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Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders

SororiTEA Sisters - 8 hours 44 min ago
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black Tea

Where to Buy: Nepali Tea Traders

Tea Description:

Our Everest First Flush tea is hand-picked in April from the tender buds of the tea plants that emerge after several months of dormancy as the days turned crisp, sunny, and bright.  This unique, artisan tea is a vibrant expression of the fresh Himalayan spring. Its beautiful, long leaves reflect the subtleties of the season. Upon delivery of the freshly picked leaves to the Sandakphu factory, it is processed initially by hand by gently rolling the leaves, then allowed to wither overnight. The following day, the leaves are mechanically rolled to achieve natural oxidation while preserving the fresh, spring green color. The liquor is pale and pure. The tea’s gentle, aromatic profile features floral and lilac notes. The first sip reveals a smooth, sweet tea, with refreshing spring astringency. This tea finishes with crisp vegetal notes and hints of roasted corn. Like Nepal’s famed peak, this is the pinnacle of our first flush teas.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

If you gravitate towards Darjeeling Teas I think you might like this Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders.  At least that is the first thought I had as I sipped on this offering from Nepali Tea Traders.  It’s like a hepped-up version of a Darjeeling Black Tea.

Maybe it’s because it’s a First Flush.  Maybe it’s because of the crisp floral notes.  Perhaps it’s because of the astringency.  Or maybe Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders reminds me of a Darjeeling because of the look and feel.

The dried loose leaves look similar to Darjeeling – as does the aroma – which is springy and fresh.  The aftertaste was also reminiscent of a popped rice much like you would find in a genmaicha.  Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders is very unique indeed!

One thing I found after drinking this – twice – I was very hungry afterwards!  I don’t really know what that means – if anything – but I could REALLY go for a 5 coarse meal right now!  Regardless…Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders…is a tea to appreciate and remember!

 

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The post Everest First Flush Black Tea from Nepali Tea Traders appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Friday Round Up: July 24th - July 30th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 16:00
Cups,Crossroads, and the Way of World Tea Expo
+Geoffrey Norman's final coverage of  World Tea Expo 2016 gave voice to something I think a lot of bloggers were feeling. What is our place in the industry? How do we become more like +Darlene Meyers Perry?

Puerh is Alive
+Cwyn N gave us an important reminder, puerh is alive. Tea is often thought of as a static thing but puerh is constantly changing. Storing it can become a hobby in and of itself. This isn't something that I've delved into much myself but it's fascinating stuff.

Tea Hostess Cupcakes
+Bonnie Eng is the hostest with the mostest, especially with the recipe she posted this week. Matcha cream filled cupcakes? Yes, please!

Raw Pu'erh Learning & Basics
+Tea DB has been doing a great series of videos where they answer viewers questions. In this episode they focus on raw puerh. The usual tea filled hilarity ensued.

Prana Chai
Marzipan at TeaLover.Net wrote about one of my biggest WTE regrets. How did I miss out on such a beautiful chai? The fact that the leaves are coated in Australian honey is really unique.
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Blast from the Past: Three Years Medicine: Aged White Tea

T Ching - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 12:30

When I moved to China in 2010, I had already been interested in tea for about seven years. I had served tea to lots of people all over the world in a purely gregarious sense, and also in a professional capacity as the tea sommelier at the now-defunct Jade Leaves teahouse in Austin, Texas. Every so often, people asked me what my favorite kind of tea was. While I do find that most people gravitate towards a particular type of tea, my honest answer was always “I don’t have a favorite, I like all different kinds of tea.” If I was feeling exceptionally honest I would add, “. . . except for white tea. I don’t really like white tea.”

At that time, my experience with white tea was limited to Silver Needle, White Peony -and two white teas that I still know only from Jade Leaves called Spirit Spirals and Snow Spear. At Jade Leaves, we would get our white tea fresh each year, store it in the refrigerator, and throw most of it away the next year when the new batch came in. I found the pale infusion white teas produced to be too subtle and vaguely sweet, with a distant floral fragrance and a nearly-clear green liquor. At that point, my understanding of white tea was that it was produced solely from the tips of the tea plant and the downy white buds at the apex of the tea bush which can be found amongst the leaves in high quality green and black tea.

On our last West China Tea Company sourcing journey, we were served a very curious white tea by our friend Yu Xi Hong at a teahouse in the Minshan Hotel, where he was employed as a “tea doctor.” Wearing his formal black Sun Yat-Sen suit and seated behind an expansive wooden tea table, he produced a small chunk of pressed, dark-colored tea wrapped in soft handmade paper. Breaking off a portion with his tea knife, he explained that this was all that remained of a large disk of pressed white tea – a bing, just like pu-er often comes in – and that this type of tea, called Fuding white tea, was traditionally aged. He served us some and I did indeed find it richer and more full-flavored than the white tea I was used to.

Thus it was that several weeks later, after traveling through Sichuan, Guangxi, and Guangdong provinces, that we arrived in Xiamen and promptly called Yu Xi Hong to put us in touch with his white tea-selling friends from Fuding. Their shop was located deep in the bowels of a windowless and labyrinthine mall of sorts located in the wholesale tea district, nestled among dozens of other tea shops all specializing in a very particular type of tea or, sometimes, teaware.

There, in a gleaming white little cube of a store tastefully furnished with clean blonde wood shelves and a stainless steel cha pan (tea tray), we were served progressively older and older white teas by the beautiful young girl who was working there, Xiao Hong. By the time we made our way down to the 2006 vintage of the pressed White Peony, I was hopelessly and desperately in love with aged white tea.

Rather than being pale, faint, and fleeting, this aged white tea was rich and satisfying. With age, it acquired a deep honey-like sweetness and a complex, pervasive fragrance reminiscent of grapes, dates, figs, wine . . .  beautiful, but mysterious, like a particularly enchanting woman who walks past you and her perfume brushes your cheek like a silk scarf. You don’t turn your head to watch her, but you can feel her move about the room. You long to look, but the thought that she might be looking back at once terrifies and exhilarates you.

Everything about the tea, the server, and the shop exuded a kind of powerful and intoxicating femininity, something I had never experienced before from a tea. Even the pure white porcelain gaiwans had graceful female immortals painted onto the undersides of their lids, so that when you turned the lid upside down to smell the lingering “cold fragrance,” you were presented with the likeness of a beautiful, elegant woman.
Fuding is the origin point of white tea and, like black tea and oolong tea, white tea is an innovation of the Fujianese. From Xiao Hong and the owner of the store, Li Yan Mei, herself both young and very beautiful, we learned a lot of things about white tea that I had somehow remained ignorant of through more than a decade of tea drinking.

As it turns out, white tea does not have to be produced exclusively from the buds of the tea plant; many of the classic white teas, including Shou Mei (“longevity eyebrow”), and White Peony, are made up of both buds and a substantial amount of leaf.

What makes it white tea is a combination of the varietal, which has a profusion of large, downy white buds; and its processing, which is unique in the world of tea for not involving any sort of heat or cooking. The tea is allowed to “wither”, or air-dry, which confers a soft sweetness to the tea. This process takes great skill and discernment on the part of the master because poorly-cured tea can mold and a whole harvest can be lost. Some of these processes are done behind closed doors, each master careful to protect their hard-learned techniques. When done correctly, this delicate natural process creates a complex, refined, and elegant tea with silver buds and bright green and yellow leaves. Its fragrance is spring-like, floral, and sweet with notes of squash.

I also confirmed what we had learned with Yu Xi Hong:  white tea isn’t meant to be consumed fresh, like green tea, but rather it ages like pu er. It is for that reason that it is pressed into cakes – to make it compact and easy to store – growing more complex and valuable as time passes.

