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Tea Guy Speaks - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 18:35
Because the best things in life are worth waiting for.

Adagio Teas - Best Tea Online

Product Review: Sen Cha Green Tea “Washi” Gift Set from Sugimoto America

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 16:00

Product Information:

Where to Buy:  Sugimoto America

Product Description:

“Washi” Green Tea Gifts – Sen Cha feature high-quality Japanese green tea packaged in a beautiful Japanese “Washi” canisters. “Washi” is traditional Japanese paper printed with authentic Japanese patterns. Sen Cha is a premium tea renowned for its balance of sweetness and astringency. For over three centuries Sen Cha has been Japan’s favorite green tea.

Learn more about this product here.

Taster’s Review:

I have said before on this blog that I’m a sucker for beautiful packaging.  This Sen Cha Green Tea “Washi” Gift Set from Sugimoto America has to be the most beautiful presentation that I’ve ever seen.  The tin has been covered with beautiful blue washi paper (just as you see to the right), and yes … the paper pattern has been matched up precisely!  I was actually quite amazed by this, because you can see the true love, care and craftsmanship that was put into this gorgeous tin.

Tucked inside the tin is a 30 gram bag of Sen Cha Japanese green tea.  And this is the good stuff!  The flavor is sweet, slightly buttery and lightly grassy.  It isn’t overly vegetal, and I’m not detecting a strong bitter bite from this tea.  It’s sweet and really quite lovely to sip.

This Sen Cha has that fresh and uplifting flavor that I look for in a Japanese Sen Cha.  It’s a crisp and pure flavor that revitalizes from the inside out.  If I drink this after a long, busy day, I start to feel less weary and drained.  It’s the kind of tea that puts the spring back into your step.

It’s hard to say what excites me more about this product:  the tea or the tin?  The tin is absolutely stunning and the tea tastes wonderful and refreshing.  But what’s great about this product is that you don’t have to choose which is your favorite because you get both for a really great price.  It’s an outstanding value and would make a great gift for your favorite tea lover (even if that tea lover is you!  Hey, you deserve a gift too!)

The post Product Review: Sen Cha Green Tea “Washi” Gift Set from Sugimoto America appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Romanization of Tea Terms

World of Tea - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 15:35

Surprisingly little is understood within the tea industry when it comes to the romanization of tea terms. This to me is troubling because confused tea vendors result in confused tea consumers. Because the Chinese have contributed the bulk of tea knowledge to the world, much of the romanization issues surround Modern Standard Chinese, though I’ll touch on Korean and Japanese as well.

Romanization refers to the transliteration of any writing system to the Roman alphabet. It is important to understand the difference between transliteration and translation. Transliteration tells us how to say the other language’s word in our own language. Translation gives us a word in our own language that means the same thing as the other language’s word.

For our purpose here, we’ll be looking into the languages of China, Japan and South Korea. These languages are made up of characters that represent spoken syllables — we romanize these languages by expressing the spoken syllables with the Roman alphabet.

Let’s take 茶 as an example, the Chinese and Japanese character that translates to tea in English. However, the Chinese and Japanese do not pronounce this word like we do, they have a different word for tea. Their word for tea does not exist in English. The way to express their pronunciation of 茶 in the Roman alphabet is cha. So 茶 translates to tea  in English and transliterates to cha using the roman alphabet.

Most words floating around the tea industry today were romanized one of three ways:

  1. They were properly romanized via a standard romanization system (yeah! awesome! woot!)

  2. They were romanized using older, non-standard romanization systems (come on! let’s get up to date now!)

  3. They were haphazardly transliterated by traders before romanization systems were in place, often from local dialects (a major source of confusion!)

So back to our example, 茶, you may notice that a bunch of languages have words for 茶 that sound like cha and a bunch of languages have words for 茶 that sound like tea. Where did the word tea come from? There are many dialects of Chinese, te is the word for cha  in Southern Fujian’s Amoy dialect. It is believed that early Dutch and English tea traders wrote down what they heard in their own language, giving us tea, making tea itself a haphazard transliteration.

China
Hanyu Pinyin became the international standard for romanization of Modern Standard Chinese in 1982. Prior to 1982, Wade-Giles was the primary method of romanization. Even though Hanyu Pinyin is the de facto standard, there are still many terms that were haphazardly transliterated from local dialects or romanized via the Wade-Giles system still in use today.

Taiwan
Hanyu Pinyin became the national standard for romanization of Modern Standard Chinese in Taiwan in 2009. Because this was a recent decision, Wade-Giles is still very prevalent there.

Japan
Though the Kunrei-shiki romanization methods are taught to school children today, the Modified-Hepburn system is still the recognized standard. The fact that Modernized-Hepburn is used by the government for the romanization of passports and road signs is a testament to its prevalence.

