Zen Tara Tea Blog


Answers to Your Questions About Our Website Closing

Posted by Tea Shepard on Mar 13, 2014

Once in a Lifetime Savings on Great Teas & Accessories

Zen Tara Tea is holding a clearance sale of our existing inventory of teas and accessories. Beginning on Thursday, March 13, all of our in-stock teas and accessories will be 40% off on our website. Teas are available in one size only, 4 oz. bags (except for rare teas which will be available in a smaller size). As our inventory sells out, accessory items and teas will no longer be available on our website at the clearance sale price.

Can I Still Get More of My Favorite Teas Before March 31st?

For customers who have a strong attachment to a particular tea or two and would like to stock-up on their favorites, we will take special orders via e-mail for your teas, minimum 1 lb. per tea (lb. prices are indicated at the end of the text of each tea description on our website). These orders are at the regular price and are not a part of the inventory reduction sale. Once we receive your order request we will send you a PayPal invoice and your teas should arrive within 7-10 days. The absolute last day we will accept a special order is March 31, 2014.

You Took Me Down the Primrose Tea Path of Great Tasting Loose Tea, What Will I Do To Get Good Tea After You Close?

For your extended tea fix, later in the month we will also pass along recommendations for where you can purchase the same or similar teas from other tea merchants. We are working with them now to let them know of our closing and to see if we can negotiate a special sample or discount for you when you order indicating that you were a Zen Tara Tea customer. More news to follow and the information will also be posted in the blog section of the Zen Tara Tea website.

After 7 Years, A New Adventure For Us

The website, and in principle Zen Tara Tea, are closing so that we can pursue other opportunities that have come to us in working with projects in Thailand and potentially in other tea growing countries. There will be extensive travel beginning the end of April to begin some of the work and the amount of time we will be spending outside the country makes maintaining our small operation in the U.S. through our website impractical at this time. We also can see that in the future we may have the chance to do things that expand beyond the product range that currently defines Zen Tara Tea and feel we need to explore these options as well as our love of tea.

Thank You

While the relative success of Zen Tara Tea might be debatable by some, it has endured since the early days at a farmers market in 2007 and helped make numerous connections to many of you that otherwise would never have taken place. For that, we thank you for your positive energy, your insights, your financial support and your willingness to listen and occasionally pitch-in at an event when called upon. Those connections and very human qualities will continue long after the last leaves of Zen Tara Tea have been brewed. We couldn't ask for better customers and although a bit saddened by retiring Zen Tara Tea, we are also excited by the chance to return at some point in the future to dazzle you once again.


All our best,

Methee, Guy, the Zen Tara Tea "Alumni" and extended family

Adding Milk to Tea or Add Tea to Milk? A Third Way: The Samburu Way

Posted by Tea Shepard on Feb 27, 2014

For those who drink their black tea British style, with milk and sugar, it's preparation methods have been debated for centuries - what is the "correct" way to prepare a cuppa tea? Of all of the steps, the most divisive is when and how to add milk to the tea (and only milk, cream is not an option).

Historically, there were two reasons to consider adding milk to the cup first: the milk helped prevent the tea from staining the china cup over prolonged use and pouring the hot tea into the milk was thought to kill any harmful bacteria that might be lurking in the milk. Those preferring to add the tea first and then the milk primarily based their rationale on the fact that they used the color of the addition of milk to the tea as a visual clue when to stop to get the desired flavor. Depending on how much you value the practices of the royal family, they always pour the tea first, so there is that recommendation to consider.

Or is there a third way?

In the 1940's tea production (controlled by the British) expanded into East Africa and the northern plains of Kenya. Over time the Samburu who inhabit this region in Kenya developed a tea drinking habit altered to suit their own traditions. With large herds of livestock, milk was a daily staple in the diet of the Samburu, more plentiful than tea. Over time, the size of the herds decreased and tea with milk and sugar began to replace milk as the dominant beverage. In a large pot over a fire two parts water and one part milk are brought to a boil, to which a scoop of tea leaves and sugar are added. On special occasions, the proportions of water and milk will be reversed or milk only will be used to make the strong, sweet, hot tea. If times were lean and milk was not available "turunge" tea would be prepared - water, tea and sugar only.

