News and Announcements
Bing Dao is a village in the Lincang area of Yunnan Province, China. The name 'Na Xin' refers to the cultivar of tea plant used to prepare this pu'er. The leaves were originally picked in April 2014. Now that the geography and harvesting period have been established, I can share my notes on the tea. (Cloud Nine Teas uses "pu'er" but for consistency with other posts, I will use puerh.)
I experimented with different weights of tea leaves but my comments below reflect my session with 7g of leaves. I mostly used 200F water. The leaves were steeped a total of 11 times. I rinsed the tea for 15s before the first steep of 5s. The wet leaves smelled of freshly dried apricot. The liquor was tasted of leather and burnt sugar. It was tart, too, and had a chewy texture. The second steep was 10s and yielded the same flavors plus woody notes. The tea was really thick and chewy with a lingering finish. The third steep was 20s. The liquor was tighter, drier, and less sweet. An element of bitterness was present like that of walnut and clove. The fourth steep of 25s was less tight but still dry and bitter though the liquor also retained earlier notes leather, wood, and burnt sugar. By the fifth and sixth steeps each of 30s in 195F water, the liquor was less bitter. The lingering finish was of fennel.
The liquor from the seventh steep which was 2m long in 200F water was slightly bitter, dry, floral and less chewy in texture than earlier infusions. I used the same parameters again and the liquor had notes of walnut, clove, and fennel. The last three steeps were made in 195F water for 2m, 5m, and10m. The liquor was smoother with a dry sweetness and leather notes followed by sugarcane with a bitter finish and finally bittersweetness with a drying mouthfeel.
I don't yet have a strong sense for how best to steep (raw) puerhs, but I'm enjoying the journey.
Tea courtesy of Cloud Nine Teas.
Kyushu is as solid as a rock! We may be shaken but we are not stirred… The ongoing earthquakes certainly make for interesting fodder over endless cups of tea, but a recent visit to our new farmer friends in Kitsuki (Oita Prefecture) overlooking Beppu Bay, reveals the absolute resilience of these hard-working, warm-hearted people.
Master Kitagawa, a dear tea friend from Oita City, introduced us to the Oita Tea Masters. Fifteen of them descended upon Chiki Tea and, as a thank you, presented us with a gift of tea from the historic samurai town of Kitsuki. I had heard of Kitsuki and knew it had a tea garden or two but not much more than that.
Well, the asamushi tea with nods toward Hon Gyokuro, made me fall head over heels in love with Kitsuki tea! The sweetness in my mouth lingered for almost 2 hours. Artisan tea that is so close to me physically (30 kilometers) and yet I had no idea it existed. It’s like a secret society and I’ve just been given the keys! I’m here in Japan to sniff out these obscure artisan masters, so why hadn’t I tried the tea or even visited Kitsuki?
This samurai village dating back to the Edo period is Oita Prefecture’s most famous farming district, and as I recently discovered, is as much known for its tea as its mikan tangerines. But the farmers I met admitted that no one really knows about Kitsuki tea outside of Oita Prefecture! It’s a tight-knit group of tea masters and artisans creating stunning and stop-you-in-your-tracks tea, but there is simply no one to buy it. Because these artisan producers have such small farms, larger companies shy away from buying their tea, worried about the ability to satisfy demand. As a result, these healthy, happy and energetic folks produce and drink some of the finest tea Japan has to offer. I hasten to add that several of the tea fields are even award-winners yet they rarely get the kudos!
Sitting high in the mountainous terrain overlooking the ocean, it has the ideal conditions for cultivating healthy and hardy tea plants. There is no need for the tall “frost” fans because the ocean keeps temperatures warm enough with the mountains protecting the plants from behind. We had pretty horrendous snow this year, a first for many parts of Kyushu, so everyone was excited to see the brilliant buds of spring, frost-free!
This year, conditions are the best they have ever been, says Yukio Sato, Oita Prefecture’s Tea Agency Advisor and Master Instructor…and the nicest guy you will ever meet! He told me that in his lifetime and the lifetime of the farmers we were meeting, they had never seen shoots behaving just like they wanted…a perfect, even, slow growth to maximize the amino acid Theanine, keeping caffeine in check, so the leaves produce the smoothest tea imaginable and in abundant quantities.
