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Coconut Cream Pie Honeybush from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 03:59

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Honeybush

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tisane Description:

Sweet, caffeine-free African honeybush combined with our signature honking-big coconut flakes and organic flavors.  Our Coconut Cream Pie black tea is one of our all-time bestsellers.  I can’t fathom why we haven’t made a honeybush version of it yet, but I’m here to fix that now.

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

As mentioned in the above description, the Coconut Cream Pie black tea from 52Teas is one of their best sellers.  There’s a reason for that!  That tea is seriously, awesomely good.  Their iced tea version from Southern Boy Teas is also quite yummy.  So I was very interested to see how these flavors went with a honeybush base.

The answer:  it’s really tasty!

Now, I have to admit that I prefer the black tea version, but then again, I’m more of a camellia sinensis type of girl than I am a Cyclopia (aka honeybush) kind of girl.  However, I must say that I like the nutty, honeyed sweetness that the honeybush brings to the coconut cream pie flavors!  The coconut and the honeybush meld together nicely, and the honeybush also accents the buttery pie crust notes deliciously.

I taste strong notes of coconut mingling with sweet notes of creamy vanilla and touches of buttery pastry.  The nutty, sweet notes of the honeybush marry together with these flavors in a very pleasing way.  It’s sweet, creamy and yummy!

It’s dessert in a teacup!  It is sweet without coming across as cloying.  This is the kind of dessert that you can “indulge” in without feeling guilty afterward.

And even though I do prefer the black tea version of this tea, I like that this is naturally caffeine-free, making it a nice choice for later in the evening.  You know those late night sweet tooth cravings?  This tea is just what you need to help you satisfy those cravings without eating something that you’ll regret in the morning.

Mint Julip Black Tea from Tea of Life

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Tea Description:

Black tea with natural mint flavor.

Learn more about Tea of Life and Amazon Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

When I read the name of this tea:  Mint Julip … I expected a little more than a black tea with mint.  I guess when I think Mint Julip, I think bourbon and mint.

But!  Don’t take that statement as me not liking what I’m sipping, because this is an enjoyable drink.  The black tea notes are strong, it’s a brisk tasting black tea with a smooth character.  It’s not bitter or overly astringent, although there is a mild astringency toward the tail.  I like that even though there is this faint “dry puckering” of the inside of my cheeks, the transition from the beginning of the sip to the sensation I just described is very smooth.

I’m a little surprised by the mint notes.  They are quite faint, and generally when I have a minty tea I expect a stronger mint flavor.  This is really quite subtle.  This is definitely more a black tea than a mint tea.

So, that leads me to say this:  if you’re looking for a minty black tea, this is not the right tea for you.  If you’re looking for a black tea with a hint of mint, this is the tea.  This doesn’t have that really CRISP cool minty sensation that you’d probably expect from a minty black tea.  This has a delicate mint note that sort of lingers in the background.

It’s a pleasant, enjoyable cuppa, but not quite what I was expecting!

"A Painful Pot," creepy dragon teapot sculpture by Johnson Tsang

39 Steeps - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:00
{ Johnson Tsang, "A Painful Pot" }  Johnson Tsang's sculpture, "A Painful Pot," caught my eye today. A Chinese dragon crushes a vessel, not unlike a boa constrictor making a meal. The malevolent serpent clutches the deformed pot, its claws sinking into the bulging material. A snarling, spitting creature's mouth serves as the spout for an unusual teapot design.

Because this object has no handle, the serpent would likely burn your hand on contact if you were so foolish as to try to pour. This sculpture in the vague shape of a teapot suggests none of the tranquil comfort one expects from a good cup of tea. It's an image of devouring supernature red in tooth and claw; cruel, fiery death; a cold, suffocating embrace.

This is not Grandma's teapot. Unless, of course, your grandmother held no sentimental expectations of well-behaved crockery.

Please visit Johnson Tsang's website for lovely photos of his ceramics studio. Lots of cool, creepy stuff there.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!

Global Tea Hut June 2014 - Mi Xiang Oolong and Red Tea

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 16:00
I was really excited to dig into the June shipment from +Global Tea Hut because they sent an oolong and a red tea, both made from Mi Xiang leaves. Before I even opened my envelope I received an email from them letting me know that there may be an issue with the packaging. Sure enough when I opened my tin the two teas were hopelessly mixed together. When I let them know about it they were very quick to apologize and send a replacement, even including a bonus of purple red tea.

The difference in the dry leaves was really obvious here. The oolong had the characteristic deep green leaves in a tight ball shape of a Taiwanese oolong. The red tea was dark and in even tighter balls than the oolong.

Brewing two teas at once is a lot of work (and dishes)! I'm so glad that I reserve these shipments as my day off tea. I got so involved in what I was doing that I completely forgot about everything else that is going on in my life. It's important to take a moment to really enjoy tea from time to time.

There was definitely a stark contrast in the colors of the brewed tea. The oolong was a pale gold while the red tea was more of a reddish dark amber.

The oolong opened up quite a bit more than the red tea which makes sense since it is not as heavily oxidized.

