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Published on March 24th, 2008 | by Guest Contributor


GTR: Whole-Leaf Organic Teas with Dragon Pearl Tea

Dragon Pearl TeaSean Daily, Green Living Ideas’ Editor-in-Chief, and Dave Dahl, Director of Online Marketing and Design for Dragon Pearl Tea, delve into the source of “true” tea and the connoisseurship of high quality, whole-leaf organic teas.

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Sean Daily: Hi! Welcome to “Green Talk”, a podcast series from “Green Talk” helps listeners in their efforts to
live more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors,
authors, and experts from around the world. We discuss the critical
issues facing the global environment today as well as the technologies,
products, and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area
of your life.

[musical interlude]

Sean Daily: Hey, everybody. Welcome to “Green Talk Radio”. This is
Sean Daily and I am the founder of Today we’re
going to be talking about tea and to talk with me on that topic is Dave
Dahl who is a partner and the Director of Marketing at Dragon Pearl
Tea. Dave, welcome to the program.

Dave Dahl: Hi, Sean. Thanks for having me. You’re doing a great thing here.

Sean Daily: Thank you very much. Well, it’s a pleasure to have you
on the program today. I understand that Dragon has got a different take
on tea products and a different really grade of tea from a lot of the
standard teas that you see out there. So I’ve been hearing really good
things about the company and I wanted to have you on the program today
to talk about tea, in general, and also hear a little about the Dragon

So maybe we should start with the Dragon story. Tell us about how
you got into this business and what the story of the company is.

Dave Dahl: OK. I should probably begin by saying like most people, I
hadn’t really tried true tea until a few years ago. Then I really
discovered what the difference is and why fine tea is like fine wine,
they’re all different and very carefully treated, they’re very special.
Unlike the teas that Americans are used to buying in the grocery store
which are often mint or lemon, real tea flavors the black, oolong
white, and green tea are just amazing. So after I discovered this tea,
shared it with Judah and my partner, John, is really [xx] Hong. Hong
was really the guy who got us started because he had family connections
in the tea farming business. So we went toward the tea farms and we
just utterly fell in love with the whole idea and that’s kind of where
it started.

Sean Daily: What year was that?

Dave Dahl: That was back in 2005.

Sean Daily: 2005, OK. I have a question, if you don’t mind me just
jumping in to some of the tea specifics because I have some questions.
I am a big tea drinker myself and I’m definitely a lay person when it
comes to tea. I know that–it’s kind of like wine–I definitely can’t
rattle off all the terminology and the processes and everything but I
think that my palette has become educated despite my brain maybe not
keeping in step with that. So I end up with questions sometimes that I
have like, for example, what’s the difference between just green and
white tea, for example?

Dave Dahl: Green and white tea are essentially the same thing and I
should first start up by saying all true tea comes from the Camilla
sinensis plant. That doesn’t mean there are things like yerba mate and
herb teas and things that are different but the true tea comes from the
Camilla sinensis plant. White tea is the tea leaves that are picked and
just washed and dry and they’re sometimes [xx] but they’re not heat
cured so they maintain this natural crinkly texture and more aggressive
flavor. The green tea is the same plant but it’s heat cured and that
processing changes it and makes it retain its green color and gives it
a more sort of rich and kind of a nutty flavor.

Sean Daily: OK, I see. So as long as we’re talking about tea
varieties and differences and thank you for that explanation by the
way, what is oolong tea?

Dave Dahl: Oolong tea is again the same plant and it tends to use
the more mature leaves which maybe a month or six weeks old so they’re
more developed. The oolong tea is often made with the winter leaf
instead of the spring and summer leaves like the white and the green.
But the oolong tea, the main difference that defines it is it’s partly
fermented before it’s heat cured so it gives it this sort of greenish
tangy kind of flavor. So oolong tea is really special to their
thousands of varieties just that oolong.

Sean Daily: Really. I understand also it comes from the Chinese word for black dragon.

Dave Dahl: That’s right, black dragon or black dragon rhythm.

Sean Daily: Yes, I just like that. It’s not really significant in terms of drinkability but I like the name.

Dave Dahl: Yes, oolong is the dragon and in Chinese, the dragon is a
powerful symbol of good fortune and magic and so we choose that for our

Sean Daily: Right, OK. Then I guess, last but not least, would be black tea.

Dave Dahl: Yes, black tea, again from the same plant, is all the way
fermented with oolong tea as maybe 30% fermented, black tea is 100%
fermented. There’s another variation of that called pu’er tea which is
a very deeply fermented aged tea.

Sean Daily: How do you spell that?

Dave Dahl: Pu’er tea.

Sean Daily: Interesting, I’ve never heard of that.

Dave Dahl: Yes, it’s a compressed tea which is usually not to most American taste.

