Tea is second only to water as the most consumed beverage in the world. In the United States, however, coffee and soda still trump tea in the rankings. The market for tea is growing stateside, and companies like Teavana, Argo Tea, and Capital Teas have emerged to bring tea to the mainstream consumer.
LivingSocial teamed up with Capital Teas to offer a tea tasting at the former’s headquarters at 918 F Street. The tea company’s founder and the Vice President of Retail Operations gave us the background on five unique tea blends: a green, an oolong, a Darjeeling, an Earl Grey, and a chamomile tea. They also were kind enough to offer us an iced green tea in celebration of the nice weather that week.
Capital Tea’s founder has had a colorful career path, initially working in the military on submarines and then becoming a lawyer. His wife (and co-founder) comes from four previous generations of tea makers, and, in 2007, they decided to open up their own tea shop. Ethical sourcing of its teas is important to the company, and they offer many organic teas, blends, and herbal infusions.
All “real” tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Colloquially, herbs steeped in hot water are referred to as “teas,” but they are actually “tisanes.” The processing of the tea leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant is what creates the white, green, and black teas. The tea leaves are picked at various times throughout the year, with each harvest creating a different flavor profile than the previous flush.
Additionally, the more oxidation that occurs in processing the tea, the higher the caffeine content. Almost all herbal teas are naturally decaffeinated, but if you are looking for the flavor of a black tea–which has the highest amounts of caffeine–without all the jitters, you can remove most of the caffeine from your teabag during its first infusion, or steeping. While it is common for Americans to dispose of a teabag after a single use, the bags can be reused to brew additional cups of tea containing less caffeine.
In addition to the wealth of information we received about the background and manufacturing of tea, we learned about pairing teas with appropriate foods, similar to wine pairings. All the participants were given two scones, one savory and the other sweeter. The black teas paired well with the sweet scone, while the green tea was best suited for bringing out the more savory flavors.
We left the event with a better understanding of tea, as well as a couple of take-home gifts from Capital Teas. It was a fun and educational experience. LivingSocial is still offering this tasting experience with dates available for attendance through May.
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