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Friday Round Up: April 24th - April 30th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 04/29/2016 - 16:00
Country of Origin:
Leaf Appearance:
Ingredients:
Steep time:
Water Temperature:
Preparation Method:
Liquor:

You can find out more about this tea here.
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Blast from the Past: Does Teaware Really Make a Difference?

T Ching - Fri, 04/29/2016 - 12:00

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a tea enthusiast in possession of good loose-leaf tea must be in want of great teaware (I do hope Jane Austen isn’t turning over in her grave!).

Since tea was first imported into England, it has generally been accepted that tea tastes much better if served in bone china.  Look on the Internet and many people have come up with their own theories behind this.  So you can imagine my elation when I had an amazing personal experience from my recently discovered (and favorite) tearoom in the center of Chinatown, Brisbane where I tried the same pu’erh made from the same Yixing teapot, but poured into two different vessels.

If you look at the front of the picture to the right, the bright white cup to the right of the picture is made from different china than the much smaller cup on the left.

When sipping the seven-year-old cooked pu’erh from the white cup, the taste left an almost rough sensation that was extremely enjoyable.  However, when sipping from the smaller cup, the taste left me bewildered and could only be described as a much smoother, waxier experience.  Maybe it was the materials that comprised each of the cups or maybe it was each vessel’s thickness.  Whatever it was, it was pleasurable to share tea with a fellow enthusiast and talk tea and art, along with the delights in experiencing the same tea from two different cups.

Of course, it’s not only the vessel that the tea is poured in that is important, but the whole ritual in preparing the tea.  The Yixing (purple sand) teapot is said to be one of the best brewing vessels for oolong and pu’erh teas, due to the small pores in the clay used to make the teapot, which is said to retain the heat, flavor, and aroma of the tea.

Some people prefer a gaiwan so that one can see the tea leaves dance as the hot water is poured; a glass teapot may be used for the same reason (and for convenience when washing the teapot afterwards).  A Tetsubin may be used because of its ability to retain heat and a Kyusu due to the ease in pouring – ideal for tea that requires quick infusions.

Regardless of the science behind the teaware, remember: there doesn’t need to be a song and dance about making tea.  Whether one chooses to use a teapot, a gaiwan, or simply a favorite mug, if your chosen tea ritual in preparing your tea can make you smile, your heart sing, and your senses dance, this is what is important.  Take time with your tea, share it with your friends, and enjoy!

The post Blast from the Past: Does Teaware Really Make a Difference? appeared first on T Ching.

Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 04/29/2016 - 09:49
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Tea

Where to Buy: NINA’S Paris

Tea Description:

Pineapple, coconut
The magical combination of pineapple and coconut. This tea, with a hint of tartness, will pleasantly surprise you. An exotic blend that will satisfy all seeking enchantment.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Today we need to have a serious chat…a serious chat about Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris…that is!  Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris is a lovely flavored green tea that I had recently that was not only gentle on the nose but impressive on the tongue!

Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris is a combo of pineapple, coconut, and green tea.  The pineapple gives this flavored green tea a juicy and tart zing without it being overpowering.  The coconut gives it a certain creaminess that pairs well with the pineapple.  Finally…the green tea base is just as nice, too!  It’s of medium strength but doesn’t give off that ‘stale flower’ taste that some green teas tend to.  Nor does this green tea base taste like sweet peas like others can from time to time.

Everything about Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris is nicely done from the aroma to the taste.  The flavor balance couldn’t be more perfect.  If you like flavored green teas try Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris!

 

The post Magicienne Green Tea from NINA’S Paris appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

18 Tea Franchises… Or Are They?

T Ching - Thu, 04/28/2016 - 12:00

Recently I read an article in Small Biz Trends titled 18 Tea Franchises to Challenge Teavana. They could have added ‘to challenge David’s Tea or Argo Tea’ as well, I suppose.  But, in looking at the companies mentioned, I saw lots of boba/tapioca tea places and some with spices as the main or lead concept.  I could be wrong, but most boba tea stores make their drinks from powdered mixes, don’t they?  When I think of tea, I think of loose leaf.

That article got me to thinking about why we really haven’t seen super-success in any loose tea retail concept here in the U.S.  It reminded me of another article, a pictorial I had seen recently called Tea Traditions Around the World. Maybe this explains why boba seems to be the dominant/winning concept in U.S. cities with high Asian youth demographics. Boba explains why even Starbucks couldn’t make an upscale tea cafe concept happen here, and so is moving their major retail tea efforts now to countries like China.

We actually do have a  strong tea culture  in the United States, however, and, statistically, that culture is drinking iced, black tea either ordered with our meal in a restaurant, or made at home from bags or powdered instant tea. That’s over 80% of the tea consumed here. That is our tea culture and it’s been the culture here for as long as any of us alive today can remember.  It hasn’t been great loose tea in all its stages of oxidation, brewed perfectly and served well.  The only concept here, until the recent modern tea cafes, that even resembled another ‘tea culture’ was the red hat ladies, where the quality of the tea didn’t really matter; it was pots, tea bags, funny hats and a little day-time party-time.