In Fuding, they have a saying: One year tea, three years medicine, seven years treasure. When I told Li Yan Mei that we used to throw away our year-old white tea, she literally facepalmed.

Every time I go to China, I learn many new things. One thing that I learn every single time is that there is so much to know about tea that I still don’t know, despite my best efforts over more than a decade of study. These aged, pressed tea cakes completely changed my mind about white tea; it went from being my least favorite kind of tea to one that I crave regularly and drink almost daily. We now carry five different vintages of Fuding white tea cakes; mostly leafy varieties like White Peony and the various Eyebrow whites ranging in price from $20 (a little 100g mini-cake of Longevity Eyebrow) to $180 (a “treasure” aged high grade White Peony cake from 2007). I take special pleasure in sharing these teas that, even after all this time, can still produce in me that excitement and wonder that comes from tasting something new and exotic and mysterious. This is the same joy that the newly-initiated tea lover feels at their first tea tasting, and it is what the elusive, exquisite femininity of these white teas embodies for me.

 

This article was originally posted to TChing in July of 2014.

The post Blast from the Past: Three Years Medicine: Aged White Tea appeared first on T Ching.

Fig Formosa Oolong Tea from Stylin’ Tea Blends

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 07/29/2016 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Stylin’ Tea Blends

Tea Description:

Full whole leaf quality Taiwanese oolong is the perfect base for the rich taste of Smyrna fig. The addition of cornflower and poppy flower petals add rich color and a natural sweetness enhancing the visual and taste character.

This blend is a complete departure from your typical cup of dark oolong tea and a pleasurable experience whether served hot or cold.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Fig Formosa Oolong from Stylin’ Tea Blends is a tea that I should have tried a long time ago. This lovely blend is soothing my tired soul today!

I have been on an oolong kick lately.  This one caught my eye with the flavoring of the fig promise.  I have to say, the promise delivers but in a different way than expected.

First off, lets chat about the dry leaf. The dry leaf is a lovely sweet candy like aroma.  Almost like candied figs.  That was the first thought that came to my mind.  So did this tea deliver on the promise of the sweet candied figs? Yes and no.

This tea didn’t exactly have a fig like flavor but what this tea does deliver on is an almost earl grey like oolong.  I know, peculiar, but that is what this reminds me of. There is a resemblance to earl grey that is just too hard to ignore.  I can’t say I pick up beramot oil per say.  But if I didn’t know better, I would think this was an earl grey oolong! (Which I typically don’t care too much for. But this was is simply brilliant!)

The tea has a sweet yet floral like flavor that swirls on your tongue and plays with your senses.  The oolong has a silky buttery feel that really lets the other flavors become the star.  Really lovely. A great mix of a sweet yet floral tea with a lush decadent background that leaves you wanting more.

Like I said, this tea is really soothing my soul today and giving me all the warm feels!

The post Fig Formosa Oolong Tea from Stylin’ Tea Blends appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

From Teaopia to CitizenTea

T Ching - Thu, 07/28/2016 - 12:30
Does the name David Bellisario sound familiar?  If not, does the name Teaopia?  Teavana?  How about Starbucks?   If the name Starbucks doesn’t, we must be living on separate planets.  But if you work backward from Starbucks, you end up at David Bellisario.  Here’s how: Back in 2005, David Bellisario was just getting his feet wet in the specialty tea industry with a retail concept called Teaopia.  During that same time, he was also running a large family retail chain his father had started in 1964 called Key Man, which sold gifts, did key cutting and was in shopping centers and malls all across Canada. Because of his long experience in retailing, David’s little tea start-up grew quickly and, around 2009, Teavana, a growing retail tea chain based in Atlanta, Georgia, which had grown to over 200 stores since the mid 1990’s, came courting.  At that time, David was having way too much fun in his new tea business to want to sell it.  So, he continued on and the chain continued to grow. In 2011, still deeply involved in both Key Man and Teaopia, with a combined staff of well over 1000 people, David was courted with another offer to sell his business.  But this time it was the other business, Key Man.  Selling Key Man would give David both time and funds to put into the growing Teaopia chain and the offer was a good one, too good to pass up, and so the sale process began.  Meanwhile, something important to Teaopia’s future was happening in Canadian specialty tea retailing.  Another start-up, David’s Tea, with large resources and extensive retail experience, including an owner with a chain of stores in another niche–serious competition–began looking at the same shopping centers/malls Teaopia was in or planning to expand into.  David knew that meant landlords would either allow a competitor in, or would use the competition to raise rents as his leases came up for renewal.  What’s a guy to do? That question was answered for David when Teavana again came calling while the sale of Key Man was still being finalized and, this time, Teavana put a number to their offer.  The number was appealing enough to make him consider selling ‘his baby’.  His final decision was made after looking at the situation with David’s Tea and the fact that, should he decide to keep and grow Teaopia, he would have to commit at least the next 3-5 years in attempting to establish a foothold in the U.S.  After some serious soul-searching, he made the decision to sell, and the sale was completed in 2012.  If you were following the story like I was, Teavana was then itself sold, not long thereafter, to a very, very large company named Starbucks.  Shades of Pac Man, for those of you old enough to remember. And there you have the links in the chain that connect David Bellisario, Teaopia, Teavana and Starbucks.   Now, what does a serial entrepreneur who has just sold two national retail chains in the space of about a year, with the ability to self-fund just about any venture do?  Well, if you’re David Bellisario, you take a bit of time to recoup, regroup, and then you do what comes naturally to entrepreneurs–you start another venture.  And the new venture is one in the field he has come to love, specialty tea.   This time, David has begun an online business called CitizenTea.  I asked him why he decided to go online first and if he planned to eventually move into bricks and mortar again.  He said, after analyzing what had happened in the niche since he began Teaopia, he saw the shift to e-commerce that has taken place in the market and the more sophisticated consumer who is now more familiar with specialty tea.  Combined with the ability to get up and running more quickly and continuously adjust to the evolving market more expediently, he decided to do a website rather than return to bricks and mortar.  Will he ever again open retail locations?  David, being an entrepreneur, never closes doors to potential opportunities, but makes it clear that, for the foreseeable future, his energies will be concentrated on building CitizenTea as an online brand.  Another advantage, both financially and emotionally, for a man who at one time ran two national retail chains:  His staff is now himself, his former head of operations at Teaopia, and his daughter, who will be in charge of social media. He assures me that the core value at CitizenTea is the quality of the tea itself.  Even in his proprietary blends, the base tea comes through and is never ‘covered’ to hide inferior quality.  In fact, David uses only one blender, based in Germany, teas are sent directly there from the estates, and if you were a fan of Teaopia blends, you will most likely find blends from CitizenTea that will closely match those flavors.  Describing CitizenTea blends, David says “They are about tea with flavor, not flavored teas”.  Well said!  CitizenTea also carries classic unblended teas and doesn’t plan to add bags or sachets to the loose tea selection.  The teaware offering is not superfluous and limited to only what is essential to best infusing and enjoying the tea. I asked David what advice he would give to entrepreneurs thinking about, or just getting started in, the specialty tea field.  His response was to stay focused on the tea itself.  Don’t purchase a less expensive tea for a better mark-up.  Today’s customer has a more sophisticated palate and building loyalty through providing quality is the way to go. You may not have the resources of a successful family chain like Key Man to help you get started, but the internet has evened the playing field a little.  Learning how to use social media and putting in the time can give you a jump-start others never had years ago.  I can tell David is passionate about tea.  He enjoys drinking it himself.  And that is a must in starting any tea business, in my opinion, if only for your own soul’s satisfaction. (You can view David’s company at citizentea.com)

The post From Teaopia to CitizenTea appeared first on T Ching.

