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Teavivre Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea

Tea For Me Please - 5 hours 50 min ago
Country of Origin: China Leaf Appearance: small, wiry Ingredients: black tea Steep time: 30 seconds Water Temperature: 185 degrees Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan Liquor: reddish amber I was excited to dive into this one because it is one of the few types of tea that I had yet to try from +TeaVivre's extensive catalog. The first thing that I noticed when I poured the leaves into my gaiwanNicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Natural tea farming

T Ching - 9 hours 44 min ago

We are about an hour out of crazy-hectic central Taipei, Taiwan’s super-modern capital of 8+million. It couldn’t seem further. This is truly lush, thick Nature. We drive up a steep and winding road through ever-smaller villages and into ever-thickening forest and sweet air. I’d like to imagine that the aroma comes from the tea trees I’ve come to see, but I can’t be certain.

We get out of the car on a particularly tricky turn of this road which has been carved through the forest and rock, and wait for Gao Ding Shi to arrive. I’d been told that he is a true proponent of a natural, wild tea farming technique dubbed ‘shengtai’, or ‘arbor’, and that to meet him would be . . .  an experience.

Waiting, we look around us: there are enormous butterflies, baseball hat-sized marvelous beauties; there are small snakes disappearing as if from nowhere into the shrubbery. When standing in the sun, the heat is uncomfortable. Today is about 38C. Again. In the shade by the side of the road, however, the air is suddenly cooler, and the sweetened moisture from the trees provides embracing umbrage. My guides explain that Mr. Gao might take a little while. “He likes to do things slowly, to take the time needed to do them.” We wait patiently, drinking in the Nature around us. The constant, rhythmic sound of crickets sets the brain waves to alpha. One of us goes off looking for multi-colored caterpillars.

I wasn’t expecting someone as young and lively as the handsome, affable man who eventually drove up to greet us. Mr. Gao has considerable presence and seems to be deeply comfortable in his skin. He looks us over, nods, smiles and suggests that my thin sandals might be good for a day at the beach but not for where we’re going. He opens his car and pulls out a mud-lathered pair of thick rubber boots, knee-high, and hands them to me. “I wouldn’t want a snake to snap at you.”

This is a Wild Tea Garden

His neighbors think his patches of land are ugly—unruly, unkempt, bug-ridden . . . and not even producing much tea at that; a waste of land. We walk to the most accessible of his tea gardens; the others would be an hour’s uphill hike. We need to push through the thicket of leaves and bushes, be wary of our footing, be careful not to walk into spider webs the size of my torso, and keep an eye out for snakes. The tea is in the form of trees here, much taller than the meter to meter-and-a-half high bushes most of the world’s tea plants are artificially kept. There are palm-sized, bright green frogs at first indistinguishable from the tea leaves on which they placidly sit. God is indeed the DJ here; the soundtrack is wall-to-wall crickets interspersed with birdsong.

This is not really a garden, nor certainly is it a plantation. It is simply a hilly area on which tea plants are growing wild, into trees, and from which Gao Ding Shi plucks and processes his fine teas. There are Camellia sinensis here, certainly—everywhere—but not only. Other types of foliage grow exuberantly. “Whatever belongs here is welcome,” says Mr. Gao with a smile, “whatever wants to grow here, please grow!”

That philosophy doesn’t end with foliage; there are worms and bugs which want to live here too, and munch on the tea plants, and to that Mr. Gao says, “Please, let them come. If bees wish to make their hive in one of the trees, beautiful! If the worms and bugs are happy eating from the trees, let them eat. I also wish to drink from the tree, why shouldn’t they?”

He bends close into the shrubbery, turns up a few leaves and branches before finding what he wants to show me. Turning over a leaf with one hand, he beckons me closer with the other. “Look at this.” At first I make out nothing: large tea leaf with thick veins running along its underside. I squint but still don’t see anything out of the ordinary… until his calm smile and focused gaze lead my eyes to one thin, unusual, vein-looking bulge, very slight, the thickness of a pin; the home of a little bright green pinworm.

Indeed the tea plant is favored by many bugs, some of them seemingly out of Star Trek. There’s another worm which lives inside the branches, one that looks like a crawling piece of fluff, a kind of caterpillar which lives inside the vein of tea leaves, and another worm which imitates the look of a small branch. There are even tiny, scampering green bugs called jassids which are allowed to bite into the leaves as the chemicals produced by the plant’s natural defense mechanism lends a uniquely sweet aftertaste for us tea drinkers—that is the unique case of Dong Fang Mei Ren (Oriental Beauty), a famous Taiwanese Oolong tea. “In any case,” says Mr. Gao with a shrug and grin, “that bug eats only the bud and first two leaves. That means he has good taste! And he helps me make delicious teas!”

Indeed, bugs and the tea plant have lived in symbiosis for millennia and tea has been humankind’s best friend all along. Before mass-production came along, bugs were either not feared as much, or controlled using natural methods. In Mr. Gao’s case, they are not such a problem that he can’t process his tea; there are plenty of leaves left for him. But that leads us to another philosophical aspect of the small-scale organic tea farmer, a mindset more environmentally friendly than any organic farming technique: enough.

