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Journal

Tea drinkers who get their news online may have already seen this recent article, which describes a scientific study that linked regular steaming hot tea drinking with an increase of esophageal cancer. The study took place in Iran, where black tea drinking is widespread in its popularity. Interestingly, the study found that drinking tea at ‘steaming hot’ temperature (between 149º and 159º F) doubles the risk of cancer, and drinking tea at temperatures above 159º F increases the risk eightfold!

Of course, once I read this, I broke out the thermometer and quickly started experimenting with drinking water at different temperatures. Personally, I find that the temperature at which I like to drink tea is generally below 150º; I tried 160º water and, not surprisingly (I don’t have an especially high tolerance for hot drinks) it was a little too hot for my tastes. The study also notes that most cultures that prefer to add milk to their tea don’t have an especially high instance of esophageal cancer, most likely because the milk cools the tea to a lower temperature. Of course, this is only one study, so we should probably wait for more evidence before taking it as scientific law, but it does raise a few interesting points.

I think it’s a good reminder that, ideally, tea can be an opportunity to relax and make a concentrated effort to take a short break in the day to sit and enjoy the intricacies of a delicious beverage–waiting a couple of extra minutes for your tea to cool can be an opportunity to get your thoughts together and focus on what you need to get done for the day, or it could just be a chance to anticipate the tea you’re about to experience. I know some people feel like “the hotter the better,” but I find that a really complex tea’s flavor is usually much easier to appreciate if it’s had a chance to cool down a little. Finally, I think this study exhibits one of the most difficult aspects of scientific tea studies–the tea drinkers in the study all consumed black tea. It seems to me that with the effects that different processing techniques have on the composition of tea leaves, combined with the different methods used to prepare the teas, it must be a bit difficult to generalize anything about tea without meticulously including all different tea types in a study. That is to say, for example, does drinking steaming hot oolong affect cancer risk in the same way? Studies that focus on the health benefits of tea have returned some pretty solid evidence that the different tea types at least have different strengths when it comes to health benefits, so I think it stands to reason that they might show slight physiological differences in other studies. Reading tea studies is always exciting, since each study is another link in a growing chain of evidence that helps us make more confident claims about how tea affects the human body. Unfortunately, because of the variables involved, tea is such a complicated, multifaceted subject that it will probably be quite a while before we’ve mastered it as a subject.

Elliot


I’ve been conducting guided tea tastings off and on for the past few months–now I think I’ve got the kinks worked out and am ready to advertise the tea tastings as a regular event, so here goes:

Please join me at Miro Tea every Sunday from 1-3 pm for complimentary guided tea tasting. During the two-hour period I will be sampling any number of our 200+ teas–what we taste is up to those who are participating in the tasting, so it’s a great opportunity to learn about the differences between the major tea types, compare the small differences between very similar teas, or learn to appreciate the process behind gong fu tea brewing. These tea tastings are also a nice chance to learn a bit more background on the history and processing of some of your favorite teas.

Sundays are a great day to drop by Miro Tea–the year-round farmer’s market is bustling on Ballard Avenue right outside our front door and the entire neighborhood is very lively and busy. Please take a relaxing stroll through the market and stop by Miro afterward–I’d be delighted to share a cup of tea with you!

Elliot

We’re excited to announce that Miro Tea has been mentioned as one of the West Coast’s top ten tea houses in January’s issue of Sunset magazine. In the short paragraph, Miro was listed as the #3 tea house and this blog was even mentioned!

If you’re visiting our blog because you read the Sunset article, welcome! I hope you find the back catalog of postings helpful in your tea journeys, and feel free to ask any questions you may have. I usually don’t have complete answers, but am happy to help search them out! For me, the chance to continue exploring and learning about tea is the best part about writing this blog.


See you online, and maybe even at Miro Tea!

Elliot

Holiday greetings from all of us here at Miro Tea! Seattle has been swamped by an extremely unusual snowstorm for over a week, so we’re looking much more seasonal and festive than most of our other Christmases! Thankfully, hot tea and crepes are the perfect remedy for the cold weather! It’s been an interesting week, since travel has been unorthodox, but our Ballard neighborhood is full of devoted local shoppers and we saw lots of familiar faces out and about on foot (and even cross country skis!) when driving was all but impossible. I certainly enjoyed walking to work on silent, icy streets–Mad Max style, down the middle of the road. Thanks to you, our customers, for making this holiday a warm one!

