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Tea Cup
Fine tea tastes even better in a beautiful tea cup. Shown is the Storm pattern from Denby Pottery.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE™. LINDSEY NELSON is an editorial intern.

 

June 2006

Main Nibbles / Beverages / Teas

Republic of Tea

Fine Teas With A Mission

 

CAPSULE: The Republic of Tea has a vast line of quality teas—almost anything one could look for, whether you’re just learning about tea or are a collector of limited editions. But the company also expends a vast amount of energy on the human front, fighting to improve tea workers’ lives through Fair Trade certification and charitable partnerships. It exercises “best practices” at home, too: unbleached tea bags are free of staples, strings, and labels, and the tin packaging is recyclable. This suits us to a “T.”

Many companies channel all of their energy into a single focus—social consciousness, environmental sustainability, a high-quality product, customer relationships. Very few are able to synthesize all of these aspects to create a sort of “super company” of conscience. The Republic of Tea, however, manages to complete this balancing act, resulting in a company that, aside from doing its part to help humanity, save the earth, and foster a sense of community with its customers, sells some of the most delicious teas available.

Based in Novato, California, in the San Francisco Bay area, the company was created in 1992 by the founders of Banana Republic. In 1994, entrepreneur Ron Rubin purchased the young company and embarked on a mission to shape it into a successful tea empire (or rather, a republic—stores are Embassies, employees are Ministers, and customers are Citizens). Today The Republic of Tea provides its “Citizens” with more than 150 quality teas. From beginning student of tea to connoisseur, from gourmet to health enthusiast, there are teas galore. In 2005, the company’s impressive tea roster expanded to include Fair Trade products, for which workers on tea estates are paid a premium. (Click here for a detailed explanation of Fair Trade certification.)

Committed

The company’s vision manifests itself through a variety of practices. One of its strongest commitments is to health and the environment, and it shows.  For example, its line of Certified Organically Grown teas is sustainably grown, meaning that you can count on them to be chemical and pesticide-free. The Republic of Tea also uses unbleached tea bags, which prevents the bleaching chemical dioxin, a known carcinogen from steeping into the tea (there’s a reason to switch to loose tea!). Additionally, the bags are free of staples, strings and labels, and the tin is recyclable (or better yet, reusable). Many of the teas also can be purchased in refill packs for the tins that come in recyclable paper pouches.

A Sea of Tea

The company is not just about charters, mindsets and missions—it’s about great tea: loose and bag tea, black tea, green tea, white tea, decaffeinated tea, caffeine-free herbal tea and specialty tea, the latter of which encompasses everything from the Sip for the Cure line to organic tea and kosher tea to iced tea. Thankfully, each tin of tea comes with a helpful description on the label, and the website has a detailed flavor profile that includes information about the taste, origin, caffeine content, and method of preparation, as well as interesting facts or stories. It’s a most-appreciated repository of learning for anyone beginning to sort out what can take years of study (we’ve recommended some books below that help).

  • Imperial Pu-ErhBlack Tea. Republic of Tea has smooth (non-bitter) versions of the classic black teas such as Golden Yunnan and smoky Lapsang Souchong, blends like Earl Greyer (the company’s cheeky spelling) and vibrant fruit-flavored blends like Ginger-Peach (the company’s best-seller) and Raspberry Quince. A staple in THE NIBBLE™ kitchen is Assam, an elegant, rich, round and malty tea that is splendid straight, but yes, it can be drunk with milk. Tea connoisseurs should try the 2006 Limited Edition Special Reserve Darjeeling and the Limited Edition Darjeeling Maharani Hills First Flush Chest (only 1000 tins are produced of each limited edition). Don’t overlook the Imperial Republic Pu-Erh. Pu-Erh is a different category of black tea from Yunnan Province, aged and oxidized to achieve a woody, earthy flavor. It is considered a medicinal tea in China, where it is used to reduce cholesterol. But, you should try it for the exotic flavor.
  • Green Tea. If black, well, isn’t your cup of tea, then perhaps green tea, Memoirs of a Geisharevered for its scientifically-proven healthful antioxidants, is an option. If you want your EGCGs* but don’t love the taste of straight green (which may simply mean that you have never had truly fine green tea), the “Daily Green Tea” line can offer you a flavored green tea for each day of the week, starting with Orange Spice and Kiwi Pear Green Tea. Other greens  with a pulse on the contemporary include a cherry green tea inspired by Memoirs of a Geisha (photo at left) and Pomegranate Green Tea flavored with POM Wonderful juice. But don’t overlook our two favorites, both classic green teas: Tea of Inquiry, a green tea with fire-toasted rice mixed with large green Sencha tea leaves; and Jasmine Jazz, a jazzy name for Chinese green tea blended with fragrant dried jasmine blossoms.

