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Rusper Black Tea From Edgcumbes Coffee and Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - 3 hours 47 min ago
Hi Tea Friends! Recently I received two wonderful teas from Edgcumbes Coffee & Tea shop to review for you guys. I have a bag of Rusper and a bag of Blend No.45. Both are black tea based blends from different regions to achieve a desired flavour. I’m going to be reviewing Rusper today so keep your eyes peeled for the Blend No.45 review. What is Rusper? “Top quality Assam and Kenyan teas have been expertly Read More

Blueberries and Blossoms in My Cup! Rooibos Blend From The Kettlery

SororiTEA Sisters - 7 hours 48 min ago
As much as I love pumped-up black teas and spicy chai teas, I do need an herbal comfort now and again.  Enter: Blueberry Blossoms Rooibos Tea from the Kettlery.  Unsurprisingly, the overall the focus of this blend is blueberry.  You can smell the berries in the dry leaf, and their flavor is very forward in the brew.  This tea is not too juicy, or fruit-heavy, like other blueberry blends with hibiscus or apple pieces.  This Read More

Firebird Chai by Wendigo

SororiTEA Sisters - 11 hours 48 min ago
While sniffing this tea before steeping (what? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who does this) I can definitely pick up a big whiff of ginger in the dry leaves. The leaves are better-looking than average for chai; they also have more of a presence in the blend (as far as fragrance and so on) than some do. I also observed lots of chunks of other stuff (spices?) in there with the tea leaves. The Read More

Holiday Tea Alert! Candy Cane Crush from David’s Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - 15 hours 47 min ago
So it’s December and that means holiday drinks….and holiday drinks are sort of, kind of, really, really awesome. I mean, people line up out the door for Starbucks holiday blends (even tea people…don’t lie…you know you like them!). Well, one of my all-time favorite holiday drinks is a DAVIDsTEA eggnog latte. I love them. I really do. So much so that after first trying them a couple years ago, I would pretend I was getting Read More

A Conversation with Totem Tea

T Ching - 18 hours 35 min ago

Taiwan is home to some of my favorite styles of tea.  From the buttery floral high mountain oolongs, to the honey flavored bug bitten teas, to the minty black teas, I can never get bored with tea from Taiwan.  I recently found a new company out of Portland called Totem Tea, and immediately had to try their tea.  When I got my tea, I spoke with their co-founder Dan Pappas, and immediately could see how passionate he is about tea.  I particularly enjoyed their gui fei and their Ruby 18.  Not only are they selling tea, they are carefully procuring tea that meets their standards.  Totem is working to bring some of the highest quality Taiwanese teas to the United States as well as promote tea culture here.   I was able to have a conversation with Dan to share with the T Ching Community:

What brought you to start Totem Tea?

Love of tea and love of Taiwan were the two main factors that brought about the desire to start Totem Tea. Tea had played a role for many years in what I would call an inner directed or focused life. Tea was an integral part of the practice of yoga, qigong and meditation. There is something to tea that is not easy to describe that has a stilling and yet enlivening quality. This need to slow down and be present can be enhanced with tea. This is not necessarily the case for all teas and all circumstances but it was the case for how we approached tea. Tea for us is the great confluence of human beings, earth and the transcendent/nature/Tao. If all three of these factors are not involved, no tea is produced.

This love of tea was met and reinforced by the love of Taiwan from our first trip. The country is beautiful, the people are exceptionally friendly, the food is great, the country is free and democratic. I could go on and on but suffice it to say, we were deeply impressed. The joy of the first trip brought about dreaming of the later trips and this desire to return supported the birth of the business.

How do you decide what makes a tea worthy for you to sell?

We developed a 5-tiered system for grading tea. This is something we would do informally before starting Totem Tea when we made purchases from different vendors.

