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06 Feb 2008


Wilkinson’s News, Views & Brews

Each month we will bring you news and information about all things Tea and Coffee and a special offer or two! We consider this communication interactive and hope you will email us at info@wilkinsonsofnorwich.com with comments or suggestions about what you would like to see here
 
 

Latest Edition


Coffee In the News

Every month we look to our global news feed to bring you interesting and up to date information on teas and coffees. This month we were faced with a daunting task, witness the following headlines:

 

*Robusta coffee futures in London were slightly down, weakened by Vietnamese producer selling while Arabica futures on ICE edged up, boosted by a weaker dollar.
*Ethiopian PM accuses coffee producers of hoarding ...their beans in anticipation of higher global prices.
*Coffee farmers struggle to get pre-harvest credit  The inability of many farmers to get loans has the potential to negatively impact yields and force them to sell their coffee at low prices, said Colman Cuff, managing director of Starbucks Coffee Trading Company based in Switzerland.
*Coffee May Rise 29% on Strong Cash Prices, Group Says March 20 (Bloomberg) -- Coffee futures in New York will rise as much as 29 percent by the end of the year as tight supplies push up premiums for beans from major producers, an executive with Colombia’s largest growers group said.

* India coffee prices drop as demand remains slow

 

These are only a small portion of the coffee articles coating the news feeds (we found 500 articles for the time period of 28 Feb. until 23 March) You can probably see from the titles and snippets that coffee news is basically one big mass of conflict. Coffee prices are up, coffee prices are down. Coffee demand increases in local areas yet the news seems to indicate that the demand is down?

We at Wilkinson’s would like to give you our thoughts and and put some perspective on the industry at the present time.

Late last year the Vietnamese significantly entered the coffee market for the first time by dumping a huge quantity of inexpensive Robusta beans on the market. This action panicked many Robusta growers (Brazil) and sent the commodities market into a bit of spin.

In addition to a new ‘player’ being added to the market, the crop predictions were released. Across the board in nearly every coffee growing country it was predicted that the crops would be down. South American coffee growers were predicting the lowest yields in five years. (Brazil has been the largest producer of Robusta beans until now and Columbia is often cited as the largest and best producer of Arabica beans). Coffee production in African countries seems to be experiencing more political problems than ever. And it has been reported that India has been experiencing problems with an extended monsoon season although the results of the crop yield are not confirmed and this could actually work to India’s advantage.

Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that we seem to be experiencing a sort of ‘global’ recession. Exporters seem to be speculating less and being a bit more careful of the cash they spend.

So what does this mean to the coffee drinkers of the world? Well there is good news and bad news.

Good news first: The crop predictions seem to be off and the yields are now expected to be a bit higher than originally predicted. Also most of the coffee that you would buy today (and 6 to 8 months from now) was exported or imported at last year’s prices so you will not see a significant change in the price of your daily cuppa for quite a while.

The bad news is: We are in a global recession and it is hitting the small coffee farmers hard. It is these smaller plantations and co-ops that provide the world with the better quality coffees.

Wilkinson’s predicts that there will be many changes in the industry this year and we want to assure our customers that we will remain on top of all of them. As always, we will continue to seek out the finest quality coffees for the best prices and will keep our customers informed of the changing landscape of the coffee industry.

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Tea in the news

Well the Americans are at it again and this time they are following in their own foot steps by reinacting the Boston Tea Party all over again. Our favorite headline from our tea news feeds was “Let’s Party Like it was 1776.” Indeed from Atlanta to New York to Chicago to Texas Americans are once again dumping tea into rivers and harbors (and even in one case the town hall fountain) in protest of taxes. Who says history does not repeat itself?

The Boston Tea Party was one of the most significant events in American history and was staged to protest ‘taxation without representation’. In 1773 the American colonist, dressed as local Indians, boarded  three ships anchored in the Boston harbour and dumped the contents of all three cargo holds into the sea. The tea which had been directly imported from India by the British East India Company was completely destroyed.

