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Inspiration In China: Tea Moments And Proper Tasting Guide

tea

During a recent trip to the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, I was fortunate enough to meet many passionate local business owners with creative ideas. Chocolatiers and sorbet makers who source locally and organically, cereal artisans who created a product that is not only a healthy food but a survival kit and farmers working together to help others grow their own foods were some of the amazing people I met along the way. One woman, however, really stuck out in my mind, not just because of her innovative product, but because she was inspired by travel.

Inspired In China

Wendy Weir, a Sunshine Coast local (pictured above), is the creator of Libre tea glasses, a health-conscious glass that allows you to efficiently drink loose-leaf tea on the go.  While many business owners set out to simply make money, Wendy was more concerned about spreading her message about tea, and the importance of taking breaks in our everyday lives to have “tea moments.” These are times to connect and reflect with yourself and the world in the midst of your busy day – a moment to relax and take a breath, a moment to refresh.

Wendy’s original purpose for going to China was her love of Taoism and Chinese heritage. She immersed herself in the culture, even learning the language and living with a local family in Shanghai. Her curiosity then drove her to the Yunnan Province, also known as the birthplace of tea, and Hongzhou, to visit the National Tea Museum. As she explored, it became clear to her the Chinese had a completely different outlook on tea than most Westerners.

“There are a few legends, but not with proven facts. There are the tea horse trails through southwest China that were formed and traveled for trade with Arabia and Persia early on,” Wendy explains. “I think green tea in particular is China’s strength with many regions and kinds. It was originally drank by monks to stay alert while meditating.”

A Life-Changing Bus Ride 

Her inspiration came one day on a busy bus in Shanghai. Perched at the front, Wendy anxiously awaited her stop. Suddenly, the bus stopped at an intersection and the driver picked up what looked like a pickle jar, but was actually a tea holder. As he took a long sip, Wendy visualized how this busy man was taking a moment to himself, despite the loud chaotic bus. The light turned green, and the driver went back to navigating the traffic and beeping the horn, but Wendy’s mind was churning.

“This is when a ‘tea moment’ was born,” explains Wendy. “China changed the way I thought about tea, as I had much more information and realized what an extensive topic it is.”

tea leaves

Tea Preparation 

There is much more to tea than the average person realizes. According to Life Hacker, for something to be a true tea, it must come from the camellia sinensis plant. It contains the amino acid L-theanine, which will give you a mindful alertness about 80 minutes after consumption. Loose teas, like the variety best used in the Libre glass, can be steeped multiple times, as the flavor gradually gets extracted.

According to Wendy, white tea is the least processed, and contains the most antioxidants. Green tea is often dried and slightly cooked, but still contains many antioxidants, while black tea is the fermented and the most processed, but is very good for the heart.

Moreover, simply boiling water and throwing in a tea bag isn’t the proper Chinese method of tea preparation. While white tea demands the least heated water at 160°F, green tea needs water at 180°F. The black tea is the hottest, with the water at 212°F.

Tea Tasting

Like wine, tea is quite complex and much goes into a proper tasting. The first thing you should do when sampling a tea is to look at the leaves. Full tea leaves are usually of better quality than the broken pieces. In fact, many tea bags contain the leftover scraps from tea leaves, so loose tea is a better option. While different tea categories have different looks, fresh tea leaves should always have a glossy sheen.

While sipping, appreciate the color. A darker, fuller color usually means a more intense flavor. Make sure to also smell the tea. In China, the scent and aftertaste of a tea are just as important as the flavor itself. Once you’re ready to really take a sip, roll the liquid over your mouth and tongue, even the back of your mouth. Then, swish it around while sucking in air to activate the flavors.

Just like with wine, try to distinguish the mouthfeel. Is it creamy? Oily? Rich? Refreshing? Also note the aftertaste, which is sometimes more enjoyable than the flavor itself. To do this properly, open your mouth a bit after swallowing, allowing air to flow between your nose and mouth. This helps you to notice both flavor and scent.

It’s not only about the taste, but the way the tea makes you feel. Are you mentally alert? Physically energized? Less stressed? Remember these effects, and use them to your benefit in the future.

libre tea

The Libre Tea Glass

Wendy Weir’s product, the Libre Tea Glass, is the convenient and stylish solution for loose leaf tea on the go with a unique glass interior for a fresh taste every time, a durable poly exterior for durability and a removable twist off lid. It keeps tea hot for about 1.5 hours, makes loose leaf tea easy with its ability to be used two ways – either with leaves on top of the filter or in the glass. Moreover, there is a sustainability factor, as the tea bag and packaging is eliminated.

To check it out for yourself, you can visit the website, Twitter or Pinterest. You can also share tea moments on the Libre Facebook page.

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.
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