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Jane Austen’s Black Tea Blend from Simpson & Vail Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 12:35

Our Sister’s Thoughts: I have to say I’m LOVING these new Literary Teas from Simpson and Vail and today I will introduce you to Jane Austen’s Black Tea Blend from Simpson & Vail Tea.   Jane Austen’s Black Tea Blend from Simpson & Vail Tea is strong and independent…meaning it has a flavor all of its own.  After reading the ingredients of Black teas, spearmint, lavender flowers and vanilla flavor I thought I knew what this tea Read More

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Changing Our Tea Habits, One Cup at a Time

T Ching - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 12:23

Creatures of habit that we are, it’s often refreshing to shake things up, step outside of the box a bit, and loosen our grip on the familiar and the routine.  Goaded by the offer of some beautiful tea cups (or perhaps it would be more accurate to call them bowls as they have no handles) made by Jeff Smith (Los Angeles), a friend and part-time ceramist, I jumped at the chance to add three new tea-drinking vessels to my collection. Even among the mugs in the cupboard, some are my favorites designated to be used only for tea. With the arrival of these new pieces of utilitarian art, I realized that the inherent pleasures of tea drinking depend not only on the quality of the tea and the precision of brewing (dosage of leaves, brewing time and temperature) but also on the vessel from which the beverage is being consumed.

Never having given much thought to this before, I now realize that there is a whole new range of sensory experiences derived from the composition of the cup. Think about the difference between drinking from a bone china teacup and a sturdy hand-formed mug or the difference between a delicate gaiwan and tiny thimble cups for the best oolongs.  The feel and heft of these vessels differ widely and thankfully so, each designed for a different purpose and occasion.I am paying close attention to the features of each of my newest cups: the color and reflective quality of their glazes, the shape and thickness of the walls of the vessel, the depth, the texture and even the transfer of heat to my two hands—all of these influence my enjoyment of the several-times-a-day ritual.  I like that they are designed to be held by two hands, almost in supplication, as an offering (perhaps to the tea gods or goddesses). The takeaway here:  Little things can mean a lot. So, on that note, here is a simple recipe for a spice cookie that would complement most any cup of tea, no matter what kind of vessel you use to serve it.

Many-Spiced Cookies

Yield: Approximately 20 cookies

Scant 7.5 ozs (1-1/2 cups) All purpose flour

Spices in any proportion you favor, totaling 3.75 teaspoons

(NOTE:  I suggest using an amount of cinnamon that is equal by volume to the total of the other four spices, as cinnamon mellows and softens the aggressiveness of the others).

Cinnamon

Ginger

Nutmeg

Cloves

Allspice

Scant 4.5 ozs (9 T,) unsalted butter, softened

2.5 ozs (1/2 c.) dark brown sugar

3.8 ozs (1/2 c.) molasses

1-1.2 t. hot water

Granulated sugar, as needed, to coat the scoops of cookie dough before baking

Sift flour with spices and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, cream butter until light. Add brown sugar and molasses and mix to blend. Add hot water and mix in. Add the sifted dries and mix only until the flour disappears.

Portion out the dough into 1 ounce balls, using an ice cream scoop, dropping the scoops into a bowl of granulated sugar. Toss to coat and then place the dough onto parchment paper lined sheet pans leaving about 3 inches space between cookies. Chill until firm. Preheat oven to 350° F. and bake the cookies on an oven rack positioned halfway up from the bottom of the oven,  for approximately 15 minutes or until lightly browned, but still somewhat soft (they will harden as they cool). When cool, transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and store at cool room temperature.

