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Tea Evaluation and Scoring

T Ching - 2 hours 24 min ago

News about a tea competition results awhile back started me considering what a tea competition evaluation and scoring process might be like.  As my mind works it would be interesting to compare some of the methodology and evaluation processes to the very different but vaguely related process of judging teas against personal preference when drinking them for enjoyment.  I didn’t expect a lot of telling overlap to emerge but did eventually get around to researching the subject.

The real thing.

Overview

Obvious enough, but evaluation for a tea competition would involve a few basic steps:

  1.  a consistent brewing methodology for evaluation, under carefully defined and controlled conditions
  1.  a set of review criteria, categories against which the tea would be evaluated (taste, color, body / mouth-feel, etc.)
  1.  a scoring system to enable judging which teas are evaluated as superior (although it seems conceivable that a tiered pass-through process could replace numerical scoring)

Really there would be a lot more to it, related to all sorts of controls of conditions, example integrity controls, methodology to ensure consistent judging related to throwing out some “outlier” results, and so on. I suppose this is a good place to mention that I have absolutely no experience with such a process, which is why researching this subject appealed to me.  The prior categories and functions might benefit from restatement from someone with more experience and training, but that was one goal, to consult and summarize research sources.

I attempted to consult “tea experts” in one place such a request would make sense, in a tea professionals oriented LinkedIn group, but that didn’t get far, so hopefully some gaps get flagged once this is published instead (the Cunningham’s law idea).

The ISO standard

If there is such a thing this must wrap it all up, right?  Not so much.  ISO 3103:1980 does cover how to brew tea consistently for evaluation, though, described as such:

The method consists in extracting of soluble substances in dried tea leaf, containing in a porcelain or earthenware pot, by means of freshly boiling water, pouring of the liquor into a white porcelain or earthenware bowl, examination of the organoleptic properties of the infused leaf, and of the liquor with or without milk or both.

It is headed in the right direction, but the Wikipedia excerpt–a sample of partial detail summary, mind you–shows why it just didn’t get there (also noted by the Tea with Gary blog awhile back):

The pot should be white porcelain or glazed earthenware and have a partly serrated edge. It should have a lid that fits loosely inside the pot…

 

If a small pot is used, it should hold a maximum of 150 ml (±4 ml) and must weigh 118 g (±10 g).

 

2 grams of tea (measured to ±2% accuracy) per 100 ml boiling water is placed into the pot.

 

Freshly boiling water is poured into the pot to within 4–6 mm of the brim. Allow 20 seconds for water to cool.

The water should be similar to the drinking water where the tea will be consumed.

 

Brewing time is six minutes….

If the test involves milk, then it is added before pouring the infused tea.

 

Milk added after the pouring of tea is best tasted when the liquid is between 65 – 80 °C.

It’s not as bad as it looks.  One possible way to go is brewing all the teas exactly in the same way and tasting around the broad difference in how personal preference brewing parameters would vary, and my understanding is that this is still essentially a common approach (maybe just not always using this set).

Tasting using milk might seem odd but I have it on good authority that some prominent tea purchasers do exactly that–judge teas in an altered final consumption form.  A tea mentor (of sorts) once suggested that it’s best to drink tea cooler to taste it, around 60° C, and I’m not certain about any optimum but of course he is right in principle (per my own experience, at least).

More developed standard references

There must be a lot more, but Google did identify a few for a starting point.

The World of Tea site reference actually includes the ISO 3103 process as one alternative, and suggests using both that methodology and a second review based on more conventional brewing parameters, partially defined as such:

Tea Type Temperature Time for First Steeping Green Tea 160F/ C 1min  (Yellow and White teas omitted) Oolong Tea 190F/ 88C 1.5min Black Tea 205F/ 96C 1min

The article goes on to suggest evaluating the following criteria, along with reviewing leaf appearance:

1.What color is the liquor?

 

  1. What does the liquor smell like? (How does it change from steep to steep?)
  2. What does the liquor taste like? (How does it change from steep to steep?)
  3. How many steepings can the tea withstand and still produce acceptable flavor?

So far so good; reasonable brewing and evaluation guidelines.  I’d hoped for a bit more on scoring (maybe some summary of the rating process), but regardless of what a reference set up would be, it would be hard to really improve on a subjective overall evaluation that compared teas directly.  Direct evaluation of limited samples might just be limited when attempting to judge a large number of teas, or to combine multiple judgments from different judges.

This also seems like a good place for an aside about how limiting the number of factors evaluated would also limit the completeness.  For example, that methodology suggested review against liquor color, liquor smell, taste, and the number of steepings: four factors (and a good start).  A more general Tea Vicious reference on how to evaluate teas suggests some others (only partially cited, with their section on methodology omitted entirely):

  • How does the inside of the mug lid smell?
  • Does the aroma linger? Which part of it lingers longer? Which shorter?
  • Does any part of the aroma remind you of another substance?
  • Does any part of the taste come first and some other later?
  • What do the different parts of the taste remind you of?
  • Which part of your tongue gives you the sensation of the taste?
  • How does the taste stay?
  • Does the taste change during the process of tasting?
  • What is the texture of the tea liquor?

That would be way too many criteria for judging a lot of teas against each other but the general concepts of feel and finish (aftertaste) might be retained.

