Make Tea. Not War.
What is tea?
So, what is chá? What is camellia sinensis? What is tea?
It’s a leafy bush that is originally native to the valleys of the Himalayas, south of Tibet, and North of India. The bush naturally has caffeine (which is great for stimulation), L-Theanine (which is great for focus), and lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids. No matter what kind of tea we’d like to make, we usually pluck the youngest buds and leaves on the plant, at the tips of the branches.
Once leaves are plucked, we can decide what kind of tea we’d like to make:
We admit, naming all of these teas “unoxidized" is a bit of an over-simplification. Technically teas start oxidizing as soon as they’re plucked! That being said, these teas’ processing is very light, and it keeps a lot of the raw chemistry in tact. It takes about two hours for our stomach to break down that chemistry and release the caffeine. So, very important note! UNOXIDIZED TEAS USUALLY TAKE ABOUT 2 HOURS BEFORE THE CAFFEINE IS FULLY RELEASED INTO THE SYSTEM.
- White: Simply Sun-dried in raised beds, and finished with a light dehydration.
- Green: Plucked, cooked (usually either in a pan or steamed), shaped (pressed or rolled to break down cell walls and release oils), and quickly dried.
- Yellow: Plucked, pan-fired, shaped (usually rolled, again to break down cell walls and release oils), and then very slowly dried in small bundles. Usually a little creamier, nuttier, and funkier than green tea.
These categories value and encourage oxidation. The whole idea of encouraging oxidation in tea began in the 1400’s and has exploded since then. After pluck, leaves are allowed to sit and soften before being rolled. This rolling process causes the leaves’ veins to burst, releasing sugars, oils, and juices. Then the leaf starts bruising, and getting darker, as it absorbs these juices. Once the tea reaches its desired degree of oxidation, the leaves are roasted to caramelize the sugars and dehydrate the leaves.
- Oolong Tea: Partially oxidized. Oolong literally translates to “black dragon,” but it actually means a partially oxidized tea. If it has any intentional oxidation, it can’t be called a green tea. If it is fully oxidized, though, it can no longer be called an oolong tea.
- Black Tea: Called Red Tea in China, Black tea means that after the leaves were rolled and bruised, they were allowed to oxidize fully, to get dark until they couldn’t get any darker, and then roasted.
Puerh is the trickiest category in the world of tea. In order for a tea to be properly called a puerh tea, it must have a few qualifications. It must be plucked from a tea tree (of the assamica subspecies). This tree must come from a seed, and can not be a clone. The tree should be at the very least about 60 to 70 years old. The older the tree, the deeper the roots. The deeper the roots, the more minerals find their way into the sweet, tender leaves at the tips of the branches. And finally, this tea tree must be in the Yunnan Province of Southwestern China, where the practice of making and drinking this tea originates.
Raw puerh is very similar to green tea. After pluck, leaves are pan-fired a little more lightly than green tea. They are then rolled and sun-dried. Raw puerh is unique in its value for aging. Of all tea categories, Raw Puerh is considered the best for aging.
All ripe puerh comes from raw puerh. If we take a bunch of raw puerh and steam it, the leaves soften up as water makes its way back into their cells. Next, the hot, wet leaves are stacked up and covered with a wet blanket. This starts a sort of composting process that breaks down a lot of the caffeine and tannins and offers a mellow, earthy, grounding cup.
This category is reserved for any other plant. This is where you’ll find our peppermint, chamomile, hibiscus, etc. Most of these are caffeine-free, except for yerba mate, which has about 4 times the caffeine of tea, and about 80% the caffeine of coffee.
Our aim in blending is one word: deliciousness. We are based down in Miami, and we know that when a beverage is chilled and served over ice, the tastebuds are a little numbed, and we lose the enhanced aroma that is carried by steam. So, our aim is to create dynamic flavor profiles that are complex and enjoyable enough to drink on their own. At the same time, our blends are also bases and mixers for cocktails all over Miami’s restaurants, bars, and home bars.
Who is this tea for?
The dilemma of choice is a serious concern. We live in a world that rewards us for going faster and faster still. We are inundated with emails, news alerts, and social media updates. The pace of modern life can feel all consuming and overwhelming. These experiences are universal to all people, regardless of culture.
JoJo Tea Is The Answer To That Overwhelm.