South Korea
Revised Romanization of Korean or RR is currently the most popular method of romanization present for Korean.  The RR method is also sometimes called the MCT method which stands for Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Common Tea Terms: Hanyu Pinyin vs. Wade-Giles
A lot of the variance in spelling we see in the tea world can be attributed to the mixed usage of the Hanyu Pinyin and Wade-Giles. Here are some of the common words where we still see a lot of Wade-Giles usage:

Hanyu Pinyin

Wade-Giles

dong ding

tung-ting

tie guan yin

tieh-kuan-yin

long jing

lung-ching

gong fu

kung-fu

puer

pu-erh

qing xin

chin-hsin

bi luo chun

pi-lo-chun

Haphazard Transliterations of Chinese Tea Terms
Even more confusion arises with the prevalence of haphazard transliterations, some as common as the word “oolong” which in Hanyu Pinyin is “wulong.” Transliterations such as this are unlikely to go away. Here are some of the common haphazardly transliterated words that are still prevalent today:

Haphazard Transliteration

Hanyu Pinyin

souchong

xiao zhong

lapsang souchong

zheng shan xiao zhong

keemun

qimen

oolong

wulong

bohea

wuyi

pouchong

baozhong

hyson

xi chun

Getting it Straight
There are many tools online that can help you with your romanizations, here are some that have helped me in the past:

http://www.chinesetools.eu/tools/zhuyin/ (Simplified Chinese -> Hanyu Pinyin or Wade-Giles)

http://www.mandarintools.com/pyconverter.html (Hanyu Pinyin -> Wade-Giles)

http://babelcarp.org (Chinese Tea Term Lexicon)

http://www.lexilogos.com/keyboard/korean_conversion.htm (Korean -> RR)

http://nihongo.j-talk.com/ (Japanese -> Modernized Hepburn)

Wonderland Custom Tea Blend from Adagio Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Adagio Teas

Tea Description:

As part of the Wonderland series of tea, this blend mixes spearmint, cinnamon and candy cane for a refreshing – if bit mad – concoction of tea. The taste is extraordinary; minty, mad and yet crazy fun – just like Wonderland.

A Carolynne Keenan Custom Blend.

Learn more about this custom blend here.

Find more Carolynne Keenan blends here.

Taster’s Review:

The name of this Wonderland Custom Tea Blend from Adagio Teas designed by Carolynne Keenan is what interested me about this blend.  I’m a fan of Alice in Wonderland, so I was intrigued by this blend.  I don’t know if I would have selected the Cinnamon, Candy Cane and Spearmint teas to create a blend called Wonderland, I guess because in my mind, they seem to go together so well, and I would think that Wonderland would be a bit more wacky.

That said, this blend is very tasty.  A really good balance of flavors has been achieved.  It’s got a zesty flavor from the cinnamon, but not too much.  There’s a fresh, minty flavor from the peppermint and spearmint, and a sweetness from the candy cane notes and it all melds in a way that is very pleasing to the palate.  It’s got a crisp, lively flavor to it.

And while I do taste the black tea, it’s more of a background note and not a real dominating force in this cup.  And given some of my past experiences with Adagio’s black tea base, I’d say that not experiencing that harshness from the black tea is all for the better.  It’s a good thing!

I drank about half a cup of this without any additions, and then I tried a full cup with about a half a teaspoon of sugar.  I found that the sugar really brought out the candy cane-ishness of this tea, and I enjoyed that.  It’s good without sugar, but better with just a little bit of sugar to bring the candy cane flavors to life.

The post Wonderland Custom Tea Blend from Adagio Teas appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Stay strong: the origins of 'weak tea'

Tea Squared - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 17:30

The other day I referred to a politician's less-than-inspiring declaration as being "pretty weak tea." It's one of those colloquialisms that slips in, often unawares. But I thought: where'd that come from?

The phrase is utilized commonly to denote "something watered down compared to the alternative" and is often defined in reference to the diluting of our beloved beverage, "from the practice of adding boiling water to normally brewed tea to create a drink with less flavor and/or caffeine." Wordnik has added "an unconvincing argument" to the definition of "weak tea," which otherwise is "a dilute solution of tea."

One of my favorite things to do these days is spelunk through the Oxford English Dictionary. Alas, the OED doesn't define "weak tea" by itself, but it has tracked it within a few other definitions and quotations, all of which refer to actual poorly brewed tea rather than a metaphorical letdown.

Still, some good lexical fun ...

