Cherry Blossoms Are Here

cherryblossoms.jpgCherry blossom season is upon us! Between March and April, barren branches of cherry blossom trees explode into color, creating a beautiful sight to behold.

In Japan, where the tradition of celebrating the blooming of cherry blossom trees started, festivities will be in full swing, with families and friends gathering outdoors in parks to have picnics, drink sake and take in the view of dormant trees bursting into life. It’s such a significant event in the country that the weather bureau makes a yearly announcement of the blossom forecast, predicting when and where trees will be at their prime for everyone’s viewing pleasure. There are even websites that track hanami hotspots.

The tradition has caught on and spread far beyond Japan’s borders. Macon, Georgia’s International Cherry Blossom Festival is a huge festival with more than a few days worth of events. It’s no surprise since Macon is known as the cherry blossom capital of the world, with hundreds of thousands of trees that paint the town pink every year. Other notable celebrations in the United States include the National Cherry Blossom Festival in DC and the Sakura Mastsuri Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in New York.

There are a few different types of cherry blossom trees, each on producing their own distinctly shaped and colored blossoms. The Yoshino produces single white blossoms. From far away, a group of these trees can easily look like big fluffy white clouds rising up from the ground. Akenobo cherry trees give way to single, pastel-pink blossoms. Kwanzan and Fugenzo trees both produce pink double blossoms, although the flowers found on the latter tree are not as clear, and have a bit more rouge in their complexion. Shirofugen trees yield white flowers that later transition to pink while Sargent Cherries are known for a more saturated and intense pink. With so many varieties, it’s easy how you can make a full day of tracking down all different kinds of blossoms!

The Kwanzan grows primarily in East Potomac Park and comes into bloom two weeks after the Yoshino. It produces clusters of clear pink double blossoms. East Potomac Park also has Fugenzo, which produces rosy pink double blossoms, and Shirofugen, which produces white double blossoms that age to pink.[17][19]

To celebrate the advent of cherry blossoms, the Tea Smith is featuring our very own Cherry Blossom Tea. March and April are the best time to enjoy teas blended with fresh cherry blossoms in-season. It’s a Sencha tea punctuated with cherry bits that evokes the freshness and promise of spring. Happy Hanami!

Incorporating Tea into a Healthy New Year

If you’re looking to improve your health in the upcoming year, tea can help.

  • Tea has almost no calories, and flavorful loose leaf teas do not need caloric sweeteners.
  • Tea replaces other sugary beverages like soda.
  • Tea is full of antioxidants, which have been linked to fighting a number of cancers, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, and other types of cancer.
  • Tea is good for the cardiovascular system and dental health.
  • Tea may fight the flu. A recent study on children in Japan showed “Green tea is known to contain antiviral components that prevent influenza infection.”
  • Tea has some caffeine, which is released slowly for an extended level of alertness without a sudden crash.
  • ECGC, the main antioxidant in green tea, may prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2007, at the Fourth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington D.C., Dr. Silvia Mandell presented the results of her study which showed the main antioxidant polyphenol of green tea extract, EGCG, when fed to mice induced with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, helped to protect brain cells from dying, as well as ‘rescuing’ already damaged neurons in the brain, a phenomenon called neurorescue or neurorestoration. The Michael J. Fox Foundation is holding tests in China on early Parkinson’s patients for further research.
  • Due to the inclusion of both caffeine and l.theanine, tea induces a relaxed state of alertness; it keeps you energized without being jittery, so you’re better able to focus and study. It may even be an effective treatment for ADHD.
  • Tea tastes good, and may even help suppress your appetite so you don’t overeat.

It seems no matter what your resolution is this year, tea can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Thoughts from the Hong Kong Tea Fair..continued

As I mentioned in my previous post, the business of tea in China is much more dynamic than one might think.  (Or at least than I had pondered.) After all they are credited with discovering tea over 5000 years ago, and are one of the top producers in the world.  And we know they continue to research the development, growing, processing, and health properties of tea.

Tea is such a vital part of the Chinese culture and economy that there are literally millions of people involved in every aspect of tea.  This is part of their strength as a producer as well as a weakness for them in the world market.

Since there are tens of thousands of small tea producers and family farms in the country, they have little presence or influence in the overall market, and hence a difficult time maintaining control, consistency and establishing a distinct identity.  As a result, many of their products end up as components in other products according to  Mr. Jun Cai, Secretary General, Tea Section of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs.

Mr. Cai goes on to say that the outlook for small producers is not good until they can build a national identity for tea.

This is similar to brand building in other areas, such as Darjeeling and Assam in India, or high mountain oolongs from Taiwan.

Though China is the birthplace of tea, they need to continually compete in the world market with the other 150+ countries producing tea in order to maintain or grow their image and market share.

Next…How to open a tea shop….in China

It’s a BIG World…Drink it Up!


Tea in the News

It seems that more and more writers and publications have discovered tea! There were two interesting articles in national publications during the last week or so.
The Wall Street Journal on October 2nd featured and article about the Hot trend in Tea in China; Puerh. They covered the rising popularity among collectors who collect this tea as one would a fine wine.
US and World News cited recent studies showing that tea may help us focus our minds. Research is being done on how tea may affect brain disorders and diseases