Transparency of tea prices

On my quest for Darjeeling this year, I came across Tee Kampagne. The company was set up in Berlin in 1985 and deals exclusively with Darjeeling loose tea. They reduce packaging and shipping costs by selling in large quantities, online, directly to consumers. What impresses me most is the transparency of the costs and margins. I have not seen this level of disclosure by any other tea company.

Disclosure of Calculation - Tee Kampagne

Disclosure of Calculation – Tee Kampagne (Source)

Their 2014 first flush will only available in August. I’m not sure why it’s so late but from what I’ve read it will be worth the wait.

Tea Makers

I’ve been struggling for a while to make up my mind if I like the idea of electric tea makers (such as the Sage by Heston Blumenthal) or not. On the pro side, tea makers are usually designed around temperature and steep-times and so promote the importance of these factors (which are overlooked by so many). On the other side, I believe that preparing tea is more than just the end result and that the process of making it is part of its lure. This lure is diminished by a machine that does it all for me.

As an analogy, I have a bread-maker that is timed to rest, knead, rise and bake bread throughout the night. I love that it sends the aroma of fresh baked bread through the house in the morning but as with the tea-maker, you could say that I’m missing out on all the fun by using a bread-maker. That argument doesn’t fly with me because I find no joy in kneading and punching and waiting. For me bread-making is all about the end result and in contrast to tea-making, the more the machine can do the happier I am.

So for anyone considering buying a tea-maker I think the key question is; are they interested only in the end result or do they like the ritual of making tea. Mrs Doyle explains this concept better than me:


Tea for Children

child tea withdrawal

Me aged four with a definite look of caffeine withdrawal!!

Growing up I was sent to school every day with a 500ml flask of black tea. The tea was left in the flask so it steeped for about 4 hours before I got to it! A conservative estimate would put my caffeine intake at about 215mg. Most studies suggest that children should limit daily caffeine consumption to 2.5 mg per kg body weight. High caffeine intakes (i.e. >5 mg per kg body weight) are associated with an increased risk of anxiety and withdrawal symptoms (see photo right!). I was getting at least three times my daily allowance but it’s unclear what exactly are the cumulative affects of stimulants on a developing brain. Wikipedia reassures me that there is no evidence that coffee stunts a child’s growth but a 2010 review study by Temple was concerned about the “particular areas of the brain involved in executive function, impulsivity control, and planning”.

A UK study, compared diets for children in 1950 with those of children of roughly the same age in 1992-93. In the 1950s, 55% of four-year-olds drank tea with their meals while just 10% had soft drinks and juice. The consumption of soft drinks and fruit juices rose to 90% for soft drinks and 36% for fruit juices in 1992. During the same period the consumption of tea dropped to 30%.  Since the nineties though the situation is turning around again with a decrease in the consumption of soft drinks for children and a correlated increase in tea and coffee. Similar studies in the US are showing the same trends with coffee increasing from 10% in 2000 to 24% in 2010 while tea remains steady at ~25%.

To avoid this flip-flopping between sugar and caffeine, maybe it’s time to consider herbal teas that are naturally sweet without the added sugar and sometimes helpful for minor ailments:

Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit (source)

Ginger: This tastes warm and will sooth upset stomachs and help with nausea and car sickness.

Chamomile is a mild sedative that is also considered to be a colic-remedy.

When Peter Rabbit was not very well during the evening, his mother put him to bed, and made some chamomile tea “One table-spoonful to be taken at bedtime.”

Rooibos: the south African plant is renowned for its soothing and calming effects especially on allergic and colicky babies.




Quick disclaimer: I am not a medical herbalist. Always check with a doctor before using herbs.

Tea Flavour Wheel

Similar to the wheels used for wine or beer, the aim of the tea flavour wheel is to associate perception with a label. In general, they are much easier to use than an alphabetical list but the full  list of tea terminology can be off-putting for beginners (e.g. cherry wood, cedar, hard wood, soft wood, cut wood, pine, maple).

For this reason I’ve developed the wheel below. We work from the inside out. The innermost circle in this wheel has words that relate to mouthfeel (watery, velvety etc.). The inner aroma circle has a broad description (vegetal, earthy, sweet etc), and the outer circle has a little more detail.

I’ve found that this level of detail works well when people are starting out with tea tasting.

Tea Flavour Wheel PouringTea

The Art of Tea

The Art of Tea collectionNormally, I’m all about quality of product rather than appearances but every so often that gets turned on its head. Take this set called “The Art of Tea” which was bought in South Africa. I’ve been reluctant to actually use any of the product inside but the primary motivation for buying this set was the attractive packaging.

Having said that tea degrades over time. Even though I didn’t buy it for the tea, it makes no sense to search high and low for the freshest first flush Darjeeling with the quickest shipping time and yet keep all of these (including one Darjeeling!) for over two years. It’s getting opened today, starting with the rooibos.