Morning Pick Me Up From Tocha Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 07/28/2016 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Black

Where to Buy: Tocha Tea

Tea Description:

The fragrance of purifying Osmanthus flowers is the perfect complement to the subtle sweetness of whole leaf black tea. Quench your thirst and revitalize your spirit with this smooth, full-bodied blend; ideal for kick-starting your morning or uplifting your afternoon.  

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

A few months back, I won a contest that Tocha Teas was having on their Instagram page. I was ecstatic! I didn’t know a whole lot about their teas, but just by the name alone, I couldn’t wait to try them. Morning Pick Me Up was one of the blends I was sent.

First lets start this off by saying Tocha offers their line up in tea sachets, not as a loose leaf tea. I rarely drink anything but loose leaf.  There are times-I will admit-that a tea bag or sachet is just easier to steep than loose leaf. But these sachets are full of gorgeous looking tea blends. Especially this one!

Morning Pick Me Up is a blend of black tea and osmanthus flowers. Almost a floral black tea if you will. But this tea isn’t a dainty floral tea by any means.  My container of this tea is just about empty and I can feel myself wanting to buy more!

Steeped like a black tea with the recommended parameters offered on the package, this tea yields a gorgeous dark liquor full of malty notes mingled with a sultry subtle sweetness that yields almost a floral hint now and again. Really well done and one that gives you that full-bodied experience you look for in a brilliant black tea blend.  I’m quite surprised by the fact this tea is a tea sachet and not a flavor I’m getting from  a loose leaf.  These pyramid sachets are packed full of robust marvelous black tea flavor that sticks with you.

So what I’m trying to say is what a gorgeous way to start your morning or afternoon off right- I need to steep up another cuppa to finish off my day for sure!

The post Morning Pick Me Up From Tocha Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl + Giveaway

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 16:00
One of the best things about being part of the tea world is seeing my favorite people do awesome things. When the man behind +Joseph Wesley Black Tea announced that he had written a book on tea I may have done a happy dance. Not only did I know that he really knows his stuff but he has an incredible sense of aesthetic (but I'm sure you already knew that).

For starters, the book is beautifully designed both inside and out. It's obvious that a lot of thought went into every last detail. Most books on the subject of tea are rather stuffy affairs, full of pomp and circumstance. The Art and Craft of Tea turns that tradition on its head. Joe's wonderfully nerdy yet conversational approach combined with the crisp, modern layout makes for an engaging read.

The basics of tea history and processing start the reader off with a tool box of understanding, even if they didn't know squat about tea before turning a page. Then things take a turn towards the awesomely nerdy. Terroir and chemistry are covered in-depth. The importance of water is also discussed from a variety of perspectives. The section on brewing tea is matter-of-fact and unpretentious. Can I get a yay for tea pets being mentioned? These are just a few of my favorite quotes:

"Throughout the book, I tried to remain aware that tea's power and magic is not found in its leaves, in the liquid it creates, or in our relationship to these things, but in its ability to help us feel connected to our shared humanity."
"Tea's history cannot be distilled simply into a series of dates and events."
"When visiting a tea shop or shopping in a grocery store, you will know that it is tea when the ingredient list includes only one word: tea. If there are other words listed under "ingredients", find something else to purchase."
"Part of the fun about tea is not the destination but the journey."
The requisite collection of recipes at the end rounds out the journey. There are definitely several tea-infused cocktails that are now on my to-do list.

So now for the fun part. I've got some stuff to give away!

One lucky grand prize winner will win a copy of this book. Six runners up will receive a box of Joseph Wesley Black Tea's Great Lakes Blend.

All you have to do is a leave a comment on this post letting me know why you love Joseph Wesley Black Tea. I can't wait to see what all of you come up with!

Winners will be announced on August 8th.

You can find out more about this book here.

 

The Top Ten Unwritten Rules of Tea Blogging

T Ching - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 12:30

Related to talking to a friend new to blogging, I’ve noticed some assumed rules to tea blogging.  It’s always interesting to break one of these rules, to go in an unconventional direction, but I usually explain why I’m covering that scope in posts when I do. 

  1.  Don’t talk about price

This rule is such a given that I didn’t include it in the first draft version.  A recent TeaDB blog post went there though, related to pu’er mark-up (and some extreme cases), so it’s as well to address it.  Basically, some vendors sell based on value, trying to use volume to offset those thinner margins.  Others go with the prices typically set by supply and demand, standard rates.  And some price teas high, relying on marketing to offset value gaps, at worst making claims that aren’t completely justified.  Of course, some branding isn’t just about value, with unrelated issues like packaging and product placement coming into play.

It’s not really a typical subject for a tea blogger to address, especially since it involves a lot of judgment.  Tea pricing really does vary by a lot of factors, particularly in relation to tea quality, type rarity, and demand.  I might mention in posts that a tea seems a particularly good value but usually, I won’t even say that.  

It’s not so easy to explain how newer tea drinkers should evaluate vendors, or how to get the best teas for what they spend.  Tea blogs tend to not be so helpful, but discussions in places like Facebook groups, or Steepster, or Tea Chat may be.  If a blog about tea is really honest and open and the general impression of teas comes across, relative to other versions, that could at least provide input about those other aspects, and describe qualities in individual teas that explain some of those preferences.

  1.  Never quote another review

In general, the whole point of tea blogging is to give your own opinion of a tea, not to just repeat what others say.  Sometimes when researching tea types I run across interesting vendor descriptions or even other blogger descriptions, and I don’t have a problem with citing those.  Of course, there has to be a point; it can’t just be about cross-referencing the opinion of someone else who is better qualified to review that tea, which can come up, especially for judging rare types against a standard character.  

Addressing specific questions about a tea type is a different story.  Related expert input can add an extra dimension to a blog post, even if taking that step is unconventional.  It could become tiresome if such input turned up frequently so I’ll only add that if I’m following up on something.

  1. Don’t admit to inexperience with a tea type, or a particular tasting weaknesses

This relates a little to the last point, and of course, that approach can be the background context for a “newbie” blogger, but it works better when that’s explicit.  I’m not new to tea blogging but still on the newer side (the better part of three years in–really too early for me to be writing about how to write a blog).  I’ll still mention gaps as they come up, so I don’t hold to this one, but the focus of posts is usually on the tea, not all the background that goes into experiencing one.  

I’ve seen people take this way too far in different types of posts, being more honest than necessary, for example posting pictures of botched brewing.  If there was an interesting enough point to be made I guess I might go there.  If I’m trying a new tea type for the first time I’ll generally say that, or even admit when relative inexperience is a factor in the evaluation.  I will mix in background research about tea types–not really conventional, and not exactly the same idea but sort of related.

  1.  Describe the tea

Goes without saying, doesn’t it?  But not all reviews actually do.  Often you have to read a post again to confirm there was no description of the tea at all, versus some general impression, like “wow!”  In such cases, I guess the posts wouldn’t really be a “review.”  I don’t see this as a problem since it’s between a blogger and their audience what type of content is included.  If vendors supply the tea for review that would seem odd, unless that’s already a running blog theme, and then the burden might be on them to know that a specific tea blog doesn’t really use a review format.  My posts vary related to the form of reviews included, how detailed, and by focus, but I don’t break this rule when posts are about specific teas.

  1.  Don’t say that you don’t like the tea

Writing about a tea you don’t like isn’t as interesting as writing about one you do, and exceptions to that do come up, but it’s standard to only write in generally positive terms about teas.  One recent exception I read of in A Tea Addict’s Journal was a great counter-example. The post was about buying a tea from Taobao, a Chinese version of Ebay, more or less.  That covered the form a “fake tea” might take, one sold as something that it isn’t.  The first point went as you’d expect in that post, related to sourcing from really random individuals, but the description of a very bad example of a pu’er was also worth a read.

Other exceptions can occur when bloggers are asked to review teas they may well not like.  Specific post examples come to mind, of a critical review of tea-bag tea, and one of a somewhat fishy shou pu’er.