Sean Daily: Because it has, what’s that word to [xx].

Dave Dahl: It has a real pungent kind of musty flavor usually, so it’s an acquired taste.

Sean Daily: Yes, got it. Maybe a little bit more common in other countries like China than your tea here.

Dave Dahl: Yes. In China, you see it pretty often but in America, you’d be hard pressed to find it.

Sean Daily: Yes. Maybe in Asian market, would you find it there?

Dave Dahl: You might, and it’s usually in compressed form in a disk
or a cake or something like that. So it’s a very unusual tea and you
break up little piece of it, it tends to be kind of tangy and almost a
multiflavor but considered very good if you’re into it.

Sean Daily: I’m curious about, can you map for us those four tea
types which we talked about green, white, oolong, and black. Is it
possible to sort of map that to caffeine content? I know that’s a
question that a lot of people have.

Dave Dahl: It is. Technically, tea doesn’t have caffeine but it has
a substance called tein which is molecularly the same thing. So it has
the same effect of that lift. So calling it caffeine as what most
people call it, the level of that is highest in the black tea and it
tends to be lowest in the white tea. So the darker the tea, as a
general rule, then the more caffeine. However, there’s different
potencies of tea and, commonly, you hear that coffee has a lot less
caffeine than tea. The truth is different coffees and different teas
have different levels and the fresher and the more potent your product,
the more caffeine it’ll have.

Sean Daily: I see. That’s interesting. You’re saying it’s not
technically, it’s a different member of the alkaloid family, it’s
similar configuration.

Dave Dahl: Well, it’s considered identical because it looks the same
as far as its molecular structure, but in tea it’s called tein and in
coffee, it’s called caffeine.

Sean Daily: Interesting.

Dave Dahl: It’s essentially the same thing, but the effect is very
different which may mean that the entire in which the molecule exists
affects the way that they act on your body. So most people report that
when they drink tea, they get a nice lift and not the crash that they
tend to get with caffeine from coffee.

Sean Daily: Right, and it’s interesting. I’ve heard it several
different takes on this and I think anyone is necessarily right or
wrong or is it presumably so. This came up and we had a guayaki who is
a yerba mate juice [xx].

Dave Dahl: Right. [xx].

Sean Daily: Yes, yes. It was a Dave Karr, I think it’s his last
name, I might be remissing if I’m mispronouncing his name, I apologize.
But he’s the founder, David Karr, I’m pretty sure of that. Right?

Dave Dahl: Yes, David and Steve.

Sean Daily: Yes, David and Steve. So we were talking about–because
there’s a lot of information out there about mateine being different
than caffeine.

Sean Daily: Right.

Dave Dahl: I was expecting him to reinforce the mateine argument to
say that it was just a slightly different variant and that’s that
explain why. His take, what he was saying is that it is caffeine that
don’t mistake it into same thing but the properties, the reason that
you get a different effect from it–because I was asking about that on
the podcast–was that it’s not being sort of strip mind–my words–the
way that in that process. It’s more complete and organic and holistic
in terms of the way that it is actually processed or not processed like
coffee. So coffee, the way that it’s processed and cooked and so forth
that the beans are roasted, it kicks out all of the other things that
should be there along with it to change the effect on the human body.
So anyway, that was his assertion about that. So I’m just an interested
student in the whole different alkaloid family.

Sean Daily: Yes, it’s difficult because there are so many variables.
We like to have a clear cut statistics and we like to hear this is
better than that and that kind of thing.

Dave Dahl: Sure.

Sean Daily: But the truth is, if you make a really strong cup of
black tea, chances are it’s going to have as much of a lift as a cup of

Dave Dahl: Oh, yes. I can attest to that. [laughs]

Sean Daily: Really, so what we recommend as far as drinking tea, you
can naturally decaffeinate the tea if you steep [sp] it and pour that
first tea thing out. Caffeine, being a water-soluble compound, tends to
come out in that first tea thing so that you get most of it out.
Specially if you’re going to drink tea at night, it’s good to prerinse

Dave Dahl: I definitely find, too, that–that’s good to know and
thank you for that tip, I didn’t know that. There’s definitely a
different effect of whatever you want to call it tea’s caffeine or
mateine, whatever happens to be in the drink, with both yerba mate and
with tea, I have totally noticed a very, very different affect in not
only in terms of the jitteriness and so forth, perhaps I’m imagining
it, I don’t know. But also in terms of–I don’t know how to say this
except that it’s sort of the long term effects in terms of feeling–for
lack of better word–addicted to it or not feeling that way. With
coffee, I find it very addictive, very headache-producing if I withdraw
from it, things like that. I find it to be a much more natural and a
noninvasive experience much less so with black tea, green tea, and such
and with the yerba mate as well.

