Did you know that all tea comes from the same evergreen plant? Or that the phrase “herbal tea” is an oxymoron?
Steve Schwartz is a master tea blender and the Founder of Art of Tea, a handcrafted tea purveyor based in Los Angeles. Steve has traveled around the world cultivating relationships with farmers and became enamored with the homeopathic effect plants can have on the body and mind. His drive and passion for expanding people’s knowledge of tea is captivating. By combining herbs and botanicals to create unique wellness and flavor profiles, Steve and his team have been able to build a brand that’s garnered national acclaim and awards. In this workshop, Steve will take you through a brief history of tea, what differentiates tea types when all tea comes from the same plant, why steep time and temperature matter when making the perfect cup of tea and more. You will come out of this class one step closer to becoming a tea master.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Crystal Bryant - Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Crystal Bryant. I am senior vice president, chief of staff and chief administrative officer at First Republic. Thank you all for joining us here today for "Become a tea expert with Art of Tea." Today, we're very pleased to welcome Steve Schwartz, a master tea blender and the founder of Art of Tea, a handcrafted tea purveyor based in Los Angeles. Steve has traveled around the world, cultivating relationships with farmers and became enamored with the homeopathic effect plants can have on the body and mind. He has a true drive and passion for expanding people's knowledge of tea. By combining herbs and botanicals to create unique wellness and flavor profiles, Steve and his team have built a brand that's garnered national acclaim and awards. Steve, we're thrilled to have you here today with us.
Steve Schwartz - It's an honor to be here.
Crystal - Oh, thank you Steve. Just a couple of housekeeping items before I turn it over to Steve. If you'd like to submit a question or comment to Steve during the webinar, please use the Q&A feature on the bottom of your screen. And recording of this webinar will be available in a week's time on our website. Steve, we're very happy to have you here. I'll turn it over to you. Please take it away.
Steve - Great. Well, thank you all so much for joining me today and taking some time out of your day to learn more about tea. I always say that I'm more addicted to learning about tea than I am drinking it because there's just, there's so much to learn. And so what I hope today, just so that we all feel comfortable and confident with what we're going to be doing, is we're going to be traveling a bit around time and traveling a bit around the world, really starting to uncover and unpack what we know of as tea. And before we do that, what I'm really curious about is from you, when you think of that simple three letter word, tea, what for you comes to mind? Now there's no right or wrong answer here, it really is just trying to get an idea of, you know, do you think of it, you know, in terms of function or flavor, location, what for you comes to mind when you think of tea? So I see some of these answers coming in. I see. "Calming effects," "Peace," "Grandmother," right, so there's lineage, there's, you know, there's heritage being passed on, "Growing botanicals, "Taste," "relaxation," "soothing," "health," "at the moment healing," "comfort," "a coffee replacement," "flavor," "balance," "relaxing," "calm," "earthy," "soothing comfort," "rose-pattern porcelain," "weight loss," "peace," "location meaning Ireland and England," "simplicity," "memories, nice warm relaxing beverage." And, again, location, very British, right. Maybe there's some ritual involved in that as well. So all these are amazing, amazing answers, amazing feedback. "Oolong," it's a very particular style of Camellia sinensis or tea. Beautiful, thank you so much for taking the time to give this feedback. Here's some of the feedback that I heard, I heard that, you know, yes, there's this function of wellness and soothing and relaxation. At the same time, there's energy and there's, you know, something that helps wake us up, whether it's a breakfast tea or whether it's a location that has to do with Britain or Ireland.
Pre call we were talking about, you know, even visiting certain parts of Europe and maybe how they will unpack tea and how they'll discover tea. Or even visiting a local coffee shop and how tea may play an important part of our ritual or daily life. So isn't it amazing that this one beverage that we know of as tea can really check all the boxes, right. Where it could be calming and soothing, and at the same time, it could be energizing and could be uplifting. It can help heal. It can help with creating solace and joy. It can help with connectivity, whether it's, you know, winding down and creating that simplicity that was mentioned in one of the comments. It can help, you know, elevate a mood, elevate a conversation. There's business transactions that have been had over tea. This timeless beverage that has really impacted our world and our society is really the first energy drink of our time. So before monster, before Red Bull, before any of this really hit the scene, even before coffee was shared globally around the world tea was that first energy drink. And it was discovered about 5,000 years ago by a monk, a philosopher, healer, a king of the time. And what he was doing was he was boiling his water, and after he boiled his water, he let the water cool. So he took his pot of boiling water, placed it on a window sill, and as it was cooling, wind picked up, which, you know, being based here in L.A., I think we can all relate, there was tons of wind that was happening over the past few days, so there was a wind picked up, blew a tea leaf in the air, landed in this pot of cooling water. Not wanting to waste the water, he decided to drink this water and he claimed its healing elixir.