Exceptional – This is the rarest and most difficult to come by tea.  It immediately informs the drinker that something out of the ordinary is being experienced.  An exceptional tea is the product of artistry on many levels from the cultivation to the plucking to the often hand processing of the tea.  These methods are either generations old, passed from one tea master to an apprentice or innovative new techniques that have come about by inspiration, experimentation and even by natural disaster as resulted in the creation of the leaf-bitten teas.

The flavor profile is multilayered in an Exceptional tea that has many different things occurring at once.  There is an aromatic component that accompanies the flavor profile which is complex and not flat or monotone.  The color of the tea is pleasant and clear, the water is not dusty or cloudy. The leaves are clearly seen and not broken into tiny pieces but often contain the whole leaf bud with stem and two or more of the accompanying leaves.

There is a feeling of energy “qi/氣” in the teas as it is drunk which strikes the mouth, palate or throat and seems to wake up this area of the drinker.  There is the sense that this tea had life and still contains the creative forces that went into its production.  Tea comes from a plant but what becomes the tea that we drink must go through a multitude of steps to become a drinkable tea.

Regardless of all the descriptions of Exceptional teas, to truly know what one is, it must be experienced firsthand.  That is what we set out to achieve through Totem Tea.  All the teas that are listed on our website fall into the top two tiers on our rating scale being Exceptional or Very Good.

Very Good/Good – This tea category is not far from Exceptional, which on its own makes the tea extremely worthwhile but is either of a quantity more readily available to qualify it for Very Good as opposed to Exception or does not hit as many of the criteria of Exceptional.

Decent– This is a tea that is crafted with artistry and has a nice flavor profile and is common.  Some people would refer to this type of tea as daily tea. The price is often very reasonable and its quantity year after year is reliably produced.  This tea has good flavor but does not stand out.

Drinkable – This is a tea with flavor that is not bad but not good either.  If it was placed in front of you, it might be drunk or might not without any strong feelings either way.  It is what we would call flat, not complex but monotone.

Lowest Grade – Its taste, feel and appearance are not of a pleasant disposition and there is no energy left in the tea, it feels lifeless.  It is a pass.  All tea has some qualities of value and benefit but this is a tea that we would pass on.

What sets Totem apart from other tea vendors?

We sample all of the teas we list on our website. We do not have any teas that we buy and list on our site year after year without first tasting this year’s batch to insure that it meets our standards. We sell what we love to drink.

Before starting Totem Tea we would buy from different online retailers or locally and would often find around a 30% hit rate where we thought the tea was really good. What we wanted to do is only sell teas that we had already sorted through and aim to have winners with all that we sell. Each tea that is listed on our site stands in front of at least a dozen others that we passed on.

How do you see the tea culture in the US?  Where do you see it in the next 5 years?

I see tea culture growing exponentially in the coming years, continuing its significant current growth trend. Tea provides a means to sit down and relate either to oneself or others around the table. Tea can act as a bridge between peoples and cultures. Almost all peoples the world over enjoy tea in one form or another, what better way for us to connect on this one planet with all the tumultuous change that is occurring in the world and politics?

I see this trend continuing. I think there will be growth in the tea house, tea room, tea cafe scene in the states. This will be a different model than the coffee house/cafe, these will be a place more for relating and relaxing. There will be continued appreciation of tea and all its benefits, health and otherwise.

What would you recommend to someone new to oolongs?  How would you recommend them to brew the tea?

This field of oolong is immense. Start anywhere and slowly build up a mental taste-library for what you like. If the oolong is twisted leaf variety or coming from China I would suggest a quick pour off before the first infusion. Also I would use water just prior to boiling or if the water has boiled let it stand for a couple of minutes before first use. I would also use around a tablespoon of tea to 6-8oz of water with multiple infusions depending on the tea and taste.  

The beauty of tea is that there is no ideal way for all people. Each person learns by experience how they like to brew their tea. Even drinking the same tea many people have different styles and preferences for what makes the best cup.

You recently got back from a sourcing trip in Taiwan, can you share with us a little bit about your experiences there?