 Here’s what’s inside:AofT collection

  • Kenya Malaika (black)
  • Darjeeling (Indian black)
  • Genmaicha (Japanese green)
  • Jade Mountain (Chinese green)
  • Snow buds (Chinese white)
  • Jasmine pearls (Chinese flavoured green)
  • Earl Grey (Indian flavoured black)
  • Sakura (Chinese flavoured green)
  • Chai (flavoured black)
  • Sweet dreams (herbal)
  • Rooibos vanilla
  • Forest berries (fruit infusion)

It can be difficult to get tea gifts that are well packaged but this one certainly stands out. I think I paid around 200 ZAR (around €20 at the time) for the box. Good value considering anything similar that I’ve seen here costs double that.

Photos from Spain

My blog (and my tea drinking) have been badly neglected for the 10 days I was in Spain. Not a decent cup of tea the entire trip but it’s hard to bear a grudge in a such a beautiful country and there was plenty of good food and wine to make up for the lack of tea.

We started off the trip in Mérida, capital of the Roman province of Lusitania and renowned for some of the best preserved Roman sites in Spain.

Roman Theatre - Merida Acueducto de los Milagros - Merida
Goats - Spain

We met some goats on the road.

We couldn’t decide from the guidebook description if we had been to Trujillo before. We had, but didn’t regret the second visit. Then we continued on to another World Heritage site, Guadalupe.


View over Trujillo

Building Trujio


After that we spent some time on a farm in the Sierra de Andujar National Park….

Cat - Sierra de Andujar Horse - Sierra de Andujar
Sheep - Sierra de Andujar Goat vs Lamb

….where the horses eat Lavender for breakfast:

Horse & Lavendar

In Castilla–La Mancha, we stopped in the theatre-town of Almagro  and visited Don Quixote’s windmills.

Courtyard - Spain Plaza Mayor - Almagro

Don Quixote's windmills

And finally the trip finished in Cazorla National Park where the birds of prey seemed particularly eager to keep an eye on us.


Such a beautiful country – I’d happily give up tea for another 10 days to do the trip all over again.


Puer Tea of Yunnan

The pressure is on this week and the chances of getting a proper blog post written are slim to none so I leave you with this interesting video on Puer Tea of Yunnan. I’m away in Spain next week so Part 2 of the documentary will be published in my absence and then it will be back to blog posts as usual. ;-)

Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Hooks, Helps and Hurts

Murray Carpenter approaches caffeine as a drug because most of us take it every day, it has predictable physiological effects and we are dependent on it. His new book Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Hooks, Helps and Hurts (Hudson Street Press) was launched on 13 March and sounds like it will make for a very interesting read:

  • Women on birth control metabolize caffeine twice as slowly—which means they get double the jolt from the same cup of coffee
  • Smokers metabolize it twice as fast so they needto up their intake to get the same buzz
  • Some people are genetically predisposed to metabolize caffeine slowly and they will be extremely sensitive to caffeine
  • 100 milligrams of caffeine daily is enough to get an adult dependent
  • 250ml of cola has ~24mg of caffeine but Coke used to contain ~80mg of caffeine (the same as Red Bull today)
  • Caffeine withdrawal-symptoms can include lethargy, irritability and headaches
  • Post-operative headaches are linked to caffeine withdrawal
  • Migraine, hangover and cold medicines often include caffeine and caffeine suppositories can be used medicinally
  • Extroverts get more cognitive enhancement from caffeine
  • A tablespoon of pure caffeine would kill you
Caffeinated Owls - Dave Mottram (Image Source)

Caffeinated Owls – Dave Mottram (Image Source)


As I previously wrote, there have been several papers written on the effect of caffeine on sleep disruption and even more papers written on the positive and negative effects of caffeine on other health issues. A major problem in this type of research is that the papers tend to use very different values for the caffeine content in beverages and foods  and most ignore the effects of other substances like theobromine, tanninic acid, caffeol etc.

For tea in particular it can be hard to pin down the precise caffeine content. Preparation plays a large role and differences in the time and temperature of steepings, the size of the tea leaf and the type of tea used will all influence the caffeine content of tea. The plant variety, soil, nutrients, picking season and the part of plant used will also play a role.

After a lot of searching, I eventually collected some reliable information on the caffeine content of tea.

[Note: moderate caffeine use is generally considered to be 200 – 300 milligrams per day]


Tea (~200ml after one steeping of three minutes)

Chinese white tea – 75mg

Darjeeling white – 56mg

Indian Green – 59mg

Kenyan Green – 58 mg

Chinese Oolong (Ti Kwan Yin) – 37mg

Assam (FTGFOP) – 86mg

Darjeeling Black (SFTGFOP1) – 54mg


For comparison here are some for coffee and other beverages:

Coffee (~200ml)

Coffee (ground roasted) – 115mg

Coffee (instant) – 80mg

Cola – 20mg

Decaffeinated coffee – 4mg

Espresso, single shot – 75mg

Espresso, double shot – 150mg

Red Bull (250ml can) – 80mg



70% Green and Black dark chocolate (30g) – 4.5mg

Green and Black milk chocolate (30g) – 2mg

White chocolate (30g) – 0mg

Painting with tea (and coffee)

Using tea to create works of art is not a new concept but Gerard Tonti’s work with tea and coffee is extraordinary.


The painting below used espresso, rooibos, butterfly pea tea, matcha and chrysanthemum tea. More of his paintings can be seen on the Almart website.

MorningCup - Gerard Tonti

Gerard Tonti Tea Art [Image Source – Almart Fine Art Publishing]