The earliest usage of "weak tea" as a pejorative beverage is 1825, in Robert Forby's Vocabulary of East Anglia, in reference to the word "lap," as in: to lap up your soup. Here, though, it's as a noun: lap being a diluted sustenance such as "thin broth or porridge; weak tea, &c." The same book applies the phrase to another, wilder one: "water bewitched," a colloquialism "used derisively for excessively diluted liquor; now chiefly, very weak tea." Years later, in an 1874 slang dictionary, "water bewitched" also had this note: "Sometimes very weak tea is called ‘husband's tea.’"

Weak tea being something that makes one miserable (adj.), it's also equated to miserable (n.), first in a description of the "miserable Mrs. O'Grady had prepared" (from Handy Andy: A Tale of Irish Life, 1842 — of course, the Irish would loathe a brew they could see through), and later in a kind of half-adjective, half-noun usage in a 1900 novel: "There was only a miserable tea left." The use of "miserable" as a noun, the OED reports, is "now rare."

A particularly situated usage of the phrase first popped up in an 1897 Journal of American Folklore as "switchel," a word used in and around Newfoundland for "a mug of weak tea given to the sailors between meals when at the seal fishing." But nearly a century later the term had about-faced, appearing in a 1974 National Geographic as "a ‘cup o' switchel’, as they call strong tea."

In the 1950s, weak tea could be referred to — in certain rougher circles, perhaps — as "gnat's piss." The OED has a ’66 definition of "gnat's piss" as "cider, near beer, weak tea or any drink." That's from a book called The ABZ of Scouse (which you can still find), a kind of guide to the dialect particular to the environs of Liverpool in the UK. (A while back, I wrote an appreciation of the late radio DJ John Peel, in which I referred to him, a Liverpudlian, as "a scouse." A brief back-and-forth with the fact-checker resulted in a footnote.) A Glossary of North Country Words, from 1846, also includes the word "wou," defining it first as "the worst kind of swipes" but then "also applied to weak tea, or any other worthless liquor."

Lovers Leap Estate Indigo Black Tea with Essence of Peony from Eden Grove

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Amazon Trading

Ingredients:

Camellia Sinensis with Red Pigments (Red Tea) with natural Peony Flavor.

Learn more about Amazon Trading here.

Taster’s Review:

I am usually a little put off by the prospect of trying a bagged and/or sacheted tea, because let’s face it, loose leaf is better.  It just is.  However, I do try to go into the experience of trying a new to me sacheted tea with an open mind.  And so far, the teas that I’ve tried from Eden Grove have been impressive – and all have been sacheted teas!  Eden Grove is definitely making a believer out of me.

This Lovers Leap Estate Indigo Black Tea with Essence of Peony from Eden Grove is quite nice.  The Ceylon is flavorful and smooth.  It has a very pleasing, even taste to it.  It’s sweet and has some malty tones to it, and I taste no bitterness whatsoever.  It’s good.

I taste hints of flower to this as well, and I presume that it is the peony essence that I’m tasting.  I can’t recall ever tasting peony in the past, so I don’t have a memory of what peony tastes like to be able to compare what I’m tasting now.  It is a sweet, gently floral taste.  It isn’t sharp, and it doesn’t have a perfume-y taste to it.  It’s an enjoyable flower essence.

Overall, a really nice cup of tea.  It’s a mellow tasting black tea, not one I’d want to start the day off with, but, one that I’d love to drink in the afternoon when I want a little bit of a pick-me-up to keep me going.  It’s good.

The post Lovers Leap Estate Indigo Black Tea with Essence of Peony from Eden Grove appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Adagio Teas Ti Kuan Yin

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

This tea was sweet, smooth and refreshing with a really nice lingering floral aroma. There was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. Lightly oxidized TGY is usually not my thing as they can be almost too sweet but this one was very balanced. I prefer to use a gaiwan but this tea would also do well if prepared in a more western style. Adagio's teas are great way to get your feet wet because they are usually priced very well. Was it the best Tie Guan Yin I've ever had? Definitely not. Was it a really decent cup of tea with an affordable price point? Absolutely! This tea is part of their Roots campaign. As always, I really enjoy reading the Q & A's with tea farmers. I've also noticed an interesting new feature on their website. The price per pound is compared with other popular tea companies such as Teavana and David's Tea. I couldn't help but giggle when I saw that Teavana was 212% more expensive. :)

Ti Kuan Yin sample provided by Adagio Teas.
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Customer service can make or break a tea business

T Ching - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 12:00

Great companies live and breathe great customer service. Although it’s often noted that it’s easier to keep an existing customer than to gain a new one, it’s amazing how many companies wing it and hope for the best. It’s especially never a good idea ignore customer service if your small business is struggling to survive. Good customer service may mean the difference between red and black. But how is great customer service created and how do you make sure the customer returns? Breaking it down between in-store and out-of-store customer service, I’ll explain how Adagio attempts great customer service in our brick-and-mortar locations.