This post was written for Global Tea Hut by Steve Kokker.  It was first published in November of 2012 and is re-posted here with permission.  Part Two of this post, “Enough” will publish next Wednesday, December 3, 2014.  Images courtesy of Global Tea Hut.

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The post Natural tea farming appeared first on T Ching.

Armando’s Original Blend Coffee Leaf Tea from Wize Monkey

SororiTEA Sisters - 11 hours 50 min ago

Tea Description:

Leaf Type:  Coffee Leaf Tea

Tea Description:

Coffee leaf tea has more antioxidants than green tea and has very little caffeine. It has a smooth flavour without bitterness or dry aftertaste like regular teas.

Learn more about Wize Monkey here.

Support Wize Monkey’s Kickstarter Fundraising Campaign here.

Taster’s Review:

I was both intrigued and nervous about this product.  I have mentioned more than once the issues that I’ve experienced with coffee.  I used to drink a cup of coffee every morning and by 11 am, I was feeling quite nauseous.  So, I worried that since this product comes from the same plant as the beans that caused that late morning yucky sick feeling, I was a little concerned as this tea brewed that what I was steeping was a cup of nausea.

But I decided to be brave and try it.  And keep my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be feeling horrid a few hours later.

The sample that I was sent from Wize Monkey came in a DIY loose leaf teabag so I decided to go ahead and steep it using the teabag.  I put the teabag into a teacup and heated freshly filtered water to 195°F which is my “go-to” temperature for “herbal” teas and since this is not technically a tea leaf, I thought, eh … I’ll see what happens at 195°F.  I steeped leaves for 4 minutes.

The aroma is … different.  I’m trying to come up with a comparable scent so you can get an idea of what I’m smelling.  It smells earthy, similar to the earthiness you’d detect if you had brewed a cup of guayusa or yerba mate.  It smells kind of grassy.  Like a mossy, damp earth with notes of dried hay.

The flavor is a little reminiscent of guayusa, only a little more herbaceous.  Guayusa tastes a little more like coffee to me only not as bitter as a cup of joe.  This on the other hand does have some a touch of bitterness to it, at least in the earliest sips.  I find that as I continue to sip, the bitter tone sort of dissipates, and I find that I enjoy it the more I drink it.

It has a definite herb-y sort of flavor that reminds me a bit of bay leaf.  There is a light honey note to it too, and I like that this honey note develops as I continue to sip.  Again … the more I drink this, the more I like it.

This product as been compared to black tea in flavor, but, I am not getting that.  It has a similar texture as a black tea but not so much the flavor.  I find that there is a certain invigorating quality to it even though the caffeine content is supposed to be about the same as decaffeinated coffee.

It’s a tasty ‘tea’.  Different from anything that I’ve tasted, but it is vaguely reminiscent of guayusa.  I enjoyed my sample of this coffee leaf tea and I’d definitely be interested in some blends using coffee leaf.  Right off the top of my head, I think that this would taste good with cacao shells (a chocolate-y experience!) or with peppermint.  Or perhaps a combination of both.  And with the honey-like flavors, I think it would also taste awesome as the base of a masala spice blend – coffee leaf chai!


Please consider helping Wize Monkey reach their goal on Kickstarter!   The deadline is rapidly approaching.

This Just In!

Joy's Teaspoon - 15 hours 7 min ago

Amba OP1 with tea flowers

by Naomi Rosen

We’ve been slowly swapping out teas that were being sourced through outside blenders and replacing them with teas that are being sourced directly from the growers. It has been an extremely educational process and I am continually learning through every encounter with a new tea garden. The hard work has paid off too! Introducing the newest members to our tea line-up:

Amba OP1 

This black tea from Sri Lanka is incredibly unique, just like the tea garden it is grown in. About a year ago, I came across Amba Estate and shared their wonderful story. I’d encourage you to read about the revoluntionary steps being taken to cross-train employees and their profit sharing initiatives! The tea itself is true to Ceylon – brisk, honey and apple notes with beautiful dried tea flowers to make it so very different from any other tea you’ve tried!

Pucker Up

Also from Amba Estate, this herbal creation is organically cultivated lemongrass that has been hand plucked and processed. The expected citrus notes are simple and refreshing, and this lemongrass serves double duty as it can easily be used for cooking or garnishing a favorite dish or soup!



Suprabhat, translated from Hindi, is “good morning”. This breakfast blend of Darjeeling and Assam teas, grown by the Prakash family, puts the “good” in “good morning”. If you are familiar with teas from either region, you know that each has a unique flavor profile and aroma. When I cupped these teas for the first time, I was ecstatic to find that you can still pick out those characteristics even though the teas have been blended. It takes cream/sugar very well…but I loved it on its own merits.



Black Pearl

I swear we didn’t name this tea after Johnny Depp, although, as I type, I’m jotting down my idea for a Johnny Depp inspired tea line. This black tea is our first single orthodox/unblended tea from Indonesia and it does not disappoint. The leaves have been rolled into a ball, similar to an oolong, and offer a honey-like sweetness that we fell in love with. Also similar to an oolong, these leaves take awhile to release all of their flavor so we were able to re-steep up to 4 times and were pleasantly surprised with each of those cups.


