Herbal and Botanical Tisanes

The first thing to say at the very outset is that we are not herbalists, and that all our herbal blends are actually well known combinations of herbs. We also advise shop customers to do their own research regarding herbs and plants that may help them, and we can then supply. Herbs must be used with respect, and you should always check what they do against your own health needs and issues. Herbs and plants are the origin of many, if not most of the medicines we get from the doctor, so please check first. Again, we are NOT herbalists, which is why we don’t tell you what things are for.

There are herbs and plants that we are regularly asked for, which have extremely powerful effects, and often effects additional to that which the customer asks for originally, some of which are surprising, as people assume that these plants are benevolent and ‘safe’.

We do however have a huge range of herbs, spices, florals and other botanicals in the shop’s back room, and one of the most fun aspects of the shop is the creation of new blends.

Hayfever Blend

Herbal and botanical ‘teas’ are not technically teas, as they don’t come from the Camellia Sinensis plant, so they are tisanes, and there are many types of tisane.

Leaf Tisanes include lemongrass, mint, verbena, nettle

Floral tisanes include rose, chamomile, lavender, hibiscus

Bark tisanes include cinnamon, white willow

Root tisanes include valerian, ginger, liquorice

Berry tisanes include elderberries, rosehip, strawberry, raspberry

Seed tisanes include spices such as cardamom, coriander, fennel

Balancing Spice Blend

So as you see, there are very many.

Most of these are brewed using boiling water, but the time needed to brew them varies, seeds and roots requiring the longest brew time to extract the flavour.

Puerh Tea – A ‘drinkable antique’?

2018 Sheng

Puerh tea is a Chinese tea around which there is such a lot of myth and legend, it seems to fit well with our Welsh culture. The story of puerh links with the culture and life of rural Yunnan, and there is a close relationship between the tea, the landscape, and the history of the livelihoods of Yunnan rural workers. Catherine Yung of Yu Teahouse refers to Puerh as a ‘drinkable antique’ and it’s the ageing properties of the tea which means that its value can increase over time.

All puerh starts as a green tea, and depending on the processing and storage, it can ‘ferment’ and turn into what is referred to as ‘dark tea’. Only tea of this type produced in a specific area of China can be called Puerh, much like Champagne, or different cheeses, but they are also produced in other areas just across the border from Yunnan. It should also be made from large leaf varieties.

2019 Shou puerh

Puerh tea is essentially maocha which is compressed into the form of a cake – bing cha, a bowl shape – tuo cha, or a brick shape, zhuan cha. There are two kinds of Puerh tea, the green type is a raw tea – sheng cha, and the dark type is an artificially fermented tea – shu cha. The tastes are quite distinct, with sheng being like a green tea in its freshness, but without the umami of a green tea. It tends to have a stronger aftertaste, and the texture is denser. It can brew as more astringent, but this is controllable with brewing temperature and time. Shou or shu puerh has a more earthy flavour, forest floor after rain, maybe even fresh compost. There is also a third type which is aged for over five years, sometimes as long as several decades, developed from the first two types, and is much more expensive. There is a popular saying applied to Puerh tea – the longer it’s stored, the better it tastes, in other words, the older the better.

10 year old shou puerh – 1st infusion

Puerh tea made from older tea plants was valued more highly. Connoisseurs also differentiate between tea made from forest trees and that made from tea grown in terraces. Forest trees are generally much older, often over 100 years old, and are cultivated by ethnic minorities such as the Bulang and Hani. The price of forest tea was around four times that of terrace tea, largely because it was considered to come from a more ecologically healthy environment, and tasting better.

So, just from this small amount of information regarding the origin of a Puerh tea, you can see that it is extremely difficult to authenticate Puerh tea, and forgeries are common. In spite of this, it was continually celebrated. The price shot up, to its peak in 2007, and then dropped dramatically later that same year. Nowadays, investors are paying higher amounts for new teas produced in this way.

So going back to the age of the tree, there is a difference between the taste of tea from old and young trees, but also in the effect of the tea on the body – the concept of qi. Westerners are generally sceptical of this, and tend to think of qi as being something quite esoteric. If you have experience of acupuncture, you may be aware of the movement or spread of energy around the body, but puerh tea most certainly can have this effect – people describe a feeling of a hot wave running through your body, an energy. It can leave you feeling energised or relaxed, and the older the tree, the stronger the qi. I experienced this with my very first cup of puerh tea, and have searched for it ever since. Very difficult to explain or describe, but best understood through experience.

