Woodshed Tea

Let's Talk Tea: Class Recap by Caleb Savage

Let’s talk tea. Oklahomans love tea. Even as soda becomes less and less common in restaurants, you can almost always find tea on the menu served in two forms: black or sweet. In fact, it’s not terribly uncommon to go to a restaurant in our great state, order an iced tea and receive a sweet tea instead, but we aren’t here to discuss our state’s sugar consumption.


Last Saturday we hosted our first tea class led by Aria & Caleb, examining the history and production of tea, discussing blends and single origin teas, and of course, drinking a lot of tea! We couldn’t have done this class without having an opportunity to talk to Sam Duregger at Woodshed Tea or serving fantastic teas from Urban Teahouse and 49th Parallel!

What is tea?

Tea comes from the dried leaves of the Camellia Sinesis plant, an evergreen with two main varieties. The plant is grown in places like China, Taiwan, Japan, Iran and Turkey as well as Sri Lanka, Kenya, and India. Countries like China & India have been cultivating tea for thousands of years, developing rituals, improving quality, and working tea into the culture of their communities.


Plantation to Teapot

Since tea growing can be highly regional, it’s hard to set clear steps on how we get from plant to teapot. Practices on how and where plants are grown and how the leaves are dried and processed to be used for tea can be highly specific.

Tea leaves are plucked according to how the leaves will be used. Lighter teas are often younger while teas like Oolongs or Pu-erhs often use mature leaves. The leaves are then withered to lower the moisture content of the leaf to retain flavor and then the leaves will be rolled, oxidized, or fermented depending on their desired tea. Well-produced teas are then sorted removing inferior or smaller leaves and defects discarded.


Current Offerings

You can always find a variety of teas in the shop as we always keep a black, a green, an Earl Grey blend (for London Fogs), a Chai blend (for Chai Lattes) and one or two seasonal teas! All teas can be served hot or iced.

May Specials! Espresso Cream Soda! by Steve Willingham

The Espresso Cream Soda is back!

This one was a favorite last year. We use a house made vanilla syrup, Heart's Stereo Espresso, sparkling water and organic cream to create a coffee cocktail that is sweet and balanced and ridiculously refreshing.

We've got a little something up our sleeves to expand on this drink in a couple of weeks. Can't wait to share!

As always, we have iced teas and cold brew this time of year. 

Right now we have a super tasty blend of Colombia and Ethiopia for our cold brew that tastes like cherry cola. It's perfect for hot days, and there are plenty of those on the way.

For tea, we've always got our English Breakfast black tea and Gunpowder green tea, but right now we're brewing Urban Teahouse's Rooibos Zanzibar. We were shocked at how amazing this tea is iced. Its spices come out strong, but it's still refreshing and sweet without any sugar added. It is definitely a good caffeine free option.

Oh, and don't forget about iced matchas! We always have Matcha Lattes on the menu, featuring Woodshed Tea's amazing matcha blend, but don't forget that anything on the menu can be iced, including matcha. It's sweet and savory, and when it's iced, it's reminiscent of ice cream.

May is an exciting time for us because we get to start making all our favorite iced drinks. Come out and try some!

Aged Heart Oolong Tea: Woodshed Tea by Sam Duregger

This is a guest post by our friend Sam Duregger of Woodshed Tea

A close up look Taiwanese oolong tea bushes, from the plantation we source our High Mountain Oolong Tea.

A close up look Taiwanese oolong tea bushes, from the plantation we source our High Mountain Oolong Tea.

When you think of something aged, the first thing that comes to my mind is a nice barrel aged whiskey, or maybe an expensive bottle of wine… of which I’ve never had the wallet paunch to actually order. As you are well aware, in the world of alcoholic beverages, quality and high price are often associated with the “aged” moniker. 

This prestige does not transfer well to the world of light to medium roast coffee — fresh is best. Both in sourced green beans, and the roasted on date. Time matters and too much of it is thought to be detrimental to the “perfect cup” each genus of coffee aspires to be. I love this about coffee, it’s a tangible experience, as I sip this seasons best, brewed to perfection and served within a week or two of roast. 

When we begin to venture into the tea world we find time to be on our side fresh is great, and aged is also… great! 

To understand this difference in perspective, it might be best to run through a quick guide on tea type and it’s requisite shelf-life. The below timelines assumes tea stored in a dry, dark, airtight and odor free place. 

