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Senna: Silent and Dangerous

T Ching - Mon, 10/05/2015 - 12:00

What’s in your herbal blend? With the growing popularity of slimming, diet, and detox teas, we still need to know what we are putting into our bodies. Even though the package says “All Natural” or “Organic” it is still beneficial to know the ingredients since many of these blends contain numerous herbs. As promised, this is the third and final mention of Senna.

Since this is usually one of the herbs in these ever-popular blends, it is important to note that Senna can be dangerous. First of all, Senna is known as a natural laxative. It has been approved by the FDA as a “nonprescription laxative” but if you do any research on it, you will find it comes with many cautionary warnings.

From Wikipedia:

“Senna (from Arabic – sanā), the sennas, is a large genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae, and in the subfamily, Caesalpinioideae.”

It produces a large seed pod, but for the herbal teas it is the leaf that is used. The chemicals in the plant are called sennosides, and these cause an irritation to the lining of the colon and force the contractions commonly associated with diarrhea, therefore creating a possibility of violent and frequent bowel movements.

As I have previously declared, sometimes we do need to or choose to move things out of our bodies and with caution Senna will do this. There is not much out there that proves it detoxifies, suppresses the appetite, or causes weight loss as you will often see stated.

The National Institute of Health warns against using Senna for more than two weeks. They also state that long-term use can lead to dysfunction of the bowels, risk of muscle weakness, liver damage, and heart function disorders.

I am choosing to bring Senna to your attention because in my research I stumbled on something rather disturbing. There are numerous videos on the Internet about diet and detoxing teas and many scantily-clothed young girls are encouraging others to use these teas for significant weight loss. When reading many of the comments these young ladies post in response to these videos, Senna seems to be the herb of choice for quickly getting rid of what was just consumed. These are the behaviors that lead to eating disorders. Many suffering from bulimia and anorexia frequently use Senna to keep their weight down. They will use it so much that their bowels no longer function normally, and thus they become addicted to this laxative.

You can obtain Senna in a capsule or powder, but this is something I would not advise. When drinking only the infusion of the leaf it is much milder. I cannot imagine the results of taking a capsule. The infused beverage will take effect in 6 to 12 hours.

I am not against diet, slimming, or detox teas. I see the value in consuming them responsibly. What frightens me is that people will seldom do this. In our haste and excitement to shed 5 or 10 or 50 pounds, many will do bizarre things. If the recommended daily amount is 1 cup, people will frequently double, triple or even quadruple that amount – this is what concerns me.

I have personally encouraged tea shop owners to carry these herbal lines. Even in the die-hard, tea-only tea shops I have promoted the herbal blends for the financial benefit of the shop because I know the demand for them is increasing daily. In saying this, I now specify that there is a responsibility that comes with selling them.  I suggest that the labels contain a warning that states a safe daily consumption amount. What the customer does when they get the product home is not within our control, but I believe the cautionary warning is our responsibility.

Senna, a beautiful, yellow-flowering, and innocent plant, when used improperly, is dangerous and can be deadly when we jump foolishly on the bandwagon of what is trendy and selling like mad.  I know none of us want to see our products causing another harm.

That’s all I’m saying and I’m done talking about Senna!

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The post Senna: Silent and Dangerous appeared first on T Ching.

Staring at the Sea from August Uncommon Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 22:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy: August Uncommon Tea

Tea Description:

Comfort from the hearth while gazing at fog as it gently drifts over the sea. The odor of warm buttery country bread rises to your nose, tenderly warming your face. A faint note of macadamia and bits of crust browning on a brick oven floor linger on the tongue. Hints of sweet grasses spring forth to brighten and balance the thick, chewy texture. Come in from the cold.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I have heard so much about this company on Steepster that I was very excited to see it in one of the traveling tea boxes that hit my house late last week.  This was the first one I grabbed to try.  I’m such a green tea fan that I couldn’t wait to dig in and try out some new green teas.

August Uncommon Tea has unique tea blends that I’ve heard varied reviews about.  This particular blend is a Japanese Green Tea with Barley in it.  I brewed this delight up like all my green teas with the help of my handy dandy Breville and allowed the brew to cool off for a few moments.

Took my first sip and this is a different tasting green tea for sure.  And one I’m enjoying. The green tea base is buttery and smooth.  The barley that has been added in provides a nice nutty background that gives the tea an added richness.  Like the description says, there is a crust like flavor and even faint notes of macadamia nuts.

