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Gopaldhara Wonder Tea First Flush 2014 from Darjeeling Tea Lovers

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Darjeeling Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

GOPALDHARA WONDER ‘GOLD’ one of the most popular tea among the Darjeeling Tea Connoisseurs. A very limited stock is manufactured from the YOUNG TEA PLANTATIONS of this garden and this particular lot has been tagged as GOLD due to the supreme quality.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf looks a lot more like a green tea than a black tea.  The aroma is pleasantly floral.  Because the leaves are more “green” than black, I would advise not going higher than 195°F to brew this tea – that’s what I used and I’m quite pleased with the result.  This is my usual ‘go-to’ temperature when it comes to Darjeeling teas, because they don’t seem to be as fully oxidized as other black teas are, even though they are usually categorized as a black tea.  Darjeeling teas tend to be a little more delicate and should be treated differently.

I brewed these beautiful pale green, silvery tipped leaves in my Breville One-Touch.  I used 2 bamboo scoops of leaf and 500ml of water heated to 195°F, and steeped the leaves for 2 ½ minutes.  As I said before, I’m quite pleased with the resulting tea.  Delicious!

Then again, I’ve been blown away by all the teas that I’ve tried from this company.  Let me tell you, Darjeeling Tea Lovers KNOWS Darjeeling tea.  If you’re a devotee of Darjeeling tea, this is a company you should be exploring.  They have some of the very best Darjeeling teas I’ve ever tasted.

And this Gopaldhara Wonder Tea is indeed a wonder!  Wonderful, that is!  Sweet, crisp and refreshing!  The liquid is somewhere between gold and green.  It’s much paler than many Darjeeling teas that I’ve had this year.  And it has a “greener” sort of taste to me.  It tastes lighter and cleaner than a typical “black” Darjeeling.  This doesn’t have that “muscatel” flavor that you might expect from a Darjeeling.  This tea seems more focused on the sweet, delicate notes of flower.  I taste notes of jasmine!  Nice!

There are also delicate vegetal notes.  Not so much vegetable (as in steamed veggies) as it is lightly grassy.  But this is a sweet grassy note, not a bitter one.  The sip starts out sweet and I pick up on the floral notes right away.  Toward mid-sip, some of those lightly sweet, grassy notes start to come into focus.  The sip ends with a floral note that is jasmine-esque, and this flavor lingers into the aftertaste.  There is a light astringency at the start of the cup, and this astringency does develop as I continue to sip, but never becomes a really strong or what I would call astringent tea, instead, it’s a moderate astringency that leaves the palate feeling clean and invigorated.

An excellent afternoon tea – break out this tea when you have special guests over that you’re looking to impress!  Or save it for an afternoon when you have time to reflect – this is one of those teas that I’d call meditative!  The kind of tea that I want to enjoy when I don’t have a 101 different things to do … or the kind of tea I want to enjoy when I do have 101 things to do but I want to forget about them and just enjoy a moment for me!

Blueberry Hill Shou Mei White Tea from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 10/19/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

Yerp, I’m going to say it: I’ve found my thrill… and it’s Blueberry Hill Shou Mei. This is a crisp, refreshing shou mei white tea blended with real freeze-dried blueberries and organic flavors. No, it’s not as far out there as some of our blends. It’s not peanut butter, bacon, tuna fish sandwich on rye flavored tea. Just delicious, amazing blueberry flavor in our lovely hay-like shou mei.

Learn more about this blend here.

Learn how to subscribe to 52Teas’  Tea of the Week program here.

Taster’s Review:


Yeah, I’ve had a few blueberry teas.  Blueberry teas are not as popular as say, strawberry teas, but there are still quite a few blueberry teas out there and even some blueberry white teas and I’ve tried a few of them.  But that doesn’t make this Blueberry Hill Shou Mei any less tasty!

One of the things that I enjoy about a 52Teas blend is the fact that there are (usually) chunks of the thing that I’m tasting in the blend.  Like for this blend, as I was scooping out the tea into my Breville One-Touch tea maker, I found a couple of freeze-dried blueberries.  Not just one little tiny berry.  These are large berries and I must have scooped out at least three in the 2 1/2 bamboo scoops of tea that I measured into the basket of the Breville.  (I generally use a little more leaf when it comes to white tea because the leaves are bigger and create more “space” in the scoop when I’m scooping it out.)

My settings for the tea maker:  500ml of water into the jug, 170°F and 3 1/2 minutes steep time.  Delightful results!

This tastes just exactly how I hoped it would.  Sweet blueberry-ish goodness with pleasing white tea notes of hay.  The white tea is crisp and refreshing and doesn’t hide behind the flavor.  The blueberry tastes sweet and a little tart and it tastes true to the fruit.

It’s a really enjoyable cup of tea that tastes wonderful served hot and even better iced.  The tea can be resteeped and it still tastes wonderful.  This is a win – even if it isn’t one of 52Teas more unusual creations.  Sometimes simplicity is just plain tasty!

Featured Tea Book - Book of Tea Classic Edition

Tea Guy Speaks - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 18:24
from the publisher:

Now available in a gorgeous hardcover slipcase edition, this "object d'art" will be sure to add grace and elegance to tea shelves, coffee tables and bookshelves. A keepsake enjoyed by tea lovers for over a hundred years, The Book of Tea Classic Edition will enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the seemingly simple act of making and drinking tea.