One thing I respect about Starbucks is that they can admit when something isn’t working.  And to them, that’s when a  concept doesn’t make them as much money per square foot as the space could be worth if they put one of their coffee houses in it.  I think it’s harder for the independent retailer to just admit when something doesn’t work like they were hoping it would.  Even David’s Tea has run into a problem in the U.S. for their “on call” hiring and, as labor continues to become more expensive, and as space rents continue at their outrageous monthly fees or even possibly escalate, all of us who have ‘tea retail dreams’ have to get real and look at the numbers.  Can tea carry its weight as a stand-alone concept?  Notice how some of the other franchise concepts in the article use something else as the major draw, be it coffee or spices, along with the tea.

If we look at those tea traditions around the world, many other countries already have cultures in place that can support tea cafe concepts much more readily than the U.S., including Britain, Canada, Asian countries and the Middle East.  The United States is a convenience-oriented, instant society.  However, the foodie culture has come on strong, putting flavor and artisinal values over convenience.  How will this impact tea–or will it at all? It may, as we are seeing chefs all over the country promoting tea-infused recipes and menu items. Tea-infused cocktails and tea mocktails are all over social media.  Loose/quality tea definitely is getting some awesome press and attention.

Then there’s the ‘elephant in the room’ we might want to ignore, but can’t: the big taste (and caffeine) difference  between tea and coffee.  As a U.S. coffee-oriented culture, coffee doesn’t mean black, unsweetened coffee.  It means sugar, cream and, perhaps even more importantly, espresso drinks with syrups, sauces, and whipped cream.  We did specialty tea drinks that people loved, but it’s a whole new idea.  Coffee culture is an addictive/addicted culture, and that means plenty of repeat business (and profit) by necessity for people to need that caffeine fix, to avoid jitters, headaches, grouchiness, or just to be able to function and keep going through the workday.  One huge coffee chain was accused of hyper-caffeinating their coffee.  Whether or not that was true, the fact is it is much more physically addictive than tea, and the taste is “richer/deeper/stronger” in general.  Tea is a more delicate, refined taste profile that, once you come to appreciate it, makes coffee seem ‘coarse’.  It’s also much healthier than coffee.  I’ve read the articles on health, like most of us here have, and aside from those articles showing all the health benefits, I think most of us just feel physically better after drinking tea–as opposed to feeling pretty darn crappy after too much coffee.

So, those are my thoughts on the subject. What are yours?  We are working on our own updated tea-centric retail concept, but we need more statistics and information before  once again putting in the money required for launch.  In the meantime, it is fascinating to watch as the big race is on to hit the ‘right formula’ for a U.S. tea concept that mainstream/mass consumers will really go for in a big way.  If quality and presentation, or even marketing, was all it was about, there would not be a problem. But that’s not what it’s all about.  Starbucks did us all a huge, expensive favor by trying out the retail tea cafe concept themselves, with all their money, marketing and muscle, and letting us know that the U.S. is still not ready to accept it as an equal to coffee houses.

(Have ideas, thoughts or comments you’d like to discuss with me personally, please contact me at safereturn@hotmail.com and visit our site at http://caltcb.com

image

The post 18 Tea Franchises… Or Are They? appeared first on T Ching.

Kenya Zebra Sencha Tea From Green Tea Lovers

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 04/28/2016 - 10:05
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green Tea

Where to Buy: Green Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

Light green tea notes with floral accents and exceptionally smooth finish. Produced from an imported Japanese Sencha tea genus. Certain plots of Kosabei Estate shared similar ph levels to traditional Sencha plots in Shizuoka, Japan. The broad-leafed bushes proved highly adaptable in the Kenyan soil. The Japanese method of steaming the leaf before production is employed the final cup is bright with notes of grass, moss, honey and delicate seaweed. What makes Kenya teas so excellent (and called the Tuscany of tea) are its excellent climactic conditions and rich soil found east of Kenya’s Rift valley. This tea estate is pesticide and herbicide free. Pests can’t survive the high altitudes. Nitrogen is used as a natural fertilizer to boost yield and ensure continuous crop. The all natural farming methods produce tea of unsurpassed flavor and high antioxidant content. Grown with no pesticides needed/used due to high altitudes.

Country of Origin:
Kenya
Region: Kericho
Grade: Sencha
Altitude: 6500′ ft. above sea level
Manuf. Type: Orthodox
Infusion: Rich russet gold.
Ingredients: Luxury green tea

An Ethical Tea Partnership and Fair Trade Tea.

Hot Tea: This tea is best enjoyed by pouring 180F/90C water over the leaves (1 tsp per cup) for 3 minutes (longer=stronger). Don’t remove the leaves. Can be infused repeatedly 2-3 times using higher temperatures & shorter infusions until flavor is exhausted.

Iced Tea: Pour 1 1/4 cups of hot water over 6 teaspoons of tea and steep for 5 minutes. Pour into pitcher while straining leaves, add ice and top up with cold water to make a quart of iced tea. Garnish and sweeten to taste.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

My sample package of this tea says Kenya Zebra Sencha Tea From Green Tea Lovers or Sencha Zebra (Kenya) as it is listed on their website is an interesting green tea.  The leaves are unlike other Senchas or Green Teas I have had before.  These appear to be a greyish-light-brown that are randomly flattened but not completely flatted such as those you would see being paper thin…these have a three- layer dimensional view to them.  The aroma of the dry leaf is more reminiscent of a gentle pu-erh than a green.

Once you infuse this leaf in hot water the tea water is a little cloudy and more of a mucky color instead of a vibrant yellow or green or combo of the two.  The aroma of the tea post-infusion is certainly more of a roasted green or even that of a roasted oolong that I have sniffed in the past.

