Beyond the Leaf
One of the great perks of my job is working with people who know a lot more than I do. On June 19th we presented the latest in the TeaSource Tea Masters workshops featuring Chaminda Jayawardana, the managing director of Lumbini Tea Factory, Deniyaya, Sri Lanka. Lumbini is one of the most awarded tea gardens/factories on Sri Lanka.
Chaminda and I had an absolute great time working together—and once again I came out of these workshops learning far more than I knew going in.
But before the workshop we had to stop and get some tea; at TeaSource in St Anthony, MN. Chaminda was traveling with his close friend, colleague, neighbor, and direct competitor Dissanayake Mudiyanselage Harris Ukkika Mahadiulwewa (henceforth referred to as “Harris”). One of the many things I love about the tea business is that competitors can be close friends; and neither the business nor the friendship has to suffer. That’s me on the left, Harris in the middle, and Chaminda on the right.
Chaminda and Harris had never tried high quality Taiwanese Jade oolongs before, so we indulged with some Tung Ting Light Roast Oolong.
Ringing Chaminda up at the St Anthony TeaSource. He saw tea paraphernalia he had never seen before, and yes, I gave him a discount.
Me, Chaminda, and Harris at St Anthony. Harris was impressed when he saw wooden tea chests from Lumbini (and other tea gardens) throughout the store.
And I got to play tour guide, taking Chaminda and Harris for a walk along the Mississippi, exploring Minnehaha Falls, visiting the Stone Arch Bridge Festival and Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis (we do have 10,000 lakes after all), and ending up at Guitar Center in Roseville, they don’t’ have Guitar Center stores in Deniyaya, Sri Lanka and Chaminda is a musician in addition to being a tea master.
Back at the TeaSource warehouse in Roseville. In preparation for the 50 people coming in for the workshop, we scavenged every chair and table throughout the building and arranged them in the open warehouse space for participants—which meant that we had nothing left in our offices/cupping room etc. Chaminda had brought 2 new samples of tea he wanted me to try. So rather than cupping them up in our cupping room (which at that point was just an empty space with no chairs or tables), we decided to sample and evaluate these teas on the customer ledge by our office administrator’s desk. We were sampling two Lumbini samples of grade OP1 grade Ceylon black tea, for some blending we will be doing later this year.
The warehouse tour for workshop participants. It always surprises me how many people want a tour of our work space.
Chaminda and I start talking about tea. Chaminda’s role was to be the expert and to make sure everyone (including me) walked out knowing a lot more about growing Ceylon tea, than we knew coming in. My role was mostly comic relief and amazement at the tea-maker’s craft. We had a lot of fun together.
Lumbini Estate (and all Ceylon tea gardens) had only dealt with tea brokers until I convinced Chaminda to bypass brokers and sell directly to wholesale customers. Chaminda and Lumbini now sell direct to more than 15 countries across the world. TeaSource was first.
This Lumbini Silver Needles is the first tea I bought from Chaminda. I brought back 2 gigantic duffle bags stuffed with this tea when I flew back from my first visit to Lumbini. To me the most amazing part of this tea is the fact that Chaminda had never heard of Chinese Yin Zhen (Chinese Silver Needle white tea), when he created his own Silver Needles.
The TeaSource infographic on Ceylon and Ceylon teas. It shows all the major growing regions, and Lumbini Tea Factory.
I took a couple of minutes to read from my great grandfather’s memoir. He was in Ceylon in the 1860’s and 1870’s helping establish the first tea gardens.
“I will mention here a few things a young tea planter should learn as soon as possible. First and foremost he must learn to speak to the coolies in their own language - the Tamil. He must learn how to make nurseries from seed or cutting, how to prune and care for the crops, drain and make roads in the new plantation. He must also learn to design and superintend the building, whether in wattle and dab for the coolies’ “huts” or in brick and stone for his own building. He must learn something of sickness and the simple medicines to give. He should, by all means, know enough to sew a button, in an extremity ….
I wish here to remark on my affection for the kindness, and “bon comradie” (sic) of all the tea planters I met in Ceylon. We used to meet at each other’s bungalows and have a “sing a song.” Each one had to sing a song and tell a story, or drink a glass of salt and water. I shall never forget those days.”
From “The Life and Travels of Augustus Waddington”
an unpublished memoir, 1870
Augustus Waddington, Welsh tea man in Ceylon
Chaminda examining the leaf, and explaining the detail of why Lumbini teas are so special and have won so many awards. They are all hand-plucked and orthodox processed, i.e. minimal use of machines during processing. It is so much fun to listen to someone who is expert and passionate about their field.