In 1906 in turn-of-the century Boston, a small, esoteric book about tea was written with the intention of being read aloud in the famous salon of Isabella Gardner, Boston's most famous socialite. It was authored by Okakura Kakuzo, a Japanese philosopher, art expert, and curator. Little known at the time, Kakuzo would emerge as one of the great thinkers of the early 20th century, a genius who was insightful, witty—and greatly responsible for bridging Western and Eastern cultures. Okakura had been taught at a young age to speak English and was more than capable of expressing to Westerners the nuances of tea and the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

In The Book of Tea Classic Edition he discusses such topics as Zen and Taoism, but also the secular aspects of tea and Japanese life. The book emphasizes how Teaism taught the Japanese many things; most importantly, simplicity. Kakuzo argues that tea-induced simplicity affected the culture, art and architecture of Japan.

Nearly a century later, Kakuzo's The Book of Tea Classic Edition is still beloved the world over, making it an essential part of any tea enthusiast's collection. Interwoven with a rich history of Japanese tea and its place in Japanese society is poignant commentary on Asian culture and our ongoing fascination with it, as well as illuminating essays on art, spirituality, poetry, and more. The Book of Tea Classic Edition is a delightful cup of enlightenment from a man far ahead of his time.

The Book of Tea Classic Edition

A Moment for Tea - Barry's Gold Blend

Tea Time With A.C. Cargill - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 15:58
No matter what life throws your way, everything is a bit better when you take a moment out for tea. I'll be presenting various teas here as I am enjoying them and encourage you to join me, setting aside cares of the day for at least a short time.

This is Barry's Gold Blend that we used to be able to buy from World Market but now have to find elsewhere since we moved and they don't have a store near our new location. (I think the nearest is in Wichita, Kansas - quite a drive away, but I guess we could always take the risk of shopping online.) And of course, I always cut open the bags and dump the loose tea in the pot for steeping. Tastes better that way.

2014 Northwest Tea Festival @ Seattle (10/4-5/2014)

Pon Fon Cha - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 19:20

Cheers!  Cheers to all of our tea friends in Northwest !
This one indeed has been delayed for 7 years.

Back in 2008 at the World Tea Expo, Julee and Doug had invited us to be part of Northwest Tea Festival at Seattle, our answer was 'maybe... next year'.  It ends up, year after year, and we have missed them all till this one.  Due to our TOST program happens to have conflict on the schedule. Both events are taken place in October, and it is extremely difficult for us to loose focus.
Here we are, finally, attending 2014 Northwest Tea Festival at the famous Seattle Center.

I am shocked to see how busy the festival is... we need to squeeze and get by...while each exhibitor is happily serving customers.  The official tea cups are totally gone almost right after the door open on Sunday, and it shows how tea lovers in the Northwest are really thirsty for fine tea.  We have two sessions here, one is on main stage, Saturday 2pm, which Josephine and I share with our open audience - 'Spectrum of Taiwan Oolongs'., another one is Advanced Cupping on Taiwan Oolongs with signed up attendees.

Friday Round Up - October 12th through October 18th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:00
Obsessed by Tea and How to Know Cwyn's brand of wit and sarcasm are just my cup of tea. This list definitely speaks to much of my life as an obsessive tea drinker. Especially the part at the end about having to pee... Matcha Cornflake Clusters +Bonnie Eng is at it again! This recipe had me drooling (and making a mental note to pick up some culinary matcha). I thought that the poppy seeds addedNicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

The Upward Trend in the Quality of Teas from India

Tea Time With A.C. Cargill - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 15:26

Four teas from Doke Tea Garden – truly a cut above!
Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved.For centuries, many of the teas from India that we Westerners in Europe and North America were used to drinking were of the CTC variety or that dust in teabags. Not anything to write home about, as the saying goes, and in dire need of flavor additives such as milk, sugar, spices, honey, lemon, various fruit flavors, and even flower petals and mint leaves. These days, though, there is a definite upward trend in the quality of teas we are seeing from India.

Some of this trend can be attributed to the tea gardens in the Darjeeling area of West Bengal, India, having achieved a geographical designation for their teas a few years ago. When customers are assured that they are getting true Darjeeling tea, not some inferior tea with a bit of Darjeeling leaves blended in, they are willing to pay more, as some of the record prices now being paid for these teas can attest.

But there are other indicators: more teas from other tea-growing areas of India, such as Assam, Nilgiri, and Bihar, are being sold by tea garden and flush, not just as “black Indian tea” in bags. And the various styles are increasing. I, for one, hadn’t heard of green teas from Assam until quite recently. Now I see them all over. And white teas. Plus I am getting inquiries online from people in India wanting information on how to process oolongs.

What does all this mean? Personally, I see it as a very good sign. From huge plantations churning out nondescript black teas, growers are now beginning a transition to smaller gardens (or huge gardens with smaller sections) growing tea plants for use in making more premium teas. Tea processors from China and elsewhere are being sought out to help in this transition. Tea expert Nigel Melican is now working with the India Tea Board, lending his vast knowledge on processing teas. Yes, indeed, things are looking up for India and for tea drinkers around the world.

