March 2011

Drop by for a cup of our exception Ethiopia Konga!

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What is Tea?

Tea is a plant (Camellia sinensis) that grows in wet tropical and subtropical climates;  from this same plant comes Green, White, Oolong, Puerh, and Black teas, which are simply processed differently.  Other beverages which are often referred to as tea are not really “tea” at all, but tisanes (or herbal infusions–not to be confused with shampoo or conditioner).  These dried and often flavored leaves, buds, petals, fruit, etc. are then steeped in hot water to create a refreshing drink.


Who drinks this stuff anyway?

Despite the fact that Americans drink more coffee than tea, tea is actually second only to water in the rest of the world.


Why drink tea?

Tea has its start thousands of years ago as a beverage that was consumed for medicinal purposes.  Today, tea offers a wonderful source of antioxidants and some with a moderate amount of caffeine (to be discussed in a later post).  Most of all, enjoy it for the taste!


How do I make tea?

Each kind of tea will require slightly different water temperatures to create the best cup; however, the most important part is your own taste.  Here are some guidelines to get you going in the right direction:


-Start with cold, filtered water to obtain the best results and never microwave…

-Use 1 tsp. for each 8 oz. of water

-Water temperatures:  Some teas or more delicate than others, water that is too hot will “shock” green tea and make a bitter and astringent cup, steeping it too long will often have the same result.


  • White: 3-4 minutes at 185˚F
  • Green: 1-3 minutes at 160-175˚F
  • Oolong: 3-5 minutes at 175-195˚F
  • Black: 3-5 minutes at 201-209˚F


-To find your taste, sip to taste every 30 seconds while steeping.  Black tea will yield a light and sweet liquor if only steeped for a minute or so; a rich and robust liquor after 3-5 minutes.


Next time:

Harvesting and processing tea

Reacquaint yourself with Rooibos


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I was talking to a customer this morning who asked me, “What does it mean to be Certified Organic?” About 30 seconds into my explanation, I noticed him looking at his watch, and I realized that this can be a pretty dense topic.  It was a nice reminder to be brief in my explanation here.  If you want to learn more, please follow the links at the end of the blog.

To be organic means grown with no chemicals.  That means pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. It also means that chemicals are not a part of the processing, and that exposure to chemicals from other sources (say a neighbors coffee farm or being shipped or stored next to chemicals) is prevented.

Unfortunately, people today know that the word “organic” sells and make organic claims that are untrue in order to sell their products. Sometimes these claims are true and sometimes they may not be true or only partially true, with non-organic products being sold as “organic.” Certification is the best way to be sure that what you are getting is actually organic.  The USDA in charge of organic certification, however the certification process is done through one of several certifying agencies.  Cafe Virtuoso is certified by Quality Assurance International.

National Organic Program

Certifying entities perform regular inspections and audits of growers, importers/exporters and manufacturers (that’s us).  The coffee and tea that we sell has to have a paper trail back to the farm it was grown on.    That funny little code on the back of your bag can be used to trace all the way back to the specific farm and crop.  If we were, for example sneaking some non-organics into our bags it would be readily apparent during this audit.

Currently the rules state that organic coffee needs to be roasted separately from non-organic coffee, with a “purge batch” to be performed before roasting organic coffees.  We take it a step further by only putting organic coffee in our roaster.   Studies have yet to prove that purging a roaster (~450F) removes chemicals found in non-organic coffees.

Next time we will look at some of the issues surrounding the relevancy of organics.

To learn more about organics read on…

Organic Food Production Act of 1990

National Organic Program (NOP) Regulations

NOP Handbook

Organic Trade Association


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