Unfortunately the busy holiday season has waylaid my plans to introduce our two new Wuyi oolongs, but I promise (New Year’s resolution time!) to provide tasting notes post-haste!

Happy holidays to you and yours!


Elliot

This December, our “tea” type of the month is botanicals. What are botanicals, you ask? I’ll tell you what! Most likely, you’re actually already familiar with botanicals under a different name–“herbal tea,” or perhaps “tisanes.” The term refers to any infused beverage not made from the tea (Camellia sinensis) plant. Since “tea” specifically means Camellia sinensis, it’s incorrect to call an herbal or floral infusion “tea.” Additionally, not all non-tea infusions are “herbs,” so “botanicals” makes a perfect all-encompassing name. Most botanicals are naturally caffeine-free, with the exception of yerba mate. Like our past featured teas, botanicals will get the royal treatment for the entire month:

  • 15% off all botanical beverages and bulk purchases in-store.
  • Clearance botanicals can be found in our sale section.
  • An informational handout regarding the definitions of, preparation of, and potential health benefits of botanicals are available to take home.

Botanicals are not only a great replacement for hot caffeinated tea on these cold December days, they also make excellent additions to your favorite teas–a sprinkle of lemongrass or lavender can give your favorite breakfast blend an added kick, and we’ve got a nice selection of unblended botanicals for just that purpose!

Elliot

Even if I didn’t have a calendar, I think I’d probably still know that summer is fading into memory and fall is upon us–if only from how chilly my hands get on my morning bike ride to Miro Tea! As we’ve been trying to do on a monthly basis, the beginning of October marks the beginning of a tea feature; this month it’s White Tea, an ideal choice for sipping during the quiet moments of a crisp, sunny fall afternoon (which we’ll hopefully get a few of this October!).

I’m excited to feature white tea for a number of reasons–white tea’s recent surge in popularity has really catapulted it into the general public’s consciousness. From Snapple and other “ready to drink” beverages to vitamin supplements, white tea is being touted for its health benefits, and is often described as “better than green tea.” So, with white tea’s rising popularity, it’s a great opportunity to expose curious people to premium white teas, so they can see the best of what this tea type has to offer. Also, this month will be a great opportunity to clear up some of the misinformation that has come along with white tea’s popularity–look for a few short articles regarding caffeine, health benefits, and processing.

As usual, we’ve got a few features going to celebrate white tea:

  • 15% off white tea by the cup or pot, as well as bulk
  • We’ve got a few white teas in our clearance area, including some seldom-seen Darjeeling white teas–not to be missed by both adventurous white tea fans and Darjeeling fanatics
  • We’ll be cupping on request, side by side, Bai Hao Silver Needle and White Peony, the two classic white tea types.
  • General white tea information (including upcoming articles) will be condensed in take-home handouts available in Miro Tea.

Be on the lookout for the next couple of informational articles, and try a cup of white tea!

Elliot


Since Chinese Green Tea month ran long, we’re now celebrating Indian Black Teas through September. This means the usual:

  • 15% off all Indian Black Teas–by the cup and pot, as well as bulk!
  • Many teas will be on clearance. Since we reduced our menu, we have stock of a number of discontinued teas that is on sale for 50% off–two ounces for the price of one! This includes a number of high-quality Assams and Darjeelings.
  • I’ll be sharing a few of our finest Indian black teas via tasting notes on this blog.
  • Informational handouts will be available in Miro Tea.
  • Free loose samples will be available in-store for customers to try at home!

A bit of background for those unfamiliar with the specifics of tea in India: Official reports of native assamica tea plants date back to at least the 1500’s, but widespread cultivation and production of tea only began in the 1830’s when the British lost their monopoly on tea trade with China and opportunistic businessmen began the first tea plantations designed to accommodate burgeoning demand for tea in Britain. Tea production expanded over the next two centuries to the point that India at one time surpassed China as the world’s largest tea producer. Today, the three most famous and prolific tea-producing regions in India are Assam, Darjeeling (both of which are located in the northeastern, spindly part of India seen in the map) and Nilgiri, which is located in the mountains of the southeastern portion of India’s tip. Many consider Sri Lankan teas (also archaically known as “Ceylon” teas) as Indian, but for Indian black tea month we’ll stick to India as commonly understood by international treaties! More will be said about each region (hopefully including some tasting notes, time permitting).

