Coffee and Tea Newsletter
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coffee and tea festival

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Rainforest Alliance Certification Grows
New South African Rooibos Farms Added

The Rainforest Alliance recently announced that a group of South African farms growing rooibos—also known as red bush tea--have earned Rainforest Alliance certification. In addition to being a first for this crop type, the farms are also the first to become Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM in South Africa.

The farms in Zeekoevlei Grootport and Driefontein produce rooibos for Rooibos Ltd, whose marketing arm in the USA is Herbal Teas International. The rooibos range carrying the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal is now available in all major supermarkets throughout Europe and North America.

“Because rooibos is a new crop for the Rainforest Alliance certification program, and we have not worked in South Africa previously, this is a real milestone for us,” said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “By reaching out to new territories, the Rainforest Alliance’s certification program continues its important growth and further ensures the protection of our fragile environment and the livelihoods of farmers around the globe.”

Rooibos is already known for its health benefits—relieving digestive illness and promoting healthy skin, teeth and bones. Consumers can now be reassured that it is also healthy for the environment. Farms that achieve Rainforest Alliance certification have met the environmental, social and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). The SAN standards cover ecosystem conservation, worker rights and safety, wildlife protection, water and soil conservation, agrochemical reduction, decent housing, and legal wages and contracts for workers.

“Increasingly, consumers from all over the world want to know that the products they purchase are produced in a way that supports people, profit and the planet, said Martin Bergh, managing director of Rooibos Ltd. “Independent certification authorities such as the Rainforest Alliance reassure consumers that rooibos has been produced in a way that benefits the environment as well as the lives of the farmers and their workers. People who buy Rainforest Alliance Certified rooibos will know that the farmers who produced these products are not exploiting their laborers, and that they taking good care of their land and follow sound business principles to ensure a sustainable future.”

For more information, visit


Green Tea IPA Collaboration Beer Benefits Japanese Tsunami Relief

Stone Brewing Co. one of the top craft breweries in the country, earlier this month announced the release of its latest collaboration beer, Baird/ Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA.

Toshi Ishii—former Stone Brewing intern cum brewer (’98-’01) and now owner of Ishii Brewing Co. in Guam—got in touch with Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele shortly after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster with a proposal to make a beer that could help with recovery efforts. Bryan Baird of Baird Brewing Company in Numazu, Japan was brought on board and ideas were soon flying.

“We wanted the beer to have a Japanese spirit, so we decided early on that we would be using green tea in the recipe,” explains Baird.

“We decided to brew an IPA to accentuate the tea’s herbal character,” adds Steele. “But this won’t be the typical, citrusy West Coast IPA flavor. We’re using Sorachi Ace, a variety of hops originally developed in Japan, as well as Pacifica, Crystal, Warrior, and Aramis, a brand new cultivar from the Alsace region of France.”

All proceeds (minimum $50,000) will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross Society. “We hope that Japan and its people will bounce back from the tsunami tragedy stronger than ever!” exclaims Ishii.

“A collaboration beer like this is a great way to demonstrate to Japan that they’re not alone,” Baird asserts. “They have friends, supporters, and empathizers all around the world.”

Available in single 12-oz bottles with a suggested retail price: $2.49-$3.49, the beer is available in AK, AZ, CA,CO, FL, IL, KY, MA, MN, NC, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OR, PA, SC, TX, VA, VT, and WA.

Tasting Notes from Brewmaster Mitch Steele: “Bryan, Toshi, and I tried to select hop varieties for this beer that would blend well with Japanese Sencha Green Tea, and I think we succeeded. Heavy doses of Crystal hops, accompanied by New Zealand Pacifica and the brand new Aramis variety from France provide a wonderful, spicy, herbal hop character that blends exceptionally well with the herbal and grassy Sencha tea flavors. The very late addition of Japanese Sorachi Ace hops provide even more spicy and citrus hop notes. Our Production Team at Stone Brewing Co. is absolutely raving about how fantastic this beer came out. Drink it fresh!” Visit for more information.


Tea Infusion Challenge Declares Champion At World Tea Expo

Steven Downer, Sipping Streams Tea Company in Fairbanks, Ala., showcased his tea expertise and steeping abilities, taking the top spot at the 2011 Tea Infusion Challenge. The event was held June 26 during the three-day World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Tea Infusion Challenge is an annual, competitive event that determines the best Infusionist --- a tea professional (non-manufacturer) that has comprehensive product knowledge, a high level of brewing skills and the innate talent to best express a tea’s characteristics and its intended cup.