Both teas were very tasty, different sides of the same coin if you will. The oolong was aromatic and lingering while the red tea was earthy and sweet. Both shared a honey-like quality that I really enjoyed. It was interesting to compare them with each other because another thing that they had in common was texture. We don't usually think of tea having a texture but it does. These both had the same silky smooth, somewhat thick mouth-feel.
I know I've raved about them here before but I really can't recommend Global Tea Hut enough. The teas are carefully curated and delicious. Each shipment brings new surprises and tea knowledge. It is donation based so it's really up to you how much you want to give to support their work. I'm looking forward to one day being able to visit their center in Taiwan.
Mi Xiang Oolong and Red Tea purchased through a paid Global Tea Hut subscription.

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Life by the Cup

T Ching - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 12:03

An inspirational quotation; exquisite description of a tisane, blend or whole leaf beverage; a story rich with character and conflict; revelation; reflection; as well as exercises for the reader’s growth make up each chapter in this remarkable how-to book. Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success. I admit to being put off at first by the deeply personal nature of the author’s disclosure, but this reservation was soon put aside by the splendidly written exposition moved along by compelling narration.  Tea weaves its way throughout, each chapter a cup of tea.

Let me share excerpts from the chapter “Pluck the Positive”: ” . . . fair-trade black tea leaves from the Uva province of Sri Lanka, the Nilgari Mountains of Southern India, and the Yunnan province of China. . . Sipping this morning blend today, I can’t help but reminisce about the importance it had for me when I was first starting out – it meant the world.  This tea was the pure, clean canvas on which I could paint infinite colors and possibilities.  These leaves carry flavor notes of raisin, tobacco flower, rum, hay, and the balmy afternoon rains of Sri Lanka..  This tea also has a bit of caramel on the palate, with high notes of optimism and promise.  The caffeine content is fairly high, waking you up, kicking you in the butt, and sharpening your senses to how amazing you are and what more you can be.”

The chapter goes on to describe the women who pluck the tea, from the staggering number of plucks required for a kilo of tea to the expected daily harvest for each worker.  The author’s connection to and curiosity about the women who labor for her daily cup ends up a fascinating lesson in the amazing accomplishment that makes up that cup. The exercise for this chapter, “Plucking the Positive,” is to compose a prayer of gratitude as you sip your tea.  Say thank you for three things as you sip that first precious cup.  Your day will be better and you will be able to see the good you are looking for.

Along the way, the author’s credibility in motherhood, herbal medicine, and tea blending is firmly established and reestablished.  Although the book can be read as a straight-through crash course, it is best savored chapter by chapter like a good cup of tea.

You can learn more about the book here.

 MAIN:            IMAGE 1:

The post Life by the Cup appeared first on T Ching.

Earl Grey Black Tea from Nina’s Paris

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 07/24/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black & Green Teas

Where to Buy:  Nina’s Tea Store

Tea Description:

Bergamot from Sicily. The smoothness of Keemun (Black Tea) together with the freshness of bergamot. An ancient recipe that was handed down by a high dignitary of China to Earl Charles Grey. A classic that definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

When I opened my sample of this Earl Grey tea from Nina’s Paris, I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed and skeptical about whether or not I’d like this Earl Grey, because the aroma was very faint.  Not just faint, but there was hardly any discernible bergamot fragrance.  And when it comes to Earl Grey, I want BERGAMOT!

Now that the tea is brewed, the bergamot scent is a little stronger than it was with the dry leaf.  And the flavor doesn’t disappoint!  Quite the contrary, this is a superb Earl Grey!

The bold flavor of the Keemun black tea base gives this tea a little added “umph!” that makes a real difference in the overall flavor.  I love that rich, smooth flavor of the Keemun together with the tangy-sweet notes of the bergamot.  The wine-like notes of the Keemun marry beautifully with the citrus fruit, and creates a very harmonious taste.

And the slight smoky note of the Keemun also adds some interest to the cup without overwhelming it.  It’s not a heavy smoky tone, just a little wisp of smoke in there that keeps the taste buds intrigued.

The bergamot is stronger in flavor than the fragrance led me to believe, but it isn’t an overpowering bergamot flavor.  Typically, I like a good, strong bergamot essence, but, I like the subtler approach of the bergamot here, because it works to the favor of the complexity of the Keemun, allowing the palate to explore the many different notes within this cup.  It’s not all about the bergamot, nor is it all about the Keemun.  It’s a really interesting combination of flavors, one that I am enjoying very much.

This is a really good Earl Grey.  Definitely worth a try if you’re an Earl Grey enthusiast like me, or even if you are just looking for the “right” Earl Grey for your tea cupboard.  You should definitely try this one, it’s different enough from the standard to make it stand out from the pack.