The first sip of this Kenya Zebra Sencha Tea From Green Tea Lovers – I have to say I wasn’t overly impressed with – however – I know to always give teas a 2nd chance once it has time to cool at room temperature for a bit.  Glad I did because my 2nd sip was far better than my 1st.  This green tea isn’t a mouth watering green tea, nor is it a vibrant or springy green tea.  It’s more of an earthy and roasted green tea.  It has a character and identity of it’s own.  It’s pretty good and I always enjoy trying more teas from Kenya.

 

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Tea Descendants Smooth Floral Touch

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 15 seconds
Water Temperature:
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: greenish yellow

Upon first impression, I just had to squee at the beautiful packaging of this offering from +Tea Descendants. Clean and modern labels combined with a very nice double lidded tin are always something I like to see. I also really liked that the tea inside was packaged in individual vacuum sealed packets. A handy little pamphlet inside gave thorough directions for gongfu preparation. Smooth Floral Touch seems like a most unusual name for tea but in this case I have to say that it was a pretty accurate description. Vegetal notes of sugar snap peas faded into an intense orchid aroma. The mouth-feel was buttery and thick with no dryness or astringency. I lost track of the number of infusions but that alone should tell you that there was a lot of them. There's nothing quite like a tea with a good story and I was drawn in by Tea Descendants. Their family has been making tea in Hemei Village in Anxi for generations without the use of pesticides. The company was born of a trip to retrace with those roots. Check out the video of their beautiful tea fields below! I must confess to not usually being a fan of Anxi Tie Guan Yin. This tea was a very rare exception to that rule. It isn't neon green as they are often are now but also not roasted beyond recognition. The company sells a lighter tea as well as a darker version. I'll definitely have to check those out to see how they compare.

Smooth Floral Touch sample provided for review by Tea Descendants.

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A Taste of Ikigai: From Pluck to Pour – Part Two

T Ching - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 12:00

By Kenneth Cannata

DAY 1

On a fine, almost ­spring Hawaiian morning, I set out with friend in tow from Hawaii to Honoka’a, from the desert of the dry side of the Big Island to the food ­producing rainforest side. I really couldn’t believe I was going to get to pick and process my own tea. It would be quite the understatement to say I was excited. The main issue we would face was whether or not it would rain on our tea­picking parade. As we arrived at the farm it was still uncertain. Yet within minutes the sky opened up and the sun beat down, saying, “get to it.” Happy greetings quickly performed, we went to work for a few hours picking the tea. The timing of the harvest, like every other environmental factor, is important. However, I will leave many of the specifics related to that process to my farming friends and hopefully those brave tea people who wish to learn from experience the depths of circumstance that lay in their teas. As we picked, I remembered the spring of 2010 and how truly joyous it was to harvest fresh tea leaves. They seem to leap off the bushes, eager to be imbibed at some future time. This particular morning showed those plants that were ready and those that were a little pensive. The pensive plants (like people) are a little more dense and tight, and difficult to work with. We picked until the rain came. That day it down­poured harder than it had in many weeks, according to Taka.

Inside the large shed, we heated up the wok and prepared to “kill the green.” After the tea has withered, it is ready for high heat wok­ing. This stops, or fixes, the oxidization and initiates the process of rolling and drying, which, when done effectively, is completed in a few rounds. In my case, it took many more arduous attempts. The first batch I did wasn’t left to wither long enough, as it was raining, which increased humidity in the air. Then the fixing wasn’t done succinctly, so it led to some oxidization (redness) in the leaves. The second batch was fixed a little better but was then pressed too hard and subsequently heated a bit too fast, thus creating a superficial dry layer with moisture trapped inside. I had to then dry the tea longer, which led to particles breaking off. All that being said, Taka was there with me in an open and honest way, demonstrating the basics. His invitation to learn from this experience really provided me with a great chance to make mistakes and gain some perspective (however small) into this age­old art form. All in all, this leg of the journey lasted until dinner time or around 8 hours.

The constant effort we applied was rolling out the moisture content in the tea and then drying it in the wok, over and over again. Not too much heat, not too much rolling. Slowly yet surely the tea transformed into the final product. I was assured that once the skill is developed sufficiently, it doesn’t take as long to make such a small amount of tea.

I was really hungry and my friend had left for home long ago (he is 74). The gracious farmers allowed me a spot to sleep so I could see this process through to its completion. After dinner, we began the roasting process. It is basically the way to create the raw material, or “mao cha.” Into the tea den we went with a few bags of the day’s work. There was a smell to observe as it roasted that went from a dank grassiness to an aromatic nuttiness with floral hints. It would be rather impossible to express in words the many times I felt humbled at the enormity of skill it took to actually make tea. In time, the tea was finished and we let it rest along with our weary selves. Or rather, my weary self, as I’m not sure Taka was fatigued at such a little amount of tea making. This was after all his day off, and not even a pound of tea was made. Maybe my bumbling was more tiresome than the rain that day, but he and Kimberly were patient and kind throughout. We even had a nighttime tea session where they invited me to brew up some of their stash of puerh (of which I am a little obsessed). It was such a fun time to drink aged teas and “talk story,” as they say on the island.