Bloggers’ ethics are a funny thing; there are no clear guidelines, so how one approaches this isn’t clearly right or wrong.  In a reference like this Tea Blogger Directory tea bloggers can say a little about how they review teas to see where they stand on various practices, but only so much will go into a short summary.

I recently wrote a review of teas that weren’t really bad or good, sort of in the middle, and not enough interesting came out of it, so I decided not to use the post.  In that case I asked for the vendor’s input, their opinion, and they said they were changing the sourcing for the teas mentioned (they weren’t sent for review), so it seemed as well to skip it.  A friend recently commented that he can’t always tell if I actually like a tea or not, but do I try to include some sense of that, along with whatever types of description are relevant beyond that.

Even without a relationship with a vendor to preserve in general it seems as well to not violate this rule, except in special cases.  It’s a given that one can buy tea that isn’t so good for lots of reasons, and the limitations usually aren’t interesting, although there are exceptions.  On the other side of that issue, it seems something gets lost when all tea blog posts are only positive, and only marketing-oriented content.  A tea that is horrible could make for an interesting post, and “mystery tea” can as well, although in general, it’s much better to know what you are drinking.  

  1.  Don’t review tea from wholesale sellers

This relates to some tea bloggers having a close working relationship with tea retailers; it wouldn’t make sense to shine the light on their sources instead.  It’s not as if I’ve tried to violate this principle but as an example writing a lot about teas from Cindy Chen (a tea farmer friend) is starting in this direction.  Different selling models are blurring those prior lines now, so it could become more and more of an issue.  Cindy sells some teas directly, but most often wholesale, given her business type as a tea grower and processor.

To a limited extent I had reservations about mentioning that one source from Indonesia, Toba Wangi, because increased demand for that tea could screw up the present sourcing options for local tea lovers in Indonesia.  I’m sure Galung–one owner–wouldn’t let that happen, that they wouldn’t escalate pricing so that moderate income local tea drinkers could get left out that way.  They do sell teas directly, so that wasn’t a clear case of reviewing from a wholesale seller.

  1.  Guest posts

I’ve only posted one guest post, since it sort of came up from a conversation (about health benefits of Chrysanthemum), but for most this is a no-no.  I see all the conventions as flexible but in general it wouldn’t make sense to have others writing much of the content for a personal blog.  Interview posts are a different story; that’s a great way to give voice to a completely different perspective, particularly from expert sources, and the blogger still plays a role.  Just as the other exceptions can be interesting there seems to be plenty of space for interesting ways to contradict this assumed general rule.

  1.  Link dumping

This is really more about internet social etiquette.  Posting notice of your fine blog work in a few related groups is ok (and Facebook, and Twitter, but Steepster and Tea Chat sort of don’t want to hear about it), but it can quickly become too much of a good thing.  Vendors seek a different sort of balance since in vendor blog cases it’s not about getting the good word out, it’s straight marketing.  Some vendors do post something that may well be interesting to every related group and outlet they’re associated with, clogging feed notices and turning discussion groups into spam outlets, but most keep it in check.

Other vendors really don’t do enough with getting the word out, not effectively communicating what would be interesting news to tea enthusiasts.  A vendor just mentioned in a private conversation that they were working on making a well-known, relatively rare style of tea that absolutely isn’t produced in that region or country.  It’s probably a tea many would like to try, but I’m not sure how far word of that will ever travel.

If I try it I would write about it, for sure, unless I hated the tea, and then I’d be back to that other potential conflict.  The general point was that, to me, if there is really a unique story, that changes things related to vendor content.  It’s not the same thing but some vendors do a great job of creating educational content that could also support marketing, like the China Life video series, or Hojo (vendor) tea type references.

  1.  Don’t write top 10 list posts

Really, why would you?  That’s click-bait formula-format nonsense.

  1.  Don’t copy ideas or style from other blog posts

Like the top 10 list theme in this post, the critique of using them is lifted directly from a post by Nick Kembel criticizing “top 10” travel blog posts.  Nick is a blog writer that covers travel related to Taiwan, where he lives, and some tea scope, like this post about visiting the Global Tea Hut.  One interesting point he made was that someone could churn out travel posts about places they’ve not even been to and sometimes do (no relation to tea; just an interesting idea).

Tea blogs using a review-post format might essentially get a pass on borrowing style, since a lot of those use a range of closely related styles, so completely copying an existing one wouldn’t necessarily be noticeable.  Some are so well formatted that they would be worth referencing for a new blogger, although hopefully they would put their own spin on it, and change up the approach a little.  

One blogger said that she won’t read blogs because she’s worried about accidentally repeating their ideas or mimicking their style, an extreme approach to this restriction.  I’m just rambling on in mine, so until I get settled in an actual style I’d only have to worry about copying the ideas.

So that’s a start.  As I see it tea bloggers are really outside the bounds of journalism ethics, so they would need to make all this up as they go along, and rely on common sense.  A tea blogger stepping outside those bounds could make for some interesting intrigue if it was blatant enough, but “tea people,” even vendors, are typically a relatively polite and orderly sort.

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The post The Top Ten Unwritten Rules of Tea Blogging appeared first on T Ching.

Chocolate Covered Banana Honeybush from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 07/27/2016 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type: Honeybush

Where to Buy: 52Teas

Tea Description:

I was inspired to do this blend because one of my all-time favorite 52Teas blends from way, way back was Chelsea’s Chocolate Banana Rooibos. And as much as I loved that blend, there was always a part of me that lamented the fact that it was a red rooibos base and not long after Amethyst acquired 52Teas, I decided that I needed to “reinvent” that blend into either a Honeybush blend or a green rooibos blend. Ultimately, I decided I needed to first try Honeybush – but I do plan on trying a green rooibos blend eventually too.

Mmm! The naturally nutty-sweet flavor of the honeybush works nicely with the flavors of chocolate and banana. The overall flavor reminds me a bit of the frozen chocolate covered bananas that you might get at an amusement park – the kind that are sprinkled with chopped nuts before the chocolate has a chance to set. I get sweet, fruity notes of banana, the creamy, rich flavor of chocolate and a hint of nutty flavor from the honeybush. 

Tasty!

organic ingredients: honeybush, freeze-dried bananas, cacao nibs, cacao shells, mini vegan chocolate chips and natural flavors.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Chocolate Covered Banana Honeybush. . . As much as I love my banana flavored teas, chocolate banana teas I seem to be more hesitant with.  I am just not a huge chocolate fan, but I do find that I love the honeybush that 52Teas using as their base, so I had to try it.  My first impression of the dry leaf was rich dark chocolate notes with a bright and vibrant banana flavor.  Still hesitant, I prepped the tea up and took my first sip.

A rich decadent baked good flavor greeted me.    A nutty almost cookie note with a lush dark chocolate hint here and there.  Add in the fresh banana flavor, you have a tea that really pops.  This is one of those decadent teas that are rich, simple, yet full in flavor.  And I’m greedily gulping mine down. I can’t get enough.  Since I only have a taster size of this tea, I think I’ll save the rest to try a cold brew. I can see how this could be an amazing treat on as an iced tea on a warm summer day.

This is one of those decadent banana teas that screams dessert tea.  One that I hope to be enjoying for some time now. This tea is still available from 52Teas so I highly recommend checking it out! Chocolate Covered Banana Honeybush will be a tea I will be dreaming out!

The post Chocolate Covered Banana Honeybush from 52Teas appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Charleston Tea Plantation: America's Tea Garden

Barb's Tea Shop - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 21:42
Charleston Tea Plantation, America's only Tea Garden
You don't have to travel to India or China to experience a real tea plantation. For those of us who live in the continental US, you can actually drive to the Charleston Tea Plantation - which is exactly what we did this past April.

