Posts in Tea 101 Series
WELLNESS WEDNESDAY

TEA 101: Origination & Creation

{Blending & Flavour in the North American Tea Industry}

 

“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”  

Arthur Conan Doyle ~ The Boscombe Valley Mystery {The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, #4}

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WARNING ⚠️: DISTURBING CONTENT

Have you ever wondered while reading the labels on your food, on your favourite treats or on your tea what the term "natural flavour" or "artificial flavour" meant? Have you ever wondered where these "ingredients" might have come from, how they were processed and why they are present in the product that you are ingesting into your body? You also might be wondering why there's a massive photo of a beaver in this post. For those of you who are fans of the larger tea company brands who’s teas are full of flavours, sparkles, sprinkles and sugar, we want you to understand where these ingredients come from that you are consuming.

 

The food industry is full of hidden secrets, cut corners and ways of driving down the prince in order to increase profits. Many “natural” flavours are often derived from grotesque places such as beaver anal glands. Yup, you heard me right, beaver assholes. Not only is this absolutely cruel it is also unnecessary. I mean, who in their right mind discovered this in the first place and would then decide it would be okay to introduce this to our food industry?! A few years ago, we found an article titled, 18 Most Sickening Food Ingredients , which highlights the ingredient Castoreum, which is the ingredient disguised as "natural" vanilla, strawberry and raspberry flavours which are some of the major culprits for being sourced in this fashion.

 

Castoreum

What it is: Brace yourself—this food flavoring is extracted from the castor sac scent glands of the male or female beaver, which are located near the anus. According to Milkowski, the substance is pretty expensive (think about what it probably takes to obtain it) and is more common in perfume than in actual foods. 

Where you’ll find it: While it sounds downright disgusting, the FDA says it’s GRAS, meaning it’s “generally recognized as safe.” You won’t see this one on the food label because it’s generally listed as “natural flavoring.” It’s natural all right—naturally icky.

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At Shisso Tea we have zero tolerance for ingredients that do not positively benefit the body or are sourced unethically and inhumanely. We focus mainly on single origin teas which have been lovingly and ethically sourced. Any teas which have been scented are only ever done so with pure ingredients, essential oils or are naturally scented with ingredients during the processing.

Our  Midnight Jasmine Tea for instance has been naturally scented with the jasmine flowers through a ancient process which is hundreds of years old. Tao Tea Leaf displays this process beautifully in an article called Tradition Jasmine Green Tea Scenting Process.  "Jasmine tea is a precious species of scented tea. It is has a history dating over 700 years old. Some say that you can smell the freshness of springtime in quality jasmine tea. Its taste is mellow and refreshing. It has a durable and fresh fragrance."

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We are passionate about providing the best quality tea, the most ethically sourced ingredients and sharing the tradition and culture from this 5000 year old industry with you.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and input with us!

With a jasmine scented heart,

Vanessa Chislett
Founder of Shisso Tea

M I N D F U L M O N D A Y
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“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” 
― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

From the young age of 10 years old, I was given the humbling and transformational opportunity to volunteer my time, travel to a different city and see life from the perspective of a demographic of people who had been through more than I could imagine. This experience would open up many more experiences similar for me to serve and volunteer both globally and locally. Though I was born and raised in Calgary, a city with so much opportunity, I connected with those who came from a socioeconomic status of those I was serving. I came from a broken home, a mother who raised 5 kids all on her own and with the conditioning that there was never enough, money, food, time etc. With each opportunity to serve those who had even less than myself, I was not only able to develop a deep compassion for the poor, but I also understood what it was to be grateful for everything I had. One of the most beautiful things I took away from so many that I served was that they often had the most joyous and grateful hearts with anything we were able to do to help. 

One of my fondest memories was from a volunteer trip I was on to Haiti. We were travelling down with a group and leading up to my departure for this trip, I got a very intense flu that would not let up no matter how much I fought the sickness back. The night before my flight, I was sitting on my bedroom floor, bawling, snotting, coughing and wondering what the hell I was going to do, if I should cancel, if I should throw in the white flag. I chose to go anyway.

Side story; I had also went against my team leaders instruction to get all the shots necessary for a country with malaria and many other diseases foreign to us in Canada. My naturopath send me with herbal supplements which were to help me heal while on my trip. I will later explain how this is one of my miraculous testimony's of how incredible plant medicine in and that this earth has everything that we require to heal ourselves.

After, one of the most excruciating 2 days of travelling (airplanes when you have a head cold turn even the strongest person into a blubbering child!) having met up with my team in Ontario, missing our flights due to missing passports in scanners an hour from the airport and travelling into a country that looked nothing like my home, I was exhausted. On our second day, after staying in a hostel in Port Au Prince, we had one more flight to catch in a mini 4 seat plane, over the mountains, landing in a grass field on the other side. I was elated, by the rawness of every sensation as the plane took off and landed, the thrill of death being a higher possibility and the birds eye view of this incredibly diverse island. Surprisingly enough, it wasn't I who had to reach for the barf bag in the seats in front of me, rather it was my teammate next to me. We were in the wild. Rural Haiti, no concrete roads, old Landrovers with no suspension and our guides speaking to us in broken English with the most beautiful smiles I had ever seen, they were beaming. 