Now you might be thinking, "All right, one leaf, like could one leaf in a giant pot "really make that big of an impact?" Well, you know, we're so inundated with information and we're so inundated with technology and with food consumption and it just, you know, energy consumption that maybe we're not as sensitive, maybe we're a bit more desensitized, but this was the first time that we're able to really feel this biofeedback uplifting effect from something in nature that is found within tea. So he decided it is, as a human citizen, his responsibility to share this with the world. So he decided to start sharing it, and word got out that this amazing thing called cha or what we know of as tea really started to be broadcasted a around the area, and then shared. In fact, it was carried by camelback. And what would happen is these fresh green tea leaves were carried by camelback and they were brought over into Europe, and only the royalty could enjoy this. So it would take months at a time throughout these, you know, silk trading routes. And, in fact, tea was traded. Here we are, you know, joining together over First Republic, but one of the first forms of commerce was actually tea. In fact, the first book ever written on tea was called "Cha Jing", right. Cha-ching! So cha meaning tea and ching meaning the way, right, so the way or the path of tea. So tea was packed sometimes in these little tightly wound, almost like little nests or or it was packed in these large sacks and they were traded, right, because maybe you have wheat and this other person has wool, but, you know, tea is something that we can all agree on that, you know, we can drink it to help keep us warm and provide a restorative broth, or it's something that we could just continue to trade as a form of commerce.
As it was brought by camelback each night, the travelers would light a campfire. The smoke would then permeate these sacks of leaves, and over time, the leaves would start to get this more charred flavor profile. So these fresh green tealeaves that have been harvested and now months at a time being brought over into Europe, the flavor profile was no longer green, it was this dynamic, smoky, roasted, sultry brew that we know of as, today, we would consider it more of a black tea or a Lapsang souchong, a more of a smoked sort of tea. But all true tea comes from Camellia sinensis. So some of you may have in front of your homes or in front of your office buildings or wherever it might be camellia bush, right, its Camellia sinensis is still part of that same Camellia family. But one of the things that makes Camellia sinensis so dynamic is it has, it's actually one of only like four or five botanicals that we know that naturally has caffeine. So coffee, cacao, Camellia sinensis, now we know it's tea, right, Yerba Mate and there's like one, or one or two other botanicals that we know that naturally has caffeine, but we just can't consume it. But we know scientifically under microscope, that it has those proponents to it. In other words, found within nature, this unique combination. But one of the things that makes tea also so special and unique is that it has within the leaf itself properties that combat the negative side effects of caffeine. And we'll get into that a little bit later, because that's an interesting topic that I want us to unpack together. But let's talk, let's dive a little bit deeper about tea, and I'm going to make a brief comparison to wine. So let's say you're a wine lover, and now, depending on the type of grape that's used to make that wine.
Now, if you go to local farmer's market, you can find pink grapes, and now you can find cotton candy grapes, you can find, which my kids love, you could find Merlot, you could find green grapes, champagne grapes, all these different varieties of grapes. Now, depending on the type of grape that's used and where it's from and how it's harvested, time of day, time of year, terroir, soil conditions, all these things go into making an amazing glass of wine. Not only to mention that, you know, how is it stored? Is it in an oak barrel, or is it in stainless steel container? So all these play in making a delicious glass of wine. But they're all grapes, right, they're all part of that grape family. So in the same way, all true tea comes from Camellia sinensis, so white, green, oolong pu-erh, black tea they all come from Camellia sinensis. So, you know, this is where it depends on origin. So a green tea coming from Fujian Province in China, or green tea coming from Africa or Southern Japan versus Northern Japan, you might have very different flavor profiles as well as the heating elements that they're using and the varietals of Camellia sinensis. So there are, I'm going to get a little scientific, a little geeky here, but you basically have three major varietals of Camellia sinensis, you have; Camellia sinensis sinensis; Camellia sinensis assamic and Camellia Sinensis cambod. You don't have to memorize that, I'm just telling you just like the grapes, imagine three major bundles of grapes and then thousands of subvarieties. So when it comes to tea of thousands of sub varieties of Camellia sinensis. And some of them are crossbred to help fight against, you know, pests, so for pest resistance. Some of it's more for the sensitivity and the flavor profile, the delicacy of it that's used specifically for white or green teas. And some of it's more for heartier brew, those really rich, sultry brews, the, biscuity, you know, fresh baked bread-style teas that you might get out of like a breakfast blend. And we'll get into what is a breakfast blend, right. So, but all these different varieties make these different variations of white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. So now the question is, if it's not from Camellia sinensis, then what is it?
