Thursday, 24 January 2013
Off we went to our third plantation. We were now heading up to 6000 feet to the top of the mountain to our third (and one of our company’s favorite plantations that produces teas for our blends). It is called Pedro.
As the gates opened up and we pulled into the lot, I was about to experience something that would profoundly impact me. The fields were filled with color as the Sri Lankan women in bright color clothing were in the fields busily plucking the freshly grown shoots off the bushes. I asked if I could join them and, after a nod from the manager, I ran down the steps and into the fields where the ladies were working. When I came upon the first woman I asked her name and then happily shared mine.
After a whole bunch of smiles exchanged she started to work again. I just watched with amazement. She moved so quickly with such skilled hands. I, of course, tried to duplicate what she did and could only laugh at the results. So did she.
After a few minutes I moved on to another lady and then another. We had the same exchange. Many smiles and it gave them great joy each time I tried to accomplish what they were doing with such ease. Even the manager joined in to coach me!
After that I followed the women to the weigh station. Every two hours of collecting the tea leaves they head down to designated areas to have their prize possession weighed. As they lined up smiling and chatting, quite curious about who I was, I had the manager explain how my family has been selling for 67 years the teas they pluck, and how my grandmother had fallen in love with Ceylon tea back in 1945. We have been devoted purchasers ever since.
That their garden was one of our favorites. And with that I started to walk down the line of beautiful women shaking their hands and saying “nan dri,” which is “thank you” in their language. I couldn’t help myself as tears came down my cheek. When they asked why I could only say because I was so happy. So happy to witness this historical profession with my own eyes. Something never done by my family before. I was representing three generations whose entire lives have been centered around tea. It was a moment like no other.
After close to an hour in the field we went up to the “tea room.” There we got to see all the amazing work being done at Pedro. This plantation is certified Fair Trade, ISO 22000, ETP, Rain Forest Alliance and has built new homes for all their 800 employees. So many of the plantations in Sri Lanka are moving in this direction in order to keep this historical profession sustainable into the future. They know they have to take care of the worker and the fields if they want these gardens to prosper for hundreds more years!
After many hours of learning and tasting we headed out. But my experience at Pedro will never leave me. It was a profound moment in my life. Back in the car we went, waving goodbye to some truly wonderful people.
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Wednesday, 23 January 2013
If there’s one good thing about cold and flu season, it’s that it offers another incentive to eat well and stay hydrated. We know that drinking lots of water and beverages like tea is the best way to stay hydrated. And research suggests that consuming a diet with plenty of essential vitamins and minerals can boost your immune system, the body’s first line of defense against those nasty cold and flu viruses. So let’s make healthy food choices and brew up a pot of Bigelow Tea!
Of course, even the most robust people get sick occasionally, especially when exposed to others who are coughing and sneezing. Experts remind us that frequent hand washing is essential to keeping the germs away. Shopping for foods that boost your immunity is also important. As Bruce Bistrian, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, tells WebMD, “The immune system needs certain nutrients to be strong and fully functional.”
And, there are reasons to drink tea that go beyond hydration and deliciousness! Published research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard University suggests that theanine in tea may support your immune system. A cup of tea contains an average of 20-25 mg of theanine. That’s heart-warming research for Bigelow Tea lovers!
Finally, here’s a look at foods that research suggests that can help you shape up for cold and flu season:
Garlic – May increase resistance to infection and stress.
- Dairy products – Contain conjugated linoleic acid, which has boosted immune response in animal studies.
- Whole grains – Deliver immune-boosting selenium.
- Vitamin C – Has been found to enhance immune function.
- Zinc – Known to play an important role in proper immune function. Good sources include meat, chicken, peanuts and peanut butter.
While good eating habits and some tasty cups of tea are no guarantee you’ll stay healthy this season, you’ll still be nourishing and hydrating your body. And that’s always a wonderful thing!
Photo by Jon Sullivan via public-domain-image.com
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Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Earlier this month we introduced you to Tiffany King, our January Fan of the Month! Tiffany, who home schools her children, also creates recipes and writes about home cooking on her Eat at Home blog. Best of all, even though she’s super-busy, Tiffany always manages to find time for a cup of Bigelow Tea!
Recently Tiffany was inspired to create some sweet, spiced muffins using Bigelow Spiced Chai Tea! We wanted to share the recipe for Spiced Chai Tea Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping with you today. We hope you’ll break out the muffin pan and give it a try!
Spiced Chai Tea Muffins with Cinnamon Streusel Topping
2 cups flour
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup strong brewed Bigelow Spiced Chai Tea
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
For the topping:
5 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbs. butter
5 Tbs. flour
Stir flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
In a mixer bowl, mix butter, sugar and eggs.
Add brewed tea, milk and vanilla to wet ingredients and mix till well blended.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir gently till well combined.
