About Steeps Tea
Conveniently located in The Village Shop on Central Avenue in Whitefish, Steeps Tea is a locally owned gourmet tea shop supplying the perfect cup for every Montana moment. We offer over 70 different organic loose leaf options, including black, pu-erh, white, green, oolong, and herbal blends. Our wide selection supports fair trade, traditional harvesting methods, and exceptional flavor and health benefits that will last through multiple infusions. Looking for a morning pick-me-up or an evening wind-down? Steeps Tea has you covered with caffeinated brews like matcha and yerba mate and calming sleepy-time remedies like Chamomile Medley and Serene Dream. We also offer fresh-brewed hot or iced tea to accompany you while shopping in The Village Shop or wandering around downtown Whitefish. Our collection of locally sourced honey, bags, jewelry, cards and art decals makes gift shopping easy. We have a wide variety of teaware and infusers for all of your on-the-go travels. Come by Steeps Tea to enjoy the perfect cup or grab a gift or two for friends (and you)!
Little More about Tea
While all tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, there exist hundreds of kinds of teas, each with their own individual appearance, taste, and aroma. Like wine or coffee, tea harvests will vary year to year and place to place with changes in soil, climate, rainfall, and other seasonal conditions. Moreover, a particular tea gains much of its individual character from how the leaves are cultivated and processed.
To make sense of all the varieties possible, teas can be placed in several categories. The most common categories used today are green, white, oolong, black, and pu-erh. These categories refer to how much a tea is oxidized. Before modern science, Europeans thought teas were the result of the fermentation process similar to that of wine or cheese. In actuality, it is oxygen that is responsible for altering the tea leaves. By selectively exposing the tea leaves to the air, tea farmers and artisans can bring out certain flavors and aromas from the leaves.
White Tea undergoes the least processing of all teas. Traditionally cultivated in China, white tea is picked only a few days out of the year, when a white down known as bai hao appeared on the tender shoots. The tea shoots are allowed to wither then dry to prevent oxidization. This process is a delicate one, requiring strict attention from the tea makers. Nowadays, other tea growing regions like Darjeeling and Sri Lanka have begun to cultivate white tea in an effort to capitalize on white tea’s growing popularity. White tea tends to have the most delicate flavors and aromas. The nuances are gentle, even elusive, evoking fresh flavors like bamboo or asparagus or earthier elements like almonds. Aromas tend towards subtle floral bouquets.Green Tea Because they are unoxidized, green teas keep their vital color. To prevent oxidization, the leaves are heated to eliminate the enzyme responsible for oxidization. In China, this is generally done by roasting or pan-firing the leaves, while the Japanese generally accomplish this by steaming the leaves at a high temperature. Each process tends to bring out a particular flavor from the tea leaves. The Chinese style of processing tends to bring out a mouthwatering range of flavors from citrus to smoky with a light body. The color of the liquor is usually not a true “green”, but a pale yellow or straw color. The steaming process yields a deep vegetal or herbaceous quality-a characteristic prized in Japanese teas. Japanese green teas range in color of liquor from the pale green of a light sencha, to the deep grassy green of a gyokuro. Green teas that have been steamed contain more moisture and are therefore more delicate. Such teas should be stored at cooler temperatures and consumed sooner after picking than pan-fired teas.
Pu-Erh Tea Named for a town in China’s Yunnan province, Pu-erh teas consist of larger leaves that can be aged for several years. Pu-erh leaves are usually compressed into various shapes before being aged. During the aging process, Pu-erh teas are exposed to microflora and bacteria that ferment the tea, in a way similar to wine or yogurt. The process takes longer, though, and the tea’s flavor profile can change drastically and increase in depth over many years. Like fine wines, many connoisseurs become collectors of very old and well-aged Pu-erhs. Some of the most highly regarded and expensive teas of this type are well over 30 years old.
Pu-erh teas yield a dark, hearty brew. The taste is usually earthy and mellow, lacking much of the astringency of other types of tea. Chinese tradition says that Pu-erh tea aids the body with digestion, while new studies indicate that Pu-erh may help in reducing cholesterol.
Black Tea is the best-known variety of tea in the West. Known as “red tea” in China, black tea leaves are fully oxidized. In the case of most black teas, younger leaves are picked before being withered, rolled, fully oxidized, and fired. While created originally in China, black teas are now cultivated worldwide. Some of the most famous black teas come from the Indian regions of Assam and Darjeeling, and Nilgiri, as well as the island nation of Sri Lanka. The use of machines is becoming more common, but the best black teas are those entirely done by hand. Machine-processed teas tend to be of lower quality and are generally used in tea bags.
The long-standing trend in black tea, taken from the British, has been to create “blends”. For centuries, tea companies have taken various kinds of tea to create a particular flavor or character, such as a strong breakfast tea or a delicate afternoon tea. And just like a perfume house, several older tea companies are known for their signature blends. However, another trend in black teas has recently taken off. Estate teas, meaning teas that come from a single tea garden or estate from a particular year, have become increasingly available. Like a good wine, estate teas can capture the particular character of a region. Because of their unique character, estate Darjeelings have gained global popularity in particular and can often be auctioned for thousands of dollars per pound. Of course, because estate teas are at the mercy of the elements, quality can vary dramatically year to year.
With both blends and estate teas, it is frequent to see black teas divided into broken leaf and full leaf categories. A broken-leaf tea consists of leaves that have purposely broken into small pieces during processing. The smaller size allows the water to extract more of the tea leaves’ components in a short period of time. For this reason, broken leaf teas tend to be more brisk and higher in caffeine, making them excellent morning teas to be paired with milk and sugar. Full leaf teas, on the other hand, tend to be more refined and gentler on the palate. While there are exceptions, like many of Assam’s full leaf teas, these teas are traditionally taken later in the day without anything added.
Oolong Tea, also spelled Wu Long and translating to "Black Dragon" in Mandarin, is a semi-oxidized tea long cultivated on both mainland China and Taiwan. In general, larger, mature leaves are picked, withered, rolled, oxidized, and then fired. Often, different tea estates have their own preferred ways of making oolong tea, and due to the intricacy of this process, oolong teas can have the widest array of flavors and aromas. Furthermore, oolongs can be steeped several times, with each successive infusion having its own distinctive taste and fragrance.
Tisanes – Herbal and Floral Infusions Technically, a tea comes only from the C. sinensis plant. However, the term tea commonly refers to a wide range of plant and floral infusions that offer an enticing tastes and aromas. The advantage of tisanes is that they are generally caffeine-free and gentle on the body, making them an excellent choice for children in particular. Often, tisanes have their own particular benefits, as is the case of rooibos from South Africa, which is naturally high in vitamin C and antioxidants..
As with any other food product or beverage, it is important to be aware of the effects a particular tisane may have. For instance, ginseng or South American mate have stimulant properties like caffeine, while chamomile can cause an adverse reaction in those who have an allergy to ragweed.