The eight different blends of ICHAI spiced teas use combinations of different freshly-ground spices with a base of high quality loose leaf black tea:
Cassia-type cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tall evergreen tree and is one of the oldest known spices. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2000 BC and was once considered more precious than gold. Cassia has warm savoury notes and a spicy, yet delicate sweetness with a pleasant woody aftertaste. We use the cassia-type cinnamon in our blends because it has a stronger classic “cinnamon” flavour which it holds for the longest period of time, making it an ideal ingredient in tea. There are several different species of cassia cinnamon but we use Cinnamomum cassia, also known as “Chinese Cinnamon.” This is the type of cinnamon that most people are familiar with as it is the one that is sold ground in supermarkets for culinary use. Our cassia is grown in either Vietnam or Indonesia because different growing conditions create different flavour profiles, which work differently in different blends.
Ginger is the fleshy rhizome (underground stem) of Zingiber officinale from the family Zingiberaceae and is often referred to as ginger “root”. The use of ginger as a flavouring pre-dates historical records but it is mentioned in ancient Hindu religious texts as a cooking ingredient. During the period of the Roman Empire, ginger was more valued for its medicinal properties than its culinary uses. By the 13th and 14th Centuries, it was one of the most commonly traded spices in the World, used widely for both its culinary and medicinal properties.
Pungent, spicy and intensely aromatic, fresh ginger is a deeply warming spice. We use our own methods to cut and dry fresh ginger root and don’t use any chemicals in the process. This results in a “true” ginger flavour – essentially our ginger re-hydrates when infused in hot water to taste, look and smell like fresh ginger root.
The vanilla orchid is a vine-like plant which can grow up to 30 feet long. It produces oily black seeds within its long, thin pods with an intensity of flavour and complexity of aroma to rival most spices. Native to Mesoamerica, the vines grew through the wet tropical forests of eastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica. During the pre-Columbian era of Mesoamerica, vanilla pods were a form of currency and according to the Conquistador Hernan Cortes, Aztec rulers would demand vanilla as a form of tax. Today, vanilla continues to hold a high economic value and is the second most expensive spice in the World, next to Saffron.
We only use the finest quality Grade A whole Bourbon Madagascan vanilla pods for the best and most natural flavour. Madagascan vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) is the most sought after type of vanilla and is also the most expensive. The pods are rich dark brown in colour and are long and oily. The flavour is rich (yet smooth) and creamy with floral overtones and is the flavour that most people associate with vanilla. The majority of vanilla flavoured food and drink uses vanilla flavouring which is a synthetic i.e. chemical flavouring because it is a cheaper alternative but the flavour of real vanilla beans is much more complex and far superior.
Green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) is often referred to as the “Queen of Spice”. It is from the same family as ginger (the Zingiberaceae) and the seeds have a unique flavour with floral, citrusy notes and a cool menthol undertone. When crushed, the lantern-like pods and twenty five dark seeds within release a fresh and intense, yet delicately warm aroma.
Cardamom plants are native to the Kerela Hills in the Western Ghats of southern India, where they grow wild in the monsoon forests – an area that has become known as the Cardamom Hills. India has been trading green cardamom for over 1000 years and is still one of the world’s major suppliers, but there are references to it in ancient Sanskrit texts dating back five thousand years to the Late Vedic period. Green Cardamom is extremely valuable and is the third most expensive spice in the World next to saffron and vanilla. Synthetic versions are often used in many food and drink products to cut costs, but, as with all our spices, we only use real green cardamom pods in our spiced tea blends.
Black peppercorns are the dried, ripened berries of Piper nigrum, native to the Western Ghats of Kerala in south India. Known as the “King of Spice”, hot and pungent peppercorns have been exported from south Asia for at least 4,000 years. Highly sought after by Europeans throughout history, peppercorns were so valuable that they were well established as an article of commerce in classical Rome. By the Middle Ages, peppercorns were accepted instead of money for dowries, taxes and rents. Peppercorns were extremely popular in Europe during this time where they were used to season or preserve meats and to overcome the smells of rancid food. The original European spice wholesale merchants known as Pepperers and Spicers were the predecessors of Apothecaries.
Cloves are the dried, unopened flower-buds of the clove tree Syzygium aromaticum and are native to the Islands of Maluku in eastern Indonesia. Highly sought after for their culinary and medicinal properties, cloves have been traded across the globe throughout history. The distinctive taste of cloves is derived from the main essential oil, Eugenol, which is an extremely versatile molecule, with applications in the pharmaceutical, agricultural, fragrance and cosmetic industries, in addition to its use as a flavouring in food and drink products.
Star anise are the dried, eight-pointed star shaped pods of the evergreen tree Illicium verum, native to south-western China and north-east Vietnam. The mahogany-coloured pods are harvested from the tree before they reach full maturity and then dried. Star anise has a sweetly warm flavour, with notes of citrus, cassia, anise, cloves and pepper. It is a popular ingredient in Asian cookery and gives a liquorice flavour to savoury dishes, similar to anise but much stronger. The essential oils which carry the flavours are found in the dried pulp of the seedpod pericarp rather than in the seeds themselves.
Black cardamom is from the same ginger family as green cardamom (Zingiberaceae) but is recognised as a different genus. There are several species of black cardamom but we use Amomum subulatum, which is native to Nepal. Its seed pods have an intense camphor-like flavour, with a smoky or earthy character derived from the traditional method of drying over open flames. Less well known than its distant relative, green cardamom, black cardamom is a popular spice in Asian savoury dishes and gives a distinctive rich, camphor-like quality in tea blends. Our black cardamom is grown in India.
Nutmegs are the whole seeds of Myristica fragans, an evergreen tree native to Indonesia. Sweet and fragrant when grated, nutmeg has been highly sought after through the ages to enhance the flavour of food and for its traditional medicinal properties. It was so highly prized that the location of the nutmeg trees remained a closely guarded secret by traders until the early 14th century when they were discovered by a Portuguese expedition to the Banda Islands of Indonesia. Up until the mid-19th century, the Banda Islands were the world’s only source of nutmegs.
We use freshly grated nutmegs in our blends for maximum flavour-impact.
Allspice or pimento are the dried berries of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree, and have a similar appearance to peppercorns. Native to Central America, Mexico and the Greater Antilles, the first written record of Pimento was in the Journal of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the West Indies in 1492, which describes the initial confusion of pimento with black peppercorns. The name “Allspice” originated from the notion that the dried berries combine the flavour of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper all in one spice.
Our tea base is a very high quality loose leaf black tea blend from Sri Lanka and China. The tea is light and fresh tasting and was chosen because it compliments the flavour of the spices in each blend without overpowering them.