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Denong Tea 2015 Early Spring Harvest Elegant Tranquility Raw Pu-erh

Tea For Me Please - 2 hours 43 min ago
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: loosely compressed,
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

I discovered Denong Tea at World Tea Expo last year where I fell completely in love with their Enchanting Beauty. So much so that I told everyone about it which led to them selling out by the time I went to grab some to take home. I got this tea instead. All I can say is, best consolation prize ever!

The cake survived the trip home from Las Vegas very well. I must confess to waiting a pretty long time before opening it. Part of that was because Denong Tea was kind enough to send me samples of some of their teas. Another part was because the wrapper was just too pretty. Once I finally brought myself to open it I found that the cake was loosely compressed with leaves that were mostly whole. Some of them were downright fuzzy (in a good way).

This tea started out very smooth, almost surprisingly mild for a young sheng. I don't mean to say that it was weak because that wasn't the case at all. There was a definite bitterness but it was tempered by an immediate comeback sweetness in the back of my throat. It was so sweet that I'd almost think this was a Yiwu tea if I didn't know any better. It's actually from Jinxiu Village in Lincang. My initial infusions brought heady floral aromas and notes of wildflower honey. That gave way to a vegetal note akin to bamboo sprouts and a pleasing minerality. As tea cooled the mouthfeel became increasingly viscous. The leaves held up to an untold number of infusions. I even found myself steeping them the next day after a late night tea session.

I'd really like to see how this one ages but I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from drinking it on a regular basis. This cake was only opened a week ago and already has a sizeable dent taken out of it. At only $26 for 100g, this tea is a real steal and definitely worth picking up if you plan on placing an order with them.

2015 Early Spring Harvest Elegant Tranquility Raw Pu-erh purchase from Denong Tea.

Elegant Tranquility from @denongtea is exactly what I needed tonight. It's even better when I'm in a video chat with some of my favorite tea folks

Ginger Spiced Pear Cake from A Quarter To Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - 3 hours 43 min ago
While I’ll try pretty much any new tea that crosses my path, as a tea lover, I’ll always have my favorites. And when it comes to teas from A Quarter to Tea, I can pretty much expect that anything new I try is going to be a knockout. Every few months, I like to order sampler packs from AQTT to try out new flavors without overwhelming my tea stash. I thought I’d sipped through everything from my previous order, but sure enough, deep in the recesses of my work-tea stash, I found this one hiding the other day and couldn’t Read More

Losing Weight with Tea Tox teas?

T Ching - 6 hours 43 min ago

You may have heard about various “Teatox”, Flat Tummy, bloat reduction and weight loss teas being advertised these days. These companies claim to promote weight loss, reduce bloating, and give you a ‘flat belly’ among other things. We initially learned about these teas when someone called our shop looking to find out what the status of their order was, not realizing they called the wrong number.  An employee who happened to be an avid Instagram user knew about this company. Having sold various cleanse and detox teas over the years, we decided to look into some of the claims of these companies.

Tea, especially herbal teas, have been used for centuries to address various health issues. This is nothing new. And many people understand that herbs like Chamomile help calm and relax you, or that peppermint can be used for an upset stomach. If you have herbs that can help with infections, promote blood circulation, why not weight loss?


Using a variety of herbs, these companies claim things like ‘helps with energy and weight loss’, ‘bloating and indigestion’, ‘improved metabolism’, ‘cleanse and detoxify’.

Now it is not unreasonable to say that the above claims could be true. However, there are a few things wrong with the picture that we want to bring to your attention. First off, these claims may or may not include ‘diet and exercise’, but often they are vague and general. It takes some research to find out what particular combination of diet and exercise it ideal for you.  There is also little in the way of detailing what in their cocktails are giving you the energy or cleansing properties.


Herbal supplements are in the ‘grey area’ because they are not regulated. Supplements can be purchased in capsule form, or in this case – tea form. Therefore, it’s important to know what you are taking. We’ve seen the commercials of all the regulated drugs and the litany of side effects they have to provide at the end of the commercial. No such requirement exists for herbs.  We’ve all probably had that really stubborn cold and have taken Nyquil to get a good night’s sleep. Does that mean you should take it every night or whenever you sneeze? NO. That goes for many herbs.