Charleston Tea Plantation is located on American Classic Tea Lane
The Charleston Tea Plantation is a working tea farm that thrives in the warm and humid climate of Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. What struck me from our first turn into the winding road entering the tea plantation (on American Classic Tea Lane!) is that this is the REAL thing. It's not a glitzy, theme-park version of a tea farm - its a genuine plantation and its beauty and allure comes from the acres of camellia sinensis which  flourishes in an environment of care and respect.


A real working tea farm, it's beautiful and educational
This plantation has its roots, quite literally, dating back to 1799, from tea plants brought from China to Charleston. Initially meant for ornamentation, the climate was so perfect for the tea plants, it spurred the development of many tea far, the most successful being the Pinehurst Tea Plantation, which ran from 1888 through 1915. When it dissolved, many of its tea plants were transported to Wadmalaw Island.

You can visit a real tea plantation without traveling too far
Almost one hundred years after the Pinehurst Tea Plantation started, William ("Bill") Barclay Hall, a third generation tea taster launched the Charleston Tea Plantation in 1987. In 2003, Bill partnered with his friend Lori Bigelow and the Bigelow family now owns the plantation.

Hedgerows of tea, ready for the next harvest 
This is an absolute must-see place to visit if you are a tea enthusiast at any level. It's a chance to learn about the basics of tea (or a refresher for long-time tea lovers). You'll see how tea is grown, harvested, processed and sorted.

The four  main stops for guests at the Charleston Plantation are:

  • the factory tour,
  • the trolley tour, 
  • the delightful gift shop,
  •  and a kiss with a frog (even if you have found your Prince Charming).  

The Bigelows (now owners) provide intro to tour via TV screens

Beginning with the factory tour,  David and Eunice Bigelow greet guests on big screen TV's along the automated tour of the small, but mighty, processing facility.

Chris (aka Prince Charming) points to the Withering Bed
You'll see a withering bed, the roto-vane machine and the oxidation bed, the latter which determines whether the tea becomes black or green.

Next up Trolley Tour of the plantation.
Next up, the Trolley Tour of the farm. In a vintage trolley car, visitors are exposed to the acres of tea plants. Our tour guide explained the growing cycles ("flushes") of the "two leaves and a bud" as we sampled some tea products while traveling  through the many hedgerows of camellia sinensis,

Our tour guide shows us the "two leaves and a bud".

Sampling hand lotion on the tour (made with tea!)

We stopped at the green house where we not only saw new plants being cultivated but also a quick wave from Bill Hall himself!

Bill Hall (far right corner) checks on plants in the greenhouse
Back at the gift shop, guests can sample teas as they shop the many tea and tea-related items on display. I bought lots of tea, including my absolute new favorite of the American Classic Tea brand, Governor Gray.  (It's an Earl Gray-type of tea, but not overly citrus-y and very smooth.)

Free samples of tea are provided.

Many American Classic Tea varieties to choose from.

Tea and tea-related merchandise also on sale in the delightful gift shop.
I also bought some books and hand cream.


I've found my Prince Charming, but still up for kissing this frog. Hello, Waddy!
Of course, the visit wasn't complete without a kiss with Waddy, the frog in residence since 2013. He sits on the expansive front porch, with cup in hand, ready for photo-ops and selfies.


Charleston Tea Plantation has deep roots.
The Charleston Tea Plantation is a wonderful place to visit, a chance to see a real tea plantation in the US.  Beautiful and enriching, it truly is "America's Tea Garden".





Charleston Tea Plantation: America's Tea Garden

Barb's Tea Shop - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 21:42
Charleston Tea Plantation, America's only Tea Garden
You don't have to travel to India or China to experience a real tea plantation. For those of us who live in the continental US, you can actually drive to the Charleston Tea Plantaion - which is exactly what we did this past April.

Charleston Tea Plantation is located on American Classic Tea Lane
The Charleston Tea Plantation is a working tea farm that thrives in the warm and humid climate of Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina. What struck me from our first turn into the winding road entering the tea plantation (on American Classic Tea Lane!) is that this is the REAL thing. It's not a glitzy, theme-park version of a tea farm - its a genuine plantation and its beauty and allure comes from the acres of camellia sinensis which  flourishes in an environment of care and respect.


A real working tea farm, it's beautiful and educational
This plantation has its roots, quite literally, dating back to 1799, from tea plants brought from China to Charleston. Initially meant for ornamentation, the climate was so perfect for the tea plants, it spurred the development of many tea farms. The most successful was Pinehurst Tea Plantation, which ran from 1888 through 1915. When it dissolved, many of its tea plants were transported to Wadmalaw Island.

You can visit a real tea plantation without traveling too far
Almost one hundred years after the Pinehurst Tea Plantation started, William ("Bill") Barclay Hall, a third generation tea taster, launched the Charleston Tea Plantation in 1987. In 2003, Bill partnered with his friend Lori Bigelow and the Bigelow family are now owners of the  plantation.

Hedgerows of tea, ready for the next harvest (flush)
This is an absolute must-see place to visit if you are a tea enthusiast at any level. It's a chance to learn about the basics of tea (or a refresher for long-time tea lovers). You'll see how tea is grown, harvested, processed and sorted.

The four  main stops for guests at the Charleston Plantation are:

  • the factory tour,
  • the trolley tour, 
  • the delightful gift shop,
  •  and a kiss with a frog (even if you have found your Prince Charming).  

The Bigelows (now owners) provide intro to tour via TV screens
Beginning with the factory tour,  David and Eunice Bigelow greet guests on big screen TV's along the automated tour of the small, but mighty, processing facility.

Chris (aka Prince Charming) points to the Withering Bed
You'll see a withering bed, the roto-vane machine and the oxidation bed, the latter which determines whether the tea becomes black or green.

Next up Trolley Tour of the plantation.
Next up, the Trolley Tour of the farm. In a vintage trolley car, visitors are exposed to acres upon acres of tea plants. Our tour guide explained the growing cycles ("flushes") of the "two leaves and a bud", as we sampled some tea products while traveling  through the many hedgerows of camellia sinensis,

Our tour guide shows us the "two leaves and a bud".

Sampling hand lotion on the tour (made with tea!)

We stopped at the green house where we not only saw new plants being cultivated but also a quick wave from Bill Hall himself!

Bill Hall (far right corner) checks on plants in the greenhouse
Back at the gift shop, guests can sample teas as they shop the many tea and tea-related items on display. I bought lots of tea, including my absolute new favorite of the American Classic Tea brand, Governor Gray.  (It's an Earl Gray-type of tea, but not overly citrus-y and very smooth.)

Free samples of tea are provided.

Many American Classic Tea varieties to choose from.

Tea and tea-related merchandise also on sale in the delightful gift shop.
I also bought some books and hand cream.


I've found my Prince Charming, but still up for kissing this frog. Hello, Waddy!
Of course, the visit wasn't complete without a kiss with Waddy, the frog in residence since 2013. He sits on the expansive front porch, with cup in hand, ready for photo-ops and selfies.


Charleston Tea Plantation has deep roots.
The Charleston Tea Plantation is a wonderful place to visit, a chance to see a real tea plantation in the US.  Beautiful and enriching, it truly is "America's Tea Garden".





Tea Review - Totem Tea Ruby 18

Notes on Tea - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 19:33

Have you ever considered about blogging about one type of tea? Not a class of tea like Taiwanese oolong or Japanese green tea but a specific cultivar? Ruby 18 has its own website! Ruby 18 is a black tea from the Sun Lake Moon area in Taiwan. The cultivar, a cross between Camellia sinensis var. assamica and the Chin Shin cultivar originally from Taiwan, was developed by the Taiwan Tea Research and Experiment Station and released in 1999.


