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Tea Treats

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31st Oct 2008

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After water, tea is the most popular beverage on the planet, but seldom has an item so popular been more taken for granted. Tea is so common it can be difficult to find or imagine a supreme tea miles above the rest - a result of its commodity-like status. Premium bespoke demand in the tea industry has not really experienced the level of connoisseurship enjoyed by other beverages, notably its arch rival, coffee.

The legends of tea discovery date back to 2737 B.C., when a wayward tea leaf drifted into a Chinese emperor's pot of boiling water. In India, where tea later came to be cultivated, some attribute the discovery of tea to Prince Bodhi-Dharma, who later founded the Japanese Zen School of Buddhism and left India in 520 A.D. to China. It was there that he discovered the mystic, zen-like qualities of tea during a series of meditations. Soon it was all the rage in India.

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Camellia sinensis
For a long time Camellia sinensis (the scientific name of tea) was considered medicinal, and it was not until the Chinese Tang Dynasty that use became widespread. Tea was considered sacred, and from this status grew elaborate ceremonies in Asia that allowed for proper enjoyment of the beverage.

There are two types of tea: the strong, pungent Assam type (assimica) from India and the delicate, more floral China type (sinensis). The British and American markets popularized the Indian teas into what is generally found to be 'western' tea, while the Chinese and Japanese perfected rolling, powdering and loose-leaf formats for what we think of as Asian black and green teas.

One company changing perceptions around luxury tea is Mighty Leaf, purveyor of what can only be described as luxurious teas. The company was founded by Gary Shinner and Jill Portman when they opened a teahouse in San Francisco in 1996. Today the teahouse is gone and they are global, but still dedicated to the task of artisan tea production. Tasting tea from a Mighty Leaf is a 'wow' experience: remarkably better than normal teas. This is because every aspect of development is cultivated to create quality tea, from use of organics to selection of ingredients.

The company augments quality with unusual combinations and a unique online ordering system for fun tea shopping. Their Marakkesh Mint, White Lotus, African Amber and even Acai provide adventurous drinking, but the company also stocks higher quality, fresh basics like black, darjeeling, green and others.

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Japanese tea, rolled and powdered
Bio-organic production? Yes.

Silken tea pouches? Yep.

Unusual herbs and combinations? You betcha.

Sustainable production? Yes

Higher prices to local producers? For the most part...

Mighty Leaf ticks all the boxes, and everything can be ordered online and delivered straight to your door.

The site is a great resource about tea and manages the tea information process to help you create a unique gift for others.

They also remind us the best thing about certain teas... "rich in antioxidants, tea is thought to help prevent cancer, reduce heart disease and lower cholesterol. It also contains fluoride, betacarotene and vitamins C and E." Good stuff.