There are herbs or spices like mint or ginger which are relatively benign and can be consumed on a regular basis by most people. There are some lesser known herbs like coltsfoot or kava that have serious side effects and should be avoided at all costs. And there are others that should be used in moderation and with careful dosing. This is one reason we don’t recommend using powdered extracts. Many of them, including those derived from green tea, often have their main ingredients in UNSAFE CONCENTRATIONS.

The problem with many of these flat belly sites is that they don’t discuss much about the ingredients they are putting in their teas. And with closer inspection, you’ll find that many of them contain herbs that have side effects that warrant more attention. However, none of these sites imply that you should ever stop using their products. WebMD has a database of almost every herb and can tell you side effects, whether they are safe for pregnancy and if they interact with certain medications.


Most of the companies provide two types of teas – one for the morning and one for the evening. The morning tea may or may not contain regular tea (camelia sinensis) but usually contains some sort of diuretic, the most common being dandelion root.

The second phase gets interesting, and this is where the laxatives come into play. Nearly all of them contain a laxative in one form or the other. Senna is the most common, another uses psyllium (also found in products like Metamucil).

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that drinking a combination of these herbs and the ensuing results will probably help you lose water weight. But does that mean it’s healthy for long term use? Using diuretics and laxatives to lose weight can be a SHORT TERM solution. But it will not fix a problem if you continue to eat poorly. Moreover, using laxatives on a sustained and basis may create a dependency on these products to stay regular.


If you are a tea purchaser, you probably want to know a little about the tea company you are buying from. And if anything, knowing there is a physical location and phone number will go a long way into establishing credibility.  Most reputable tea companies will let you purchase samples before trying out a larger quantity of a product.

First and foremost, nearly all the companies we’ve looked into that sell these “tea-tox” and belly flattening teas are NAMELESS AND FACELESS. They have no history of being in the tea business, they list no address, and do not provide a phone number. In fact, they do not even document anything that shows they know anything about tea. What they are good in is social media marketing.


Our first clue there was something wrong was seeing scantily clad girls holding up packets of some of these teas. Clicking through the feed reveals that these were not overweight, bloated customers who, by taking the tea, became super toned, thong-wearing models. THEY DO THIS FOR A LIVING. In fact, we found out there is an entire marketplace that allows companies to buy someone to influence a product. A “teatox” tea one day, a summer dress the next. Some go even further by posting fake before-and-after photos. It is in our opinion that these are not a reputable way to purchase something that affects you will consume on a daily basis.

The bottom line is, if you hear about a product on social media – make sure the person is reputable and credible.


Most of these companies do not sell their teas by weight but rather by days supply. This means they can greatly vary the quantity sent and overprice their teas. Many of these price a one month supply at around 49 dollars. You get 28 tea bags of each type. Have you weighed a tea bag? Often a tea bag will hold 2-3 grams of tea. Let’s says 3 grams which equals 1/10 of an ounce. The comes out to 2.8 ounces of tea.  Rounding up, you are getting about 6 ounces of tea for about fifty dollars. When you look at the ingredients provided, the mark up is more than double over purchasing a comparable blend from a qualified tea merchant.


Tea can be used for weight loss, again factoring in that you should be eating correctly and burning calories. Simply drinking Green tea will help boost your metabolism. Pu-erh tea has also been found to promote healthy digestion. Most tea vendors will have their own cleanse and detox blends.  Many of these blends will help in losing or maintaining weight. Knowing the ingredients and a vendor that can help educate you or answer questions goes a long way. For example, does the tea vendor have a nutritionist on staff?  Doing simple google searches on the ingredients will help you determine what side effects an herb has. A good tea vendor should provide you with plenty of information.

While Diuretics and laxatives may help you lose weight short term, they should not be used as a long term solution. Once you are reaching your goals, switch to more everyday herbs and spices that can be consumed safely and daily. Oolong, Pu-erh and Green Tea all help boost metabolism. Newer types of tea like Purple tea also have the metabolism benefits along with other health properties. Getting a good blend of tea from a reputable tea supplier, along with doing the proper research is the best way to go, and we say avoid the Instagram focused marketers.


The post Losing Weight with Tea Tox teas? appeared first on T Ching.