He told me this as we were inspecting the Surugawase tea cultivar, which probably doesn’t mean a thing to you! That’s because you may have never heard of it and neither had I! This cultivar is the rarest, and possibly the only remaining producing field of its kind in Japan. The tea garden is tiny, probably about an acre, and has been passed down to young Nori-san, whose family has been producing artisan tea in Kitsuki for generations. Their Surugawase plants have been producing for around 50 years in this spot.
On Sunday, Nori-san covered half of his plants using a silver jikagise (specialized netting) to shade the leaves to produce a Kabusecha (covered tea, but not Gyokuro). The other half, uncovered, is destined for Sencha. He estimates that the covering for his Kabuse will be about 10 days but the growth of the buds will dictate how long…as with every covered tea in Japan. So much information is out there that says a Gyokuro is shaded for a month and Kabusecha for two weeks. Well, folks, that is just not correct. It is true that a Gyokuro is shaded longer and hovers around a month and that Kabuse is shorter but it is absolutely the leaves that say when enough is enough! Think about a baby being born – when it’s time, it’s time! I was hoping to help with the harvest on May 2nd, but Nori-san smiled at me and said, “well, ask the leaves please!”
One point to mention is that the tea I’m referring to is not Benifuki, though Kitsuki does produce this as well. Benifuki is regarded as the hay fever tea to stop the miserable symptoms. I’m talking about the incredible green teas, cultivated with love, and masterly produced.
With all the excitement of “shincha” (new tea), there is also sadness in Kitsuki. Due to the aging population, now just 30,000, many of the tea farms are going “extinct” as there are no young people to take over the gardens. My heart stopped when I found out that two of the award-winning gardens we visited were having the last harvest this year. The two farmers are Suzuki-san, 84, and Shimoeda-san, 82. Her husband passed away but she has kept up the family’s 5-acre garden by herself. When we met, she had been weeding for 6 hours in preparation for covering the entire 5-acres for Kabusecha. She is 82! She was explaining how the jikagise are rolls of netting that are draped over and clipped at the bottom of the tree. They come in a continuous sheet, weighing what seems like tons. Luckily some strapping lads are planning to help her!
As I was driving home, I couldn’t stop thinking about how we could help keep these tea gardens alive and producing. If you have any suggestions, advice or want to get involved, please post a comment. Suzuki-san offered to teach his skills to someone who wants to take over but it needs commitment, not a summer job.
I will likely rabbit on about this new discovery because Kitsuki’s tea is a gem hidden so deeply in Japan that most tea Masters in this country aren’t familiar with it. We will defiantly be acquiring some Shincha from our friends so please leave a comment if you are interested in getting some of it. There is not a lot produced so I’m talking a few kilos probably…and I’m definitely scoring some!
Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Blend BeeTea Description: Say s’oolong to low energy, naughty cravings, slow metabolism & unwanted stress.
Oolong Gone is specifically designed to help boost metabolism, increase energy and reduce stress. Along with a myriad of other benefits, this blend of Oolong, Ashwagandha root, Hibiscus, Rose Buds, Strawberry Leaf, Lemon Peel and Licorice root tastes fruity and fabulous. Drink 30-45 minutes before meals several times a day.
Learn more about this tea here.
Lear more about Amoda Tea.Taster’s Review:
I have always wanted to try Blend Bee Teas and thankfully the last box I received from Amoda Tea had Blend Bee Teas in it.
If you aren’t familiar with them, Amoda Tea is a monthly subscription service. Each month you receive a sampling of teas from one company, showcasing their teas and allowing you the chance to try teas that you might not have tried. I just love that concept. Other boxes send you a mix of different teas from different companies but the way Amoda Tea works, you get a nice sampling of what that particular company offers. Pretty great concept!
