Making Terere (Iced Yerba Mate)

This summer we have had some intense heat waves here in Portland so it has been perfect weather to explore different styles of iced tea. Lately we’ve been drinking Terere, or iced Yerba Mate, which is popular in South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

In the video below, Cinthia gives an introduction to brewing Terere. The method is quite similar to brewing Yerba Mate hot. If you haven’t yet seen our guide to brewing Yerba Mate, which also features some information about the social and cultural practice of drinking Mate, check it out here.

Recipe:

  1. Fill your cup about 1/2 full with our Mate Mint blend.
  2. Tip the cup to position the Mate against the side of the cup. Place your bombilla against the bottom of the cup so that it is not resting on top of the Mate.
  3. Add ice water infused with lime and fresh mint.
  4. As with hot Yerba Mate, the person who prepares the Mate drinks the first cup, then prepares it for their companions.
  5. The Mate leaf can be reused several times — just keep adding water!

Featured in this video:

  • Mate Mint: Hand-blended Organic Green Argentinian Mate and cooling spearmint leaves. A cool, minty aroma and smooth, herbaceous flavor.
  • Bombilla: The filtered straw used for drinking Yerba Mate.

Some alternative recipe ideas:

  • Try preparing terere with our other mate offerings.
  • Prepare your terere with cold orange or grapefruit juice instead of ice water.
  • Add herbs such as fennel, lemon balm, coriander or chamomile: put fresh herbs into your water, or blend dried herbs with the Mate leaf.
  • Prepare terere in a French press, or cold brew it overnight.

Let us know what delicious recipes you come up with!

Inside Our Tea Brewery: Bottled Tea Production

Bottles at the Tao of Tea BreweryFor those of you who enjoy the sights and sounds of a factory in action, we recently made a video of our micro tea brewery during a production run of The Tao of Tea bottled teas. We brew our ready-to-drink teas in small batches at our North Portland facility, using only whole leaf teas and herbs rather than concentrates. See the process from the brewing stage to packaging.

We currently offer 11 flavors: Gunpowder Mint, Oregon Berry Black, Osmanthus Oolong, Tippy Assam, Tulsi Lavender, Tulsi Pure, Tulsi Ginger, Cape Town Rooibos, Lemon Myrtle, Lapsang Souchong, and Darjeeling.

 

Yerba Mate Brewing

Yerba Mate was first used by the Guarani Indians, who believed it could cleanse and heal the spirit. Now millions enjoy it in South America. In Brazil, the drinking of Yerba Mate is practiced as a social ritual. Friends and family gather in a circle as the host prepares the beverage in a gourd and drinks the first infusion with a filtered straw called a bombilla (Spanish) or bomba (Portuguese). The gourd is refilled and passed to each guest in the circle. Everyone shares the same gourd and bomba, joining in a bond of acceptance and friendship.

In the following video, Cinthia demonstrates how to brew Yerba Mate while talking more about the tradition behind it. Cinthia comes from Southern Brazil, not far from the border region with Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay, where Mate is enjoyed on a regular basis.

Implements used for brewing Yerba Mate

  • Bomba or bombilla: This filtered straw is used to drink the Mate. They are often made of bamboo or stainless steel.
  • Gourd: Mate cups are often made from natural gourds or wood.

Curing your gourd

  1. Fill your gourd 3/4 full with Mate leaves.
  2. Fill the gourd with hot but not boiling water (around 165 – 175°F) until it is full.
  3. Let the Mate sit overnight. Top off the gourd with more water as the water absorbs.
  4. Rinse out the gourd thoroughly.
  5. For natural gourds (ones not made of wood): Your gourd may have seeds and a natural membrane. Some of this may wash out when you cure it; this is normal but there is no need to excessively scrub the inside.
  6. Let your gourd air dry.

Cleaning your gourd

Always rinse your gourd after use with warm water. Do not use soap because it will absorb into the gourd and flavor your mate. Never use boiling water, as it may crack your gourd.

Let the gourd air dry, preferably at a 45° angle, to prevent mold growth.

Yerba Mate featured in this video

  • Argentinian Yerba Mate (Argentina): Crisp, herbaceous, vegetal aroma and taste.
  • Chimarrão (Iguaçu Valley, Brazil): Powdered Yerba Mate that is strong, herbaceous, grassy, and slightly smoky.
  • Rio (Iguaçu Valley, Brazil): Cooling, clear, bittersweet flavor notes.
  • Roasted Mate (Southern Brazil): Toasty, smooth, and full-bodied with light cocoa notes.
  • Our other Mate choices

Look out for more Yerba Mate videos in the future!