A great illustration is the Doke Tea Garden, Bihar, India.

My experiences trying various samples of this garden’s teas have been real eye-openers. I mean, they could have taken the easy route – harvesting the leaves, processing them into those little CTC bits or that dust in a teabag. After all, people drink a lot of that stuff. The Doke teabag brand could have been crowding out all those cheap bagged teas off of the grocery store shelves. So why not? Because there’s more at issue here. That trend upward, for one thing. A slow, tough slog with a substantial learning curve for folks who are used to how those other teas are processed. And hopefully a path that leads to better things for the owners of the tea gardens and for the people who work for them there.

While those bagged teas, those blends that are in the cups of people all across The United Kingdom, Ireland, and even here in Canada and the U.S., still have their place, people there are waking up to this new trend, waking to these more varied and higher quality teas. We’ve learned to stop accepting just “green tea” and “black tea” as our choices, and now we want that Spring Flush, etc., from a certain garden, or an oolong from Taiwan instead of Anxi, or a raw well-aged pu-erh instead of that artificially aged ripe/cooked pu-erh. In other words, we’re getting picky. And that’s a good thing. Having a vendor smother that inferior tea with flower petals and bits of dried fruit will no longer due, at least I hope it won’t. Getting a taste of the “good stuff” can be addictive and mean that you’ll never want to go back. These Doke teas are certainly some of the ones that spoiled me!

Back seven: tea and tomlike

T Ching - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:03

It was a crisp clear morning toward the end of September. All were properly attired in layered outerwear and with backpacks packed with food and beverage as well as the requisite all purpose knife, thermos, and traveling tea set.

After a beautiful 40 minute drive, we arrived at Wahtum Lake, trailhead for our destination: Tomlike Mountain – one of the most remote destinations in the Columbia River Wilderness. Michelle and I had never been there before, but Regena was an old hand at taming the ridges of Tomlike. From the parking lot we immediately began our gradual ascent. Our goal was to reach the highest peak at the north end of the ridge. A long hike lay a head of us. We forged ahead at a relatively quick pace with our goal fixed in our minds. Fortunately, (depending on your perspective) we quickly got sidetracked and slowed down to a crawl. The cause: Cantharellus kauffmanii. As you can see from the photo, it is quite an eye catcher. Unfortunately, none of us brought our mushroom, wildflower, or any other field guides. We had no idea what we were looking at, just that it was quite intriguing looking. From there, our forward and upward zeal went downward and downhill, becoming a “let’s move at a snail’s pace and cover every inch of the area” kind of zeal. It turned out that the Anthill Trail to the top of Tomlike Mountain was teeming with mushrooms. Scores of the beautiful and exotic looking Amanita muscaria as well as melting Boletus edulus and other assorted fungi. As excited as we were at our discoveries, it was quite clear that we had missed the sweet spot for edibles by about a week. Everything was on its way back to the humus from which it arose.

We finally gave up the ghost and returned to our onward and upward moving zeal. We were cruising along at a nice pace now, stopping occasionally to appreciate the awe-inspiring surroundings. Winding our way along the ridge, the path became narrower and more obscure. At one point, even the seasoned Regena became a bit disoriented as to where the path was. Tapping eventually into her muscle memory, her legs started heading in the right direction until we found ourselves once again on an identifiable path.

At that point, we decided it was the perfect time for tea and repast. We found a beautiful spot on a rocky outcropping overlooking the mountains and valleys below. Regena took out her thermos – an antique Stanley which looks as though it was run over by a tank from the Normandy invasion and weighing as much as a cheap laptop – and I took out my hiking/traveling tea set made up of a small 100 mL gaiwan, a sharing pitcher, 8 tasting cups and a special tweezer used to take out the tea leaves. I brought An Ji Bai Cha and Bai Hao Yinzhen. We decided on the Angel White (An Ji Bai Cha). There is an old Chinese saying that the best way to enjoy tea is while in beautiful natural surroundings with fresh water from a spring and with cherished loved ones. This certainly fit the bill. I can attest to the fact that there is something qualitatively different about sharing a cup of tea with friends and loved ones while surrounded by nature’s bountiful beauty. The beauty, peace and tranquility of our surroundings was brought internally by virtue of sharing some delicious tea.

We resumed our hike and along the way became sidetracked two more times as we passed through a good sized patch of huckleberry bushes laden with their luscious dark purple fruit (Yum!) and finally passing through a grove of pygmy pines. We were prepared for the pines, for this was one of Regena’s favorite spots on the hike, an odd saddle at 4000 feet elevation, covered with pines stunted as if growing at timberline. Timberline – that point where trees cease to grow – is usually about 7000′ at our latitude.

As we came out of the grove of pygmy pines, we found the pathway penetrated by a plethora of pleasantly pigmented paleolithic stones and our eyes penetrated by a panoramic perspective of promethean prodigiousness. We were surrounded on all sides by vistas that simply took our breath away.