Tea has been viewed throughout history as symbol. In Japan the famous tea ceremony to honor guests is one example. In the Chinese culture legend has it that Emperor Shennong discovered tea in 2737 BCE when a leaf from a Camellia sinensis* tree fell into water the emperor was boiling. There are also teas made famous by British aristocracy (the fabled Earl Grey ). And now we have the American President Barack Obama to add to the ‘famous tea drinkers’ list.

It is this last addition to the ‘list’ that has caused the uproar in the States. Many Americans are protesting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 by staging ‘tea parties’. “ ...were feeling frustrated that the stimulus had passed with very little debate and no one had read it,” states Amanda Grosserode of Kansas City one of the tea party organizers. And as illustrated above that sentiment is shared across the United States. To date there have been over 100 tea parties reported.


*Note: Camellia sinensis is the species of tea plants grown in China. White, green, oolong, pur-erh and black tea are all harvested from this species. It is the processing that creates the different styles of tea.

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Wilkinsons Views      

Tea brewing

(This is a five part article on brewing tea, join us next month for our discussion on brewing green teas.)

Black Tea

If you read the article above you will remember that all teas come from basically the same plant. But as with any plant it responds to its environment and thus we have teas that are grown on separate ridges of the same mountain and they will each posses a different taste. From region to region the processing is slightly different. This is why an Indian Assam does not taste like your basic China Black tea. All black teas begin their processing by being dried with heat which slightly cooks and ferments the leaves yielding the black color.

Black teas are the most robust of the tea varieties and can be brewed in truly boiling water, 100 degrees  Centigrade or 212 degrees Fahrenheit. However we recommend bringing your filtered water to a full rolling boil and turning the kettle off for 1 minute before pouring over the tea leaves or tea bags. (The temperature should drop to approx 98 degrees Centegrade or 195 Fahrenheit. If you are using tea bags place one in the cup or a number of bags equal to the number of servings in your pot. If using loose tea, place one teaspoon or 2 grams per serving in your pot or cup. Steep your black tea for at least 3 minutes and up to 4 minutes. We do not recommend steeping any longer than 6 minutes or your tea will develop a bitter edge.

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Brews:

We will be presenting a different coffee and tea each month to tempt your palate. 

Nilgiri- Southern India's fragrant tea

India has been a source of some of the worlds most famous and desirable teas since the time of the British Raj. Assam and Darjeeling are household words to most people, and are indeed the premium teas. But these two regions are not all that India has to offer.

Nilgiri tea is grown in the southern part of India far away from the Darjeeling foothills to the north. The name translated means "Blue Mountains" and so they seem indeed, picturesque and splendid. But their good looks is but one secret. The combination of a long growing season, altitude and rainfall allows tea plants to be grown and plucked throughout the year. The leaves are fragrant and occasionally seem to take on just the merest hint of the gum and cypress woods that grow alongside and around the plantations proper.

The finished teas from the region are lighter than Assams yet not as light as Darjeeling strains. They are a beautiful blend of both and form the basis of a warming flavorsome hot tea with milk, or without. (Though I would always advise you to try any new tea without milk the first time!) It also makes a great chilled iced tea for a hot summers afternoon!

Anyone who has a liking for Ceylon teas should also try the Nilgiri tea. Geographically the regions are similar but the unique conditions of the Blue Mountains of southern India, as I say, grant a character all of their own. At Wilkinson's we are pleased to offer Tiger Hill estate Nilgiri and Craighead Estate . The latter is preferable if you prefer a little milk in your cuppa but feel free to experiment you won’t be dissapointed!

While I was working on this entry my colleague came across this recipe for some Masala Chai.  This is a popular tea based drink recipe and we recommend trying it with a Nilgiri tea. We thought, as an added bonus, we add it here for the adventurous.

As this is a popular tea based drink and this recipe is recommended to try with a Nilgiri tea we thought as an added bonus to put it in here for the adventerous among you!