Everyone sampled six Ceylon different teas (and went home with a couple of more). One of the amazing things about Ceylon teas is that while it is a small island: the diversity of tea styles, flavors, is huge.
- Lumbini Silver Needles | White Tea
- Oodooware Estate, Pekoe | Black Tea
- Gonapitiya Estate, FBOP | Black Tea
- Ceylon Blend Mid-Grown | Black Tea Blend
- Ceylon Burning Sun | Black Tea Blend
- Inverness Estate, FBOPF1 | Black Tea
“Stick your nose in the cup.” During workshops I say that a lot. Tea is as much an olfactory experience as it is a taste experience.
The community of Twin Cities tea enthusiasts has grown quite large and is …. well …. enthusiastic. And it is a whole lot of fun when we all get together and sample and talk teas.
And of course, since this was a celebration (of Ceylon teas) everyone had to walk home with some swag bags.
Me, autographing a Ceylon tea poster—that was a little unusual, but wisely the participant had asked for Chaminda’s autograph first.
Chaminda and one of the many appreciative attendees. People did seem to have a great time.
Good tea makes good friends. Lumbini is some of the best tea, so it’s not surprising it has led to one of the best friendships.
Summit Brewing Company of St Paul called us to talk about a new beer they wanted to try brewing. Brewer Nick Hempfer, Star Trek nerd, wanted to try brewing an Extra Special Bitter Ale with Earl Grey tea; in honor of Jean Luc Picard (aka Patrick Stewart) always ordering “Earl Grey….. Hot !” from the replicator (ok, we have some Star Trek nerds around here also). It would be #19 in Summit’s Unchained Series and aptly named “Make It So.”
Earl Grey White Tip, used to brew Make It So
We sent them a few options of Earl Grey tea (as you know, we have a few) for their trial brews. In April, we were invited to Summit for a tour of their facilities and to taste the test batch.
Next came the day for the final brew to be canned. We were there for that too.
And then, we celebrated with everyone! Summit hosted a Release Party for Make It So at their Beer Hall. We handed out samples of Earl Grey tea while Summit poured Make It So and Star Trek fans geeked out over the costume contest and real-sized Star Trek props (some had real lights & sounds!). Eden Prairie manager, Georgia, and TeaSource owner, Bill Waddington, at the Make It So release party at Summit's Beer HallStar Trek costume contestTeaSource staff enjoying Make It So and the Star Trek transporter with brewer Nick Hempfer
Now, Summit and TeaSource have teaming up for this month at area liquor stores. We are playing carnival games and giving away prizes in celebration of Make It So and Canned Beer Month! We hope you join us.
All of this talk about tea and beer inspired former TeaSource manager, Jess, to share her experience with homebrewing beer with tea. Before her move to Portland, Jess wrote a about using tea in her brews for Beyond the Leaf. She also sat down with Chip Walton of Chop & Brew to record an episode for his web series on .
We had a lot of fun with Summit Brewing Company and Chop and Brew and look forward to future collaborations!Cheers!
The most subtle way to apply tea to your beer is to substitute tea for your aromatic hops. These hops are added in the last 5-10 minutes of the boil. They add a lot to the nose but are pretty subtle in the sip. Tea has an intense aroma so a little can go a long way. I typically use one ounce of tea in the last five minutes of the boil, (5 gal. batch) unless I’m making an IPA and then use 2 ounces. You can put the tea in a large infuser tea ball or in a large #4 size T-sac. I find this method works best with straight black teas. Green and white teas are quickly overwhelmed by the beer and any hops you may be using. If you’re not sure what black tea to add to your beer, these basic flavor profiles will give you a place to start. Darjeeling- Crisp and slightly astringent. Subtle fruit notes. Great for IPAs. Ceylon- Brisk, medium-bodied tea from Sri Lanka, good for pale ales or IPAs. Yunnan- Medium-bodied woodsie Chinese black, awesome in Belgian beers. Keemun- Rich and earthy Chinese black tea. Great for porters & scotch ales. Assam- Very strong and malty Indian black tea. Perfect for stouts.
2) Put Tea in the Carboy- First or Secondary Fermentation
My favorite way to add tea to beer is to add it to the carboy after the initial fermentation has slowed down or when the beer is moved to the secondary fermenter. This method works great for both straight and flavored teas, both black and green teas, and everything in-between. Just put an ounce or so of tea per 3-5 gallons beer. I find the #4 T-sac works really well here because the t-sac weave is finer than the cloth steeping bags you buy at homebrew stores. Only fill the T-sac a third full to allow the leaves to expand and release their flavor. You can use multiple t-sacs, just staple the top closed. They will typically float on the top of the beer slowly oozing flavor. I like to keep them in for at least a week or two, then taste the beer and take the t-sacs out if the flavor is strong enough. This method will typically give your beer a smooth and strong tea flavor.