Monsoon Magic

The first loose leaf teas that I ever tried were Chinese (Dragonwell). The first loose leaf tea I ever tried that I became obsessed with was an Indian Assam. In my 4+ years in the tea biz, I have become acquainted with some amazingly passionate people trying to make a difference in the conditions, pay, and benefits for Indian tea workers. It is through these people that we came across Monsoon Magic and Heritage Teas. Having been plucked after the summer rains (thus monsoon), it is malty and brisk but lighter than the first and second flush Assams that would be close relatives.


Sencha Ikkyu

I’ve been on the lookout for some great Japanese green teas. This is the first Sencha we’ve carried from Japan (the others have all been Chinese). While both countries can produce beautiful Sencha’s, we fell in love with this one at World Tea EXPO. It’s sweet and the vegetal/grassy characteristics aren’t overwhelming. The steep time is 1 minute at the most and subsequent steepings literally just took a hot water pour over. We’re impressed with this tea and we think you will be too!



Genmaicha has been a part of our tea family since the first 32 teas were launched! We did the old switcheroo on this one and discontinued the old blend and replaced it with this tea from an organic green tea farmer in Japan. We know that there was a bit of a price increase once we switched to this blend, but we think it is worth the increase. The flavor is toasty, nutty, and the green tea base is fresh and the perfect compliment on this tea. Added Bonus: this blend is organic!


We offer both Cinco (5) and Ocho (8) sampler packs if you would like to try out the full line of new teas. And we want your feedback! How’d we do?

Taiwan DongDing (TungTing) Charcoal Baked Oolong Tea from Fong Mong Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 23:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Fong Mong Tea

Tea Description:

The hand-plucked leaves of Dong Ding Oolong are grown in the Dong Ding region of Taiwan at the elevation of 740 meters. At this elevation, the leaves absorb moisture from the surrounding fog and clouds every morning and afternoon which is ideal for Oolong plants. Due to the unique geographic location and stringent selection of leaves, this is the finest Dong Ding Oolong from the Dong Ding estate. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Dong Ding from Fong Mong has been charcoal baked and you can really taste that element in this tea!  It’s a really nice complement to the natural nutty flavors of the Oolong tea.  This is really one of the tastiest Dong Ding Oolong teas I’ve tasted in a while and I think that the fact that it was charcoal baked makes all the difference.

My first cup was sweet and nutty with a distinct charcoal note.  I could taste the charred wood and a hint of smoke.  There was a creaminess to the cup, but it wasn’t like a heavy creamy note or a buttery note.  It was more like browned butter.  Smooth and silky; it didn’t feel heavy on the palate.

The sip starts out sweet with notes of honey.  I start picking up on the nutty flavors almost immediately.  By mid-sip, the sweetness is fully developed and I start to pick up on a hint of smoke which transcends into a charcoal note.  The aforementioned browned butter notes weave their way in and out of the sip.  The finish is almost “fruit-like,” tasting a bit like a roasted, caramelized peach.

The second cup seemed a little more unified.  The flavors were seamless.  It was a very smooth transition from notes of honey to toasted nutty flavors and hints of smoke.  The smoke was a little more subtle this time, and the notes of charcoal were stronger, even though they seemed “fused” with the other flavors.  Still sweet, still a fruit-like finish.  Delicious.

The third cup was very much like the second.  The browned butter notes have diminished by this point but they seem to have made way for more definition of the peach-like flavor.  I experience a slightly dry sensation toward the finish, almost mineral-y.  Still a sweet, lovely Oolong.

I brewed this Dong Ding the way I’d brew most Oolong teas, using my gaiwan and following a 15 second rinse, I started the infusion time at 45 seconds and added 15 seconds onto each subsequent infusion.  I combine 2 infusions for each cup, so my first cup was made up of infusions 1 and 2, and the second cup was infusions 3 and 4 … you get it, right?

Fong Mong offers quite a few amazing Taiwan Oolong teas that are well worth checking into!  I highly recommend them!

Tea Review: Golden Tips Tea CTC Assam Exotic

Notes on Tea - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 21:36

Golden Tips Tea has one of the most creative packaging I've seen. The teas arrived in a cardboard box which was wrapped in cotton that had been hand-sewn closed. The company provided several Darjeelings, three Assams, a Nilgiri and an herbal tea. As I mentioned on Twitter, I haven't figured out how to properly steep the Nilgiri but I have finished the Mankota Exotic Assam and the CTC Assam Exotic. The Mankota Exotic Assam is a loose leaf and well flavored tea. The CTC Assam Exotic also has a good flavor given that is a CTC.

I prepared the CTC Assam three ways: (1) steeped in a teabag; (2) steeped in a glass kettle; and (3) boiled in a pot with milk and sugar as suggested by Golden Tips Tea via Twitter. To the pot I added cardamom, cinnamon, and clove to make masala chai.

The masala chai was very good. You might consider adding a bit of condensed milk, about a teaspoon, to sweeten the experience (pun intended).

I will post about the Darjeelings soon - stay tuned.