The preparation method of the Samburu in Kenya is similar to that of how Chai is prepared in India, brewed in large pots rather than a teapot or cup, creating a strong tea that is heavily sweetend with sugar. Give it a try sometime and see if you notice a difference. Maybe the third way is the best way?

A New Chocolate & Tea Recipe to Warm You

Posted by Tea Shepard on Feb 06, 2014

The original version of a hot chocolate was nothing like the heavy, creamy hot chocolate most of us drink today. In fact,many of today's indigenous Maya people continue to drink a version of hot chocolate based on an ancient recipe, mixing the cacao bean paste with hot water; it was the Spaniards in Colonial times that began the custom of adding milk, cream, and sugar to the cacao paste to create a soft creamy taste similar to our current hot cocoa. This recipe echoes the earliest origins of the drink and creates a dairy-free hot chocolate with a touch of tea sophistication. If Earl Grey isn't one of you favorite teas, there are other black tea options that work equally well: Organic Tropical Black, Organic Black Tea with Ginger and Organic Golden Yunnan, to name a few.


6 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa
1/4 cup agave sweetener
2 tablespoons Zen Tara loose leaf organic Earl Grey tea leaves
2 cups water brought to a boil
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest (optional)

Add cocoa and agave to a heatproof bowl, mug or small serving pitcher. In a second bowl add tea and 2 cups of hot water. Steep the tea leaves for 4 minutes. If using the orange zest add to the tea and hot water about 1 minute before the completion of the brewing time. Strain the liquid over the bowl or cup of cocoa and agave and stir with a whisk or fork until slightly frothy. Enjoy!

What Happens to Green Oolong Tea Before it Brews in Your Cup?

Posted by Tea Shepard on Jan 23, 2014

An overview of the growing, harvesting and processing steps of less oxidized (green) oolong teas.

  1. The tea plants used for oolong teas are specific cultivars of tea plants developed to thrive in high altitude, mountain climates and too produce a left type that is best suited for the taste and production of oolong teas. Newer tea plants mature and once they are five years old reach their optimum tea producing period for roughly ten years. After this period the tea bush will continue to produce good quality teas up until around 30 years of age after which most are replanted. Organic tea farms place less stress on the tea plant and can extend their growing lives as long as a decade.

  2. Depending on the local climate and conditions, tea bushes producing tea leaves for oolong teas can be harvested multiple times per year or as little as twice a year. Even under the best growing conditions, oolong tea farmers wait 30-45 days between harvests. For green oolong tea production the top leaf bud must be opened before picking and will be plucked along with 2-3 following leaves. Smaller growers or farms in extreme terrains will pluck their teas by hand, larger tea farms on more level grown may use machines to help pluck the tea leaves.

  3. The workers who pluck the tea leaves bring the leaves to an area where they are laid out on sheet on flat ground to allow them to wither and lose some of their moisture content for 30-120 minutes. If the day has a strong sun shining, the withering pads will be probably be shaded to control the process and protect the leaves.

  4. Inside drying or oxidation is the next step for the tea leaves. They are brought into a space where the temperature and humidity can be controlled and spread across large woven bamboo trays. Every few hours at specific intervals the trays are stirred to move the leaves around and break down their cell structure. This triggers oxidation of the tea leaves and a releasing of aromatic oils. The process can continue ten to twenty-four hours until the grower observes and smells the aroma of the leaves determining the exact time to stop the oxidizing process. This step is critical in helping to determine the final flavor of the tea.

  5. The leaves are transferred into large rotating drums that are heated to fire the teas which stops the oxidation process by destroying the enzymes that cause it. The leaves are heated at a high temperature for five to seven minutes and removed.