So the answer is it's not a tea, delicious chamomile, amazing, love chamomile, love lemongrass, love Rooibos, you know, hibiscus, lemon myrtle, I mean, I can go on and on, there's tons of beautiful, amazing botanicals, but they're not a tea. And, in fact, they're in a totally different category called tisane. And tisane is a fancy French word that basically means botanical. So you could take it, you can, you know, take the beautiful chamomile blossoms, our chamomile blossoms, we have air-dried, you know, they're basically air-dried on the boat. We take it, we freeze it for about three weeks to really lock in the freshness. And then we hand sort through each chamomile blossom, just to make sure that you're the freshest and the best chamomile possible. It's a intensive effort, but you end up drinking something that tastes more like honey and oatmeal just really, you know, delicate and beautiful. So you have Camellia sinensis and you have tisanes. These are the major categories. Now that I've established some of background on tea, I just want to, kind of, give you a little bit of background on myself and Art of Tea, just so we can establish a bit more trust and hopefully some authority in this conversation. So my name, again is, Steve Schwartz, I'm the founder of Art of Tea. We are a tea company based in Los Angeles, California. My background is in Ayurveda. Ayurveda, for some of you that may have heard of this, or maybe this is a weird foreign word, it's a system of healing and medicine based out of India. It dates back, you know, some say over 10,000 years and it incorporates food combining and herbology and yoga, meditation, and, you know, all sorts of different therapeutics that are incorporated in Eastern and Western medicine.
And the way that I found that was, dating myself a bit, but I started, you know, when I finished high school back in the mid-'90s, I got a full paid scholarship to go to college. And my mom got sick, she got diagnosed with brain cancer, and I ended up moving out of college and moving back in with her. And I took care of her for about 10 months. And we went from one treatment to the next, one doctor to the next, and there's nothing wrong with allopathic medicine, it just didn't work for my mom, it didn't work for our family. And so after she passed, I realized, "Gosh, you know, cancer must have been around "for thousands of years, "we only just recently labeled it as cancer." So I wanted to help understand myself a little bit better, my body, my biofeedback, to things that I'm consuming. I wanted to help my family, I wanted to help my community, I wanted help, you know, humanity at large. And I didn't want to stick needles in people, I didn't want to be a doctor, I didn't want to be a massage. There's nothing wrong with any of those, I just wasn't, it just didn't resonate with me. And I came from a, you know, a family of physical therapists, doctors in psychology, and family therapists, just. But I found this system of wellness called Ayurveda, and while I was studying, I was chosen as the only student advanced enough to work with the masters at my school and how to blend, how to source botanicals. And this is before the internet really took off. So I was responsible for sourcing, faxing, you know, companies overseas, or, you know, placing phone calls at like $2 and something a minute. And I remember I was on a phone call with someone, a supplier, and I said, "I need to order some ginkgo, "and I need it right away please." And he said, "Sir, would you like it on an eastern slope "or a western slope next to a river?" And I said, "It doesn't matter I just need ginkgo." He said, "No, sir, it does matter. "And you need to come here yourself and experience it." So I was intrigued.
I saved up my money, I worked four different jobs from, you know, waiting tables, cleaning houses, working at school, studying, but I wanted to save up my money so I can travel around the world and find the best teas and botanicals possible. So I had no idea that I was going to start a tea company. I just knew that I was a huge tea nerd and into it, and I started bringing stuff back in my backpack. I was basically smuggling tea, you know, over 18 years ago, and, you know, I started bringing stuff back, and started blending different botanicals and different teas together. And then I caught the attention of a chef, Wolfgang Puck, and then a hotel called Shutters on the Beach, and then I trained the first tea sommelier in the United States at Caesar's Palace. And so we really established our name, I'd say more in the hospitality space. And it's fun, it's a great ride, we have a amazing, incredible team., that's still helping with, you know, we're still vertically integrated, we're bringing our botanicals and teas in all over the world. But that's a little bit of history on me. Okay. Back to tea. So if all true tea comes from Camellia sinensis, then why are there these different veins of tea? Why are these different sort of avenues that people can go through when it comes to tea? So the first is white tea. So white tea is picked and dried, that's it, that's the process that white goes through. There are several major varieties of white tea, but the two that I'd love to touch on is, silver needle. And the get the same silver needle because it's got a long sword-shape distinction. And so what ends up happening is very high quality tea is typically hand harvested, and the reason is because you're able to go in without actually bruising the leaf.
So around this period of time, late, you know, mid to late spring, there's a first flush that starts to kick in. And what I mean by that is, imagine this Camellia sinensis evergreen shrub, that's sitting dormant all winter long, and they're typically grown at a very ergonomically sound level. If you let them grow wild, they can grow up to 10 stories in height, right, so literally there are some farms that we work with in Yunnan Province, in China, where they take ladders and they climb up these trees in order harvest these really wild, beautiful, beautiful tea leaves. But most Camellia sinensis evergreen shrubs are harvested at ergonomically sound level, so they're easy to harvest. And typically they're picked by women because women have a more delicate touch, they're able to go in without actually bruising the leaves. So they'll harvest the leaves very quickly, they'll stack the leaves amongst their hands, and they'll typically have a backpack, or they'll have, you know, a large basket in the back will throw the leaves in the back, very delicately, very carefully without actually bruising the leaves. Then they'll take those baskets, and if it's white tea they'll let it dry. And this process, you only have like a five day window to harvest really high quality Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle white tea. And because what ends up happening is with Camellia sinensis the buds, meaning not flower buds like these, you know, beautiful buds behind me, but actually the bud is basically a leaf that, you know, before it's fully opened, it's considered a bud. And they have to harvest it quickly because if they don't, what ends up happening is that that bud turns into two leaves, and then there's another bud that turns into a few, two new leaves. And they have to harvest that very first flush because after it's been sitting dormant, all winter long, all the antioxidants, all the amino acid and flavonoids, and catechins, all the good stuff for you within tea are packed in to those buds. So though the flavor profile of white tea is fairly uneventful, the mouth feel the amino acids, give it this really smooth coating texture to it.
