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Inspired by Sri Lanka's TRI tour:

Is tea the new wine?

Portsmouth Tea Company imports and sells more than 100 loose teas from places as far apart as Sri Lanka and South Africa all from bins in its open 3,000-square-foot warehouse, tea tasting room and offices in Somersworth. Organic is important in this new tea business started by Marshall Malone and Jere Vincent in October 2005, but health, science and food are key components for this company.

"There's been a rise in popularity in tea lately because of health reports on oolong that says for one that tea helps in weight loss. Oprah talked about weight loss and tea and it took off," says Malone. Weight loss benefits aside, tea also helps with the heart and immune systems to name just a few more benefits.

Mood is improved too, says Malone. He stopped drinking coffee and says his demeanour changed dramatically. He shows a chart that demonstrates the way coffee and tea affect the body, principles he and his partner learned on a trip to a tea research institute in Sri Lanka.

Caffeine in coffee is absorbed immediately and then dramatically decreases with a crash, while tea gives a rise and then tapers off gradually over a few hours. Polymers in tea slow down the absorption rate.

"Since I started drinking just tea, I don't crave that mid-morning snack, I don't have the physical ups and downs and I'm on an even keel all day long. Tea is more like a time release process." says Malone. Science aside, Portsmouth Tea Company also wants people to know about the flavour and food factor with regard to tea.

Malone talks about his five Earl Grey blends like they're glasses of wine using descriptors like, "creamy vanilla note" and says that his Masala Chai tastes great with pumpkin pie, inviting us to enter a whole new world of food pairings.

"Tea and food pairing comes from learning from our wine cousins and taking that experience a step further. We want to make sure to maximize that experience for people." Malone says that a smoky Scottish Breakfast tea goes great with grilled chicken, blue cheese and a California Sauvignon Blanc, and restaurants are beginning to serve tea not just after dinner with dessert but also along with dinner.

"We want to know the truth behind what affects what flavour profiles in tea and food. Why is a Darjeeling better with a bread pudding than an Assam?" Cooking with tea is also a brave new world for tea lovers.

"Last weekend I made curry, and instead of water, I used our Marshall's Breakfast Tea. It was great. Anytime you can add water, use tea to round off the flavours." Find out more about Portsmouth Tea Company, the health benefits of tea and pairing food and tea at http://www.portsmouthteacompany.com/.

 

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