  6. From firing the still warm leaves go through a rolling process. The first rolling is done by machines with a dome shaped armature that rotates swiftly causing the leaves to release their aroma while also tightening towards more of a twisted or ball shaped appearance.

  7. A mechanical drying machine then stabilizes the tea leaves and their aroma while removing any excessive residual moisture. After twenty to thirty minutes of drying in the machine the fully processed leaves are often then spread in bamboo trays again to stand for six to eight hours. This completes the first stage or first day of the oolong tea processing.

  8. The second stage or second day of processing the teas involves repeating a series of steps (heat/stir, rolling and compression) over a dozen times depending on the type of oolong the tea farmer or tea master is trying to create.

  9. For the rolling, historically, leaves were placed onto a square piece of fabric which was shaped and twisted into a soccer ball shape, the rolling was then done by workers who used their feet to add pressure and rotate the ball. Modern machine replicates this process, although still require creating the tea into a fabric ball that is then compressed and turned in the machine with rotating rollers.

  10. After the distinctive shape of the green pellet or bead of the oolong tea is completed there is a final drying to ensure that no more than two to three percent moisture content remains in the leaves. After five to ten minutes of drying the tea is sorted to make sure no large stems remain and the tea is packaged.

Given all of the intense labor, skill and patience required to create oolong teas it is no wonder that the most exceptional oolong teas can be among the highest priced of all teas. Limited harvests and the special skills to manipulate the leaf during processing create the unique flavors of oolong teas.


5 Simple Healthy Eating Tips

Posted by Tea Shepard on Jan 08, 2014

Sometimes the larger resolutions, the big ideas, can get away from us. We don't have as much time as we though we would to dedicate ourselves to them, we lose focus, or the resolution wasn't realistic. Here are 5 small changes, easy to implement, that offer big rewards.

More Yogurt, Lower Blood Pressure
Researchers followed 2000 people for 15 years, none had high blood pressure at the beginning of the study. Those who ate at least one 6 oz. cup of low-fat yogurt every 3 days were less likely to develop high blood pressure. ("Yogurt Consumption, Blood Pressure and Incident Hypertension", ScienceDaily, Sept. 2012)

Tank-up on L-theanine
Found in green and black teas, L-theanine increases the brains alpha-wave activity which helps lessen anxiety and increase a feeling of calm. Studies have shown it helps reduce negative responses to stress and contributes to increased feelings of relaxation.

Apple a Day Keeps Cholesterol Away
Apples can help reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol. A group of healthy middle-aged adults ate an apple a day for 4 weeks and saw a substantial 40% decrease in oxidized LDL cholesterol. ("Study: An Apple a Day Lowers Cholesterol of Blood Chemical Linked to Hardening of the Arteries", Ohio State University, Oct. 2012)

Holidays Are Over: Limit Baked Goods, Lower Salts, Get More Sleep
Eating a lot of simple carbohydrates (cookies, sugary drinks, white bread, etc.) releases the stress hormone cortisol which slows digestion ---> belly fat. Avoid simple carbs entirely or eat more multi-grain alternatives and lots of fresh vegetables. Salt probably snuck its way into a lot of holiday foods which contributes to high blood pressure and stroke risk. Keep a closer eye on salts, limit sodium to 2,000 mg. per day. Days are short and nights are long, take advantage of it. After the hectic month of December, pamper yourself and indulge in a more restful sleep routine. Shut off the television, tablet and smart phone 30 minutes before bedtime to encourage a deeper sleep. (OK, this "one" item was a three-fer)

More Chamomile, Sir
Chamomile (flowering herb) helps calm nerves and is a mild natural sedative. In a study of 57 patients with anxiety disorders by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, extracts of Chamomile had a significant improvement in behavior and reduced anxiety. Chamomile is usually consumed dried as a tea or as a supplement. Note: Chamomile is a relative of ragweed and should be consumed with caution if you are a ragweed allergy sufferer.