This is one of those teas where the description really matches and translate well into the flavor you are given.  I’m curious what this one would taste like as a cold brew and hope to be able to try that soon.

The more I drink of this one, the more I really like it.  This could easily be an every day sort of tea for me for sure!

The post Staring at the Sea from August Uncommon Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

It’s Finally Tea Time!

Joy's Teaspoon - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 21:19

Whew! I don’t know about you, but I love hot tea. I mean, duh, but wait for it. For me, tea is the ultimate comfort drink. There’s nothing I love more than curling up with a blanket, a book and a hot cuppa. Finally, FINALLY, it’s cool enough to do that (in Seattle – Naomi, you’re on your own in Vegas).

In Seattle, we’ve had a scorcher of a summer and while it’s been wonderful, it’s pretty uncomfortable curling up on a leather sofa in your short shorts and sipping hot tea when it’s 90 and humid. I’m just going to let you sit for a moment with that picture in your mind. 

But there’s always iced tea, you say? Well sure. And I drank a considerable amount of iced tea this summer. It’s wonderful and refreshing. There are so many options for turning tea into summer treats.

However, nothing beats a lazy morning, sipping on a piping hot Earl Grey while reading about ghost stories or endless love. There is nothing cozier than curling up in blanket, staring into the fire and breathing in the smell of a jasmine green.

Finally cool enough for a proper tea time. #100happydays #day7

A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 30, 2015 at 2:18pm PDT

AND. IT’S. FINALLY. TIME. TEA TIME! The best kind of tea time. The fall leaves, morning fog, crisp air, boots and scarves kind of tea time. The time where your cup warms your cold fingers and the steam warms your cool nose.

The best part of it all is that now, it’s going to be the perfect tea time (in Seattle at least) for the next few months. And I’ve already started gearing up the office to be prepared. A co-worker and I built our own little tea cozy corner.

Life achievement- having a #tea spot at work. #LexBlog #tealife

A photo posted by Audrea Fink (@audrea11) on Sep 18, 2015 at 11:32am PDT

That entire cabinet the basket is sitting on is filled with tea, so you can be sure we’re prepared for the teapocalypse here. So bust out your mugs, scarves, boots and hipster hats because it’s finally time to enjoy a proper cup of tea (without sweating and sticking to your leather seat).

Backstage At A Tetley Tea Commercial

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 16:00
Here's a behind the scenes clip that looks at a recent commercial shoot for Tetley Tea. More video stuff from Tetley here.

The Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

The Tetley Tea Folk's Redbush Adventure

Tea Guy Speaks - Sun, 10/04/2015 - 14:00
Just one of the many videos available at the Tetley Tea Folk's YouTube channel.

Adagio Teas - Best Tea Online

Butterscotch Potion White Tea Blend by Tealyra

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 22:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White blend.

Where to Buy: Tealyra

Tea Description:

The delicious sweet creaminess of butterscotch that is popular the world over now melts seamlessly into your favourite tea! Exclusively blended by Tealux’s expert tea artisans and not available to buy from anywhere else, Butterscotch Potion is certified organic.

Light and delicate organic white tea forms the base of the blend, melting into mid-notes of spicy pink peppercorn and cinnamon and balancing out the sweet, creamy top notes of marigold and natural butterscotch flavoring. The natural sweetness of butterscotch is perfectly complemented by the deep but never overpowering spiciness of pepper and cinnamon. Producing a light gold-coloured infusion when steeped in hot water, Butterscotch potion is the perfect naturally sweet treat for any time of the day.

Ingredients: Organic White Tea, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Pink Peppercorn, Organic Marigolds, Natural Flavors

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Let me start by clearing something up from what I understand. Originally I bought this tea from Tealux which is a well known tea company across Europe and America and for good reason. However, when I went to get the information and links for this review I found that they have since changed their name. So Tealux does not exist any more and is instead replaced by Tealyra as of the start of October 2015. We are ensured that the company itself is remaining the same in regards to suppliers and blends for what it has to offer, but that the head office has decided to change their name which in turn changes the name of the company and ergo the website. This means that even though my bag says Tealux on it that any orders under the new name of Tealyra will contain the same blend but in a different bag. With this new information dealt with lets get down to the review.

Butterscotch is a pudding I remember well from my school days and thinking about it again has put a smile on my face. For anyone that has not tried butterscotch before the best way I can describe it’s flavour is a mixture of toffee, caramel, treacle and cream all in one delicious goo. A tall order for a tea but I’m excited to try it non the less.

