Musings by Wight Tea Co.
Discover the history, intricacies, flavor, and creative elements of this world renowned food and beverage staple in our blog. We know the art and science of steeping tea and creating edibles that excite every palate. Tea is one of our favorite things to share and sell, so you can browse the best of our tea minds in the content you find here.
Cozy Up with Chamomile in our Evening Tisane
Our evening tisane includes a variety of chamomile that makes it the perfect tea to unwind with at the end of the night. Chamomile creates a distinct yellow colored liquid when prepared. Tisane is a fancy word that describes herbal teas. Any tea that does not come from the camilla sinensis family can be grouped as herbal or tisane. So, what is it about this chamomile herb that makes it so popular and where does it come from?
There are 25 species in the chamomile genus (Matricaria), two of which are German chamomile and wild chamomile (Matricaria discoidea). German chamomile is native to the UK and is grown commercially. You can recognize it by its rounded, arching flower base covered in small yellow tubular flowers with white ray florets. Wild chamomile is what you find in our tins. This plant belongs to the same family as German chamomile, but wild chamomile doesn't grow with white ray petals. The Mayweed genus (Tripleurospermum) contains approximately 40 species. It looks like German chamomile with the characteristic white petals, but it is scentless and grows across much of Europe. However, it doesn't have medicinal properties. Roman chamomile is called common chamomile, and it is a perennial. It is a separate genus that is a look alike with a slightly stronger hint of apple in its flavor profile. The general flavor profile of chamomile can be described as aromatic, floral, camphoric, sweet, fruity, and dry.
There are other varieties that look just like German chamomile, but to be true chamomile it needs to have the white ray florets and the characteristic scent. It's important to be careful because some varieties will even cause allergic reactions or be poisonous. If you're allergic to the daisy family of plants, you'll want to be cautious. Plants in the Asteraceae family include: lettuce, daisies, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, asters, dandelions, goldenrod, coneflowers, thistles, artichokes, sunflowers, dahlias, marigolds, zinnias, asters, chamomile, chicory, sage, tarragon, ragweed, thistle, sagebrush, and yarrow. Few if any side effects are reported from this herb if you're not allergic, but with anything that touts medicinal properties or has an herbal component you'll want to check with a doctor.
Chamomile oils are said to relieve gastrointestinal cramps, sooth a sore throat, support respiratory health when you have a cold, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and is used as a sleeping aid and sedative. Chamomile flowers contain a plant compound that can affect the body similarly to benzodiazepines which is found in anti-anxiety meds. The main active ingredients that reduce inflammation in chamomile oil are bisabolol and matricine.
So, how do you make chamomile tea or in our world - Evening Tisane?
1. Heat water in a kettle or to a boil at 210 degrees Fahrenheit
2. Place the chamomile flowers in a teapot and cover them with water and steep for 5 minutes. We recommend using an infuser to prevent lingering pieces of herbs from seeping into the final elixir.
3. Strain, sweeten to taste, add additional flavors like a squeeze of lemon, sprig of mint, sliver of ginger, and others
4. Add milk or cream if you please
Basil: The Beloved, Royal Culinary Herb
Basil is the eclectic but hallmark flavor of our Blueberry Basil Rooibos herbal tea blend. Basil is known as Ocimum Basilicum and is a member of the mint family. It is native to Central Africa and southeast Asia, but grows well outdoors, potted, and as a perennial crop in mediterranean and tropical climates. Any sign of a freeze means the plant will turn itself into an annual, and not come back to feel the sting of winter again. However, it takes to growth for a time most anywhere under proper lighting, temperature and conditions. It cross pollinates creating numerous hybrids and cultivars creating many varieties of the plant. Spicy globe, sweet, holy, purple, green ruffles, French, Magical Michael, Mrs. Burns’ lemon, and dark opal (African Blue) are a few of the many. View a list here.