The Linus Pauling Institute has done phenomenal research on the health benefits of white tea. So it's helped to increase the collagen in the skin, I'm 84 years old, and I drink, no, I'm just kidding, no, but there's tons of wonderful health benefits that have been shown by the Linus Pauling Institute for helping to fight colon cancer and prostate cancer, heart disease, and overall just help increase the collagen in the skin and longevity. So white tea has tons of benefits. But keep in mind, like this is the research that was done on white tea, but from the same Camellia sinensis evergreen shrub that produces green and oolong and black and pu-erh. So technically one can safely say that if you can derive great health benefits from white tea, then it's very possible that one can also assume very high quality health benefits from the other varietals. That's white tea. White tea, again, Silver Needle, just the bud, just the very first picking. We believe that true white tea comes from Fujian Province in China. And the second layer is called by Bai Mu Dan. And Bai Mu Dan is the bud and the leaves mostly intact. And the reason why it's called white tea, is because there's a soft down covering on top of the leaf, there's a very soft fuzz. And the reason is because it's, you know, as the evergreen shrub has been sitting dormant all winter long, the first batch that starts to come through the hard bark, it's not this sharp edge that's pushing through the bark, right, it's soft, it has, you know, it's flexible and it's able to slowly push through that bark in order to create these, you know, delicate buds. Whatever I go to origin and I see this process happening, I'm constantly reminded that, you know, and there are relationships in our world, whenever we think about needing, you know, someone just doesn't understand, right, we need them to understand, we need them to break through what I'm trying to deliver, what I'm trying to, you know, have them understand my point of view.
If we go at it with a sharp angle, it's just going to chip away at the bark, you're not going to make much progress. Sometimes it's a delicate, slow-moving process that's able to break through that bark or break through that barrier that we might have, either with ourselves or with a relationship with another person. It's that soft process that really helps unpack a meaningful experience. There's so much that we can learn from tea, not just in terms of, you know, the relationship that unfolds in that spring harvest, but also we, as humans, are very much reliant on our external world. But tea has everything that it needs within the soil, within the climate conditions, in order for it to produce, it's fully self-sustaining. And caffeine within tea, along with the polyphenols and flavonoids, are there to help fight off and help with self preservation. But we, as internal alchemists, can take the tea and as we consume it, we can really derive as much value from that plant as much as possible. So we have a very interesting and beautiful interconnected relationship when it comes to tea. Next is green tea. So now let's say you love to cook, and you have two bundles of asparagus, that first bundle of asparagus you take and you steam very, very quickly, and that second bundle of asparagus you take and you pan fire, right, so imagine you have a giant wok, no oil, you just pan fire it. Now what ends up happening with those two bundles of asparagus, so again, the first bundle, you just steam very quickly, and that second bundle you take and you wok it very quickly. What would be the difference in color, taste and consistency? Both about two minutes each, right, but what I'd love to hear from you guys is, if we can open up Q&A in the chat, just share your feedback. What would be the difference in color, taste and consistency between these two bundles of asparagus? Steam, bright green, beautiful Paddington. I, hopefully I can say her name. I don't know if there's any sort of confidentiality there, but thank you, yeah. "Steam, bright green" beautiful. So what ends up happening is you steam, think of, you know, what ends up happening when you steam again, just very quickly here, the cells of that asparagus ends up opening up and it has, it maintains that sharp brightness behind it.
While, if you pan fire or wok roast it, you end up getting a slight, charred flavor texture on the outside, but the sweetness remains intact on the inside. So these two major styles of asparagus are also, I'm using this as an example because this is what we see when it comes to the two major types of producing green tea. So one major type is in line with Japan. So when you go to Japanese restaurant, you order a green tea, it's bright, it's slightly salty, you know, very much in line with aquatic cuisine or that island type culture cuisine that you get from Japan, you know, pickled vegetables and fresh fish and steamed rice. So all that comes through when it comes to green tea. In fact, the tea that they use and that they harvest in Japan, they'll also bring in different things within the soil, like crab shell and fish guts, and volcanic ash, and all that impacts to really get as much umami, that ultimate taste from tea. In fact the word umami was, is known as the ultimate taste. It has sweet, and salt, and astringent all combined in one. And there was a scientist back in the '60s that really wanted to look for that ultimate taste, and so he found it in two things, and found it in high quality green tea and high quality seaweed. And so, you know, chefs caught onto it and like, "Okay, we gotta look for that umami, "we've gotta look for that ultimate flavor." And then scientists got onto it and they're like, "Well, if that's the ultimate flavor, "let's look at it under a microscope "and let's see how we can replicate." Replicate, wow. I don't why I'm having trouble saying that, replicate umami. . So that's what created MSG. So yeah, MSG is umami in its powdered form chemically made. But anyway, you can find it naturally in gyokuro and in sencha and other beautiful teas.