Photo courtesy of Robert Wemischner

Image 2

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Jin Xuan Oolong Tea in Goldfish Teabag From Charmvilla

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 23:04

 Our Sister’s Thoughts: Not only am I reviewing a tea but a tea product and concept with this Jin Xuan Oolong Tea in Goldfish Teabag From Charmvilla .  First I will cover the actual tea INSIDE the bag.  The Jin Xuan Oolong Tea inside this cute Goldfish Teabag is a pretty straight forward Oolong.  It’s a no-muss, no-fuss type.  It infuses to a light golden yellow.  The aroma is a weaker milky type smelling oolong.  The Read More

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Generalist vs specialist

A Tea Addict's Journal - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 08:12

Those of you who know Japan well will notice that many of the best restaurants only do one thing, but they do it really well. Whether it’s the world-famous Sukiyabashi Jiro, or Owari-ya, a 550 years old shop that specializes in soba, or your run of the mill noodle, snack, or confection shop around the streets, many of the best food places in Japan sell only one type of thing. If they have other items on the menu, they tend to be complimentary to the main dish – and not usually the reason people go. In comparison, you have these generalist restaurants like Ootoya. They do everything – nothing particularly well, but they will have whatever you fancy that day, usually for a reasonable price. They are obviously catering to a different market, but I think you can probably guess that they also represent differences in quality. The soba you will get at Owari-ya is going to be far, far better than whatever soba you can get at one of these generalist stores. That’s just how it is. Owari-ya isn’t going to be expensive either – the price for a bowl is about the same as everywhere else. Places like Jiro’s are expensive, but they also give you the best fish they could find you that day. You are, in other words, paying for world-beating sushi. Paying a premium for that is quite ok.

I think similarly, teashops tend to run in these two lanes too. There are lots of generalist stores – they sell a bit of everything, specializing in none. These have a purpose. If you’re the only shop in the area, then having something of everything is going to be useful to the local customers who may want whatever they fancy. You also want to be able to cater to the customer who is still new to tea drinking – especially for Western facing vendors who have a physical shop whose clientele might be quite inexperienced.

Then you have specialists – people who only do one or two things well. A case in point – at the recent Hong Kong tea fair I once again visited the booth of a local tea outfit that presses their own cakes every  year. They do a lot of single village teas. In fact, every year they press village teas from about two dozen different places, ranging from Yiwu to Daxueshan and everything in between. It’s actually quite impossible – they obviously need different teams of people to do the pressing, because a single person (or single group of people) can’t travel that fast and still be able to collect good teas along the way during a single harvest season. Their teas are expensive, and as usual, really not that great.

Then there’s another outfit here that spends about 6 weeks every spring and presses one cake from teas blended from around the Yiwu area. That’s all they do every year. The price of the tea is actually lower, but the quality far better and will age well into the future. I buy some from them every year, and am happy to do so year after year.

In general, I think if you specialize in one thing and you really spend time on it, you’re going to be good at it – Malcolm Gladwell already covered that, even if not everyone agrees with his thesis. With tea, you can easily why that is the case. Someone who spends weeks, or months, or years in the same region drinking the same teas every single year is going to know the teas really well, and is going to be able to identify the strengths and flaws of the year’s harvest in ways that most of us cannot discern. Producers like this, if they put their mind to it anyway, are going to be able to locate and produce better teas. Compared to generalists who may have to rely on other sources, these specialists are going to have far better products.

This is not to say the specialists are best at everything. One of the families I visited in Dong Ding is quite famous for having generations of prize winners. They know Dong Ding inside out. They know stuff about the tea we probably won’t really understand even if they tried to explain to us. They can sniff it during the roast and know whether it’s too hot, whether the tea needs to be distributed better, whether it’s time to finish up. Yet, during our conversation we talked about other teas, and I took out the bag of aged puerh I was carrying with me for drinking on my trip – some 12 years old puerh. They were very curious – they rarely drink puerh, and know next to nothing about it. We tried it then and there. They could, of course, tell me if the tea is good/ok/bad, but aside from that, it’s all very new and they can’t tell you much more than that. In fact, the people who press cakes in Yiwu every year are the same way even with teas from places like Lincang – they don’t drink a whole lot of, say, Bingdao teas, and can give accurate, general assessments, but nothing more than that.