Silver Rain*EGCG is the antioxidant compound that helps prevent cancer cells from growing.

  • White Tea. The rarest tea, picked as a bud before the leaf opens, lowest in caffeine, highest in antioxidants, white tea is also the most delicate in flavor—the taste of many whites is extremely subtle. That’s why many people who seek its health benefits prefer to drink a flavored white tea; and as with the greens, Republic of Tea has  seven flavored whites including Vanilla Coconut and Persimmon. There are also straight, connoisseur’s whites like Emperor’s White Tea and Asian Jasmine. For a splurge, Silver Rain White Tea, in the photo at the right, is classified as the rarest of all white teas. It’s about double the price of our favorite black and green teas, and about 60% more expensive than the other fine white teas. (As with green tea, fine white tea is always consumed straight.)
  • Herbal Tea. Herbal tea is not real tea—it is not brewed from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, the tea plant. Technically, it is an infusion of other plants that Be Wellare naturally caffeine-free: fruit, spices, flowers, bark, roots, leaves and seeds. Herbals fall into in a variety of categories, from the classic medicinal teas like chamomile, peppermint and ginseng teas to newer imports like South American yerba maté to the more recently discovered rooibos, a South African red bush that makes a delicious infusion. Republic offers dozens of red teas—you’d have to draw lots to chose. Luckily, since we love spicy chai, we chose the Republic Red Chai and are hooked. The Be Well Red Teas line is a group of herbal remedies for whatever ails you, but great-grandmother would never recognize them in this hip packaging (Get Some Zzzs, shown in the photo at left, is the sleep remedy). We’re going to use them as stocking-stuffers this holiday season.
  • Specialty Tea. The company has developed two tea lines that aid cancer JGarcia Artisan Tearesearch: Sip for the Cure, which benefits the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and Man Kind, which benefits the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Both charities receive a donation for each full-size tin of tea sold. Similarly, sales of children’s teas, Kid’s Cuppa and Panda Berry, provide donations to Sunny Hills Children’s Garden, a school for neglected and abused children. The new J. Garcia artisan tea, a limited-edition line with labels that feature paintings by the late Grateful Dead musician, Jerry Garcia, contributes to Draw Bridge, a California charity that provides art programs for homeless children. A set of all five teas would make a splendid gift for any Jerry Garcia fan, and support a cause close to Jerry’s heart.
  • Honeydew White Iced TeaIced Teas. If your only frame of reference to bottled tea is the type produced by mass-market giants like Snapple® and Lipton®, we must warn you: the flavored iced teas (plus plain Ceylon and Darjeeling) from Republic of Tea are gourmet fare, what you’d expect to be served at a fine restaurant or spa. Why the warning? Delivering the pure, clean taste of some of the best iced tea you’ve ever had, with natural added flavorings, they just might become addictive. They’re unsweetened and calorie-free, so it’s not the worst addiction. The tough part is that, unlike Snapple and Lipton, you can’t walk into your nearest supermarket and be assured of finding them. You can, of course, request of the manager that the store carry them; and you can buy them by the case online. There are 15-plus flavors, including a few decafs and caffeine-free herbals. We like them all; to tantalize you with a few: Blackberry Sage black tea, Passionfruit green tea, Honeydew Melon white tea (in the photo above), Capetown Tropical red tea. They’re not just thirst-quenching; you can serve them as dessert beverages iced tea squaretoo. Given how quickly we go through these iced teas, we’re glad that Republic of Tea has packed three flavors, Ginger Peach Decaf, Passionfruit and Raspberry Quince, in iced tea “squares.” These cardboard box dispensers with spigots hold 16 servings and save on the plastic. Easily portable, they are ready to pour from the refrigerator, at picnics and tailgate parties, or on a tabletop anywhere.
  • Organic TeaOrganic & Kosher. A USDA-certified organic line of teas has nine varieties of tea, from popular black teas like Earl Grey (Republic calls theirs “Earl Greyer”) and Ceylon to green tea and herbal teas. The organic line is also certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, as are the iced teas. All of the unflavored teas—the classic black, green and white tea—are certified kosher. A search on the company website for “kosher” will pull up all of the kosher-certified products.