The trip was as expected mind blowing and mind expanding. It involved going to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Fujian and Guangdong provinces to sample, and learn how to make oolong tea in the traditional home of Dancong Oolong, Anxi Tie Guan Yin and Wuyi Shan Oolong.

Answering this question could involve a whole separate article but in an attempt to summarize I would say that the world of tea is even broader than I once expected. Not only is it broader but there is constant innovation in how tea is produced and the flavors that are gaining popularity. It was my first trip to China and that alone was very educational. China has its own rules and ways of doing things not easily peered into by the outsider and non-Chinese speaker.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Tea is a joy. That might sound simple but I find it is the case that there is great joy in sharing, drinking and learning about tea. The blogging community, both the readers and writers, are doing a great service in advancing tea knowledge and culture. I would say to all your readers, please continue to spread the word.

Totem Tea can be purchased at www.totemtea.com

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The post A Conversation with Totem Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Is Chinese Tea Safe from Pollution?

World of Tea - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 02:18

China produces the most tea on Earth. It’s also one of the most polluted countries on Earth. Yet, in my humble opinion and that of many other tea connoisseurs, specialty Chinese tea is some of the best. What you’re probably wondering is this:

Are Chinese teas safe from pollution?

Like the Chinese tea industry itself, the answer is multi-faceted and can be difficult to sort through, especially in a shorter article, but I’ll try my best to sum up the factors involved and what you need to consider when buying Chinese tea.

Issue #1

The first cause for concern, the one most of you are probably thinking of, is air pollution and the effect that has on tea growing regions. Unfortunately, lots of Chinese tea has been found to have traces of lead, arsenic, and aluminum. Dozens of studies have proven this fact, although many of the studies were collecting samples from the 1980s and 90s and may be less relevant today considering how the Chinese tea industry has improved due to both internal and external pressure. One of the more accessible studies from 2013 took 30 different teas off grocery store shelves and tested them for heavy metals. They found that over 73% of the teas contained traces of lead and 20% contained aluminum above recommended guidelines. The study continued to explain the hazards of large amounts of heavy metals on the body, while still espousing the health benefits of tea. Other studies have shown similar results in store-bought tea.

Issue #2

The second issue of concern is the use of harmful pesticides. This issue is actually the bigger problem and more concerning than pollution to tea producers and distributors.

Note: I’ve grouped pesticides together here as “pollution” even though that’s not what it technically is, considering it’s entirely purposeful and not wholly bad. Whereas the term pollution connotes a negative environmental impact, the term pesticides has been negatively influenced by the industrial use of harmful pesticides. There are pesticides that are totally harmless and many are used frequently in organic farming. In fact, without the use of pesticides, it would be practically impossible to feed the seven billion people on this planet. And let’s not forget, caffeine most likely evolved as a natural pesticide (and one of the contributing factors as to why we drink these beverages!).

Although there are plenty of studies looking into pesticide use, the most attention grabbing headlines came from Greenpeace when they published studies on Chinese tea (2012) and Indian tea (2014), much to to the chagrin of the tea industry. Their results sound worrisome, finding illegal or unlisted pesticide residue in most of the teas sampled, and higher amounts than the legal limit in many samples.

Where is this contamination coming from?

#1. China’s dominance as a coal consumer and the prevalence of their coal producing mines is the biggest reason for contamination. They’re the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, at nearly half of all global use, with the United States coming in second, followed by India. The refining and burning of coal has been one of the main contributors to the absurdly high pollution in Chinese cities; and there can be little doubt that this is the main factor leading to contamination of some teas from China.

Note: Earlier studies, from the 1980s and 1990s, showed higher levels of lead in many teas, most likely because leaded gasoline had yet to be banned there (it’s been banned since 2000).

#2. Pesticide use is prevalent in practically every crop on Earth that has high value on the market, especially when it’s grown en masse as a monoculture. Like all plants, tea can be susceptible to pests, thus if you’re a large company producing vast quantities of tea, it makes sense to protect your investment, sometimes by any means necessary. If you buy your produce from from a grocery store chain, chances are most of the plants you eat have used a pesticide of some sort.