In Store

It’s no secret that the more you put in, the more you get out, and that makes all the difference when training your employees. At Adagio, we have a two-week training course designed to help tea consultants be great at their jobs. This covers everything necessary to be successful in one of our stores. Our tea consultants are trained to stay present and engaged at all times, allowing them to answer quickly any question a customer may ask. Six keys that we focus on for great customer engagement include warmth, passion, knowledge, observation, communication, and personal skills.

We strive to go the extra mile for our customers and create lasting relationships. The hope is that the customer leaves not feeling like they made a purchase, but feeling like they made a new “tea friend” and a great find. We live by the idea that honest sales practices and letting you try any tea in the store will allow you to find the perfect tea and leave happy.

Our classes and activities are designed to spark curiosity and improve our customer’s knowledge about tea. What’s exciting about our classes is that they’re usually small and focused. That way, we’re able to really connect with our customer.  

We love to say “yes” as much as possible. I like to think that there’s really nothing that we can’t do. Being able to fill a customer’s need, whether it be for a unique tea blend or a custom gift basket, increases sales and makes the customer happy. When it comes to complaints, attention to the customer is far more important than what words you say. Since people react better to what you do, rather than what you say, we make it a goal to listen to what the issue is and do what needs to be done to fix it.

One of the most under-estimated forms of customer service is being available – having hours that are convenient for our customers and always making sure someone answers the phone. It’s unbelievable how much business some companies lose because they’re “too busy” to answer the phone or deal with a customer that needs extra attention.

Out of Store

By being available on as many social media platforms as possible and interacting with customers and tea fans regularly, we strive to make ourselves available even after our doors are closed for the day. When a poor review is posted on Yelp, we make it a priority to contact the reviewer directly and ask if we can personally speak with them. They usually will contact us by phone and allow us to understand better the issue and offer the customer something that will allow them to come back and give us another chance. This is also helpful in figuring out if a review is fake – usually people don’t want to post a bad review and then not want to tell you more about it.

When it comes to email blasts, we target them at certain customers in our loyalty program. Instead of blasting the same email to everyone (because no one wants a million emails), we make sure that it has to do with something you previously purchased. So if we’re running a special on a new tea tumbler and you’ve purchased a tea pot in the past, then we’ll make sure to let you know.

In addition, all of our receipts have a link on them that allows the customer to go online and let us know how we’re doing. What’s nice about this is that it allows the customer to let us know about their experience by breaking it down by store, day / time, and employee.

I contacted some of the highest-rated companies on Yelp and asked them what they do to keep 5 Star ratings. One entrepreneur said, “It’s much easier to attract bees with honey than it is with vinegar.” Sounds so simple, but so often it’s missed due to external factors. Many say customer service is important, but I believe it’s one of the most overlooked parts of training new employees.

I’m curious to learn what your experience is with customer service. What you do to improve your ratings in your store?

MAIN | IMAGE 1 | IMAGE 2

This post was first published on T Ching on March 23, 2012.

The post Customer service can make or break a tea business appeared first on T Ching.

Berber Tea Blend from Tay Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 04/18/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Tay Tea

Tea Description:

The light and sweet Moroccan spearmint is a crisp counterbalance to the rich, smoky gunpowder green tea. So refreshing, this tea goes down easy. Re-steep this tea a few times to let the rolled gunpowder tea unfurl and release its full flavour. If you want to get authentic with this tea, sweeten it until your heart’s content.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about subscribing to Amoda’s Monthly Tea Tasting Box here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  Minty!  After I opened this Berber Tea Blend from Tay Tea, the first sampler packet from this month’s Amoda Tea Tasting box that I decided to try, I was a little overwhelmed by the fragrance of mint.  The aroma reminds me of Wrigley’s Spearmint gum.  It’s very, very minty.

The strong minty scent worried me a little.  I started thinking this was going to end up tasting more like a mouthful of toothpaste than a cup of tea.  Fortunately, this doesn’t taste quite as much like toothpaste as the aroma led me to believe.  I am happy to say that I can taste the flavor of the gunpowder green tea in this tea as well as the crisp flavor of spearmint, and while it is a minty tasting tea … as I’m sipping it, my palate recognizes that I’m drinking tea and not mouthwash that has been heated up and poured into a teacup.

The Moroccan spearmint was a good choice to use in this mint tea blend, because I generally find spearmint to be a “lighter” tasting mint than peppermint.  I’m also finding that this spearmint seems to unite with the gunpowder green tea to create a smooth flavor.  The spearmint is crisp and refreshing, but not overpowering.