This part of the journey was maybe the richest. It was over tea that we delved into the mission of Mauna Kea Tea Farm and their vision for themselves and people like me that come to visit. They shared with me the beautiful model for how they run their farm. The Ten Core Values of Mauna Kea Tea are: “Giving. Be humble. Listen. Exceed expectation. Deliver experience. Take ownership. Learn from mistakes. Have growth mindset. Enjoy. Number ten is left blank.” To me, that alludes to the nature of emptiness. The wordlessness of true reality. Words are useful tools we agree to work with, yet there is a spacious freedom of mind needed to see with clarity. Number ten is up to the person reading it. I went to bed feeling full of a sense of accomplishment and wonder at my life. I slept pretty hard, in gratitude.

Join us next week for the conclusion of this article! Read Part 1 here.

Kenneth Cannata began studying and serving tea at his Alma Mater Dharma Realm Buddhist University in 2005.  Since graduating in 2009 with a B.A. in Chinese Studies, Kenneth has deepened his involvement in the tea industry through grassroots efforts in service and education with his company Cannata Imports and volunteering for nonprofit organizations.  After working and consulting for many small startup companies, Kenneth spent a year working for Yunnan Sourcing and Taiwan Sourcing, leaders in the international premium tea industry.  He is now applying to grad school at DRBU.org, and looks forward to continuing his lifelong passion for learning.  Follow his posts on Instagram @KenCannata

The post A Taste of Ikigai: From Pluck to Pour – Part Two appeared first on T Ching.

Nominations for Best Blog at the World Tea Expo

T Ching - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 09:57

Calling all T Ching fans:  We would love to receive the best blog award from the World Tea Expo. As some of you know, we were nominated the first year that the awards were offered. Although the Expo is an industry event, tea lovers from around the globe have the unique opportunity to nominate their favorite blog.  We hope you’ll take the time to nominate us right now.  Here’s the link where you can vote.

Needless to say, we’ll keep you posted throughout the process. All of us at T Ching thank you in advance for your support. With your help, you can make this happen! Nominations end Sunday!

The post Nominations for Best Blog at the World Tea Expo appeared first on T Ching.

The Neverending StorTea from Geeky Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 04/27/2016 - 09:52
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu erh

Where to Buy: Geeky Teas

Tea Description:

Pu erh, strawberries, cocoa nibs, natural strawberry, hazelnut, vanilla and creme flavors.

Never give up and good tea will find you.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Pu erh is a tea that scares and intimidates me. I never know how to correctly prepare it or if I’m even drinking it right. I’ve tried to learn but this is one tea I want to actually sit down and learn from more of an expert. But regardless, I thought I would try my hand at a flavored Pu erh from Geeky Teas.

I’ve tried flavored Pu erhs in the past and they didn’t turn out right. So I thought I would give it another go.  This Pu erh blend combines strawberries, cocoa nibs, hazelnut, vanilla, and creme flavor.  A combination I would typically shy away from anyway since I’m not a fan of hazelnut.  But this is a Geeky Tea blend and I’m determined to try all of their amazingly fun blends.

Right off the bat, this tea smelled almost sinful. A decadent blend for sure. The dry leaf mix had a lovely chocolate covered strawberry note with hints of hazelnuts.  I prepared this up like I would a black tea-212F and steeped for about 4 minutes.  4 minutes later, I poured the tea into my cuppa and allowed it to cool for just a moment.

I have to say, this tea was fantastic and delicious.  I was incredibly hesitant to try this tea because I thought it would be an instant pour out but it was the complete opposite! The tea had a lovely dark rich and like the dry leaf mix-sinful feel to it.  Bright strawberry flavor with a rich chocolate and hints of hazelnuts, vanilla and creme surrounded each and every sip.  I am not a chocolate fan nor a hazelnut fan and I can’t get enough of this tea.  I have had several sessions with this tea and each sip is as good as the last.  This is one of those teas you enjoy when you’ve got a sweet tooth that needs satisfying and you don’t want the calories.  Plus this tea is dedicated to The Never Ending Story. . I mean it doesn’t get much better!!

 

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Tea Review - Cloud Nine Teas Old Arbor Lincang Black

Notes on Tea - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 19:54

You don't have to blend loose leaf tea with ingredients to mimic chocolate. If you want to drink a tea that tastes like chocolate, because like me you have a sweet tooth that leans to chocolate, try the Lincang Old Arbor Black Tea from Cloud Nine Teas. I prepared this tea using 5g of dry leaf in 200F water in my 150mL gaiwan. (I finally confirmed the volume of my gaiwan.) The notes I present here are from a session on April 11th this year.


I rinsed the leaves for 5s followed by a 10s steep. "This is cocoa!", I wrote. I smelled and tasted cocoa. The liquor was not thick. The leaves are beautiful, both dry and wet. The second steep was 15s and yielded a darker liquor with more complex smell and taste. There were chocolate notes as well as malt, leather, toffee pudding, and ripe bananas. The empty cup smelled of burnt sugar. The third and fourth steeps of 20s and 30s, respectively, were drier and less sweet. The liquor from the next two steeps of 40s and 50s, respectively, had lost some of its flavor and by the seventh steep of one minute the complex notes from earlier steeps had precipitously declined.


My recommendation still stands, if you want to drink a tea that tastes like chocolate, this black tea is a good one to try, though the best of it is in the first three steeps.

Curious about other Cloud Nine Teas? Read my review of Raw Bingdao 'Na Xin' Pu'er.

Tea courtesy of Cloud Nine Teas.