Should I Worry?

Is this cause for concern? There’s too much science surrounding this to ignore it, but when we read the specifics, we can learn quite a bit about how we can become better consumers.

Response to Issue #1

Don’t buy cheap tea. All the teas tested (in nearly every study I’ve seen) are off-the-shelf varieties from big name companies. Many studies specifically endeavored to test only the biggest name brands; essentially the Liptons and Twinings of China (companies like Tenfu Tea and China Tea Company Limited and their subsidiaries).

This makes sense doesn’t it?

  • The growing regions of base-quality tea are very large and controlled by pesticides to avoid crop collapse.
  • Transportation costs rise with so much product, thus they tend to be in low-lying regions, close to cities and industrial areas. Here they can be grown in bulk and can be processed and distributed easily to the cities for export.
  • Cities tend to be near coal plants, and air pollutants from the coal plants cling to lowland areas, i.e. the areas where they grow poor quality bulk tea.

Air pollutants decline sharply the higher in elevation and further away from industrial areas you travel. It’s important to note that the worst offenders of air pollution are in Chinese provinces where they grow little to no tea, and definitely not the good-quality stuff. Thus, buy higher quality tea from smaller producers, ones whom you know grow in regions that are rural and higher elevation. (And if you don’t know where it comes from, then… seriously?)

Try an example: Let’s say you’ve been buying a generic brand of canned corn from the grocery, but are concerned about the quality. Chances are the corn comes from Iowa, where there are 72 operating coal power units (thats a real figure) and this fact has made you not want to buy corn from the grocery anymore. Would you then be equally worried about purchasing fresh small-farm corn from your local Farmer’s Market instead? Probably not.

If you need more convincing, think about it in terms of scale. China is nearly as large as the United States. Los Angeles (where I currently live) is one of the most polluted cities, in terms of air quality, in the nation. I doubt this stops anyone from buying wine from the Central Coast, around Santa Barbara, a mere 87 miles away. Why? Because Los Angeles is in a valley (low-lying area) and is separated from Santa Barbara by the Santa Monica Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest. Geography plays a big role here, even over small distances.

Response to Issue #2

According to Austin Hodge, owner of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas, good tea and pesticides simply don’t mix. For someone like Hodge, who imports excellent quality small-farm teas, pollution just isn’t a problem. The issue he faces is keeping pesticides out of teas from these regions. Although he can import quality tea from a pesticide-free farm he has a relationship with, a problem can still lie in neighboring tea farms using pesticides. The wide scale use of too many pesticides is a problem that’s shrinking, but more pressure must be put on tea growers to grow cleanly, organically, or biodynamically.

Remember, an “Organic” marker doesn’t mean no pesticides”, it simply means natural-based pesticides, and “pesticides” doesn’t automatically mean “unsafe”.

It’s easy to forget when there’s a language and cultural barrier between us, but the Chinese are equally focused on the safety and regulation of their teas. It’s a well known problem that most agree needs to be dealt with. Andrew McNeill, also of Seven Cups, contacted a representative from the Chinese International Tea Culture Institute, who passed along over a dozen Chinese studies detailing the standards, tests, and regulations in place to protect and educate consumers and distributors. One of the main people tackling the issue is Chen Zongmao, Vice Chairman of the International Tea Association and Honorary Chairman of the Chinese Tea Society. He’s made it his personal mission to educate people on the topic of pesticide residue, while also creating an ethical environment for tea growing in China. It’s reassuring to know that they’re just as concerned as we are.

The science isn’t entirely straightforward when it comes to how much pesticide residue might still be on the tea leaf, how soluble this is in water when you brew the leaves, and just what effect this might have on your health. The general consensus is that ethical use of legal pesticides leave very little on the leaf after full processing, most of these compounds aren’t water soluble, and the amounts you might ingest are so low as to be insignificant. To date, I can find no evidence that anyone has gotten sick from tea due to harmful pesticide residue. Numerous doctors reviewing the evidence have come to the conclusion that, even in worst case scenarios, as long as you moderate your tea intake, you have no need to worry.