The gunpowder green tea is light and sweet, and there are some vegetal notes that meld beautifully with the herbaceous tones of the spearmint.  It all comes together in a very pleasant way.  The texture of the liquid is somewhat broth-y which offers an intriguing contrast to the invigorating mint flavor.

It’s a very clean and fresh taste.  It’s revitalizing but also soothing.  I’m not about to say that this is my favorite tea that I’ve ever pulled out of my Amoda Box, but, I am enjoying it, and I’m happy that I got this opportunity to try something from a new-to-me company like Tay Tea.  Thanks, Amoda!

The post Berber Tea Blend from Tay Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Roll Out The O’Barrell

The Devotea - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 21:36

Being an enthusiast when it comes to politics, I’m one of the limited number of  Australians outside of New South Wales that even knew that the Premier of that State was a man called Barry O’Farrell. He was the most popular State Premier in Australia, had a huge 27 seat majority, and was leading his […]

The post Roll Out The O’Barrell appeared first on Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts.

Chai Americaine Blend from Doehi

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Doehi

Tea Description:

China black tea with cinnamon, cloves and orange bits with added flavoring.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The dry leaf aroma of this Chai Americaine Blend from Doehi smells very much like red-hot cinnamon heart candies!  And hey, I love red hot cinnamon hearts, so I’m liking what I’m smelling here!

The flavor is sweet and hot.  Yes, what I’m tasting is very much like the aforementioned red hot cinnamon hearts.  The cinnamon is prominent (obviously, right?) and I can taste the clove.  I don’t taste a lot of the orange in this blend, but there are hints here and there of a bright citrus-y note.  The little bit of citrus seems to perk up the flavors a little bit, adding a hint of contrast to the strong spicy notes, and adding a sweet undertone to the zesty cinnamon and clove.

The black tea base is a smooth and pleasant tasting.  It’s not an overpowering black tea that throws off the sweet-hot cinnamon taste, but it isn’t so docile that I can’t taste it, either.  It’s playing its part in this cup, and I am enjoying it.

This is the kind of tea that I like to turn to on chilly mornings, and even though spring is in full-swing here in the Pacific Northwest, the mornings are still a little chilly and this tea is just the ticket for mornings like this, especially with it being allergy season … I like that the flavors here are full and robust.

I like this tea served hot and neat with no additions.  If you like honey in your tea, this would take that addition nicely, but don’t add too much because this tea does have a bit of sweetness without the added sweetener.  I wouldn’t add milk to this, I think that would really throw the whole thing off.  This does taste pretty good iced too, but I prefer it hot.

An enjoyable offering from Doehi.  I’m new to discovering this company, but I like what I’ve tasted thus far!

The post Chai Americaine Blend from Doehi appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Jalam Teas Zhang Lang Fermented Puerh

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very dark

Most of the offerings that I receive through my +JalamTeas subscription are raw puerh so I always get excited when they throw in something a little different. This fermented puerh brewed up as dark as blackstrap molasses. I have to admit that made me hesitate a bit before taking my first sip. Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised to find the taste unbelievably smooth. It was sweet and richly earthy with no bitterness whatsoever. I lost count of the number infusions that I did but I can tell you that there were a lot! This tea was produced by the Pulang people of the Bada/Pulang Mountains. It is a fermented version of the raw Zhang Lang that I reviewed last year so it was interesting to have a chance to compare the two. I adore the photo postcards that are sent with each month's shipment and this card in particular was really striking. The muleteer looks so worldly and wise. He must have so many stories to tell of the old Tea Horse Road.

Zhang Lang Fermented Puerh purchased as part of Jalam Teas subscription.






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Who Deserves A World Tea Award? WTR Picks

Walker Tea Review - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:30
Like many other industries, those of us connected to tea business will gather to select the best and brightest of our peers. Now is the time to submit nominations. Nominate BEFORE 25 April 2014. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WorldTeaAwardsNominations   In Case You Need Some Help With Nominations: Best Tea Publication Art of Tea -  One of the best English […]

Egg hunting? Try Chinese tea eggs

Tea Squared - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 15:00



As Easter weekend arises, no doubt many of us have eggs on the brain. The kind of egg dying I prefer to do as an adult, however, involves cracking the shells and boiling them in tea.

Chinese tea eggs are typical mixtures of beauty and nourishment. Here's a good recipe for the tasty snacks, fairly easy to make — though, in my experience, a skill requiring some finesse.