Yezi Tea Tie Guan Yin High Grade

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 17:00
Country of Origin: China Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled Ingredients: oolong tea Steep time: 45 seconds Water Temperature: 200 degrees Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan Liquor: greenish gold It's been a while since I reviewed something from +Yezi Tea and this Tie Guan Yin was calling my name. I previously reviewed and very much enjoyed the Master Grade Tie Guan Yin from this Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

how to choose the perfect matcha

T Ching - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 13:01

For those new to matcha, it can be a challenge to understand the different varieties of matcha and determine which one is right for you. We hope to help you with this guide to matcha.  An authentic matcha will always have distinct characteristics. These are:

1. It will always be made from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis).

2. The tea plants are grown slowly on shaded tea plantations. The process of shading – unique to only matcha green tea – promotes the production of extremely high levels of chlorophyll within the leaves. The fresh leaves are hand picked and steamed very briefly to preserve their nutritional properties and taste.

3. The leaves are milled using granite stone mills into an ultra fine, jade green powder. This creates matcha’s unique molecular structure.

4. Fresh, spring taste – there will be no bitterness.

5. Bright, beautiful green colour: This indicates the tea maintains its full nutritional profile

There are broadly three grades within matcha:

Ceremonial-grade : Used by the majority of tea schools and Buddhist temples. It is extremely rare and very expensive. Similar to wine connoisseurs, those who are not matcha experts may not notice the subtle additional flavours of “Umami” which characterize the ceremonial grade

Premium grade: A very high quality matcha which is best for daily consumption. It is packed full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and is characterized by a fresh, subtle flavour. It’s perfect for the new – and every day – matcha drinker! Zen Green Tea uses premium grade matcha in all its products.

Ingredient grade: This matcha is best used for cooking purposes.

In addition to these three grades there is two styles of matcha tea preparation: koicha and usucha.

Koicha is used in only tea ceremonies and produces the thick emerald brew.

Usucha is less sweet and is whisked vigorously to create a thinner, frothier tea.

What is best for you?

We know you’ll love our premium grade matcha. We offer a full money back guarantee on all our products so order online and start your health and tea journey today!  Please visit our store and view all our products.

Images courtesy of the contributor.

The post how to choose the perfect matcha appeared first on T Ching.

Keith’s Delicious Tea from Because UR Priceless

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 11/25/2014 - 11:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Because UR Priceless on Etsy

Tisane Description:

KEITH’S DELICIOUS TEA is a sunny, uplifting combination of lemon balm, calendula blossoms, and peppermint. This blend is particularly good when you add a spot of honey to your tea cup. This is my husband’s favorite herbal tea blend. (I’ll let you guess who it’s named after, lol.)

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

This is a nice, mild-tasting tisane.  It kind of surprises me to say that about a tisane with peppermint in the mix because peppermint can be a very strong and assertive herb.  But here, there is a nice balance between the lemon balm and the peppermint.

The sip starts out with an herbaceous note.  This herb-y flavor remains throughout the sip, with specific flavor profiles developing as the sip progresses.  A moment or two after I’ve taken a sip, I start to pick up on notes of peppermint.  Just before the midway point, I can taste the citrus notes of the lemon balm.  The finish is crisp and cool from the peppermint and these minty notes linger into the aftertaste.  It is in the aftertaste when I can really taste the bright lemon-y notes too.

It’s a refreshing herbal blend that’s naturally caffeine free.  It has a soothing quality to it, and the minty notes continue to build as I continue to sip.  Now that I’m more than halfway through the cup, I can draw a breathe inward and I taste and feel the minty sensation on my palate.  But even though I’m getting a strong essence of mint, the presence of the lemon keeps it from tasting like mouthwash.

To prepare this tisane, I poured the sampler into the basket of my Kati tumbler and my ‘eyeball’ measurement told me that it looked just right.  Trust me, I’ve been doing this a while.  I heated the water to 195°F and and poured 12 ounces of water into the tumbler and let it steep for 10 minutes.  Then I strained the tea and enjoyed.  The description above suggests adding a dollop of honey to the cup and I think that would make a very nice addition.  I drank the tisane straight up and it was enjoyable but I think that a little sweetness is called for with this.  The crisp peppermint and the sunny lemon-y notes of the lemon balm would benefit from the contrast of a little honey.

Overall, an enjoyable cup.

Garlic Toast Flavored Iced Black Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 23:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Southern Boy Teas

Tea Description:

Er, yeah, we went there. On our recent trip to the ASD tradeshow in Las Vegas, we met some folks who were from the “Garlic Capital of the World”. They challenged us to make a tea with garlic in it, and here it is. It’s our premium organic Iyerpadi black tea with organic garlic, bread and butter flavors. If you like garlic, you’re going to have to try this one. It made the whole office smell like a pizzeria or something.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn about SBT’s subscriptions here.

Taster’s Review:

OK … this is the weirdest flavor that 52Teas/Zoomdweebies/Southern Boy Teas has ever come up with.  And if I’m going to be honest, I’m a little jealous.  I admit it!  I wish I had come up with it.

Yes, this is weirder than bacon tea.  It’s weirder than chocolate covered bacon tea.  It’s weirder than the pineapple bacon tea.  It’s weirder than Jalapeno Tea.  It’s even weirder than my beloved Tomato, Basil and Black Pepper tea.

When I opened the pouch, WOWIE!  This smells like garlic toast.  Like fresh from the oven garlic toast!  I steeped it the way I usually steep these large tea bags:  I heated 1 quart of water to 212°F and dropped the teabag into the water and let it steep for 2 minutes.  Then I removed the teabag and poured the hot tea into my favorite iced tea pitcher and repeated the process, adding 30 seconds onto the “resteep” time.