Consumers also fall into these two categories. Some of us are generalists – we drink everything and try everything. At the same time, however, most of us end up specializing in something, just like producers and vendors. A vendor might stock some of everything, but has a particularly wide selection of one type of tea because, well, that’s where their strength is. Tea Habitat, for example, is one of these, focusing on dancong even though they do have some of the other types. Drinkers also tend to gravitate towards certain tea types – whether through experience or preference. It’s human nature to do focus more on what you like or find interesting, and ignore what you dislike or find uninteresting. Matching the right vendor with your particular interests is a pretty important component of finding one’s tea happiness.

Knowing one’s own limitation is quite important here – in other words, knowing what you know and what you don’t know. We all only have so much time and ability. As I’ve said before – there are only so many ten years in one’s drinking life. Best not waste it.

Love Love Love from Harlow Tea Co

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 08/21/2016 - 06:00

Tea Information: Leaf Type:  Honeybush Where to Buy: Harlow Tea Co Tea Description: Love, Love, Love Loose Leaf Tea This caffeine free tea is a great tea for any tea drinker, someone brand new to tea or have tried it all. Honeybush tea is vey mild, but gives great flavor without caffeine. Floral hints from rose hips, hibiscus flower, and lady’s mantle is balanced with the fruity aroma of dried plums. Does not contain caffeine Lady’s mantle Read More

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Thyme Chai From Balcony Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 23:00

Tea Information: Leaf Type:  Chai (Black Tea) Where to Buy: Balcony Tea Tea Description: This is what my papa called “a signature tea”: refreshing in summer and protective in winter. We love the distinctly herbaceous, yet sweet and comforting taste of this black tea. Ingredients: Black Tea – The finest Ceylon tea. Fortifying, yet refreshing.Wild Thyme – Our thyme is wild-harvested in the Mediterranean to ensure its intense aroma and taste. The Romans believed Thyme to Read More

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Death Eater from Grimoire Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 08/20/2016 - 11:00

CuppaGeek’s Review: Death Eater from Grimoire Tea is a fandom tea for the Harry Potter Verse.   I just love fandom teas. There is just something that gives you the warm fuzzies when you drink a tea dedicated to your favorite fandom. But I have to admit, I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan. . .I know. . .shame on me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate what this tea is going for. After Read More

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Pootea Tang Tea from Modest Mix

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 23:00

TeaEqualsBliss’s Review: First I have to say that this tea company cracks me up but then again I tend to have a twisted sense of humor!  Pootea Tang Tea from Modest Mix is the first of what I hope is MANY of their teas I will sip on! As an individual my language can be quite colorful so I appreciate the badassery behind the product descriptions, however, since this site wants to remain PG-13 some Read More

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Friday Round Up: August 14th - August 20th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 16:00
Mini Matcha Donuts
Nazanin over at Tea Thoughts posted a super tasty sounding recipe for mini matcha donuts. I have a mini donut maker that I've only used a handful of times. I think it's time to dust it off! While you're there, check out her Etsy shop. She sells adorable handmade tea greeting cards.

Bitterleaf Teas: Sabertooth 2015 Feng Qing Ancient Tree Dian Hong Black Tea, A Tea review
+Alexsia Wilson's descriptions of this Yunnan black tea are so vivid that I can almost taste it. I have a bunch of samples from Bitterleaf Teas that I have to work through but once those are done, I definitely think I need to order some of this.

In Pursuit of Tea - Tieguanyin, Medium Roast
+Georgia SS wrote about a TGY that has a special place in my heart. When I first got into tea, In Pursuit of Tea's tiny SoHo shop was a big part of my education. This tea is one that I sipped on regularly.

Oolong Owl's Tea Beauty Product Collection Summer 2016
+Charissa Gascho did a great round up of all of the tea infused beauty products that she has found lately. I'll definitely have to see if I can find the Fuji Green Tea Body Butter at The Body Shop when I'm at the mall later today.

Making tea on a hot day
Scott of Scottea gave us some great pointers about enjoying tea in the summer heat. His reference to Chanoyu's practice of suggesting coolness is definitely on point. As much as I enjoy iced tea, I still need my hot tea fix even when the temperatures start to climb.