Basil is also commonly known as Albahaca, St. Joseph’s Wort, and Sweet Basil. The word Basilicum is associated with the Basilisk snake at its Latin roots, which if you’re a Harry Potter fan brings up memories of the snake and its deadly glare. In Greek however, Basil means “King” and Ocimum means “fragrant.” The combination of these two words together with the herbs used in opulent perfumes for royalty throughout history have given it an air of regality. The reverie extends beyond earthly monarchs and Holy Basil has significance in Orthodox churches. It is used to sprinkle holy water, but consumption of the herb is typically avoided amongst the Greek Orthodox congregation because legend has it is associated with the “Elevation of the Holy Cross.” In Hinduism it is associated with the god Vishnu who is said to be the supreme soul and the creator and destroyer of all existence. The French also regard the herb as royal, European folklore holds it as being symbolic of Satan, while the Jewish say it provides strength while fasting. In Italy, a pot of basil on the front porch signified a single maiden seeking suitors making it representative of love, but hate is the primary association made by ancient Greeks. Basil clearly has complicated connotations along with its serpentine name, and you either love it or you hate it.
While it has historically been used to temper wounds, stings and burns from snakes and other creatures with its anti-inflammatory oils, it is also known to aid in digestion and have antibacterial, anti-viral, and antifungal properties. Some of its chemical properties act as natural insect repellants, and it is said to have a calming element.
It is primarily used today in the culinary arts, and its use in our tea is certainly out of the ordinary. Italian cuisine relies on it as a staple in most of its fare. However, you can freeze this tea blend into butter or other solid fats to use as a rub, as a topping on confectionaries, or on top of yogurt, cereals, smoothie bowls, or other dishes. Blueberry Basil Rooibos is as dynamic as it is a novelty, and we would love to hear from you to answer any questions and help you make the most of every leaf.
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The Something Blue of Blueberry Basil
Lowbush blueberry plants are a shrub native to North America and parts of Europe. They are part of the genus Vaccinium of the Ericaceae (Heath) family of plants. They require plenty of sun in cool climates, pruning, and acidic soil. Blueberries and huckleberries as members of this plant family tend to have to rely on Mycorrhizae due to low nutrient soil conditions and limited water supply. Mycorrhizae is a word that describes the give and take between the roots of the plant and the surrounding mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. The fungi receive sugars from the host plant (blueberries) in exchange for greater nutrient and water uptake.
The history of blueberries is even more fascinating. Native Americans were the first in the US to use the fruit and called them star berries believing they were sent by the “Great Spirit” to relieve children’s hunger during famine. In the late 1800’s, Elizabeth Coleman White’s family owned a farm that grew blueberries. Dr. Frederick Coville was a USDA botanist who began experimenting with the berries, and the two teamed up and worked to grow a refined version of the blueberry as a crop. Thus, the highbush blueberry was cultivated. In 1932, the state of New Jersey awarded Elizabeth Coleman White for her contributions to agriculture after the pair successfully harvested and sold commercial crops of highbush blueberries for 16 years.
Since then, the popularity of the fruit has continued to grow here in the US, production has boomed, and global health research has commenced to better understand the berries impacts on cardiovascular, brain, gut health, and insulin response, all of which are generally positive. Anthocyanin pigments are what give the berry its rich, dark blue color and provide the anti-inflammatory benefits that give the blueberry its health halo. Blueberries flavor profiles are influenced by glucose, fructose, sucrose, polyphenol, quinic acid, oxalic acid, and citric acid among others. Ironically, they are one of the lowest sugar fruits making them one of the healthiest options in the food supply. Eastern cultures and Ayurvedic medicine practice revere blueberries for their healing properties, and Japan is the second largest importer of US blueberries in the world after Canada. Pagan religions and witchcraft associate blueberries with the properties of beauty, youth, calm, memory, the protection of the mother, protection from bad energy, earth, water, and more. In pop culture, the blueberry has come to be used as a sign of being single on social media and has been assigned other trendy connotations.
At Wight Tea Company, we appreciate the plants benefits, roots, and enlightening properties. We are run by mixologists focused primarily on the creation of taste and look at these blues as a harmless gift from nature that leaves us with a sweet aftertaste that somehow leaves us better than it found us. We adore blending dried varieties in for the reliably sweet, floral, and tart flavor profile they contribute to our blend, and invite you to join us in what is truly an exceptional blue green elixir.