The brewed tea smells less like garlic toast than the dry tea.  Oh, it still smells like garlic toast, but it’s just not nearly as potent.

After allowing the tea to chill in the refrigerator overnight, it was time for testing!  I admit I’m excited and nervous and a little weirded out about trying a Garlic Toast flavored iced tea.  When I opened the pitcher, I could smell the garlic!  It’s still a rather distinct aroma, even though it’s not quite as strong as the dry tea was.  The odor of garlic is still there.  Then again, it should be, right?  I mean, I’m about to take a sip of garlic flavored tea.

OK.  Here goes …

Hmm … OK, here are my first impressions:  the garlic doesn’t hit you right at the start.  The smell of garlic hits you before you even take a sip, mind you, because the aroma, as I said … is THERE.  But the flavor of garlic doesn’t smack you upside the palate from the onset.

The first flavor I notice is the black tea.  The flavor is smooth and brisk and refreshing.  I am picking up on sweetness from the black tea that I hadn’t noticed from this particular black tea base before this tasting.   (The Pumpkin Cheesecake iced tea uses the same Iyerpadi black tea base.)  I suspect that the different flavoring has inspired the palate to pick up on different flavors from the tea.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

After about a half a second of tasting the black tea, I start to pick up on delicate garlic notes.

Yeah, I used delicate and garlic in the same sentence, and one was used to describe the other.  I don’t know that I’ve ever used the word “delicate” to describe garlic before.

  And really, delicate is the right word to use for the garlic flavoring here.  Although the pungent odor of the garlic in both the dry tea and the brewed tea wouldn’t really suggest a delicate garlic presence, the flavor itself doesn’t overwhelm the palate with garlic-y … um … goodness.  Yeah, that’s the word I was looking for.

It’s garlic toast but it’s not all about the garlic.  It is also about the tea.  And SBT has managed to create a balance to bridge these two seemingly opposing forces.  I mean, really … when was the last time you sat down with a cup of tea and thought:  you know what would really go well with this tea?  A piece of garlic toast!  No.  I might sit down to a plate of spaghetti and think, ‘I need garlic toast.’ A cup of soup perhaps, but a cup of tea?  No.

But I like this.  The zesty, savory flavor of the garlic brings flavors of the tea into focus that I might not have otherwise picked up on.  Like I mentioned earlier, I’m noticing the sweetness of the tea itself more now.  When you have sweet flavor elements in the tea – such as pumpkin and cheesecake – you miss some of the sweet nuances of the tea.  But with the garlic tasting like … well, tasting like garlic … I am noticing some of the sweeter qualities of this tea base.  I like that I taste the garlic but it’s not a garlic-y assault on my palate.

I will actually be buying at least one more package of this tea because I want to try it as a cold-brew.  I noticed that an iced tea that I didn’t really care for (the bacon iced tea) tasted much better when it was cold-brewed so I want to see how this one works with the cold-brew process.

It’s definitely different – but really tasty.

Adopt of a Tea Plant and Support U.S. Grown Tea!

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 17:00
My friends at +The Great Mississippi Tea Company have launched an exciting new "adopt a tea plant" program. For as little as $12.95 you'll receive a personalized certificate, one lifetime pass to the farm, 1oz of tea once it is available and a coupon for 25% off at +Boston Teawrights. Higher level donations will receive even more tea and more passes to the farm. I definitely hope to visit them Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Hot pot by any other name

T Ching - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 13:01

Hopefully the set theory symbols are correctly specified below . . .

Hot Pot = Nabe

Shabu Shabu ⊂ Hot Pot

Sukiyaki ⊂ Hot Pot

Fondue ⊂ Hot Pot

Fondue Bourguignonne ∈ Fondue

[“⊂“  denotes a “is a subset of” relationship, and “∈“ the “is a member of” relationship.]

The last time I had hot pot, or was it shabu shabu, was a few months ago in Southern California’s San Gabriel Valley.  I prefer not to have any kind of hot pot during summertime, personally, but this particular region’s residents and business operators – maybe tourists, too – seem to feel and think otherwise.  Like pearl milk tea shops, new hot pot eateries are holding grand openings practically every other week.

According to the eatery’s website, the hot pot I had this past summer is actually a fusion shabu, which I have had countless times, and I might have tried all of the flavored stocks – creamy milk, Thai lemon & lemongrass, kimchi, miso, French onion, creamed corn, curry . . .   Interestingly the broth choices almost always include Chinese herbal, and this particular establishment’s menu listed “herbal and floral tea,” which I ordered with hesitation.   As predicated, the server brought out a pot filled with plain water and one big tea bag.   He then reminded me not to steep the tea bag in boiling water for too long.  The tea’s mediocre aroma amplified my disappointment, as did the first few pieces of meat and vegetables cooked in this so-called tea broth.  I ended up adding so much sauce that the end product could no longer be called a “herbal and floral tea hot pot.”

In Southern California, there is even a restaurant serving chanko nabe – sumo wrestlers’ hot pot.  What I really would like to try are some of Japan’s seafood-based hot pots, for example, Hokkaido Prefecture’s ishikari nabe (salmon), Akita Prefecture’s shottsuru nabe (hatahata), and especially, especially the traditional ishiyaki nabe! The broths of Chinese hot pots, on the other hand, seem much more heavily flavored.