Masala Chai Recipe:

A delicious twist on tea, warm yourself with this easy-to-do drink on a cold day. The recipe serves 2 people.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup water
• I cup full-cream milk (you can use low-fat milk but full-cream tastes best)
• 3 tsps tea-leaves (Nilgiri Craighead or similar)
• 1"piece of dry ginger
• 2-3 cardamom pods split open
• 2 peppercorns
• 2 cloves
• 1" piece of cinnamon
• 1 tsp aniseed/ fennel
• Sugar to taste

Preparation:
• Grind all the spices together coarsely in a coffee grinder and set aside.
• Mix the milk and water in a deep pan and bring to a boil on a high flame.
• As the milk/water mixture begins to rise to a boil add the spice mixture and reduce the flame to a simmer.
• When the milk/water rises to a boil again add the tea leaves, allow to rise and then turn the flame off.
• Cover the tea and allow it to brew for 2 minutes.
• Filter through a strainer, add sugar and enjoy!

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San Agustin - the Heights of Colombian coffee

Colombia is as many of you will know the second largest producer of coffee in the world. But the country, while sharing the latitude of its neighbour Brazil, has a very different topography which both affects the farming techniques and the flavour of the resulting crops.

Its a personal opinion of mine I know, but if you're new to coffee - or trying some friend or loved one out on real fresh ground coffee (as opposed to the instant "efforts" that are too common here) then always start with a good Colombian coffee. That was the advice given to me by the master roaster here at Wilkinson's and it's as good now as it was then!

San Agustin coffee is well regarded as one of the best of the Colombian coffees. The many small-holdings of the region often have their fruiting trees perched on the sides of some precariously high and treacherous mountains. Their are stories of pickers that rappel on ropes to get to favored trees. A far cry (if true) to the mechanically assisted processes widely used on the Brazilian hills.

To get the smooth high grown San Agustin coffee beans the hill farmers gather their kin and neighbours and hand pick the ripe cherries individually. They often return again and again to the same tree over several days to do so. These are then de-pulped manually the resulting waste being used over as a natural fertiliser for the plantations. The secondary skin is removed by a "wet process" over night before being sun dried on patios or even the roofs of the farmers houses.

Such care and attention at each step of the harvest can only result in a high quality product. Indeed the finished beans are usually declared "Zero Defects" meaning that the raw beans we buy here at Wilkinson's are of the highest possible quality attainable for a coffee.

We gently roast this prince of coffees to a medium dark roast to bring out (but not smother!) the nuances of the high altitude and volcanic soil of the Andes. The resulting cup has a startling intense flavour that is rich with a caramel like sweetness, with no discernible bitterness to it.

The care of the farmer is reflected at every stage into this great coffee. While any Colombian coffee is worth a look, you have not really lived until you have tried the full and balanced glory that is San Agustin Colombian Coffee.

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February 2009 Edition

In The News

Renewed Unrest in Darjeeling

Everybody who likes tea will be more than familiar with the Darjeeling region of India, perched high on the foothills of the Himalayas on the Border with Nepal and Bhutan and the Indian protectorate of Sikkim.

Darjeeling tea is known the world over as a premium delicate tea much prized by the discerning tea drinker, but the region was thrown into turmoil last year shortly after the first flush of Tea was harvested in the spring. The Gorkha peoples movement has been agitating for some time for an independent or at least autonomous state of Gorkaland for this people that would lay claim to vast swathes of the most prestigious and valuable Tea plantations of the region. If the Gorkas ever get there homeland We strongly suspect the tea that would be there primary export, would remain “Darjeeling” in name. I doubt many would like the “Gorkatea” by the sound of it here in the west!

According the reports we have heard the violence has been minimal in these disturbances but the disruption to the harvest of tea has been significant in places. The 2008 second flush picking was badly disrupted loosing at its peak some half a million dollars worth of exports per day to the Indian government.