Green Tea
Green tea is unfermented and will begin to fade in flavor after 16 months. 
Black Tea
Black tea is dried or fermented and will begin to fade in flavor after 2-3 years (properly stored).
Oolong tea is a semi-fermented tea with a shelf life of 2 years. Though some exceptions do influence the longevity of the tea, including degree of fermentation and processing.
White Tea
White tea can be stored for approximately 2 years, and may begin to lose it’s flavor. Processing is an important caveat, as “aged white tea” has medicinal value and is found to be more valuable as the time range increases. 5 years is a well appreciated product, and 10-20 years aged becomes a  highly valued product in the tea world. 
Pu'erh is a common fermented tea categorized as raw or ripe. The maximum storage limit is unknown as properly stored Pu’erh will last indefinitely and increase in value (and flavor) as it ages. 

First off, it is probably prudent to note, all the types of tea presented above come from the same plant — the camellia sinensis.  It is the plucking and processing that gives the tea its category (green, black, white, oolong, peurh, et cetera), and the region that gives each tea its name (Yunnan, Darjeeling, Sencha, et cetera). 

So, to understand how a tea is “aged” we must make a distinction between aged by fermentation and aged by oxidation. And without going into full geekery mode, we are going to talk in generalities, as the variables are quite infinite. 

Pu'erhs are made by processing green tea in a way that promotes fermentation as noted above. This fermentation process creates a very unique earthy aroma to the tea, which increases in value and flavor as the years pass by. Most puerh is packaged as a “puck” of tea, which is both easily transported and stored. Processing is pretty straightforward, as the tea is withered, rolled or pucked, and then stored to ferment.

Non-feremented black teas are withered, oxidized, and then dried — in which the oxidization process stops the chemical process that would lead to fermentation. 

Most oolongs utilize a similar process to black in that they are withered, rolled, oxidized, then fixed so that the green elements remain, but the fermentation is limited. 

Ultimately, aged oolongs are a variation of the the above processing of oolong with intermittent oxidization to halt the fermentation process. In the case of our Aged Heart Oolong, the process follows the rigourous process outlined by one of the family members who owns the plantation we import from: 

“All of our Aged Oolong is grown, processed, and stored in Taiwan and is re-roasted every 3 years. The re-roasting is what makes the process of making aged oolong more complex than simply storing and waiting. First, charcoal is selected and broken into equal sizes to ensure an even roast. Once lit, the ash from a previous roast is layered over the burning charcoal at just the right amount to maintain the lower heat required to avoid burning the tea. Once this is done, a roasting basket with the unsealed aged oolong inside is placed above the coals. The tea master spends the next eight days carefully observing and checking the tea as it roasts. Once finished, the tea is tested for flavor, then resealed and put back into storage for the next three years. As with all teas, the storage area must be climate controlled, because even though a vacuum seal a fluctuation in ambient temperature can change the flavor of tea in unpredictable ways. We tend to take greater care with our Aged Oolong because it is certain to be in storage for a much, much longer period of time than our non-aged stock.”
Taiwanese high mountain green tea being set out for withering in the sun. 
Tea roasting then set to age in the bamboo basket with steel base to keep moisture out.

What these pictures show is only a fraction of the process as outlined above. Care and craft are a couple of the words I would use to describe this dedication. And the tea we get to enjoy showcases this care with its herbal frangrance of thyme and dried basil, with a hint of malt. Once steeped you will begin to smell buttered toast or popcorn, and your tastebuds will also pick up on the buttered popcorn, with a hint of honey and a smooth mouthfeel. 

This is truly one of our favorites. And can be enjoyed multiple times with a re-steep of up to 5 times… each steep will bring different notes as the leaves fully expand and release all of the flavor found at first pluck, but aged to perfection. 

Drink Specials for September! by Steve Willingham

We're so excited to start inventing fall drinks. September gives us our first opportunity, so check out what we came up with.

Unfortunately, we are saying goodbye to the Cherry Vanilla Latte, but I'm excited to tell you that you'll still be able to get the Cold Brew Lemonade and the matcha lemonade year-round. In fact, you'll find the matcha latte and lemonade on our new permanent menu!

For September, we wanted something with a feel of fall (only three weeks away!) but still a hint of summer. As always, we keep the ingredients simple: maple syrup, rosemary, milk, and most importantly espresso.

We paired pure maple syrup with rosemary to create a syrup that takes sweetness from maple syrup to a whole new level in an herby/savory latte. Come try it out hot or iced or, get this, as an iced americano. Seriously tasty.

And don't miss our featured tea: pineapple coconut black tea from Urban Tea House. It is exactly what it sounds like and will make you feel like you're on a beach.

So swing by and try it out this month. We'll be here.