Q&A with B.W.C.

April 4th, 2011

Q: How do you brew loose leaf teas that don’t come in a bag?
1. Use a tea pot or really large mug
2. Pour hot water into the pot or mug to warm it up (this keeps the temp of the            water  higher when you brew the tea).
3. If you are making tea for one person, put one teaspoon of tea in the pot or mug. If you are making tea for two people put in two teaspoons (but you had better have a really big mug).
4. Boil the water and pour into the pot or mug. At least 12 oz of water for one cup, 20 oz for two cups.
5. If you like your tea weak, leave it sitting for 2 minutes then pour out the tea through a tea strainer into a teacup/mug.
6. If you like your tea strong leave it sitting for 3 to 4 minutes and then pour out the tea through a tea strainer into a tea cup/mug
7. If you like your tea REALLY, REALLY STRONG stir the leaves after two minutes and pour it out through a tea strainer after 4 minutes intoa teacup/mug
8. Enjoy!

Q:  What is your favorite tea?
A:  I have many favorites. That’s the beauty of tea; there are so many to choose from.  However, I have put together my “dream blend.” It consisted of high-grown Nuwara Eliyas picked in May, Kenya tea picked east of the Great Rift Valley, a high-grown Rwandan valley tea for its earthy taste, and finally, just a touch of second-flush Darjeeling to give it a little bite.  Of course, this is an impossible blend to market commercially.  Such teas are not available in sufficient quantities to assure a year-round, consistent tea.  It was one helluva blend though!  Knocked your socks off!

Q:  How many different types of tea are there?
A:  Thousands.

Q:  Can I reuse a tea bag?
A:  Never dry out a tea bag and reuse it. Why would you want to reuse a tea bag?

Q.  Is green tea better for you than black tea?
A:  It comes from the same bush, only the processing is different. So ignoring the issues of origin, elevation and season, black tea actually has as much goodness as green tea. Most people just don’t know it.

Q:  How much green tea does the world produce?
A:  Almost 676,000 metric tons.

Q:  Who drinks the most green tea?
A:  The Chinese.

Q:  Can I drink green tea with milk?
A:  No, no, no, never drink green tea with milk!

Q:  What is Earl Grey?
A:  Earl Grey is normally a black tea from China that also contains the oil from a little pear-shaped orange called the bergamot orange, added to it for flavor.

Q:  Should I add milk to Earl Grey Tea?
A:  Never add milk to a good Earl Grey. You can add milk to a poor Earl Grey, but it won’t make much difference.

Q:  Does tea have more caffeine than coffee?
A:  Yes.

Q:  But it says on the boxes that it has less caffeine than coffee. 
A:  Well that’s because you can get 200 cups of tea from 1 pound, and you can only make 50 cups of coffee from one pound. But on a pound-for-pound basis, tea in its natural state has more caffeine than coffee. All clear?
No? Well, on a cup-to-cup basis, tea has less caffeine than coffee does. Okay?

Q:  What is the most expensive tea in the world?
A:  White tea from China.

Q:  What is the cheapest tea in the world?
A:  Burma, Georgia, Iran and Turkey have produced some pretty rough stuff over the years.  (The Georgia that used to be part of Russia, that is.)

Q:  Does the United States produce any tea?
A:  Yes, there is a tea garden down near Charleston, South Carolina. It is owned and operated by the “royal family” of tea, David and Eunice Bigelow and William Barclay Hall, the founder of American Classic Tea.

Q:  What is the rarest tea in the world?
A:  Probably the only tea grown in America.

Q:  How did you become a tea taster?
A:  Luck.

Q:  What do you do with all the tea you have to taste?
A:  I spit it into a spittoon. Ugh! Agreed, it’s a bit gross.

Q:  How many cups of tea do you drink a day?
A:  On the average, about six.

Q:  What advice would you give a trainee tea taster?
A:  Wear boots in the tea fields because you cannot see the snakes when you walk among the bushes.

Q:  How should I store tea?
A:  In an airtight container in a cupboard away from light and away from spices. A glass jar will do as long as it has a lid.

Q:  Who drinks the strongest tea in the world?
A:  I think the Irish.

Q:  Who drinks the weakest tea in the world?
A:  Don’t know, but Americans who dip their tea bags into a cup of hot water for about 10 seconds have to come close.

Q:  Who produces the most tea in the world?
A:  China.  The experts may say India, but China produces a lot of tea that never reaches any sort of market as it is made and consumed by the very people who grow it.

Q:  Who produces the least?
A:  The United States.

Q:  Which country drinks the most tea per person?
A:  The Republic of Ireland.  The Irish drink about 2.70 kilos of tea a year (that’s about six pounds of tea per person, including women and children). Let’s hear it for the Irish!