Upon opening the packet I am met with a large leaf and floral blend, which was not quite as I imagined it somehow. I was expecting pieces of butterscotch in the blend to create the flavour, instead we have ‘natural flavours’ in their place to create a synthetic version. With that in mind I give it a sniff, and while it’s sweet (and again floral) it just is not butterscotch like. It does smell creamy and well it’s still a pleasant scent but not quite right.

This will be interesting! I put two teaspoons of leaf (as it’s large leaf) into my steeping mug with 90C water for roughly 3-4 minutes.

The resulting tea liquid is golden brown in colour and bares a sweet scent that actually does resemble butterscotch rather well. Less floral than it’s raw blend form but not as creamy or thick as actual butterscotch.

In terms of flavour this is very pleasant, a dark, toffee and treacle mix (without a lot of sweetness) with some creamy, floral undertones that linger in the after taste. It’s not bitter but I think the flavours would be enhanced a bit better with some sugar or honey, just to make it more butterscotch like. Even without anything extra it still does have a butterscotch essence and though it may not be perfect it’s still very well created.

As it cools it becomes creamier and a little thicker in the after taste, particularly the floral tones. At this point I can taste the white tea a little better and it’s also becoming increasingly dry.

Overall I would say this blend lives up to it’s name. It’s butterscotch enough to please the nostalgia of my youth for little to no calories in the process. Both of those facts make this blend a winner.

The post Butterscotch Potion White Tea Blend by Tealyra appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Siam Blend Black Thai Tea Blend from Siam Tea Shop

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 10/03/2015 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black blend.

Where to Buy: Siam Tea Shop

Tea Description:

Siam Blend Black, an aromatic Thai tea blend based on a wild black tea collected by the local Lahu tribe in Fang province, reminiscent of Thai cuisine through an added blend of typical Thai food ingredients such as lemongrass, lime leaf, chili and ginger root.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Hello fellow tea lovers,

Today I’m reviewing a blend that was inspired by the aromatic and beautiful flavours of Thai cuisine, think of this as an ode to Thai food in tea form. This sounds delicious but also a little strange at the same time, though I think it’s wonder outweighs my doubts. Thai food flavoured tea…that just sounds so creative…and delicious, right?

The loose leaf is large and hosts an array of colours, most noticeably the lime leaf. The black tea is also large and thinly rolled into long, squiggly pieces. The blend as a whole has a spicy and rather aromatic scent. Not as strong as I expected nor as Thai food strong.

So 2 teaspoons (since it’s large leaf) of blend into my steeping mug and boiling water added for roughly 3-4 minutes.

The resulting tea liquid is dark brown and in colour and has the most amazing Thai scent I have ever smelled from a tea. It truly does smell like Thai green curry, or another similar dish. It’s spicy with citrus highs and a creamy underlayer, before becoming spicy again. Wondrous indeed!

And here comes the taste test (which I can hardly control my excitement about). ..sip..sip. Holy moly, that has a spicy kick! The chilli burns the throat (well rather tingles than burns) and is quickly neutralised by a touch of cream and citrus (which matches the smell) before becoming spicy again in the after taste. The chilli is definitely the main character. I gave a sip for my husband and he stated “I’ve never had such a spicy cup of tea” and considering I’m on 1291 (including this tea) steeping notes of which I pass onto him to try; it’s saying something about this ‘unique’ blend.

I think you would either love or hate this one. As for me I like the inspiration of it and can enjoy the spicy chilli kick at the start of the sip. It’s even making me sweat a little, but it gives you that ‘warm and spicy glow’ that you get when you eat something a little hotter than what you are used to. Hopefully someone else will understand what I mean by that

So yes, for originality and a unique experience plus a spicy food (or in this case drink) glow I declare this a winning blend. I shall no doubt enjoy the rest of my 20g pouch, and with instructions to ice this tea on their website I even get a chance to experiment a little.

Until next time,

Happy Steeping!

The post Siam Blend Black Thai Tea Blend from Siam Tea Shop appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Is There Tea On Mars?

The Devotea - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 22:46

Once again, I have to answer the questions that the mainstream media deliberately ignores. This week, NASA (the USA’s National Aeronautical and Space Administration) confirmed its belief that there is flowing water on Mars. And yet, despite this being one of only two vital ingredients in making a cuppa, they failed to follow through. Thanks to the difference between the water ratio in a meteorite from Mars from 4.3 billion...

The post Is There Tea On Mars? appeared first on Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts.