Bronte Sisters’ Black Tea Blend from Simpson And Vail

SororiTEA Sisters - 7 hours 43 min ago
The first thing I noticed about this tea was the fruity, sweet smell. It smelled much more like fruit than tea. The tea ingredients include papaya and raspberry, and also marigold petals. I brewed myself a cup, and added a little raw sugar and a splash of coconut creamer. I should have left the sugar out because it is very sweet on it’s own. Almost too sweet if I’m being honest. It definitely has a very fruity taste and perfume. I didn’t taste to any floral notes which surprised me. I would say this would be an excellent tea for Read More

Blueberry Lemon Cake from Curiositea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 02/22/2017 - 00:00
When I was in high school, I worked part-time as a barista at Starbucks. Besides the sweet street cred it afforded me (helloooo, frappucino hookups for all my fellow teen friends), there were tons of perks for 16-year-old Mary to enjoy. We’d spend quiet evenings inventing new drinks and sampling pastries for our customers– and by customers, I clearly meant my coworkers & me. (Wait, I mean…) By far, my favorite thing to sample was the iced lemon poundcake. Dense and sweet, with tart and sticky lemon glaze– mmmm. I can still taste how delicious it was, particularly at 10:30 Read More

Lapacho Orange and Vanilla Tea from Kent & Sussex Tea & Coffee Co. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 20:00
It’s been a while since my last Lapacho so I’m long overdue for a good one! I’m so happy the one I tried recently was Lapacho Orange and Vanilla Tea from Kent Sussex Tea & Coffee Co. Lapacho, Orange Peel, Orange Slices, Vanilla Flavoring are the ingredients in this decaff offering and boy-oh-boy was it a flavorful one! It was citrusy, sweet, creamy, and even had a slight woodsy-spice towards the end of the cup as it cooled. It was reminiscent of a creamiscle with a bit of a twist. Lapacho is one of the herbals that you infuse the Read More

Arbor Teas

Notes on Tea - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 16:01

You can check off a lot of boxes with Arbor Teas. Organic (USDA and Global Organic Alliance) - check. Compostable packaging - check. Carbon Free (with carbon offsetting) - check. Arbor Tea is also is also Fair Trade Certified and Green America Approved. The Ann Arbor based company was founded by Aubrey and Jeremy Lopatin. For those of you who are more interested in how the teas taste, the teas I drank were very good. I received four samples and drank them in the following order: Korean Woojeon, Gyokuro (Japan), High Mountain Oolong (Vietnam), and Hawaii Premium Black.

Korean Woojeon

I would not be able to easily distinguish the taste of this tea from a Japanese sencha. However, the leaves are strikingly different. Sencha are flat needles while woojeon are twisted and curved. Cream and custard fruit came to mind whenever I smelled the dry leaves. What of the smell of the infused woojeon leaves? The toasted fragrance of genmaicha. One teaspoon in 6 ounces of 180-85F water for 2 minutes yielded a shiny, pale yellow green liquor. I prepared the woojeon (and the gyokuro) in a kyusu. The woojeon was smooth and creamy with no astringency. The toasted, nutty liquor left a slight silkiness on the lips. The second infusion of 3 minutes yielded a bolder liquor than the first infusion but it was still smooth. I prepared this tea with different parameters for a second session using 1 teaspoon in 3 ounces of 175F water for 40 and 50 seconds. The 40 second infusion was more flavorful than the tea made using 6 ounces of water and a longer steep time. The 50 second infusion was the best. The liquor was creamy, grassy, vegetal, with a hint of umami, nutty, smooth and had an endnote of fruity floral sweetness. The latter was a surprise. The mouthfeel was thick. I steeped the leaves once more for 60 seconds. The liquor was yellower and cloudier. It had a thinner mouthfeel, was still vegetal with a slight marine mid note, and a sweet, creamy tail note.


Of the four teas, this was the only one that specified the water volume. I infused 1 teaspoon in 8 ounces of 180-85F water for 2 minutes. The shiny, vibrant green liquor smelled like vegetables which was consistent with the smell of the infused leaves. This vegetal fragrance carried over to the taste which also exhibited some umami. I did not think the "some umami" corresponded to brothiness but according to TEA by Gascoyne et al., intense broth is associated with gyokuro. The tail note was smooth and creamy. The overall mouthfeel was enjoyable.