When you buy tea from a company that knows their farmers directly, and the farmers are committed to making excellent quality tea, it makes a world of difference. Buy smart, from ethical producers and distributors, and I earnestly believe you have no cause for concern.

In other words, look before you steep.


















Photo Credit: vhines200 on Flickr.

Dear Santa Letter . . . From VariaTEA

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 12/08/2016 - 00:00
Dear Santa, We haven’t had much contact in the past. As a young Jewish girl, I wasn’t allowed to send you letters. But I am older now and my mom doesn’t have to send my mail for me anymore so here we are. I am not sure how to do this but I asked some kids and they told me I could ask you for anything I wanted, like anything, no matter how big or Read More

White Coconut from BlendBee- Calling All Coconut Lovers!!

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 20:00
I’m a fan of coconut any time of year. Whether it’s the hottest days of summer or the dark, snowy depths of winter I find myself in a better mood when I can taste a bit of the tropics. Throw in some lemon – another favorite of mine – and I’m a happy girl. BlendBee took both flavors and mixed them with a delicate white to create White Coconut. Just thinking about the mix of Read More

Lewis Carroll’s Black Tea from Simpson & Vail

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 16:00
Is there anything in the world better than snuggling up under a blanket with a good book and a cup of tea? Right. I didn’t think so. So when this tea arrived for me to sample on the SAME day as my copy of the new book, Heartless, by Marissa Meyer (a reimagined origin story for the Queen of Hearts from Carroll’s own Alice in Wonderland) I knew they had to be paired together. Now, Read More

Really, World Tea News? Shame on you!

T Ching - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 14:35

I have been enjoying the articles on World Tea News since its inception. They have always offered pertinent and valuable tea related stories and news. Not the case with a post by Stephenie Overman. Her piece is entitled “Sugar’s Calories May Serve as Destressor“.

My guess is that this “research” of 50 people, hardly a significant sample by the way, demonstrated that sugar, which adds calories, is the key to people feeling “destressed”. Who wants to bet that this was funded by the sugar industry? Yes, according the Stephenie’s post, the beverage industry has been switching out sugar for “non-nutritive sweeteners”. I just love that term – non nutritive. Certainly conjures up something that isn’t really healthy or worth eating. The reason the beverage industry has been ditching sugar is that it’s POISON. People are dying in record numbers because of sugar. It increases weight, contributes to obesity, diabetes and countless diseases that have plagued this country for decades.

The American Heart Association says this about sugar.  “Getting too much added sugar in your diet could significantly increase your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in April 2014”. If you want to really get some facts, watch the U Tube video put out by University of California featuring Dr. Lustig – who entertains and educates about the politics and facts about this dangerous substance. With over 6.5 million views, it’s easy to listen to while you finally get educated about sugar.

Bottom line my tea drinking friends; do not add sugar to your tea. Nibble something healthy along with your tea if you’d like to add a few calories – that’s IF this research is even valid with only 50 people. Again, my instincts tell me this was funded by the sugar industry. That’s just how they’d try to bring sugar back to the masses. We’re smarter than that. Sugar is bad no matter how you use it. I’m a fan of stevia – you’ve got to use only a touch or you get an after taste however. Please stay away from artificial sweeteners that are known carcinogens.  Truth is, allowing your pallet to get used to enjoying the subtle flavors of tea without anything added, that should be your goal. Be patient and within a few weeks, you’ll be loving your tea straight up.