We have one called Japanese, you know, Cherry Blossom and it's beautiful, and it's got lots of umami behind it, and it's blended in with, with cherry blossoms, or cherry blossom petals behind it. So you got umami and you get some nice floral notes behind it, too. So that's a Japanese style of creating green tea. And then the Chinese style of creating green tea is pan fire. Now, if you think of cuisine that typically comes out of China, it's high fire, high heat, you know, heavily roasted. So, you know, sort of a crispy texture on the outside and sweet and tender on the inside. And so the tea that comes from China on the green tea side is typically along those lines, it's, you know, Longjing or Dragon Well, and some other, you know, beautiful green teas have that charred flavor, you know, texture on the outside and soft, sweet, delicate touch and delicate taste on the inside. So these are the two major strands when it comes to, when it comes to tea specifically, green tea. Next is oolong. Oolong is anywhere from 1% oxidized to 99% oxidized. So now what does this mean? So imagine your mom calls and you're like, "Mom, I can't take the call right now." And meantime, you just took a bite out of a juicy apple and you let that apple sit and your mom, you know, you're talking to your mom for like, you know, five minutes, "Mom, I've got to call you back. "I'm listening to this guy talking about tea. "Let me call you back." So you know, about an hour goes by, what starts to happen to that apple? It starts to turn brown right. Now, let's say, "Oh, my gosh, I'm late, "I've got to go meet some friends or I'm late to work." And you know, four hours goes by, then what starts to happen to that apple? And you know, you come back, you look at the apple, you're like, "Oh gosh, I forgot about it. "But, let me come back to it." And then you go out, you come back after having dinner with friends and you realize like that Apple's still sitting there and it's really oxidized.
So now if you're living in Palm Beach, Florida, or if you're living in Palm Springs, California, that apple in terms of oxidization will play a completely different role because of humidity. So if you're living in West Palm Beach where it's super humid at times, it's going to turn more mushy, if you let it sit over that period of time. Now, if you're living in Palm Desert or Palm Springs, California, that Apple's going to start to turn, you're going to get more of a, like a sheen or like a covering almost immediately because there's very low humidity in the area. So oolong is partially oxidized, 1 to 99% oxidized. That way you could taste some oolong that looks and smells and tastes like a green. And you could have an oolong that looks and smells and tastes like a black tea, and literally everything in between. Oolongs are typically in two major shapes, either a kernel shape, it looked kinda like grape nuts, I don't know if any of you remember that, I don't even know if it's still around, but it's sort of that kernel shape, and the other is long wiry shape. In fact, oolong literally translates as dark dragon. And the reason why it's called dark dragon is because the leaf as it unfurls, and as it opens up, it's harvested along the sides of the bushes, so it doesn't get as much sun exposure. So it's a longer growth process, and what you end up having is this dark dragon-looking leaf, this very mythical looking dragon-shaped leaves, and that's where it gets its name. Last, I shouldn't say last, but next is black tea. And black tea is 100% oxidized and 100% cooked. So going back to oolongs the artists, and typically these are more family made, so you have specifically let's, if we were to focus on an area like Taiwan, there are villages that are known for producing one style of oolong tea.
Depending on the mountain range, depending on where that family's living, they will typically harvest the leaves, they'll have heating elements where they're cooking the tea under the house so that heating element also helps heat up the house, and they will roast the leaves, and they'll start cooking and drying the leaves. Typically they'll harvest the leaves in the morning, and then they'll wait till like 12 o'clock or two o'clock in the morning to start the roasting process because they're playing with humidity. So the fog starts to roll off around 10 something in the morning, they'll harvest the leaves, they'll massage the leaves, they'll let the juices come up to the surface, then they'll start the roasting process. Again, could be at midnight or two o'clock in the morning just to reach that optimal flavor. And there are tons of secrets when it comes to preparing these teas, right. Like each family might have their own style and unique way, whether it's using aged wood, that's sitting out in misty mountains for a long period of time, or it could be young freshly chopped wood, or it could be charcoal or mixing different heating elements, just like you would in a barbecue setting where like "I roasted this with mesquite," or "I roasted this over charcoal," you have different flavor profiles. So the same sort of thing gets unpacked when it comes to high quality teas. And so just like, if you were to go to Italy and, you know, in the middle of a small town in Italy, you might yell out like, "Who makes the best marinara sauce?" And each one might say "My dad," "My grandmother," "I do." And they're all kind of the same, right, it could be tomatoes and garlic and salt and water, but each one might have different ways of combining it and different ways of making it that makes it totally unique to them. So, sorry, I had a call come in, it took my screen off, so hopefully I didn't lose you guys too much. Okay. Next is black tea. Black tea is 100% cooked, 100% oxidized.