The Ruby 18 I drank is from Totem Tea. The Ruby 18 profile runs the gamut of the flavor wheel. Floral, fruit, woody, and herbaceous. The long, wiry, and black dry leaves smell sweet, like maple and dried fruit, and malty. The liquor is not ruby red but it's on the Assam spectrum.


I steeped 5 grams of the 7 gram sample in 195F water in a 6 ounce capacity taiwan. I rinsed the leaves for 5 seconds then steeped for 60 seconds. The liquor was copper, reddish amber. I detected flowers and camphor or menthol though not mint. I've read that this note could be licorice. I don't enjoy licorice but I do like this tea. The second steep was also 60 seconds. The liquor tasted of camphor, freshly sawn cedar, and deep dried fruit (think prunes). The earlier floral aroma might have been spearmint flowers. The tea was slightly dry and overall woody and spicy. The infused leaves smelled of menthol. The third and fourth steeps of 60 seconds yielded a dry liquor with a cooling sensation.


The camphor note was heightened after steeping the leaves for 3 minutes. There was a pleasant bitterness. The infused leaves smelled of maple syrup. The next steep also of 3 minutes also yielded camphor notes with tail notes of hops and walnut. The final steep of 5 minutes still produced camphor and hops notes as well as malt flavor.


Ruby 18 is a unique, complex tea. It is highly enjoyable to drink. The wealth of notes it yields is impressive. You can drink this tea as I did hot in the summer because of the cooling effect. The woody and dried fruit notes might be amplified in colder months.

Tea courtesy of Totem Tea.

P.S. It was my intention to post my tasting notes of three Bai Hao oolongs including one from Totem Tea but my #ITEIteaschool binder is in one of the unpacked moving boxes without an itemized list of contents.

Favorite Tea Ware - Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone

Notes on Tea - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 18:59
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. Today I am excited to share the favorite tea vessels of Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone. Although the tea and sweets shop is now closed, you can read about Lisa's adventures on her blog and on Instagram. As of this writing, Lisa is apprenticing with Jhen Tea in Taiwan.


My gaiwan and tea tray. It is so simple, but so efficient! The fastest way to get the best out of tea. My best friend found this one on Amazon, and I have others, but since he gave me this one it is my favorite.



My most favorite cups! They were handmade in Taiwan. It fits right in my hand so comfortably, and I love the interior crackle that is revealing itself over time. It is nice to see the coil and how it was made. Especially fun are its three feet. Countless times I have knocked the cup over, but it saved itself by the curve of its belly. So cute and roly poly.


My matcha bowl is not traditional. It is stoneware but looks like a bent and dented bowl you'd find at a campfire. I love it because I keep my matcha in a repurposed soup can, and this bowl fits right in. I found it in NJ at Mitsuwa, and it turned out to be the perfect size for a bowl of matcha.


When I enjoy infusions like barley tea, or corn tea, I love using my chubby glass Kinto pot. The cups and saucers were handmade for Tiny Pinecone by the Brooklyn artist, Beth Bolgla. All the thought Beth put in to the tea ware makes the user smile...from the tactile quality of the dots, to the fun stamps on the bottom that only show when you take your last sips of tea. When I hold these cups, I hold all my memories of serving the lovely customers that came to visit our pop-up shop.

I fondly recall the dotted Tiny Pinecone cups. I now have a simple, white gaiwan, which I haven't yet used but think it will become a favorite. I'd like to thank Lisa again for participating in this series. Your vessels are beautiful. All photos and stories courtesy of Lisa Chan.

Favorite Tea Ware - Boychik

Notes on Tea - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 18:59
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. It's a pleasure to share the favorite tea ware of "boychik". After joining Steepster four years ago, boychik's tea preferences changed from Assam/Ceylon/Darjeeling and English Breakfast/Earl Grey to Chinese teas (Puerh, Honcho, Yancha) though currently she's "exploring Taiwanese oolongs". Boychik described tea and teaware as obsessions. The teaware shown in this post have all been featured on her Instagram feed


Jian Shui Kyusu

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


Shiboridashi

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


Ruyao teacup

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


Damascus steel pu knife

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

See another view of this knife here.


Scale

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

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

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Favorite Tea Ware - Linda Gaylard, The Tea Stylist

Notes on Tea - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 18:59
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. Today's guest is well known in the world of tea. I am excited to present Linda Gaylard's favorite teaware. Linda is a Certified Tea Sommelier, author of The Tea Book and the blog The Tea Stylist, and a former wardrobe stylist.

I have hundreds of pieces of tea ware, so it was a fun exercise for me to chose just five. I have prep vessels for different types and styles of tea for tasting as well as sentimental pieces and items that I use during tea sessions and classes. Some I use only as props for photoshoots. I’m always looking for new places to display them as I’m quickly running out of storage space.



Small glass teapot
This little glass teapot is the work horse of my collection. It may be fragile, but it has been used thousands of times since I purchased it 7 years ago. It has no chips or cracks, which one worries about with something that seems so fragile. Holding only 12 oz it’s just the right size to fill two teacups, so it's good for sharing between 2 people. I like the fact also that I can admire the colour of the tea's liquor through the glass.



Handleless cup with saucer
I don't know the provenance of this set as it was bought at rummage sale, but from what I've been able to discover, it may be close to 200 years old and quite likely from a pottery in England. This style of set was made from mid-1700's to the early part of the 1800's. Cups from this period were made to resemble the first porcelain cups that arrived with tea from China. They were adapted as larger cups with deep saucers that were often used to cool the tea. Every time I use this set I imagine the stories around its decades/centuries of use.


Porcelain kyusu
Handmade by Quebec ceramic artist Reynald Sauve, this exquisite kyusu has a perfect pour and well calculated balance and its tiny strainer holes block any leaves from entering the cup. I use it for Japanese Sencha green tea. Its little sister is a sweet factory made kyusu with an ingenious tubular strainer that circles the interiors walls of the pot, catching the leaves while the tea is being poured. Perfect size for tiny cups of Japanese Gyokuro.


Blue and white rice grain gaiwan
This may be a run of the mill gaiwan that I purchased in Los Angeles Chinatown, but it has a nice light feel and refinement that makes it easy to handle when pouring. I also like its "rice grain" pattern which gives it a transparent quality.


Japanese flower cup
This sweet little cup has travelled many places with me. It’s been to Europe, China and South Korea as well as throughout Canada and the US. It was given to me as a set of 5 from my son’s girlfriend. There are only 2 left – a blue one and a brown one which I travel with (shown). It is just the right size for holding on a plane or train. It is so nice to drink from a porcelain cup rather than a paper cup. I wrap it in a linen cloth to keep it from getting damaged.

The idea of teaware used only for props in photo shoots seems so luxurious. I am in the market for a kyusu so it is useful to read about features that work well. Thank you Linda for sharing some of your favorite tea vessels with us. And all the best for World Tea Expo 2016. All photos and stories courtesy of Linda Gaylard.


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Favorite Tea Ware - A Taste of Mz Priss

Notes on Tea - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 18:58
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. It's a pleasure to share the favorite tea ware of Mz Priss of the (occasional) blog A Taste of Mz Priss. She has been seriously drinking tea since 2010 and has a serious addiction to beautiful teaware. Her tea heart belongs to middle aged shengs and great oolong, especially yancha.


This gaiwan was my very first and remains my very favorite. When I started drinking puer, I was improvising with a glass pyrex custard cup and little flower-shaped tea bag holder as the top. I decided I needed some proper tools and went searching on Amazon. I had beginner's luck with this one. I can't find it anymore so I'm really glad I snatched it when I did.


Two of my passions are tea and rocks. Most of the tea session photos I post on Instagram have a crystal or two in them. This piece combines both of my loves - it is a cup carved from lapis lazuli. I got it from Ebay and it is so special that I only drink one tea from this cup. The tea is Rivendell from Whispering Pines and it is as lovely as this cup.