When a well respected company chooses to publish this type of “research”, it provides information to the public that is not in their best interest. This is how the sugar industry will try to gain a foothold back into the mouths of the masses. Everyone loves the taste of sugar and if we give them some “science” to support their habit, it makes it a bit easier to subcomb and justify the added sugar. Don’t be fooled. Sugar is not good for anyone. They can come up with countless pieces of research to show anything they want to show but really what they’re doing is providing miss information to the public when they choose to use sugar as one of the variables. If adding calories to reduce stress is the goal – using sugar is the worst choice that can be made. There are countless healthy options available. Please don’t be fooled into thinking you’re doing something good for yourself by reducing stress if you put sugar into your tea. You’re definitely NOT.


The post Really, World Tea News? Shame on you! appeared first on T Ching.

Mini Yunnan Toucha Mix from Teasenz – Reflection on Scent and Memory

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 12:00
I am far from an expert, but I’ve always been both intimidated and entranced by pu erh tea.  The tea comes packed in cakes and wrapped in decorative papers, and you might even have a tea pick especially for breaking up these tightly packed leaves. There’s a proper way to brew and taste pu erh, and all kinds of special teapots and accessories.  There’s something inherently magical about having the right tools for an ancient Read More

Tuesday Tea and Tomes: Michigan Tea Rooms on SALE!

Barb's Tea Shop - Wed, 12/07/2016 - 02:54

Michigan Tea Rooms, a great stocking stuffer and now at a lower price!
Just in time for the holidays, Michigan Tea Rooms is now available at a special price. The perfect stocking stuffer, we've lowered the price Michigan Tea Rooms, a tiny tome that details twelve of our favorite tea rooms in the Mitten State.

Now for a limited time, Michigan Tea Rooms is now available for $12.00. That's 20% off the list price. You can purchase directly from Amazon.com. Just click the link below:

Michigan Tea Rooms

 Published a year ago this month, we were back in 2016 visiting some of our featured tea rooms. We enjoyed seeing our books on sale or display at some of these amazing tea venues.

 We stop frequently at Socra Tea in downtown Detroit. We celebrated birthdays and Mother's Day there this year. It's right in the heart of the city and a convenient place to stop when visiting the DIA. We absolutely love their Earl Grey!

Socra Tea in Detroit:  Michigan Tea Rooms on display

Great place to drop in after the DIA, celebrating our mutual birthday in April
Casual and comfortable decor - excellent place to gather with the family
The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham has an elegant and luxurious tea lobby. We love presenting as much as being guests at many of their special events. Afternoon tea menu is delicious and top notch customer service. We love it here!

Rachel and Barb present a Downton Abbey afternoon tea
Elegant tablescapes and scrumptious tea fare

Harney tea tasting event with Michael Harney in September at the Townsend
Another favorite tea room, also featured in Michigan Tea Room, is Sweet D's in Linden. Owned and operated by Dee Birch, her personal touch is on everything from charming decor to sweet treats, all made on-site. We were there in May presenting a Downton Abbey-inspired tea.

BTS presenting Downton Abbey tea at Sweet D's.
Dee Birch, far left, with guests at the afternoon tea.
Lovely tea settings with antique serving pieces and china. Afternoon tea fare that's hearty and delicious!

We made it over the Mackinac Bridge this fall to go to the upper peninsula's only tea room, Four Seasons.  It's an absolutely wonderful tea room - inviting ambiance, excellent tea fare and a fun gift shop. It also sells Michigan Tea Rooms!

With owner/manager Andrea Shuldt.

Scones, savories and sweets will delight guests!

Guests can find Michigan Tea Rooms for sale in the gift shop.
The good news, is you don't have to drive far - or anywhere - to get your copy of Michigan Tea Rooms. And, now with a new discounted price, you'll have something for all the tea enthusiasts on your holiday list!

If you are interested in purchasing directly from BTS, send us an email at barb@barbsteashop.com and we'll send directly to you!

