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Tea with a Twist
Tea with a Twist: Entertaining and Cooking with Tea 
 by Lisa Boalt Richardson
Tea in History 
The technology to produce the slimmer and more amply-sailed Clipper Ships came about for the express purpose of rushing these distinctive and highly-prized First Flush teas to the barons in the Western World all the more quickly, so they could have the teas as nearly fresh as possible--back in the day! 
May 9
Mother's Day Tea
1639 Ebenezer Road, Rock Hill, SC
May 16 
1st Flush FesTEAval 
Charleston Tea Plantation 
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 "Flush" refers to new leaf shoots pushed out by the tea plant, or tea bush on cultivated tea plantations.  In areas of constant weather conditions throughout the year, like Kenya, the plants will "flush" regularly.  In cooler, seasonal areas like north-eastern India, and China---and Charleston, SC---there is a dormant period for the plants during which they do not grow.  There, the picking takes place from early spring until late in autumn. 
 The First Flush of Spring 

The month of May ushers in many celebrations.  Mother's Day celebrates our mothers and the nurturers in our lives.  A Mother's Day Tea is a not-uncommon means to show our appreciation to Mom.  

May also brings to South Carolina, at the Charleston Tea Plantation, the First Flush Festival.  May 16th will be the fourth First Flush Festival and will make the third that we have attended

In those seasonal areas, the First Flush is a very exciting time.  These tea leaves have developed slowly in the cooler springtime sunshine.  After the dormant season, it seems as if the very essence of the tea plant is concentrated into that first flush in the spring.   

In some of the seasonal tea growing regions, one of the most notable being Darjeeling, India, the First Flush Tea is prized the most highly and garners the highest prices of the growing season.  It is true there are some exceptions; for example, teas hailing from the Assam region of India tend to be the most favored in their Second Flush.  Predominantly, however, First Flush crops are thought to smell and taste the best, as if capturing the spring sunshine in the leaves and steeping that sunshine into the beverage cup. 

The Charleston Tea Plantation celebrates its First Flush with the FesTEAvalco-hosted by The Bridge at 105.5.  Until recently, the Charleston Tea Plantation was the only U.S. tea plantation. In recent years, that designation shifted to the only commercial tea plantation because of some tea gardens becoming established in the Northwest.  Now, it looks like they'll have to further stipulate "in the Continental United States", for in 2009 the first harvest of tea took place in Hawaiian gardens after planting and cultivation began in 2007.  We are eagerly awaiting the 2010 World Tea Expo in June where there will be some focus on the first crops of Hawaii-grown tea---so-called because there are no tea plants native to Hawaii (or to the U.S., for that matter), the plants had to be imported, so they are Hawaii-grown (or U.S.-grown) and -processed. 

The first attempt to grow tea in the U.S. took place at Summerville, SC.  The Summerville Dorchester Museum has had a presence at past First Flush Festivals and will likely be there May 16, 2010, with more information on that experiment.  Eventually, the experiment was moved to Charleston, or Wadmalaw Island, SC. 

The First Flush Festival---or FestTEAval---celebrates the first harvest and processing of the Charleston Plantation's tea.  Tours are available on trolley buses around the grounds, the guide providing history and factual info about the plantation's production.  You can tour the factory where videos at intervals explain the process of taking the tea leaves through oxidation and firing to make the tea leaves that we steep to enjoy in our cups.
We will be there, but not as one of the vendors; we're going just to enjoy the FesTEAval.  Maybe we will see you there?! 
KTeas Top 5 Picks for Mother's Day 
   Pair these with your favorite tea and you'll have the perfect gift!   
      1. Tea For Two porcelain set      
       2. Painted Lady Teapot      
       3  Tea Cozy
       4. Butter Brickle Scone Mix       
       5. Tea Honey    
Want to send a gift basket full of all of mom's favorites?  KTeas and Simply Elegant Gift Baskets have partnered to create the perfect gift for Mother's Day or any occassion.  Visit www.simplyelegantbaskets.net for gift ideas.  To order please email heidi@simplyelegantbaskets.net or call 803-324-5073.    
 Nationwide shipping and local delivery in Rock Hill, Fort Mill, Charlotte, and surrounding areas available!  

Tea  of the Month - Darjeeling 1st Flush

Our focus this month is the celebrated First Flush, so our Tea of the Month for May 2010 is Darjeeling 1st Flush.  The Darjeeling region of northeast India lies on the southern slopes of the Himalayas.  Some 87 tea gardens operate within roughly 70 square miles, cultivating tea at 3,000 to 6,500 feet in altitude.   Climate, soil, and geography blend together uniquely to create a distinct character to the tea grown there.  Darjeeling teas are considered by many to be The Champagne of Teas due to these exclusive conditions in which the Darjeeling teas are grown. 
While any harvest of Darjeeling tea throughout the growing season is commended as The Champagne of Teas, that First Flush of Darjeeling tea is the most highly prized.  Out of those 80-some Darjeeling tea gardens, our supplier brings this Darjeeling 1st Flush to us from the Makaibari Estate in West Bengal, India.  One reviewer said of our Darjeeling 1st Flush:  "... this Darjeeling tea from KTeas is far too good to not have on hand at all times."---liber-teas on The Tea Review Blog.  

Another First Flush Darjeeling in KTeas' collection can be found not on its own but within a different tea: our
Peaceful Accord. One would not usually expect to find a black tea (Darjeeling) and an oolong tea combined to steep at the same time, but that is what Peaceful Accord comprises.  The oolong is our Fancy Formosa Superior Taifu and the Darjeeling is a blend of First Flush estate teas scattered amongst the 80-some Darjeeling tea gardens.  The collaboration seems to work, however.  "Crisp muscatel and earthy flavors of the Darjeeling comes through (i.e. there is no doubt that one is drinking Darjeeling), but there is no bitterness whatsoever. Instead, there is a slightly nutty Formosa oolong flavor in its place." ---Vanessa on Teaviews   "A very interesting blend of First Flush Darjeeling and Formosa Fancy Superior Oolong. Well worth trying out." ---Shaiha on Teaviews

Thus, we offer you two different ways to experience First Flush Darjeeling, to taste the spring sunshine and the rarefied air of the Himalayas in your cup.
Find KTeas Specialty Teas and Gifts at
1639 Ebenezer Road, Rock Hill, SC 
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