The last leg of our ascent required us to traverse an enormous pile of very large platter-sized scree, called Cascade Dinner Plates. A little intimidating at first because these platters rocked when you stepped on them. It made for a very exciting ascent (and descent). Finally, we reached the pinnacle of our climb and, craving a respite and more tea, we found a spot at the top of the ridge. There we repeated our richly rewarding shared tea ritual in yet another magnificent setting. Beautiful as it was, weather blowing in kept us from the best views: Mts. Hood; St. Helens; Adams; and Rainier. This time we shared some Silver Needles (Bai Hao Yinzhen). The delicately sweet refreshing taste of this tea accentuated the sweetness of the moment. Having spent a wonderful day together in such heady surroundings left us in a light, heady almost meditative mood. It was delicious.

Loading image provided by contributor.  IMAGE 1:       IMAGE 2:       IMAGE 3:

Originally published November 5, 2007.

The post Back seven: tea and tomlike appeared first on T Ching.

Our 8 Favorite Fall Flavors

Joy's Teaspoon - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 04:16

Spicy Apple

by Naomi Rosen

Fall is in the air, even here in Vegas. When we dropped into the mid-60′s a few mornings ago, my boys asked me if it was going to be a snow day. Then there’s Trader Joe’s and their pumpkin butter! Since it is the season for some of my favorite flavors and aromas, I figured now was a great time to share 8 of my favorite Autumn teas and some suggested recipes to go with them!

Spicy Apple and Spicy Pear - These two have a lot in common. Both have black tea bases and that spicy cinnamon zing. And both are subtly sweet due to their fruity additions. I’m a fan of pairing these teas with sweets, namely Banana Bread. Mostly because it’s freaking banana bread!

American Chai - This chai is heavy on the cinnamon and to compliment that flavor, it pairs really well with this Beef Chili with Cinnamon and Chocolate. It will help bring out the subtle chili and chocolate additions and, let’s face it, it’s the ultimate fall meal!

Tie Guan Yin - This oolong tea is unique because the leaves have been roasted to add a natural nutty flavor to the cup. Now, I know Thai noodles don’t seem very “Fall-ish”, but in my house, we eat them all year round. One of my favorite recipes is this Chicken Thai Noodle with Peanut Sauce recipe. If you are looking for a meat free option, this recipe is great with tofu as well.

Lapsang Souchong - If you’ve never tried lapsang souchong before, you are in for quite a treat. It’s a black tea that has been smoked over pine and because of that smokiness, it’s one of my favorite things to pair with salmon! In particular, this super simple Almond Salmon. You can even use some of the dried tea in the pesto to give the fish a subtle smoky flavor. Bonus Suggestion: Lapsang souchong paired with an aged cheddar cheese is quite possibly the tastiest thing you will ever put in your mouth.

Apple Cider - The only green tea to make this list, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this green tea will be mild in flavor. Normally I would pair green teas with chicken and fish, but this flavor is strong enough to hold its own against just about any dish. I’m pairing it with an Apple and Onion Pork Chop recipe that is simple and one of my families hands down favorites!

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland - Let’s go with the idea, for just a moment, that the perfect accoutrement (said in a my horrid French accent) to a delicious cup of tea is a scone. These Orange and Cranberry Scones are just the ticket! Winter Wonderland has star anise, oranges and cinnamon doing most of the talking and the sweet jab of orange and cranberry in the scone is refreshing without duking it out with those strong flavors.

Masala Chai - Traditionally, masala chai’s are made by steeping the leaves and spices in milk (vs. steeping in water and adding milk). Because of this, chai’s always make me think of sitting in a bakery. They’re rich and creamy and heavenly…and then you add something sugary and floury! Some of my favorite recipes to go with this fall staple include: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes, Caramel Apple Cheesecakes, and Krispy Kreme’s Original Glaze doughnuts. Stop judging me! I’m sure I could make doughnuts to pair with it, but they would never beat KK!

Now I want to hear from you! What are some of your favorite fall teas and their BFF recipes? Have a better recipe idea to pair with on these teas? Let’s hear it!




2014 L.A. International Tea Festival (8/16-17/2014)

Pon Fon Cha - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 23:48

Glad to see The 4th Annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival is growing bigger and bigger. We are still at the same venue: National Japanese American History Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.  It is mutually beneficial to our tea festival and Nisei Matsuri event over the weekend.
Josephine and Karen are working so hard at the booth while I have to do the tea classes.  We just hope more and more tea lovers will enjoy a festival that brings so many vendors and shoppers together, plus a great deal of programs in the classrooms.

We have one class 'All about Taiwan Oolongs' in Saturday, and then join Mr. James Pratt Norwood for the 'International Tea Forum' on Sunday.  We believe in tea education to effectively cultivate our regional tea market.

Favorite Tea Ware: Jee Choe of Oh, How Civilized

Notes on Tea - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 18:00
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore tea ware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite 3 of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Jee Choe of Oh, How Civilized.