JT’s Kitchen: Tasty Tea Popsicles

Joy's Teaspoon - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 23:40

by Naomi Rosen

I live in Las Vegas. I believe when you translate that in Spanish, it’s loosely “So. Hot. Popsicle. Now.” During the months of June, July, and August, I will drink my weight in iced tea and still be thirsty. Since moving out here 5 years ago, I’ve learned all sorts of tricks that help deal with the heat. We have mini pools, water tables, wet towels, covered parks, water guns, and we only go outside before 9am and after sunset. Reaching deep into my bag of tricks, one of my favorite go-to’s for a warm summer day is popsicles! A girlfriend of mine gave me a Zoku popsicle maker our first summer here and that thing has seen some battle time!

You can keep it simple and freeze just the tea itself.  Or, you can get all complex and over-achieverish and create your own popsicle line.  One of my favorites is the Pina Colada…

  • 1 can of coconut Milk
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup of your favorite tea (in this case I used a Sencha, but rooibos based teas are great for this too!)

I put it all in a blender, let that do it’s magic, and then pour the mix into the Zoku. I think it takes about 8 minutes to become a popsicle. I use that time to read some of my favorite tea blogs or keep my kids from destroying my house with a soccer ball. #ThanksWorldCup

Are you a popsicle fan? What’s your favorite tea popsicle recipe? I’m always looking for more ideas and you never know when a discount code might end up in your inbox as a thanks for keeping my recipe file full!

Yin Gou Mei Green Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

This Chinese tea is often referred to as eyebrow tea due to its eyebrow shaped tea leaves. The leaves are hand picked during early spring to result in a floral and robust flavor without the bitterness often associated with this type of tea. The rich green tea leaves brew to reveal a bright jade liquor with a fresh aroma, balanced earthiness and smooth, subtle finish. Yin Gou Mei Green Tea is best served hot.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Yin Gou Mei, so, I was really looking forward to having this tea when I discovered it was part of this month’s Selection Club sampler box from Simple Loose Leaf.

Yin Gou Mei is often called “Chinese Eyebrows” because of the cute “eyebrow” shape of the leaves.  But, I don’t like calling it Chinese Eyebrows because that sounds … weird and not in a good way.  So forgive me for not calling it by that name and instead going with Yin Gou Mei.

And this is a really LOVELY Yin Gou Mei!

This is sweet and creamy with soft nutty notes, but there is a light crispness to the cup as well.  There are delicate floral notes that meld with the soft, creamy sweetness.  It makes my palate swoon how these two tastes mingle together.  It’s very smooth from start to finish, with no bitter notes and very little noticeable astringency.

What I like about Yin Gou Mei is that it’s a little different from the typical green tea in that it tastes somewhat “earthy” but not really overly vegetal.  While there is a slight vegetative note to this, it’s not a heavy, grassy taste, nor does it taste like steamed veggies or any of the other vegetative comparisons that I often make.  It’s smooth, floral and lightly earthy/vegetal note that is softened with a pleasant creaminess.

I know I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again in the future, but, I just love getting my monthly Selection Club box from Simple Loose Leaf!  It really is a GREAT bargain:  I get five different teas each month and there’s enough for several pots of tea from EACH of the five teas in the box.  Plus you get a sample from the next month’s box to whet your appetite for the teas to come!  And there are a couple of different payment options available to you that have been designed for savings and convenience in mind.

And if you want to save even more, here’s what you do:  use this code - SISTERSELECTION25  - and receive a 25% discount when you sign up for the Selection Club!  This discount is applicable only to the monthly Selection Club subscription and not the retail selection of teas.  It’s an awesome service!

White2Tea 2013 Jingmai - Old Arbor vs Plantation

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 16:00
I posted some questions about how to the age of puerh tea from the leaves on TeaChat and Paul from +White2Tea was quick to respond with information and an generous offer of samples to illustrate the differences. I've got a whole batch of goodies to write about from him but in this case I did a comparative tasting of 2013 Jingmai raw puerh. One is an old arbor tea (many vendors will call this "ancient") and one is from a plantation.

In all of the photos the old arbor version will be on the left and the plantation on the right. Right off the bat, there was a definite difference in the dry leaves. The old arbor leaves had a nice shine to them while the plantation leaves looked quite dull in comparison.

The differences in taste were very subtle at first. The plantation tea was just a shade paler and as the later infusions came, it seemed to have a lot less impact that the old arbor. I was almost reminded of the difference between true cliff and half cliff for Wuyi Mountain oolongs. The plantation tea is close but not quite there. Puerh is one of the most misunderstood types of tea and I find myself diving into it more and more lately. Hopefully as the academic interest in this category increases, we will see more agreement about what is fact and what is fiction.

Some of you might remember my tea pet who unfortunately decided that he wanted to stay in Long Beach after the World Tea Expo. I ordered a close approximation on Amazon and it finally arrived. The original was the same design but a bit nicer. This guy is chubbier and less refined but still cute. Welcome to the world of tea Ribbit II.
Jinmai Old Arbor and Plantation samples provided by White2Tea.

