Tea, Camellia sinensis, is one of the most amazing plants used by humans. There are few foods that offer up such a wide variety of flavors from a single part of the plant (the leaves) with a single preparation method (steeping in hot water).
People have used the tea plant as a drink for thousands of years, but it still retains an air of mystery. There are five general varieties of tea: white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. The difference comes from how old the leaves are when they are picked and how they are dried or processed.
For example, the white teas are made from young buds and new leaves that are gently steamed and dried – the least processed form of tea. White tea flavor can be sweet and light, and it is very low in caffeine.
Black tea, on the other hand, is made from a variety of more mature leaves, and is dried and oxidized with temperature and humidity before it is dried. Black tea flavor can vary greatly with handling differences, but it will undoubtedly be stronger in flavor than it’s white tea sibling.
Alice Cravens, chef / owner of Modern Tea is curating the Tea Taste Pavilion and is looking forward to the opportunity to reach a broad audience of tea lovers, “I’m excited about it because it’s really hands on.” Alice describes the layout of the event as “podular” with up to seven people per table brewing, smelling, learning about, and tasting the entire range of tea possibilities. “What’s wonderful about it is that it’s a chance to have so much stimulation and connect with ourselves” through the tea.
A wide range of tea experts will be presenting their favorite varieties, including David Lee Hoffman. David was one of the original Westerners who actually snuck into China and connected with tea farmers, becoming one of the first Western tea experts. He will be joined by tea masters from Silk Road Teas, Rishi Teas, Teance, Imperial Tea Court and many others.
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In addition to the wide variety of teas, people will have a chance to experience different tea brewing methods, from western style teapots and professional tasting cups to classic Chinese gaiwan sets.
Cravens writes in her blog: “We are coming from the viewpoint that tea is probably one of the most original slow foods. Not necessarily because we sip it slowly, but because the most memorable cups of tea are the ones that connect – connect you to the past, to the earth, to the weather, to the grower.”
Enjoy this opportunity to sip, smell, and experience one of nature’s uniquely simple gifts.
Chef / Ecologist Aaron French is the Environment Editor at Civil Eats. He is the chef of The Sunny Side Cafe and is writing his first book "The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook" (Voyageur Press, 2011). He has a Masters in Ecology and is currently working toward his MBA at UC Berkeley, with a focus on sustainable business practices. Read more >
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