Kick Off Summer With Craft Artisan Cans of Ku Cha Tea

Kick Off Summer With Craft Artisan Cans of Ku Cha Tea

With the Memorial Day Weekend holiday kicking off tomorrow, summer officially begins. After two years of Covid-provoked Memorial Day meh, including a pair of canceled Bolder Boulder races, we are ready for one of our city’s most vibrant holiday weekends to begin.

The forecast calls for sunshine, and temperatures in the 70s and 80s. In other words, weather made for backyard parties, outdoor family gatherings and just hanging out on blankets in parks, savoring Boulder beauty.

We will complement all of the good times with cold, ready-to-drink cans of tea, crafted by Team KuCha from the same high-quality whole-leaf teas that we sell and brew in the shop. 

Most Canned Teas Are Dreadful

Cans of iced tea are nothing new; every convenience store in the country seems to hold at least a few brands. But we do not hesitate to condemn the vast majority of them for poor quality. 

Most canned iced teas use the absolute worst quality tea in the world for the base brew — in many cases, it either is an industrial tea extract or is literally tea-leaf fluff swept up from the floors of processing factories. These scraps are then brewed for too long, in water that is too hot, yielding extremely bitter tea. To balance the flavor, the big brands then add loads of sweetener and artificial flavors like mango and lemon. Then comes the preservatives. And then the headaches and the sugar high.

When we moved to the United States, we brewed our own iced tea from our artisan leaves at home, and skipped the stuff on shelves at supermarkets. We wondered if this successful home-brew approach could be replicated at scale. But we didn’t do anything about it.

COVID jumpstarted efforts to craft RTD teas

Owner retail shop turning sign board to open store after close lockdown in covid-19 situation

And then COVID struck in 2020. With the shops closed down for a while, and then extreme limits on the amount of people who could be in the shop at one time, we began thinking about innovating high-quality ready-to-drink tea

After much experimentation at home, we finally paid a fee for access to a commercial kitchen and got to work. Our first batches were not ready for prime time. But we kept at it, and eventually began brewing large volumes of tea that tasted superb.

Soon, we began selling the cans in our Ku Cha shops. Then we started stocking restaurants, cafes and markets with our ready-to-drink cans. Today, you can find them at different spots between Denver and Fort Collins, including Ku Cha shops; you can order them online, too.

We sip them at work, gulp them after long summer hikes and bring them along for road trips. When we host parties, we always have a healthy stash of them in the fridge or a cooler, ready for guests. They are wonderful.

With Memorial Day Weekend here, it’s time to pick up some of these artisan elixirs and begin wowing family and friends with what real ready-to-drink iced tea tastes like!

Ready-To-Drink Iced Tea: Golden Monkey

Before we decided on an RTD lineup, we were pretty sure that Golden Monkey would be one of the cans. This whole-leaf tea, from China’s Fujian Province, is a Ku Cha favorite, with a rich chocolate aroma and malty mouthfeel that dissolves into a lingering sweetness. Golden Monkey tea leaves are elongated and twisty, and exhibit both black and gold colors.  It brews a deep golden-amber color, and offers smooth taste with a welcome dash of bitterness. 

Ready-To-Drink Iced Tea: Jasmine Oolong

Teas today incorporate myriad floral elements to boost flavor. Lavender. Rose. Chamomile. Hibiscus. But no blossom has influenced tea culture like those of jasmine plants. People in China have been blending jasmine and tea for centuries.

Where many commercial teas today turn to flower extracts to yield flavor, classic Chinese jasmine oolong is the result of a painstaking process that sends workers into fields of jasmine in the evenings, when the blossoms unfurl. They spend hours harvesting delicate, white flowers and then bringing them into rooms holding mounds of just-harvested tea leaves. The tea artisans then mix fresh jasmine blossoms with the tea. This process is repeated up for up to seven consecutive nights. By the time it is done, the tea itself has become oolong infused with the heady perfume of jasmine blossoms.

This is the tea we use for our RTD Jasmine Oolong. No artificial flavors! Just whole-leaf tea and real jasmine blossoms. We then carefully brew the tea in large batches and can it quickly, to contain the brew’s majestic aromas and flavors.

Ready-To-Drink Iced Tea: Sakura Cherry

Canned iced tea is fairly common in Japan, and it often is brewed from tea that is far better than the stuff you find on supermarket shelves in the United States. Both canned matcha and sencha, for example, are routinely found in vending machines. The Japanese, after all, are just as picky about their tea as the Chinese!

We began brewing a high-quality sencha for our RTD line, and enjoyed it quite a bit. But then we experimented with our Sakura Cherry tea, a blend of wonderful sencha, flowers from Japan’s iconic cherry tree — both the blossom and the tree are called sakura in Japanese —and pieces of real cherry. One sip, and we knew we would abandon our straight sencha idea for Sakura Cherry.

The sakura is one of the most prominent symbols of Japan, symbolizing the transient nature of life. The trees bloom just once a year for a brief period, before breezes strip the blossoms from branches. They rain down in showers of petals, turning Japan pink every year. The spectacle of color and fragrance is celebrated across the island nation in the spring. But you don’t need to honor cherry splendor just once a year. With our Sakura Cherry RTD, it’s there for the sipping every day.

Ready-To-Drink Iced Tea: Summer Tranquility

While we enjoy sipping Summer Tranquility RTD teas year-round, the brew is especially invigorating and satisfying during the warmer months. The key is Peony White, also known as Pai Mu Tan, a delicate white tea from southern China’s Fujian Province. This delicate tea is made from young buds and leaves that emerge in early spring. As a white tea, there is minimal processing. After harvest, the leaves and buds are withered and dried in the sun, giving it a short time to oxidize. The natural process gives the tea a warm, rich sweetness. To that foundation we add peach and apricot to Summer Tranquility, making it astonishingly refreshing and thirst-quenching. 

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