High Mountain Oolong

A few technical details about this oolong before I share my tasting notes. It was made from the Qing Xin cultivar grown in Lam Dong, Vietnam at 3,200 feet above sea level. The tea was oxidized to 20% making it a green oolong. I steeped 1 teaspoon in 6 ounces of 195F water for 4 minutes. The leaves were large and balled with visible stems. The infused leaves smelled soapy which in my mind is another word for floral. The leaves, very long (and with buds now visible), were not full unfurled after 4 minutes. (I resteeped these leaves several more times in a gaiwan.) The plan gold liquor was fully floral with a spice note. I did not identify the spice. What spice notes have you detected in a green oolong? There was a tart fruit tail note. The liquor coated the front of my mouth; there was almost a numbing effect. When I drank the tea after it had cooled down, I tasted a milker oolong with a citrus undertones.

Hawaii Premium Black

This whole leaf black tea was grown in Hawaii. It is a custom blend of "several different varietals and picking dates" from the Onomea Tea Company. The long twisted leaves are dark with copper flecks and silvery buds. The dry leaves smell of freshly broken stems, malt, and chocolate. This is consistent with the smell of the liquor. I infused approximately 1 teaspoon - it is hard to use teaspoon measures for long leaves - in 6 ounces of 212F water for 3 minutes. The liquor tasted more strongly of chocolate and malt but overall this was a light impact tea with the exception of the ripe banana tail note.

The Korean Woojeon and Gyokuro really shone among the four teas. The oolong performed really well in a gaiwan. Thirty second infusions offered up floral, fruity notes with a thick mouthfeel and silkiness on the lips. The black tea prepared in a gaiwan lingered longer on my palate. I used the remainder of the sample which was a bit over 5 grams in 100 mL of boiling water at 30 second infusions. The first infusion was enjoyably robust because of this gram:volume ratio. The subsequent infusions were semi-sweet chocolate with fruit. If you don't already, give your teas a second chance in a gaiwan.

All four tea samples were provided by Arbor Teas.

P.S. Check out Arbor Teas recipes page.

Pop Corn from Dammann Freres. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 16:00
Back on January 19 aka National Popcorn Day, my teas finally arrived from the States. Since my father lives in LA, I often route tea orders through him to save on shipping. Well, apparently the orders built up because the box that arrived was HUGE! Some of the teas inside were from a Dammann Frere group order. Of course, as soon as I saw the popcorn tea I just couldn’t resist given it being National Popcorn Day and all. Popcorn tea, in theory, is a fancy name for genmaichas. However, instead of the traditional green tea base, this uses black Read More

Blooming on Snow Days

T Ching - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 13:00

“This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden.” -Rumi

Throughout the winter, we bundle up and remain snugged tight for several months. Therefore, it only seems fitting to create a beautiful, warm sanctuary for the soul with blooming tea. Bundled like our bodies, each tea boasts layers of dried leaves wrapped around one or more flowers. While steeping, expanding leaves dance and petals unfurl as a flower rises upward to the rhythm of Spring’s life-giving song of hope and renewal.

Flowering teas trace their roots to 10th century China as art for the royal courts, often displayed as a bud or bloom. Today, the majority tea blooms hail from of the Yunnan Province in China and come in a garden of flavors, the most common being Globe Amaranth, Chrysanthemum, Jasmine, Lily, Hibiscus, and Osmanthus.

Use a glass teapot to fully enjoy this tealightful garden. A glass tea cup too will also allow you a front row seat to watch as the magic unfurls. Beautiful steeped bundles can be infused two or three times without bitterness, too.

The flowering tea illustration is inspired by Camellia Sinensis’ assortment of eight.

Interested in individually designed tea reviews? Weaving compelling visual stories for social media is a passion of mine. I love creating immersive illustrated reviews that awaken people to tea and culture. If you desire an illustrated review to engage your followers, please contact me.

The post Blooming on Snow Days appeared first on T Ching.