Referring back to the last blog, about brewing methods, puerh should always be brewed gong fu style, because Western brewing cools too quickly, and one misses out on the nuances of each flash brew of the tea. Some clay teapots are made specially for puerh, as the clay enhances the flavour of the tea.

We currently have two puerh tea cakes in the shop, plus a white tea cake. The sheng is a 2003 Yuanjiutang Ban Zhang, sourced through Tea Encounter. The Shou is a 2019 Nevermore cake, sourced through Crimson Lotus Tea, and the white is a Moonlight White tea, harvested from Zu Xiang’s organic tea garden in March 2017, and processed in early 2018. This is a minimally processed white, much like Fuding Bai Mu Dan, Gong Mei and Shou Mei. These are not on the website, but do get in touch if you are interested. We also have a wide range of puerh samples, and one day, we will be having tea tastings again.

References:

Eighty Degrees: The Culture of Tea, volume 8, p6

Jinghong Zhang: Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic. University of Washington Press

Eastern and Western style brewing

And why would there be a difference?

Brewing Basic Black Tea

For us at Seibiant, we very much vary our style of brewing, based on the tea which we are drinking, and who we are drinking it with. For example, you will find that if you have a basic black tea like a breakfast tea, or Earl Grey, we will brew it in a teapot. We will usually give it around three minutes to brew, before pouring it into a cup, with milk if you desire, and sugar if you must. So if you ask for a takeaway tea, that’s how we prepare it for you. This is the Western style of brewing – small amount of tea, to large amount of water, and a fairly long brew. This means that in general you can only brew the tea once. Teas that require a long infusion, like the fruit teas, are also brewed in this way, in a traditional teapot.

Victorian Blackware teapot – generally used at funerals and wakes –
note the Forget me Not flowers in the decoration

As for the milk and sugar, that is a tradition in the west because the quality of tea drunk here was so poor – and needed the addition of milk and sugar to soften the bitterness and harsh astringency of the tea! This history goes back to the early days of tea being imported, and the style of teapot varied according to the context in which the tea was being drunk. Tea was originally rare, expensive, reserved for the upper classes, and the long slow brewing of a small amount of tea, meant that it went further.

Western Style brewing – Carissa Tanton

Eastern Style Brewing – Gong Fu

Eastern style brewing, or Gong Fu brewing, consists of using a small teapot or gaiwan, anything from 80ml to 150ml, rarely any bigger, and infusing whole leaf tea multiple times for short lengths of time.  Depending on the style of leaf, the tea is usually drunk in smaller cups with no added ingredients.  

A range of brewing vessels

The large teapot with willow handle is from Northern Pots – click here to go to Will’s website. The little white one came back from Japan with Iwan and Carissa, and it’s a stunning little pot – tiny, with a mesh all around the inside – perfect!

So essentially, this method uses more tea to less water, a short steeping time, and the tea can be brewed multiple times. It allows for an extended tea drinking session, and is a better method for exploring the nuances in flavour that each subsequent infusion brings to the tea. This method is called Gong Fu brewing, with Gong Fu translating roughly as ‘skilled method’. It is a way of brewing suitable for those who really want to appreciate the flavour and health benefits (no added ingredients) of premium tea.  

For our tea, we recommend using the Eastern style of brewing, and this is always the method used at our tea tastings.  Most quality teas can be steeped several times and will change in flavour and character with each infusion.  This method gives tea drinkers the time to relax in peace or spend quality time with friends and family.  If you have never experienced the tradition of Asian-style tea making before, you will be delightfully surprised at just how relaxing and pleasurable it can be.

Processed with VSCO with a9 preset – gaiwan and teacups made by Crochendy Bethesda, especially for us
Small teapot which I use exclusively for shou puerh, as the clay tends to take on the flavour of the tea

The brewing method in these photos above, feature oolong and puerh teas, both Chinese teas. In Japan, the preferred method is the kyusu, shown below, but the houhin is also used. A houhin is a flatter style of gaiwan. An open bowl is used for gyokuro, and other good quality green teas, often ridged, and with a pouring spout – this is called a Shiboridashi.

This is an excellent article with great videos on the use of various Japanese brewing vessels – just click here to watch – the website is hojotea.com

So, if you’re in the shop, don’t hesitate to ask about our different brewing styles, we are more than happy to demonstrate for you – and one day, we may feel able to start tea tastings again!