Blast from the Past: Asian Corridor in Heaven

T Ching - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 12:30

For the past few months, a commercial shown often on a Korean channel drew my attention.  Without English subtitles, I could not tell if the commercial was a preview of a Korean historical drama or an infomercial advertising a travel agency’s tour package to a pristine region laden with majestic mountains and raging rivers.  A few noticeable English words appearing on screen read “Asian Corridor in Heaven”.

Then one night I switched to the station and caught an unforgettable episode of this exquisitely produced documentary fully subtitled with succinctly written English, a collaboration of Korea’s KBS and Japan’s NHK broadcasting corporations.  This installment featured the treacherous Ancient Tea-Horse Road, a caravan route via which commodities, most notably Pu-erh tea for the Tibetan people to supplement their unbalanced diet and horses for the Chinese, were exchanged and transported between Tibet and the Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces in China.  The Ancient Tea-Horse Road predates the Silk Road by 200 years.  Travelling on its narrow trails carved against mountain cliffs or crossing bridges suspended over torrents seems a mission impossible even for the most agile, invincible, modern-day mountaineers with state-of-the-art gear.  How did the merchants travelling with their livestock manage this dangerous trip thousands of years ago?  Frontier people who first identified and constructed the route must have possessed mystical powers!  The path, though less traveled, is still in use.  With its tremendous historical and cultural significance, it can never be completely replaced by convenient highways.

Another installment followed closely and objectively three Tibetan men’s extraordinary pilgrimage to Lhasa, Tibet.  They were accompanied by two older gentlemen in their sixties who hauled the young men’s daily supplies of food and clothing purely on foot.  After 180 days of travelling by prostration – a process that required the pilgrims to walk three small steps, then stretch on the ground, facing down, and repeat the monotonous sequence throughout the entire journey, not only on paved highways but also on rugged terrain –  they reached their destination, Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.  Two of the men, deeply moved by this ascetic experience, chose to stay in Lhasa and became Buddhist monks.

I am in the process of acquiring a copy of this six-episode documentary, which is entitled “Asian Corridor in Heaven”.  The production very successfully records and commemorates the human spirit and imagination!

The images accompanying this post are original photographs taken specifically for the piece by Richard S. Chow.

This article was originally posted to TChing in January of 2009.

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Green Guava from Simpson and Vail

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 06:00

CuppaGeek’s Review: Simpson & Vail is one of my favorite tea companies to review. The crew is passionate and incredibly in tune to what the tea community wants and needs. They provide amazing customer service and deliver fresh teas with flavors that are crisp and bright. Green Guava is one of their “summer” blends that they have been featuring.  Vibrant sweet tropical notes are what I’m picking up from the pouch. The tea itself gives you Read More

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Jamaica from DaveandSolomonsTea (An Etsy Store)

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 21:49

CuppaGeek’s Review: Hibiscus blends are ones that tea enthusiasts either love or hate. The hibiscus can make the most wonderful tea tart and overwhelm or it can heighten the flavors of the tea and take the blend to the next level. And that is exactly what hibiscus does in this Read More

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Tea Myths Explored on Comedy Podcast

T Ching - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 12:40

If any of you are podcast listeners out there, some of you may already be familiar with the Sawbones comedy podcast. On this show, Dr. Sydnee and her husband Justin spend each episode discussing the weirder side of medical history, often to humorous results. Most of the time they will devote an episode to a specific illness, but sometimes they will discuss medical treatments too.

A recent live episode actually had tea as the focus. In it, the co-hosts discuss the origins of tea, how it proliferated across the globe, and especially how teas were used to treat illnesses throughout the ages. Believe it or not, drinking tea was used to treat some unusual ailments. They even discuss the difference between a tea and a tisane, something which mass media seems to have a hard time grasping. The meat of the program starts about five minutes into the recording.

It’s definitely worth a listen, as they do go into some of the claims tea makes nowadays. A lot of tea’s medical claims are completely valid, but just as many of them aren’t, and even some of the proven points are simply blown out of proportion. Can regular tea drinking keep you healthy? Certainly. Can tea prevent you from… absorbing computer monitor radiation? Probably not.