Elliot

I’m back after a brief absence due to computer troubles to announce that our entire batch of 2008 Chinese green teas (the ones I’ve been tasting and reviewing, and the ones we’re featuring in-store for July) has arrived! They are available for drinking by the cup and pot in-store, as well as in bulk. If you’re not in the Seattle area and are interested in these teas, please feel free to email me or phone the store. We’re currently not set up for hassle-free web orders, but we can easily work out a shipment after getting the necessary info. I still owe 3 detailed tasting notes for the remaining teas, so be on the lookout before we kick off Indian black tea month (August)!

Bamboo Shoot Green $2.75 (cup), $3.75 (pot), $7 (1oz), $25 (4oz), $40 (80z), $70 (1lb)

Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun $3.25 (cup), $4.25 (pot), $10.50 (1oz), $37 (4oz), $67 (80z), $100 (1lb)

High Mt. Dragonwell $3.25 (cup), $4.25 (pot), $7.50 (1oz), $27 (4oz), $43 (80z), $75 (1lb)

Liu An Melon Seed $3.25 (cup), $4.25 (pot), $10.50 (1oz), $37 (4oz), $67 (80z), $100 (1lb)

Tai Ping Monkey King $3.25 (cup), $4.25 (pot), $8.50 (1oz), $30 (4oz), $50 (80z), $85 (1lb)

Yellow Mt. Mao Feng $2.75 (cup), $3.75 (pot), $6.50 (1oz), $23 (4oz), $30 (80z), $55 (1lb)

Elliot

Top to Bottom, Organic Yellow Mt. Mao Feng, Organic Taiping Monkey King, Liu An Melon Seed, 3 fresh 2008 teas featured this month at Miro.

Now that June’s over, we get to bid Rooibos month a tearful farewell at Miro Tea and welcome in July–Chinese Green Tea Month! Much like June’s rooibos events and specials, we’ll be showcasing our Chinese green tea selection all July. The freshest and tastiest spring harvest green teas are en route to our store from China, and we’re excited to start sharing them with you, our customers! We also have a few special additions to our program this month!

  • All Chinese green teas (including bulk) will be discounted 15%!
  • Informational handouts will be available in-store that fill in some important and general information about China’s illustrious green tea and its history.
  • This blog will feature more in-depth posts about Chinese green tea, including detailed tasting notes for our premium new teas.
  • Our store clearance area will feature some seriously great deals–Chinese Green and Yellow teas will be available at 50% off–2 oz for the price of 1!
  • Finally, and most excitingly, July is the first month that we’ll be conducting in-store tea workshops! I’ll post dates, times and other relevant information when it’s all confirmed, but as for now I can say that we’ll be conducting regular Tea 101 introductory classes, as well as guided tastings on our new premium Chinese greens–it’ll be a great way to explore a large number of teas in small amounts with guidance from yours truly.

Chinese green tea is one of my very favorite tea types, and I’m really excited to start sharing the outstanding quality, diverse flavors, and all-around experience that they offer. Check back soon for more updates!

Elliot


This June at Miro Tea, we’re celebrating Rooibos, the South African red bush. Although it’s not a true “tea” (rooibos comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant, not the Camellia sinensis), this special bush produces delicious, world-famous beverage when infused in hot water. To celebrate rooibos month, we at Miro Tea have a few events planned:

  • All rooibos beverages and loose leaf bulk purchases get a 15% discount!
  • We’re offering free samples of loose rooibos for customers to try at home!
  • We’ll be serving “The Ernie,” a special iced rooibos beverage (to be introduced next entry), all month!
  • Informational rooibos handouts are available at the store, and I’ll be posting informational articles about rooibos’ processing and health benefits as well.

If you’ve never tried rooibos, you’ve been missing out on quite a treat. June is the perfect month to enjoy this naturally caffeine-free, healthy beverage–it’s delicious both hot and iced.

If you haven’t already, check out this earlier post about the origin of rooibos as a cultivated crop.

More to come…

Elliot

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