Hashiri Shincha

Sencha Shin Ryoku
As I have mentioned in the past, Spring is an exciting time for us tea lovers. In many parts of the world the tea plants have been dormant during the winter, and are now awakening with fresh and complex flavors.

This is true in Japan as well. We look forward to the first Shinchas of the year. Often referred to as the 88 day tea, as it is harvested around that time of the year, these are picked and processed to capture the sweet, grassy, umami flavors of the young leaves.

Hashiri is the very first harvest. The tea we purchase is grown by the Moriuchi family and carefully hand-picked. At the factory it is lightly processed with little roasting, and a slightly higher moisture content to emphasize the character of the leaf.

I like to call these the “Beaujolais Nouveau of Japanese tea.” The crop is carefully, but quickly produced, then air shipped to us. Like the wine, this tea is really meant to be consumed early to capture the full experience. It is still later in the year due to the way it is made, but in my opinion lack the depth it exhibits early after it is made.
So watch for this early in May. Don’t miss your chance to purchase some, then sit back and treat yourself to a special experience. (That is my plan anyway!)

Business Partner Spotlight: Floating in Tea

By: Jordan Concannon – Owner of Blue Oceans Float

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Even before I started designing the layout of my float shop, I knew I wanted a tea bar. It took quite a long time to find the exact ‘bar’ that would work in the space and match the style of other items in the lobby. It couldn’t be too metallic or modern, it couldn’t be old fashioned or too small. It had to be big enough to hold tea and water, and provide a counter space when we held parties and gatherings in the shop.

The tea bar was the last piece to come together. Long before that I decided with my team members that we wanted only tea from one location- The Tea Smith. I’d visited the Tea Smith so many times over the past 2 years. I’d go before and after work or school, or just to relax in a nice space to work on the computer or read. I’m a green tea drinker, but staff from The Tea Smith convinced me to branch out to other teas, like the tisanes and the harmony teas. Their staff took the time to tell me all about the history of their teas, the art of brewing the perfect pot of tea, and the best way to serve it. They also gave me advice on the materials to buy, the water heater I needed, and every item that was necessary in providing a wonderful tea experience for the visitors to Blue Oceans Float.

IMG_6978Our lobby was already very inviting and we encourage floaters to relax on the couches after their float – which they already do with little persuasion. The tea adds that extra piece of relaxation and perfection to the floating experience. It’s like a gateway between floating and the outside world. People coming out of a float shouldn’t have to rush back to the hectic world and crazy roads. They should have an opportunity to slowly readjust to gravity, the sounds and noises of the world. The tea provides that opportunity. It helps their body and mind gently wake back up.

All who have tried the teas we currently provide absolutely LOVE the flavors and the richness, the depth and the energizing yet calming energy they bring. I’m excited to try more flavors of tea as time goes on and continue to support our local Tea Smith.

Darjeelings Second Flush and the Future of Darjeeling Tea in Jeopardy (WorldofTea.org)

At The Tea Smith, we try to source the best teas available in the market. But we do not do that in a vacuum. We look further into the sources and the gardens to the best we are able so we purchase our teas from gardens that employee best practices treat their workers fairly and work for the common good of the workers as well as the long term prospect of the tea industry there.Darjeelings Tea

We will keep you abreast of developments there, both as it impacts our teas and the future of tea in Darjeeling. Here’s what’s happening:

Ghorkas, Nepali-speaking ethnic group, are the majority of the population in the Darjeeling Hills and have once again instituted a general strike in their quest for a separate Indian State they would call Gorkhaland. The strike is their way to get the government to hear their pleas. Ghorkas provide the bulk of the workforce when it comes to tea growing, plucking, and processing which has caused complete shutdown of the Darjeeling tea industry right at the peak of the second flush harvest.

One of the Gorkhas motivating factors is that the Ghorkas have felt and continue to feel like second class citizens. A Ghorkas working environment is often poor and wages low. Ghorkas often have no say in how the estates are run and not a single Ghorka owns a Darjeeling Estate even though their people are instrumental in the production and success of the Darjeeling tea industry. Ghorkas feel that the government does not provide care for the region and the area lacks basic infrastructure and resources.

“Darjeeling’s tea industry has suffered a direct loss of more than $18 million already due to the current unrest” Kaushik Basu, Secretary General of Darjeeling Tea Association. If the strike continues Basu estimates that the revenue loss could reach $55 million.

The Darjeeling Hills have been a point of political control and conflict since the 1780’s and the Ghorkas have sought independence many times throughout history. Once the British began their expansion through India many conflicts and wars over this area persisted. One of the most significant conflicts was in 1986 when the protests for an independent state turned extremely violent and over 1200 lost their lives. The unrest was finally resolved by the establishment of a special Ghorka council in the region. However, the council had very little ruling power and thus several protests and conflicts have erupted since.

How will this impact the Darjeeling tea industry? Short term certainly all Darjeeling estates will lose out on revenue and the Darjeeling summer teas will lose market share. Brands will avoid introducing Darjeelings because of the lack of certainty of their availability and thus will move to other regions for their needs. Long term outlook at this time is bleak. Due to the limited land available to grow Darjeeling and then the lack of workforce to produce the tea the business proposition is not good. The political unrest in the area needs to stabilize and show signs of continued harmony before the Darjeeling Estates appear to be a good business idea.

Teas from the Darjeeling region of India have long been a favorite of customers and staff at The Tea Smith. Each season, we fly in samples to evaluate for purchase. When we cup them, our staff lines up to be included in the process.

However, as the article clearly shows, the traditional infrastructure in the area no longer works. The gardens are in beautiful, though remote, areas. The work is hard and as young people have an opportunity for growth and education, they choose not to stay involved. The unresolved conflict between racial and social groups continues to challenge the general commerce, especially the production and sale of tea, and the basic rights of those involved.

The Tea Smith After 5

Tea Smithies are constantly experimenting with tea blends, cooking with matcha, and making off-menu drinks. After much
pastedImage consideration, we’ve decided to start offering several of these creations on a special menu, available only at our Old Market location after 5p Thursday-Saturday and anytime on Sunday.

Our ‘After 5’ menu features refreshing tea based cocktails (sans alcohol!), blended drinks, small bites, and even a few desserts! Our drinks are non-alcoholic, served in special glassware, and our food offerings include options for our gluten-free and vegan friends, too!

Many Omaha residents and visitors frequent the Old Market because it is a great place to gather with friends or for work, to grab a drink, shop, eat, and unwind. The Tea Smith Old Market has always been a place of calm amongst the storm of the Old Market hustle and bustle, offering teas, accessories, snacks, and wi-fi. With our new After 5 menu, we’ve also added some additional comfy seating and adjusted our lighting to make our Old Market location the perfect spot to Gather, Eat, Drink, and Relax.

We are SO excited to share our new creations with you! Over the coming days, we will share photos and details of these new items. Stay tuned!!

Click Here to view our After 5 menu!