Mariage Frères Tea Canister: On the last two trips to Paris, I picked up tea canisters from Mariage Frères. They're so pretty and the colors are gorgeous, like this mint green one. This one is filled with Marco Polo, one of the best selling Mariage Frères blends. [Mariage Frères]

Matcha Ladle: I got this Bamboo Matcha Ladle from Ippodo, at their shop in Midtown East. This delicate ladle scoops out the perfect portion of matcha and I use it almost every day. [Ippodo Tea NY]

Matcha Whisk: When I got the ladle at Ippodo, I got this 80-tip Bamboo Whisk with it. This is my second one since the first got a little beaten up from not using it properly. I was too aggressively whisking the matcha against the bottom of the bowl -- something you shouldn't do, which I learned the hard way.

All photos are courtesy of Jee Choe. Thank you, Jee. 

Revitalize Ayurvedic Tea from TeaVeda

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  The Veda Company

Tea Description:

“Revitalize” your mind, body and spirit with refreshing and rejuvenating essences of wild mint, cinnamon and traditional Ayurvedic Indian Gooseberry.  Each blend is mildly caffeinated with green tea, one of nature’s antioxidant wonders.

Learn more about the teas from TeaVeda here.

Taster’s Review:

Indian Gooseberry is not something that I’m well acquainted with, so I googled it to learn more.  Based on the information that I could find, it is high in vitamin C, it is an antioxidant and does all kinds of other good for you things like enhances brain function, heart support and it’s good for your skin and hair among many other benefits.

OK, sounds good to me.

The berry is supposed to offer a very strong sour and bitter taste.  Bitter and sour are not two of my favorite words when it comes to describing tea.

So maybe the Indian Gooseberry is starting to sound less good to me.

But, hey, there are other ingredients in this tea too.  Not just the gooseberry.  Cinnamon and wild mint.  I like them.  And I like green tea.  So, maybe these other ingredients will help make the Indian Gooseberry more palatable.

So, I’ll try it.  Hey!  That’s what I do.  That’s why I’m here.  And that’s why you’re here.  You’re here to read about what I’m drinking.  And I’m about to drink this tea.

To brew it, I heated freshly filtered water to 175°F and I got out my favorite teacup.  Unfortunately, it isn’t the gorgeous Revitalize teacup from the TeaVeda collection.  But I like my sunflower teacup anyway!

I let the tea sachet steep for 2 minutes.  The aroma has a strong fruity essence with light background notes of cinnamon and a whisper of mint.

The flavor is strong.  It has a strong, berry like flavor that is indeed both bitter and sour.  The cinnamon and mint do balance this strong flavor out though.  I’m finding the flavor a little surprising because cinnamon and mint tend to be very strong, aggressive flavors and it surprises me that the Indian Gooseberry is a stronger flavor than the other ingredients.  The gooseberry is what I taste – front and center – while the other flavors seem to temper the bitterness and tart character of the gooseberry.

That said, I find the flavor to be enjoyable.  I am not a big fan of bitter and sour flavors, but, because of the presence of the mint and cinnamon, these two flavors are much more acceptable to my palate … not just acceptable, but actually enjoyable.

I don’t taste a lot of green tea here and if I’m to offer a complaint about this tea, that would be it.  I would like to have a stronger green tea presence.  After all, I’m drinking tea.  I want to taste the tea.

I found this tea to be quite interesting, and I could notice myself feeling revitalized after I finished it.  I would certainly drink this again if the opportunity presented itself.

Beau Bien Fine Foods Apricot Darjeeling Preserves

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 16:00
I love finding tea infused treats almost as much as I love finding new teas to drink. Recently +Joseph Wesley Black Tea was serving uptea in NYC at Michele Varian Home Design. I stopped by to say hello but my eyes lit up when Joe told me to try these apricot preserves that were made using his Darjeeling. It was amazingly delicious! The texture was perfect and I loved that the Darjeeling was Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Taiwan tea drink culture

T Ching - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:01

This is the take-out drink store that is just next door to my apartment in Taichung, Taiwan. It also happens to be my favorite of its kind. The main reason for this is the branding of this company. In my eyes, it definitely has the differentiation factor down. I watched the store being built and spoke with owner and founder when he was building. He quit his corporate engineering job and began his entrepreneurial career by developing this company. Three years later, it’s a success.

Along with designing his own machine to control water temperature and brewing time of the tea, he also had a clear vision of product standards, business practice, and service. He sources all his tea in Taiwan and visits the source directly to procure his product. Since this is my personal dedication and role in Eco-Cha, I fully relate to the significance of this.

ODM also differentiates itself by emphasizing the original flavor of its teas. The staff is trained to educate their clientele about the different qualities and characters of each tea type. I was shown one of their educational tactics of allowing customers to smell the chemical additives of flavor and aroma enhancers that the local population of iced tea drinkers has become unknowingly conditioned by. In doing so, tea drinkers are enlightened as to what is, and what is not a natural scent or flavor in tea. The small vials below are labeled Oolong Tea, Green Tea, and Red (black) Tea. When I smelled them I instantly recognized these scents as what the majority of iced teas smell and taste like, and was very impressed by their demonstration.

The manager that I interviewed for this article said that unsweetened Four Seasons Spring Oolong is one of their best sellers.  As flavored, iced teas are the most prevalent beverage in Taiwan, they offer a full menu of fresh fruit juice additions, as well as honey and other natural flavorings. Their product line is quality, but it is their ideology and pronounced representation of sustainable business practice that impresses me the most.