Apologies – here comes the inevitable!

Price rises – we all know they’re coming, in all areas of our lives, from fuel for heating our homes, and running our cars, to food.

Here at Seibiant, we’ve managed to avoid price increases with most of our teas and coffees – it’s not that they haven’t happened, but more that we’ve managed to absorb them so that they aren’t impacting on you the consumer. We’re happy that we’ve managed to do that, after all, we need to keep tea and coffee affordable, and not go in for the massive profiteering that many retailers do.

Sadly, an unprecedented combination of price increases in different parts of the process, from raw material, packaging, labour, fuel, transportation has left us with no choice but to increase costs. Various things have impacted on this, ranging from climate change, Covid-19, and leaving the EU. Our suppliers have all absorbed the increases as far as they can, but now they are all having to pass those increases on to retailers. As you know, we buy a fair proportion of our teas direct from farmers, which really does keep many of the costs down, but where we buy from wholesalers, such as tea merchants, and coffee roasters, they are now having to pass the costs on.

As a result, the price of coffee to our wholesale partners have already gone up and we apologise for this. Coffee prices to Seibiant customers are at the moment still maintained at the same level, but at the next price increase, we will have no choice other than to pass this increase on to you.

With regard to tea, our main wholesaler is increasing charges from mid March. We have tried to order what we can at the lower price, but it is inevitable that prices will increase over the next few months.

You can mitigate against these increases by buying bulk and the website allows you to buy up to 500g of our most popular teas. Teas of course have a shelf life of a couple of years once we open the package but that gives you plenty of time to drink your tea. Some of the coffees are available online at 1kg, with a discount for this, but generally only for beans, just because of the shelf life of coffee once it’s been ground.

Showcasing my small business

Its not often that I do a blog that’s just focussed around the business side of things, rather than the tea or coffee side of things, but I’ve recently signed up for a business event, where the idea is that you take one thing that represents your business, and use that to showcase your business. So, forgive me if this comes across as not particularly business-like, but it is what it is!

The item which I think represents Seibiant is the tea plant, of which we have a few dotted around the shop, at home, and more recently, seeds germinating in Portugal. We do also have a coffee plant in the shop – which people often think is tobacco, but I bought as a coffee plant!

In 2016, I was keen to have a change in career, from nursing, to something which I felt I would be able to work at, for many years to come, despite my increasing age! I signed up for the shop in Conwy, before deciding what I was intending to do with it, but had a clear idea that I was interested in the provenance of our food, and in the whole #farmtofork movement. My first thought was to have a greengrocery, but that felt like too much hard work. A delicatessen was too expensive to set up – I was very much limited in my budget. Shifting the focus to what I enjoyed, we made the decision to specialise in tea and coffee. Initially, we were a cafe, and the focus was coffee, which we sourced locally from the many superb small roasteries, but we had no expert knowledge in tea at this point, and had to be guided by suppliers. There was some resistance in Conwy to yet another cafe, and the council came along in a few weeks and said we did not have the required planning permission. The options were to apply for planning permission, or to remove the tables and focus on being a shop. And the rest is history!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – photo by Morgan Charles

I well remember people standing outside the shop, saying that it would never last as it was far too specialist, but leap forward to today, and we are more specialised than ever, and that I believe is our USP – unique selling point.

We cater for a wide range of customers, from those who want rare, exclusive and quite frankly, luxury teas, to those who want basic looseleaf tea, to stop using teabags, or who want to explore the health benefits of different herbs and tisanes – in fact, we often have people coming into the shop to look for functional teas, which we can help with, so long as they’ve done their own research, as we are definitely not herbalists! We supply tea from both ends of this continuum, but the most fun for me is to be had from the rare and exclusive end of the range.

We set up the website and the webshop quite early on, which gave us a head start when the pandemic hit. We had previously attended a course at the North Wales Business Academy on Strategic Business Analysis, which was helpful in giving us a focus on where we wanted the business to be.

Sustainability has always been at the forefront of our minds here, and pre-Covid, we won awards for our green credentials. For me, sustainability has been about more than just single use plastics, and recycling, and bearing in mind our enormous carbon footprint as a result of world-wide sourcing of teas, we felt we had to go further than most small businesses in Wales in terms of sustainability.

So where does the tea plant comes in?