Sean Daily: That’s interesting. I used to be a big coffee drinker
and I got into tea and just sort of forgot about coffee. I have it once
in a while but in the morning, I’d much rather have some black tea with
milk and sugar than coffee because the real fresh black tea, it’s whole
leaf is so good, it really does the trick.

Dave Dahl: Yes, it really changes it. We’re going to get back with
Dave Dahl from Dragon Pearl Tea in just a minute. We’re going to take a
quick break for a commercial, we’ll be right back. Thanks.

[radio break]

Sean Daily: All right, and we’re back with Dave Dahl who’s the
Director of Marketing for Dragon Pearl Tea. We’re talking about tea
today on the program. When last we left off, we’re talking
about–actually, I don’t know that we got to talking about the
differences between good and bad tea. Why don’t we start there?

Dave Dahl: Like any fruit or vegetable, there are ideal growing
conditions. One thing most people don’t realize is that tea we’re used
to that’s in teabags in the grocery stores is mass produced. The
machine farmed tea that’s usually done in flat lands which is in the
lower lands and these aren’t the ideal conditions for a number of
reasons. One is that photosynthesis has a perfect temperature and at 98
degrees, photosynthesis stops. So down in the lowlands, the potency
doesn’t tend to be as good as the mountain-grown teas.

But mountain-grown teas are also in a perfect growing environment
but in a pure environment with air and soil that’s clean. So right
after that, having mass produced lowland teas versus handpicked and
hand farmed mountain teas and that would be one major difference. What
to look for would be fresh whole loose leaf. If you have powdered tea
in the bag, it’s almost always going to be as low grade as you can get.
That’s why we see this flavors like orange and lemon and mint added to
them because it doesn’t taste good without it.

Sean Daily: So I’m curious about–do teas have different gradings or grades like wines do?

Dave Dahl: There are different grades and the quality of the tea
first depends on where it’s from. I don’t have any expertise in Indian
or African or South American teas really but my experience is really in
Chinese teas. With these teas, the primary concern is the intactness of
the leaf. So if the leaves are nice and full whole leaves, then you’ve
got a good quality product. If the leaves are ground up or broken up
into little pieces, that’s usually an indication of the lower quality

Sean Daily: OK. I’m most curious about this [xx] a little bit in
terms of Dragon Pearl as a company. I understand that you, guys, are
big in terms of internal green practices as a company. Can you tell us
about that and what are some of the things you, guys, are [xx]?

Dave Dahl: Yes. There are really two parts to that, one is the
product and then one is the operations of the business. Starting with a
pure product is really important to us and making sure that there’s
nothing unnatural about the way it’s produced and farmed. Then, the
next step is all the way to the grocery stores or the food stores where
you can buy the tea, what is involved in that chain and it comes to
things like how much art work do you have on your box? Where can you
cut environmentally to make it make sense, all the way to getting the
product to the store.

So one thing we do, for example, is we have a biofuel truck that
runs on 100% biodiesel that does our deliveries locally. By doing that,
we can also put pressure on our bigger distributors and say, “Hey, come
on, we’re a small company. We’re using biofuel, why don’t you, guys, do
the same?” I like what you, guys, are doing because with Green Living
Ideas, you can get the word out to consumers and then they have the
choice and they can help put that pressure on the larger companies to
do the best thing, too.

Sean Daily: Well, yes, thank you for saying that and, certainly, we
learn a lot from companies like yours that are implementing these
practices. We’re just get to be the ones reporting it and providing the
choices that are out there. But it’s good to hear and it’s good to have
avant garde companies that are making these kinds of decisions both in
terms of the products themselves and making them better, more healthy,
more sustainably farmed and grown and such. Also, in terms of social
responsibility, I think, and business practices in terms of working
with the local populaces and things like that. Those are all really
important things as well.

Dave Dahl: That’s right, and since most of what we throw away and
just consume and without reusing is packaging so we pay a lot of
attention to our packaging. Our foremost priority is to make it
airtight to keep the product fresh. But we’re looking at using an
organic packaging factory that can use biodegradable materials and not
just have it made from recycle materials but take that step further
because we really don’t like the idea of packaging but some packaging
is required.

Sean Daily: Right, unfortunately, that’s a necessary evil in the
marketing world although I think there is a “less as more” sort of fill
that you can put into and some companies have embraced that where they
have that sort of “We’re not a look, but recycled materials and
minimalist design.” You can do a lot with that.

Dave Dahl: Right, and it isn’t any one thing, it’s many little
things that come from a consciousness of your footprint as you operate.

Sean Daily: Yes, absolutely. Now, I’m curious, too, I think I heard
or read that you, guys, guarantee that your teas are pesticide-free. Is
that correct?