In addition to organic and kosher certification, The Republic of Tea is certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, the only tea company in the United States to receive such a designation.

Hard Work For “Citizens”

The products we’ve highlighted are a fraction of the extensive “tea menu” at the Republic of Tea—one of the longest of any top specialty tea provider. With more than 150 options, the decision of which tea(s) to choose can be quite a task. If you want our recommendations on a “starter assortment,” it would be culled from the recommendations above:

  • Black Tea: Assam
  • Green Tea: Tea of Inquiry
  • White Tea: Silver Rain White Tea (splurge) or Asian Jasmine White Tea (save)
  • Herbal Tea: Rooibos Chai

If you are wondering how to become a citizen of the Republic, the website is the easiest option. It offers the entire collection of teas, plus condiments, tea gifts and accessories. Alternately, The Republic of Tea has over 20,000 “Embassies” in the forms of food stores, gift stores and cafés, so many of the products are quite easy to find at retail. Even if it requires a bit of work on your part, it is worth going the distance for these premium teas that you can feel good about drinking and buying.

 

THE REPUBLIC OF TEA

Whole Leaf, Bag and Iced Teas

Some teas certified kosher by Orthodox Union

  • Tins of Tea Bags
    20 Bags
    $8.75 and Up,
    Depending On Tea
  • Tins of Loose Tea
    $10 and Up,
    Depending On Tea
  • Iced Tea Sampler Case
    12 Different Flavors
    $25.08

Purchase online at RepublicOfTea.com

Also available at fine food stores.

Shipping additional. Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change.

Be Well Teas
Above, Great-Grandma’s herbal remedy teas in 21st century packaging. Below, the Iced Tea Sampler Case, 12 different flavors.

Republic of Tea

To see the “Glossary of Tea Terms,” the “History of Tea,” “Tea Facts,” and reviews of more favorite teas, click here.

Increase Your Knowledge Of Tea

The Tea Companion spacer Tea Basics spacer The New Tea Companion
The Tea Companion: A Connoisseur’s Guide, by Jane Pettigrew. A comprehensive, authoritative guide to understanding, purchasing, and serving the world's finest teas is beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs of a variety of tea leaves and herbs, as well as their countries of origin. Learn how to store tea so its aromas last, brew it properly for fullest enjoyment, and appreciate the many nuances of flavor to be found in this extraordinary drink. Click here to purchase.
  Tea Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide, by Wendy Rasmussen and Ric Rhinehart. A handy reference that covers all of the essentials of tea buying, brewing, and tasting, and explores the comforts of ritual and healing that tea has provided through the centuries. As you sip and savor the wonderful flavors of black teas, green teas, oolongs, and scented/herbal teas, you'll understand why tea is consumed by more people worldwide than any other drink except water. Click here to purchase.
  The New Tea Companion: A Guide to Teas Throughout the World, by Jane Pettigrew. The definitive guide to teas throughout the world. Beautifully illustrated with detailed information and brewing instructions for over 80 teas. Chapters on tea and health, tea production, tea blending and tea hospitality. Overall, a valuable up-to-date addition to the libraries of both tea novices and professionals. Click here to purchase.

© Copyright 2005-2014 Lifestyle Direct, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Images are the copyright of their individual owners.

 



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