P.S. For more teas that taste like chocolate, check out Alex Zurich's article Pure Teas with Chocolate / Cocoa-like Aromas and Flavors.

Tea Review - Cloud Nine Teas Raw Bingdao Pu'er 'Na Xin'

Notes on Tea - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 17:34

Bing Dao is a village in the Lincang area of Yunnan Province, China. The name 'Na Xin' refers to the cultivar of tea plant used to prepare this pu'er. The leaves were originally picked in April 2014. Now that the geography and harvesting period have been established, I can share my notes on the tea.  (Cloud Nine Teas uses "pu'er" but for consistency with other posts, I will use puerh.)


I experimented with different weights of tea leaves but my comments below reflect my session with 7g of leaves. I mostly used 200F water. The leaves were steeped a total of 11 times. I rinsed the tea for 15s before the first steep of 5s. The wet leaves smelled of freshly dried apricot. The liquor was tasted of leather and burnt sugar. It was tart, too, and had a chewy texture. The second steep was 10s and yielded the same flavors plus woody notes. The tea was really thick and chewy with a lingering finish. The third steep was 20s. The liquor was tighter, drier, and less sweet. An element of bitterness was present like that of walnut and clove. The fourth steep of 25s was less tight but still dry and bitter though the liquor also retained earlier notes leather, wood, and burnt sugar. By the fifth and sixth steeps each of 30s in 195F water, the liquor was less bitter. The lingering finish was of fennel.


The liquor from the seventh steep which was 2m long in 200F water was slightly bitter, dry, floral and less chewy in texture than earlier infusions. I used the same parameters again and the liquor had notes of walnut, clove, and fennel. The last three steeps were made in 195F water for 2m, 5m, and10m. The liquor was smoother with a dry sweetness and leather notes followed by sugarcane with a bitter finish and finally bittersweetness with a drying mouthfeel.


I don't yet have a strong sense for how best to steep (raw) puerhs, but I'm enjoying the journey.

Tea courtesy of Cloud Nine Teas.

Shaken, not Stirred!

T Ching - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 12:12

Kyushu is as solid as a rock! We may be shaken but we are not stirred… The ongoing earthquakes certainly make for interesting fodder over endless cups of tea, but a recent visit to our new farmer friends in Kitsuki (Oita Prefecture) overlooking Beppu Bay, reveals the absolute resilience of these hard-working, warm-hearted people.

Master Kitagawa, a dear tea friend from Oita City, introduced us to the Oita Tea Masters. Fifteen of them descended upon Chiki Tea and, as a thank you, presented us with a gift of tea from the historic samurai town of Kitsuki. I had heard of Kitsuki and knew it had a tea garden or two but not much more than that.

Well, the asamushi tea with nods toward Hon Gyokuro, made me fall head over heels in love with Kitsuki tea! The sweetness in my mouth lingered for almost 2 hours. Artisan tea that is so close to me physically (30 kilometers) and yet I had no idea it existed. It’s like a secret society and I’ve just been given the keys! I’m here in Japan to sniff out these obscure artisan masters, so why hadn’t I tried the tea or even visited Kitsuki?

This samurai village dating back to the Edo period is Oita Prefecture’s most famous farming district, and as I recently discovered, is as much known for its tea as its mikan tangerines. But the farmers I met admitted that no one really knows about Kitsuki tea outside of Oita Prefecture! It’s a tight-knit group of tea masters and artisans creating stunning and stop-you-in-your-tracks tea, but there is simply no one to buy it. Because these artisan producers have such small farms, larger companies shy away from buying their tea, worried about the ability to satisfy demand. As a result, these healthy, happy and energetic folks produce and drink some of the finest tea Japan has to offer. I hasten to add that several of the tea fields are even award-winners yet they rarely get the kudos!

Sitting high in the mountainous terrain overlooking the ocean, it has the ideal conditions for cultivating healthy and hardy tea plants. There is no need for the tall “frost” fans because the ocean keeps temperatures warm enough with the mountains protecting the plants from behind. We had pretty horrendous snow this year, a first for many parts of Kyushu, so everyone was excited to see the brilliant buds of spring, frost-free!

This year, conditions are the best they have ever been, says Yukio Sato, Oita Prefecture’s Tea Agency Advisor and Master Instructor…and the nicest guy you will ever meet! He told me that in his lifetime and the lifetime of the farmers we were meeting, they had never seen shoots behaving just like they wanted…a perfect, even, slow growth to maximize the amino acid Theanine, keeping caffeine in check, so the leaves produce the smoothest tea imaginable and in abundant quantities.

He told me this as we were inspecting the Surugawase tea cultivar, which probably doesn’t mean a thing to you! That’s because you may have never heard of it and neither had I! This cultivar is the rarest, and possibly the only remaining producing field of its kind in Japan. The tea garden is tiny, probably about an acre, and has been passed down to young Nori-san, whose family has been producing artisan tea in Kitsuki for generations. Their Surugawase plants have been producing for around 50 years in this spot.