And this is where you can really taste the terroir, in other words, the soil and the origin of the tea. And also here's where size matters when it comes to tea. So, in fact, the main area where black tea really started to be mass produced was in the island of Ceylon, which we now know as Sri Lanka. And the island of Ceylon was owned by the House of Orange, the Royal Dutch Family owned the island of Sri Lanka. And in honor of the royal Dutch family, the House of Orange, they decided to grade leaves based on the size. So you might see on a packet of tea, Orange Pekoe. And really guys, there's no orange in it, there's zero taste of orange. You might get some astringency, maybe some citrus peel flavor notes in there, but it's just by coincidence. Orange Pekoe gets its name from he House of Orange. So now I'd like you to imagine getting a bag of unsalted, unflavored potato chips. So on the top of the bag, you get these beautiful uniform shapes, and as you work your way down to the middle, they're a bit more broken. And as you work your way all the way down to the bottom, what you get is just powder or dust. So what ends up happening is, as they're producing our teas in the factory, the dust flies up in the air, falls on the ground, they sweep that in giant piles, and that's what's reserved for most traditional paper tea bags that you could find at a supermarket. So like the stuff that has a staple, the stuff that's in a paper fiber sort of teabag. What we source at Art of Tea is the top 1 to 2% of all the teas that are produced in the world, hand-harvested, organic whenever possible, hand-blended, hand-crafted. So it's, they're just different spectrums in terms of what you should expect. So a lot of people, when it comes to tea, specifically black tea, they're like, "I can't drink my black tea unless I add cream "or add honey and add lemon to it," and at that point, it's no longer true tea.
But when you drink a high quality tea experience, you don't need to add anything to it, it should be a self-drinking tea. So for example, yes, there's that style of tea that is in a traditional paper tea bag, but you can all find like a sachet. So a sachets is literally, there's a lot of sachets in the market that are also made with microplastics. So our bags are made out of a corn-based derivative, so it's microplastic-free. But what's cool about these style bags is that you get the best of both worlds, you get a whole leaf tea and you get a loose leaf tea all in one. So, and it's biodegradable and it's compostable, so it's got all, you know, checks all the boxes without having any sort of staples or anything like that, or binders or anything like that to it. And when you drink it, you actually end up getting that full-bodied experience, you know, without needing to add all those other things to it. So if you haven't stepped into loose leaf tea, I strongly encourage you to try it. Now you might be wondering, "Well, I don't know, Steve, "I don't know that if I have the right stuff to it, "like how do I do it without actually messing it up?" And it's funny because a lot of people that are really into tea are really into beverage. And I think, you know, COVID has provided us all the opportunity to maybe find something that we can get passionate about. It could be sourdough, could be candle-making, lotion-making whatever it might be, right. And so, and for some people it's coffee, they got really into the grinding and the roasting and there's all these things. But with tea, man, there's something about it that's just, it feels intimidating to people, right. And I just want to give you permission to mess it up a bit. When you're dealing with a high quality tea, it should give you the opportunity to just screw up. Because if it's a high quality tea, it should be forgiving enough for you to over steep by a minute, maybe mess the temperature a little bit and still deliver a delicious experience. Now, how do you know if you've made it right? Well, look, if you still want to add milk and cream and sugar and all that stuff to your tea, and it tastes good, then you've made it right. But I want to encourage you to try a whole leaf tea experience or a tea that's in a beautiful sachet, you know, a microplastic-free sachet and try that experience.
Now, what are you looking for when it comes to taste? So I'm going to walk you guys through how to taste tea. Before I do that, I just want to touch briefly on one other segment of tea that I didn't get an opportunity to get to yet, and that's called pu-erh. And pu-erh is a fermented tea. So literally they take the leaves, typically found in Yunnan Province in China, the birthplace of tea, and they massage the leaf, they steam them, and then they let them sit in cool, dark, damp, typically caves or warehouses. And what happens is just like, if you've ever worked with compost and you stick your hand in compost, it's hot because there's a bacteria that's breaking that compost down. That same bacteria, by the way, is used in, it's used in wine in order to ferment wine, it's used in cheese in order making really high quality cheese, it's used in beer, and it's used to make pu-erh. So pu-erh is a distinctive taste. I remember I was tasting with the wine sommelier at prestigious hotel here in Los Angeles, and he said, "I really want to try pu-erh. "I've heard about it, like, can we try some?" I said, "Jerry, let's try it." So I poured him some and he sipped it. He's said, "Wow, interesting." Took another sip, and, you know, this team around him was kind of leaning in, and like, he said, "Wow, tastes like manure." Okay, you know, I didn't know to take it as a compliment or an insult or what, but, you know, I said, "Oh, tell me more about that." He's like, "No, I really like this, "this is really interesting." So it does have that, you know, flavor profile of like a damp forest floor or like your grandmother's attic. It's got that woodsy, you know, earthy kind of flavor profile, an acquired taste, just like, if you love stinky cheese or particular style of scotch, first time you try it, it's like, "This is disgusting, there's no way I'm ever going to eat "or drink this." But as time is developed, you tend to appreciate those certain flavor notes within those different sectors. So that's pu-erh. And there's tons of different pu-erhs on the market, typically the fresher the tea, the higher the value, except for pu-erh. Pu-erh, the more it's aged, the more valuable it's becoming. In fact, there's a lot of fake pu-erhs in the market, you have to be really mindful of where you're sourcing your tea because there are a lot of fake-aged pu-erh teas. And you can get stuff that's half baked or fully baked and still have a really phenomenal pu-erh experience. Pu-erh is also shown to help, the combination of the bacteria, the fermentation process, and the tea is known to literally go in and cut cholesterol. So there's some really wonderful health benefits behind pu-erh as well. Okay.