Tart times two

T Ching - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 12:02

Being a long time lover of black tea, I was impressed to encounter an herbal tea that I actually liked when Celestial Seasonings introduced Red Zinger forty years ago. Inspired by memories of enjoying that non-caffeinated drink back in the wild and woolly 70’s, (at the tail end of my undergraduate college years—Gulp!), I like to blend a strong concentration of hibiscus flowers into an infusion of black tea and tart the whole thing up with a slightly sweetened  homemade syrup made from seasonal fresh rhubarb. Nowadays rhubarb unpredictably pops up in markets since it is grown in hothouses. Traditionally, this vegetable – known as a fruit – becomes available in early spring, right about now. (With climate change – global warming – who knows when spring truly is?) 

From a flavor standpoint, it seems that hibiscus and rhubarb, both tart ingredients, dance well together. The resulting perky beverage can be served hot or iced (if you wish to serve it cold or iced, let the mixture cool down and then refrigerate in a container with a tight fitting lid. Use within a couple of days). 

Here’s how to prepare it to yield 2 generous servings: 

2 ounces dried hibiscus flowers (available in Hispanic markets labeled Jamaica– pronounced Ha-my-ka)

12 ounces filtered water brought to the boil

2-3 stalks of fresh rhubarb, about 8 ounces, cut into 1 inch pieces

2 to 3 ounces (approximately 1/3 c.) granulated sugar

8 ounces water

4 to 5 grams black tea of your choice (I tend to use Sri Lankan teas. but Indian blacks, such as Assam and Nilgiri would also work well), brewed in 16 ounces 212 degree F. filtered water, for about 3 minutes (Don’t overextract the tea; taste the infusion frequently during the steeping since each tea may reveal its best character with shorter infusions)

Additional sugar to taste

Soak the hibiscus flowers in the boiling water until they are softened and the resulting liquid has a vivid ruby color. Pass the mixture through a fine meshed sieve, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Reserve the liquid. Discard the solids. 

In a heavy medium-sized sauce pan, gently cook the rhubarb with sugar and water just until the fruit softens slightly. Press through a sieve and use the resulting liquid for the beverage. Save the solids to serve over vanilla ice cream, if you wish (sweeten them further with granulated sugar or a mild honey, if you’d like) and then top the whole thing off with crushed bits of ginger snaps. 

Combine the hibiscus and rhubarb liquids. To serve the beverage hot, divide the liquid between two heated tea cups and top with the brewed tea. Sweeten further to taste, as desired. 

 Shameless plug: I will be presenting a session at the upcoming World Tea Expo in Long Beach, CA on Saturday, May 31st; I will be pairing teas with cheese and teas with chocolate. Hope the Tching audience will be out in droves! For more information and to register and sign up for my session, go to the World Tea Expo, click on Schedule and Events and then go to Education Conference Sessions. 

MAIN:              Image of rhubarb provided by contributor.

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Hunan Dark Tea from Tea Source

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 04/17/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Dark Tea

Where to Buy:  Tea Source

Tea Description:

This loose Hunan dark tea is very fragrant and steeps up medium-bodied, slightly sweet, and meadowy. Good for multiple infusions. This is a great introduction to Hunan dark teas.

Learn more about this tea here.

To subscribe to Steepster Select, click here.

Taster’s Review:

I am not sure exactly what the difference is between “dark” teas and pu-erh teas, but, Tea Source explains it like this:

The category of China dark tea is shrouded in mystery. They are almost never seen in the West. Dark teas from Hunan Province steep up medium-bodied, very smooth, and usually with a natural sweet note as opposed to the dark earthiness of puer. Technically, dark tea is a tea that has gone through a secondary fermentation process. Like puer, dark teas age well and are probiotic.

Since it would seem that it is similar to, but different from pu-erh, I have created a new category under the “parent” category of pu-erh called “Dark Tea,” and this Hunan Dark Tea from Tea Source is the first tea that is being categorized as a Dark Tea here on the SororiTea Sisters Blog.

However, since it is similar to pu-erh, I gave the leaves a quick rinse before I brewed the tea, just as I would a pu-erh.

I will say that this doesn’t taste as earthy as pu-erh, nor does it have that sometimes “fishy” taste that pu-erh can have.  This tea is what I’d categorize as a medium-bodied tea and the additional fermentation has given this tea an almost “vinegar” like note.  Not so much a sour taste like vinegar, but I can taste a fermented note, tasting perhaps like a grape-y balsamic vinegar that’s been thinned with wine.  But that’s just one dimension in this complex tea.

There is also a sweet, creamy sort of taste to this, and that is something I can’t recall tasting in a pu-erh!  It’s almost like a vanilla frosting note!  Wow!  Notes of sweet honey and molasses, but again … lighter than these.  Almost like a thinned molasses.  Notes of earth, but I like that the earth tones aren’t dominating the cup, instead, I’m experiencing more of the grape-y and sweeter flavors of vanilla cream.

