Tea and Travel World Tea Expo

World Tea Expo 2012: Sunday June 3rd

Caffeine Science

Maintaining one’s health and alertness can be challenging during Expo. After a busy day on the floor and in sessions there is barely enough time to make dinner plans. When relaxing with friends in the evening, my beverage of choice is a glass of wine. It helps to balance the day’s accumulated caffeine intake. Tasting upon tasting, moving from booth to booth, I wondered just how much caffeine I was consuming. I hoped to find some reliable information on the caffeine content of various teas in Kevin Gascoyne’s session, A Step Toward Caffeine and Antioxidant Clarity.

Kevin Gascoyne, black tea expert for Camellia Sinensis relaxing with a cup of Darjeeling at Gopaldhara Tea Garden, Darjeeling India Photo, cbc.ca

Camellia Sinensis,  a Montreal tea shop and salon owned by Gascoyne and 3 other partners, commissioned a study for their newly-released English edition of Tea: History, Terroir, Varieties. The results are published in the back of their book and more tests are in the works. Kevin explained that unlike other studies, they wanted to test caffeine by preparing the teas as his customers would at home. He was interested in human drink-ability as the control. Only one lab agreed to the method of testing – Trans Bio Tech, north of Montreal.

Top of the list for both caffeine and antioxidants? – not surprisingly-  Matcha. Its powder is ground from the whole leaf and that is what we consume when we drink it, unlike other teas whose caffeine and antioxidants have to be drawn out from the leaf.  Here are some of the highlights and discoveries:

  • All teas were prepared as you would at home i.e. Sencha in a Kyusu, Gongfu Cha in Yixing, Chinese Greens in Gaiwan, Blacks in a ceramic teapot.
  • 1st Flush Darjeeling contained more caffeine (58mg) than Autumnal Darjeeling (16mg)
  • Least caffeinated was Mucha Tie Guan Yin (13mg)
  • Longer infusion + high water temperature = more caffeine extraction
  • Rinsing your tea doesn’t remove much caffeine
  • After 10 min. infusion, 70% of caffeine is extracted from leaf
  •  Body absorption of caffeine can vary from human to human depending on when and how much food they’ve eaten before drinking the tea
  • There are too many variables to establish dependable guidelines so when a customer asks for a tea with low caffeine Kevin directs them to Rooibos

I would like to have asked Kevin how milk affects caffeine and antioxidant absorption but he was swarmed like a rock star – well, he is a rock star in the world of tea. Excellent interview with Kevin Gascoyne here.

On Trend

Kitchen T.L.C. is on trend with colours and patterns. Left: their Tea and Art Series of loose leaf teas and Right: tea-infused truffles in prints, stripes and dots!

Pantone has declared that “Tango Tangarine” is the new 2012 “Colour of the Year”. The shade was everywhere on the Fall/Winter 2012 runway and you can see it making a splash in home decor as well. Chocolatiere, Theresa Thielemann of Kitchen T.L.C. is definitely on trend with her stylish new Tea and Art series tins created by Montana artist, Heather Carisch. Their tea-infused truffles are another winner trend-wise. Dots, Stripes and prints are currently big for Spring and the look is carrying through the fall. The chocolate style is gorgeous, but don’t be fooled – these are first and foremost beautifully crafted for flavour. Still, it’s pleasing to use all the senses before devouring these morsels.

 Mid-Atlantic Bounty

David Tavares is an enthusiastic ambassador and fifth generation of family-run Gorreana Teas

It’s 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge just opened, breakthroughs in electricity delivery were brightening households in Europe and North America and powering factories. It was at this pivotal time in history that Gorreana Tea began its heritage tea production in the Azores, Portugal. Owned by the same family for five generations, the company has been in operation for 129 years. Their factory still uses original Marshalls’ machinery that dates back to the industrial revolution. They use the stream that flows through the estate to power the factory.

Geography: The Azores are a mid-Atlantic volcanic archipelago owned by Portugal. With a moderate temperature, plenty of rain and rich soil they are well-suited for tea growing. Gorreana estate is located on Sao Miguel, the South East island of the Azores, measuring 293 square miles, much of that mountainous or hilly. Their tea is grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides.

I had a good visit with David Tavares, fifth generation family member of Gorreana Teas. He is an enthusiastic ambassador for the brand. He winters in California and spends his summers in the Azores, no doubt learning all aspects of the family business. I’m looking forward to sampling and reviewing their Spring teas in the near future.

Take a look at this video and I’m sure you’ll want to make a stop in the Azores on your next trip to Europe.

 Shining Examples

QTrade's Pujitha Ubayasiri beside their many awards and a signature tea blend - Persian Delight with rose petals and pistachios

QTrade Teas And Herbs is the largest importer of organic teas in North America. They consistently win North American Tea Championship Awards and their sparkling trophies were on display to prove it. They were a major presence at WTE – on the exhibit floor and as sponsors/presenters of Sri Lankan teas at the World Origins Tasting Tour. They market a huge selection of Tea, Herbs, Fair Trade and Organic. I noticed online that they offer independent retailers blending and packaging options. One stop shopping. My first impression – they are big players in the industry with strong customer service, a passion for their products and a big heart.

 I’ve Seen the Future…

Jars of fresh Adagio Teas had a good aroma-sniffing work out during the Expo

In my brief chat with Jordan Scherer of Adagio Teas, I learned that they own 3 stores in the Chicago area, one in an urban centre, one in a shopping mall and one in a small town (Napierville). They have developed a fun way to deliver samples of tea. They call it a “jet pack” and it straps to the back of the wearer. Somehow he/she is able to fill sample cups while wearing it. The jet pack draws attention wherever it goes and allows the company to reach out to potential customers in a creative way. Adagio sells online and wholesales their products to other retailers. They strike me as a company that is keen to engage the tea community and involve their customers in discussions and tea education. Smart marketing.

Dispensing tea samples via the "jet pack" allows Adagio the mobility to market their teas anywhere

Gentle Exit

Bags checked and 4 hours to fill before leaving for the airport, a few of us decided that we hadn’t had enough tea, so we taxied over to the Mandarin Oriental for their lovely afternoon tea. Savouries were nice, not spectacular. Sweets were pretty and scones were underwhelming. The tea menu was very good and the staff were well trained in tea service AND they wanted to learn more. Our server wondered if there was some sort of certification program for the tea service industry. They didn’t necessarily want to become masters or somelliers, but wanted some accreditation to give them confidence that theirs was an elevated position of service. Tea Association of the USA – are you listening?