39 Steeps - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 21:54
{ Takanori Aiba's Treehouse Bonsai,
a creation of an insane person of the highest caliber }If one were to look in the sidebar of the humble 39 Steeps tea blog, one might see 39 Steeps Radio, featuring one (1) sole, lonely transmission: a conversation between me and the lovely Imen Shan, owner of Tea Habitat, who specializes in the fabled and elusive dan cong oolong. If you read her website, Tea Obsession, you will find she's an insane person, in the best possible way.

{ Pancho Villa was also
an insane person of note }And were you to peruse this lonely radio program of one episode, you might find it was made years ago. It's taken me this long to gather the gumption to write anything about this special tea.

But I've finally hit my wall with waiting around for some muse of tea who will enable me to write about something above me, so to hell with it. Readers, now you shall be able to read my musings about something I am manifestly unable to write about adequately, so buckle your seat belts as I strap on my bandolier of purple prose and my machine gun of superlatives, Pancho Villa style, and start shooting my mouth off.


update update update
(Whoops! I hit "Go!" on this by accident, before I was ready to publish. So stay tuned for the rest of the article about this astonishing tea.)

Please click over to visit my blog to get to know me better. And if you would be so kind, join the site with Google Friend Connect and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for your patronage!

Friday Round Up: September 27th - October 3rd

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 16:00
Sunday Tea Hoots 7 - Matcha Ranting I love a good rant, especially when it's about tea. +Charissa Gascho was right on the mark with this post, especially when it comes to transparency. Scouring the Web for the Best Tea Reviews Two Dog Tea Blog gives us some food for thought about how to select the tea reviewers that you use to guide your purchases. I think the most important take away is "Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Blast from the Past: Dirty Little Secrets

T Ching - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 12:00

To your friends you are known as a ‘tea person.’ You are serious about the tea you select and you steep with care. But, within the quiet confines of your kitchen countertop there lurks a dirty secret…how clean is your brewing accoutrement? Out of habit or lack of information, telltale brown tannin stains may appear on teacups, tea kettles and table linens. Unless your teapot is made of glass, you may not even know there is a bitter residue buildup that can taint the taste of your tea. Don’t panic, there will be no white glove inspection today, just plain advice on how to tidy up before your next tea party. The first line of defense is always a good offense.

Make a habit of hand washing and drying tea ware after each use. There is no universal cleanser. Cups, kettles, teapots and infusers can be made from a variety of materials. For a thorough clean, try these material-specific tea cleaning tips:

Cast Iron Daily use – Hand wash and dry, then warm it up on the stove to be sure the cast iron is dry. Deep clean – Use 50/50 vinegar and water, bring to a boil, empty and then use a soft wire brush (not brass or copper) to gently remove rust. Add a little dish detergent if there is something sticky on the inside or outside. Afterwards hand wash and dry very thoroughly. Do not put in the dishwasher.

Copper Daily Use – Hand wash with soap and water then dry with a soft cloth. Deep Clean – Baking soda sprinkled on a half of a lemon and a soft non-abrasive cloth will work nicely to keep copper clean and remove tea oils and water mineral buildup. Do not put in the dishwasher.

Glass Daily Use – Regular washing with soap and water or dishwasher. Deep Clean – If there are persistent stains or hard to reach areas, leave a dishwasher detergent cube and water inside to soak overnight. Or try a tea-specific cleaner like Breville’s Revive Organic Tea Cleaner made for their One-Touch Tea Maker. This will work with glass or glazed ceramics.

Natural Clay Daily Use – Rinse with fresh water and air dry. Deep Clean – Teapots made of natural clay like Yixing are designed to be used with the same type of tea since the flavor and oils are absorbed directly into the pot. This is unlike other materials where the tea residue builds up and requires cleaning. Purchase multiple pots for multiple tea types. Do not wash with soap or cleansers and only air dry.

Plastic Opt for any other material -except- plastic. BPA concerns, and just good taste, should dictate other options for boiling, steeping and serving teas.

Porcelain/Glazed Ceramic Daily Use – Highly glazed porcelain tea ware can be put in the dishwasher or hand washed with dish soap or any natural cleaner (baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice). Deep Clean – Inspect for hairline cracks in the glaze called ‘crazing’ that appears in older vessels. Lead and cadmium are the only regulated toxins in glazes, so there could be other potential toxins leaching into your tea. Best practice is to retire a sentimental piece to the display shelf if it shows signs of crazing in the glaze.

Stainless Steel Daily Use – Regular washing with soap and water, dry with a soft cloth. Deep Clean – Use boiling water and vinegar, let cool and then rub all over with a soft non-abrasive cloth to keep it shiny and clean.

