Starbucks has long been synonymous with great coffee, but did you know that it has a great selection of teas as well?
Last weekend, together with fellow bloggers Jen of Sand Under My Feet and Francis G, as well as other tea lovers in the east of Manila area, I attended the Teavana TEA-volution Tea Tasting Seminar, a Tea 101 if you will, held at the Starbucks branch in SM East Ortigas. Our Starbucks Tea Master Jonas Velgado took us on guided tour through the history of teas, the tea-growing regions of the world and three flights of tea tasting.
Tea culture started in China in 2737 BC. Legend has it that Emperor Shen Nung, exhausted after walking in the countryside, decided to rest himself under a tree and boil himself some water to drink. A gust of wind shook some leaves from the tree (said to be a wild tea plant) into the boiling water, giving the liquid a goldish color and a pleasant taste which the emperor liked. Thus, began the pleasures of tea drinking which spread throughout the world.
There is a wide variety of teas, each with its own flavor and characteristics, influenced by the region in which they are grown. China, for example, produces black, oolong and white tea. Japan, on the other hand, is known for matcha and green tea. India, also made a name for itself for black tea.
The processing of tea leaves which come from the same plant called Camellia Sinensis is what determines the teas’ strength of flavor and the leaves’ exposure to the elements – or oxidation – determines their classification into white, green, oolong or black tea.
White tea is the lightest and most delicate variety, made of the youngest and freshet leaves which are simply plucked and dried with no time for oxydation. White tea is usually characterized by its fragrant and sweet notes.
Leaves heated before being rolled and dried result to green tea. While there is little oxidation, the added processing brings out more natural flavors and lightly toasted notes.
Bruising or tearing the leaves add partial oxidation into the processing, resulting to a fuller body and richer color. Thus, oolong tea, commonly served in Chinese restaurants, is characterized by a floral aroma and a smooth finish.
Lastly, rolling and giving the tea leaves plenty of time to oxidize before being fired, give the black tea, more popular in Western countries, a bold, complex and strong flavor.
After the brief history and geography lesson, we were treated to three sets of tea tastings, from the base teas to exciting beverage innovations, all available at Starbucks outlets.
First Flight: Full- Leaf Brewed Teas
Starbucks’ Teavana line boasts of the youngest and freshest whole tea leaves grown from the most fertile regions. These are available in sachets in Starbucks stores so that tea lovers have the option to enjoy them in-store or wherever they are. Steeping time is usually at five minutes using eight fluid ounces of boiling water, but, of course, tea drinkers are welcome to experiment what works best for their taste. Enjoy these hot or ice-shaken.
English Breakfast. This robust handcrafted blend of Assam, Sri Lankan Ceylon and Chinese black tea. This will taste great with or without sugar and milk (but I would prefer it with sugar and milk!)
Chamomile. This caffeine-free herbal infusion uses chamomile sourced from Croatia, giving the blend soft and soothing floral tones.
Emperor’s Clouds and Mist. Both leaves and buds of the tea plant grown amd harvested from Chine’s Huangshan Mountain 3,500 feet above sea level are used to create this rich-bodied and sweet-flavored green tea.
Second Flight: Tea Lattes
Tea proves to be a very versatile beverage. Case in point: adding steamed milk to a strong-flavored tea gives you a frothy tea latte. Enjoy these in hot or iced formats.
Chai Tea Latte. Black tea is infused with cinnamon, clove and other warming spices, then combined with steamed milk, and topped with foam, resulting to a creamy balance of sweet and spicy.
Green Tea Latte. Matcha is lightly sweetened and served with milk, giving you a milky yet herby aroma in a thick, yet smooth and creamy deep-green blend.
English Breakfast Tea Latte. Steamed milk is added to English Breakfast black tea, lightly sweetened with cane sugar, resulting to a light mouthfeel but rich taste.
Third Flight: Featured Tea Lattes
From time to time, Starbucks introduces limited-edition beverages, fresh takes on their classic tea drinks, to match the season and infuse their beverages with the unexpected. These are also available hot or iced.
Oat Green Tea Latte. Green tea and oats are blended then topped with colorful granola, making a cheery and festive drink.
Peach Black Tea Latte. Subtle fruitiness characterize this blend of peach flavors and earthy black tea, my favorite among the drinks.
Chestnut Black Tea Latte. Finely ground black tea blended with steamed milk and chestnut sauce is lightly sprinkled with chestnut and strawberry bites, resulting to a creamy textured drink with a slightly dry nutty aftertaste.
Starbucks’ TEA-volution Tea-tasting Seminar is one of Starbucks’ laudable initiatives in expanding the Filipino palate. I can hardly wait to discover what other beverage innovations Starbucks has up its sleeve.
Kudos and thanks to Jonas and the Starbucks SM East Ortigas crew for their warm welcome and kind accommodation during this delightfully educational event! The seminar was well-organized and facilitated, with Starbucks SM East Ortigas store serving as a comfortable venue for the attendees.
Disclosure: The TEA-volution Tea-tasting Seminar held in this Starbucks branch is a free event open to the public that simply requires pre-registration. The beverages mentioned here were served to enable us to sample the brews and were not paid for by attendees, including myself.
Check out my other recent post about Starbucks: 10-day Journey to the Starbucks 2019 Planner.