Tea is a seasonal product, and to be able to get the same tea, which tastes the same, all year round, requires the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and a business model which puts the tea picker at the bottom of the pile. The bush is harvested every three weeks, so pickers will be working continuously, with considerable pressure put on them to work. This also keeps the price to the consumer low and when we consider the number of middlemen involved, each taking their cut, the amount of money going to the farmer, and then the pickers, is minimal. The issues relating to living and working conditions for tea pickers around the world have been discussed in a previous blog, click here to read more. So where we can, we source our tea direct from farmers where the focus is on seasonality, and the expectation is that the tea will taste different depending on the time of year it was picked, from one year to the next. For example, our oolong farmer in southern China has recently started processing some of their tea as black tea, and naturally, it’s different this time from last time! Luckily the customers who choose this type of product expect this. The advantage to customers of my buying direct from farmers is that by cutting out the middleman, the tea trader, wholesalers etc, we can keep the price down – so still excellent quality, but also value for money. The downside of this however, is that we are vulnerable to logistical problems, which I have described in a previous blog post. Many of the farmers have changed shipping companies, resulting in huge price increases, but at least it means that my tea arrives in a timely manner, and within the same season.

Death Before Decaf, and other memes

We regularly have customers coming into Seibiant not aware that we actually sell coffee with no caffeine – and then amazed at the choice of decaf coffees that we actually sell! Most of the time, we aim to have at least two different ones, but two isn’t really a choice is it – so in general we stock 4 different decaffeinated coffees, both online and in the shop. Most coffee roasters will produce just the one decaf blend, and no single origin.

So let’s talk Decaf at Seibiant.

Before we start, let’s begin with how much caffeine there is in coffee …

The amount of coffee depends basically on how you brew it, and obviously the size of your drink. Let’s basically talk 8oz drinks to start with – an 8oz brewed coffee so the size of a flat white, contains 96mg of caffeine, a 1oz espresso contains 64mg, and instant coffee contains 62mg. Decaffeinated versions of these contain 2mg caffeine, but the espresso contains almost none. Lighter roasts have more caffeine than dark roasts.

There seems to be a culture at the moment, perpetuated by the likes of Instagram, of the world being driven by caffeine, that you need caffeine to be able to function, to hustle, and hashtags such as #DeathBeforeDecaf #coffeeholic (7million posts) #coffeeislove (343k posts) #coffeeaddicts (501k posts), seem to imply that caffeine is the only way that anything gets done. Often when I suggest a decaf to customers, their response is to shudder, and say ‘oh no, not decaf’!

There are health issues relating to caffeine, especially in excess; anxiety, insomnia, mood problems, and cardiac problems in those prone to this, but on the other hand, it is also known to be a cognitive enhancer, and there is this impression that “I drink coffee because I’m very very busy”.

Maybe now is the time to shun that pressure to perform; people seem to be rethinking the way they do things. We serve more coffees with oat milk than cow milk these days, herbal and decaffeinated teas are big sellers, the big takeaways are selling vegan food. I wonder if maybe we need to be thinking about slowing life down, taking time to relax, slow down, reset?

We currently (early February) have two decaf single origins from Dragon Roastery, a big bold Costa Rican, with taste notes of dark chocolate, almonds and blueberries. This is a seriously dark roast, but seems to be very popular, so you can click here to order. We also have the Brazil Santos as a decaf, plum, vanilla and dark chocolate for this one, click here to buy. From Rhyl based Mug Run Coffee Roasters we have an Indonesian decaf, the Sinabung, processed by the Giling Basah (semi-fermented) process. Tasting notes for this one are typically south east Asian – plum, caramel, black pepper, dark chocolate, roasted nuts and tobacco – click here! Last week, we took delivery of a brand new decaf from Caernarfon based Coffi Dre – a Mexican – always a popular coffee, and quite unusual. This one is decaffeinated using the Mountain Water Method, so worth a try to check out the difference! Tasting notes to follow shortly, but in the meantime, click here to order, but take note, this is already in short supply and I’m going to need to order more!

Part of the reason that decaf coffees have had a bad name is the processes used in the past – there was a time when chemicals were used, and these chemicals were known to be carcinogenic. These days, methods are much more natural and acceptable, and Mug Run have a great blog on their website describing in detail the Swiss Water Method, which is how all their decaf’s are decaffeinated.

Click here to read that blog.

There’s also the Mountain Water Method, which is a new one to me – more here about that method, and also the Sugarcane Method. If you want to try a coffee using this Sugarcane method, send me a message – it apparently makes a sweeter coffee, and I know where I can get some from.