Tea Stains on Fabrics For delicate fabrics, use a vinegar and cold water soak to pre-treat tannin stains prior to laundering. For more stubborn stains or sturdy fabrics, rub laundry detergent into the tea stain and soak in warm water prior to laundering. Have a cleaning tip you’d like to share? From denture cleaner to table salt, post what works for you in the comments.

Image provided by the contributor.

The post Blast from the Past: Dirty Little Secrets appeared first on T Ching.

Honeybush Malaika Tisane from Nothing But Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 10:00
Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Honeybush

Where to Buy: Nothing But Tea

Tea Description:

Honeybush is gaining a lot of attention at the moment for its benefits. This blend sees honeybush blended with strawberrys, kiwi, elderberry, passionfruit and rosehip for a new take on the fruit infusion.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Hello fellow tea lovers.

Today I’m reviewing this Honeybush Malaika which I have to admit that I have not had a lot of Honeybush tea compared to the likes of Rooibos. So if you’ve heard of it but don’t really know what it is or much information about it then hopefully this will help.

Some brief information on Honeybush: The name of this plant is Cyclopia but it is better known as Honeybush purely because it’s flowers smell sweet like honey. While Cyclopia is one plant it has many different cultivars, all of which originate across South Africa. Technically speaking Honeybush is not a tea but a tisane and considering this; is also low in tannin. Similar to Rooibos in flavour but Honeybush is considered to be sweeter and with a fuller body, though similarly it is also caffeine free.

Comparing it to Rooibos is interesting as I don’t usually like Rooibos but the few Honeybush I’ve had I loved. Rooibos has a chemical flavour (at least in my opinion) and that tends to overpower any flavours added to it. Honeybush does not have that issue and while it is perhaps a little sweeter I find it does not dominate additional flavours but rather enhances them.

Back to this tea in hand. I received a sample pack of 10g from NBT a while ago as an exclusive pre-release taster before it was launched on the site. Now it’s up for sale I decided the best thing for me to do was ice it to try and get the most flavour from it. So for two days I have had 10g of this blend steeping in my fridge using 1litre of water. Coldsteeping is much softer and keeps delicate tones, it’s my preferred method of icing tea/tisanes.

I haven’t mentioned much about the look or scent of the blend but honestly there was not much to it. The blend looked floral and multi coloured which bared a subtly sweet yet herbal scent. The fruit was too delicate for me to really say much about it and I decided to let it’s flavour speak instead. So I waited for the outcome with enough time to thicken with flavour.

Today is the morning I try this and the resulting liquid is a light brown/orange colour with a delicious sweet, fruit scent. Particularly like apple and strawberry with honey. A real contrast to it’s unsteeped scent. It’s flavour is just as wonderful! Sweet honeyed fruits with a touch of floral after tones that leave my mouth feeling sweet and refreshed. The fruit tones are mixed but notable berry with a touch of sourness with an exotic fruit affair behind them.

Honestly this tisane gave me a lot more pleasure than I thought it would and I’m happy to say this Honeybush blend is a winner. I don’t think I would have liked this if it was a Rooibos base and the Honeybush really does make this blend stand out.

Until next time,

Happy Steeping!

The post Honeybush Malaika Tisane from Nothing But Tea appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Twigs and Leaves: 2015 Hojicha, Phoenix Tea

39 Steeps - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 02:59
{ Sticks Framing a Lake, Andy Goldsworthy }  "Tastes like bark."

"No, tastes like water."

Yesterday I wrote on Facebook, "Watching my Valeo students, who are my new 39 Steeps Tea Club, rush up for high-end ‪#‎tea‬ from Phoenix Tea is akin to witnessing a cow being eaten by piranhas. They're enjoying themselves, learning to drink the good stuff, and being alarming, all at the same time."

My students, who are Young in the Ways of Tea, are meandering toward the observation that the Hojicha carried by Phoenix Tea (and which is happily affordable) makes them think of a life connected to nature—like a walk outside, like the smell the forest air takes on after a rain. Or maybe just before a rain? Well, something to do with a rain, anyway.

Hojicha, as my more attentive students now know, is made from the stems of the tea plants whose leaves have already been plucked. The Japanese, who don't have endless land upon which to grow their tea, have developed a frugal system in which they don't waste anything they can brew.

What little I could get of the tea—after the tea sharks had had their way with it—was an easy pleasure. It's been awhile since I've made tea for my students, so I'm rusty, and this tea was a good one to start with. Woodsy, surprisingly smooth, and good for teenagers who had no idea what they were tasting. I chose this tea because, being affordable, I wasn't as anxious about screwing it up while I get my tea chops under me again.

