Buying and Storing Tea

L’Espalier has recently introduced its fifth signature blend, available for enjoying with
us, or to purchase for home consumption. The current L’Espalier collection consists of:

L’Espalier Afternoon Blend

This signature tea consists of a blend of Darjeeling and three Sri Lankan Estate teas as well as two Chinese green teas lightly scented with jasmine, Italian oil of bergamot and grapefruit peel.

Chef’s Blend

A unique blend of black teas from China, Sri Lanka and India, blended with a touch of fruit,
Chinese herbs and chrysanthemum petals.

Boylston Breakfast Blend

Our signature version of an ‘English Breakfast’ tea consists of an assertive blend of Ceylon, Indian and Chinese teas. It was blended with milk in mind.

Gloucester Street Blend

Another L’Espalier exclusive, this assertive and smoky blend of teas is reminiscent of the
old ‘Caravan’ blends. It is an ideal accompaniment to cheeses of all sorts, especially more
pungent cheeses.

L’Espalier Masala Chai Blend

Another L’Espalier signature, this blend of Indian Assam and Nilgiri teas is enhanced by freshly ground spices. This blend is typically enjoyed with milk and sweetener.

While on the topic of teas for you to enjoy at home, we thought we’d share with you
some basic information to ensure that you always have fresh high quality teas available
for your enjoyment.

 

Photo courtesy of Julian Landa

 

Buying and Storing Tea

Freshness is crucial for virtually all teas, with the exception of aged teas such as Pu-Erh.
While it is tempting to ‘collect’ teas to the point where there is a cabinet full of teas of
unknown origin or date, this may lead to consuming stale teas. Therefore it is best to
purchase small quantities that will be consumed relatively quickly. We recommend no
more than a quarter pound of any one tea.

When choosing what teas to purchase, ideally it will be possible to see the leaves, smell
them and possibly even taste the infusion. When looking at the leaves, look for clean,
glossy, even sized leaves without twigs or stray particles. The tea should not have a
dusty, crushed or powdery look to it. When steeped, the tea should be clear, never
muddy looking. The aroma and taste should be fresh. The specifics of the taste and
aroma will vary by the style of tea, but dull, musty or strong, off flavors or aromas should be a red-flag of improper handling. If the freshness or quality of the teas is questionable, purchase from another source.

If no good local sources exist, then the internet can be the ideal answer. When
purchasing mail order, the tea can’t be seen first, but consider ordering small sample
sizes for new styles, particularly with first time purchases from new companies. Once
vendors are identified with the desired quality, price and selection, larger quantities can
be purchased, keeping in mind that tea is to be drunk, not ‘collected’.

When storing teas, assuming the purchased tea was fresh and well handled up until this
point, it is crucial to keep them away from air, light, moisture and heat. This means
DO NOT store teas in that cabinet above the stove that is so convenient to the kettle!
The variability of temperature within that cabinet will shorten the lifespan of the tea
considerably. They should be stored in air-tight and moisture proof containers. If the
container is clear, then it should be stored inside of a dark cupboard, and never put that
damp teaspoon back into the container to scoop more tea!

Historically, tea caddies had locks on them, but these days we’re more worried about
moisture and air than thievery.

While you may not be collecting tea, you may still want to have several different varieties
available at a given time. Whether it is for drinking, or for cooking with tea (a passion
of mine), an array including blacks, greens, oolongs, scented, and Pu-Erhs can meet your
mood and needs. And of course a L’Espalier signature blend or two should be among the
mix!

Cheers!

Cynthia Gold

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