Once I asked my mom why shabu shabu is called “shabu shabu.”  Mom said it was the sound of dipping and rinsing a thin slice of meat in boiling water – a cute answer.   Later I read in an article that the very first shabu shabu chef was inspired by the sound and motion of his employee washing cleaning cloths in the kitchen sink, thus the onomatopoeia!

Images courtesy of the contributor.

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Kenya Hand Rolled Purple Varietal Oolong Tea from What-Cha Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 11/24/2014 - 11:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong (Purple)

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A unique oolong unlike any other we have tasted before, made from the purple varietal tea plant which gives the tea a unique plum taste and purple tint. A rare and unusual tea which is not to be missed.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  What a delightful purple Oolong!

I steeped this the way I would usually steep an Oolong tea, using my gaiwan.  I “eyeballed” a measurement of leaves.  These leaves are so long and wiry that it would be difficult to measure them using my bamboo scoop.  So I poured out an amount that looked like it would be a bamboo scoop into the palm of my hand and then I put it into the bowl of my gaiwan.  Then I heated water to 180°F.  I poured in just enough of the heated water to cover the leaves and I let this sit for 15 seconds – to awaken the leaves – and then I strained off the liquid and discarded it.  Then I steeped the leaves for 45 seconds for the first infusion and added 15 seconds to each subsequent infusion. I combine two infusions in my teacup – so my first cup is infusions 1 and 2, and the second cup is infusions 3 and 4 … and so on!

The brewed tea takes on a purple-ish color and has a sweet, floral aroma with notes of fruit.  There is a strong flavor to this tea:  tasting primarily of stone fruit and flower.  Just as the above description suggests, there is a strong and distinct plum note.  It is sweet with notes of tart.

The texture is lighter than a typical Oolong.  It doesn’t have that buttery mouthfeel like you might experience from a greener Oolong.  This doesn’t taste or feel “creamy.”  It tastes strongly of fruit.  The fruit notes bring a lot of sweetness to the cup and there is a slight “sugary” sweetness to the cup as well.  There is a moderate astringency to this tea – I can feel the insides of my cheeks pucker a bit at the finish.  But don’t let that dissuade you, because I find that the sensation enhances the fruit notes.

The plum notes were even more focused in the second cup.  Still sweet with notes of sugar cane.  The astringency is about the same in this cup as it was in the first.

The third cup turned out to be a bit different than the first and second cups.  This cup is not as astringent as the first cup – this is much smoother from start to finish.  The plum notes are softening somewhat now.  Still lots of fruit flavor, I’m noticing the flavors starting to become unified.  This is slightly less sweet and a little lighter.  I’m picking up on a slight creamy note now and an ever so slight vegetative note.  Neither of these new flavors are very strong – they’re off in the distance.  Floral notes are slightly more noticeable this time too.

This is a really delightfully different Oolong – one I’d recommend to those who are looking for something just a little off the beaten path!

Mother Nature’s Medley Herbal Tisane from Tealee

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 23:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Tealee

Tisane Description:

The tastiest detox tea around, this all natural herbal blend is jam packed with ingredients that are loaded with Vitamin C, and are known to aid digestion and reduce bloating. Stimulating ginger opens your palate, fruit and citrus notes follow and finishes with minty freshness. Delicious!  

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

I love it when I discover a tisane blend like this and there is NO hibiscus in it!  Yay!  See there, tea companies?  It can be done!  You can make tasty tisanes WITHOUT hibiscus!

Here are the ingredients:

Ginger, Apple, Rosehip, Lemongrass, Organic Spearmint, Rose Petals

This is one of the tastiest “detox” teas that I’ve tried thus far.  There is a very pleasing balance of flavors.

My experience with this tasting is much like the above description suggests, only the first flavor that I noticed is a faint fruit-like sweetness – for just a moment! – and then I pick up on the zesty ginger note.  I enjoyed that immediate contrast.

After my taste buds recognizes the ginger, they’re allowed to further explore the fruit notes:  I can taste apple, which surprises me!  I didn’t expect to taste much apple here because generally speaking, when apple is used in a blend like this, it’s more about appearance and maybe just a hint of sweetness but not for a strong flavor.  But I’m tasting apple!  And I’m tasting notes of citrus from the lemongrass.

Just after mid-sip, I start to taste that vibrant flavor of spearmint.  It tastes very fresh and exhilarating.  Throughout the sip, I also get a hint of rose.  Of all the ingredients, the rose offers the least flavor in the cup.  It’s a really thoughtfully crafted medley of fruit and herbal flavors that I find very enjoyable.

The spearmint and ginger are really nicely matched.  I get that invigorating kick of peppery ginger that is countered by the crisp, cooling mint notes of the spearmint.  These two ingredients seem to keep each other “in check” – so that I’m not tasting too much ginger or too much mint.

Overall, a really tasty beverage that I would be happy to drink on a regular basis.  Many detox teas are something that I would drink because I felt the need to detox but not because I’m really enjoying what I’m drinking.  This is something that I am actually enjoying!  I’m impressed with this!