Southern Mint Herbal Tea from Revolution Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 12:00
I love mint tea. I love how the smell instantly revitalizes you before even taking a sip. I don’t think I’ve ever had Southern mint tea, so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this tea. It’s stronger than other mint teas I’ve had, and that’s a good thing. As soon as I poured the boiling water over the tea bag, my kitchen smelled like mint. My cat was actually on the counter being a bug-a-boo, and she instantly gave me the side eye and jumped down. She’s not a fan of the smell of mint or bananas! This tea Read More

The Teapot Artisans of Instagram

World of Tea - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 07:54
Since the beginning of tea culture, there has been the teapot. In fact, many would argue you can’t have one without the other. This vessel, into which you add the...

Chai Rooibos from Yogi Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 00:00
I absolutely love Yogi teas. I love the little uplifting messages on the tea bags, and I’ve never had a flavor I haven’t loved. I also love Chai tea. I’ve been cutting back my caffeine intake, with the goal to completely cut it out of my life. I was kind of nervous to try this at first because I don’t always love Rooibos. I usually drink it for the health benefits, but sometimes I find it a little too earthy for me. But Yogi teas were on a great sale at Natural Grocers so I felt brave enough to try Read More

Shades of Earl Grey / Let It Snow from For Tea’s Sake. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 20:00
I have said it before and I will say it again…Earl Greys are just not my favorite. I don’t love citrus teas and Earl Grey is all about the citrus. Cream of Earl Greys I can get behind a little bit more given the vanilla/cream elements but I still am not a lover. To me they just seem too brisk and sharp. However, the idea of a London Fog always appealed to me. For those who are not sure what I am talking about, a London Fog is an Earl Grey tea latte with a splash of added vanilla. Simple Read More

Yixing inventory #18: Duanni?

A Tea Addict's Journal - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:36

This is another one of these yellow clay pots that are a bit odd – this one has a slight greenish tint to it. No marks. 125ml.


What is White Tea?

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 17:00

It dawned on me that I've never done an introduction to each of the tea categories. Information like this might be old hat for some of you but I think those that are new to tea who might find it useful. Over the next few weeks, I'll be covering a different type of tea each Monday. Please let me know in the comments if there's something you'd like to see covered for yellow tea, green tea, oolong, black tea, or puerh tea.

White tea originates from China's Fujian Province. It is heavily debated when people first began producing it. Some sources say that it is the first tea ever consumed but others say that this processing technique has only been around for a few centuries. Fuding, Zhenghe, and Jianyang are the main production areas. White is often marketed as being rare but this simply isn't the case, especially as western interest continues to increase.
Bai Hao Yin Zhen 
  • aka Silver Needle
  • Made exclusively from unopened buds. 
  • The highest grade of white tea.

Bai Mu Dan 
  • aka White Peony. 
  • Made using unopened buds as well as larger leaves. 
  • The leaves are largely unbroken and should still have a green hue.

Shou Mei 
  • aka Longevity Eyebrow. 
  • Contains a higher leaf to bud ratio than Bai Mu Dan. 
  • The leaves are more broken and may be a bit more brownish in color.

Gong Mei 
  • aka Tribute Eyebrow. 
  • Made mostly with larger leaves with some scattered buds. 
  • The leaves will be mostly broken and brown in color. 
  • The lowest grade of white tea.

The Chinese definition of white tea stipulates that it must be made from the Da Bai variety of the tea plant. What this means is that a lot of things that are called white tea are technically something else entirely. Unfortunately, there isn't really a name for white teas from other regions like Ceylon and Darjeeling for that reason. That doesn't mean that they aren't worth exploring, though!
White tea is processed by withering the leaves to reduce the moisture content and then drying them. Traditionally this is done by laying them out in the sun. Nowadays it is common to dry them mechanically with an oven or dryer. Unlike most other teas, leaves destined to become white tea are sorted and separated before processing. Little else is done to the leaves with the possible exception of rolled pearl style or blooming teas.
White tea is often referred to as the least processed category. I tend to not use that word because processed can take on a negative connotation in the food world. This isn't the Chicken McNugget of tea that we're talking about. Least oxidized is sort of accurate but that isn't always the case either.
Floral, fruity and slightly vegetal are all words that are used to describe the taste of white tea. Think cucumber, melon, meadow flowers, and snow pea. Notes of hay or grass might also pop up. White tea can be very delicate and mild. particularly for those who are used to stronger tastes, so don't give up if it doesn't grab you right away. 
Pro Tip: Try taking a sip of room-temperature water and eating a salty cracker first. This will help wake up your taste buds.
How to Brew It
First, it's important to keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to brew any tea, All that matters is that you enjoy the end result. White tea is commonly treated like a green tea, with lower water temperatures. High-quality ones can stand up to much hotter water but poor quality teas will show their faults under pressure.