Maybe it’s just as well to cite a bit of two other references, and then wrap this up.  One from Tearroir provided an example of the type of scoring system I’d expected:

Each tea receives a base of 60 points, and we award each tea up to 40 points based on the following categories:

Color and appearance of tea pre-brew: 5 points

Aroma: 5 points

Flavor and Mid Palate: 10 points

Mouthfeel and Finish: 10 Points

Overall quality level: 10 points

The engineer side of me loves this approach.  Based on how I evaluate teas myself, related only to preference, I’m not so convinced a lot wouldn’t drop out in trying to weight groupings like these though, that it might fail to fully capture how a few strengths or weaknesses can really determine impression.  I just tried a Hong Shui tea with an amazing range of great flavor characteristics and a slight sourness issue that corresponded to how the feel was presented, so even the break-down might not be so simple.

Lastly, the North American Tea Championship, related to the World Tea News / Academy / Expo, provides another good example of evaluation methodology, which they summarize as such:

Each submission into the class is evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale is then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic above.

Nice!  They just don’t mention how the actual scoring is calculated, but they did include a fascinating description of how they make judging more consistent by throwing out inconsistent / outlier scores (and you really should read that if you happen to love statistical sampling process).  A sample of brewing parameters makes it clear they go with brewing methodology closer to ordinary brewing:

Category Type Temp Minutes Weight  Special Assam Origin Authentic Boil  5 2.5g Breakfast Blend Origin Authentic Boil  5 2.5g Bai Hao/ Oriental Beauty Breakfast Blend Boil 2/4 2.5g Steep open bowl; 2 infusions; 3 cupping bowls per tea Chai Masala Chai Boil  3g Add 20% warm milk/sugar mix

That partial citation of “Signature Famous Teas” doesn’t do parameter choices review justice, but it’s probably enough to add that green teas are cited as between 175 and 180, depending on type.  Interesting to also note World of Tea went down to 160 on their guidelines for green tea brewing; make of this difference what you will.

That last reference didn’t really seem intended to give the full details of the methodology and evaluation process but it’s nice they passed on that much.

Conclusion

I had intended to circle this back more to a comparison against how people drink and evaluate teas for enjoyment but it seems as well not do much with that.  It’s just different.

It’s interesting to consider how flaws in tea might factor into these approaches, or how individual positive aspects might be rated versus a balance of aspects in a tea, but it also seems as well I that don’t muddle the review here too much with my own speculation.  Besides, with more expert input or research about this much content, I could always write up a “part two” post and ramble on in that one.  And scoring systems never went far in these references; lots more room to add to that.

The post Tea Evaluation and Scoring appeared first on T Ching.

Matcha Tea Ceremony Utensils

Notes on Tea - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 18:01

Most people enjoy a good matcha latte but I also appreciate usucha or thin tea which I make at home. Koicha or thick tea is not something I make frequently though I guess the first step of preparing a bowl of thin matcha is making a matcha paste that you thin with more hot water. Mutsuko Tokunaga, author of New Tastes in Green Tea, lists four utensils necessary for cha-no-yu or tea ceremony. The tools are chasen or tea whisk, jawan (chawan) or tea bowl, natsume or tea jar, and chashaku or tea scoop. I do not own a natsume but the other three utensils are part of my teaware collection. The description for each utensil is excerpted from Ms. Tokunaga's book.


Chashaku | Tea scoop

"This is a slender tea scoop used to remove tea from the natsume tea jar....Its origins are thought to lie in the similarly shaped medicinal spoons of the Chinese Sung dynasty (1128-1279). With continued used, the bamboo chashaku takes on a beautiful patina and greater character."


Jawan | Chawan | Tea bowl

Two types of tea bowl are used for matcha--the flatter, open shaped bowl for summer and bowl with a thicker lip and vertical walls used in winter." I think my chawan, also a Mizuba Tea Co. purchase, is a winter bowl.


Chasen | Tea Whisk

"The bamboo tea which has a delicate outer circle and a separate inner circle of thin bamboo fronds that work well to blend the water and powdered tea. Sweeping the whisk all around he bowl creates an appealing froth, which also serves to make the tea milder." This chasen was purchased from Mizuba Tea Company. It is my second whisk; my first was a gift from Ippodo Tea.


A sieve is a useful tool for matcha preparation. I left mine, a simple one used in baking, in New York. I have not been using one here in VA but I recently borrowed one from a neighbor.

Do you prepare matcha at home? I wrote about how I prepare matcha here and how usucha is prepared at the Ippodo Tea shop in NYC here. What's in your matcha toolkit?

New Tastes in Green Tea by Mutsuko Tokunaga was provided for review. Stay tuned for more about this Japanese green tea book as I honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

3 Leaf Tea Wild Pu'erh Buds

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, pine cone-like buds
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass gaiwan
Liquor: very pale yellow

Ya Bao is a bit controversial in the tea world these days. There's a raging debate as to whether it is puerh or white tea. Some say it's not even tea at all. My vote is for white tea (due to the way the leaves are processed) but I've heard good evidence for each argument. In this case I'm listing it the way the vendor does, if only for the sake of consistancy. The leaves looked pretty similarly to other teas of this type that I've tried. They always seem to remind me of fuzzy little pine cones. At first sip it seemed like there was nothing there but then a sweet vanilla aftertaste took me by surprise. A few infusions in there was even a hint of spice in the background. The directions for this tea were more western style but I definitely think gongfu'ing it is the way to go. There's really no chance of overdoing it. Towards the end of the session my infusions were over a minute long. That might not seem like very long but it is when you're using a 100ml gaiwan. Ya Bao is one of those teas I don't find myself drinking often but when I do it always seems to hit the spot. This one is comparably priced with Verdant Tea and most of the other ones that I've found on the market. I'd recommend giving it a try if you're curious about Ya Bao.