Q:  What is the consumption in the United States?
A:  Less than three-quarters of a pound per person per year.

Q:  What does CTC mean?
A:  Cut, Tear and Curl.  It refers to a method of manufacturing tea.  I explain it here.

Q:  What is “Cut Pekoe Black Tea”?
A:  It is the Pekoe grade of tea that’s been cut to fit into a tea bag.

Q:  Does “Cut Pekoe Black Tea”  mean it is good tea?
A:  No.

Q:  How much tea is produced in the whole world?
A:  Approximately 3,000,000 metric tons a year.

Q:  How many cups is that?
A:  2,727,272,728.

Q:  Will the world ever run out of tea?
A:  No.

Q:  What is “instant tea”?
A:  It is tea that has been brewed in a giant kettle and has had the components extracted, mixed together, and then spray-dried into a powder.

Q:  Has anything in tea ever been found to be bad for you?
A:  Not to my knowledge.  There is always the debate about caffeine, but as coffee and most soft drinks are loaded with the stuff, it seems a silly debate to me.

Q:  How long does tea last in a box on the grocery shelf?
A:  About two years.

Q:  How long in a pantry?
A:  In a sealed container that is airtight, about six months. Longer if you don’t mind the quality going off a bit.  By “off a bit,” I mean stale.

Q:  Which is better to brew: loose tea, tea pods or tea bags?
A:  It all depends on what you are looking for. For a cultural experience that’s elegant, time bound and leaves gaps for conversation and polite exchanges, nothing beats loose tea. However, if you want some convenience and a dangling string and tag along with a dripping tea bag to get rid of, nothing beats a tea bag. If you want speed, convenience, neatness and a great cup or glass of tea, then nothing beats a tea pod.

Q:  What is a tea brick?
A:  It is an ancient form of tea and currency. The Chinese made tea into bricks, loaded them aboard camel trains, and took them over to Russia. They were then sold or exchanged for goods and broken up and brewed.  It boggles the mind that anything that had been bounced along the sides of a sweating camel for months on end would taste anything but awful, but there you go, there’s no accounting for taste. (Refer back to the least expensive tea in the world.)

Q.  What are you doing these days?
A.  Well, actually, I spend my time finding new ways to bring good tea to people.

I began by developing a better way of brewing tea: the tea pod. In the interest of full disclosure, I must add that I own the worldwide rights to the tea pod, so I do have a vested interest in seeing this method of brewing tea succeed. The patent was granted in the United States in 1999 and around the world thereafter.

The idea for the tea pod came to me in 1998 when I was sitting in a coffeehouse watching espresso coffee being made. I wondered how tea would behave under that kind of heat and pressure. I purchased a little espresso machine, made up some pods, and was amazed at how quickly the tea was made and how good it tasted.

When I discovered that my invention made a glass of iced tea in 35 seconds, I realized I really did have a good idea and applied for a patent. My patent was granted immediately with all claims—meaning the tea pod was a unique and different idea. The problem with iced tea is that it usually takes an age to make. You have to boil the water, infuse the tea bags, create a concentrate, dilute the concentrate, put the concentrate in the refrigerator, and then wait for it to chill down. It makes no sense not to brew anything less than a full pitcher of tea.

Not so with the pod. In 35 seconds, you can brew a glass of black tea; in another 35 seconds, a glass of green tea; and in another 35 seconds, a cup of hot herbal tea. So in under two minutes, you can have three perfectly made and very good teas—with no pitcher taking up a lot of space in the refrigerator.

The truth is, the tea pod is a better way of making tea. It is faster and more consistent, and it extracts more tea solids and antioxidants from tea in 35 seconds than a three-minute traditional brew.

The next thing I tackled was fountain tea. 7-Eleven, a convenience store company known to try new and different products, asked me if I could develop a bag-in-the-box (BIB) concentrate that could be served on the fountain—and taste good.

BIB tea comes out of the fountain just like soda. It is a tea concentrate that is mixed with water and served through the fountain dispenser. The setup is very simple. The bag has a valve that’s hooked onto a line that sucks out the concentrate at a ratio of 5:1 or 7:1 (One part of concentrate to five parts or seven parts of water). The difference between my product and the rest of the marketplace is that my unsweetened version is 100 percent natural—no chemicals and no additives, just tea and water.

Compare this to the leading national brands: they have upward of 20 ingredients combined in their BIB products, including artificial flavors and red dyes. Of course, you can’t read an ingredient list on a fountain dispenser or in a restaurant. You can only taste the product. Mine tastes like real tea; it’s as simple as that. It tastes like real tea because it is real tea.