Company Spotlight: Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea

Most people know about the high quality coffee that the South American country of Colombia is known for producing, but not so many people, including those in the tea drinking community, know of one particular Colombian estate growing and manufacturing some phenomenal green and black teas. Without further ado, I am happy to introduce you to Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea.

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Bitaco Tea Factory – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

The Bitaco tea estate and factory is located along the Andes Mountains, near the Bitaco Regional Forest Reserve, in the bio-geographical region of Choco. The tea is grown at an elevation of over 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) above sea level, the ground consisting of nutrient-rich volcanic soil. The estate consists of 51 hectares (126 acres) of land under tea cultivation. The Google map below shows the approximate location of Bitaco.

Building on 55 years of experience in the Colombian tea industry, the Agricola Himalaya S.A. company began developing Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea in 2013. The intent was to manufacture the best quality loose leaf teas in the most modern, high-tech factory in South America. Since then, the estate and factory have obtained USDA Organic certification and UTZ certification, while developing a high quality line of unblended black and green teas, and blended varieties.

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Bitaco Tea Estate – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

Currently, Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea is exported to the U.S.A., Germany, England, and France. As mentioned above, the current offerings include the following styles of unblended black tea: tippy, wiry, and leafy. They also offer blends of black tea with some rather delicious ingredients, like the Cacao Kisses (black tea, cacao husks, cacao nibs), Andean Princess (black tea, isabella grape skin, Andean raspberries, hibiscus petals), and Coffee Kisses (black tea, Arabica coffee beans).

Also available are the following unblended green tea styles: needles, wiry, and leafy. Blended green tea products include the Mist Forest (green tea, pear guava, soursop), and Tropical Charming (green tea, lulo, starfruit, mango). Either of these sound pretty amazing as an iced tea. It’s finally getting sunny and warm here in Pittsburgh, so dreams of sipping iced tea on a hot day should soon be a reality.

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Fresh Plucked Bitaco Tea Leaves – Photo used with permission from Bitaco Tea

In addition to creating organic, world class loose leaf tea, Bitaco Tea and Agricola Himalaya also strive to be pillars of their environmental and social communities. The Agricola Himalaya Foundation was created to help local children have better educational opportunities, as well as improve the local infrastructure, culture, and technology.

You can keep up to date on all things Bitaco by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Thank you for taking your time to learn more about Bitaco Unique Colombian Tea. Many thanks to the management at Bitaco for providing samples. These will be my first Colombian tea experiences, and I am excited to get to them! Looks for reviews on many of these products in the near future.

Have a great weekend, everyone! Cheers!

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Guest Post: The History of Bubble Tea by Mike at BubbleTeaology

I am pleased to have the opportunity to publish a guest post from Mike at BubbleTeaology, a distributor of equipment and machinery used to create the popular tea beverage known as Bubble Tea.

Bubble Tea is offered in some Asian restaurants, as well as independent stands and kiosks in malls, airports, and other high-traffic spaces. My son loves to get a cup of Bubble Tea as an after dinner treat at a local Thai restaurant near our home, Thai Foon.

I would like to thank Mike for taking his time to prepare this write-up for the Tea Journeyman blog. If you own a restaurant, beverage or snack stand, or any business that could benefit from offering Bubble Tea, please contact Bubble Teaology. They have all the tools and supplies to help jumpstart your new Bubble Tea product line.

Now, let’s give the spotlight to Mike, and allow him the opportunity to teach us more about Bubble Tea.

The History of Bubble Tea

      Tea has been enjoyed by many for thousands of years and over that time, various recipes and varieties have been created by tea lovers. One fairly recent addition is called bubble tea. Let’s take look at the history of bubble tea and find out where and how this variation came about. 

It all began in the early 1980s in a small tea shop in Taiwan. Tea is popular with school children in Taiwan, and tea stands set up outside of schools would compete for the students’ business. One enterprising owner started mixing fruit flavors with the tea, creating a delicious and refreshing drink that the children loved. Mixing the flavor with the tea required some vigorous shaking, which resulted in thousands of tiny air bubbles and gave rise to the name “Bubble Tea”.