This gaiwan set has a ruyao (ru) glaze that develops crackles as you use it over time. I adore the lotus shape. I use this set often and it becomes more beautiful to me the more I use it.


This pot is a very recent acquisition. When I saw a beautiful pot that my very best tea friend got from Crimson Lotus last year, I asked Glen of Crimson Lotus to keep an eye out for a small (no larger than 125 ml) gorgeous pot with beautiful carving on it. He came through mightily! This beauty is a handmade jian shui pot that has not been polished to smoothness with stones on the outside. I love this texture, the amazing carving and the shipaio shape.


This very sweet little set came fromTaiwan Tea Crafts and I use it ALL the time. It has an ash glazed finish and it goes perfectly with the rainbow cups from Teaware House. I love the little tea boat.

Thank you very much to Mz Priss for sharing five of her favorite tea objects. She told me it was a difficult decision. I have been wishing for a rice pattern gaiwan, have seen the rectangular sharing vessel all over social media, and because I went to the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens last weekend, am drawn to the lotus teapot.

P.S. The Favorite Tea Ware series will take a break in August and return in September. Read all the posts in the series here.

Chocolate Tea – Am I in heaven?

T Ching - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 12:30

As the Best Tea Blog on the internet, we receive countless offers to sample and review teas from around the world.  Subsequently, I have become extremely selective in my willingness to sample tea.  I have one prerequisite however which does eliminate many opportunities – it must be organic.  I believe strongly that when we consume something regularly, it should not contain pesticides.  No matter how healthy tea is, if it’s loaded with chemicals and pesticides, it’s no longer a health beverage from my vantage point.

It’s no surprise that I LOVE tea – especially greens and whites. My second love is chocolate (followed by my third love which is bread).  When I received an offer from Tisano to sample their Chocolate tea, I was unable to resist. Of course, I first confirmed that it was organic and didn’t have any added sugar.  Much to my delight, I discovered that they offered a 5% profit sharing with farming communities and the Victor Pineda Foundation which is a non-profit, global disability rights organization. Now I just had to wait for the samples to arrive.

On the day of arrival, I made my first cup of chocolate tea and believe me, it was heavenly. I like dark chocolate, the darker the better, and this 100% cacao tea was better than I imagined a chocolate tea could be. The instructions called for 1 teaspoon of cacao tea to 8 oz of water. Although I was tempted to add a bit more cacao, as most addicts are inclined to do, I felt compelled to brew up the tea according to the recommendations.  Heat water to 210 F and steep for 5 long minutes.

The tea was simply delicious. It satisfied my craving for chocolate and it felt like I was drinking my dessert. This will surly satisfy me when I’m trying to reduce my consumption of cookies and cakes.  It just hit the spot and left me feeling very happy. I plan to place an order this week as I’ll not risk running out. Once my husband tries it, it will be gone before I blink.  Thank you Tisano.  You’ve got a winner!

Photo

The post Chocolate Tea – Am I in heaven? appeared first on T Ching.

Makaibari Bai Mu Dan from Tea People

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White Tea

Where to Buy: Tea People

Tea Description:

This  fine White Darjeeling tea is from the organically certified Makaibari tea estate located in the town of Kurseong.  In the local language ‘Kurseong’ means the land of the white orchid.  This tea is made from the delicate unopened leaves and yields the palest liquor with a light chestnut flavour.  

Learn more about the white teas that are offered here.  This particular variety does not look to be on the website any longer.

Taster’s Review:

 

Makaibari Bai Mu Dan from Tea People is my first voyage into the lineup of what Tea People has to offer their customers. Lately, I’ve been in a flavored tea rut, not enjoying straight teas like I should.  So I thought this would be a great start in forcing myself to try new straight teas.

First of all, I have to say the packaging, website, and the presentation of this tea and tea company are very well done. After doing a bit of research, this is a company I’m going to take another look at the next time I’m buying tea. Their packaging really catches my attention.

So let’s chat about the tea itself. What I first noticed was that the dry leaf really didn’t call my attention or have any defining notes. I was surprised by this but went about steeping the tea per the instructions provided by Tea People.

From what I can gather from the description, this tea is supposed to have a rather light chestnut flavor. That is a note that really does come thru, but that isn’t the attribute that I pick up from this tea. Mostly what I find myself picking up is this lovely whole mouth feel of astringent notes that really captivates the senses. Sure the lovely nutty flavors are quite nice, but that astringency says “Hello! Check me out!”.

So my final thoughts? I can’t say that I love this tea as much as I would love a floral white tea, but this Makaibari Bai Mu Dan was a real treat. I’m really enjoying this cuppa!

The post Makaibari Bai Mu Dan from Tea People appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Different shades of fakes

A Tea Addict's Journal - Tue, 07/26/2016 - 07:04

When we say a tea is fake, what do we really mean? This is really an interesting epistemological problem because not only are we asking what “fake tea” means, but also how we can determine when something is fake. As is the case with a lot of things, there are varying shades of fakeness. I’ll try to go through them from most severe to least severe.

1. Bad tea as good. This is the worst of the worst – tea that is spoiled or been brewed or otherwise ruined being sold as good, new tea, so on so forth. The possibilities for this category are really endless, since there are a million ways to make something out of nothing. Among them is the cake I blogged about recently where it was a mix of raw and cooked puerh, and the raw leaves were completely tasteless and flavourless – probably leaves already brewed and then dried again to be pressed.

2. The selling of non-teas as tea. In the West these would be called tisane, but are then sold as teas. This happens more in China than anywhere else. I still remember way back when I was still in high school, I was in an organized group tour of Fujian province. We visited some places, including Wuyi mountains. We were taken to a tea shop, and of course we were served some teas. One of the last things they showed us was this thing the guy called “one leaf gan“. Gan, of course, is Chinese for the sweet sensation you get from drinking tea. The tea was sold as something special, etc etc, and how only a couple leaves in a cup will leave a nice gan taste in your mouth. Since this was a tour organized by the local government authorities, I thought it would be ok to buy some of this as a souvenir (i.e. not too likely to be cheated). Needless to say, I way overpaid for what I now know as kuding cha. Rookie mistake there.

There’s a lot of other types of things that get sold as teas even though they’re really not, with Yunnan being a particularly rich source of these alternative plants that people then harvest to make into tea in order to capitalize on the puerh craze. One that you might see more often is yabao. These are buds that look a little like tiny bamboo shoots, and is most often sold by puerh vendors as wild, ancient tea buds. In fact, quite often these aren’t even from camellia sinensis trees. These buds are quite cheap but are often upsold as rare, wild, etc, and with a price tag to match. They don’t age, so buying them for aging is really a bad idea. They are also very cold in nature in Chinese medicine terms, and can cause stomach problems for some people. You can even find them in cake forms, like this and this for example on Taobao. Similarly, you might see “teas” like camellia taliensis being sold as puerh. My suggestion is avoid all these pseudo-teas unless you explicitly want them.

3. Obscuring origins. This is where things get tricky. When you think about it, nothing is stopping a vendor from heading down to the nearest Chinatown supermarket, buy up a bunch of tins of tea that cost $5 each, empty them, and repack them as premium teas and reselling them to you at 4x the markup. If you’re buying tea at $20 an ounce, you’re probably not buying $5 cans of tea from Chinatown, so you would be none-the-wiser. There’s also the rather common practice of intentionally selling something as something else. For example, in Nantou county the only place you can probably name as a tea producing area is probably Dongding, which is famous for its oolong. You have probably never heard of Mingjian, which actually produces a lot more tea but is on lower elevation with flat land and mostly machine-harvested. However, better teas from the Mingjian area is often, if not always, sold as Dongding. Try go out and find a Mingjian tea – you won’t find many vendors selling that.