We begin with intention. You need to heat water before you make the tea. Any old water won’t do. It must be of the right quality and at the appropriate temperature. Once the tea is made, it must be sipped carefully as the liquid is hot. Tea rewards you for contemplating your breath with its depth of complexity. It rewards you for sitting in silence. It rewards you for staying put. And when you stay put you decompress, you align.
Tea will help.
It’s for the person who is trying to get in shape, but doesn’t know where to start. Someone who has never developed a habit with discipline. Developing a tea practice will get them used to an energizing ritual that can open their eyes to new habits and opportunities. It’s for the person who sometimes doesn’t want to go to sleep. Someone who stays up engaging in their curiosities and their passions into the early hours of the morning. A steady stream of tea keeps them active and alert, especially on those late nights that are so valued.
Tea provides structure and possibility.
It’s for the person who wants to eat healthier, and doesn’t know where to start. The person who has been putting off changing their diet for their whole lives, perhaps. They know that tea is healthy. They’ve seen the commercials. It’s an easy enough way to dip their toes into a healthier food lifestyle. It’s for the chef that doesn’t want to drink wine and coffee all day, because it’s been catching up with them lately and they want to explore other pleasurable, nuanced, stimulating beverage options without adverse side effects.
Tea provides health benefits and stimulation.
It’s for the couple that’s looking for something to do together, a hobby they can explore together. They’ve gone to all of the wine bars and cocktail bars and the best restaurants in town. Maybe this Saturday, instead of having a bottle of wine, they’ll try a couple teas and if they like one, they can make it together on the afternoons and evenings that they’re at home together. It’s for the frustrated artist that is desperately and honestly trying to finish work but is stuck, tired, and in need of a breath of inspiration. A hot sip with aromas that chase each refreshing exhale can bring them solace and renew their spirit.
Tea provides connection and a moment to breathe.
It’s for the mother that has forgotten to take a moment for herself. The parent so overwhelmed by the grittiness of the day to day and the possibilities that threaten their family that they’ve lost the ability to truly unwind. The vibrant familiarity of a favorite tea has the ability to ground them in the moment and to remind them that small moments can bring tranquility. When their children come home to find them sipping tea with a gentle, confident smile they too are filled with calm. It’s for the friend that’s overworked. The friend that just finished a 12-hour shift. You know how sometimes people look tired, really tired? It’s for those people. A cup of tea goes a long way. It’s for the generous, concerned neighbor looking for a way to cheer up their friend. It’s for finding connection and that perfect, peaceful moment with themselves or others.
Tea provides clarity and comfort.
It’s for the shy craftsman that doesn’t quite know what to say. They put their heart and soul into their pastries. They make coriander meringues and raspberry-tarragon pavlovas and win awards for their creations. Suddenly, a lot more people are listening to them and the new responsibility has them feeling uncertain. Sipping a familiar tea throughout the day will warm their throat and calm their breath. It will provide a familiar center to return to and allow them to speak with clarity and confidence. It’s for the adventurer of the mind, the explorer of foreign philosophies and challenging concepts. The thrilling stimulation of mind-blowing, worldview-altering realizations drives a constant quest for material from the academic to the bespoke. Or the post-graduate mathematician developing an idea for their PhD thesis. It’s for the man or woman whose lifestyle and career demand intellectual focus. It’s for the person facing a big decision. It’s for the person with options. Whether it’s two or a million. It’s for the person who has to make a choice.
Tea provides contemplation and focus.
It’s for the person that aspires to something greater. They might know exactly what it is, or maybe it’s still a small flash on the horizon. A tease from some foreign energy, pulling them out of your comfort zone and into a newer, more complete space of self. It’s for the person that knows that when they buy something, some of the dollars that they spend on that item goes to the people that made that item, the craftsmen, so they can make more of it. The people that grow and process our tea, they bleed tea. The only reason they want to sell tea is so they can afford to continue to make tea. They live this craft with humble dignity and detailed thoroughness. They dedicate their lives to a peaceful habit in an ancient craft. Their connection to the earth and their harmony with the universe moves through the minerals below the soil into the roots of old tea trees and up through the trunks into the leaves and through the water into their hearts and out with their breaths and words and footprints.
Tea is the moment.
Tea is the movement.
Sweet tea with Mike Ortiz
Michael Ortiz is the founder of JoJo Tea, a Miami-based purveyor of fine teas. He was also named best in Tea Preparation at the Tea Masters Cup USA 2019.