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At Wight Tea, this blend represents elegantly finding alignment and calm in the midst of an ambiguous, chaotic grey fog. It's the tea you pick up for a pick me up when you want to feel a little fancy as you find your center. Lavender represents purity, silence, devotion, love, purity, higher purpose, elegance, luxury, spiritual connectivity, and grace. All of these symbolic elements are captured and embodied in our beloved blend. Earl grey tea has historically carried a sense of sophistication and a connotation of royalty with its roots in British Aristocracy, and our Lavender Earl Grey stands for a refined journey to peace of mind.
The Making & Magic of Matcha
We at Wight Tea love and adore our Matcha. This fine green powder makes a smooth, earthy, and nutrient packed latte with a beautiful bright green hue. It has become extremely popular as an alternative to coffee because of its health benefits, one of which is its L-Theanine amino acid properties. This substance is the yin to the yang of caffeine, offering a sense of smooth energy. There are no caffeine jitters to be found with Matcha. The even keel nature of its energetic compounds are just one of the many things to love about this variety of tea that has been passed down through generations.
Matcha can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China, and hales from the Sencha plant which grows best in shaded environments. In ancient times it was packed into bricks for easy transport, and decomposed with hot water and a pinch of salt. Quite the contradiction to our instinct to sweeten beverages in this century. Zen Buddhists revered matcha for its ability to energize and provide a sense of well-being and clarity. If you've hear of "ceremonial matcha" or "ceremonial tea" in conjunction with this green ground substance it is because the high priests incorporated it into an afternoon ceremonial ritual. Eisai was a monk who brought the tea from China to Japan. It was considered precious and reserved for the elite until an expedited means of processing came about called "uji." This allowed the benefits of matcha to be accessible to people from every socioeconomic class in Japan.
The sensation of well-being and purported health benefits are part of the mass appeal that matcha generates. The bright green hue that adds an aesthetic appeal also holds nutritional benefits due to a pigment called chlorophyll. Clorophyll gives matcha its bright green color. The brighter the shade of green, the more nutrient dense it is. A bright green color also indicates it has been grown in high quality materials and in proper shaded conditions. A yellowing or browning color indicates that the powder has been exposed to oxygen because the browning effect is a result of oxidation of a previously green powder, or that it was grown in the sun rather than shade. Keeping your matcha properly sealed and stored in shaded conditions in your home is key to preserving the quality and nutritional composition. Matcha grades can also be seen in the color. An earthier brown hue is characteristic of culinary matcha used in food and baking, but the brightest color indicates ceremonial grade matcha and the careful cultivation processes passed down from the Zen Buddhist priests who first curated the tea.
Properly making matcha requires a whisk that is made from bamboo called a chasen. This whisk separates the powder and prevents clumping as it is added to water and milk. The best way to prepare the powder is to first sift it, then add a small amount of water to the powder and whisk with the chasen before combining with the steamed milk or hot water for your latte. This elegant beverage is a treasure, beholden with properties and a history of reverence that make it one to savor even today.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our matcha and means of preparation.
White Tea - Our Namesake
White tea is green tea that has not fully bloomed. Most teas actually come from the same Camellia sinensis plant, an evergreen bush indigenous to both China and India. White tea is harvested from this plant before the buds fully open and when they are covered in fine white hairs, which is where it derives its name. With a name like Wight, we appreciate the subtleties of this young buds flavor.
The flavor and light color can be attributed to low oxidation and minimal processing. Understanding the art of processing is key to understanding the different varieties of tea we purchase and consume since they all come from the same plant. So, what kind of processing is applied to white tea?
White tea is sun dried whereas green is dried in the shade. It needs to be dried on bamboo sheets as soon as possible after harvest, and it is then moved into a humidity and temperature controlled indoor setting to complete the drying process. Special care must be taken to ensure the leaves don't turn brown.
White tea flavors carry notes of florals and fruits, and the intensity of flavor depends on how long you steep it. Total caffeine content is variable, and in general younger buds contain higher concentrations of caffeine. Because the age of the bud at harvest can vary, as can the overall maturity of the individual plant, the total caffeine content is harder to quantify. It is recommended that steeping be done at temperatures between 80-85ºC (175-185ºF), with a ratio of 6-10 grams of tea to 7 oz of water.
At Wight Tea, you'll find a fan favorite white tea in Sage Rose White tea blend. Depending on demand we also carry a Silver Needle and others as season, creativity, and consumer preferences change. No matter which flavor or style of preparation you prefer, it's always best when it's made with Wight.