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Really Root Beer from Nelson’s Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 05:25

 TeaEqualsBliss’s Review: Oh!  Look!  It’s Really Root Beer from Nelson’s Tea!  This is an herbal tisane and I really like it!  If you have read my reviews in the past I am very persnickety about herbals.  To give you an idea of what this tastes like it’s basically a non-carbonated Read More

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In Pursuit of Tea - Tieguanyin, Medium Roast

Notes on Tea - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 00:16

Was tieguanyin your first oolong? I think it may have been mine but heavily roasted in the traditional manner. In Tea: History, Terroirs, and Varieties, the authors point out that the production of mucha (roasted) tieguanyin in Taiwan is declining noticeably as tea drinkers there express preference for oolongs with "delicate floral aromas". I don't know the origin of that first roasted tieguanyin I drank but the one I am reviewing today is from Fujian. I purchased this oolong as part of a sampler from In Pursuit of Tea.

The sample contained approximately 6 grams of tea. The leaves were rolled and colored various shades of green. The sample was not uniform as it contained a noticeable amount of broken leaves. I rinsed the tea in 195F water. The leaves smelled heavily of charcoal which makes sense since the tea is finished over charcoal. The liquor from the first infusion tasted of charcoal but was quickly followed by sweet, stone fruit flavors. For the second steep I used 185F water. The liquor was golden yellow. Again, charcoal was the prominent note but was followed by roasted or stewed stone fruit with an emerging floral smell. Also, I detected a tartness that I experienced in my cheeks. The third steep also yielded a floral note which I associate with roses or cherry blossoms though the floral aromas most commonly associated with Anxi tieguanyin are lily of the valley, hyacinth, and clover. Maybe I need an apprenticeship in a flower shop!


The liquor changes dramatically at the fifth and sixth steeps. The roasted oolong essence gives way to a greener oolong profile. The floral note is more dominant than the charcoal. Also, there are herbaceous, vegetal notes. The liquor has a buttery texture. I infused the leaves twice more for 45s and 60s. The flavors had faded significantly by the latter.


Such a curious tieguanyin. I experienced two types of oolong in one tea. The tea started off with a dark oolong profile and ended like a less oxidized oolong. Actually, I guess that's why this tea is classified as a medium roast oolong. It's in the middle of the spectrum.

P.S. Interested in other teas from In Pursuit of Tea? Read about my experience with their 2013 loose leaf puer.

Garage sale

A Tea Addict's Journal - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 16:05

As I mentioned earlier, I’m in the process of sorting my teaware, and am also looking to let go of some of the stuff I’ve collected over the years that I don’t want to keep anymore. It’s going to be listed on the page titled “Garage sale” you see at the navigation bar. The contents of that page will be updated as I find new things or as they find better homes.

Totem Tea Gui Fei Oolong

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 16:00
Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

I love a good roasted oolong but they seem to be far and few between these days. That's why I was super excited when I pulled this sample out of a recent box from +Totem Tea. Even better, it's also a bug bitten tea. The leaves were attacked by the same wonderful little leafhopper that brings us Bai Hao oolong. I've often seen this variety referred to as Concubine oolong but somehow Gui Fei seems a bit more culturally appropriate. Yang Guifei was known as one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China.

The dry leaves were fairly dark in appearance with a somewhat sweet, nutty aroma. I went with a slightly lower water temperature than my usual since that was their recommendation. That was a safe choice as it kept the brew from being too overpowering. The first infusion was very mellow but really started to open up as my session progressed. I don't usually rinse my oolongs but that might be a good idea if you want more body from the get-go.

The taste was just as toasty as I expected with sweet notes of honey. The floral aspect was there in the background when I looked for it. Lavender was what kept coming to mind but I'm not sure if that is exactly what it tasted like (who eats lavender all of the time anyway?). What surprised me were the bright citrus notes that popped up in the later infusions. They lingered deliciously in the aftertaste. I found myself continuing to drink even after the leaves had just about given their just for that effect.

Gui Fei sample provided for review by Totem Tea.




What is Guayusa?