Sencha Brewing (Senchado)

unnamedSencha is a type of steamed Japanese green tea that requires a different brewing technique and temperature than Chinese greens. “Senchado” refers to the way of drinking and enjoying Japanese green tea, and the following will be a guide to doing just that.

In the production of Sencha, the tea leaves can only be harvested for a short time each spring. Shortly after plucking, leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation (rather than fired, as is often the case for Chinese green teas), and then they are rolled and dried until they take on the long, thin shape. Next there is a sieving and cutting process, at which point the cut leaves are sorted according to color and shape.

Senchas tend to be more vegetal and salty than Chinese green teas, with a very pleasant umami flavor. Sencha leaves should be steeped at a temperature slightly cooler than most teas–anywhere from 160-185°F (71-85°C). The tea can be steeped three times, and steeping times will vary from around 15 seconds to a minute and a half. In the following video, Alicia demonstrates one approach to brewing Sencha:

Implements used for brewing Sencha:

  • Kyusu teapot: Kyusu pots are the traditional option for brewing Sencha. The teapot featured in this video is our Edo teapot, a Tokoname clay teapot with a built-in fine mesh strainer. Its round shape allows enough room for leaves to expand.
  • Kyusu leaf holder: The leaf holder can be used to hold discarded tea leaves and to receive the water used for waking up the tea leaves.
  • Water cooler (Yuzamashi): The water cooler is used to hold the cool water that wakes up the leaves. It is also used as a pitcher for the tea once it has finished steeping.
  • Tea caddy/tin: An airtight container is ideal for storing loose leaf tea.
  • Bamboo scoop: Useful for scooping small leaf teas.

Sencha Terms:

  • Fukamushi:  “Deep steamed” Sencha, known for a creamy, buttery texture and beautiful green color. Fukamushi Senchas tend to have some broken, dusty particles of tea along with larger pieces, which is a natural byproduct of the deep steaming process. This is not an indicator of low quality, and rather contributes to a desirable creaminess in the brew.
  • Asamushi: “Light steamed” Sencha. Leaves do not break down as much as they do in the Fukamushi process. Therefore, they may be larger, producing a very clean, crisp and clear brew.
  • Kabuse: Kabuse is a Sencha that is shade grown for a week before plucking, which aids in the production of chlorophyll, increases both caffeine and altheinine (an amino acid that has a calming effect), and can add sweetness and reduce astringency, making for a very desirable smooth, sweet and vegetal tea.

Related Teas:

  • Gyokuro: Shade grown Japanese green teas. Gyokuro shares some flavor similarities with Sencha, such as the umami flavor characteristic of Japanese green teas. However, Gyokuro is its own category and can benefit from different brewing methods, such as using a lower temperature water (in fact, gyokuro tastes great when cold-brewed, or even somewhat lukewarm with temperatures as low as 125-150°F)
  • Tamaryokucha: Tamaryokucha is produced using similar methods as Sencha, but is finish dried in a tumbler, giving the leaf a curled, wavy shape, rather than the straight and needle-like shape of Sencha leaves. This tea can be brewed like Sencha.

Gongfu Tea Brewing

gongfuchaGongfu brewing is a ritualized form of preparing tea that works well with oolongs and puers. The Gongfu tea ceremony originated in the Song Dynasty and by the Ming Dynasty had become more widespread, used especially in Fujian and Guandong. “Gongfu” refers to something done with skill. Indeed brewing in this way can bring out the best flavor in a tea, as one controls variables like water temperature and steep time. In addition to producing a great brew, it is a beautiful ritual and certainly can heighten the experience of brewing tea and sharing it with others.

Implements used in Gongfu Tea Ceremony

  • A Tea Boat – The tray on which the tea is brewed.  The boat has slats or holes in the top that allow water to fall through into the lower tray or vessel below.
  • Tea Leaf Holder – Holds the dry tea leaves and displays them before brewing.  Usually designed for easy pouring of the leaf into the pot.
  • A Gongfu Pot – Often made of clay, which retains heat well as the tea brews.
  • Pitcher or “Fair Cup” – The pitcher will hold the brewed tea once it is done steeping in the pot.  The name “fair cup” refers to the fact that everyone will get exactly the same brew if the tea is decanted first.
  • Cups – A small set of cups is given to each tea drinker.  One is a tall aroma cup, and the other is a shorter drinking cup.  Tea is poured first into the aroma cup and, from there, into the drinking cup.  Take a look at the video below for a demonstration.
  • Other small implements may be used like a bamboo tea scoop, a brush for wiping down teapot and teaware, etc.

Gaiwan Brewing Method

gaiwan_bamboo_webThe Gaiwan is a traditional Chinese cup used for tea brewing. It has been used in China since the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Gaiwans consist of a lid, cup, and saucer. The tea is brewed inside the cup, and the lid is designed to strain out the tea leaves. Once the tea is steeped, one can drink from the Gaiwan, or they can pour the tea from the Gaiwan into another cup or pitcher. Check out the video below for an example of the Gaiwan brewing method.