Wild Pu'erh Buds sample provided for review by 3 Leaf Tea.


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Whitepaper from World Tea Expo chock full of information

T Ching - Wed, 05/25/2016 - 12:03

I routinely read the World Tea News as a way to keep current with industry news. I was delighted to learn that they have put together a White Paper that highlights their upcoming Expo.  For those who will not be attending next month, however, it offers a glimpse into topics that interest tea drinkers around the globe.

Two items that caught my attention were written by Shabnam Weber. “Specialty tea is the No. 1 growing item in the beverage category. Because the two largest demographics, baby boomers and millennials, are both turning to tea as their beverage of choice.”  I find it fascinating that both boomers and millennials are choosing tea to meet their needs on multiple levels. Another tidbit that Shabnam notes is that “the only thing you can sell in your restaurant that will make more money is olives…by the piece. That’s right. Tea has the highest profit margin of any single item you can sell.”

Moving along, there’s an insightful piece by Charles Cain highlighting the “Five Keys To Success In Retail”, an interesting interview with Maria Uspenski from The Tea Spot on “Tea As A Healthy Lifestyle Product”, and of course our own favorite chef Robert Wemischner reminds everyone that “Tea Is Way More Than A Beverage”.

Although this initial White Paper focuses on those presenting at the Expo, future papers will provide valuable information for tea lovers who get an opportunity to hear about information that had been previously reserved for those in the tea industry. I very much appreciated them making this information available to the public.  This is truly a win/win scenario.  The general public gets industry insider information which fuels their love of tea.

Keep on drinkin’ my friends.

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Book Review: 'Tea with Milk', A Picture Book by Allen Say

Notes on Tea - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 19:01
Image: Tea with Milk, by Allen Say (c/o hmhco.com)Are you familiar with Allen Say's picture books? The stories are not just for children. I first learned about Allen Say in a round-up of his books written by Danielle Davis of This Picture Book Life. Here's an excerpt from that post,
All Say’s books are rooted in a certain time and place. In specificity. They are beautiful, realistic watercolor paintings accompanying unadorned text. They are straightforward and they always seem true. They have compassion for their characters. They reflect on the past in a way that is satisfyingly bittersweet.
Image: Allen Say (c/o hmhco.com)
Since then I have read a few of Say's books; I borrowed them from my local library. One of my favorites is Tea with Milk. I think you could have probably guessed this! I wanted to share the story here because as I noted, I like the book, but also because the book is a lovely story about Japanese American and Japanese culture. May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The protagonist of Tea with Milk is a girl named Masako. Her parents call her Ma-chan and speak to her in Japanese. "Everyone else called her May and talked with her in English." May lives in San Francisco until she completes high school. Then her homesick parents relocate the family to Japan. No one there calls her May. She no longer eats "pancakes and muffins" or drinks "tea with milk and sugar" at her friends' houses. In Japan she has to attend highs school again where she is considered a foreigner or a "gaijin". She takes flower arranging, calligraphy, and tea ceremony lessons at home. Her mother plays matchmaker. Frustrated with this new way of life, Masako leaves home and travels to Osaka wearing "the brightest dress she had brought from California." She finds employment in a department store in the city but finds it dull. She is offered a new job in the same department store after she helps an English speaking family but for this role she has to wear a kimono. I won't write anymore because the rest of the story is worth you reading on your own. It does involve tea with milk and sugar and another move and the creation of a family.

Image: Image: Tea with Milk, by Allen Say (c/o amazon.com)
One thing I found humorous is the current Japanese green tea, especially matcha, craze in the U.S. juxtaposed against Masako's desire for tea with milk.

Speaking of Japanese green teas, I will share my matcha making tools on the blog tomorrow.

P.S. You can see all of Allen Say's books here.

Weather and Tea

T Ching - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 12:06

Cludy Munnar Panorama, Kerala, Western Ghats, India

I’ve recently noticed articles on how climate change is affecting the production of tea.  First, I noted an article on Assam’s tea production being affected, then saw others about other tea-producing areas as well.  One of them stated that it could affect tea production by a cut of over one-half sometime in the future.

Since I have no background or knowledge in the area of climate and weather and know there is a debate going on, I’ll confine this to what I’ve read about how tea may be affected should we experience the climate changes predicted in the articles.  If you haven’t read anything on the subject and want to learn more, please Google “climate change and tea production” and you will find more than enough reading material to keep you busy.

There are many ways climate can affect tea production.  One problem can produce another. Assam growers have noted an increase in pests due to the dry conditions.  From a BBC story,

“The change in precipitation, particularly, will be very critical,” says Prof Arup Kumar Sarma of the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, who recently carried out research on Assam’s tea gardens and climate change.  Our study shows that this region will be having a longer dry period and the peak flow of the monsoon will also be increasing.  That means we will have very extreme rainfall.”

From Climate Central:

“A report from Climate Central in 2015 found that “tea growing regions could decline in some parts of the world by up to 40-55 percent in the coming decades due to the results of a changing climate.”