Assam Orthodox Black Tea (FOP) from Starglory

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 11/23/2014 - 11:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Starglory on Amazon

Tea Description:

Black Tea is consumed because of its natural flavour and for refreshment. Excellent cup of black tea helps a person to start a day positively with full of energy. At the end of a hectic, tiresome and busy day if a perfect black tea is taken , it will re energize and refresh oneself. This is one best Orthodox Black Tea sourced from Upper Assam Gardens.

Learn more about Starglory Tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I love Assam black teas, so when I was asked by Starglory Tea to try their FOP Assam Black, I was only too happy to oblige!

Immediately upon looking at the dry leaf, I can see something distinctly different with this tea versus other Assam black teas.  Most Assam teas that I’ve encountered tend to be a smaller cut or broken leaf.  But these beautiful, long, wiry leaves of chocolate brown appear to be whole!  When Starglory says “FOP” (which stands for Flowery Orange Pekoe – which basically means that the tea consists of large, wiry, and mostly unbroken leaves), they mean it!

To brew this beautiful Assam, I measured out 2 1/2 bamboo scoops of tea (I added an extra half a scoop because the leaves are so large and bulky) into the basket of my Breville tea maker and poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the vessel.  I set the parameters for 2 1/2 minutes steep time at 205°F.  I used a slightly lower temperature because it’s been my experience that Assam teas can be somewhat temperamental and a slightly lower temperature can mean the difference between a perfect tasting cup of tea and a bitter brew.

And this tastes perfect!

It is rich, delicious and malty, just like I want from an Assam.  But this tastes much smoother – no bitterness whatsoever!  Not even a hint in the background.  Just sweet, caramel-y notes that meld deliciously with notes of malt to create a thick, luscious flavor that not only entices me with its delicious flavor but also invigorates me.

The sip begins with a sweet note that becomes very caramel-esque as the sip progresses.  I begin to pick up on the malty notes almost right away.  There are notes of fruit and floral notes in the background.  It’s got that “chewy” sort of flavor to it, thick and delicious like the crust from a freshly baked loaf of bread.  Mmm!  It’s a very satisfying tea.

This tea doesn’t require any additions – it tastes great as is.  But, if you prefer a bit of honey or milk in your tea, this tea would take those additions well.  It would be great with a thin slice of lemon too.  Another great idea is to drop a piece or two of crystallized ginger into your tea.  This adds a little sweetness to the cup as well as a hint of ginger’s peppery flavor.  (Plus you get a tasty treat at the end of the cup!)

If you’re looking for an Assam that delivers the flavor of the Assam without so much of the harshness that is often associated with it – this is the Assam you’re looking for!

Maple Leaf White Tea from Lemon Lily

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 23:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Lemon Lily

Tea Description:  

Loaded with blossoms, and scented with star anise and maple syrup, this white tea is show-stoppingly beautiful as well as a treat to sip. Again, we can’t stress enough that you need to let these delicate little cuppas need some time to cool. Once you do the grassy white tea blooms into the warm, smooth anise flavour, accented with a touch of maple.

Learn more about this month’s Postal Teas shipment here.

Learn more about subscribing to Postal Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

Yay!  My Postal Teas box arrived!  It’s a happy day when I open the mailbox to find tea!  I just love receiving parcels from Postal Teas and I was very excited that this month the teas featured are from yet another new-to-me company:  Lemon Lily.  A cute company name that brings a smile to my face because it makes me think of my youngest daughter.  Her name is Lilith and we often call her Lili.

So the first tea I decided to try from this month’s box is Maple Leaf.  All three of this month’s teas sound delightful, but Maple is what captured my attention immediately.  I love maple!

I decided to brew this in my Breville One-Touch.  I don’t usually steep white teas in my Breville because the leaves tend to be bulkier and need more room to expand so I usually steep a white tea in a teapot or in a Smart Tea Maker like this to give those leaves the room they need.  However, upon examination of this tea, I saw that it was mostly flowers.  I thought that the tea would have plenty of room to expand as it needed to in my Breville given the flower to tea leaf ratio of this blend.

As an added bonus, because this tea needs time after steeping to develop its flavor, I was able to set the Breville to steep – 4 bamboo scoops of leaf to 500ml of freshly filtered water (remember, there’s a lot of flowers in this, so I used extra leaf to compensate); 170°F; 3 1/2 minutes – and go take my shower.  When I returned, the tea was brewed and it had been sitting for about 13 minutes.  That seemed to me to be adequate “development” time.

LOVELY!  I had my doubts about this after seeing all the flowers in this.  It was hard to find tea leaves among all the flowers.  But they’re there – because I can taste the tea.

I can also taste the flowers.  This is a beautifully floral tea, but I’m glad to say that it doesn’t taste perfume-y.  It has a wonderfully flowery aroma, it’s beautiful to smell as well as sip.

I can taste the notes of anise.  I like the way the licorice-y flavor of anise melds with the flowers.  They seem to play very nicely together.  The anise adds just a hint of spice to the sweetness of the flowers.  It’s quite pleasant.

And most importantly, I can taste the maple!  OK, OK, I guess you could argue that it’s most important to taste the tea.  And yeah, I’m with you on that.  But, when I drink a maple tea, I want maple baby!  And this blend has got the maple going on.

The sip starts off immediately with notes of flower.  I taste the lavender and chrysanthemum.  I like that while these floral notes are strong, they aren’t overdone.  Even though it looks like they might be overdone when you take a look at the blend – there is a really well-crafted balance between tea, flower and maple notes here.

