miya bowl
<all photos by Julia Colton>

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Five Cups a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Feeling a little under the weather? Got the seasonal cold that seems to be tormenting all of us as we hover on the cusp of Spring? Well now there's new evidence to prove that tea does more than just warm you up from the inside and add a (much needed) jolt of caffeine to your day: it's good for you.

For as long as any of us can remember, tea as been anecdotally accepted as a cure-all for the common cold. Runny nose? Sore throat? Congestion? Try some tea -- mint, ginger, or chamomile with a dash of honey. Beyond that, the anecdotal evidence abounds: "I drink green tea every day and I haven't been to the doctor in a decade," says my friend's grandfather. 

Turns out, there's science to back that up. According to Yoshihiro Kokubo, the lead author of a new study that followed over 80,000 Japanese adults for an average period of 13 years, men and women who drank at least three cups of green tea OR two cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of stroke. Kokubo and her team accounted for factors like age, exercise levels, alcohol consumption, and smoking, and found that consuming five or more cups of green tea daily corresponded with a 26% decrease in death from cardiovascular disease along with an astounding 15% decrease in all-cause mortality.

I'll take those odds any day. 
For more information, check out the write-up in the Atlantic, or NPR's "Morning Edition" story. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Healthy Happy Happening!

Join us this Friday, March 8th, at Teaism in Old Town for another Healthy Happy Happening. What is a healthy happy happening, you might ask?  It's simple. It's an informal gathering of like-minded individuals -- people who care about what they put in their bodies: health care and nutritional professionals, athletes, yogis, and informed consumers. 

We've been hosting Healthy Happy Happenings on the second Friday of every month, but this week we've got a special guest: Chef Nora Pouillon, founder of the first certified organic restaurant in the United States, Nora

Born in Vienna, Austria, Nora immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s.  Although her  formal training was in interior design, she found herself increasingly drawn to the world of food. Nora was horrified to realize that Americans were consuming processed, chemical laden foods on a regular basis, and the extent to which that was affecting our public health. "That's when she embarked on her crusade to promote a healthier lifestyle" (Nora's About).

Since then, Nora has opened City CafĂ© and Asia Nora, all while pursuing her mission of providing the healthiest, most delicious food to her customers. She sources organic and locally wherever possible. Above all, she advocates "a sustainable, health-focused lifestyle based on the premise that you are what you eat, drink, and breathe." 

We will be showing a short documentary on Nora's work and discussing how to incorporate the healthy and happy into our every day happenings with the local queen of Organic, Nora Pouillon. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Cacao to Cacao!

You can't avoid it, you can't forget it, so you might as well embrace it -- Valentine's Day is here. Whether you're a cynical single, happily partnered, or anywhere in between, February 14th can be as stressful a day as any. So take it from me -- you can't go wrong with chocolate. 

The infinitely wise Charles Shultz once said, "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." 

Here at Teaism, we've got a bevy of choices for your favorite chocoholic or just for you: 

Looking for something exotic? Vosges haut-chocolate has everything from bacon to cherry rooibos or coconut curry deep milk chocolate. And then there's my personal favorite: the Blood Orange Caramel Bar, made with hibiscus, blood orange caramel, and Campari. 

Or perhaps you prefer your chocolate in liquid form? That's where the Couture Cocoa comes in, available in three delectable varieties: La Parisienne (classic), Bianca (white), or Aztec elixir (chocolate with a kick). 

Local chocolate guru Bailey Kasten started Double Premium Confections because she is passionate about making the freshest chocolate in the DC metro area. Her confections are all hand-made and she created a V-day gift set just for us, featuring honey caramel hearts, a pure dark bar, and a 9 piece signature collection from DPC -- chai spice, lavender, Irish cream truffles and more!

If your mouth isn't watering yet, perhaps some chocolate-with-a-mission will do the trick. Theo currently owns and operates the only fully organic and fair trade chocolate factory in North America. Buy a bar of Sea Salt Dark Chocolate, and proceeds from the sale will go to World Bicycle Relief, helping provide students, health care professionals, and entrepreneurs in rural Africa with specially designed, locally assembled WBR bikes.

How can you argue with chocolate that provides access to an independence and livelihood through bikes? So skip the stress this year, and indulge in a little Valentine's Day chocolate, guilt-free.