When using a western method, water temperatures are usually around 160 to 175° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 3 and 8 minutes depending on the tea. White tea leaves tend to be fairly fluffy, making it hard to measure in teaspoons. Weighing your leaves will help make sure that you are using the right amount. Most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water.

Gongfu is definitely my preferred way to make white tea. A gaiwan or glass pitcher is best because yixing teapots retain too much heat. Water temperatures will range from around 175° to 212° Fahrenheit with steep times between 30 seconds and 1 minute. I also really enjoy white tea grandpa style when I'm feeling a bit lazy.

What was the first white tea that you ever had? Let me know in the comments!

Header image attribution: WJ Houtman, via Wikimedia Commons

Love Tea #7: The Fifty Shades of Grey of Teas from DAVIDsTea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 16:00
Dear David’s Tea, What happened to Love Teas 1-6? Did you kill them, David? If so, how? If not, where are they? Are they okay? Can I check in on them? But, David, between you and me, I’m glad they’re out of the picture. Because this #7 is a delight. It’s like Valentine’s Day in a tea. Chocolate. Strawberries. Roses. You hit all the high points, plus it genuinely tastes good. Did you see this in my wish list, David, and magic it into my Sororitea Sisters care package? Are you stalking me in addition to murdering your previous teas? Read More

Houjicha: roasted Japanese green tea

T Ching - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 13:00

I live in a 60-year old Japanese house. Beautifully positioned between two mountains surrounded by rice fields and a flowing stream. Sliding doors. Tatami floors. Single glazing. Zero insulation. No central heating. Get the picture? It’s so cold inside the house that I find myself living at the local onsen (hot spring bath house) just to heat my feet back into circulation!

So what does this have to do with tea? Well, out here in Kyushu, houjicha is flowing as much as the Yamakuni river! This is because it’s a HOT green tea (see Tracy’s post here). Usually when you hear people tell you how to make Japanese tea, they focus on cooling down the water. And this is vital when steeping delicate green teas like Sencha, Kabusecha and of course Gyokuro.

Houjicha (also spelled hojicha – but when you say it, stretch the oooo!) is roasted green tea. It needs hot water to help the leaves release the flavors, similar to Chinese oolongs which have been pan fired as part of the processing.

Usually, Houjicha is made from second harvest, more mature leaves, which are slightly tougher and naturally have less caffeine, but some Houjicha is “ichibancha” or first harvest, and commands a higher price point. It will often have a smoother taste, but this depends on the finesse of the roast master. The process of roasting also reduces the caffeine content, which is why it’s perfect for toddlers and elders, as well as a bedtime cuppa.

Ages ago, families thought nothing of roasting their own tea using a houji-iriki (as seen in the photo). Old tea that had lost it’s flavor, and sometimes fresh leaves, were roasted on an open flame but it required a master roaster to create a beautiful tea that wasn’t burned.

If you want to try this at home, simply put enough leaves in to cover the bottom of the houji-iriki. You can also try this with a skillet though I have never done it that way. Turn the gas flame on medium heat (I’ve never used an electric stove), and shake the pot continuously in circles, back and forth, zig-zag… be creative! You just need to ensure the leaves do not stand still otherwise they might burn. It will take a long time to get it roasted – it burns easily and if you see smoke coming out, it’s not the end of the world but take it off the heat immediately and shake shake shake! Initially some of the stems or leaves will turn yellow and then it starts changing to a light brown hue and then a darker brown. You can roast it as deeply as you want but remember, burned Houjicha is not pleasant so I suggest experimenting – make your first attempt lighter and then try deeper roasts once you perfect the technique. It’s quite rewarding to make your own!