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The next step in the history of bubble tea is the introduction of tapioca pearls to cold infused beverages. Credit for this advancement is given to Taiwanese resident Liu Han-Chieh, who began topping drinks with the pearls in 1983. The tapioca pearls are meant to be consumed along with the beverage, giving the tea drinker a truly unique experience.

The tapioca pearls looked like another set of bubbles, this time residing at the bottom of the glass. The term “bubble tea” was used for shaken, flavored tea whether it had the pearls or not. So a new variety was born.  This trend has taken off around the world and in the US with bubble tea shops opening up everywhere. Adding to the fascination of bubble tea are the bubble tea machines that shake and seal bubble tea.

Fans of bubble tea with tapioca pearls enjoy their distinctive flavor and consistency. The pearls can be white or black, with the white pearls being pure tapioca and the darker ones mixing in some cassava root or brown sugar. In either case, the result is a gummy, chewy ball that is called the tapioca pearl. Bubble tea beverages that contain these pearls are served with an extra wide straw so you can suck up the pearls as you are drinking your tea.

The use of tapioca pearls gave rise to many other names for bubble tea. You may see it offered as pearl milk tea, boba tea, pearl ice tea and tapioca ball drink to name a few. Most bubble tea has a cold, fruit-infused tea as its foundation. You can easily identify this beverage by the pearls, which appear to be bubbles, at the bottom of a clear glass, or by the wide straw provided with your drink.

Though it originated in Taiwan and became wildly popular in that country, the taste for bubble tea has spread throughout the world. New mixtures using milk and different ingredients to create the pearls are constantly being tried. You can get a bubble tea beverage with pearls comprised of green tea, sago, taro or jelly, to name a few. It seems that the only limiting factor is the imagination of the creator, ensuring that the history of bubble tea is still a work in progress. Try a glass and see if you agree that it is a unique and refreshing beverage. You’ll probably be back for more!

Author Bio:

Mike is originally from the US but has spent the past 6 years in Taiwan and 2 of those years working for one of the largest bubble tea shops in Taiwan.  Now he is the owner of BubbleTeaology which supplies Boba Tea Machines and Wholesale Ingredients to drink shops around the world.

Company Spotlight: Zealong Tea Estate in New Zealand

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Zealong Tea Estate, the only commercial tea estate operated in the entire country of New Zealand.

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Zealong Sculpture – Photo Courtesy of Zealong.Com Website

This beautiful, organic tea estate is located in Hamilton, Waikato region, New Zealand. It currently consists of about 1.2 million tea bushes spread over 40 hectares (about 100 acres) of land. The Google map below shows the approximate location of Zealong Tea Estate.

The estate grounds were used as a dairy farm before being purchased and repurposed around 1996. Only about 130 tea plants were originally planted, and now the number has grown to about 1.2 million, as noted above. The leaves are hand-picked by estate workers, then produced into green, black, and oolong styles of finished tea. About 20 tonnes of finished tea are produced each year, all from three short harvest seasons. Information is forthcoming regarding the cultivar types being propagated at the estate.

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Zealong Tea Estate – Photo Courtesy of Zealong.Com Website

In addition to the classic, unblended, and all organic Green, Black, and Aromatic (or Oolong) styles of tea offered by Zealong Tea Estate, unique blends of Zealong tea leaves and herbs sourced elsewhere are created, with names such as Ice Breaker, Fire and Ice, Lady Gatsby, and Green Heart. They also offer more well-known, famous blends such as Earl Grey and Chai. All of these products can be found at the Zealong Shop website, or at the beautiful brick and mortar tea shop at the Zealong Tea Estate (photo below). The Green Tea, Black Tea, and Aromatic Tea will all be reviewed on this blog in the near future.