When You Get Your Tea News from a Political Web Site

Tea Time With A.C. Cargill - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 15:55
As of the posting of this article I have been writing for The English Tea Store’s Tea Blog for almost five years and have been its editor for about 3.5 years. One thing I have learned in that time, added to my 30+ years in writing, GUI design, etc., is how to size something up and decide if it’s worth the time of day or not. So, when an article got forwarded to me by someone from a very politically biased news Web site, my alarm system had been triggered. Uh oh. This never bodes well. Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness, I took the time to read through the article thoroughly and could tell almost immediately that it was worthless in the annals of tea knowledge. Better to go read a Far Side cartoon – in fact, it would be a much better use of time. In short, I’m saying that not all articles on tea merit your attention.

The article that was brought to my attention was about caffeine-loaded energy drinks versus tea. It was written by someone who “holds a Master's in Mathematical Behavior Sciences.” Makes him quite an authority on caffeine…not! At least this guy in his article actually bothered to link to something sorely lacking when it comes to anything about tea and health: links to true experts. Yes, tea is the better boost. Time to take a look at why.

An Analogy

Many of us were taught that flooring the gas pedals on our cars to do that zero-to-60-in-5-seconds that car dealers like to brag about burns up a lot more gas that easing up to that 60 mph speed. And you don’t get where you’re going any faster. So chugging a beverage laden with extra caffeine, while giving you that extra jolt, will be a short-lived effect and has some negative consequences.

Just like those “jack rabbit” starts, a sudden jolt of caffeine burns you out faster than the lower dose from tea. In fact, those lower amounts are better overall as shown here:

“The most notable behavioral effects of caffeine occur after consumption of low-to-moderate doses (50-300 mg) and include increased alertness, energy, and ability to concentrate. Whereas moderate consumption rarely leads to health risks, higher doses induce negative effects such as anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, and tachycardia.” [source]
How Tea Is Different

Caffeine in tea is different not only due to its lower quantity but also its make-up. Along with the caffeine, tea has L-Theanine. The common perception here is that the L-Theanine in tea has a calming effect. This study shows that it may actually work with caffeine to give you a bit of a cognitive boost. And this study shows that the combo improves alertness. Again, easing up to that 60 mph and being able to stay there longer.

Get your engine revved with tea and go farther! And get your tea news from a tea site and bloggers like me dedicated to tea.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Special industry: dong ding oolong

T Ching - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 12:03

Recently I attended an event that I believe was a first of its kind here in Taiwan. The Nantou County Government sponsored the Lugu Farmers’ Association to host a public forum on the local specialized industry of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. The renowned tea source of Dong Ding Mountain is located in Lugu Township of Nantou County in Central Taiwan. The event was organized by the United Chinese Art of Tea Promotion Association, and regional representatives from all over the island attended along with many other leading professionals in the field. Along with all these “tea pros” was a full house of tea lovers from all walks of life. It was inspiring to see the level of interest for and commitment to this local traditional treasure of Dong Dong Oolong. A few days before, I had just completed my defense for my MBA thesis on the preservation of the quality and product value of Traditional Taiwan Tea. So needless to say, I was especially interested in this event.

The panel of speakers was initially meant to include a keynote speaker who was a central figure in the promotion of tea as well as a professional tea judge in Nantou County for 40 years. Now in his 80’s, and feeling under the weather at the time of the event, he couldn’t make it. So my tea mentor, who was scheduled to follow his presentation, covered both the historical and current age of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. Presenting as the Director of the Lugu Farmers’ Association department of promotion and senior tea judge, he offered an extensive overview of this world that he grew up in and made his vocation. I loved the images of the beginning of a new era of tea production in this area that began in the 1950’s.

Following the overview of the topic, speakers included the Tea Research Extension Station Director of the Yu Chi (Sun Moon Lake) Branch, a resident of Lugu – who is also a senior judge in tea competitions island-wide. He gave a comprehensive explanation of what makes a high quality traditional Dong Ding Oolong, and how it differs from large-scale modern tea production.

Beyond this were central representatives of Taiwan Tea Culture who offered their perspectives on the consumer’s understanding of specialty teas, classical Chinese music in accompaniment with traditional culture and tea types, tea and poetry, and the promotion of tea regions as agricultural tourist destinations. It certainly was a full panel of professional and academic perspectives, and my Chinese listening ability was definitely on overload by the end of the day!

Of course, being the only very noticeably foreign attendant involves an inevitable trace of self-consciousness, but I have developed enough immunity to this factor over 20 years of living here to not let it be a hindrance. It was a very timely and worthwhile event to experience, and left me feeling all-the-more grateful for being welcomed into this wonderful world of tea.

Let’s not forget the tea! While this very educational event ensued, all attendants enjoyed two wonderful teas brewed and served by local tea club members. The first brew was Dong Ding Oolong that represented the original mid-elevation tea growing region of Lugu Township – from my favorite tea growing locale of Phoenix Village. The second was an aged Dong Ding Oolong that simply imbued the meaning of traditional oolong tea in our current age. This alone was well worth the journey through mid-summer heat to experience.

Andy Kincart is the Sourcing Director for Eco-Cha, Responsibly Sourced Artisan Tea.

 Event photos: 陳信綸 ; historical photo and loading image used with permission from Tony Lin.



The post Special industry: dong ding oolong appeared first on T Ching.