From the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this pdf is fairly detailed on the overall worldwide picture. Included in the stats of this report are China and Kenya.  Kenya is the largest exporter of black tea in the world.

With the state of the world, in general, these days and the uncertainty of the future, none of us need something else to think about.  And none of this may affect the future of tea businesses and tea lovers reading this, but it is just another indication that we live in a dramatically changing world, one that will affect everyone in some way, to some extent.  It spurs me to think more about how what I do affects the environment.

image

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What is a teakend? A weekend filled with tea events and tea rooms, of course!

Barb's Tea Shop - Tue, 05/24/2016 - 01:05
Barb and Rachel-Rose at Sweet D's in Linden
The grand dame of Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess, delighted fans when she asked the question, "what is a weekend?" As a member of the aristocracy, Violet Crawley, like those in her social circle did not have a job, and consequently did not comprehend - unlike the band Loverboy - what everyone else is working for.

But what about the two days after Friday when they are devoted only to tea?

We at Barb's Tea Service would like to introduce a new word to the English lexicon: "teakend" -  a weekend filled with tea events and tea rooms. It's a term whose time has come! and it perfectly describes how we spent this past Saturday and Sunday.

At the Schoolcraft Community Library, with Director, Faye VanRavenswaayOn the road again, BTS presented two Downton Abbey-inspired teas this weekend. On Saturday, we were at Schoolcraft Library, in a lovely little town near Kalamazoo, at the invitation of library Director, Faye VanRavenswaay. It's a wonderful community and we enjoyed spending time on the west side of our home state.

Refueling with amazing peanut butter pie at Chocolatea
After our tea presentation, we took a short drive to Portage and paid a visit to Chocolatea, a tea venue with a lot going on. Like its name implies, there's chocolate and there's tea, but there's so much more (as if that wouldn't be enough!). They sell a variety of goodies aside from chocolate truffles. There's brownies, cookies and peanut butter pie!

Paying a visit to the Tudor House in downtown Kalamazoo
Then on to downtown Kalamazoo where we found the Tudor House. This tea store was featured in the September/October, 2014 issue of  Tea Time Magazine's (as was the author of this blog!) when the magazine  highlighted Michigan tea venues.  A welcoming store with so many varieties of loose tea, you could spend an afternoon trying to decide which ones to take home.

Getting set up at Sweet D's with Rachel-RoseWe stayed overnight in Kalamazoo, enjoyed a leisurely morning at our hotel and then headed back east and center of the mitten state. About a half hour past our state capital, there is another quaint small town of Linden, where we had our second Downton Abbey presentation. Here we were guests of Dee Birch, owner of Sweet D Confections and Tea Room. The tea room is beautiful - full of period charm and vintage tablescapes. Dee provides an afternoon tea that is delicious and generous in portions. You will never go away hungry!

Dee Birch, Debbie and Marie and Rachel RoseMany attendees dressed in Downton Abbey fashion and we enjoyed meeting every single lady who came for tea.

We traveled many miles, met so many wonderful folks at our tea events and loved every tea room along the way,

We'll make each stop its own blog story, but wanted you all to be the first to know. . .

What is teakend? It's absolutely awesome!


Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from Teavivre

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 19:38
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Tea

Where to Buy: Teavivre

Tea Description: Growing area: Tiantai Mountain, Zhejiang, China Season: Spring Tea Harvest date: March 23, 2016 Dry leaf: Uniform flattened tea leaves, mostly bud with unopened tiny leaf Aroma: Sweet floral, chestnut Liquor: Pale yellowish green Taste: Smooth, sweet and brisk; no hint of bitterness; aftertaste of this tea is pleasant lingering Tea Tree species: Jiukeng tea tree species Tea garden: Cangshan Organic Tea Garden Caffeine: Low caffeine (less than 10% of a cup of coffee) Storage: Store in airtight, opaque packaging; keep refrigerated Shelf Life: 18 Months This She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing tea comes from Tiantai Mountain, located in Tiantai County, Taizhou, Zhejiang Province. The average elevation is above 500 meters, with Cangshan(elevation of 1113.4 meters) at east, Taizhu mountain (elevation of 1019.6 meters) at west, Dalei mountain (elevation of 1144 meters) at west, Huading mountain (elevation of 1098meters) at north. Cangshan Organic Tea Garden is located in north of Tiantai Mountain in Zhejiang. With the flourish vegetation, cloudy and misty surrounded, this pleasant natural ecological environment is a great place to produce best teas.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from Teavivre is today’s tea of choice for me and it’s a good one!  This is a mighty fine Dragon Well that is for sure!  Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from Teavivre is sweet, clean, crisp, and has a pleasant, satisfying linger and aftertaste.

Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from Teavivre is delightful as a hot cuppa or a cold one.  I bet this would also be a good green tea base for those who like to mix and mingle teas and flavors.

The best part?  This Organic Nonpareil She Qian Dragon Well Long Jing Green Tea from Teavivre has NO bitterness what-so-ever!  It’s a very forgiving green tea, too, so if you over infuse you won’t have to worry about a bitter cup!  This is a great tea for those new to green teas as well as those who have loved green teas for YEARS.