On Sunday, Nori-san covered half of his plants using a silver jikagise (specialized netting) to shade the leaves to produce a Kabusecha (covered tea, but not Gyokuro). The other half, uncovered, is destined for Sencha. He estimates that the covering for his Kabuse will be about 10 days but the growth of the buds will dictate how long…as with every covered tea in Japan. So much information is out there that says a Gyokuro is shaded for a month and Kabusecha for two weeks. Well, folks, that is just not correct. It is true that a Gyokuro is shaded longer and hovers around a month and that Kabuse is shorter but it is absolutely the leaves that say when enough is enough! Think about a baby being born – when it’s time, it’s time! I was hoping to help with the harvest on May 2nd, but Nori-san smiled at me and said, “well, ask the leaves please!”

One point to mention is that the tea I’m referring to is not Benifuki, though Kitsuki does produce this as well. Benifuki is regarded as the hay fever tea to stop the miserable symptoms. I’m talking about the incredible green teas, cultivated with love, and masterly produced.

With all the excitement of “shincha” (new tea), there is also sadness in Kitsuki. Due to the aging population, now just 30,000, many of the tea farms are going “extinct” as there are no young people to take over the gardens. My heart stopped when I found out that two of the award-winning gardens we visited were having the last harvest this year. The two farmers are Suzuki-san, 84, and Shimoeda-san, 82. Her husband passed away but she has kept up the family’s 5-acre garden by herself. When we met, she had been weeding for 6 hours in preparation for covering the entire 5-acres for Kabusecha. She is 82! She was explaining how the jikagise are rolls of netting that are draped over and clipped at the bottom of the tree. They come in a continuous sheet, weighing what seems like tons. Luckily some strapping lads are planning to help her!

As I was driving home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we could help keep these tea gardens alive and producing. If you have any suggestions, advice or want to get involved, please post a comment. Suzuki-san offered to teach his skills to someone who wants to take over but it needs commitment, not a summer job.

I will likely rabbit on about this new discovery because Kitsuki’s tea is a gem hidden so deeply in Japan that most tea Masters in this country aren’t familiar with it. We will defiantly be acquiring some Shincha from our friends so please leave a comment if you are interested in getting some of it. There is not a lot produced so I’m talking a few kilos probably…and I’m definitely scoring some!

The post Shaken, not Stirred! appeared first on T Ching.

Oolong Gone from Blend Bee and Amoda Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 04/26/2016 - 09:50
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Blend Bee

Tea Description: Say s’oolong to low energy, naughty cravings, slow metabolism & unwanted stress.

Oolong Gone is specifically designed to help boost metabolism, increase energy and reduce stress. Along with a myriad of other benefits, this blend of Oolong, Ashwagandha root, Hibiscus, Rose Buds, Strawberry Leaf, Lemon Peel and Licorice root tastes fruity and fabulous. Drink 30-45 minutes before meals several times a day.

Learn more about this tea here. 

Lear more about Amoda Tea.

Taster’s Review:

 

I have always wanted to try Blend Bee Teas and thankfully the last box I received from Amoda Tea had Blend Bee Teas in it.

If you aren’t familiar with them, Amoda Tea is a monthly subscription service.  Each month you receive a sampling of teas from one company, showcasing their teas and allowing you the chance to try teas that you might not have tried.  I just love that concept. Other boxes send you a mix of different teas from different companies but the way Amoda Tea works, you get a nice sampling of what that particular company offers. Pretty great concept!

This blend from Blend Bee is an Oolong/Herbal mix that sounds amazing. All of the ingredients just sounded fantastic and the dry leaf mix smelled gorgeous.  I brewed this blend up with the parameters that were on the package and took my first sip.

As gorgeous as this tea smelled, I have to be honest and say I didn’t really care for the taste. There was something off with the tea that I can’t place my finger on. I’m wondering if its the ashwagandha root. All of the other flavors mix well together and from what I can tell would make a glorious tea on their own. The are strong notes of lemon and strawberry.  Those two flavors with the oolong note were heavenly.

I would love to try this tea without the ashwagandha root. Regardless, I’m still very excited to be given the change to check this tea and company out. I’m already on the website of both Amoda Tea and Blend Bee to see what looks interesting!

The post Oolong Gone from Blend Bee and Amoda Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Podcast Episode 19: Interview with Emilio Delpozo of The Jade Leaf

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 16:00
I've been a fan of The Jade Leaf for some time. Not only do they have a reputation for having some really incredible teas but the man behind the leaf is also well known for the beautiful teaware that he creates. I'm a sucker for those teapots with the wooden side handles! The differences in time zones always amuse me when I'm interviewing tea folks in other countries. Emilio is based in Taipei so we filmed at 11am EST (11pm Taiwan time). Keep an eye out for reviews of The Jade Leaf's teas here on the blog soon.

You can find out more about The Jade Leaf at http://thejadeleaf.com/.

I'm so proud of myself for actually maintaining a semblance of a schedule for the podcast the past few months. If there's anything (or anyone) that you would like to see on future episodes, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Thank you all for watching!

Maliandao, ten years later

A Tea Addict's Journal - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 15:07

My first ever visit to Maliandao tea market in Beijing was in 2006, when I first arrived there as a young PhD student doing research for my dissertation. This was the heyday of the puerh boom, when prices of teas could literally double every week or two. As a budding tea addict, I spent quite a few weekends visiting the tea markets since the archives and libraries were closed on Saturdays and Sundays (well, they still do, mostly). I wrote my first physical description of the street here, with an update four years later here – and photos here. You can see how the street changed in the four years between those two posts. Some older malls died, others sprung up. Things, as they do in China, changed very quickly.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to go visit again after a day of meetings. This was getting late by tea market standards – most malls/shops closed by 6pm, so me arriving right around then meant that most of the malls were shut. There are two important things to note though. The first is that now you can take the subway to Maliandao – a huge improvement over the previous arrangement, where only a bus or a cab would do. If you get off at the Wanzi station on line 7, you’ll be right at the entrance to Maliandao. Back in the old days there was a gate with a horse on top marking this entrance (as you can see in my first post on the street). Alas, that gate has been demolished.