What an enjoyable tea experience!  This is remarkably smooth and mild.

My second infusion proved to be sweeter than the first.  It was a little less creamy than the first infusion.  Not quite as “vanilla frosting” as the first, but I still taste the honey notes and the fruit notes are emerging.  I am also noticing a mineral-y sort of taste that imparts a slightly dry note toward the tail.  I’m also noticing an ever so slight grassy tone to this cup.

The mineral notes seem to have replaced the “fermented” note that I tasted in the first cup, because I’m not getting that fermented wine/balsamic flavor that I experienced in the first cup, but, as I said, the fruit notes become more focused in this second cup.

It’s hard to say which cup I preferred – the first or the second!  Both were delightful.  This is a really good tea, I highly recommend it.

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Organic Ginger Calendula Rooibos Tea from Spicely Organics

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Spicely Organics

Tisane Description:

Free of caffeine, but full of energizing ingredients! This tea is perfect for fine-tuning and focusing the senses, while also supporting healthy circulation. This tea is tangy, sweet, and a little spicy — the synergistic effect of this blend is perfect any time of day. INGREDIENTS: Organic Rooibos, Organic Ginger, Organic Calendula Petals

Learn more about this tisane here.

Learn more about the Spicely Organics Monthly Tea Membership here.

Taster’s Review: 

I didn’t have big expectations from this Organic Ginger Calendula Rooibos Tea from Spicely Organics, to tell you the truth.  It didn’t seem like all that exciting of a blend.  It’s rooibos, ginger and calendula.

But, I’m finding myself enchanted by the ginger in this blend.  It’s got a really zesty flavor.  It’s spicy but not fiery hot, and I like the way it contrasts with the honey-sweet, woodsy/nutty flavors of the rooibos.  It’s a very comforting taste:  warm and cozy and something I’d like to curl up to on a chilly evening.  It’s also quite soothing to the throat, so I brewed some of this for my youngest daughter who is getting over a cold, and it helped her feel better.

Calendula is essentially marigold petals, and they really add very little to the taste and texture of a tea or tisane.  I’m of the opinion that the main reason that tea companies use calendula in their blends is to add some color, and I think that some companies use too much calendula in their blends, and if I were to offer any real complaint about this tisane, that would be it:  there is a lot of calendula in this blend, maybe too much calendula.

That said, because calendula doesn’t add a lot of flavor or taste to the cup, I really didn’t mind the calendula in this blend.  And I am really enjoying the combination of ginger and rooibos together … a lot more than I thought I would!

A simple blend, but it’s very enjoyable, and one I’d be happy to drink again.

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Meet The Tea: Dian Hong

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 16:00
Dian Hong has been one of my favorite types of black tea ever since I first started drinking loose leaf tea. It is produced in the Yunnan province of China. Dian is a short name for this region and Hong means Red. In China, black teas are usually called red teas so that can cause some confusion for tea drinkers. Many of us think of rooibos, an herbal tea from South Africa, as red tea. Relatively speaking it is a fairly new tea for Yunnan. This region is most commonly known for its puerh tea.

The leaves are usually dark and twisted in shape with trademark golden tips. The amount of golden tips vary widely but this doesn't have much of an affect on taste, it just makes them look pretty. I have to admit that I am a sucker for them. The taste is full bodied but sweet with fruity notes that are often compared to raisins or dates. Some Yunnan black teas also have a yammy or sweet potato-like quality. They aren't very bitter so this is a black tea that you can drink all on its own without milk and sugar. One of my favorite things about this tea is the gorgeous deep reddish brown color of the liquor.

Dian Hong is typically brewed using boiling water and steep times are anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes. For starters, follow the instructions provided by your tea vendor and then adjust to taste from there.

Photo credit: Wikipedia
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2014 spring harvest: the race is on

T Ching - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:05

Every year around this time, tea lovers frantically contact their tea brokers, favorite online tea retailers, or local tea friends to see how they can get their hands on the freshest tea of the year: the first flush.

In tea-growing regions around the world, the first flush can mean something completely different from one locale to another. For instance, in India and China, first flush means watching the rains during the months and weeks prior to make accurate predictions of when the harvest will come.  In Japan, it can be a cutthroat environment where some growers judge others for tenting their tea rows with vinyl or plastic, in an attempt to incubate the trees so they will flush first.

In Hawaii the first flush is not a time for tea trees to exit dormancy because the temperate climate makes for less variability season to season. Instead, tea growers in Hawaii purposefully allow their trees to rest by not harvesting during the wetter Winter months, allowing for a more flavorful first flush to appear in very early Spring.