So far our supplies have not suffered, but we are watching the situation closely and advise any Darjeeling lover to order early, just to be on the safe side.

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Ethiopia in the News 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has gone on record blasting coffee exporters. He has promised that the government is going to “cut the hands” of exporters who are committing grave crimes against the country. The Prime Minister revealed that 10,000 tons of coffee bound for export has simply disappeared. He also stated that this case is being vigorously investigated.

Ethiopia is dependant on its coffee trade and produces approximately 200,000 tons of coffee per year. Only half of this amount ever hits the export docks as Ethiopians are also among the largest consumers of coffee per capita. Any one can do the math here, 10,000 tons is 10% of the total export production of 100,000 tons, which according to global prices is worth approximately 20 to 23 million dollars (roughly 14 to 16 million pounds sterling). This is grave news for a country already considered one of the poorest in the world

 

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Wilkinsons Views      

Two Favorites in one cup

Some years ago my collegue Rupert, here at Wilkinsons lent me one of his prized Coffee books. I was trying to learn what I could of the business at the time and I was facinated by the history of coffee and the variations that had been made from it.In one section it had some recipies one of which captivated me that it became my "Party Treat" for special occasions. With Valentines here at last it might be a treat you and your loved one would like to try as well.

Cafe Borgia the book called it, the recipe is pretty simple extra strong coffee cream and Chocolate! The way I came to make it is as follows. Brew up enough high roasted coffee about half the folks your serving for. While its brewing take a bar of your favorite dark (at least 70% ideally) chocolate, melt this in a suacepan over a gentle heat until liquid.

Next pour the strong coffee into a cup and slowly add the Liquid Chocolate. Don't do it the other way around the idea is not to mix the two (just yet!) Lastly top off with a heavy cream layer, serve with a spoon or a swizzle stick. The idea is to drink the bitter coffee slowly allowing the liquid chocolate to slowly infuse the drink so every sip should be sweeter than the last.

The cream smooths out the flavours but hopefully will not mask them. If you get it just right the chocolate will be all but gone just as you finish the coffee on top. I use Wilkinsons Fair Trade continental for the base drink but you can also experiment with either Mayfair or perhaps Medici espresso for less strong but more complex flavours in the drink. Whichever you use sipping at this drink will make a rare after dinner treat for you both.


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Ask the expert

Please drop us a line at info@wilkinsonsofnorwich.com with any questions or comments you have on tea or coffee. We will endeavor to answer all emails as well as publish the best or most frequently asked questions here.

Q: I was always told to let tea steep for about five minutes. Is this true for all teas?

A: Not really, as a general rule green teas should be steeped for about 2 minutes or so. Black teas roughly double that. In fact this is actually a great tip to get the best out of your tea that we plan to feature it next month as a full article.


Brews:

We will be presenting a different coffee and tea each month to tempt your palate and placate your pocketbook.
As its Valentines Month we thought to continue the sweet floral theme with a coffee and a tea known for there delicate taste and aroma. 

Lotus tea from China

This month we feature an unusual tea called Black Lotus. Black, not because it is made from flowers of that colour but because it is a traditional China black tea that has been scented and enriched by the careful addition of pink lotus petals. Many cultures of the orient revere the lotus flower and more than a few of them have made a signature tea from the entire flower or (as we have done) with the petals as an added ingredient. We believe our Black Lotus to be the perfect to this world of exotic fragrant teas. Unlike some flower fragranced teas ours is not overpowering but simply adds a note of sophistication to the fine china tea base.

Black Lotus tea needs a longer infusion time than most Chinese teas. We recommend about 4 minutes as opposed to the standard 2 minutes to get the most of both tea and blossoms. Another tip to remember with delicate teas is to use water “off” the boil to avoid scorching the leaves. (approximately 80 degrees Centigrade instead of 95 to 100) or (approximately 175 degrees Fahrenheit vs. 195 to 208 degrees)

This fragrant and invigorating brew is best drunk without milk although some do prefer a little added sugar. We would like to recommend trying this one in the warm weather as well, a little sugar and some ice will provide you with a refreshing alternative to sodas.