Many producers prefer to use roasting ovens, complete with large drums that tumble, as opposed to traditional porcelain clay pots using charcoal to roast. These ovens are simply quicker and more efficient. Using the drum method, the leaves are mixed with volcanic grit and then roasted by turning like in a tumble dryer. The grit helps control the roasting process so the leaves don’t burn and the tea roasts more evenly. While it seems impossible, the grit and tea is then separated to reveal a lovely aromatic Houjicha.

Roasting machines before 1985 used a direct heating method so the tea often burned. Technological advances in roasting machines have made it much easier to control the heat which is of paramount importance in the process of roasting.

Let’s dive deeper here… the key point for the roasting master is to “plump” the leaf like a balloon. This yields a much sweeter, more caramel brew and is the benchmark against which to compare Houjichas. This swelling of the leaves means they are much lighter in weight, so packages are usually bigger and you need more in your pot… think of the joke “what’s heavier, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers?”

When you make a lovely pot of Houjicha, the key points are:

  • • Use more scoops of leaves in your pot (or simply weight it to get the right amount)
  • •    Use just off the boil water
  • •    Steeping time: 30 seconds – a longer steep makes it very strong and a little bitter.

Houjicha teas vary in color, aroma and general appearance. Here are just three to compare the difference: roasted Aracha with a slight green hue, high-grade leaf Houjicha (this is our Tomodachi) and a twig Houjicha (this is our Matsuri). One of the most famous and expensive twig Houjicha teas (called Boucha in Japanese), hails from Kanazawa, made exclusively of Gyokuro stems, and was created for the Emperor’s visit to this historic city. It looks and tastes remarkably like our producer’s Matsuri but without the hefty price tag!

The post Houjicha: roasted Japanese green tea appeared first on T Ching.

Tomato Basil-Green Tea Sipping Broth from Millie’s Savory Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 12:00
Millie’s Savory Teas offers a unique type of tea- a savory one.  I’ve tried their Spicy Tortilla and Thai Lemongrass offers so I had high hopes and expectations of this one. Instead of creating sweet or more main stream teas, Millie’s Savory Teas has created a line of teas that offers more of a green tea broth mix. Each flavor has a robust veggie overall feel with the complimentary spices creating a delightful savory experience. Right off the bat, I was impressed with how this tea smelled.  I could really smell a familiar tomato soup like freshness.   Brewed up Read More

Art of Tea - Silver Needle, Fukamushi Sencha, and Crimson Oolong

Notes on Tea - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 00:50

Last year Art of Tea celebrated its tenth birthday. Steve Schwartz, the company's founder, began his tea career studying at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. Based in Los Angeles, the company, writes the L.A. Times, "creates custom teas for the likes of Wolfgang Puck, Vera Wang, Hinoki & the Bird and a host of luxury hotels and restaurants". I became aware of Art of Tea when I was approached about a tea review. The company sent me three generous samples of Silver Needle, Fukamushi Sencha, and Crimson Oolong. The oolong is my favorite! You'll see why from my tasting notes below.

Crimson Oolong
The leaves were small, balled, and dark brown with golden flecks. They smelled fantastic; of cocoa and malt, sweet and floral, as well as something baked. After a cup or two the source of the baked note came to me -- spiced pain aux raisins. I followed the recommended method of 1 tablespoon of leaf steeped in 8 ounces of 206F water for 1-3 minutes. The first infusion of 1 minute was light gold in color and tasted like molten honey. This sweetness was followed by fruity, floral, and woody notes.  The mouthfeel was surprisingly light. The second infusion of 2 minutes was a much darker amber color. The liquid was thicker with darker fruit notes as well as cocoa and wood. The sweetness had deepened and was accompanied by a tartness that lingered in my cheeks. The end note was of pain aux raisins and I tasted this flavor in my throat. The final infusion of 3 minutes was not as thick as the second infusion but the flavors remained robust.

Fukamushi Sencha (Kirishina, Kagoshima)
The tasting notes for this sencha are grassy, pine, and umami. On my first preparation following the recommended method of 1 teaspoon of tea steeped in 8 ounces of 158F water for 30 seconds, the  yield was a thin liquor. The next time I prepared this tea I used 3 ounces of water and a steep time of 40 seconds per Ricardo of My Japanese Green Tea's brewing instructions for fukamushicha. This approach produced a grassy, creamy, and nutty tea with a lively green color and lots of particles by the third steep. This tea was more sweet than umami. I did use water that was hotter than 158F. Also, did you know that fukamushi means deep steamed?