 

Bingcha (Round Tea Cake) Factory

This Bing Cha factory video is from one of our sourcing trips in the early, start-up years as a tea company when we were auditing new suppliers. It is a visual landscape from a tea factory near Menghai in Southern Yunnan specializing in making round tea cakes (Bingcha). The visuals include the sun drying of the cakes and also on indoor wooden racks. In shaping the cakes, the leaves are first steamed and then put into cloth sacks and finally molded with stone weights.

Old Growth Tea Forests of Xishuangbanna

The region of Xishuangbanna in Southern Yunnan, China is regarded as one of the birthplaces of tea. It is home to the oldest old growth tea forests (several hundred years old). The region’s biodiversity and ethnic minorities are true stewards of the ancient tea customs and culture. The Tao of Tea sources teas directly from these communities.

Nilgiri Tea Estate

View a tea garden in the Nilgiris, South India. Nilgiris are also called the ‘Blue Mountains’ of India and famous for the lush, green tea gardens. The video is made by a friend of ours Indi Khanna who is resident in the small town of Coonoor in the Nilgiris. Indi has spent the last 25 years in the tea industry in various roles. We enjoy working with him in different tea related projects.

Darjeeling First Flush Visit by Veerinder

Darjeeling First Flush. Veerinder, Founder, The Tao of Tea visits the oldest tea factory of the region to select his micro lot of the new season.  The tea garden is at the edge of India and Nepal.  Located in the Mirik valley of Darjeeling, the estate is nestled on the banks of the river Mechi, at an altitude ranging from 1770 mtrs to 2360 mtrs. Okayti tea estate is spread across 608 hectares. The garden was first planted in 1888 and has been owned for generations by the Kumbhat family. We are great friends with Antrishk, who heads the garden now.  He keeps us high on the list of buyers given teh option to purchase the prized micro-lots.  The estate is known locally as ‘Rangdoo’.  The sound quality of the video is poor due to the high winds in the area.

Crafting Biluochun

The name Biluochun literally means “Green Snail Spring”. It is called so because it is a green tea that is rolled into a tight spiral, resembling  a snail and is harvested in early spring. Its original area of cultivation is the Dongting mountain region near Lake Tai in Jiangsu province, China.  The fresh green tea leaves are roasted in a small wok, with precise rotating hand movements to bring the leaf into a curled shape.

Artisan Sencha Crafting

Crafting Sencha green teas by hand is a time consuming artform.  It is becoming more difficult to find artisans that do this process.  Mechanical processing has become the norm in Japanese tea making.  View this old artform to get a glimpse of the expertise and heart required to make well crafted tea.  We visited Shizuoka, Japan in the recent past and met the head of the Shizuoka tea farmers association.  At his humble abode, there was small table to craft Sencha by hand.  The surface of the tea table is made of paper and is gently heated from below.  Precise hand movements are needed in a repetative motion to enable the tea leaves to develop aroma and taste.  The whole process by hand takes several hours from start to finish.

Impromptu Tea with Phoenix Tea Farmers

On one of our trips to Fenghuangshan (Phoenix Mountains) in Guangdong, China. We were invited in by one of the local tea farmers in Wudong village for a cup of tea.  This particular farmer is well known for crafting Phoenix oolong teas from old age trees growing near Wudong.  His humble home had basic but all that was really needed as equipment for making tea.  Evonne from The Tao of Tea enjoys a cup of long-leaf Phoenix oolong in a Gaiwan style brewing and shares some tea humor with the farmers.

Cangyuan – Andong Mountain

View of Andong Moungtain in Cangyuan, Yunnan at the border of China and Burma.  Some of our organic teas (Tippy South Cloud, Lincang Maofeng Green, Puer Tuocha and Shou Pu Bing Cha) come from this area.  Home to two remotely located tea areas known as Mengla and Mengku.  The area is remotely located and takes considerable time to get there from the nearest big city in Yunnan.  There were strong winds on the day we visited, and you will note that sound in the video.

 

 

Secret Garden – China Burma Border

Tea from a remotely located tea garden in Lincang county, Yunnan, China at the border of China and Burma.  The mountainous landscape is home to few, but prized tea gardens.  Due to their remote location, it is difficult to hire tea pluckers there.  As such, the tea plants are not heavily pruned and have taken on a semi-wild character which gives a pleasant flavor profile that is low in astringency.   It took us over a day of driving from the nearest major Chinese city to get to this tea garden. The Tao of Tea is the only U.S based tea company to be able to source tea from this garden.