 

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Brazilian Santos

The country of Brazil is the largest grower and exporter of coffee in the world. Brazilian coffee is grown at a comparatively low a altitude compared to those of Africa, Columbia and the volcanic islands and is often used as the base for bulk brewed and instant coffees.

However there are a few particularly good sub types amongst the mundane. And the king of the crop is the Brazilian Santos or more specifically “Bourbon Santos 2”. So named because the plants are direct descendents from the first coffee beans introduced to Brazil from Bourbon (the modern day Island of Reunion) in the 18th century. Santos is the region and the name of the port from which the coffee is grown and exported respectively. And finally the “2” is for the coffee’s grade. Interestingly there is no higher grade in Brazilian coffees. (Perhaps they reserved the “1” for the mythical perfect plant found in the Garden of Eden?)

The unique character and slightly ‘sweet’ taste of the brew is accredited to the beans being ‘dry processed’. This ‘sweet’ combined with a smooth and slightly nutty flavour makes this coffee and ideal coffee-break cup. Unfortunately in recent years many of the coffee estates are beginning to experiment with a slightly more consistent ‘wet process’ for finishing the raw bean. We at Wilkinson’s believe this to be an inferior process resulting in the loss of the complex character of bean. This is why we only deal in ‘dry process’ fully certified Fair Trade Foundation beans, to bring you the exquisite quality and taste of this unique coffee.

Try this coffee today to experience the warm sunny beaches, beautiful people and lively Carnival that is exotic Brazil.

 

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 January 2009 Edition


In The News

Can Drinking Coffee Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

The answer might be yes according to a study released this month in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. The study began in 1972 at the University of Kuopio in Finland to try to determine the long-term effects of caffeine on the central nervous system.  

From 1972 to 1987 1,409 people were evaluated every five years and then again in 1998 when this group reached the ages of 65 to 79 years old. The participants in the study who drank three to five cups of coffee around their midlife examination in 1987 had a 65 percent lower risk of having dementia (and Alzheimer’s disease). The study also divided people into categories according to tea consumption but they could not find any differences in the risk of dementia. Researchers admitted that they were not sure if it was the caffeine or another ingredient in the coffee that lead to these startling findings and stated that more research was needed to demonstrate conclusive evidence.

"Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia (and Alzheimer's disease)," said lead researcher Miia Kivipelto. She also stated that this could open the possibility that diet changes could fight Alzheimer's disease. 

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The Health Benefits of Black Tea

The health benefits of green tea have been much touted in the news in the last few years but what about black tea? According to a new article in the American Journal of Epidemiology researchers from the National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore say that drinking as little as three-quarters of a cup of black tea per day may cut the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by as much as 71 percent.

The study involved 63,257 Chinese women and men, comparing their intake of various beverages. The researchers discovered that caffeine was responsible for at least a 45 percent lower risk of Parkinsons disease. But after they adjusted for this effect they found that those who drank 23 or more cups of black tea each month still had a 71 percent lower risk of the disease than those who drank less tea. The authors wrote: “Black tea, a caffeine-containing beverage, showed an inverse association with Parkinson's disease risk that was not confounded by total caffeine intake or tobacco smoking. [This suggests that] ingredients of black tea other than caffeine appear to be responsible for the beverage's inverse association with Parkinson's disease." In prior studies current research has found no such protective effects from green tea.

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Wilkinsons Views      

In Hot Water (Wilkinsons Brewing tip #1)

Sometimes it’s heartbreaking here at Wilkinson’s to have an earnest customer complain that the taste of a product, "just isn't right!" These complaints are rare and are always taken seriously. The problem is that our research usually demonstrates that 99 times out of a hundred it’s not the tea or coffee's fault but that of the water.