New luxury teas from our Chinese Farmer

If you’re regular here, you’ll know that we have some excellent oolongs from our farmer in the Phoenix Mountains, and while we have never visited this area, and these mountains, we have found their teas to be consistently good, and frankly rather luxurious, and we trust them to supply us with excellent tea, at a fair price.

Ya Shi Xiang

Click here to find out more about Ya Shi Xiang, or to buy

Trading directly with the farmer like this means that the farmer gets all of the money which we pay, none of it goes to a middleman, unless that farmer is actually selling tea for another farmer in the same area – the Da Hong Pao is grown and processed by a neighbour, and sold by this farmer and his family. It also means that we can ask the farmer directly any questions which we have, about the varietal, the processing, the best way to brew the tea. That has proved to be very helpful with this latest batch of tea which we bought.

In general, my favourite teas are Chinese Black teas, and I’d seen on the farmer’s Instagram page that they were now producing black teas, so planned to order some with my next order from them. These arrived the first week back after Christmas, together with some other really unusual teas!

Hong Cha

Remember this one? This arrived before my Portugal trip in September, but like all good teas, it sold out pretty quickly. The next batch arrived this last week, and oh my, how sweet is this tea! I’m very tempted to change the name to something like Candy Bomb, just to give some kind of clue as to the taste, but so many other tea vendors have done that already, who wants to be the same as everyone else eh!

Hong Cha liquor – or Candy Bomb!

Click here to find out more or to buy

Hong Cha wet leaf

Bai Cha – literally, White Tea

This is a really unusual tea, a Dan Cong which is processed as a white tea. However, don’t make the same mistake as I did and brew it as a white tea, the flavour is just nondescript. You will know that Dan Cong refers to the older trees which are left to grow, resulting in deep roots, and a very pure sort of tea. They take some brewing! Dan Cong means literally ‘single bush’ and they grow primarily in the Phoenix Mountains. Because of the nature of the tree or bush, there is a minerality to the tea, and the aroma of the brewed tea is orchid, vanilla, creamy. Because of my failure to get any flavour from it, I messaged the granddaughter of the farmer, and asked her for the brewing parameters – her brisk reply was ‘just brew it like Dan Cong’. Ah ok, I see! So I brewed it hot, close to boiling, and there it was, the full flavour that you come to expect from a Dan Cong Oolong, except that this was white. It’s delicious, more like an oolong than a white tea, probably closer to a jade oolong than an roasted oolong, but delicious all the same. Try it, it’s worth it!

Click here to order or to find out more

Bai Cha
Bai Cha Dry leaf

This tea is from the Ya Shi Xiang varietal, but processed differently.

Bai Cha liquor – second infusion

Chou Shi

This tea is truly incredible – the name translates as ‘dehydrated’

This is the description that the farmer sent to me

“chou shi ya shi xiang (duck poop tea) The dry leaves smell reminds me of the smell of green Japanese teas.  The flavor is incredibly flowery with a powerful Magnolia taste dominating it.  There is a nice buttery taste and nice .  Not my favorite due to the incredible sweetness but a great choice for newcomers.  it is to stop oxidation by dehydration and you taste to the sweet light floral taste as Tie Guan Yin”

I find this tea delicious, not too sweet, and similar in it’s light florality to the classic Tie Guan Yin. The huge bright green leaves are stunning too.

Click here to find out more, or to order.

This is probably my favourite tea at the moment – I just can’t stop drinking it!

Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong – Lapsang Souchong

This is another black tea from the same farmer, and again, I’d seen their post on Instagram, and being a lover of Lapsang Souchong, I had to try it. Its pretty much unsmoked in its’ flavour, but it has a warm toasty flavour to it – typical of a lapsang souchong, less astringency than in the Hong Cha, but more flavour overall.

Click here to view or order.

Don’t forget to order, and leave a review if you try it.

Supply Chain Issues

If you’re a regular shopper here at Seibiant, either in person or online, you will probably be aware that we have a number of routes whereby we buy our teas. Where we can, we buy direct from farmers, because this is better for us, and better for the farmers and farm workers. This applies to our Japanese teas, the Assams, the oolongs. Where we haven’t been able to establish contact with farmers who can provide us with the quality we are looking for, we use large specialist wholesalers, tea merchants if you like, and this is the case especially for our ‘bulk’ teas, where we buy in large quantities, such as the breakfast teas, the Earl Greys, and the botanicals that we use for our own herbal blends. We need to have an efficient, effective set up, as we really don’t want to be running out of these teas. We also use specialist wholesalers who specialise in specific types of tea, such as the fruit tisanes, and the fine Chinese green teas, and some of the black teas, and also the Pu-erh teas.