Sophia - Well, Steve, we have about 15 minutes left and I am looking at the questions rolling in now, we have about 30 questions. So do you want to answer some questions?
Steve - Yes. Yeah.
Sophia - Okay.
Steve - I do.
Sophia - Well, you know, people would love to know what kind of tea do you drink the most and what's your favorite type of tea? I bet that's a hard question for you to answer.
Steve - Yeah. You know, each tea that we've created or sourced at Art of Tea is sort of like my children, I do have three kids, but these are also like my babies. And so I love them all, and I'd say I go with the season. So right now this, our Japanese cherry it's so beautiful and this is what I'm drinking. And, and by the way, I just want to give you a little tip when it comes to tea and drinking tea. So if you want to evaluate the flavor profile of tea, I'm going to walk you through how to taste. So what you're going to do is, and you could try this at home, unless you have tea sitting in front of you, you could try this at another time, you would draw the liquid in the front of your mouth, you swish it and you slurp it back, so it covers all the taste buds, and then you swallow it. After you swallow, you take a slow breath out through your nose. And what that does is it really engages the olfactory senses because over 80% of what we smell is actually through, or 80% of what we taste is actually through our sense of smell. So again, you know, you want to make sure it's cool enough at a temperature where you can do this. You just slurp it, swish it back, so it covers all the taste buds, you swallow and a slow breath out through your nose after you've swallowed. And this way it'll help you also define and find your perfect tea, right. When people say it's not my cup of tea, it's because there's so many different varietals of tea out there. But this one's a family favorite as well as we have one called Earl Gray Creme, it has Italian bergamot oil, black tea, organic black tea, and just a touch of French vanilla. What we found is that a lot of people tend to add cream, or milk to their tea and some honey. So we were like, "What can we do to create a blend "that's self-drinking where people "don't need to add all stuff?" And Earl Gray Creme is by far a family favorite. At night, we'll have a tea kettle going, and that sound just really helps sets the tone for ritual and connectivity. Our kids come out of their room and we just, we connect for a few minutes over tea. So those are two that I'd strongly recommend checking out.
Sophia - Oh, I think I need that Earl Gray Creme flavor. Another question here is, "Where do you usually get inspired to blend loose leaves and flavors? Where do you find the inspiration?
Steve - Yeah. So a few funny stories. One is my wife, for many years was an aesthetician. And so she would get samples from all over of different stuff. So our shower was covered with like this shampoo and this salt scrub and this, you know, so she had this one called Mandarin Cashmere, and I scooped it, it smelled so, it smelled like an orangesicle. I was like, you wanted to eat it, but no one's going to to eat a disgusting salt scrub. So I put it on my body and smelled it, and it was amazing. I said, "I've gotta create a tea like this, but no one's going to want to drink cashmere," so I called it Mandarin Silk. And it was oolong tea with lemon myrtle, and a really eggy-style, vanilla, and it actually won best oolong in the world. We put it in a tea competition and it won. And that's one example. Another example is I literally have a diary next to my bed, and so, you know, there's a period of time where I would just write down different ideas and recipes. Another was, you know, where I mentioned "Shutters on the Beach, they said, "Hey, we want you to create a custom blend for us. "Here's a shampoo bottle and no, "no one's going to want to drink shampoo, "but can you make a signature blend for us, "that with our signature scent. And so, you know, based on the high notes and low notes of that shampoo bottle was able to craft a signature blend just for that property.