Divide evenly between 12 muffin tins.
Using a fork, combine all ingredients for topping until you have crumbs.
Sprinkle on top of muffins.
Bake at 400 degrees 15-20 minutes.
Yield: 1 dozen muffins
Notes: To make the strong, brewed tea use 1 or 2 tea bags and 1/4 cup boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes.
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Monday, 21 January 2013
From there we left to continue our journey through the mountains, once again through windy roads, through miles and miles of tea bushes, headed for the Dessford plantation. Eventually we arrived at Dessford. We were late, my MO (Modus operandi) for the entire week, but they received us with huge smiles and great warmth — the usual Sri Lankan way!
This time we got to see how they processed their tea. Each facility being slightly different to create their own unique blend. We finished up drinking their freshest tea which had been carefully hand-picked only a few days before.
They shared with us nuances of tea tasting that I could have never imagined they could pick up. These people made me realize why my grandmother fell in love with Ceylon teas (from the country now called Sri Lanka), more than 70 years ago because no one knows more, has more history and has been as dedicated to this delicious product.
Ceylon teas are the most expensive on the world market and I clearly knew why. It was the people. Yes the Camilla sinensis grows all around the world. But on the top of these mountains, the soil, the conditions and the people were what truly made Ceylon teas so exquisite.
We finally finished up after 7 pm and headed back to the Grand Hotel N’Eliya. When we arrived we were pretty exhausted. So we had dinner around nine and feel asleep around midnight. Visions of tea bushes filled my head. The memories of the day were overwhelming. It was a day like no other. And the good news was I got to have another one just like it the following day.
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Monday, 21 January 2013
Today we have two significant reasons to pause and reflect as we sip our Bigelow Tea: it is both Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the day of the inauguration of President Barak Obama. So let’s brew up a pot of tea and consider life in America.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, and it was a dream of a place where tolerance and equality reigned. Each year in January, we recognize his birth by devoting a day to thoughtful reflection and community service. At Bigelow Tea we hold community service in high regard, and we encourage everyone to do something for someone in need today.
Interestingly, the very person to be inaugurated today, President Obama, has been a proponent of national and community service. He also happens to be the United States’ first African-American President, and his election (and recent re-election) is something Dr. King may have dreamed of when he was giving his famous speech in 1963.
As we brew our tea on this morning, we think Sweet Dreams is the ideal selection to sip as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his vision. His dream was a sweet one, indeed.
Image by e-strategyblog.com via Fotopedia.com
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Friday, 18 January 2013
It’s January, which means that it’s National Thank You Month! At Bigelow Tea we have so much to be thankful for, and we hope you’ll join us in saying “thank you” today.
Think of all those people who make a positive impact on our lives. From teachers to coaches, from family to bus drivers, National Thank You Month means that it is time to say thanks to everyone who shows us kindness and generosity.
A great way to start is by making a list of the people you want to thank. Then figure out how to best convey your appreciation. Write thank you cards with your family. Donate to an organization on behalf of someone. Bake a batch of cookies and box them up with a pretty bow.
Our absolute favorite way to say thanks? Make a cup of Bigelow Tea for someone you want to thank! Pour a cup of English Breakfast Tea, and you will really make that person’s day. It’s also National Hot Tea Month … so drink to new beginnings and old friendships! A little goes a long way when saying thank you!
With the beginning of a new year, we hope you will take the time to reflect on what you have to be thankful for. Here at Bigelow Tea we want to say “thank you” to our loyal and hardworking employees and of course, you, our devoted customers! To all our loving tea drinkers, many thanks for choosing Bigelow Tea!
Photo by stevendepolo via Flickr.com
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Thursday, 17 January 2013
We continued our climb up. As we ascended we started to see the most beautiful vision…tea bushes. The Camillia sinensis plant, thousands of them, everywhere. The mountain side was covered in these distinctive plants as far as the eye could see. It was like nothing I have ever seen in my life. Here was the bush that three generations of my family has been dedicated to for almost 70 years, right in front of me.
Higher and higher we climbed. Past 4,000 feet then 5,000 feet, past monkeys, oxen, mongoose. Finally at around 5,500 feet we reached our first plantation, Waltrim, a state-of-the-art facility sitting high up in the Nuwara Eliya section of the Sri Lankan mountains (there are six regions total). It was a site for sore eyes. Nestled in the hills was this plant that had over 1,000 acres of tea bushes.
I could never share what that visit meant to me (nor really what all the plant visits meant to me). Needless to say it was beyond words. I had so many questions for them, I thought their management team was going to send me home. But each time they shared more about their process (each factory is a little different). I had a ton more questions. It was so interesting. I mean really, I was actually seeing withering beds with my own eyes. I was watching the leaves go through the rolling machine then the Rotovane machines to be carefully chopped into different leave sizes, then laid out on special beds to finish the fermentation, finally dried at about 125 degrees after 21 minutes.
