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Beyond the Leaf

  • What is Organic Tea?

    The word or label “organic” is the only one of those food marketing terms that by law has a specific meaning and defined usage. It is the only one of those food marketing terms that has teeth.  If a food is labeled “organic” there are some things, by law, you should be able to assume:

    • the food was grown without synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, or sewage sludge

    • those crops cannot have been genetically engineered or irradiated

    • any facility coming in contact with that organic food follows strict guidelines on storage, cleanliness, sanitation, handling, other materials that may come in contact with the organic food (e.g. only approved cleaning products) etc.

    • and perhaps most importantly there is a complete paper trail of that crop from the field and seed to the final consumer product. This includes a complete unbroken train of paperwork, encompassing multiple inspections, certifications, documentation of that product to ensure that every step of the way it has complied with the legally mandated organic standards and practices. In other words, you are able to trace an individual product all the way back to its very origins; with inspections and documentation all along the way.


    So when TeaSource labels a tea organic, that means:


    • TeaSource has a complete paper trail following that tea back to its origins: that certifies and documents that any entity (including the grower, the shipper, importers, etc.) responsible for that tea has been certified and inspected as a certified approved organic facility, and is strictly following organic standards and practices.
    • the main TeaSource warehouse in Roseville, MN, goes through an extremely thorough annual inspection by federally approved organic certifiers. In our case it is the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association.

    • TeaSource has a very detailed, documented and approved handling and tracking process for organic teas, which is very strictly adhered to. And then all that paperwork is inspected, annually, sheet by sheet, to make sure we are following are the rules.
    • within our warehouse the organic products are stored only in segregated/approved organic storage/holding locations.

    • within our warehouse the organic teas are opened, handled, blended, and packaged only in a specific approved manner and areas, so they never come in contact with other non-organic items (for instance non-approved cleaners), or even in contact with other teas that are not certified organic. This is one reason we can no longer weigh out organic tea bulk in the stores.  We are required to weigh and package all organics only in our approved warehouse.  We are not allowed to weigh them out to order in the retail stores and still call them “organic.”

    • every single package of TeaSource organic tea, is individually marked with the date that tea was packaged at TeaSource and a code number that gives us the history/traceability of that tea.

    • every package of TeaSource organic tea also specifies who has certified (and inspected) TeaSource.

    TeaSource is proud to support the USDA organics programs. Yes, it’s a lot more paperwork and hassle for us, but we don’t mind (too much), because that’s the only way the program can have some teeth and integrity.

    Bill Waddington,
    Owner TeaSource


    Shop Organic Teas at TeaSource


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  • Matcha More About Matcha: FAQs


    What is matcha?
    Matcha is a powdered green tea typically used in the Japanese tea ceremony.

    How do you make matcha?
    -Place 2 teaspoons of matcha into a bowl.
    -Add 8 oz. of 175 degree water.
    -Whisk the matcha for 30 seconds in quick “M” and “W” shapes with your wrist until it is fully dissolved and frothy on top.

    Do you need special equipment / special whisk?
    Traditionally, matcha is made in a matcha bowl (chawan) with a bamboo whisk (chasen). You can also use a standard soup bowl and a kitchen whisk.


    How is matcha different from regular tea? What kind of green tea does matcha come from?
    Matcha is made from the highest grade Japanese green tea, similar to Gyokuro. Shade-grown tea buds are plucked, the stems and veins are removed. The leaves are then ground into a fine powder.

    How long does matcha stay fresh?
    If stored well, matcha will stay fresh for up to one year. After that, it will slowly start to lose some of its flavor and vitality.

    What’s the best way to store matcha?
    The best way to store matcha is in an airtight container away from light, moisture, and other aromas in a cupboard or drawer.

    How much caffeine does matcha have compared to regular green tea?
    Matcha contains more caffeine than a regular green tea because it is made up of the whole tea leaf. Therefore, it releases more caffeine and antioxidants into the cup.

    Health benefits of matcha?
    Since all tea comes from the same plant, it’s all good for you. However, matcha is the only tea where you actually consume the whole leaf. Therefore, a cup of matcha will contain more antioxidants than other teas.

    What is the traditional Japanese way to do Matcha?
    -Use a bamboo tea scoop (chasaku) to measure two scoops of matcha.
    -Place the matcha in your matcha bowl (chawan).
    -Add ¼ cup of 170 degree water.
    -Use a bamboo whisk (chasen) to whisk the matcha.
    -Whisk in “M” and “W” shapes until it is fully dissolved and frothy.

    Where to go for the Japanese tea ceremony?
    Como Park Zoo & Conservatory offers a traditional Japanese Tea ceremony. You can register on their website.


    Read even more about matcha here or discover other ways to prepare matcha.



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  • Matcha Made in Heaven

    Check out some other ways our TeaSource staff is enjoying our new Matcha green teas.  The possibilities are endless!

    Organic Matcha Latte
    1. Whisk ½ - 1 tsp of Organic Matcha in ¼ cup of water (heated to 160-180 degrees)
    2. Add 6-8oz. of milk (heated 160-180 degrees)
    3. Sweeten to taste (optional)

    Blueberry Matcha Latte
    1. Whisk 1- 2 tsp of Blueberry Matcha in ¼ cup of water (heated to 160-180 degrees)
    2. Add 6-8oz. of milk (heated 160-180 degrees)

    Vanilla Matcha Shake
    1 tablespoon Organic Vanilla Matcha
    1 cup milk of your choice
    Handful of ice

    Place a large juice glass or jar in the freezer for as long as possible. In a blender, blend the matcha, milk and ice until smooth. Serve in the chilled glass.
    Matcha Raspberry Smoothie
    1/2 frozen banana
    1/2 cup frozen raspberries
    1/2 cup frozen peaches
    1/4 cup frozen strawberries
    1/2-3/4 cup milk of your choice
    1 1/2 cups baby spinach
    1 tablespoon Organic Raspberry Matcha

    Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  



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  • Shake It Up!

    Our summer has gotten easier and more refreshing thanks to our new Shake & Go tumbler! It is a convenient tool for making matcha – hot or iced. When the straw is removed, the cup seals making it leak-proof and spill-proof.

    Here is how we shake up our new Matchas:
    Hot Matcha in a Shake & Go
    1. Put 4 level teaspoons of matcha and 16 oz. of boiling water in a Shake & Go tumbler
    2. Shake until dissolved
    Iced Matcha in a Shake & Go
    1. Put 1 tablespoon of matcha and 8 oz. of boiling water in Shake & Go Tumbler
    2. Shake until dissolved
    3.  Fill cup with ice
    4. Shake well


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  • Tea Masters: Ceylon Connections

    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.


    “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.

    Bill Waddington


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  • Celebrating Matcha

    TeaSource will be educating, sampling, promoting, and introducing new varieties of the most famous of all Japanese green teas, Matcha, this summer and into the fall. We’ll also be putting up a series of blog posts about Matcha, so if you haven’t done so already, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

    Let's get started!

    Boiling it Down: What is Matcha?

    Matcha is a powdered green tea from Japan.  It is made from a high grade tea that is shaded for at least three weeks before plucking. Shading causes the leaves to produce much more chlorophyll, giving the tea a brilliant emerald color. The leaves are then ground into a fine powder. Traditionally, matcha is used in the Japanese tea ceremony. The first formal tea ceremony in Japan occurred in the eighth century when the emperor invited monks to take tea at his palace. Tea was a rare and valuable commodity at the time and it was used primarily in religious settings or for medicinal purposes. Today, matcha is not bound by the same social and economic formalities. It can be enjoyed hot or cold, in ice cream, smoothies, and lattes.


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