3) Add Tea as a Concentrate at Bottling The final method I have tried when adding tea to beer is to make a concentrate of tea and add it to the bottling bucket with the priming sugar before you bottle your creation. This works especially well for flavored teas, but it can be used for straight teas too. Use an ounce of tea for 3-5 gallons of beer. Steep this ounce of tea in about 2 cups of water. Use the water temperature and steep time that is recommended on the tea package.Earl Grey White Tip! Some of us had an opportunity to try their pilot batches - you can read more about the inspiration behind this beer (Star Trek!), tasting notes, and our visit to Summit on Summit's blog.
Finally, below is my personal list - beers I've brewed and beers I would like to try.
Eden Prairie manager
Tea Beers (things I made and liked)
Sour Wheat beer with Rhubarb Oolong tea- made 2011
Sour Wheat with Black Beauty Tea- made 2011
Ginger/Hibiscus Petite Saison- made 2012/2013/2014/ and 2015- Favorite!
Petite Saison with Chamomile- made 2012
First Flush Darjeeling India Pale Ale- made 2012
Dark Rose Porter- made 2012
Sweet Ginger Green Tea Shandy- made 2013
London Ale with coriander, bitter orange peel, and Earl Grey tea- made 2013
Montana Gold cinna-mead- made 2014
Cider with Blueberry Fields Black tea and chilis- Made 2013/ 2014
Cider with Rhubarb Oolong tea and Ginger- made 2013/ 2014
Chai Spice Pumpkin Porter- 2014
Irish Honey Ale with Brandy Oolong/ Roasted chestnut/ China Black Special/ and Lapsang Souchong- (four small batches) 2015
Orange blossom honey Mead with orange peel, spices, and Earl Grey tea- 2015
Scottish Ale with Ti Kwan Yin Oolong
Smoked Malt Lapsang Souchong
Smoked Stout Roasted Chestnut Tea -Nut Brown Ale
Golden Tip Yunnan Belgian
Triple Milk Oolong Cream Ale
Blue Beauty Oolong (ginseng and licorice) Pale Ale
Mango Tango/ Raspberry Beret Black Tea Barley Wine
Candy Apple White Tea Lager
Silver Bud White Tea Kolsh/ Darjeeling Kolsh
We are pretty comfortable being called tea geeks. I’ve been serious about tea for around 35 years and TeaSource is nearing its twentieth birthday. We recently spent a week at the World Tea Expo (the WTE is the world’s largest international specialty tea exposition-for the industry, not open to the public). At this year’s WTE I was teaching (or co-teaching) five classes/workshops. Sharing knowledge is a fundamental value of TeaSource. It is what many older (and wiser) tea men did with me over the last 35 years, and that is a major reason TeaSource has had some success. So I try to share knowledge with others: customers and new folks coming into the industry. At the WTE, I started by teaching a class to 70 folks wanting to get into the specialty tea business.
I had the good fortune to teach a tea tasting workshop with Rajiv Gupta on Darjeeling teas (see previous post). This workshop was especially rewarding because the class was composed of other tea professionals. I also did two demonstrations and tastings of Indian Milk Tea: what it is and how to make it. This was great fun. Since Indian milk tea is pretty much an everyman tea in India, most of the hundreds of people attending the WTE (except the Indians) had never heard of it (we tea geeks tend to focus on the fancier teas). We had a great time doing it and it was wonderful hearing so many people go “Yum!” Then we did a 2 day class on tea processing; where we fly in next-day-air, fresh tea leaves from Hawaii, and proceed to make black tea, 2 types of oolong tea, 2 types of green tea, and white tea. And every one of them turned out nice.
