Tea Culture: The Emperor’s Tea
Meet some tea purists, M.C. (Michael) Rivetti and Jason Woodland —CEO/president and vice president respectively of The Emperor’s Tea. This Salt Lake-based company’s mission is to provide the highest quality, freshest, most flavorful tea leaves possible as the popularity of premium tea and tea-like beverages continue to rise. In 2011, Americans imbibed over 65 billion servings of tea. This is still well behind U.S. coffee consumption, with 150 million daily sonsumers; but tea is on the rise.
Native to East and South Asia, tea is one of most popular beverages in the world, second only to water. Real tea comes from the evergreen Camellia Sinensis plant, and so encompass the Black, Green, Oolong and White varieties. The terms herbal tea, tisane or herbal infusion refer to tea-like beverages that are made by steeping different varieties of plants in water to extract the essence.
Tea consumption started out as a medicinal practice in ancient China. Every year, the health benefits of tea are becoming more widely known in modern culture, according to Rivetti, including muscle endurance, heart health, blood sugar control, bone strength, stress alleviation and more.
The body’s absorption of tea’s valuable antioxidants depends upon the variety, any additives, the method of preparation and the freshness maintained throughout the processing and packaging methods.
The Emperor’s Tea owns its own farm in Vietnam and handles the entire process including distribution, packaging and labeling. This prevents tea leaves from sitting on warehouse shelves for long periods of time, a typical practice for many importers, says Woodland, who claims this hands-on approach maximizes the vitality and flavor of the 170 varieties offered to its online and local customers.
The Emperor’s Tea was founded in 1999 by Rivetti, a scientist who is passionate about the natural healing properties of tea. The company offers not only tea but natural body products, too, including “nano-inhalers,” which send neurochemical signals to the brain that promote specific outcomes. Sales come mainly from online orders but, Woodland says, “We love being part of Utah and Salt Lake City.” Because of this, The Emperor’s Tea sponsors and participates in local events and nonprofit causes.
The experience of tea
One benefit of ordering tea direct from growers and distributors is the opportunity to enjoy an unusually fresh product. You can tell how fresh tea leaves are by how much they expand in water, says Rivetti.
As with most connoiseurs, he does not recommend bagged tea. Loose tea offers these advantages:
• Loose tea uses the premium parts of the plants. Because it is not ground, it maintains its aromatic oils. Bagging tea increases oxidation.
• Loose leaves allow more water flow during steeping, maximizing the fresh tea’s flavor and health benefits. (To further increase the body’s antioxidant absorption, Rivetti suggests a little lemon or black pepper in the tea.)
• The methodical process of making a cup of tea (versus dunking a bag) can create a mindful state. Inhale the aroma of the tea as it is steaming. As you pour, look at the beauty, the artfulness, of the tea leaves. As you sip, get some tea towards the back of your palate for the full flavor essence. “Theculture of tea is one of relaxation, calmness and meditation,” says Woodland.
“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things,” wrote novelist Muriel Barbery. “Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
By savoring the fullest tea experience possible, a person can feel like the emperor, too. Jane Laird is happy that she was able to write this whole piece without resorting to one tea pun or cliché.
The Emperor’s Tea
Order online at http://www.theemporerstea.com or call 801-938-5347.
Locally The Emperor’s Tea products can be found at The Store, The Chocolate Conspiracy and the Sunset Coffee Company.
Sicilian Blood Orange Iced Tea
The Emperor’s Tea Sicilian Blood Orange Tea
fresh ginger, thinly sliced
fresh mint sprigs
Brew a fresh pot of Sicilian Blood Orange Tea according to the directions on the package. When I made this, I put the ginger in with the steaming tea to steep along with the leaves.
Pour over ice and add the orange slices and fresh mint.