 

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Snapchat for Tea Lovers

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 16:00

Social media has always been a huge part of my tea experience and my latest obsession is Snapchat. That's right, it's not just for teenagers! The main purpose of Snapchat is to share live, in the moment pictures and videos. It's a bit more off the cuff and less polished than Instagram. The other major difference is that your posts can only be viewed for 24 hours. A warning: viewers can take screenshots so you should still be careful about posting anything you wouldn't want to have out in the world. Content posted to your story (the Snapchat equivalent of a timeline) is viewable by everyone who follows you but you can also send them to directly to someone rather than posting publicly.

There's some neato features like geofilters and all of those funny faces you see your friends posting on Facebook. To access these all you have to do is press on the screen over your face until you see a white grid briefly appear. After you take a picture get creative by adding text, emoticons or drawing some artwork. One of the coolest things about Snapchat is that your profile picture is actually a QR code that people can use to add you.
Don't forget to add me!It can be hard to find people to follow at first since Snapchat doesn't have a discovery feature like other social platforms. I recommend downloading an app called Ghostcodes. Add yourself to the directory and search for people who share your interests.

Basic Snapchat Etiquette
-Skip the TMI (Too Much Information). We don't need to see EVERYTHING you do every day.
-Don't send a picture or video directly to someone that you are also sharing publicly to your story.
-Turn off the sound in videos if you are taking them in a very loud place.
-Don't snap and drive. Seriously! I'm always amazed by how many people do this. It's just not safe and probably illegal in most states since you shouldn't be using your phone while driving.
Tea People to Follow
teaformepleaseI created an account (teaformeplease) for the blog a while ago but only recently started diving in. I've been mostly using it to share "behind the scenes" stuff that I'm not sharing elsewhere. It'll definitely be a fun way to share my experience at World Tea Expo!

white2tea
+White2Tea is one of my favorite puerh vendors. They have an eccentric and fascinating Snapchat account. Expect lots of late night sheng sessions, music and insights into sourcing puerh in Yunnan. You might even catch glimpses of the mysterious Two Dog.

quantitea
Quantitea is a fairly new tea company that specializes in tea flights. I've been living vicariously through the snaps taken on their most recent sourcing trip.

notesontea
Fellow tea blogger +Georgia SS posts about her tea and foodie adventures. She's spending some time in the D.C. area so it's nice to do some vicarious sightseeing too.

ohhowcivilized
+Jee Choe seems to always be on the go (and finding the yummiest treats along the way). I'm really enjoying getting a peek into the tea sommelier certification classes that she is taking.

teahappiness
+sara shacket is just getting started on Snapchat but I'm really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

besstic
I think I may have actually found someone who drinks even more tea than I do. Check out besstic's snaps for lots of tea with a touch of humor.

Are there any tea people that I should be following? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoying Tea Outdoors

T Ching - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 12:30

As Summer approaches and the temperatures warm, many will say it is too hot for tea. For me, it is one of my favorite times of the year to drink tea.  One of my favorite ways of drinking tea is outdoors while enjoying nature.  While it is possible to fill a thermos with tea and take it outside, I like to brew my tea outdoors gongfu style.  One of nature’s greatest gifts is the tea leaf, so it is fitting to enjoy the tea in nature as well.

To brew gongfu outdoors is not as difficult as it sounds.  On the contrary, it is best to simplify the process as much as possible.  Leave the tea pets at home; your tea pets will be the birds and other animals around you.  Bring a cup that is larger than your brewing vessel.  This way you can leave the cha hai at home as well.  I also like to bring a ‘cheaper’ gaiwan that I will not be heartbroken over if it gets broken in transit.  Leave the fancy yixing wares at home as well!  I also like to bring a dish towel or, ideally, a microfiber dish mat with me to lay everything down on.

Bringing hot water is the trickiest part.  I bought a vacuum seal travel thermos that keeps water scalding hot for hours.  Zojirushi makes a 20-ounce thermos that is perfect for keeping water near boiling for a long time.  Right as I am leaving the house, I will boil water in my kettle, give the thermos a hot rinse to get it hot, then add the boiling water.  I like to preheat the thermos so that the water that I will use for tea will be as hot as possible when I arrive at my destination.

What teas are best for outdoor drinking?  This is where some thought needs to be put in.  You do not have precise temperature control outside, so a tea that can withstand near boiling water is best, but also one that will still taste good when brewed with cooler water as the session nears its end.  It’s also best to pick a tea that has whole leaves and does not have dust.  I don’t want to worry about bringing a strainer with me, so I prefer to bring larger leaf teas with me.  Lastly, look for a tea that will be good for 5-6 steeps.  I also don’t want to bring an expensive sheng puerh with me that normally gets over 10 steeps because I will only have 20oz of water with me.  I have had the most success with brewing oolongs such as Taiwanese Oolongs or roasted tieguanyins.  They seem to be very forgiving teas that are refreshing as well.  The floral notes in oolongs also pair perfectly with the surrounding trees and flowers outside.

Listening to the trees in the wind, waves crashing against the shore, and the birds singing is one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy tea.  Away from TV, Facebook, and work, sitting outside and enjoying tea in the outdoors really lets you stop and focus on the beauty of the tea.

“Let us have a sip of tea.  The Afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle.” – Kakuzo Okakura, The Book of Tea.  

The post Enjoying Tea Outdoors appeared first on T Ching.