Incidentally, ODM rents its storefront from my neighbor, who is retired now, but used to sell quality Traditional and High Mountain Oolong Tea. Since I moved into my place ten years ago, I’ve enjoyed the smell of roasting tea leaves wafting out of this space and up to my balcony on the fifth floor. The old skool tea oven is still used by ODM as a promotion of their authenticity as a tea merchant. Here I am posing with the manager in their storefront, holding my complimentary cup of Four Seasons Oolong (unsweetened of course) in front of the oven:

Starting with the tea drink store that is closest to my home and to my heart, let’s take a quick tour of what’s around town in order to represent the ubiquitous presence and variety of tea drink culture in Taiwan. Here is a shot of two tea stores side by side, doing their thing by providing the masses with their own version of what millions of people drink every day. Most of these types of establishments do the bulk of their business by offering a free delivery service. Whole office staffs will order up on a daily basis to get their daily tea made to order.

Here is another venue just down the street from the above stores. The elegant sign above the store says “people’s culture tea drinks” and the green signs say “specialty milk tea”, “charcoal roasted oolong tea”, and “Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Tea”.

Along with takeaway drink stores, teahouses are also a very common social venue. They are more like restaurant bars where tea is the featured beverage rather than alcohol. Teahouses are used for business meetings as much as social occasions. This venue below is on a main road in the new business district of Taichung and has been a popular destination for at least a decade. I really like the post-modern design combining rustic and 21st century décor, including the uncut lawn in front – as well as the roof!

And here is one more very popular venue for business lunches and evening dates just around the corner from my home:

This is just a handful of snapshots of a culture that truly is everywhere in urban Taiwan. It is just a slice of the broad spectrum of tea culture that thrives in this 21st century wellspring of tea! Personally speaking, if someone says “tea culture”, I think “Taiwan”.

Andy Kincart writes on behalf of Eco-Cha Teas.  All images provided by the contributor.

The post Taiwan tea drink culture appeared first on T Ching.

Secret Garden Rooibos Tisane from The Secret Garden Tea Company

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/16/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  The Secret Garden Tea Co.

Tea Description:

Our secret, scrumptious blend. Perfect afternoon tea or as a digestif after a heavy meal.

Ingredients: Rooibos, safflower and rose petals, blackberry leaves, natural flavors

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

This – brewed – smells AMAZING.  I am picking up on distinct vanilla notes.  Creamy and luscious!

And it tastes delightful.  I’ve never made any big secret about the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of rooibos.  I’d much rather sip on camellia sinensis.  But, when I shouldn’t be drinking caffeine (later in the evening) but I still want something “tea-ish,” rooibos is a good alternative.

To brew this tisane, I went with my go-to temperature for rooibos:  195°F and I steeped the tisane for 10 minutes.  Because rooibos doesn’t have the high tannin content of camellia sinensis, you can steep it longer to get the most out of the flavor.  I brewed this in my Breville tea maker, using 2 bamboo scoops of tisane to 500ml of water.

Now, most tea purveyors will tell you that you can (or should) use boiling water for rooibos, but I recommend dropping the temperature slightly.  I find that when I steep rooibos with boiling water, the flavor becomes “funky.”  It has a weird taste that I want to describe as “sour wood.”  Like a tisane that was made out of steeped sour wood and sweetened with saccharine.  I’m not a fan of sour wood (not that I’ve actually tasted it, so I guess I should say that I don’t think of myself as a fan of it) and I really don’t like saccharine.  So, I did some experimentation, and I found that by lowering the steep temperature a little, the saccharine-y sour wood flavor goes away and then I experience rooibos as a sweet, nutty, slightly woodsy flavor that I much prefer to the saccharine sour wood.

I noticed the delightful vanilla fragrance immediately as I began to pour the liquid into my favorite teacup.  And this has a delicious vanilla flavor.  I taste light floral notes as well and hints of berry.  And of course, I do get some notes of nut and honey from the rooibos.

It all comes together in a very delicious way.  It’s smooth and creamy.  The vanilla notes meld with the natural nutty flavors of the rooibos.  The hints of berry tickle the tip of my tongue in the aftertaste.

It’s a very relaxing tisane, and it has a dessert-y taste to it, making this an ideal tisane to choose for after dinner.  (A fat-free dessert substitute, perhaps?)  It’s sweet but not too sweet.

I like this one best served hot.  It doesn’t need any additions, it has a nice sweetness to it without adding anything.  A splash of milk might be nice if you want to enhance the creaminess of it, but I found it to be really pleasant and creamy without the addition of dairy.

Strawberry Kiwi Iced Green Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Zoomdweebies

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Zoomdweebie’s tea of the week programs here.

Taster’s Review:

Over the last year or so, my iced tea consumption has definitely increased.  A couple of years ago, iced tea was a summertime beverage.  Period.  I only brewed it during the hottest months of the year, because I preferred (and still do prefer) hot tea.  But, I’ve found that it’s so nice having a pitcher of iced tea waiting in the fridge when I want something cold to drink and I want something cold to drink every day.  I may not drink it as often as I drink hot tea and I do drink more iced tea in the warmer months than in the cold months.  But I have reached a point where I’m drinking (and thoroughly enjoying!) iced tea on a daily basis.