And at our booth, we had the opportunity to re-connect with lots of long-time (and some new) suppliers and customers. A lot of hugging going on. Up to this point it was a typical WTE for TeaSource. And then TeaSource was awarded the first ever “BEST TEA BUSINESS” award by vote of the attendees and the exhibitors of the World Tea Expo, ie. our industry peers. To say I was unprepared for this would be an understatement. I’m very humbled by this recognition. And I’m convinced that the main reason we received this award is because of our wonderful customers (both wholesale and retail), our incredible employees, our amazing suppliers (the men and women who grow and make our tea), and ultimately the men and women who have taught and inspired me over the last 35 years. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
The tea plant is native to India, but the Indian tea industry began when thousands of tea seeds were smuggled out of China in the 1840’s. Today, India is the second largest tea producer in the world (still trailing China). There are four officially-designated “traditional” tea growing regions in India – Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgri, Kangra, and one officially-designated “non-traditional” tea growing region – Bihar. Last spring I spent three weeks wandering around northern and eastern India, searching for great teas. This is the fun part of my job. Firing ovens at the Doke Tea Estate
I had the honor of visiting one of the smallest tea gardens in India: the Doke Tea Estate in Bihar. There I was able to taste hand-made teas which were just a couple of days off the bush. [caption id="attachment_828" align="aligncenter" width="604"] Family and friends of Rajiv Lochan plucking tea leaves
The Doke Tea Estate is one of the newest and smallest tea gardens in India. Begun 26 years ago by Rajiv Lochan (a life-long tea expert, who managed many of Darjeeling’s most famous tea estates), Doke began with just 25 acres on the banks of the Doke River in the state of Bihar. All the teas are hand-processed in very small batches, supervised by Rajiv’s daughter, Dolly Lochan, using family and local villagers to help. Dolly Lochan (right) processing tea leaves with fellow family members
TeaSource is proud to offer the hand processed Black Fusion and Green Diamond from the Doke Tea Estate in our stores and on our website. Driven by passion and a generation-spanning love of tea, this tea estate is producing some of the most unique and special teas coming out of India. We look forward to welcoming more of these teas at TeaSource! -Bill Waddington Owner, TeaSource
Shop Ms. Zhang's tea collection HERE.
I don’t think of myself as a tea master, I’m just a long-time student of tea. But I get to hang out with tea masters. For three days this month I got to be with Ms. Zhang Liumie, who is a co-founder of Yiqingyuan Tea LTD, Changsha China, and a tea scientist respected throughout China. Ms. Zhang and her daughter (aka charming translator) were in the Twin Cities for three days this month to share some new teas, talk opportunities, and teach about Dark Tea. We had a great visit and had a chance to taste a bunch of new teas and show Ms Z and Joy what tea stores in the U.S. are like. We started by visiting the TeaSource in Eden Prairie, MN and Ms. Z asked if she could try something she had never had before. To me this is a sign of a really smart person, someone who looks to experience something new and unfamiliar. So we shared a pot of Ceylon Burning Sun from the Lumbini Estate. Ms Z and Joy were very impressed. The next day we talked a lot about Dark Tea. Then I invited Ms Z and Joy to help us evaluate about 30 Indian teas we had just received from this year’s harvest. This was kind of fun because, despite her brilliance Ms Z. wasn’t that familiar with Indian teas. But it was still a learning experience, cupping teas with her. Ms Z and I getting ready to cup and evaluate around 30 very fresh Indian teas. She really makes me think I have to re-evalutate the TeaSource dress code A whole lot of slurping going on; with Michael and Joy in the background.[/caption] The real highlight of their visit was a 30 minute Livestream broadcast by Ms. Z and Joy, talking about Dark Tea. How often do folks get the chance to listen, learn, and interact with the person who actually made the tea they are drinking? We opened this presentation to folks in the Twin Cities region to participate; so folks could actually listen to a tea master, they could taste (real-time) some very cool unique dark teas, and also so Ms. Z had someone to talk to (Livestreaming by yourself is not as easy as it seems). Getting ready to do the Livestream; Ms Z, Joy, Sarah C, and me. I had only given Ms Z about 2 days notice she was doing this presentation. Talk about grace under pressure Here we go !!![/caption] Just a reminder to everyone; this Livestream broadcast should be available in the Livestream archives through mid-August 2014. And please remember we try to do at least one of these Livestream events every month, and they’re interactive. Ms Z tearing into a log of 100 Taels tea. This is a compressed tea that is hand-wrapped with bamboo and then left to age. Everyone was learning a lot and tasting a lot of teas. I’ve known Ms Z and Joy for around six years. Joy has spent Christmas with my family. Lovely, kind, and smart people. Ms Z reminds of Michelle Yeoh (the female lead in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-with a dash of Margaret Thatcher thrown in). I am very glad to have her as a friend and teacher. And we were having, maybe, too much fun. I guess you call this a mother-daughter routine. Everyone was really having a good time; it’s so much fun to learn from people who really know what they are talking about. A couple of the teas we tasted, 100 Taels tea (in the background) and our Fu cha brick (in the foreground). This is our Hei Cha dark tea cubes, from 2011 (remember all Dark teas get better as they age), and this really impressed Ms Z. The golden flowers were very prominent and the flavor was very smooth and meadow-y. Ms. Z commented that it was better than the Hei Cha she had back in China, which is ironic since I had bought this from her in 2011. So I sent her home with some. That felt good. Joy, me, Ms Z, and Michael
A lot of people assume the coolest part of my job is playing with tea all day (and that is definitely very cool). But the absolute best part of my job is all the people I’ve met along the tea road. -Bill