This blend from Blend Bee is an Oolong/Herbal mix that sounds amazing. All of the ingredients just sounded fantastic and the dry leaf mix smelled gorgeous. I brewed this blend up with the parameters that were on the package and took my first sip.
As gorgeous as this tea smelled, I have to be honest and say I didn’t really care for the taste. There was something off with the tea that I can’t place my finger on. I’m wondering if its the ashwagandha root. All of the other flavors mix well together and from what I can tell would make a glorious tea on their own. The are strong notes of lemon and strawberry. Those two flavors with the oolong note were heavenly.
I would love to try this tea without the ashwagandha root. Regardless, I’m still very excited to be given the change to check this tea and company out. I’m already on the website of both Amoda Tea and Blend Bee to see what looks interesting!
I've been a fan of The Jade Leaf for some time. Not only do they have a reputation for having some really incredible teas but the man behind the leaf is also well known for the beautiful teaware that he creates. I'm a sucker for those teapots with the wooden side handles! The differences in time zones always amuse me when I'm interviewing tea folks in other countries. Emilio is based in Taipei so we filmed at 11am EST (11pm Taiwan time). Keep an eye out for reviews of The Jade Leaf's teas here on the blog soon.
You can find out more about The Jade Leaf at http://thejadeleaf.com/.
I'm so proud of myself for actually maintaining a semblance of a schedule for the podcast the past few months. If there's anything (or anyone) that you would like to see on future episodes, I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Thank you all for watching!
My first ever visit to Maliandao tea market in Beijing was in 2006, when I first arrived there as a young PhD student doing research for my dissertation. This was the heyday of the puerh boom, when prices of teas could literally double every week or two. As a budding tea addict, I spent quite a few weekends visiting the tea markets since the archives and libraries were closed on Saturdays and Sundays (well, they still do, mostly). I wrote my first physical description of the street here, with an update four years later here – and photos here. You can see how the street changed in the four years between those two posts. Some older malls died, others sprung up. Things, as they do in China, changed very quickly.
A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to go visit again after a day of meetings. This was getting late by tea market standards – most malls/shops closed by 6pm, so me arriving right around then meant that most of the malls were shut. There are two important things to note though. The first is that now you can take the subway to Maliandao – a huge improvement over the previous arrangement, where only a bus or a cab would do. If you get off at the Wanzi station on line 7, you’ll be right at the entrance to Maliandao. Back in the old days there was a gate with a horse on top marking this entrance (as you can see in my first post on the street). Alas, that gate has been demolished.
The stores lining the two sides of the street are still there, many of them the same stores as before. I am actually rather amazed that given the high turnover of the tea stores in general, that these ones have such staying power. Maybe that street-front location is actually more valuable than I think.
I don’t really see many new developments this time – I think there’s one on the right hand side that’s new, but otherwise things have stayed more or less the same as before. When I first came here, you felt like you were on the outskirts of the city – there were some highrises, but most of the buildings were low and old. The tea malls were mostly either glorified sheds or, in many cases, open air rows of stores. Nowadays, those have mostly been replaced by highrises and especially residential developments. There’s also a fancy mall now right across the street from Chayuan at the end of the street. Back then when I visited eating was always a bit of a problem – the restaurants were pretty dodgy. Now the options are quite varied.
I did visit Xiaomei’s store. As I mentioned last time I saw her, she’s now the mother of three and has actually returned to her hometown to help take care of her kids, with her brother now manning the store (and soon to be father himself). Business, he said, is slow, especially after the anti-corruption crackdown so that people are buying less gifts than before. So he’s taken to selling stuff, including tea and teaware, on WeChat through an auction service. I notice that many of the stores around him look dead – maybe not quite literally, but tired, old, and not doing a lot of business, it seems. Their store is basically no longer selling any newer puerh – they still have some old stock from years ago, but nothing new since about 2011. Instead, they mostly sell white teas, focusing on the lower end stuff that sell for less than 100 RMB per 500g. He also mentioned how a lot of stores that borrowed money a few years ago are now having trouble repaying the banks – they take a pretty high interest rate and if you have most of your capital tied up in overpriced tea, you’re in trouble.