So I have been enjoying exploring the teas from 52Teas/Zoomdweebies iced tea line:  Southern Boy Teas.  These teas are crafted with organic teas and flavoring and then bagged in large sachets to make brewing easier.  Yeah, yeah, I do prefer loose leaf.  However, when it comes to iced tea brewing, I have to admit that the convenience of the sachet/bag is one that is difficult to overlook.  Yep, I’m just going to come right out and say it:  I prefer a bagged or sacheted tea when it comes to iced tea brewing.

And what I like about these bags from SBT is that they’re large, unbleached bags.  The tea leaves have plenty of room to expand and do their thing to produce a very flavorful tea.  To brew this Strawberry Kiwi Green Tea, I heated 1 quart of freshly filtered water in the jug of my Breville One-Touch to 170°F and then I tossed the tea bag right into the jug of my tea maker and let it steep for 1 1/2 minutes.  I poured the brewed tea into my favorite glass iced tea pitcher (I temper the glass first by filling the pitcher with hot water from the tap so that the glass isn’t “shocked” by the heat from the 170°F liquid!)  Then I repeat the process, resteeping the tea bag but steeping it for 2 minutes with the second infusion and add this to the pitcher.  Then I allow the tea to cool at room temperature a bit before I put the pitcher in the fridge.  The next day, I have a pitcher full of tasty iced tea!  (Oh, and I keep the tea bag for next time.  I stash the tea bag into an airtight container and put it in the fridge, and then I resteep it again.  The green teas are especially GREAT for maintaining their flavor for a second 1/2 gallon of iced tea.)

My first impression of this tea:  Hmm … I couldn’t really taste strawberry and kiwi.  I can taste the green tea and I can taste a fruity sweet element to this but did it really taste like strawberry and kiwi to me?  No.  I found myself having to think “OK, what tea did I brew last night?”  The flavors of strawberry and/or kiwi were not immediately recognizable.

My second impression:  My second glass … OK!  Now I can taste more of the intended flavors!  I can taste more distinct strawberry notes.  The tea has a delicious strawberry sweetness and I’m getting that tart berry tingle in the aftertaste.  As I’m drinking, I can taste the kiwi too.  The kiwi is less discernible than the strawberry.  And I can still taste the fresh green tea flavor too:  sweet, slightly buttery and smooth.

The more I sipped on this tea, the more I enjoyed it.  I wouldn’t say that it’s my favorite tea from SBT but it is refreshing and I found myself guzzling it.  Even in the beginning when I couldn’t really immediately pick up on the flavors of strawberry and kiwi, I was still gulping it down because it’s still a very good, thirst-quenching glass of iced tea.

And the second pitcher of iced tea from this sachet is even better than the first.  The strawberry and kiwi flavors are much more focused in this pitcher.  Tasty!

White2Tea 2007 Repave Cake

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China Leaf Appearance: somewhat dark, mottled greens and browns Ingredients: puerh tea Steep time: 30 seconds Water Temperature: 212 degrees Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan Liquor: dark amberish gold Ah puerh, how I've missed you! I had heard a ton about this tea from friends on Steepster and Instagram. The base material was stored in Menghai for seven years before Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Global Tea Hut: the exquisite black dragon

T Ching - Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:01

Almost exactly one year ago, I was witnessing an Oolong maker in Taiwan drip with sweat as he darted around two adjoining rooms to roast, measure and taste tea. Normally, he spoke quickly and with great enthusiasm. That day, he was more extreme in his behavior.

He weighed three grams of tea at a time against a gong ge coin, steeped samples for six minutes on the dot, assessed the aroma and flavor of each sample, and then bolted back into the baking room to tinker with his roasting parameters. Throughout most of these activities, he changed the topic with great rapidity, often leaving sentences incomplete to start new, unrelated ones as he set a timer or peered, eyes wild, into a woven bamboo roasting tray.

If his teeth weren’t so good, I might have been convinced that he was high on the locally preferred stimulant (a nasty, addictive drug that leaves teeth red and rotten). But it wasn’t that at all. Part of his manic mood was due to the task at hand: roasting Oolong tea to the desired flavor, aroma and moisture content, and part of it was due to a concurrent, yet entirely different, task. You see, the Oolong maker felt he had a limited amount of time to convince me (an American journalist) of what he had to say (that Taiwanese Oolong is one of the best types of tea in the world).

What he didn’t realize is that I didn’t need any convincing. The frenzied passion he displayed for Taiwanese Oolong that day was something that I could already relate to. Oolong was, after all, what brought me to Taiwan that year and the year before, careening around the island on a mad quest for more and more experiences with these beguiling teas. Like him, my fervor for tea was one of the sensory realm, which is to say one that brought only fleeting fulfillment. It was the long-suffering ardor that characterizes many a tea obsessive.

It is often said that if you ask a tea connoisseur what their favorite category of tea is, they will almost always say it is Oolong tea. (I’ve heard this said in various places around the world, but it’s not consensus reality everywhere. For example, in Hong Kong, Puerh rules supreme over all other teas, and in Germany, Darjeeling is widely accepted as ‘the best tea in the world.’) There is ample reason for this. Much of it relates to the inherent variety to the tea category we call ‘Oolong.’