Star Trek's Captain Picard On Earl Grey Tea

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 15:00
I've never been a fan of the liquid perfume that's better known as Earl Grey tea, but of course we all like what we like. Here's a short clip in which Captain Picard, of Star Trek: The Next Generation, professes his fondness for it. Which leads to the obvious question - what would Kirk drink?

Adagio Teas - Best Tea Online

Star Trek - Klingon Tea Ceremony

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 14:00
It's a tea ceremony of a decidedly different sort and it's enacted here by Star Trek: The Next Generation's resident Klingon, Worf. For more about the ceremony - which does not use tea as we know it - look here.

Adagio Teas - Best Tea Online

Peach Matcha from 3 Leaf Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 05/21/2016 - 10:06
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Matcha

Where to Buy: 3 Leaf Tea

Tea Description: With it’s fruity aroma and juicy taste, you won’t want to put this peach matcha down! Crisp and light the peach flavor mingles with the vibrant green taste of matcha. Preparation & Recipes:  Hot Latte: Whisk 1 tsp of matcha with 1 tsp of sugar in 2 oz of hot (170°F) water. Add 6 oz of hot milk and stir. Iced Latte: Whisk 1 tsp of matcha with 1 tsp of sugar in 2 oz of hot (170°F) water. Add 6 oz of cold milk and stir. Pour over ice. Traditional: Whisk 1/4-1/2 tsp of matcha in 6 oz of (170°F) water. Smoothie: Add 1 tsp matcha, 1 banana, 1 cup milk, handful of ice, and 1 tsp sugar or honey into blender. Blend until smooth. Orange Juice: Add 1/2 tsp of sifted matcha to 1 cup of orange juice in a shaker bottle. Shake well until matcha is fully blended. Food: Sprinkle matcha on top of yogurt, cottage cheese, granola or add it into a recipe (check out our recipe page for ideas!) Tips:  
  1. Traditionally, a bamboo whisk, also called a chasen, is the preferred tool to whisk matcha. A chawan, or matcha bowl is also used. If those items are not available, a small metal whisk and a wide bowl or mug to accommodate room for whisking can be used.
  2. Water temperature is important for the matcha to maintain it’s sweet flavor and avoid turning bitter. Water temperatures below 170° F are recommended.
  3. Matcha is stored best in an airtight, light proof container. To maintain maximum freshness, store in refrigerator.
  4. Sifting matcha through a fine mesh strainer before use helps remove clumps and creates a smoother consistency.

Ingredients: Matcha, natural flavors

Vegan, Gluten Free

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Today I would like to talk/write about this Peach Matcha from 3 Leaf Tea.  Peach Matcha from 3 Leaf Tea seems to give me the yin and the yang that I am craving in a flavored matcha!  Let me explain…

Upon opening this sample packet of Peach Matcha from 3 Leaf Tea I was smacked in the face with intense peach aroma.  I LOVED the scent of this Peach Matcha!  It made me wonder if it was going to be ALL Peach and NO Matcha when it came to flavor.  Let me tell you that was NOT the case.  Once I whisked my hot matcha up in my cup I took my first sip and what I found was MAJOR defined and STRONG green matcha flavor with an underlying peach flavor!  This strong matcha base is not for wimps!  It’s of the stronger matchas I have sipped on that is for sure!

The peach certainly takes over the aroma but not the taste!  I put these findings in the PRO category of my opinion here!  This is a fantastic cup of matcha!

As a test I did find the less you use of the matcha mix the more you pick up on the peach especially once the water temperature cools naturally at room temperature.  So…moral of the story…if you want to start with a little less and work your way up…I think that would be ok for those who might not like a strong matcha taste.  Lucky for me – I do!

 

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A Melodrama About Tea in Five Acts

The Devotea - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 21:41

ACT 1: IN WHICH ONE RESPONDS TO SOGGY DESPERATION In one long dark teatime of the soul*, I stared into the abyss, pondered the hell hole that was my surroundings, and wondered at the inhumanity of it all. Yes, I was in Melbourne Airport. In late February, 2008 I blogged about a trip interstate. At […]

The post A Melodrama About Tea in Five Acts appeared first on Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts.

It’s Not Easy Being Green from Cat Spring Yaupon Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 16:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Yaupon Tea

Where to Buy: Cat Spring Yaupon Tea

Tea Description:

As a tribute to Kermit the Frog’s ballad about the color green, our floral and fresh green yaupon tea blend bears the name, “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

This green yaupon tea blend from Cat Spring Tea is a fresh soft green tea with a hint of mint and overtones of wildflowers, it is similar to a green jasmine tea yet without sharpness.

Contains: yaupon tea, organic green rooibos, organic ginger, organic lemongrass, and organic compliant lime flavoring.
The gorgeous longhorn and Texas wildflower artwork is by Dolan Geiman.

Learn more about this tea here.

Amazon also sells this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yaupon Tea is a type I can honestly say I’ve never heard of. That’s one of the reasons of tea. The variety you get is amazing. So many different types and blends to try. There is always something new to check out!

From my research, I’ve found that Yaupon Tea is made from a plant native to North America. It actually has a really cool story.  I won’t weigh the review of the tea down by all the facts but if you are interested like I was about the story behind this tea, check out this article.

So let’s chat about the tea itself.  This tea had a very herbal look to it. Bright greens with pops of a yellow-white inclusion which I’m assuming is the ginger.  The dry leaf has a pretty strong ginger aroma to it and me being one that doesn’t care too much for ginger, I was starting to wonder if I was going to like this.

