Monday, March 03, 2008

World in a Teacup Symposium & Tasting

tea tasting
At the fascinating and caffeinated World in a Teacup program this weekend I heard professors and tea buyers speak about tea, saw a special tea exhibition at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the UC Berkeley campus and tasted a number of different very high quality teas. Though the program is now over, admission to the museum is free, so if you are in the area, stop by and see the set of display cases with tea accoutrement. It will be on display until next year.

Some of the teas I tried and enjoyed the most were:

Purple Oolong from Art of Tea
Complex and robust brew with spicy notes

Tribute Pu-erh from L'Amyx
Dark and bold this is a tea that would pair well with food, it's often served with dim sum

Assam Extra Fancy from Peet's Coffee & Tea
Smooth with malty and toasty flavors

Here are some interesting facts you might not know about tea:
  • The oldest living tea tree is 2700 years old

  • The Japanese tea ceremony dates back to the 16th century

  • All tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis

  • Tea was first sold in England in 1657

  • Most tea leaves are picked by women, in part because of the manual dexterity required

  • It took 40 years for the Indian tea production to become truly high quality

  • 1/4 of the world's tea comes from China

  • 1/4 of the world's tea comes from India

  • 95% of tea produced in India, is consumed in India and not exported

  • There are 3,000 tea estates in India

  • Tea is more likely to be hand rolled in China than processed by machine

  • Pu-erh tea supposedly can lower cholesterol and is gaining in popularity in France

  • Green tea is very popular in Germany

  • Like chocolate and wine, tea is produced rather than just grown

  • The most modern tea production methods are found in Japan

  • Some pu-erh tea can be brewed as dark as coffee

The Story of Tea

If you are interested in tea, one of the best books available on the subject is The Story of Tea A Cultural History and Drinking Guide. It's a beautiful tea encyclopedia, filled with gorgeous photos, information about tea production, varieties and brewing instructions. There is even a section on cooking with tea and details on the cultural significance and experiences associated with tea. A must for any tea lover.