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Retail Tea Shop at Zealong Tea Estate – Photo Courtesy of Zealong.Com Website

Growing and producing high quality organic tea is not the only operation that Zealong Tea Estate excels at. The estate offers a fine dining experience with tea infused menu options, beautiful meetings rooms for private events, as well as a tea ceremony and tea tasting with each guided tour. Looking at the Zealong.com gallery, I can imagine spending a lot of time creating some unforgettable memories at this place. It looks amazing!

Zealong’s tea products can be found in places other than New Zealand, of course, with distributors located in United Kingdom, Germany, Czech Republic, China, and New Caledonia. If these are not convenient options for you, do not let that stop you from trying these teas! Check out their online shop on the Zealong website.

All photos used on this page were found at the Zealong.com website, in the gallery, and are property thereof.

Company Spotlight: Lumbini Tea Valley

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Lumbini Tea Valley, headquarted in Deniyaya, Ruhuna region, Southern province, Sri Lanka. Below is a Google map showing the location of the Lumbini Tea Factory. The estates and factory are neighbors to the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Since being founded in 1984 by Mr. Dayapala Jayawardana and continued today by Chaminda Jayawardana, Lumbini Tea Valley has developed a reputation for being among the most innovative tea manufacturers in Sri Lanka, winning multiple awards over the years for most innovative products on their hand-spun black and green teas. Within the first five seconds of looking into the generous box of samples they provided, it is easy to understand how Lumbini earned these awards. There are teas here that I have never seen produced anywhere. More on this later.

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Lumbini Tea Valley Aerial View – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

Lumbini Tea Valley owns about 120 hectares (300 acres) of their own tea gardens, and works with small estate holders who own about 1,600 hectares (3,950 acres) combined. The tea gardens have an average altitude of about 450 to 500 meters (1,450 feet to 1,650 feet) above sea level. At this altitude, these teas would be considered low-grown teas in the Sri Lanka tea industry. The estate propagates two cultivars of tea bushes, including the TRI 2026 for black teas and the TRI 2043 for white teas. Lumbini Tea Valley employs about 250 people. The annual production of made tea currently stands at 600,000 kilograms.

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Lumbini Tea Valley – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

In addition to free factory and estate tours, Lumbini Tea Valley offers tea training where participants pluck their own leaves, process them, taste and take home the finished product. That sounds pretty awesome! They also have tea tasting lessons and events.

Lumbini Tea Valley is separated into two different brands, Dalu and Giri. The Dalu brand appears to focus on offering the pure, unblended and unflavored, artisan style black, green, and white teas from their garden. The Giri brand, although it does offer unblended and unflavored options, seems to focus on a more broad range of teas, including seasonal varieties from the other famous Sri Lankan regions (Uva, Nuwara Eliya, Dimbula, Ruhuna), blended teas with dried fruit, flowers, and/or Ceylon spices, and most interestingly, honey coated black teas!

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Lumbini Tea Valley – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

These honey coated teas are like nothing I have seen coming from any other tea company anywhere. I included a photo of the sample packet below. This tea arrives moist, soaked in honey, with excess honey coating the inside of the sample bag. It is difficult to not get instantly excited about these products. It will probably not surprise you that my first review will highlight the Bee Honey Coated Ceylon Spice Black Tea. Look for this review to be posted later today or tomorrow.

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Lumbini Tea Valley and their distributor in the United States can be found on Facebook. Lumbini Tea Valley USA offers many (but not all) of the fascinating teas manufactured at Lumbini Tea Valley. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, the honey coated teas are not offered by Lumbini Tea Valley USA. Considering the artisan quality teas manufactured by this company, I am slightly surprised to not see more social media activity on the other popular platforms. They will be getting plenty of attention from me over the next couple of months, as the sample package will be taking up a large amount of my review slots in the near future.