The reason is of course money. Dongding gets a better price. Unless you know the areas well and the teas well, you probably can’t tell the difference if you just drink them. Because tea has no inherent labels, anything can be sold as anything else. For things that are obviously far apart, it’s hard to do, but for things that are closer together – location, style, etc, it’s not hard to do at all. Witness all the uproar in Taiwan about imported oolongs from Vietnam, for example, or all the maocha being imported to places like Lao Banzhang which are then sold to outsiders buying them to press into their LBZ cakes when in fact the teas are not LBZ at all. Because there is so much variation in tea from cup to cup, it’s very easy to obscure this sort of thing and sell one tea as A when it’s in fact from B. Unless the person doing the buying knows the area intimately well, and in the case of puerh, follows the tea their entire way from tree to cake, it’s very easy to get sold something completely different.

4. Inflating statistics. This is sort of similar to the previous one, but in things like the age of the tea, the age of the tree that produced the tea, that sort of thing. For example – how do you determine age on an aged oolong? There are ways – the shape of the leaves, the taste, the colour, but those things are subtle, and unless you’ve seen and drunk a lot of aged oolongs, it’s not going to be easy to judge. If a vendor says their aged oolong is 30 years old, what do you do with that information? I can tell you right now that it’s not hard finding aged oolongs that are 20+ years old, but it’s a lot harder to find nice aged oolongs 30+ years old. The price difference is pretty significant, but so is the taste. Someone selling a tea to you claiming it’s over 30 years old is going to be charging you a lot more money than it would be at 20+ but unless you can objectively judge it yourself, the room for, well, inflated claims are high. I’ve had some aged oolong from Taiwan that are almost certainly faked – but done quite well so that it’s very hard to spot. If I hadn’t had hundreds of aged oolongs, I would’ve fallen for them too.

It’s even worse with age of trees, and we’ve seen plenty of controversies in the past few years with vendors making somewhat outrageous claims with the age of tea trees. The much harder to verify claims is when someone moves up one age bracket – going from, say, 100 years old trees to 2-300 years old. Or having teas that are actually mixed being sold as pure old tree material. Again, the room for error is quite large here.

In a funny way, pressed puerh tea is probably the most transparent in the market for this sort of thing. Especially for older teas, there’s a pretty good record of documentation for a lot of productions, and this is information freely available on the web. There’s good agreement on what different era teas look like and the type of packaging they come with. Loose leaf tea is a lot harder to judge as a result, but aged puerh is relatively easy to spot fakes for in the eyes of the experienced. So even though aged puerh is one of the most heavily faked areas, because of the promise of money, it is also where one could, if one does enough studying, relatively safely navigate the waters. Staring at a bag of loose oolong and trying to figure out how much it’s worth is actually quite a bit more difficult.

5. Finally we’ve got stories. I think it’s safe to say that there are now two kinds of online vendors in the West. The first are the no-story vendors. You have people like White2Tea who is now eschewing any kind of story-telling. He might as well just give his teas Greek letters as names and just put “tea” in product description, since tasting notes are generally worthless anyway given the infinite variation of water, brewing parameters, and teaware producing different kinds of tastes. You have people like Yunnan Sourcing who just describe the item without much fanfare. I tend to prefer this style of tea selling – you’re, hopefully, buying just the tea.

Then you have story-tellers. Vendors in this category tend to focus on personalities – either the vendor him/herself, or the people who supposedly are making the tea they are selling. The former type tend to be marketed as some kind of tea-master, tea-monk, or whatever pseudo-religious type of personality you prefer. You see this in Asia and you see this in the West as well. All I can say about them is this – it’s always a healthy idea to shop around, because the truths that one person has discovered about tea cannot be the only truth. All too often, I see people who have gone down the rabbit hole and follow their master into some pretty dubious territory of paying top dollar for inferior tea and teaware. When you have identified one “master” to follow and believe every word they say about tea, this sort of thing tends to happen. There are always ones who then “wake up” from this slumber and discover that they’ve been conned, but usually that’s only after some time and a lot of money spent. I certainly think I spent more money than I should have at the Best Tea House, although thankfully I never bought that much tea from them either owing to my discovery of cheaper, better sources relatively quickly, and not spending that much time in Hong Kong in my formative years of tea drinking.

The type of vendor that focus on the tea farmers I only really see in the West. I think there’s a certain exoticism that comes attached to this marketing ploy, and the consumer is paying for what they perceive as authenticity. If I buy from this vendor, then I’m pretty much buying direct from the farmer who made this tea I’m drinking with their bare hands! Or so the thinking goes. There’s definitely a certain attractiveness to this idea. I personally like visiting tea farms as well, if for nothing else than to talk to the farmers and see what they’re up to. They are, generally speaking, nice people (but of course, I’m also always a potential customer). The problem is, most of these farmers are also making teas that are, well, mediocre. I can’t tell you how many forgettable visits I’ve had of farmers whose teas are just “meh,” or worse. Just because a tea is direct from some farmer doesn’t mean it’s good. Traditionally, nobody bought direct from farmers. In the old days teashops in major cities would buy from middlemen who went to the mountains to purchase maocha from the farmers. These shops would then blend, process, and package the tea. and then resold to the end consumer. The processing often includes additional roasting and that sort of thing. There’s nothing inherently “authentic” about buying direct from the farm – if anything it’s a pretty recent phenomenon from the past few decades as transportation to a lot of tea farming areas improved so that any random person can drive up and visit.

There are also those pictures – oh those lovely pictures of tea plants in neat rows with mountains in the back. What they might not show you is how the person taking the photo might be standing on the ditch next to the highway that’s 10ft behind them, or the undergrowth that are all yellow because they just sprayed herbicide on them last week, or other similar things. Farmers are also vendors, and quite often some farmers will also carry teas made by others for one reason or another. Farmers, I hate to say, also tell lies to sell their teas, and these lies are then retold to the Western consumer in “authentic” form through instragram-filtered photos and neat little videos. Are these fakes? Strictly speaking, no. But it’s important to remember that what you’re buying and drinking is the tea. There are genuine farmers doing interesting things with their teas, but those are pretty rare. Most of the time, the teas are replaceable and paying extra for the story you’re told is really nothing but smoke-and-mirrors.

Someone pointed out to me that much of this marketing of farmers is quite similar to what’s been going on for far longer in the wine industry. There’s certainly a bit of parallel there, but also important differences. The first is that wineries tend not to sell other people’s wines, for obvious reasons. It’s also not that easy (nor profitable) to fake newly produced wines from other places – unless it’s a Romanee Conti or something equally exalted. Appellation control is nonexistent for tea. So…. yes, there are similarities, but also important differences. What works for the wine industry may not be such a great idea for the tea industry, because the nature of the products are inherently different. Maybe we will see things evolve from here that works better for tea, but a farmer-focused approach is, I think, quite misguided as currently done.

The advice I have for newcomers is the same as always – drink around. Talk to people – different kinds of people. Don’t get too attached to one vendor. Compare and be critical. The internet makes all this possible. Use it.

Podcast Episode 21: World Tea Expo 2016

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 07/25/2016 - 16:00
Just when you thought I was done with my World Tea Expo coverage, I decided to sneak in one more thing. For this month's podcast episode I put together a slideshow of pictures from my trip (accompanied by my dorky narrations). It was definitely a memorable trip and I was so glad that I got to share the experience with my fiance, Jason.

This is the first slideshow that I've made with Adobe Spark, thanks to inspiration from +Rachana Rachel Carter. The process was pretty painless. Their music selection was kind of limited but that wasn't really an option this time around anyway.

Is there something (or someone) that you'd like to see on the podcast? Let me know about it the comments!
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