Same with Peninsula Hotel, their cherry blossom season that they have in Japan, we created a cherry blossom blend for that hotel. And one time I was driving to Palm Springs and there was a monsoon, and so we had to wait for the monsoon to end. So we opened the door and the smell that came from that fresh earth, and the rain that impacted that earth, I don’t know how to bottle this, but I've got to figure out how to make a tea, so we created one called Summer Peach. So, you know, inspirations, and sometimes, I'll give one other example, just, I made a mistake once when I first started out, now we're in a beautiful factory of, you know, about 30 of us all together on our team, locally, we have teams in Singapore and Shanghai and Japan and Maldives. But when I first started out, I was in my living room and I was blending and packing and I accidentally blended some ingredients into another blend, and it was like five pounds of a mistake. And my wife, you know, saw all these boxes and all these things, she pointed out right away, she's like, "What's that?" But she knew that I messed up on something and that's, you know, and I said, "Don't ask." She said, "Well, what is it?" I said, "I totally messed up." "So how do you know you messed up?" I said, "I'm a tea expert, "I think, I'd know." She's like, "Well, you might want to try it." And so, you know, it drilled a hole in my head, and the next morning I tried it and it was actually really good, and it actually ended up becoming one of our most popular herbal blends called French Lemon Ginger. So I go on and on with stories, but there's a few.
Sophia - Well, I love that. Again, there's so many questions here, so we'll try to get through as many as we can. But another really great question that we have, let me just see if I can find it. Oh yes, "Do you offer a sort of beginner's tea sampler kit "on your website and if so? I'd just like to point out to everyone again, "that the Art of Tea was generous enough "to give us a 15% off. Discount code, is FRB15. So make sure you use that at checkout, if you want to purchase anything from Art of Tea today. But Steve, any sort of beginner sampler kit?
Steve - Yes. Yeah. We have different kits, you know, different sampler kits, whether you want to go down a vertical of a travel kit or wellness, if you want to, you know, just dive into white teas. And two other things, if you love learning about tea there are two things, one is we have a course, "How to become a tea expert" on our website, where you could sign up under our "Learn" section, and there you can dive deeper. It's us hanging out for 25 videos, all on tea, level one and there's a level two. And the second is that I'm coming out with a book, it started pre COVID, took me the past few years. It's launching April 26th. So if you love learning about tea, you're into, so the first part is about ritual and history of tea, and the second part is recipes and best practice and tips all around tea. You can find it on Amazon. You can pre-order it. It's launching in about a week, but you can pre-order it on Amazon, and the link is in the chat.
Sophia - Amazing. Well, yes, just like Steve said, the link is in the chat, but in case you can't find the link, the book is called "Art of Tea: A Journey of Ritual Discovery and Impact. Again, "Art of Tea", if you just look that up and Steve's name, you'll find it. And one more time, the code is FRB15. All right. So more questions here. A lot of people are asking about water temperature. Do you, and I know that's sort of a loaded question because I'm sure every tea has different water temperatures, but could you give us some advice on water temperatures for teas?
Steve - Yeah, definitely. So I'm going to talk about water temperature and storage and quality. So in terms of water temperature, because white tea is the least processed and green tea is next in line in terms of least processed, it goes all the way to black tea, which is fully processed, meaning not processed in terms of preservative, processed in terms of cooking and oxidization. So white tea calls for and green tea, typically, call for a lower temperature, typically around 175. If it's a Japanese green tea, then you can even drop it down to 165. If it's a Chinese green tea because it's more roasted 185. Wow! That might sound super geeky. Just keep in mind that in some of the earlier books on tea, they would talk about water temperature in terms of beard of a young man to beard of an old man. So the bubble size would determine if it's a Fu Manchu, or if it's a beard of a grown man or beard of an old man, that's how they determine the right temperature of water. So you can play with temperature. And, you know, black tea you want as close to boiling as possible on the opposite spectrum. Black tea, you want about 206, and because it's been fully baked and oxidized, and when you smell black tea on its own, dry, there's not much to it, it's not really eventful. But what ends up happening is, as black tea gets steeped, it goes through a process called the agony of the leaf, where literally you watch the leaves unfurl and the oil that's been trapped within the leaf gets released into the temperature, release into the liqueur, into the liquid, and you're able to enjoy and consume that. So you want the temperature to reflect the process of the tea. In terms of storage you want to make sure that teas are stored in airtight container away from strong smells like your spices. So it's, tea is sensitive, light, heat, and humidity. So as long as you keep it away from those three things, you can have tea last for a very long period of time. And the last thing is also in terms of heating up, you want to make sure your water is freshly drawn, meaning, you know, spring water, or freshly drawn filtered water. Over 98% of what you're drinking when it comes to tea is water. So you want to make sure that it's freshly drawn water and not from a microwave, it's not a fan in terms of just, you know, how it impacts on the flavor of tea. So if you can avoid it, I strongly recommend avoiding a microwave if possible.
Sophia - Well, I know that we could keep going on for a very long time, but let's end here. And Steve, I just want to say, thank you so much for today. You know, we have so many comments in the Q&A, and someone said, "Thank you for the most amazing webinar to date. "Love this. So awesome." So thank you again for your time today. And I apologize if we did not get to your question. There were so many good ones on the back end here, but one more time, that code is FRB15. And don't forget to check out Steve's book "The Art of Tea." Thank you again, Steve.
Steve - Such an honor to be here with you guys. Look forward to your guys' feedback on the book. Thank you so much and good luck with your journey and ritual through tea. All the best.
Sophia - Be well, everyone.