As someone that is relatively new to the tea business, I have learned that no matter where you are, the first flush is one of the most important times of the year. This is not a new phenomenon. It was documented that tea traders moving the first flush from China to Great Britain had clipper ships races to prove which trader was the first to bring the new tea to the market. The Great Tea Race of 1866 was documented to be one of the most competitive of these races.

Tea traders have not abandoned this desire to be the first to market bearing the new flush of tea. In 2014, you can already see retailers showcasing their selection of first flush Darjeelings from their favorite estates. Social media feeds of retailers are filled with promotions for preorders of impending teas coming from India and China. 

So, what has the first flush become for me? As excited as I would be to be among the first to bring a new tea to the market, my main objective is to tell the story of the Spring Harvest. For this reason, I am currently racing around the tea world with my brother to document this story. So far we have met with three different growers in three regions with 11 regions still to visit. The growers have been appreciative of our interest in their story, because up to this point, their experience with sharing their first flush ended as soon as they sold the tea to buyers.

You are invited to follow our story. If you have questions you would like us to ask growers about their Spring Harvest, or their tea in general, you can submit them on this page. We will be telling the story through video. We will be sure to follow up with you if your questions are answered in our video.

Tealet will be exhibiting at the World Tea Expo along with the International Tea Farms Alliance where we will be sharing these stories and 2014 Spring teas as well as auctioning off the most prized teas that we encounter.

 MAIN:            IMAGE 1:

 

 

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Fruit Hoops English Breakfast Black Tea from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

Here’s a great English Breakfast blended with freeze-dried appples, oranges, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and peaches along with matching organic flavors (and some organic lime flavor), a hint of organic marshmallow flavor (for sweetness), and another hint of organic malt flavor to give it a cereal-like component. Ever have a craving for one of those super sweet kids’ cereals? Missing the magic that’s a multi-colored bowl of yumminess and some Saturday morning cartoons? (Do they still have cartoons on Saturdays?) Anyway, here’s a guilt-free option to tickle your tastebuds.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

I’m not sure why, exactly, but something about this Fruit Hoops English Breakfast Black Tea from 52Teas really interested me.  Granted, I have a fondness for most of 52Teas’ blends, but, something about this particular blend just resonated with me, it spoke to me and said “TRY ME!”  So as soon as I got last month’s package of teas, that’s exactly what I did.  In fact, within moments of opening last month’s package, I was tearing into this package.

The dry leaf aroma is very fruity and evokes thoughts of opening a box of fruity kid’s cereal … that smell that wafts out of the box:  sugary sweet and fruity.  This is the kind of tea that will appeal to the kid in you, and I think that’s what Frank had in mind when he crafted this blend.

But even though this tea does taste fruity and sweet … I like that I’m getting a solid base of black tea.  It’s brisk and invigorating and somewhat astringent.  The base used here is an English Breakfast Blend, and I taste strong notes of malt – a taste that is further accentuated by the addition of malt/cereal flavor to go along with the theme of this tea flavor.

It’s hard to say what other notes I’m tasting with this black tea, because the fruit flavors are present … I can’t really say I’m tasting a fruit note from the tea and say with certainty that this fruit note is coming from the tea and not the flavoring, right?  I think that this is probably a blend of Ceylon and Assam (which seems to be the standard English Breakfast) and I do think it would benefit from a Chinese tea (preferably a Fujian black, but they don’t usually put those in English Breakfast teas – but they SHOULD!)

That said, I do like that I’m getting a strong background of black tea flavor, and with all the other flavors going on, I can’t say that I need more from it.    It’s quite satisfying:  it’s not harsh, it’s not too astringent, and it has a pleasing flavor and body to it.

Fruit flavor wise, I taste lime.  I taste raspberry and orange.  I taste subtler notes of strawberry and blueberry and even softer notes of apple.  The lime and raspberry are the two most prominent flavors.  Because of the way the fruit flavors all come together here, it’s a bit more like a fruit salad or … forgive me for being obvious here:  a bowl of fruity, sweet kid’s cereal than it is like a medley of individual, true-to-the-fruit flavors.  And again, I think that’s what Frank was going for with this cereal … err … tea.

The one thing that I find myself wanting a little bit more of is the marshmallow flavor.

Yeah, I know there isn’t marshmallows in the fruit hoopish cereal, but marshmallows were my favorite part of the kid’s cereal when I was a kid.  Yep, I was one of those kids that picked put all the marshmallows from the box of cereal before my brothers and sister could get to the box.  Ha!

This is a really tasty tea.  I can’t say it’s my favorite from 52Teas but I can say that I’m not disappointed by it.  It’s got a whole lot of flavor going on and I like that.  It makes my taste buds happy, and it’s making me long for the days when I could turn on the TV and watch this.  Ahh … good times indeed.

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