I'm trying to relax as I write this, focusing on those few tea friends I know who would read this, like I did when I first started writing tea reviews. Somehow the knowledge that strangers have read this blog close to a quarter million times is a trifle intimidating. So back to basics. I'll pretend I'm back in the Facebook group, discussing what I think about this or that.

{ Miss Twiggy }I'd buy the twiggy hojicha again. It's inexpensive enough that it's easy to experiment and play around with, while being sufficiently highbrow to feel like I'm giving the students and my fellow teachers something interesting to dig into.

When I'm sharing tea, you see, I'm not just providing a service; I'm trying to wake myself up—and not with the caffeine alone. Because I tend toward pretty serious depression, I value that which will make me aware that I'm alive, pull me out of my funk, get me past the listlessness, and let me have some enjoyment in the moment I happen to be in. Good music does this. (Today I was listening to a combination of Ralph Vaughan Williams and medieval stuff from Spain.) So does time talking to some very few of my friends. So does spending time with my lovely Suzanne. Surprisingly, so does teaching English literature. When I can dig in, delve into my interests and share them with someone else, I feel like I'm touching a live wire. And if a cup of golden-brown leaf juice can help me do that—well, fantastic.Please click over to visit my blog to get to know me better. And if you would be so kind, join the site with Google Friend Connect and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you for your patronage!

Tea Review - White Nixon by Bellocq Tea Atelier

Notes on Tea - Fri, 10/02/2015 - 02:00

Do you remember the Tea Leaves Up Close post I wrote with Bellocq's White Nixon as the subject? Not only did I photograph the tea (with my Photojojo Macro Lens), I've also drunk the tea, many times. Here's another plug: I got my White Nixon at the Bellocq Tea and Cheeses of Europe pairing at the French Cheese Board.

White Nixon is Bellocq's tea No. 29. It is a white blend with a White Peony (Pai Mu Tan, Bai Mu Dan) as the base with lavender and cornflowers. You notice the hairy buds of a classic Bai Mu Dan. The flavor of the liquor has classic White Peony notes, too, plus lavender. Don't think of a perfume shop. Instead, recall brushing past a lavender plant in summer and the release of the oils which almost imitate a juniper or pine. I'm not sure I taste the cornflower but it is pretty to look at.

Jalam Teas Bulang Mountain Sheng

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, compressed Ingredients: puerh tea Steep time: 30 seconds Water Temperature: 212 degrees Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan Liquor: gold It sounds a bit silly but there is something that always makes me smile when shooting pictures for a Jalam Teas review. My camera thinks that the people depicted on the postcards are not just Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

The Darkness of Tea

T Ching - Thu, 10/01/2015 - 12:00

As readers of this blog are aware, or soon will be, the world of tea is ancient, diverse, and deep.  The same can be said of tea’s homeland, China, and as a result there is no one in China or elsewhere who knows everything there is to know about Chinese tea.  The customs observed by every member of one village may be completely unknown in the next.  Often, when asked how things are “done” in China, I respond that the only true thing that can be said of all Chinese people is that they are Chinese.  Every time I go back to China I discover teas I’ve never heard of, and sometimes teas that nobody I know has ever heard of.  This is an article about one of the latter, but first, an introduction and an analogy.

Pu er tea is a type of tea from Yunnan that is sometimes, but not always, drunk in a dark fermented state.  Among the general population, pu er tea remains virtually unknown.  Among the rapidly growing ranks of young, non-Chinese aficionados of Chinese tea, pu er may be the most highly regarded of all teas, especially aged or ripened pu er, especially on the West Coast.  It improves with age, making it a natural analog to the wine culture of California, where it is consumed almost exclusively in its dark state.  As a result, many people (in America) consider the term “pu er” to represent a broad category of teas, namely any tea that is fermented by living microbes.  In fact, pu er is just one member of a larger group of teas called hei cha.  Hei cha literally means “black tea” in Chinese, but is branded “dark tea” in the West to avoid confusion with oxidized “black tea”, which is the familiar “teabag” tea consumed in most Western countries.  To allay this confusion, hei cha is sometimes translated as “dark tea”.  

There are many forms of hei cha produced throughout China, though all improve with age and most tend to have a dark color and earthy taste.  An excellent summary of some of these varieties organized by region can be found here courtesy of Mr. Tony Gebely.