Ryo Morisaku of Chaenmorifuku and Matsu-san of Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms

There are a number of issues which are significant with regard to the tea supply chain, seasonality, freshness, but also the impact on the whole tea industry of changes that are taking place. The combination of Covid-19 worldwide, and Brexit nationally, have had a huge impact on shipping in terms of cost and time, and we are getting to the stage where this is having a direct impact on some of our suppliers. The Chinese and larger Japanese suppliers have all switched to using DHL which has added hugely to the cost of transport but it does mean that we get tea quicker. In India currently there are huge problems with FedEx, which I believe is due to the impact of Covid-19, but it means that there are too few drivers, resulting in delays. I placed an order with the farm in Assam some weeks ago, but they replied saying that they had issues with FedEx, and would invoice me when this was sorted, and I have still not heard back from them. I continue to contact them weekly,

These shipping complications, and the increased costs make it tempting to rely on distributors to build the tea supply chain, but the extra layers of warehousing and shipping can make it nearly impossible to deliver tea in the season it was harvested. When traditional ocean shipping is backed up for months, only going direct to the source and leaning on expensive air shipping right now can preserve seasonality, and for us, with a limited market in a little corner of North Wales, we feel this is essential. Faced with a choice of what to cut in the face of rising costs, the tea industry should not cut service and quality from the supply chain. Instead, we can cut out the extra layers of distribution, even if that means taking more complexity onto the shoulders of the tea merchant.

There is a risk that buying tea from third party wholesalers removes the tea industry too far away from farmers. The urge to rely on distributors at shipping and import level means that there is an increase in the potential to lose access to fine teas completely, to lose those direct relationships with farmers, and equally significant, lose fresh seasonal teas, and lose customer relationships.

This blog began as a way of explaining the difficulties we and our farm friends in Assam are facing currently, but has ended up being an honest and transparent explanation of the difficulties in the tea trade currently. Education has always been part of our role at Seibiant, and this is no different.

Portugal – Tea Tasting and other things

Seibiant will be closed for two weeks, while I have my first holiday for years!

If you’ve been following us on our social media platforms, you’ll be aware that Iwan and Carissa, who have both worked at Seibiant in the past, have moved to Portugal, where they are living off grid, growing grapes, making wine, growing olives, generally living the dream. Next year, they hope also to be growing tea.

Take a look at their YouTube channel, and subscribe and like, to help support them. You can also support them by giving them a Ko-fi and join their Patreon, for early videos and other treats.

Click https://www.youtube.com/c/FrankieOnTheRoad to follow them and see their videos (remember Frankie the Sausage Dog?)

Naturally, we will be drinking lots of tea, and thought it would be a lovely idea to take you along with us, and share the tea with you.

The teas that we plan to share are available on the website, under Portugal Tea Tasting – Tea Flight

Click here to order or view, this includes all 5 teas, for £9.95.

Being fans of Japanese teas, we have a few of those on the list, but we also have our very newest Chinese black tea, Hong Cha. This is made by our Chinese farmer family who make our dark oolongs. I think the black – or red – teas are a fairly new venture for them, and I recently discovered that they also make a Lapsang Souchong, which is definitely on my list for my next order! Those of you who know me, will know that Lapsang Souchong was my ‘gateway drug’ into good tea.

Click here to view or buy Hong Cha

Hong Cha
Hong Cha

You can tell I have a new phone that takes much better close up photos! See those twisty leaves and the red tips?

When I asked Iwan what tea he was missing most, he replied ‘Hojicha’ so I’m taking two different ones, last year’s Dark Roast Hojicha from Obubu, and Ryo’s Houjicha Charcoal Fire from this year – you’ll remember that Ryo is our favourite organic tea farmer from Wazuka, who also makes our incredible white tea. Both of these hojicha are in our flight of tea, and the plan would be to have a comparative tasting of them.

Take a look – click here to take a look at the Dark Roast, and here for Ryo’s charcoal roasted one.

Ryo’s white tea is here – well worth a try, but it’s not coming to Portugal – might be worth taking advantage of our holiday 10% discount though! Use the code HOLIDAY10 on the checkout page.