I walked around a bit more, peering into some fancy looking stores that were still open but not going into any. I know that most of these places would have exorbitant price tags, with new cakes selling for 1000 or more a cake. I honestly don’t have any interest in stuff like this – I can find teas like that anywhere, and I’m not that confident in finding stuff that is actually worth buying. Whereas in my younger days I probably would’ve happily sat down at any and all stores, asking to try some of their teas, I no longer really feel the need to bother tasting. The prices of new teas are so out of whack that I often find cheaper stuff that are a few years older. Since that’s the case, why do I need to chase new teas?
I did sit down at one store that looked interesting in Chayuan, at least among the stores that are still open (used to be that all the stores would be open pretty late – not anymore). I tried a couple things there – unimpressive 2007 teas that don’t have anything special over any other tea I can find easily, for the same kind of price.
As the market sorted itself out, I think the tea market is increasingly similar to other consumable goods – there’s the high end, the mid end, and the low end, and the lines are quite clear. A store like Xiaomei’s is very much in the low end – cheap tea, sold at a small profit, and going for volume. There are lots of high end stores in China too – teas that are supposed to be rare, exquisite, etc, selling for ridiculous sums. There’s also the vast middle – most of which is mediocre, but offered at mediocre prices. Thing is, back in 2006, when the market was probably best described as frenetic, there was a lot of mixing going on – and in a way, there were a lot more opportunities to find hidden gems. Now there are not going to be many hidden gems anymore – if you want good quality, expect to pay for it. Except, of course, you’re in China, so even if you pay you’re never sure if you’re getting what you were promised. That’s true of the food in front of you, and certainly true of the tea you’re buying. If someone sells you a tea and tells you it’s from ancient trees in Guafengzhai, for example, and wants 5000 RMB for that cake, could you really tell if the story checks out just by drinking the tea?
So in some ways I left Maliandao this trip a little sad – I felt a strong sense of nostalgia for the old, crazy tea market that was always abuzz with price changes and people hunting for good tea. That energy has gone, and is probably never coming back. I miss it.
To the delight of the general tea-loving public, tea festivals are popping up around N. America. Tea enthusiasts can meet and learn from tea professionals and dealers as well as find new, exciting teas to try. May 7th is the site for the Midwest Tea Festival and one of the many exciting events planned is a Cup Warming (an international tea tasting social) hosted by ITCC – International Tea Cuppers Club. Anyone who has been to the World Tea Expo in past years may be familiar with this event. Tea experts and authorities introduce the basics on teas from several countries and then all in attendance get to sample and taste an example of a tea from each region. Teas on the menu for this event are from China, Kenya, Japan, and India. As always, these events are free and open to everyone though space is limited.
As the World Tea Expo returns to Las Vegas this June 15-17, tea business people and enthusiasts from around the world will convene to learn, share and taste. Once again it will be the site of 7th Annual ITCC Cup Warming at WTE. Tea experts from around the world will not only share their knowledge about teas from their countries but also prepare an example of an exceptional tea for our tasting and enjoyment. As last year, ITCC will take the main stage on the show floor. The event is scheduled for Thursday, June 16 from 3:30 to 5:00, and will be the perfect way to top off the day. This year’s presenters come from India, Japan, China, Australia and Kenya. They will be carrying several teas especially for this event. Again, as these events can be very well attended, RSVP’s are appreciated. email@example.com.
Last August, ITCC was honored to host its first Cup Warming at the Hong Kong Intl. Tea Fair. Director Dan Robertson set the stage which was then turned over to Mr. Wing Chi Yip who introduced a Sichuan Dark Tea and a delicious Dan Cong oolong by Mr. Huang Shuwei. Mr. Joydeep Biswas from the Tea Board of India introduced the tapestry of Indian tea after which a robust, tippy Assam black tea was presented by Mr. Swapan Banerjee of Luxmi Tea and Mr. Madhav Sarda from Golden Tips Tea prepared a delicate and floral Darjeeling. Naomi Komatsu from Kanes Tea Co. introduced a fruity-sweet Japanese black tea and also a unique purple tea the liquor of which changed color with the addition of lemon juice. Mr. C.K. Liew from the Tea Assn. of Malaysia presented a black tea as well as a tea flavored with Stevia. Ms. Peiris from the Tea Board of Sri Lanka introduced the tea growing regions of Ceylon tea and brewed up tasty examples of two different black teas. With better than expected attendance, the organizers were very pleased and have invited us back for a repeat performance. The Hong Kong Tea Fair is August 11-13 and there is a special delegation begin organized by ITCC for anyone interested in attending; 3 nights of hotel is paid for!! Please contact Dan Robertson for more details 630 961-0877.