Nutty Mocha Mate Blend from ArtfulTea

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 03:59

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Yerba Maté

Where to Buy:  ArtfulTea orArtfulTea on Etsy

Tisane Description:

The indulgent taste of chocolate and hazelnut, plus mellow chicory, give this mate blend a rich, roasted, mocha flavor. Yerba mate is an herbal infusion, but unlike most herbal teas, mate contains a stimulating caffeine-like compound. 

Learn more about this tisane here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve had some Yerba Mate, and this is a great tisane to get myself back into it!  This is really quite tasty!

It actually reminds me a lot of a tisane that I used to make back in my blending days!  I made a mocha flavored Mate, mostly because I was looking for something that would satisfy my craving for coffee back then because I was still missing coffee.  As I’ve said before I couldn’t drink coffee any longer, but there were still times when I missed the flavor of coffee.  I certainly didn’t miss the sick feeling I’d get a few hours later though!

Since that time, I’ve come to really love tea more than I ever loved coffee.  That’s probably pretty obvious, huh?  But I still love it when I find a tea or tisane like this one that offers a taste that is reminiscent of that rich, roasted flavor of coffee that I used to enjoy.

And this satisfies that craving!  This tastes very much like a rich, delicious mocha that you might find in one of those super expensive coffee shops, complete with the sweet, nutty flavor of hazelnut and even a touch of chocolate.  I am wishing there was more chocolate flavor to this, though.  It’s got some chocolate, but as I have been known to say, more chocolate is always better, and that’s true with this tisane too.

As it is, though, I found this to be quite enjoyable and I’m really glad that I got to try it.  Another tasty offering from ArtfulTea.

Goomtee Grand Reserve Spring Tea First Flush 2014 from Darjeeling Tea Lovers

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Darjeeling Tea Lovers

Tea Description:

Goomtee Grand Reserve is a LIMITED EDITION tea. Not all teas get the prestigious tag of GRAND RESERVE but this tea deserves every bit of this.

The leaves have been plucked from the highest elevated section of this garden which is also called the MUSCATEL VALLEY. Super fine plucking of the leaves and tender processing has resulted with a masterpiece.

High floral notes with distinct JASMINE LIKE flavour will make every tea connoisseur mesmerized. It is only Goomtee that could deliver such a beauty.  

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This 2014 Goomtee Grand Reserve Spring Tea First Flush is a lot greener than most of the Darjeeling teas that I’ve encountered lately.  In fact, it looks very much like a green tea rather than a black tea.

Taking this into account, I lowered the temperature slightly.  Normally, I would steep a Darjeeling tea at 195°F, but for this greener Darjeeling, I lowered the temperature to 185°F, and using my Breville One-Touch tea maker, I set the steep time for 2 minutes.

The result is a delightful cup of tea!  The aroma of the brewed cup is crazy floral – it is really beautiful.

And the flavor!  Sweet!  Floral!  There are even hints of muscatel in this cup.  The floral notes are profound, and as the description above promises, there is a “distinct jasmine like” flavor.  There is a soft, pleasant texture.  The astringency sort of tingles on the tongue in the finish, and I find that it accentuates the floral notes of this cup.

I’m mesmerized by the jasmine tones of this cup.  I don’t think that this tea was actually *scented* with jasmine, but, it almost tastes as though it has been processed similar to a typical jasmine scented tea.  The jasmine essence is a bit more subdued than in a typical jasmine green tea, for example, but, it’s still a rather surprising taste to find in a Darjeeling tea such as this.

I’d recommend this to all those that enjoy drinking tea!  Those that love jasmine, as I do, this is an exciting twist on that classic favorite.  Those that love Darjeeling, this is one that you should have on your cupboard because it’s a stunning representation of a fine Darjeeling first flush.  Those that simply love all teas, this is quite a unique tea and unlike any that I’ve tried thus far (and I’ve tried a lot of tea!)  It’s one you should try too!

A truly remarkable and … rather unexpected Darjeeling tea.

Reader Survey: What Would You Like to See Here?

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 16:00
There other day I asked on Twitter what questions people had about tea that they would like to see answered in a blog post. I got some really awesome responses (thanks guys!) but I thought that I would post it here too for those of you that are tweet-less. What would you like to see here on +Tea for Me Please? Is there a tea topic you'd like to know more about? Give me your feedback! Readers are what keep this blog running so keep those comments and emails coming. I love hearing from you all.

Life has been a bit crazy lately but I'm working on getting back on track with my monthly podcast and email newsletter. My boyfriend and I will be moving in together towards the end of next month. He knows I love tea but I'm not sure he's quite prepared for how deep my obsession with the leaf really is. I'll be sure to share what me new tea set up looks like once we are settled in. :)

Is there something you'd like to see in a blog post? Got a question about tea that you need answered? Let me know about it!
— Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) July 20, 2014

Tea Review 532: Grand Tea’s Organic GABA Oolong

Walker Tea Review - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 13:30
  Origin: Huang Shan Harvest: 2013 Score: 91 Organic: CERES Price (as of post): 25 g = $6.00  to Walker Tea Review. Get complete access to Member Content.   Sign Up For The Newsletter. Sample provided by Grand Tea. Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Want to see a tea reviewed? […]

Convenience over everything?