Revitalizing with Peppermint from Balcony Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 20:00
Revitalizing with Peppermint from Balcony Tea is a herbal tisane made up of peppermint, spearmint, aniseed, chamomile, liquorice, and rosemary. Ever since I had a Licorice and Peppermint tisane from a completely different company I am afraid what others might bring. Maybe afraid is the wrong word – perhaps – CAUTIOUS – would be more fitting. But I didn’t have to worry with this Revitalizing with Peppermint from Balcony Tea because it was VERY nicely Read More

Organic Masala Chai from Hope and Glory

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 16:00
I still remember my first Chai latte. It was love at first sip. And the spicier the better! Whether at a coffee shop or at home, I never imagined drinking Chai without some sort of plant milk, my favorite is coconut milk. However, I am also a very impatient person, and I wanted to try this Masala Chai from Hope&Glory, and I have no plant milk. I was kind of scared to try this straight, Read More

Pure Gold Jin Jun Mei Black Tea of Tong Mu Guan Village *Spring 201 from Yunnan Sourcing

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 12:00
Hairy! Fuzzy! I’m NOT talking about Sasquatch! I’m talking about Pure Gold Jin Jun Mei Black Tea of Tong Mu Guan Village Spring 2016 from Yunnan Sourcing! The dry leaves – upon opening the package – are gloriously wonderful to look at! Two-toned brown in color, thin and crimped, with fuzzy hair that adheres to your fingers when touched. Pure Gold Jin Jun Mei Black Tea of Tong Mu Guan Village Spring 2016 from Yunnan Read More

A Fine Duo: Asian Pears and Tea

T Ching - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 09:00

Sometimes the best combinations of ingredients are hiding in plain sight. Here’s one: Asian pears and  tea. Freely interpreting the saying used in culinary circles, “What grows together goes together,” it should come as no surprise that the leaf and the fruit find their way into the same dish nowadays. Both originated centuries ago sharing the same geography in East Asia and today there are rewarding ways to enjoy them together.

To create an easy-to-make-in-advance dessert that would grace any holiday table, all you need to do is raid your tea cabinet (a grassy green from Japan or smoky black from China work beautifully) and source the fruit. In my part of the world now, all kinds of Asian pears are flooding farmers’ markets. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the round russet skinned varieties (Hosui, Kosui and Shinseiki, to name two) to pale yellowish green ones (Ya Li). Tea enters the picture as the basis for a warmly spiced-scented poaching liquid. Poach the fruit a couple of days before you wish to serve it, allowing the flavor of the tea to infuse into the fruit. I like to serve this dessert in large tea cups, topped with a billow of softly whipped, unsweetened cream and add some desirable crunch with a buttery shortbread or other crisp cookie (homemade or storebought, as time and ambition allow).

Here’s the method.

Tea-Poached Asian Pears

To serve 4

1 T. tea leaves of your choice

1 lb. peeled and cored Asian pears, and cut into large wedges (depending on the size of the fruit, wedge size will vary so simply cut into whatever size pieces you wish to serve; also remove as much of the woody core of the fruit before cooking)

8 ozs (generous cup) of granulated sugar

1 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

Peel from 1 lemon (use the colored part of the peel only as the pith under the peel can be bitter)

Optional garnishes: A dollop of softly whipped unsweetened cream and a shortbread or crisp cookie, for each serving

Bring 2 cups of water in a saucepan to the boil. Remove from the heat. Wait a half minute or so for the water to cool slightly and then add the tea leaves. Allow to infuse for up to 5 minutes (of course, steeping times will vary depending on the kind of tea you choose). Sieve out the tea leaves and discard and then return the tea liquid to a clean saucepan. Keep it warm over low heat.  

In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, CAREFULLY cook the sugar over medium heat to caramelize it. Allow the sugar to begin melting and when partially melted, using a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, gently push the unmelted sugar into the melted part.  When completely melted, carefully add the brewed tea, stirring with that same wooden spoon or spatula. (Note:  as you add the mixture to the caramelized sugar, it will bubble up quite violently so be prepared to step aside). Stir gently until the tea is completely incorporated and no lumps of cooked sugar remain. (If necessary, reheat the mixture gently and stir until all of the sugar is remelted.) Add the whole spices and lemon peel and bring the mixture to a simmer. Now add the fruit and poach for 30 minutes. (Note that the fruit will not soften much; it will retain its crispness and pleasantly granulated texture.) Remove from the heat and leave the fruit to cool in the poaching liquid. Transfer all to a container or bowl with a lid and refrigerate for up to two days before serving.