Lastly, October 20-24 is the Xiamen Intl. Tea Fair and the venue for ITCC’s 4th annual Cup Warming there. With nearly 200 attendees last time, we expect another very exciting program this year. Presenters from around the world will brew up education and share their knowledge while attendees sip up the delicious teas. With teas from Assam, India to Yame, Japan there is something new for everyone. Join our Chinese and other international members for this delicious and informative event (not to mention the scores of tea vendors at the Fair). For those interested, ITCC sponsor World Tea Tours has organized a special oolong study tour that coordinates with the Xiamen Tea Fair with a special discount for ITCC members. Details on that can be found at the World Tea Tours website.
The post Tasting Tea in KC (and Las Vegas and Hong Kong and Xiamen) appeared first on T Ching.
Leaf Type: White
Where to Buy: 52TeasTea Description:
This tea is really tasty. The white tea is soft and smooth. It has a delicate, sweet flavor and it offers an interesting contrast to the tart and tangy flavor of black currant.
It’s a fairly simple blend – just white tea and black currants – but it tastes great!
Learn more about this tea here.Taster’s Review:
I have been on a 52Teas kick lately. I can’t help it! I love the unique variety of flavors they have and offer. I am currently staring at my maple Cheesecake TieGuan Yin and wondering if I should splurge and dive into it or wait for another time.
Today I was more in the mood for a white tea so I went with 52Teas Black Currant White Peony, a tea where the dry leaf has has a very similar smell somewhat mulled red wine. I prepped this one at work so I thought I’d share a cuppa with my co-worker. She couldn’t wait to try it.
I prepped this up per the instructions on the package (water at 170F & steep for about 3 1/2 minutes) and I poured us a couple mug fulls. We both instantly remarked at how that mulled wine aroma was still there with the brew and how delicious it smelled.
We took our first sips and wow our eyes lit up. This is exactly the tea you want to be drinking on a dark and dreary day like we are experiencing today. This tea delivers a simple yet satisfying flavor of sweet yet tangy berries (from the black currants), slight notes of a flora hint now and again, all wrapped up with a lovely wine aftertaste. Really lovely. This is one I could see sharing with friends at afternoon tea with a biscuit or two.
Can’t really say enough good things about this one. A depature from the complicated and unique tea blends that 52Teas offers. As much as I love those teas, I love this one just as much. Sometimes the most simplest teas are the most satisfying.
From the teadog.com people, more on that distinguished chap who lent his name to a popular variety of tea.
Teas Hope - Tea Shop
Who knew there were so many books about tasseography (tea leaf reading)? Here are nine of them, spanning nearly a century. Note that the first two are available in free electronic editions.
Tea-Cup Reading and Fortune-Telling by Tea Leaves
by a Highland Seer (1921) link
Telling Fortunes By Tea-Leaves
by Cicely Kent (1922) link
Tea Leaf Reading
by William W. Hewitt (1992)
Tea Cup Reading: A Quick and Easy Guide to Tasseography
by Sasha Fenton (2002) link
The World in Your Cup: A Handbook in the Ancient Art of Tea Leaf Reading
by Joseph F. Conroy (2006) link
The Art of Tea-leaf Reading
by Jane Struthers (2006) link
Simply Tea Leaf Reading
by Jacqueline Towers (2008) link
The Cup of Destiny
by Jane Lyle (2008) link
Tea Leaf Reading For Beginners: Your Fortune in a Tea Cup
by Caroline Dow (2011) link
Get books about tea leaf reading at Amazon
Chimps and tea. They go together like, well...like monkeys and hot beverages.