The stores lining the two sides of the street are still there, many of them the same stores as before. I am actually rather amazed that given the high turnover of the tea stores in general, that these ones have such staying power. Maybe that street-front location is actually more valuable than I think.

I don’t really see many new developments this time – I think there’s one on the right hand side that’s new, but otherwise things have stayed more or less the same as before. When I first came here, you felt like you were on the outskirts of the city – there were some highrises, but most of the buildings were low and old. The tea malls were mostly either glorified sheds or, in many cases, open air rows of stores. Nowadays, those have mostly been replaced by highrises and especially residential developments. There’s also a fancy mall now right across the street from Chayuan at the end of the street. Back then when I visited eating was always a bit of a problem – the restaurants were pretty dodgy. Now the options are quite varied.

I did visit Xiaomei’s store. As I mentioned last time I saw her, she’s now the mother of three and has actually returned to her hometown to help take care of her kids, with her brother now manning the store (and soon to be father himself). Business, he said, is slow, especially after the anti-corruption crackdown so that people are buying less gifts than before. So he’s taken to selling stuff, including tea and teaware, on WeChat through an auction service. I notice that many of the stores around him look dead – maybe not quite literally, but tired, old, and not doing a lot of business, it seems. Their store is basically no longer selling any newer puerh – they still have some old stock from years ago, but nothing new since about 2011. Instead, they mostly sell white teas, focusing on the lower end stuff that sell for less than 100 RMB per 500g. He also mentioned how a lot of stores that borrowed money a few years ago are now having trouble repaying the banks – they take a pretty high interest rate and if you have most of your capital tied up in overpriced tea, you’re in trouble.

I walked around a bit more, peering into some fancy looking stores that were still open but not going into any. I know that most of these places would have exorbitant price tags, with new cakes selling for 1000 or more a cake. I honestly don’t have any interest in stuff like this – I can find teas like that anywhere, and I’m not that confident in finding stuff that is actually worth buying. Whereas in my younger days I probably would’ve happily sat down at any and all stores, asking to try some of their teas, I no longer really feel the need to bother tasting. The prices of new teas are so out of whack that I often find cheaper stuff that are a few years older. Since that’s the case, why do I need to chase new teas?

I did sit down at one store that looked interesting in Chayuan, at least among the stores that are still open (used to be that all the stores would be open pretty late – not anymore). I tried a couple things there – unimpressive 2007 teas that don’t have anything special over any other tea I can find easily, for the same kind of price.

As the market sorted itself out, I think the tea market is increasingly similar to other consumable goods – there’s the high end, the mid end, and the low end, and the lines are quite clear. A store like Xiaomei’s is very much in the low end – cheap tea, sold at a small profit, and going for volume. There are lots of high end stores in China too – teas that are supposed to be rare, exquisite, etc, selling for ridiculous sums. There’s also the vast middle – most of which is mediocre, but offered at mediocre prices. Thing is, back in 2006, when the market was probably best described as frenetic, there was a lot of mixing going on – and in a way, there were a lot more opportunities to find hidden gems. Now there are not going to be many hidden gems anymore – if you want good quality, expect to pay for it. Except, of course, you’re in China, so even if you pay you’re never sure if you’re getting what you were promised. That’s true of the food in front of you, and certainly true of the tea you’re buying. If someone sells you a tea and tells you it’s from ancient trees in Guafengzhai, for example, and wants 5000 RMB for that cake, could you really tell if the story checks out just by drinking the tea?

So in some ways I left Maliandao this trip a little sad – I felt a strong sense of nostalgia for the old, crazy tea market that was always abuzz with price changes and people hunting for good tea. That energy has gone, and is probably never coming back. I miss it.

Tasting Tea in KC (and Las Vegas and Hong Kong and Xiamen)

T Ching - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 12:00

To the delight of the general tea-loving public, tea festivals are popping up around N. America. Tea enthusiasts can meet and learn from tea professionals and dealers as well as find new, exciting teas to try. May 7th is the site for the Midwest Tea Festival and one of the many exciting events planned is a Cup Warming (an international tea tasting social) hosted by ITCC – International Tea Cuppers Club. Anyone who has been to the World Tea Expo in past years may be familiar with this event. Tea experts and authorities introduce the basics on teas from several countries and then all in attendance get to sample and taste an example of a tea from each region. Teas on the menu for this event are from China, Kenya, Japan, and India. As always, these events are free and open to everyone though space is limited.

As the World Tea Expo returns to Las Vegas this June 15-17, tea business people and enthusiasts from around the world will convene to learn, share and taste. Once again it will be the site of 7th Annual ITCC Cup Warming at WTE. Tea experts from around the world will not only share their knowledge about teas from their countries but also prepare an example of an exceptional tea for our tasting and enjoyment. As last year, ITCC will take the main stage on the show floor. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 16 from 3:30 to 5:00, and will be the perfect way to top off the day. This year’s presenters come from India, Japan, China, Australia and Kenya. They will be carrying several teas especially for this event. Again, as these events can be very well attended, RSVP’s are appreciated. dan@teacuppers.com.