I brewed this up like  I would any other green tea and allowed the tea to steep for a bit (about 4 minutes).  The brew still had a very strong ginger aroma and looked more like a black tea than a green tea when brewed up.  I allowed the tea to cool for a few minutes and then took my first sip.

This is a unique tasting tea for sure and one that probably could use a bit more steeping.  The tea reminds me more of a black tea than a green tea. I don’t pick up any of the green grassy notes or rich buttery-ness that I typically get out of green tea but more of an earthy malty flavor.  I am noticing a slight sweetness that is nice but the ginger takes over towards the end of the sip and almost overwhelms the tea.  The ginger is to me the only downside of this tea. I would love to see the green rooibos and lime flavorings that are in this blend really take over so I am going to try and steep this tea one more time to see if I shake up the package if I can get more of those inclusions to pop.

I started fresh and added in three scoops instead of the 2 I used last go around. I allowed the tea to steep for about 7 minutes and cool for three.  Took my first sip and I have to say, my experience was pretty much the same with this infusion as the first.  I didn’t pick up any of the lime flavorings or the green rooibos but I did get this lovely malty earthy ginger sweet flavor that really is tasty.  Being the huge fan of green rooibos and lime, I was hoping that I would get.  Regardless, the tea is still tasty the the experience is quite unique. So much so that I’m wanting to try the a few more from the line.

I did take one more quick experiment and made an iced tea out of the brew. Out of all the different ways to make the tea, this one is my favorite. The tea takes on a different level of deliciousness.  Yes, the ginger is still the most notable flavor but the sweetness and floral notes are kicked up a bit more providing a much needed contrast.   In just about every other sip, I swear I’m picking up those green rooibos honey notes.

All in all, a really lovely tea and one that I want to learn more about!

The post It’s Not Easy Being Green from Cat Spring Yaupon Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Friday Round Up: May 15th - May 21st

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 16:00
Camellia Flower Pu'erh Cake - Aliexpress
+Kayleigh Jade of Kitty Loves Tea wrote about the infamous "God of Night Sweats" cake. I think I may be one of the last of my tea friends to try this rather dubiously translated cake.

Honeycomb
Cody at The Oolong Drunk wrote a great review of a Bing Dao puerh from Bitter Leaf Teas. I love the thoroughness of his posts. I never can get myself to track that much detail but I love reading it on the blogs of others.

A Guy and His Gaiwan
+Geoffrey Norman told the story of his first gaiwan, simultaneously on the new gaiwan service offered by +Smith Teamaker. That gaiwan staking basket is definitely something I think all tea nerds could use!

2016 Fade Sheng Puer from April 2016 White2Tea Club
+Charissa Gascho reviwed a puerh tea that I have definitely had my eye on. It's a brick made out of Huangpian, what is generally considered a less desirable leaf. The material used is high quality though.

Interview w/Emilio of The Jade Leaf [Taiwan Tapes] — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #82
James at +Tea DB traveled to Taiwan and interviewed Emilio from The Jade Leaf. I am in love with those wooden side handle teapots!
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Blast from the Past: Real Tea – On the Go

T Ching - Fri, 05/20/2016 - 12:08

It was three-and-a-half years ago that I converted to tea after thirty years of drinking stinking coffee.  The wonderful thing about tea is that you can drink it all day long and suffer neither the jitters nor the social plague of coffee breath.  For those of you who subscribe to the creed that freedom is the absence of choice – you’ll find yourselves a willing prisoner to tea.  Black, green, white, oolong, blended, first flush, second flush, Chinese, Indian, South African – I could go on and on.

Simply put, when I am not actually drinking tea, I am thinking tea.  How can I have good, hot, fresh whole-leaf tea all day long?  I tried a thermal cup used for coffee.  It was made of beautiful stainless steel and was easy to grip.  It had a handy sipping cap.  Problem was, when you put brewed tea into it, it would get cold too soon, even with a five-minute boiling water warm-up.

The next one was an improvement.  Holding 16 ounces, it was a stacked affair consisting of a steeping basket, a steeping lid that doubled as a caddy for the basket after steeping, and a sipping lid.  It had a few aesthetic as well as practical problems.  It was made of plastic, except for the aluminum steeping basket.  The plastic became clouded and grubby within a few weeks, and the basket developed that white residue that can only mean that I, the consumer, was consuming the chemical residue of bauxite refining.  Besides, there is something inherently wrong with sipping tea through a dime-sized opening.

For my birthday, a friend got me a Tea Tumbler called Namu Baru.  Holding 13.5 ounces in an attractive stainless steel dual-wall vacuum bottle, it has three parts – a screw-on top, an infuser basket, and a drinking vessel.  You place the leaves in the basket, screw it into the drinking vessel, put on the cap, and turn it upside down for the prescribed steeping time.  Turn it right side up and the tea is done.  The amazing aspect of the Namu Baru is that it keeps the tea incredibly hot for an incredibly long time.  The literature says six hours. I can testify that it was whistling hot for four hours.  The problem here is the practical aspect of drinking from the vessel.  If you leave the infuser basket attached, it is an awkward operation.  If you remove the infuser, the stainless steel edge of the container is sharp on the lips and very hot.  Not ideal, but better than the two previous options.