Maple and lavender are not necessarily two flavors that I ever thought of combining.  But they work.  Somehow … they work very well together.   The maple seems to soften the sharpness of the floral notes just enough so that this doesn’t come off tasting like soap.  The anise adds just the right amount of warmth to the cup while adding a touch of sweet licorice that tastes right at home with the sweet maple notes.  The flowers add dimension to the sweetness while keeping everything balanced “just so” – to keep this from becoming too cloying or dessert-like.

And then there is the tea.  The tea is a softer flavor here, not just because white tea tends to be a delicate tasting tea anyway, but also because there IS a lot going on in this blend.  But I can still taste the subtle notes of sweet, hay-like flavor from the white tea.

A very enjoyable blend.  Quite a wonderful start to this month’s Postal Teas box!

Oops. You Did It Again.

The Devotea - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 22:00
I remember watching an episode of Man About The House as a kid in the 1970s. If you’ve never heard of this show, it possibly means you are either young or American, neither of which are probably your fault. (There was an American version of the show called “Three’s Company” that starred the late actor John […]

A tea plant grows in Detroit

Barb's Tea Shop - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 19:36
New "flush" of growth this week, while snow falls outside
This week my tea plant greeted us with a bounty of pretty white blossoms, right in the thick of an early November snow shower.  Like a tree growing in Brooklyn, this tea plant has continued to flourish despite being outside its native comfort growing zone.  Some of its impressive progress is due to its heartiness, but most of the credit goes to the great care my husband, Chris has provided.

Our new tea plant in 2010
We started with a small tea plant back in the summer of 2010. (Camellia Sinensis: Tea Garden takes off in Michigan).  Inspired by Angela Macke, of Light of Dayteas, who grows tea at her farm in Traverse City, we planted our small sampling four years ago. We keep it in a planter for easy moving indoors when the temperatures start to dip. Usually, we house it up at Pemberly Pines, our up north cabin, but this fall we brought it to our home in southeast Michigan – and I’m so glad we did. We can see its progress daily instead of occasional weekends. It’s thriving in our living room window sill, in a location that gets full sun throughout the day – that is, when it’s not snowing.
According to Wikipedia, tea plants, if left alone can grow as tall as 52 feet, although most are trimmed waist-high for easier plucking.  Not only is the plant cut back for convenience of harvesting, but the trimmed bushes produce an increase in new growth which results in more tender leaves and better quality teas. Only the top one to two inches of the plant are picked and the buds and leaves are called “flushes”.  A plant can grow a new flush every seven to fifteen days during the growing season.

It may be a few more years before I get a yield big enough for a pot of tea, but in the meantime, it’s nice to have something tropical blossoming inside, as the snow piles up outside, while sipping a hot cup Earl Grey. 

So about those choices

A Tea Addict's Journal - Sat, 11/22/2014 - 18:54

Well, when buying things there’s never a real “correct” answer. There is always someone who’s willing to buy a beachfront property in Kansas. The first thing you might notice about those choices is that they are largely anonymous – the stuff on the left side are mostly cooked puerh, and the right side are raw. The cooked pu are mostly CNNP wrappers, which doesn’t tell you much of anything. The stuff on the right are named, but only just – they are anonymous named tea cakes, in the sense that nobody would’ve heard of them anyhow. The green big tree you see half of is not the real deal, so it’s more or less the same as a CNNP wrapper.

The prices seem good – quoted in HKD, they are from about 180 to 500, with the 500 actually a cooked cake. The thing is, while these are sort of cheap (for this day and age), they are terrible value. The tea is likely to be bad – of the “this is awful” category. I tried a few of these while looking over these, just for the fun of it, and wouldn’t choose any of them, at any price. The rest – well, if the samples I tried are no good, chances are the others aren’t gems either.

To be honest though, I didn’t need to try to know that these were going to be bad. A few friends have commented to me privately after I posted this photo, basically saying “uh, these are all terrible”. If there’s anything like a general rule, it is that anonymous CNNP wrapper teas are going to be bad – you may find one out of a hundred that’s decent. The rest are just, well, horrible teas that were made in the dog days of the puerh industry, and ever since.

No-name brands like the ones on the right are no better. They are, 99% of the time, bad teas that are no good for aging. Some may be ok for current consumption, if it’s cheap enough and you’re not picky enough. The days of when no-name brand could be decent tea is behind us now – in the early to mid 2000s that may have been possible, because there were so many new outfits that were making tea. Now, however, it is most likely just trash tea that will age into nothingness.

Vendor choices, or lackthereof, is really a problem with buying tea. It is possible to choose a “best” tea within a given selection, yes, so even in this heap of what is basically no good tea, there will be one that seems better than others. It does not, however, mean it is a good idea to buy it – best among a bunch of junk is still junk. Within the online world, it is harder to make that judgement. I think a good way to try though, is to compare across vendors as much as possible. Even then, as I’ve said before, what’s available online is only a small fraction of total teas available in the real world, and much of the best teas never even leave the confines of China simply because the market demand for them is the highest there. The prices that online buyers will be willing to bear is simply not high enough for vendors to realistically bring the best goods to them. So, the pool of available choices are already poisoned, so to speak. Sometimes saying no is the best choice.

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