T Ching - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 12:01

My husband and I were reading a foodservice survey done about a major coffee chain which concluded that consumers valued taste, cleanliness, and convenience almost equally. So, if you have the cleanliness and taste, but not the convenience . . . problem.

As anyone in retailing knows, it’s all about location. Cleanliness doesn’t cost a thing but some elbow grease.  I think location has been one of the problems in getting loose tea concepts going for the average, unfunded proprietor.  Most have had to settle for ‘B’ or worse locations simply because of the cost.

There’s convenience in location and then there’s convenience as in ‘fast.’  Loose tea is many things, but most consumers don’t see it as convenient, aka “fast.”  There aren’t drive-through windows and pots and ceramic cups handed out through the opening.

Why even bring all this up?  Because I read a discussion on a professional industry board the other day, where the question was asked – it seemed almost hopefully or longingly: “Is there a good future for loose tea?” where even specialty tea industry professionals were talking about convenience.  Lately, I have seen companies I never thought would go “pyramid bag” do so because they want and/or need to get foodservice business.  And, I’ve read the controversy that the nylon in praymid bags doesn’t degrade for decades – maybe not in our lifetimes – which makes the bags not eco-friendly.  But they sell.

On the large scale, what appears to be happening is that the coffee chains are bringing in more loose tea, but are batching it, and sugar-ing it up, and doing it mainly as specialty beverages because “tea is hot” (but not really – it’s iced).  85% of the tea sold in the U.S. is, indeed iced and black.

Panda Express is doing a new tea bar concept with boba and specialty blended tea drinks, Dunkin’ Donuts was seen looking around World Tea Expo, and all of foodservice is hopping on the “specialty tea” bandwagon.  So what are tea purists who want to start a pure loose tea business to do?

There are always niche possibilities, but for the foreseeable future, and it almost hurts me to say this because I’ve been such a heels-drilled-into-the-ground-loose-tea purist: we have to accept that a few may do very well in certain urban or trendy areas with loose tea businesses, but even some of the established and “purist” loose tea wholesalers are heading in the direction of convenience.

More on this in a future installment, but I’d love to hear comments from tea business owners.  We are in the process of expanding our vision to sync with the trend.  How about you?   What is your experience, your observations?  I know there are loose tea brewing appliances and we are about to introduce ours (“about” meaning having taken a long time and not until we believe it’s completely ready and the time is right).  Talk to me, my tea industry friends.  Talk to me.  Are your heels drilled in, are you refusing to   budge, are you determined that we will show people the light on loose leaf?  Tell me you are and why.  Or tell me how your vision is changing, if it is.

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Product Review: Tea Assortment of Hard Candy from Raley’s Confectionary

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/22/2014 - 03:59

Product Information:

Where to Buy:  Treatsie

Product Description:  

Tea-flavored hard candy.  Flavors include Lemongrass Green Tea, Chai Latte, Arnold Palmer and Mango Black Tea.

Learn more about Treatsie’s Subscription Box here.

Product Review:

I know I’ve confessed it before, but, I’ll confess it again:  I have a sweet tooth.  And I find myself particularly attracted to sweets that are tea inspired, like these yummy hard candies from Raley’s Confectionary.  While recently perusing the Treatsie website, I came across this tea flavored hard candy assortment, and you know I couldn’t resist!

I recently discovered Treatsie, and they’re a subscription box (similar to the box that I get every month from Simple Loose Leaf), so every month, I will get a box full of yummy treats.  (And chocolate.  Did I mention chocolate?)  You can also shop for the products individually and there are some really interesting curated boxes that you can buy at Treatsie too.  I bought these tea flavored hard candies separately, because as I said before, I couldn’t resist when I saw the words “Tea Flavored Hard Candy.”  Um … yes please!

My separately purchased products (not the Treatsie subscription box) arrived this afternoon, and I’m really pleased!  It was packaged beautifully, and I even got a “thank you” treat tucked inside – another package of Raley’s Confectionary’s hard candies – these little “thank you” candies actually say thank you right on them, and they’re pomegranate flavored!  Yum!

These tea flavored candies are really tasty.  The Mango Black Tea candy has a very distinct mango note and I can taste a softer black tea note in there too.  The Lemongrass Green Tea has a lemon-lime-ish sort of flavor to it, with a background of a sweet, grassy green tea note.  The Arnold Palmer tastes more of lemonade than it does of tea, but every once in a while I taste a slight tea-ish flavor.  I like the tangy note of the Arnold Palmer, though, it seems to balance out the other sweeter tasting flavors of the package.

And then there is my favorite of the four:  Chai Latte!  I think I’d be happy to have a whole package of just the chai latte.  They have a gentle spice to them (these aren’t strong in spice!  They’re more sweet than spicy!) and I can taste the black tea as well as a creamy note to them – they’re like a sweet little chai latte!