T Ching - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 12:30

Guayusa is a leaf that is related to Holly that grows almost exclusively in the Amazon in Ecuador.  In fact, over 98% of the Guayusa leaf produced in the world comes from Ecuador, making this leaf a chief export in this day and age.

While Guayusa is still catching on in many parts of the world, it has faced explosive growth as an export.  There are companies that, as recently as 2008, were not importing Guayusa leaf, many of which are now importing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of Guayusa leaf each year.  This rapid growth is likely due to the combination of taste, health benefits, and caffeine content.

The Benefits of Guayusa

Guayusa looks an awful lot like Yerba Mate that has not been roasted, so confusing the two is quite easy to do.  However, this confusion will quickly evaporate when this particular tea is tasted.

Unlike Mate, which can actually be quite bitter due to the fact that it is incredibly easy to oversteep, the Amazonian Holly Leaf is fruity, considered very sweet, and is nearly impossible to oversteep.  In addition, unlike Mate, Guayusa is very good as an iced tea and contains even more caffeine than Mate, and in some cases more than coffee.  However, unlike coffee, there are specific catechins, polyphenols, and other chemical compounds that offer additional benefits that are present in Guayusa that increase its appeal.  The presence of catechins also causes the caffeine to release in the body more slowly, preventing the jolt or crash associated with caffeine while offering a steady stream of increased energy throughout the day.

How long does this energy last?

In Ecuador, the farmers often begin their day between 3 and 4 A.M.  At this hour, the family will brew a large pot of Guayusa.  After it is consumed, they go on about their day, often without needing to have another cup until lunch time, and then not needing anymore throughout their day.

Most people know that green tea has exceptional health benefits, including polyphenols and the presence of theobromine and theophylline, both healthful compounds, and both almost exclusively present only in green tea.

Notice, this is “almost” exclusively…

Guayusa is loaded with theobromine and theophylline, and it also contains almost twice the polyphenols as green tea.  When you add in the fact that the caffeine levels are equal to that of coffee, and that it contains other healthy alkaloids that are not present in any other beverage.

More Good News…

While it is clear that Guayusa leaf is very healthy and offers excellent health benefits, there is yet more good news for those of us who are concerned about the issues of sustainability and global concerns.

Guayusa, as a holly leaf, is very resilient, and will grow back rather quickly.  However, as the need for Guayusa increases, the farmers need to plant more trees that produce this miracle leaf, resulting in the reforestation of parts of the Amazon Rainforest that have been logged into exhaustion, which may turn around the Amazon.

In addition, if people are concerned about the exploitation of workers, this should not be a concern.  If a company purchases one million pounds of Guayusa, after all of the taxes, fees, and tariffs are assessed, the farmers that sell the Guayusa will net approximately $400,000, increasing the economy in an impoverished nation.

Overall, it is clear that drinking Guayusa is not just good for you; it’s good for the environment as a whole and it is good for the Ecuadorian economy.  With that being the case, why wouldn’t you want to start drinking Guayusa?

If you have not already, you owe it to yourself to try a cup of Guayusa.  With its light taste, health benefits, and strong energy kick, we believe you will be delighted with this purchase.

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The Love Dalek Tea from Adagio Teas (Custom Blends)

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 07:55

CuppaGeek’s Review: Love Dalek Tea (from Adagio Teas Custom Blend platform) is a blend based off of the Doctor Who series, one of my personal favorite.   After taking a whiff of the dry leaf mix, you can almost taste a white tea flavor with notes of tart cherry and Read More

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Tisane Profile: Yerba Mate

Notes on Tea - Tue, 08/16/2016 - 17:00
Yerba mate en el Jardín Botánico de Buenos Aires via Wikimedia Commons
I have mentioned several times here on the blog and on social media that I am taking coursework with the International Tea Education Institute. One of our first homework assignments was to write a profile of yerba mate. Given that the 2016 Olympic Games are being hosted in Brazil, I thought I'd share the profile with you now.


Have you ever drunk yerba mate? I own a bombilla and have tried the tisane at a friend's house though I cannot recall the flavor or smell of the beverage.
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