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58 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • MARCH 2017 2017 BEVERAGE SERIES Tea, Glorious Tea Growing consumer interest in diets and flavors drive growth in high-quality teas. I t's more of a steady climb as opposed to explosive growth, but consumer interest in higher-quality teas and loose leaf tea continues to grow, par- ticularly as many look to improve their diet and explore new flavors in beverages. Many loose leaf and natural tea varieties have been found to offer many nutri- tional benefits in the form of antioxidants and cleansing properties. For centuries, people in Chinese, Japanese and Indian cultures have enjoyed teas for different medicinal and other health and wellness needs, such as calming stress, boosting fertility and treating common ailments. Many teas (black, oolong, green and white) come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis or "tea bush." The difference stems from how they are processed, according to retailer Adagio Teas. The level of oxygen absorbed by the leaves during processing (fermenta- tion) is the determining factor, leading to dark-colored black teas or lighter green teas or even lighter white teas. Scented tea requires additional flavor- ings that producers mix with the leaf as a final stage before packaging. For example, a producer might add jas- mine blossoms to green or oolong tea. Fruit-flavored teas are often made from essential oils and black tea. These days, higher end coffee/tea shops and restaurants prefer loose leaf tea versus tea bags for more concentrat- ed flavor, antioxidants and freshness, not to mention that it is not always possible to funnel higher quality tea leaves into a commercial-grade tea bagging machine. "Great tea starts with having a great producer," says Tom Santelle, director of coffee and tea for Band of Bohemia, a res- taurant and culinary brewery in Chicago. "You can do as much tasting as you want, but if you haven't taken the first steps to find great producers who are really fo- cused on the quality it won't do anything for your tea service. Tea, like coffee used to be, can be an afterthought and I believe that is a disservice to diners." Santelle prefers teas that are more mineral forward in taste and have a sense of place and a good story, just like a fine wine. He ditches tea bags and even many dried loose leaf versions for fresh leaves that he can infuse himself, working with Spirit Tea, a small, local wholesaler that works directly with smaller market/small batch growers. "We only carry about five teas at any given time so we can have a quick turnover and maintain freshness," says Santelle. "Tea really is just a plant, with leaves, buds, twigs and other parts. Using loose leaf tea really shows off the beauty of the plant itself, especially if it's been well cared for." By Amelia Levin Super Simple E&S for Loose Leaf Tea Brewing • Kettle • Teaspoon • Infusers (Floating filter baskets or small pots with strainer) • Tea strainer with handle