Finally, there is the Eight Cranes Perfect Steeper.  It comes in a beautiful black-and-gold box.  The cylinder is made of tempered glass and brushed stainless steel.  Like the Namu Baru, it has three operational pieces.  You pour the water in the vessel, carefully tighten the steeper basket filled with leaves to the vessel, wind on the cap, and turn the whole thing upside down to steep.  Because I was dealing with hot glass, finger-tight was not good enough, and my hands were scalded with very hot water leaking through the seals as I turned the container over to steep.  I haven’t made that mistake again!  The glass vessel beats the Namu Baru for comfort in sipping, but the tea cools quickly.

If you’re looking for a “to-go” tumbler that is attractive and keeps the tea hot all day, get the Namu Baru.  If you want a cup on-the-go that you can drink from a comfortable and beautiful glass container, Eight Cranes is your choice.

This article was originally posted to T Ching in May of 2010.

MAIN | IMAGE 1 | IMAGE 2

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Favorite Tea Ware - Boychik

Notes on Tea - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 17:01
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the bombilla to the whisk (aka chasen). Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. It's a pleasure to share the favorite tea ware of "boychik". After joining Steepster four years ago, boychik's tea preferences changed from Assam/Ceylon/Darjeeling and English Breakfast/Earl Grey to Chinese teas (Puerh, Honcho, Yancha) though currently she's "exploring Taiwanese oolongs". Boychik described tea and teaware as obsessions. The teaware shown in this post have all been featured on her Instagram feed


Jian Shui Kyusu

This kyushu is from Yunnan Sourcing. Jian Shui is excellent for shou (I like it more than Yixing for shou or aged Sheng). It's thick, retains heat well and has a nice pour, no leaks.


Shiboridashi

This shiboridashi is by Greenwoodstudio on Etsy. It is 80ml. It is perfect for sampling any teas since its glazed inside. The size is convenient, pours quickly, no leaks. It is easy to hold, I prefer shibo to gaiwan. It doesn't burn my fingers. I use it all the time.


Ruyao teacup

This ruyao teacup is from White 2 Tea Co. Thick and heavy, retains heat well, very comfortable to hold, doesn't burn my fingers because of ridges.


Damascus steel pu knife

I got it on Aliexpress, after stubbing myself with pu pics (I have several). While they are okay on loose or medium pressed cake, they don't work on iron cakes. This one is a life and hand saver. I don't sacrifice my blood to pu gods no more!

See another view of this knife here.


Scale

I always measure my tea. I have my own parameters and try to stick to them. I'm not good at guessing if I got enough rolled oolong or if this chunk of pu is 10g. If my tea session wasn't great at least I know how much tea I should use next time to make it work.

Thank you Inna for participating in this series. I'll keep my eye on the Greenwoodstudio on Etsy for their shiboridashi offerings. Also, between you and a few other puerh fans, I know to use 10g of the tea! All photos are courtesy of Inna Farber. The text was edited slightly.


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Pomegranate Green Tea from Solstice Tea Traders

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 05/19/2016 - 16:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Tea

Where to Buy: Solstice Tea Traders 

Tea Description:

Solstice Tea Traders Pomegranate Loose Leaf Green Tea is an amazing tea that lends itself well to hot or iced applications, and is a perfect option for summer afternoons, or cold mornings.Enjoy our pomegranate tea packed in large one pound bags, an amazing way to enjoy green tea, with a little extra flavor, without having to add a lot of sugar.

Learn more about this tea here. 

Taster’s Review:

Ever stumble upon a tea that just completely makes you say “What?!?”  This tea did that to me.

I review products for companies on Amazon all the time. Besides my blog and doing tea reviews for SororiTea Sisters, it is one of my favorite ways to spend my time.  Whenever I see tea up for grabs needing a review, I always get giddy and hope I make the cut.

So when this tea arrived in its giant 16oz package (yes, 1 lb!) I wasn’t sure what I would be in for except that I have a pound of this tea.  I opened the enormous tea pouch up and was hit with this lovely fragrance mix of green tea, pomegranate, and a sweet rose bud floral undertone.  I was incredibly impressed.  The tea leaves didn’t’ appear to be crushed but lovely and with a lot of substance. I couldn’t wait to try this tea.

Brewed up like a green tea and allowed to steep for about 4 minutes, this tea yields an amazing flavor.  Lovely rich buttery green tea notes with a jammy pomegranate flavor and a sweetness from the rose buds that really bring this tea to another notch.  There is just a slight hint of a tartness from the pomegranate but it is very very slight.  Everything is just so smooth and all the flavors are right where they need to be. (I have a feeling I’ll be drinking this tea all day).

The jammy notes are what get me the most and I can say that this tea has me hooked. I’ve already got a pitcher going for a cold brew for this week and I’m planning on making some iced tea as well for the day.  I’m on my third cup from the same infusion and the flavors are still giving me so much love.

This is one of those teas that proves you can’t judge a book (or tea) by its cover. This tea is amazingly priced for what you get and I can’t wait to try and check out the other teas I have coming.  Highly recommend this tea for a flavored green tea that bursts with flavor. I’m absolutely serving this at my sister in law’s baby shower in a few weeks. It is really that good and one that everybody would enjoy. The flavors are bright enough to give flavor but not so overwhelming that you can’t taste the green tea base. One of those teas you just have to share!

The post Pomegranate Green Tea from Solstice Tea Traders appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

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