Oolong tea is an expansive tea type, one which ranges from light oxidation to heavy oxidation, light roasting to heavy roasting, lightly twisted to rolled into tight pellets, fresh to meticulously aged for decades or longer, etc., etc., etc. It encompasses everything from teas that taste like tropical flowers and coconut to teas that taste like espresso and charred wood. Vegetal, fruity, sweet, dry, roasty, chocolatey—as a category, Oolong teas have all of these characteristics, and more. And, like other tea types, the flavor and aroma variations relate to terroir, but Oolong tea is particularly susceptible to manipulation at the hand of the maker. A skilled Oolong producer can elicit incredible nuance and depth in their teas, creating exquisite variations even within the multiple infusions of the same batch of leaves.

This immense breadth—So much to explore! So much to experience!—is part of the innate appeal of Oolong tea, and of tea in general. From the aroma (heady and floral) to the mouthfeel (buttery and rich) to the aftertaste (lingering on the palate for hours), it is easy to appreciate the sensory side of such a sensual tea as Oolong. However, to keep the sensual pleasures of Oolong (and of tea in general) as the primary focus of one’s rela- tionship with tea is to overlook the majority of the beauty of the Leaf (and, I believe, its intended purpose behind a connection to us humans).

Thankfully, the enjoyment of tea is not something to be overcome to reach a deeper connection to tea, but something to be pierced through. Much like the body (a seeming hindrance on a path away from worldly things and toward spiritual enlightenment) is often the gateway to spiritual enlightenment (through breathing exercises or yoga, for example), building awareness around your aesthetic enjoyment of tea can aid you in tapping into the spiritual side of tea. As a particularly sensual and spiritual tea, organic Oolong offers many distinctive opportunities to cross over from the physical to the immaterial.

One of the easiest entry points to the spiritual side of Oolong is mouthfeel. If you aren’t doing so already, when you sip an Oolong, see how long the aftertaste lasts and how it changes over time. Forget about tasting notes and comparisons, and approach this not a matter of judgment, but a deepening of perception, a means of staying in the moment and a way of honoring the Leaf. Access the spirit of the Leaf through awareness of the sensations it activates in your mouth and throat as and after you sip it. In our tea tradition, a tea that splashes up to the roof of the mouth is particularly appreciated. You could think of it as your body’s way of welcoming the tea or the tea’s way of rejoicing at being welcomed into your body.

You can also apply this approach of observing change and impermanence to steeping Oolong (and other teas) many times. Listen to the tea and, over time, you may come to realize that tea patience is rarely lost by the tea that being steeped, but often lost by the drinker of the tea.The way your body reacts to a tea as and after you swallow it is also worthy of some attention. Does your throat constrict or feel uncomfortable? If so, the energy of that tea is not right for you. (Perhaps it is not organically grown and contains chemicals that your body finds to be objectionable.) Does it glide down smoothly, relaxing the throat and moistening the mouth? If a tea slakes your physical thirst in this manner, then it’s also likely to help you quench a spiritual thirst for connection to something greater.

Fully experience the anicca (impermanence) of absorbing the tea into your physical body, remaining in the moment and honoring what the tea and your body tell you when they unite in this manner. You might be surprised by their wisdom.

Once you have begun to sense more deeply the ways in which tea and your body converge, you will likely notice the potential for a sense of intoxication from tea. It can be easy to slip into viewing this as a sort of ‘high’ to be chased down or an adventure to add to your catalogue of experiences. I recommend avoiding these traps, as they tend to keep people in a seeking mode that can be exploitative of tea, and result in an unending search for the next tea buzz instead of an unadulterated connection with a particular tea in a particular moment. Instead, harness the energy that results from the melding of you and a given tea in a given moment. Rather than using the tea like a recreational drug, use the experience of the tea to elevate your perspective. (Or, better yet, use it to help elevate others by serving tea to other people instead of just ‘getting high on your own supply.’ Serving tea simultaneously promotes spiritual connection, connection with other people and connection with tea, while keeping you grounded and preventing you from generating attachment to that particular tea. More on that another time!)

During my visit to the Oolong roaster, a few weeks before my first visit to Tea Sage Hut and my initiation into the spiritual side of tea, both the roaster and I were rooted in the physical sensations of tea. However, we both sensed that this was just the threshold, that some sense of peace lay just beyond his bustling about and my copious note taking. Every now and then, the tea roaster paused his verbal onslaught and hummingbird-like movements for a few moments. We smelled the backs of our tasting spoons and slurped samples of two teas he was roasting. For a brief time, the two of us (the manic tea-maker and the then-equally-manic journalist) were still and quiet.

According to my notes from that day, one tea was vegetal and roasty. The other was sweet with notes of orchids and unripe stone fruits. Now, I understand that on the surface they were very different, but underneath they contained the same thing—entryways to peace. It is simply a matter of stepping through the open door . . .

This post was written by Lindsey Badwin – evil twin of Lindsey Goodwin – and first published by Global Tea Hut in October, 2012.  Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week.  These appear on Wednesdays.

Loading image from T Ching archives; Image 1 used with permission from Global Tea Hut; IMAGE 2: 

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