Silver Needle (Fujian)
Again I followed the company's steeping protocol. I steeped 1 tablespoon of tea in 8 ounces of 185F water for 1-3 minutes. The first infusion was light in color and flavor but the second and third (2 and 3 minutes, respectively) were more deeply flavored and fuller bodied. The second infusion was the most aromatic. The official tasting notes are honeysuckle, artichoke, and sage. I know that artichoke is a standard flavor found in silver needle. Maybe what I tasted and smelled was like liquid artichoke hearts if you baked them yourself, not the marinated kind. The herbal note could be likened to drinking the hairs found on an herb like sage.

For me, the highlight of these three teas was the oolong. I had thought my next preferred was the silver needle but then I changed my mind after drinking the sencha that had been steeped in less water. Maybe I will change my mind about these two again if I prepare the silver needle differently. For all these teas, I recommend infusing in less water though the dark oolong (90% oxidized) was most forgiving offering lots of deep flavors even in 8 ounces of water.

The three teas reviewed in this post were courtesy of Art of Tea.

LUPICIA Plantation Specified Teas

Notes on Tea - Mon, 02/20/2017 - 00:49

The twelve days of Christmas have passed and it does not feel like hot-tea weather in New York City. Temperatures have been rising and reached over 60 degrees F today! Despite all this, I've been drinking hot cups of LUPICIA plantation and original blends as well as flavored holiday teas all week. I am not enamored of blends but I enjoyed the one I drunk from the tea bag set. The box has a clever design feature: there is a pop-up of two rabbits when you open the box. Also, the individual tea packets from the Holiday Teas line are beautiful illustrated.

There were pure teas included in the tea bag set as well. The "Omaesama" sencha was quite good. The Darjeeling Second Flush, a blend of summer harvested leaves, was fantastic. The leaves in the tea bag were orthodox full leaf. I prepared this tea as directed in 5 ounces of boiling water and steeped it for 2 minutes then 3 minutes. The liquor was delicious! The tea was aromatic; it filled my nose and mouth with dark fruity, sweet, and baked flavors. It reminded me of an Oriental Beauty oolong. The liquor was robust yet smooth. I did not add milk and neither should you. There was minimal astringency. The 3 minute infusion reminded flavorful but with a lighter body and mouthfeel.

One of the three tins of whole leaf tea I received was Darjeeling The Second Flush. I assumed it was the same tea as was bagged in the pyramid sachet. I steeped this tea also as directed: 2.5 grams in 5 ounces of boiling water for 2 minutes then 3 minutes. In retrospect I should have used 3 grams, the higher end of the gram range. The light copper liquor had a similar profile to the liquor from the tea bag but the intensity of flavors and mouthfeel were noticeably lighter. The steam off the 3 minute infusion smelled like the taste of the 2 minute cup with the taste had a more herbal character.

The other two tins were La Belle Epoque, a "classic blended tea", and "Uji", a sencha. I did not record any of the occasions on which I prepared the black tea blend but I recall enjoying it and noting it would be a good daily morning tea. I have notes on the Uji sencha.

I prepared this sencha the way I did the fukamushicha from Art of Tea because the method was fresh in mind. I don't think this Lupicia sencha is a deep steamed tea. I infused 1 teaspoon of leaf in 3 ounces of 155F water for 4o seconds. I steeped the leaves three times. The first infusion was light, smooth, and creamy. The second was also smooth but the creaminess intensified. The liquor tasted creamy and displayed a creamy mouthfeel. An additional note of umami appeared. The third infusion was still smooth with an umami note but with a decrease in the creamy taste. The mouthfeel remained creamy but an astringent note emerged. I have not discarded the leaves and will steep them for a fourth time; I think I will get another flavorful cup.

Have you "rolled over" teas you were drinking late last year into these first two weeks of 2017?

The teas reviewed here were courtesy of LUPICIA.

P.S. Chill overnight your hot brew of the loose Darjeeling The Second Flush for a malty, slightly spicy drink.
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