I love that the flavors that are promised are the flavors that are delivered.  Sure, they’re sweeter than what you’d experience if you were actually drinking a cup of chai latte or a mango flavored black tea – but they ARE candies, after all!  They’re supposed to be sweet.  What I love is that these are not just something that satisfies the sweet tooth in me, but also the tea lover in me too.

So, now I’ve found this sinful company that will send me sweet-tooth indulgences once a month … how do I say no to that?

Mr. He’s 1st Picking Laoshan Black Tea from Verdant Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Verdant Tea

Tea Description:

Laoshan Black is our most popular tea, and its success has encouraged Mr He of Laoshan Village to keep refining his process to make it better every year. This year, Mr. He has taken leaves normally used for his delicate and subtle early spring green tea and allowed them to roast in the sun for three days before hand processing in small one to two pound batches, yielding this incredible rich, subtle Laoshan Black experience.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

The aroma of the dry leaf knocks my socks off.  OK, so I wasn’t wearing socks, but if I was, they’d be blown off.  My feet felt the absence of the socks and felt the strong gust of wind that was there to blow the socks off the feet, but, because there was no socks, my feet just got a nice cool breeze for a few minutes, and given that it’s kind of hot outside, I’m glad that the gust wasn’t warm air.

Wow … so that was a lot “windier” than I expected to be to describe a scent that I can’t remember experiencing with a black tea in the past.  It smells like chocolate.  Like dark chocolate with a nice roast on those cacao beans.  Nice.  The chocoholic in me is happy.

This is a very special tea.  And since it is so special, I decided to consult the suggested brewing parameters on the Verdant Tea website for how to best brew this tea.  Now, this isn’t something I do often.  I don’t usually check to see how the company suggests I brew a tea, mostly because I’ve been brewing tea for a long time.  I eyeball my measurements using my bamboo scoop (the bamboo scoop that I own looks sort of like this one).

I have kind of a set “temperature” guide in my head:  for most black teas, I use boiling water.  If I’m brewing Assam, I drop the temperature to 205°F.  If I’m brewing Darjeeling, I drop the temperature to 195°F.  If I’m brewing herbal teas, including rooibos, honeybush, yerba mate and guayusa, I also set the temperature for 195°F.  Most pu-erh teas get 190°F.  If’ I’m brewing Green or Oolong teas, I use 175 – 185°F.  If I’m brewing a white or yellow tea, I use 170°F.   I don’t often stray from this mental temperature guide often.  Steep times are also follow a mental steep-time guide.

But because this is a tea that is of very limited quantities, and not one that I want to experiment a lot with because I don’t have a large quantity of this tea to experiment with, nor do I have the resources to secure myself a large quantity of the tea … because of these reasons, I decided to consult with the people who have had more experience with this tea than I.  I decided to go with the gongfu brew style (hey, what the heck!) and I now have sitting before me my first cup of this tea – the combined results of the first and second infusions, following an extremely quick 1 second rinse.

Ow!  Cup is hot.  I’m using my little Chinese teacup with no handle and made of very thin porcelain, so there’s not a lot to insulate and protect my fingers from the heat of the boiling water used to infuse this tea.

Very mellow tasting.  These infusions were 15 seconds and 20 seconds, which went a little longer than the suggested 2 – 3 seconds as suggested in the brewing parameters by Verdant.  But there is still a lot of flavor to the mellow taste.

The chocolate notes are THERE and I’m loving that.  The tasting notes on the Verdant website also suggest notes of cherry and almond, and I do get a slight roasted nut flavor there that is almond-y.  A lovely combination of flavors with the prolific chocolate notes.  I taste hints of the sweet cherry notes.  This first cup is sweet and lovely.

The next two infusions proved to continue with the chocolate-y notes.  I love the roasted flavor to this cup and how that enhances the chocolate-y notes.  I’m starting to pick up on honey-like flavors and a slight caramel-y note, like a honey caramel.  Nice.  I love that while this is tea is loaded with sweet notes, it doesn’t taste too sweet.  It’s smooth and well-rounded.

Later infusions, I noticed the chocolate notes beginning to wane, replaced with a stronger nutty tone.  Imagine toasted nuts that have been drizzled with honey.

The brewing parameters suggest 15 infusions, and I might very well have gotten that many out of this measurement of leaves, but, I was quite satisfied with the eight infusions that I brewed.  By the fourth and final cup, while I was still enjoying the tea but I found myself missing the chocolate-y notes of the earlier infusions.

Then I found myself wondering how the flavors would differ if I were to experiment with this tea using the “Western” approach to brewing.  So, I decided to do just that!

I think that I actually prefer the western method of brewing for this particular tea.  The flavor is richer and more robust from the very first cup.  Still deliciously chocolate-y and tasting of roasted almonds with hints of cherry, but the flavor has more muchness to it when I brew it using the teapot rather than the gaiwan.

And brewing this way, I can still get three flavorful infusions out of this tea.  The first:  chocolate-y, rich with notes of toasted almond and sweet cherry.  The second:  a little lighter on the chocolate notes, but, still very pleasantly chocolate-y, with more enhanced nutty notes and a touch of honey.  And with the third, I was able to actually taste some notes of sarsaparilla.

