Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The wonderful world of tea

Phyllis Louise Harris
December 2014

Legend has it that somewhere around 2850 BCE Chinese emperor Shen Nung stopped by the side of the road to rest near a Camelia sinensis plant and built a small fire to heat the water he was about to enjoy. When a leaf from the plant fell into his cup making a most fragrant and refreshing libation, the emperor became the first person in the world to sip a cup of tea.

Today, tea is the most popular drink in the world next to water with more than 3000 kinds to choose from. While much of it comes from China, tea plantings were smuggled out of China into India in the 1840s and now India is the second largest tea producer in the world. All of this well-known to Bill Waddington, founder and owner of TeaSource and perhaps one of the world’s most enthusiastic tea drinkers and suppliers. As he does every year, Bill went in search of new tea sources last spring, trekking through the mountains of Assam, into the foothills of the Himalayas in Darjeeling, over the Blue Mountains of Nilgiri, and through the plains of Bihar. He visited large plantations with automated equipment handling massive amounts of leaves and small farms using hand tools to produce the precious tea, tasting every tea along the way and talking with and learning from the people who produce it.

While all tea comes from one plant, the Camelia sinensis, tea varieties are formed by differences in geography, growing conditions, cultivation, and processing. Then there are tea blends adding even more varieties until the choices seem endless.

On this trip Bill also tasted Indian milk tea with milk straight from the cow. It is made by boiling the milk, adding sugar, mixing with spices and tealeaves. Spices may include cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, pepper, ginger and cloves with recipes varying by family and region. For a recipe for chai see TeaSource’s newest catalog available in all three stores – Highland Village, Eden Prairie and St. Anthony. Or go to teasource.com and read more about Bills travels and the wonderful world of tea.

Also look for TeaSource tastings at Cooks of Crocus Hill on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, Saturday, December 6 at 12:30 pm; at the TPT Downton Abbey celebration at Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus on Saturday December 13; at the Mississippi Market on 7th street in St. Paul, Saturday, December 20 at 11:00 am and Wednesday, January 14 at the Selby Avenue location, 11:00 am. Also look for tea classes at all TeaSource stores after the holidays.

Or visit one of the TeaSource stores on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Sample Day where 5 different teas may be enjoyed for just $3.50. Coming up are new Assams December 9; Shou Puer December 11; Oolongs December 16; gift teas December 18; teas for all winners December 23; dark tea December 30. Featured teas are available at 20% off on sample days.

I hope your holidays are filled with all the joys of the season made all the better with a soothing cup of hot tea.



Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, now in bookstores and on amazon.com.

Buy online:  Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875  

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: http://www.mnvideovault.org/mvvPlayer/customPlaylist2.php?id=24552&select_index=0&popup=yes#0