Last August, ITCC was honored to host its first Cup Warming at the Hong Kong Intl. Tea Fair. Director Dan Robertson set the stage which was then turned over to Mr. Wing Chi Yip who introduced a Sichuan Dark Tea and a delicious Dan Cong oolong by Mr. Huang Shuwei. Mr. Joydeep Biswas from the Tea Board of India introduced the tapestry of Indian tea after which a robust, tippy Assam black tea was presented by Mr. Swapan Banerjee of Luxmi Tea and Mr. Madhav Sarda from Golden Tips Tea prepared a delicate and floral Darjeeling. Naomi Komatsu from Kanes Tea Co. introduced a fruity-sweet Japanese black tea and also a unique purple tea the liquor of which changed color with the addition of lemon juice. Mr. C.K. Liew from the Tea Assn. of Malaysia presented a black tea as well as a tea flavored with Stevia. Ms. Peiris from the Tea Board of Sri Lanka introduced the tea growing regions of Ceylon tea and brewed up tasty examples of two different black teas. With better than expected attendance, the organizers were very pleased and have invited us back for a repeat performance. The Hong Kong Tea Fair is August 11-13 and there is a special delegation begin organized by ITCC for anyone interested in attending; 3 nights of hotel is paid for!! Please contact Dan Robertson for more details 630 961-0877.

Lastly, October 20-24 is the Xiamen Intl. Tea Fair and the venue for ITCC’s 4th annual Cup Warming there. With nearly 200 attendees last time, we expect another very exciting program this year. Presenters from around the world will brew up education and share their knowledge while attendees sip up the delicious teas. With teas from Assam, India to Yame, Japan there is something new for everyone. Join our Chinese and other international members for this delicious and informative event (not to mention the scores of tea vendors at the Fair). For those interested, ITCC sponsor World Tea Tours has organized a special oolong study tour that coordinates with the Xiamen Tea Fair with a special discount for ITCC members. Details on that can be found at the World Tea Tours website.

The post Tasting Tea in KC (and Las Vegas and Hong Kong and Xiamen) appeared first on T Ching.

Black Currant White Peony from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 10:04
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy: 52Teas 

Tea Description:

This tea is really tasty. The white tea is soft and smooth. It has a delicate, sweet flavor and it offers an interesting contrast to the tart and tangy flavor of black currant. 

It’s a fairly simple blend – just white tea and black currants – but it tastes great!

Learn more about this tea here. 

Taster’s Review:

I have been on a 52Teas kick lately.  I can’t help it! I love the unique variety of flavors they have and offer. I am currently staring at my maple Cheesecake TieGuan Yin and wondering if I should splurge and dive into it or wait for another time.

Today I was more in the mood for a white tea so I went with 52Teas Black Currant White Peony, a tea where the dry leaf has  has a very similar smell somewhat mulled red wine.  I prepped this one at work so I thought I’d share a cuppa with my co-worker. She couldn’t wait to try it.

I prepped this up per the instructions on the package (water at 170F & steep for about 3 1/2 minutes) and I poured us a couple mug fulls.  We both instantly remarked at how that mulled wine aroma was still there with the brew and how delicious it smelled.

We took our first sips and wow our eyes lit up. This is exactly the tea you want to be drinking on a dark and dreary day like we are experiencing today. This tea delivers a simple yet satisfying flavor of sweet yet tangy berries (from the black currants), slight notes of a flora hint now and again, all wrapped up with a lovely wine aftertaste.  Really lovely.  This is one I could see sharing with friends at afternoon tea with a biscuit or two.

Can’t really say enough good things about this one. A depature from the complicated and unique tea blends that 52Teas offers. As much as I love those teas, I love this one just as much. Sometimes the most simplest teas are the most satisfying.

 

 

 

The post Black Currant White Peony from 52Teas appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

The Legend of Earl Grey

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 16:30
From the teadog.com people, more on that distinguished chap who lent his name to a popular variety of tea.

Teas Hope - Tea Shop

How To Read Tea Leaves: Nine Books About Tasseography

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 16:00

Who knew there were so many books about tasseography (tea leaf reading)? Here are nine of them, spanning nearly a century. Note that the first two are available in free electronic editions.

Tea-Cup Reading and Fortune-Telling by Tea Leaves
by a Highland Seer (1921) link

Telling Fortunes By Tea-Leaves
by Cicely Kent (1922) link

Tea Leaf Reading
by William W. Hewitt (1992)
link

Tea Cup Reading: A Quick and Easy Guide to Tasseography
by Sasha Fenton (2002) link

The World in Your Cup: A Handbook in the Ancient Art of Tea Leaf Reading
by Joseph F. Conroy (2006) link

The Art of Tea-leaf Reading
by Jane Struthers (2006) link

Simply Tea Leaf Reading
by Jacqueline Towers (2008) link

The Cup of Destiny
by Jane Lyle (2008) link

Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners: Your Fortune in a Tea Cup
by Caroline Dow (2011) link

Get books about tea leaf reading at Amazon

Red Rose Tea Commercial With Chimps

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 15:30
Chimps and tea. They go together like, well...like monkeys and hot beverages.

Eco-Cha - Responsibly Sourced Artisan Tea. Direct from family-run farms in Taiwan.

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