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Lumbini Tea Valley Bushes – Photo Courtesy of Lumbini Tea Valley Management

Here is a link to the Lumbini Tea Valley company profile on Youtube. This video shows the beautiful estate lands, the factory, the hard working employees picking and processing the tea, and provides plenty of useful information.

In the meantime, I look forward to introducing you to some of the beautiful teas being produced at Lumbini Tea Valley. And many thanks to the management at Lumbini Tea Valley for their generosity in sending samples. I am definitely excited to get started on these reviews.

A Look at the Hana No Uta Arita Yaki Teacups from Yuuki-Cha

This quick post will focus on a new pair of Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups that I received from Yuuki-Cha. If you have not followed my previous recommendations to check out Yuuki-Cha, both for their amazing (and all organic) Japanese teas and the handmade teawares, then do it now!

These cups were handcrafted in the town of Arita, Saga Prefecture, Japan.

Let’s take a look at the photos first.

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Hana No Uta Arika Yaki Teacup Exterior

 

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Hana No Uta Arita Yaki Teacup Interior

As you can see, the artwork and design are simply beautiful and eye-catching both on the exterior and interior. The feel of the cup is light, yet does not get overwhelmingly hot to the touch, so it is easy to hold even with a freshly poured black tea. The exterior texture is very smooth, and has numerous shallow indents all over it that make holding the cup a little easier. The indents cannot be seen, but are easily felt.  It holds about 4 to 4.5 ounces (120 to 135 ml) of liquid. The lip is slightly curved outward for a clean, drip-free sip.

Sometimes, the occasion calls for more than just the standard solid white tasting cups. The Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups are the perfect way to add a little extra beauty to tea tasting experience.

Although currently out of stock, the Hana No Uta Arita Yaki teacups can be purchased for $8.80 USD per cup, plus shipping from Japan. Be sure to take a look at the other amazing teawares on the site. I am sure you will find something interesting to add to your collection.

Have a good weekend, everyone! Cheers!

Amba Estate, Ambadandegama near Ella, Sri Lanka

I have had the pleasure of enjoying the teas, big bean coffee, and lemongrass from Amba Estate, but here is an in depth post about the other pleasures that the Amba Estate has to offer.

Honestly Foodie

HONESTLY’S VERDICT
In a word:  Refreshing
Food:  A delicious healthy change
Service:  Fantastic
Presentation:   Simple, elegant, no frills
Ambience:   Colonial calm
Location:  A little tea plantation house on the top of a hill overlooking the vibrant green Sri Lankan hills as far as the eye can see
Value for money:  Absolutely
Worth a visit?:  Yes, please go a visit these guys, buy as much tea and jam as you can carry in support of the Amba Estate, their business model and the initiatives they support.

We visited Amba Estate Tea Plantation near Ella in the Uva Central Provence of Sri Lanka on the back of a recommendation from a couple we’d met during our stay at Polwatte House in Kandy.  The couple talked about the estate’s ethos for sustainability, organics and community initiatives.  I was sold.  Amba Estate sounded right up my street so we…

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World Tea Academy : Advanced Cupping Course

Hello again, fellow tea enthusiasts! I have been away for a while, mostly out of the country, the rest of the time catching up on work at the office and at home. I am expecting some fresh samples to arrive soon, so new reviews will be posted in the near future.

In the meantime, I wanted to write about the current course that I am taking through the World Tea Academy. For those of you who are not familiar with the World Tea Academy, it is the educational branch of World Tea Media in North America. The instructor is Donna Fellman, a well-respected and experienced member of the tea industry. Donna, along with an impressive cast of “Strategic Technical Advisors”, all contribute to the educational material, assuring that the content is accurate. These courses are offered online, and international students are welcome as much as students from North America. For more information on the World Tea Academy, please go to http://www.worldteaacademy.com/

To this point, I have completed six of the seven courses necessary to earn the Certified Tea Specialist designation. Currently, I am participating in the final course of this program, the Advanced Cupping course. I can say with certainty that this course is by far the most interesting and beneficial course that I have taken through World Tea Academy or American Tea Masters Association. The educational materials focus on the effects of terroir and processing techniques, as well as the grading of teas, and various defects that may occur during production. The assignments have students focus on each of these topics by having them cup and compare similar styles of tea that: 1) come from different terroirs, 2) have different processing techniques, and 3) have different grades.