Having not been introduced to forms of hei cha other than pu er, many American tea lovers mistakenly use the word “pu er” in place of hei cha to describe teas that have been post-fermented, meaning broken down due to microbial activity.  In fact, pu er refers specifically to tea from Yunnan, and not all pu er is hei cha.  The traditional form of pu er, sheng pu er, ages very slowly and doesn’t acquire its dark character until 10-15 years of age.  In its fresh form, this type of tea would be considered pu er but wouldn’t be considered hei cha.  

On my last trip to China, in the spring of 2015, I made a point of seeking out the non-Pu Er hei cha. I was already familiar with the Tibetan brick of Mt. Mengding from my time in Chengdu, and had tried Hunan hei cha from Anhua several times, though never in Hunan.  All in all, during the last trip I sourced 7 forms of hei cha besides pu er:  zang cha, liu bao, fuzhuan, heizhuan, qingzhuan, tian jian cha, and guyu cha.  Of all of these the last, guyu cha, was the most unique and surprising to me.

It comes from Guangxi, in southwestern China, home of the more famous hei cha known as Liu Bao, meaning “Six Castles”.  Unlike Liu Bao and most other wet-aged hei cha, Guyu Cha is not produced for export but is consumed by the people who grow it.  It is picked in late Spring during the Guyu 谷雨 or “Grain Rain,” the 6th Solar Term of the Chinese calendar between the Pure Brightness and the beginning of summer.  I am told it is picked while it is actually raining, and, having not picked this tea myself and having no source of knowledge besides my anecdotal experiences, I must proceed as though this is the case, no matter how absurd it sounds.  Like sheng pu er, it is processed immediately after picking by cooking (sha qing).  Once dried, it is essentially a green tea and can be consumed as such.  However, Guangxi is very humid and any organic matter – including green tea – that is left exposed is likely to mold.  To prevent this, the farmers store their tea in grain sacks in the rafters of the kitchen.  There, the tea gets continually smoked by the open wood-burning stoves used in rural kitchens.   In this fashion the tea ages and is allowed to ferment without molding, due to the presence of the smoke.  Tea can age like this for decades.

My company, West China Tea Company, imports aged Guyu cha from a private collector who has been buying individual batches from local farmers for more than 10 years. The current batch of Guyu cha we sell at the Tea Spot in Austin is more than 20 years old.  When it’s gone, we’ll get more, but it won’t be the same batch or even the same year.  This particular batch has a very woody, slightly smoky taste, brews a dark amber liquor, and is reminiscent of a very old sheng pu er that is not astringent, perhaps with more oak notes.

Guyu cha is used to make you cha, or “oil tea”, a traditional Zhuang ethnic preparation unique to Guangxi, where the tea is fried in vegetable oil in a wok with ginger, garlic, green onions, peanuts, and salt, pounded (still in the wok) with a special wooden mallet, whereupon they add water to it, boil the whole mash, strain it, and serve it in a bowl with puffed rice, peanuts, salt, and fresh green onions.  It is eaten like a soup for breakfast accompanied by a variety of chewy, snack-like things.  Using fresh Guyu cha produces a gorgeous emerald liquor, but aged Guyu cha makes a richer and more complex you cha.  

Guyu cha (and you cha) are produced and consumed in the area around Guilin, in the north of Guangxi.  There, Guyu cha is drunk every day, either as you cha or just by itself.  It is an everyday part of the fabric of peoples’ lives.  Two days ago I met a girl from Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, in the south.  I showed her my giant grain sack full of Guyu cha, expecting her to recognize it.  While she conceded that it smelled good, she had no idea what it was.  She had never heard of Guyu cha and had only a passing familiarity with you cha.  It is this denseness of culture, the dizzying array of obscure customs and arts, and the perpetual inscrutability of China and Chinese tea that make my job so fascinating.  There is no “Tea Pope” – nobody can say what is and isn’t out there.  Every trip to China is a chance to discover something new; new to me, and maybe new to everyone I know.  Unraveling the confusing, half-legend origins of these very real teas is like solving a mystery.  A successful sourcing venture isn’t just a business trip, it’s an exploratory mission searching for mysterious treasure on a dark continent.


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Free Kindle Books for Tea Lovers

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 16:00
I'm a voracious reader, especially when it comes to tea, but all of those books can get expensive. Luckily there are several older books that are now public domain so they're available for free on Kindle. While some of the facts may have changed a bit since their publication, these books serve as windows to the past of our beloved beverage. Did I miss a book? Let me know about it in the Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Lipton Missed the Boat

T Ching - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 12:00

I saw an interesting new device by Lipton which previewed in France mid-September. It’s a single-serve device similar to a Keurig machine for coffee. It’s a rather beautiful visual design for their device, but they just don’t really get it.