We’re also drinking Kukicha – the green one, and I’m looking forward to getting to know that one better – strangely it’s a tea that I rarely drink, but when I do, I always wonder why it’s not a regular.

Click here to find out more about kukicha.

The last tea which we will feature is the Pine Needle Wakoucha, again from Obubu. This is a rare black tea from Japan, I gather there are more farmers producing it now than there have been, but it’s well worth taking for a taste in the sun. I always get excited about Wakoucha because it’s one of the teas I made while I was in Japan in 2018.

Click here to find out more about the Pine Needle Wakoucha.

So, the shop will be closed from Sunday 6 September, until Wednesday 22 September. The sharp eyed among you will have seen that we have a special offer on the website for the duration of my break – use the code HOLIDAY10 to get 10% of any online orders and they will be fulfilled on my return.

We’re not sure yet how we’ll work the online tea tastings, maybe instagram live, or IGTV, but keep a close eye on our social media, and we’ll let you know – much depends on wifi in the wilds!

See you soon – and keep sipping!

Summer Teas and Coffees

So Tuesday was summer here in Conwy, and we took advantage and started selling iced tea and iced coffee in the shop. So many of you have been interested to hear how we make them, so I said I would do a blog about them.

Peach Melba

This year, Peach is the flavour of the summer, so we have two different new peach fruit tisanes, Peach Melba which is frankly an odd tea, bright orange, very sweet to start with, but this mellows to a delicious caramel flavour the longer you brew your tea for- so ideal for iced tea.

Click here to order Peach Melba

The other is Miami Ice, and being a child of the ‘70s, I struggle with the name of this having been a Miami Vice fan – so corny! The tea however is amazing, much more tart than the first, with lots of berries, hibiscus, papaya and apple.  The peach flavour is just that, a natural flavouring which is there in the aroma, but less so in the actual brew.

Miami Ice

It works really well as an iced tea, and gives you the option to sweeten with a syrup or leave that touch of tartness.  So far, people are split 50/50 between these two teas, and even children often prefer the less sweet one.

Click here to order Miami Ice

When I brew a fruit tisane for iced tea, I brew double the usual quantity of the fruit, and leave it to steep for at least 20 minutes, often up to 2 hours, before straining the fruit off, and keeping the drink in the fridge once it’s cold enough.  It keeps for a couple of days quite safely, if it lasts that long.

Serve over lots of ice, with fruit, a sprig of mint, slice of peach, and a jaunty straw.

Of course, pretty much any of our fruit tisanes work really well as iced teas, but especially the Rhubarb Spritzer, Strawberries and Cream, and Turkish Apple.

On the more classy side, we also serve Mizudashi, which is a cold brewed green tea.  This is a popular drink in Japan, and is a delicious way of drinking green tea – it also works well with white teas, really bringing out the sweetness of the tea. By next year we hope to have been able to age some white tea, so when brewed cold, that is amazing – you have to taste it to believe it!  We use the glass tea infuser to brew this, but you can also use a jug, and strain the infusion off when it has brewed enough. We use Ryo’s Sencha,  but you can also do this with Hojicha or Genmaicha.

Click here to order a Glass Infuser

Click here to order one of Ryo’s Senchas

Click here to order Hojicha

Click here to order Genmaicha

Glass Drinks Infuser
Photo Credit – The Venetian Pantry

Cold Brew coffee always goes down a treat, and ours is no exception. There are numerous recipes for cold brew coffee, ranging from the concentrated type, to pulling an espresso over ice cubes – which isn’t cold brew. We brew ours in a cafetiere/French press, with 90-100g of reasonably finely ground coffee, then fill the cafetiere with cold water, give it a stir, put the lid on and leave it – I tend to leave it for 16-18 hours, any longer and it becomes more bitter, but either way, it is much gentler than a hot coffee.  Next step is to strain the liquid through a filter; I use the v60 dripper and filter paper, but you can use a teatowel, fabric handkerchief (does anyone still have those?) and this is where you have to be patient. It can take a while to drip through your filter, but you’re left with a delicious black coffee, which keeps for up to 7 days in the fridge.  You can serve it as it is over ice, or with any type of milk, and a syrup for a special treat.

Click here to order a v60 dripper and here for filter papers

Click here to see our coffee servers

With almond milk and a splash of hazelnut syrup

Experiment, have fun and don’t forget to tag us in your iced brews @seibiant_conwy ! Happy Summer!