It was upon arrival to this camp where we would be staying for the next week that I was humbled beyond the expression of words. The sun had already set, the cool light from the remaining day made silhouettes of the trees and buildings as we walked to dirt path with our bags to the 4 room house where we were to stay. As we walked pasted this building structure which was the kitchen and dinning hall, I saw this woman crouched over this massive bowl like pan which contained the skull of one of their livestock which they had butchered as an offering to us as their guests. Tears well up in me even now as I am writing this out, remembering how beautifully generous our hosts were in spite of the purpose of our trip to be serving them. Later that evening, one of the ladies had heard that I wasn't feeling well and they brought me fresh ginger root tea and honey they had harvested and brought me in a little baby food jar. I can't even express how loved, cared for and blessed I feel to this day to have been able to experience that kind of kindness.

I took away more than just a deep gratitude for the kindness I was shown, that moment was a seed which was planted in my heart that would burst forth into a fire of passion for philanthropy, for generosity and for social entrepreneurship. These people, who were living with far less than myself gave all that they had, shared with us everything in their hearts to care for us as they would have other care for them. I know that this causes me to strive to take a page out of their book, to remember that no matter what I do or do not have, there is always ways we can care for those around us. It isn't about WHAT we have, but that we are willing. To first look and see what our fellow neighbours need, to care for the needs of others beyond our own gain, without an expectation of return. Generosity does not always have to look like a million dollar check to a not-for-profit of whom has no accountability for it's donations. It can look like a warm smile or simply making a cup of tea for someone who isn't feeling well.

What are some ways you'd like to incorporate generosity into your daily life?

 

With gratitude and sticky Haitian ginger honey fingers, 

Vanessa Chislett

Founder & Owner

Tea 101: Origination

Part 1 - The Legends

 

"Tea has a long and turbulent history, filled with intrigue, adventure, fortune gained and lost, embargoes, drugs, taxation, smugglers, war, revolution, religious aestheticism, artistic expression, and social change."   Mary Lou & Robert J. Heiss (The Story of Tea)

 

The history of tea is slippery. Its origin stories are street-wise and nimble; nailing down a single tale feels a bit like unravelling knotted necklace chains, coiled together at the bottom of your suitcase. The rich history of tea is multi-storied, but I've sifted out two to get us started.

In the beginning...

The Legend of ShenNong (2737 BC)

Once upon a (prehistoric) time, in a land far far away (unless you are in China) lived the  legendary deity, Shennong. Shennong was a mythical sage ruler, and the mastermind behind Chinese agriculture and medicine. One windy day, he was drinking a bowl of boiled water (all the subjects of the land cleansed their water by boiling it first) and a few leaves blew into the cup, changing the colour. The emperor took a sip of the brew, and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour. Some tell a variant of the legend, in which Shennong tested the medicinal properties of teas on himself, and found them to soothe ailments and work as an antidote to poisonous herbs. (For more on this legend and others, check out Lu Yu's famous early work on the subject, The Classic of Tea.)

 

The Legend of Bodhidarma (Tang Dynasty 618 - 907AD)

*sometimes, another version of the story is told with Gautama Buddha in place of Bodhidharma.

Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th or 6th century. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Chan Buddhism to China. According to Chinese legend, he also began the physical training of the monks of Shaolin Monastery, which led to the creation of Shaolin kungfu. In Japan, he is known as Daruma. The rather gruesome legend dates back to the Tang Dynasty. In the traditional folklore, Bodhidharma accidentally fell asleep after meditating in front of a wall for nine years. He woke up in such disgust at his weakness, that he cut off his own eyelids. They fell to the ground and took root, growing into tea bushes. This myth expresses the sentiment that tea is the drink of woke-folks: open eyes as a metaphor for staying present, engaged, and aware in the world.

So there you have it, the first two pieces of a tea leaf puzzle. Origin stories shape our collective consciousness, and function as a container for growing.  Share below if you know another version of the tale!

Much love and tea-stained fingertips, 

Vanessa

 

Tea 101: Series Introduction

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

 

Hello fellow tea lovers,

If you're reading this, welcome to the journey: finally and officially! Our blog is up and running and I cannot wait to share with you what I know, and invite you into an exploration of what I'm learning. (On that note: your voice—as a member of the ethical tea tribe— is highly prized! Please feel invited to contribute questions/comments to the mix as we journey together, tea-sipping travellers.)

To give you a bit of an idea where we are headed, posts in the Tea 101 Series are designed to inform you of the Origination, Foundation, Evolution, Tradition, Circulation and Revolution of tea. These topics might not mean much to you now, but as we unpack each one you'll understand tea in it's entirety. From history, to genetic makeup, to growth and harvest, to the cultures and ceremonies surrounding tea, and finally to the global supply chain. The purpose of this series is to cultivate an appreciation for the drink you love, and learn how to make a significant impact both globally and locally with your purchasing dollar.

So thanks for strapping in folks, I look forward to putting on some miles together! I am so grateful to have you along on this journey, and am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on each of the topics we dive into.

Much love and a matcha grin, 

Vanessa