People who are really into tea, at least those in the U.S., don’t want to use pods put out by the tea company.  They want the option to select teas from around the globe, perhaps sometimes stumbling upon a new vendor. Although one does tend to stick with a favorite tea seller for their daily fix, the world is full of an ever-increasing number of tea sellers. This type of machine requires that the owner use the company’s prescribed teas exclusively. Why not simply make a machine that would accept any whole leaf tea? Are they so afraid that their customers won’t find their teas the best and abandon them for “upmarket” alternatives? It’s like being in a candy store and only being allowed to buy from a single shelf in the store.

I am curious if I’m in the minority here.  For me, form and function are very important in all aspects of my life. I do like the look of this new machine. I would want to know if the brewing chamber is glass, which would be the only high-end option of course. For me, my daily tea ritual typically includes hand-made pots and hand-made tea cups.  How about you?

Perusing the Lipton website, I found some curious, inconsistent and questionable information.  When talking about how to brew tea, they, of course, discuss the water:

“Ideally, you want soft, rather than hard water for your brew. Always go for fresh over already-boiled or diffused water–both create a flat-tasting tea.”

When talking about temperature they recommend:

“Heat water in a kettle or in a pan on the stove until it boils – this part’s important – the bubbles that appear at boiling point are carbon disappearing, which decreases the acidity of the water, leading to the brew taking on a clearer color.”

When I google this issue, I get lots of different attitudes about the effect of boiling water on acidity.  The one that makes the most sense to me is this one which I’ve taken from Reddit.

“If you remove water from the solution then whatever acid or base is in there should get concentrated, thus pushing the pH lower/higher. However, that ideal case is not very likely. The situations where this would not be the case would be when the acid or base can distill along with the water, where the vapor pressure of the acid/base is quite high and will come out independently of the boiling, or a weak acid/base that changes its dissociation based on temperature. In each of these cases, the change in pH may not be directly proportional to the amount of water removed by boiling. For a practical example, look at the phase diagram of formic acid in water on Wikipedia. You’ll notice that for almost all points there is some water and some formic acid being lost in the vapor while boiling, but the relative amounts being lost are dependent on where you start. If you manage to start at the azeotrope (about 60% formic acid) then the boiling liquid and the vapor will have exactly the same concentration, meaning your pH should stay constant even though you are removing stuff. Since this is a negative azeotrope if you start with a higher or lower formic acid concentration you will always push the remaining liquid towards that 60% spot, so increasing the pH if you start higher and decreasing the pH if you start lower. And if you had a positive azeotrope instead then everything would be reversed. So the practical answer is no, you can’t assume that boiling will affect the pH in a certain way regardless of everything else.”

And we’ve just learned that boiling water makes for a “flat” cup of tea.  Missed the boat again it seems.

Sorry Lipton, but what can I say?


image 2

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Lychee Burst Black from The Persimmon Tree Tea Company

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 09/30/2015 - 10:00


Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: The Persimmon Tree Tea Company (On Hiatus)

Tea Description:

Lychee Burst tea is a fruitful blend of lychee essence and organic, black loose-leaf tea. It steeps a sweet infusion; with delicate notes of apricot, osmanthus and ripe pear. Bring out the flavor with rock sugar, and pour over ice for a refreshing change to regular iced tea.

Learn more about this tea on Steepster!

Taster’s Review:

Recently I received a sample of this tea from a tea friend in the mail! I didn’t even realize that The Persimmon Tree Tea Company offered a black lychee tea, but I was certainly excited to learn that they do and be able to try it. The last black lychee tea I fell in love with, The Tea of Kings, was from RiverTea so I can’t buy it anymore. I need a solid replacement.

My thoughts about this cold brew are that the flavor level of the lychee and black base are pretty equal, which is how I feel it should be. The black base is brisk, clean and full bodied with malty notes and slightly more floral notes. It reminds me vaguely of a high grown Ceylon? The lychee is juicy and realistic and doesn’t taste overly floral or chemical which is a trap that flavour often falls into with lower quality lychee teas. I taste the pear notes a little too, but they’re fairly flat and certainly not the focal point of the blend.

I don’t think this is my new lychee black to keep on hand, but it’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. If you’re looking for a black lychee tea, my suggestion would be to start here after The Persimmon Tree’s hiatus is over.

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