Our most popular video post here at Tea Guy Speaks, and one that we feature from time to time, is a clip of actor Alan Rickman taking his time over a cup of tea and then doing some actorish type grimaces and gestures and whatnot. If he seems to be moving slowly do not adjust your dials. It's part of the Portraits in Dramatic Time series, by David Michalek. More at his Web site.
Leaf Type: White
Where to Buy: Tea and AbsintheTea Description:
Ingredients: white tea China Pai Mu Tan, green tea Darjeeling, green tea China -Fog Tea, -Lung Ching, -Jasmine Jade Pearls, cherries, coconut chips (coconut, coconut fat, sugar), flavor, rose buds
Learn more about this tea here.Taster’s Review:
A couple weekends ago, my hubby and I had an amazing experience at St Louis’s Wizard World. My hubby had bought me a Doctor Who VIP package where I had my picture take with and met David Tennant and Billie Piper. I was crazy excited since they are two of my favorite Doctor Who characters and arguable the most iconic. While wondering around the convention, I stumbled upon a tea shop. I couldn’t believe it. Not going to lie, I think I squealed a little. It was a pretty neat set up and I couldn’t wait to check all of the teas out. I picked up a few and have started to finally dive into them.
Let’s start off with saying this tea is gorgeous to look at. Huge roses, cherries, gorgeous tea leaves. . .everything you would want to see in a tea, this has it. The dry leaf mixture has a lovely sweet floral smell. One that I couldn’t want to steep up.
While steeping this tea, I could definitely still smell the same sweet smell with a hint of an almost kool aid smell as well. Not offensive at all. Almost made this tea a bit more appealing. I was in the mood for a sweeter fruity tea.
I brewed this up per the package instructions, and about 4 minutes later, I was pouring the tea into my Doctor Who mug. The smell of the tea had a lovely almost bakery smell to it with a fruity sweetness. This is one of those smells that actually makes you hungry!
I allowed the tea to cool for a few and took my first sip. In the words of Doctor Who “Hello Sweetie”! This tea is incredible and a taste profile/experience I can’t say I’ve ever had before. And that is pretty crazy to say. I drink a crazy variety of teas each and every day and am always looking for something new. I can’t believe I have never came across a tea like this before.
Each flavor comes thru. You can pick up the flora white notes, the distinct Darjeeling touches, a rich buttery green tea base, with a lovely jasmine hint here and there. Throw in the sweet robust cherry (almost Kool-Aid like) flavor with hints of coconut all surrounding by again another sweet floral touch and you have yourself one amazingly complex tea. The tea isn’t so sweet that it is overpowering. I think the green tea and Darjeeling go a long way to tame the crazy sweet flavors down and bring a bit more vegetal feel to the tea. In just about every other sip you get a nice tart almost wine like flavor.
I am insanely impressed with this tea and can not wait to see how many infusions this tea will provide. I’m also excited to try this as a lovely cold brew tea. Especially for the summertime. I bet this tea will make a marvelous iced tea!
Really well done! If you haven’t checked out this tea company before, I encourage you too. So far I have had two of the 5 blends that I picked up from them and I’m impressed with both.
Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Beleave TeasTea Description: This colorful green tea with diced dried apricot has a sweet and bright flavor. Organically grown in China.
Learn more about this tea here.Taster’s Review:
Beleave Teas isn’t a tea company I hear a lot about but I have to say I don’t know why. They provide a great variety of teas that are fresh and so far pretty tasty.
This particular tea blend is a lovely blend of dried apricots and a gorgeous helping of green tea. Mixed together you would think this would be a soothing loving tea . . and you are correct!
Brewed up per the package instructions, this tea gives you a lovely subtle blend of stone fruit love with a hint of a vegetal slightly grassy green tea base. Kind of a sweet yet subtly sweet blend that gives you a moment to reflect and settle. This tea isn’t one that will blow you away by leaps and bounds but for a gentle tea it fits the perfectly.