To serve, remove the fruit from the poaching liquid and place it in serving bowls or dishes as desired. Pour a small amount of the poaching liquid over the fruit. Dollop softly whipped cream over each serving and place on a plate with a cookie as an accompaniment, if desired.


The post A Fine Duo: Asian Pears and Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Glazed Donut from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/06/2016 - 00:00
My fiancé (a donut aficionado) was ecstatic to see this tea in my review pile– so much so that we set out to brew this one together one Saturday morning while we lazed around the house. As much as we’d like them to be, actual donuts aren’t as frequent in our breakfast rotation, but this tea seemed like the perfect weekend cup to fill that glazed, cake-y void. First things first– the dry leaf smells Read More

Christmas Black Tea from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co.

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 12/05/2016 - 20:00
Christmas Black Tea from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co is another impressive flavored black tea offering in their online shop! Thus far – I have enjoy EVERY SINGLE tea I have tried from Kent & Sussex and my enjoyment continued with this holiday tea! The ingredients in Christmas Black Tea from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co include Black Tea, Almond, Cinnamon, Cloves and Orange. I also like the set-up of description Read More

The World Atlas of Tea: From the Leaf to the Cup, the World's Teas Explored and Enjoyed by Krisi Smith

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 12/05/2016 - 17:00
This book arrived in my mailbox just in time for a long road trip to a wedding in upstate NY. That worked out for the best because although it isn't exactly a coffee table book, it's a little too large to carry with me on my commute.

The first thing that caught my eye was the large, beautiful photographs. Many of them spanned more than one page. The chapters follow what seems to have become the typical tea book formula: how tea is made, how to brew it, and a description of various teas from around the world. The small guide to growing your own tea was an unexpected but welcome addition. Important topics such as sustainability and organics were addressed in an easy to understand way without being too doom and gloom about them. I also really enjoyed the nicely illustrated chart of tea processing. Smith's writing style is conversational and easy to read without dumbing down the content.

As an obsessively read tea nerd, I do have to mention a few things in the book that rubbed me the wrong way. Let me preface this by saying that I have great respect for anyone who successfully takes on the challenge of writing a book.

In the list of tea varieties, it says that the best oolong teas are from Taiwan. I love my Dong Ding just as much as the next person but I hardly think that it's fair to dismiss the oolongs that are produced in other countries as inferior. Teas are not better than each other, they're just different.

In the short section on tea history, there are several myths which have largely been proven false. Thomas Sullivan did not invent the tea bag and Anna Russel did not create the ritual of afternoon tea. To be fair, these are repeated in nearly every book that I've read on tea. The section on Japanese teas also states that matcha became popular with the Samurai and Buddhist monks drank it because of its high antioxidant levels.

Please, don't take my nitpicking as overly negative. I can't help doing that sometimes (as anyone who was my partner on peer reviews for papers in school will tell you). I actually did enjoy the book and would recommend it for those who enjoy building a library of tea reads. Complete newbies might want to start off with something a bit more in depth though.

I was really glad to see that there were no food recipes included. Publishers seem to insist on this being added to the end of every tea book. Maybe they are finally beginning to understand that there are a lot of people who enjoy tea for its own sake.

Have you read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

A review copy of this book was provided by Firefly Books.

Check this out! Earl Grey, Hot from Geeky Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 12/05/2016 - 16:00
Earl Grey, Hot from Geeky Teas was a tea that another sister has already reviewed here at SororiTea Sisters but I enjoy a sturdy cuppa EG so I thought I would also throw my 2 cents worth in! Earl Grey is one of the most recognizable flavored teas the world has seen and Geeky Teas came up with their own take on it with Earl Grey, Hot. For those of you who are Star Trek Read More
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