Tea was being made in front of my very own eyes. We only buy orthodox tea, which is all that comes from the high mountain gardens of this country. It is a slower method to process the tea but it produces the lightest brightest most favorable cup. The process is centuries old but timeless in ensuring that perfect cup.
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Wednesday, 16 January 2013
At Bigelow Tea we love any catchy little tune that involves tea, like I’m A Little Teapot and Tea for Two. Recently, we started thinking of some songs where we could adjust the lyrics to become tea-related … and we came up with the ABCs of Bigelow Tea! It might start something like this: “American, Black, Chai, Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Fruit & Almond, Green… . ” The alphabe-TEA-cal possibilities are endless!
While thinking about our tea ABC song, we soon realized that we could create different alphabet songs for different aspects of tea. For example, how about a song based on the various kinds and descriptions of dry tea leaves: “aroma, blackish, chunky, dry, even, flaky, grainy … .” Or perhaps we could sing and learn about the descriptions of tea liquors, the actual liquid tea tastes, in our song “astringency, bitter, complex, dry, earthy too … .” What fun we can have as we sing and learn about different facets of tea!
When all’s said and done, how about this for the ending of our clever song? “Now we know our ABCs of tea, next time won’t you take a sip with me?” Pitch perfect!
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Tuesday, 15 January 2013
The smooth, rich taste of Darjeeling tea has a special place in the hearts of tea lovers all over the world. Known as “the champagne of teas,” it is grown only in Darjeeling, India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. This exotic region was recently highlighted in a New York Times story chronicling concerns about the authenticity of some teas marketed as Darjeeling. We think this article provides Bigelow Tea with the perfect opportunity to reassure our loyal tea consumers that our Darjeeling is 100 percent Darjeeling. That means our Darjeeling tea is never blended with teas from other regions!
As the Times article noted, some wholesalers sell Darjeeling blends as a way to capitalize on the popularity of Darjeeling tea while limiting cost and boosting volume. Darjeeling tea is significantly more expensive than teas from other regions because of limited production. There are just 87 certified tea gardens in the Darjeeling district. Precious real estate, indeed! The good news for consumers is that tea growers and the Indian government have initiated increasingly successful efforts to protect the Darjeeling name and the distinctive tea grown there, 5,000 feet above sea level in a climate that is just about perfect for delicate tea plants.
“In a decision this year, the European Union agreed to phase out the use of ‘Darjeeling’ on blended teas. Now, just as a bottle of Cognac must come from the region around the French town of Cognac, a cup of Darjeeling tea will have to be made only from tea grown around Darjeeling,” according to the Times.
Bigelow Tea wholeheartedly endorses these protections. Moreover, we work only with ethical suppliers who are as committed to quality as we are. So enjoy your next cup of Bigelow Tea Darjeeling knowing it is the real deal!
Photo by Jadis1958 via Flickr.com
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Monday, 14 January 2013
Since we didn’t go to bed till 1am after dinner with the ambassador, morning came kind of early when the alarm went off a little after 5am. We were ready to start up for the mountains at 6am. Prassana, with whom we had spent our first full day in Sri Lanka, was there with a welcoming smile. Behind the wheel was a lovely man named Ishanka. In the car we went, first heading out of Colombo and then slowly climbing up. Traffic was nuts. Of the 20 million people who live on the island, 2 million live in the city.
I knew we’d be passing by Pinnawala, the renowned elephant orphanage, on our way up. We just had to stop there! So after about three hours out of Colombo we came to our first destination…the orphanage for elephants. It was so wonderful. This place was nursing back to health or just raising elephants of all sizes and ages that had been wounded or orphaned. The first thing I got to do was feed a bottle to a four year old elephant. It was amazing. The elephant actually wrapped his trunk around me and the bottle. After that we walked around and saw two babies at 4 and 7 months of age. They were so sweet and never left each other’s side.
Then we headed toward the lake where they were all going to spend two hours being scrubbed and just having fun in the water. On the way there, they asked if I wanted to ride one. Me?? Sure!!! So next thing I know I am on a 50 year old female named Guiena (or something like that). Me! On an elephant!! Are you kidding me? It was a most enjoyable ride. She was so gentle. But it was pretty crazy to be so high up on her back! After that outrageous experience, smiling ear to ear, we started back up the mountain. We had two plantations to visit in the same day.
Slightly smaller than its African cousin, the endangered Asiatic Elephant grows to between 6.6 to 9.8 ft and can weigh 2.25 to 5.5 tons. It can be identified by its smaller, more rounded ears. They are fascinating animals. I encourage you to find out more about them.
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