This tea is awesome!  It makes me want to dance the futterwacken!

Misty Peak Teas 2013 Sheng Yiwu Mtn Autumn Pu'er

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: orangish gold

Yiwu is probably my favorite mountain for puerh but the good stuff is getting harder to find these days. All of the offerings +Misty Peak Teas are hand made from start to finish by the Bin family. This is a bit unusual in the world of puerh so I was excited to give this tea a go. My sample had been broken off of a cake but the dry leaf was mostly whole and had a nice shine to it. The taste had the sweetness that I've come to expect of Yiwu but there was also a robust, brightly astringent quality to it. Part of that may be because this is an autumn harvest. There was some interesting fruity notes that helped break things up a bit. Although it had a lot of strength, it's not as funky as I was expecting. The flavors stayed true right up until the end and I must admit that I gave out before the tea did. I'm really tempted to indulge in an entire tong of this tea. Maybe once there's some room in the tea budget...

2013 Sheng Yiwu Mtn Autumn Pu'er sample provided by Misty Peak Teas.
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The other best tea blogs: A series – Part 2

T Ching - Mon, 07/21/2014 - 12:00

Today’s post is the second in my series to learn more about the finalists for the title of Best Tea Blog at the first annual World Tea Awards. In this post, I spoke (via email) to Jen Piccotti, the creator and voice of An International Tea Moment, who is based right here in Southern California. In fact, I am surprised our paths had not crossed before now.

How did you get interested in tea?

We’ve always been tea drinkers in my house, but my eyes were opened to the ritual and tradition of tea when my aunt took me to a Victorian Tea Room when I was a senior in high school. It opened my mind to the idea that there was a greater tea culture out there that was worth exploring.

Why did you decide to start a tea blog?

I had just had my first baby and felt completely out of control and incompetent in every way as a new mom. Tea was my daily luxury, and I enjoy writing, so I began writing about past tea experiences as a kind of mental vacation and creative outlet during my daughter’s naps. It was very soothing and was one thing that felt within my control at that time. I never expected people to begin reading it, but they did.

What new experiences have you had as a result of starting your tea blog?

Where to begin? After over 6 years of blogging, I’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to over 100 tea companies, each with their own unique story and specialty; I’ve tasted an enormous spectrum of some of the best teas and blends in the world; I’ve developed friendships with other tea enthusiasts who don’t find my tea nerdiness the least bit odd; and I’ve met some of the biggest names in the tea world who are more than happy to share their knowledge, experiences, and recommendations. Plus, I almost never have to buy tea! It just shows up at my house on a nearly weekly basis!

What sets your tea blog apart from others?

I’m not very scientific about my “reviews,” if you can even call them reviews. I like to tell the story of the moments I have over a cup of tea, with the tea being as much of a character in the story as any guests I may be with. I also made the decision pretty early on to focus on the positives. I only write about what I love because I have limited time, and I’d much rather shine the spotlight on what I enjoy rather than on what didn’t work for me.

Which tea or tisane would I most likely find in your cup?

A bold black tea. I’m a die-hard Assam fan and have my go-to single estate preferences (like Mokalbari and Hazelbank), and my tea cupboard is always stocked with serious breakfast blends, like California Tea and Coffee Brewery’s Irish Breakfast blend.

What is your “elevator speech” as a tea blogger?

The best tea moments are the ones that are shared. Tea is the great luxury and the great leveler of the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what your pedigree (or lack thereof) might be, sharing a cup of tea brings people together. Those are the moments I enjoy writing about.

Where would you like your tea blog to be in five years?

I’d like to become a go-to source for helping people create their own tea moments. Whether through tea recommendations, tea party planning ideas, or recommendations of tea wares. There’s a universe of options, and I’d like to help take the mystery and magnitude out of the process and make it easy for everyone to enjoy.

How do you grow your readership?

I engage on social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, and seek out other tea enthusiasts. I also try to write and post regularly. The more consistently I write, the higher engagement I see with readers. As with many things, out of sight = out of mind, especially on social media channels.

Which tea events do you make a point of regularly attending?

My own, of course! And then the World Tea Expo. I attended the very first one when it was introduced as “Take Me 2 Tea.” It’s grown and changed so much, but now it feels a little bit like a family reunion! I also try and attend the Annual Tea Lovers Festival that takes place in Pasadena / Los Angeles every year. I’d love to attend more regional shows like the Northwest Tea Festival, the Tea and Coffee Festival in London, and the Dublin Coffee  and Tea Festival.

Who in the tea world would you love to meet and why?

It’s kind of amazing, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many of the “greats” in the tea world: the well-known names, as well as the paradigm-shifting new entrepreneurs. I feel like I really missed out by not having the chance to meet John Harney. The stories of his warmth and humor are lovely. I would like to meet Steven Smith, who was the mind behind both Stash Tea and Tazo and is now running his own “teaworks” in Portland, Steven Smith Teamaker. It would be interesting to hear how he approaches business and blending. I’m curious about what’s in his cup this morning.

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