Dave Dahl: Yes. That’s right, and in fact, when we first brought the
product over here, we have them tested in US labs and tested against
other products. It was found that not only ours is pure but a number of
products out there that are not very pure that have pesticide residues
and that kind of thing. So ironically, drinking tea if it’s really low
quality may not be all that good for you.

Sean Daily: Right, I guess like a lot of things, there’s cheap and
there’s good, and you can’t just paint it with a broad brush where you
can say, “All of these types of product is good.” It depends on [xx]

Dave Dahl: That’s right. Tea is a very complex plant and there’s a lot to know about it and we’re still learning.

Sean Daily: Dave, I’m curious about what effect do you see ecology-oriented measures having on sales as a company?

Dave Dahl: Well, I think it depends on whether the consumers are
aware of it. But our hope and our belief is that if the consumer
understands that this company does it this way and this company does it
another way, hopefully, they’ll choose in favor of the company that is
most conscious of ecological practices. We leave that to the consumer
then our job is to make sure that they know it which isn’t always easy

Sean Daily: Yes. Well, we’re going to take one more break, one more
commercial break and then we’ll be right back with Dave Dahl from
Dragon Pearl Tea. Thanks, everybody, and we’ll be right back.

[radio break]

Sean Daily: OK, everybody, we’re back. We’re talking about tea today
and my guest, again, is Dave Dahl, who is a partner and the Director of
Marketing of Dragon Pearl Tea. Dave, I’ve a question for you. Are you
working at Dragon on any other products besides these three whole tea
leave products that we’ve been talking about so far?

Dave Dahl: Funny you should ask. Yes, as a matter of fact, we have
ideas for a number of products and what we’re really doing with these
products is bringing whole fresh tea leaves into the mainstream market
and allowing customer’s access to that at regular grocery stores. Once
we have that channel open, we think there’s really a market for a
number of other natural tea products. Our ideas include having a
ready-to-drink product that’s a low acid.

I don’t know if you realize but most products that you buy in a
bottle are acidified and have ascorbic acid or citric acid and what we
consume in bottles has a tremendous amount of high acid stuff. So all
these acidic stuff is really what the market is comprised of now and
we’d like to see something that’s more of a natural balanced pH. Our
formula for that is really good so we’re looking forward to having a
bottled product called “ready-to-drink” product. We have some ice cream
products in mind, so the next couple of years could see some other
interesting things.

Sean Daily: Great! Well, we wish you luck in the development of
those new products as well as your current ones. I’d another question
for you, too, as far as the company itself. I understand that you had
sponsored some charities or charity events. Is that correct?

Dave Dahl: Yes, Judah and I are both big on our favorite charities
and there’s a lot going on in the community. We often have
organizations ask us for tea donations and we’re always happy to help
[xx] that. A number of places where we’ve donated tea including things
like the “Age Walk” and different fun raising events. Besides tea, we
have a number of things that we’ve been doing even since before the tea
business started. We’re involved in different telethon and things. Some
of our favorite charities are the homeless projects locally, the MS
Society, Muscular Dystrophy, and we have our sort of favorite ecology
projects. Mine is “Trees for the Future” and “The Wild Dolphin Project.”

Sean Daily: Do you have any websites for those organizations or it’s pretty much just that,

Dave Dahl: Yes, it’s usually For example,,, and most of these are
really easy to look up. American Cancer Society is

Sean Daily: And if all else fails, you can always Google the words and the magic of Google will deliver you, I’m sure.

Dave Dahl: Yes, yes, and in fact, we’re going to have a page on our website linking to all of these, too.

Sean Daily: Yes, and again, I should [xx] and missing that earlier, it’s, the website of your company.

Dave Dahl: Right. Thanks for that.

Sean Daily: Yes, yes, you bet. One of the question, I understand
that you, guys, sent some tea to Iraq recently. Can you tell us about

Dave Dahl: Well, Judah and I, my partner, we’re both sad about the
war and against the war and yet we feel like we need to support the
troops that are there on our behalf. So we sent about 5,000 tons of tea
over there thinking that first of all, I’d say [xx] the alternative to
coffee and sodas. I always felt like they use some tea over there.

Sean Daily: That’s great. Have you gotten any feedback from soldiers who [xx].

Dave Dahl: Yes, as a matter of fact, we had some soldiers write and
say, “Thanks” and they really appreciate it. So that’s great.
Hopefully, all these conflicts will end soon. But meanwhile, we do what
we can to support our brothers and sisters.

Sean Daily: That’s great. Well, it has been a real pleasure having
you on the program. Thanks for coming on and talking to us about tea
and educating our audience as well as telling us a story of Dragon. We
wish you much continued success in the future, it sounds like you,
guys, are doing really well. Again, just to wish you much success.

Dave Dahl: Thanks, Sean, from Dragon Pearl Tea and thanks for “Green Ideas.”

Sean Daily: Thanks as always to every one listening in today.
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