QTrade Teas & Herbs’ Manik Jayakumar, one of the judges and a tea purveyor, said, “Steven was really outstanding during the Tea Infusion Challenge. He brewed the tea really well and had a lot of product knowledge. It was clear that he had a lot of practice in the craft of brewing tea, and he served beautiful, perfect cups. He brewed at the correct temperatures and at the right quantity for each of the four teas he prepared in the competition – and some competitors did not do that right. Steven was also asked a lot of tea questions and he really knew his stuff, answering everything correctly.”

Tea Infusion Challenge judge Fumi Sugita, Aiya America, noted that Downer, a student of tea for more than five years, prepared a brilliant matcha. “It was the perfect balance of water and tea,” he said. “Another competitor, for example, had a stronger, bitter matcha. However, Steven’s teas had great flavors and excellent aromas. I gave him the maximum points – 10 out of 10.”

After the competition, Downer explained, “Whether you have a $100 per ounce tea or a $10 per ounce tea, the steeping technique shouldn’t be the bottleneck to quality and taste of the tea. The point is to do the best you can to get the taste out. We’re in an instant culture, and we want everything in a hurry. However, we need to pay attention to the art of tea and still keep in mind that we live in a fast-paced society. The Tea Infusion Challenge reminds us of this and melds these two ideas.”

Kasia Vermaire, the first Dutch Tea sommelier and winner of the 2010 Dutch Tea Sommelier Competition, came in second place. Amy Lawrence of Afternoon to Remember Fine Tea and Gifts as well as ATR Publishing, who once owned a tea room that was named Best Small Tea Room in the U.S. in 2006, was third. And Jonathan Munsayac of Tranquil Tea Lounge, who has more than 10 years of experience in restaurant management, came in fourth place.

The competitors each prepared four cups of tea within 15 minutes, including: a Darjeeling tea, provided by G.S. Haly; a matcha tea, provided by Aiya America; an oolong tea, provided by ABC Tea; and a puer tea, provided by QTrade Teas & Herbs. Competitors were lead in a discussion between audience members about the teas they were steeping and their chosen methodologies during their preparations. The highly competitive, interactive Tea Infusion Challenge demonstrated how the same tea can taste drastically different depending on the method used to steep the tea. Tea Infusion Challenge judges rated each contender on: quality of infusion, such as color, taste, smell and leaf agony; technical skills, such as timing, volume and overall presentation; and tea knowledge.

After judging, Jayakumar noted that while presentation is a key element, the overall idea of the competition is to “serve a very pleasant tasting tea.” In fact, he compares tea sommeliers to chefs. “Some chefs are flashy and some are just focused on their craft. It can be the same with tea sommeliers, but there was no flashy stuff with our champion, Steven.”

According to Vermaire, the second place winner, “Tea is all about knowledge, dedication and, most of all, sharing. With the 2011 Tea Infusion Challenge, competitors inspire and share with the audience, while telling the beautiful and complex story of tea.”

Third place winner Lawrence commented, “Tea is my life and my passion. The more you learn about tea, the more there is to learn. Competitions, such as these, show people the many different facets of tea. The right water, the vessel you use to steep the tea, the temperature and time all play a unique role in the outcome of the infused leaf into the cup. And everyone has different tastes – neither right nor wrong; tea adapts to you, and you make it your own by how you prepare it.”

Fourth place contestant Munsayac added, “The Tea Infusion Challenge is definitely beneficial for the tea industry, the competitors and the audience or tea lovers paying attention. By competing, I was able to more fully understand that there are so many variations to steep the different teas. Overall, I was happy to be a part of the competition and hope to compete next year – as I want to win.”

The 2011 Tea Infusion Challenge was sponsored by ABC Tea, Aiya, the G.S. Haly Company and QTrade Teas & Herbs. Other judges included: Thomas Shu, ABC Tea, and Mo Sardella, The G.S. Haly Company. Next year’s Tea Infusion takes place on June 3, 2012, during World Tea Expo.


Etsy Artist Gives
New Life to Coff
ee Sacks

Habitation is a collection of handmade designsforyour home. Here, the Etsy artist Lesley Herron from Indianapolis, finds a wonderful new purpose for coffee sacks. Each winebag includes a vintage-inspired metal rimmed gift tag attached with aqua and white baker's twine. Herron hand stained each tag herself in coffee, vanilla and cinnamon! $48 for the set. Click here for more information.

7th Annual Coffee & Tea Festival: February 25-26, 2012

coffee and tea festival