It’s true, it really is the water. We all know that hard water affects the condition of our pipes as well as leaves visible lime scale deposits in our household kettles or coffee makers. And this lime scale is a nuisance to remove. Even light and heavy industrial catering machines come with a warning light when the lime scale is liable to clog up or otherwise damage the equipment. But what most people (and restaurant owners) often don’t consider is the nasty taste of this hard white scale.

What we would like to suggest is add a cup of white* vinegar to your kettle and fill it up with water, bring it to a boil and then dump it out, rinsing the kettle well afterwards. For coffee machines add a cup of white* vinegar to the water and run it through a coffee making cycle (leaving off the coffee of course). To rinse coffee machines run two more cycles with plain water (no coffee grounds). Our second recommendation is to purchase an inexpensive filter jug to filter the water before putting it in any drinks machinery. The results of these simple and inexpensive precautions will bless your taste buds as you find the full flavour of your favourite cuppa brought to life all over again with the softened water. Not to mention the money you'll save as your equipment will last so very much longer and run much more efficiently - saving your electric bill just a bit as well.

*Only use WHITE vinegar, any other type will leave a taste in your machine worse than the lime scale!

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Ask the expert

Please drop us a line at info@wilkinsonsofnorwich.com with any questions or comments you have on tea or coffee. We will endeavor to answer all emails as well as publish the best or most frequently asked questions here.


Q: What is “English Breakfast” tea made from.
 

A: Well traditionally its a blend of teas from former crown colonies about the globe. Our recipe is of course our own little secret, but it contains Fine teas from India, Ceylon and selected plantations from former colonies in Africa.

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Brews:

New Year’s resolutions. The whole reason for New Year’s resolutions is to get yourself out of a rut by making changes to your life style. Here’s a thought, make a resolution for pleasure this year by escaping your coffee or tea rut. We will be presenting a different coffee and tea each month to tempt your palate and placate your pocketbook.

Rose Pouchong

Of late, we here at Wilkinsons have seen a sharp surge of interest in Rose Pouchong tea from China. Traditionalists might think that any tea with an added flavouring would be cringe-worthy (as my mother would say!) However, this enticing tea from the orient might surprise even the most staid with its fragrant delicacy.

As the tea goes through its drying process, rose petals are inter layered with the black tea base. The delicate volatile rose oils are then absorbed into the fermenting tea. Unlike many fragranced teas, you can actually take this with a little milk if you like. Though many will still say black is the best way to drink it. Either way, may its taste lift you from the feeling of winter, and delicate aroma make you dream of the summer days to come

So with Valentines day appearing on the horizon, to the tea lover, this could be a novel and sure to please way to say it with flowers! This truly is a lovely tea for your cup which I encourage you to sample. .

Green tea infused with Rose petals as well. Although this is not a "Pouchong" type as it has not been treated to the special withering processes used to create a classic Pouchong. It is a good choice for anyone keen to explore the health benefits of green tea while enjoying the fragrance of roses.

Rainforest Alliance Gayo Mountain Sumatra

Sumatran coffee is an interesting and rich tasting coffee. It comes from the one of the largest of the chain of volcanic Islands that lie between Australia and Singapore on the Malaysian peninsula.

This coffee, depending on how high or how long it is roasted, changes its taste characteristics quite noticeably, so we at Wilkinsons carry a matched pair of roasts in this versatile and intriguing bean. One is a Sumatra High roast for those that love the earthy strength of a high roast, coupled with the mustiness this bean extracts from the volcanic soil of its island. But the bean also has some subtle and smooth notes to it, that are, alas, lost in the highest roasts. So here at Wilkinsons we also do a more medium golden brown roast with this type of bean. This brings out the subtleties and smoothness of flavour that it has to offer. Both our Blue Sumatra Lintong and the Rainforest Alliance Gayo Mountain Sumatra are medium roasts. So please sample this brew from the far east we are certain its smooth but exotic flavour is sure to please, any time of the day.

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