As I have mentioned in previous posts when I compared two or more teas in one cupping session, these types of experiences are incredibly beneficial and teach lasting lessons to those who participate in them. With more of the advanced curriculum now appearing on the schedule at the World Tea Academy, it is an exciting time to be a student in this program. Whether you are a beginner enthusiast or more experienced, you always have something to gain from the World Tea Academy, recognition for your knowledge of fine teas! In one week, I will receive my second tea related certification, and I am proud to earn that certification from the World Tea Academy.

Thank you to Donna Fellman, Monique Hatchett, and all of the staff and advisors at the World Tea Academy who make these programs possible! Cheers!

Another Successful Tasting Event at Spring Street Cafe

Everyone had a great time learning about tea and tasting all of the He Cha Tea products last Sunday at Spring Street Cafe in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. Read more about it here, and see some photos from the event. Cheers!

The Official Blog for Hē Chá Tea

Our second Hē Chá Tea tasting event at Spring Street Cafe in Zelienople, Pennsylvania was a great success! This event had even more attendees than our first event, and the level of energy and enthusiasm from this round of guests was slightly higher, as well.

Here are a few of the photos from the event.

If we had to choose one tea that got the best overall response from the guests, it would definitely be our Traditional Masala Chai! The Earl Grey Prime also received great feedback. As usual, every tea was at the top of someone’s list. It is always interested to see which teas come out on top at the end of these events, and it always seems that each event has a different top tea. That’s great news to us!

Hē Chá Tea would once again like to thank the owners and staff of Spring Street Cafe for…

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Tea Spotlight: Mount Ali Milk Oolong

The Mount Ali Milk Oolong is my personal preference of all of the current He Cha Tea products. This tea is pure Taiwan Jin Xuan oolong with no flavoring added.

The Official Blog for Hē Chá Tea

The focus of today’s Hē Chá Tea Spotlight segment is our Mount Ali Milk Oolong Tea.

We at Hē Chá Tea are very proud of our Mount Ali Milk Oolong tea. It is the only tea that we currently offer that is pure, unflavored, unscented, unblended tea leaves. This simple fact also makes our Mount Ali Milk Oolong different than many other milk oolongs available in the U.S. Many milk oolongs are flavored, giving them a buttered popcorn scent, and a strong buttery taste. The problem with this is that the tea leaves used are usually of lower quality and most times do not even come from the type of tea bush that traditional milk oolongs originated from (more on that below). The result is a milk oolong by name only. A true milk oolong does not need flavoring to give it a milky, creamy smell and taste.

What is a “true” milk…

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Tea Spotlight: Traditional Masala Chai

Read about the Traditional Masala Chai black tea from Hē Chá Tea. No flavoring oils here, just pure, fresh spices and orthodox black tea from Assam district, India. This is the only chai that you will find in my personal collection.

The Official Blog for Hē Chá Tea

The focus of todays Hē Chá Tea Spotlight segment is our Traditional Masala Chai Black Tea.

Our Traditional Masala Chai is true to it’s name, traditional. How do we know that it’s a traditional recipe? We import this blended tea directly from Assam, India. Our source in India purchases the spices from neighboring communities and farmers. The spices are then hand-cut, and hand-blended with the famously robust black teas from the Assam district. Since the spices are purchased fresh, and much of the processing of this blend is done by hand, there is only a limited supply of this tea for export. Hē Chá Tea is very proud to be able to offer this product, and truly appreciate the relationship that we have began to build with our source in India.

This Traditional Masala Chai blend has won several awards in China and the U.K., and it is gaining international attention. In…

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