This is one of those teas you keep on hand and drink when you need a bit of a soothing calming loving tea to help you thru your day and into your evening. The flavors are really lovely and creates a setting that makes you fall in love with it. The flavors may not burst out of the tea cup, but the deliver spot on flavor, which sometimes is exactly what you are looking for.
If you haven’t taken a moment to check out Beleave Teas, its another awesome tea company to check out next time you are in the market to pick up some new tea!
Chadō in Lillestrøm
Cha Oslo recently visited Marius, one of the hosts of my favorite tea podcast. He built his own tea house and achieved the incredible feat of performing a tea ceremony every day for a year. It sounds like they had a wonderful experience.
+Jee Choe's blog is frequently drool worthy and this week's recipe definitely falls into that category. I'll be giving these a try soon (much the chagrin of my matcha-hating boyfriend).
Jalam Teas amazing Shou Puerh, Nannuo Summer 2014 Harvest
+Hannah Goldfarb Gerber of Buddah-Mom Tea always draws me in with her visceral and vivid tea write ups. Mr. Nannou is a friend of mine too!
Favorite Tea Ware - Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone
+Georgia SS posted the latest installment of her favorite tea ware series. It was great to get a chance to see some Lisa's favorite pieces. I miss those wonderful cups from +Tiny Pinecone Teahouse and Bakeshop.
Your Love Won't Fade for "Fade"
I've heard so many good things about +White2Tea's monthly tea club and this review from Cody at The Oolong Drunk makes me want to try it even more. Who would have thought that Kanye West could inspire producing such an awesome tea?
Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Zest TeaTea Description:
ZEST TEA ENERGY BLENDS
Winner of Best New Product at the 2015 World Tea Expo, Zest premium energy teas offer the same kick of coffee without the negative side effects. Despite our teas having comparable caffeine levels to coffee-about three times the levels of traditional teas-the amino acids in Zest help create a steady and prolonged alertness, instead of the jitters and crash of other caffeinated products.
All of our full-leaf blends are enhanced with natural caffeine from tea leaves & packaged in biodegradable sachets, making for the perfect healthy coffee substitute.
Learn more about this tea here.Taster’s Review:
At work it seems sometimes it is easier to grab a bagged tea than a loose leaf tea. I have all the instruments and vessels to brew up a proper cuppa but it can sometimes come down to time. When I don’t even have time to grab lunch, brewing tea isn’t always on the top of my things to do.
Today was one of those days so I grabbed a tea that I had recently picked up from Amazon. This tea sounded amazing. A Young Hyson green tea mixed with pomegranate, mint, and lime with an added caffeine boost to keep you going thru your day. Sounds pretty fantastic to me. I have actually tried this tea both hot and cold. And I have to say, one way is way better than the other and it completely surprised me.
This tea just screams “Make me into a nice ice tea” but I have to say, it isn’t what I hoped for when I cold brewed this tea. The tastes are lovely and the smells you get from the dry leaf mix in the sachets is to die for. It smells exactly how it is described. I thought for sure this would be a lovely tea that would remind me of a gorgeous sunny summer day.
Brewed in my water bottle for a few hours with ice and two sachets, this tea delivered a sound flavor but it almost had a dirt tasting finish. I was a little surprised by that. You can taste all of the lovely ingredients and the taste was ok when you first take a sip, but then there is a weird dirt aftertaste.
So after that experience, I tried this tea hot. And wow, did it every blow me away. Who would have thought hot this tea would have been stellar. The green tea gives off a nice bitter green note that helps calm the tart pomegranate and lime flavors and the peppermint leaves you feeling refreshed. Really well done and the fact that this is a tea bag makes prepping it easy and no fuss. Gotta love that. And that dirt flavor wasn’t present in this style of brewing.
I have a feeling that maybe with a touch of sweetener, this tea would make an amazing iced tea. Glad I have a few more tea bags to experience with!
Sometimes, when you search long enough, dig deep enough, and study hard enough, you find yourself facing an obstacle that comes not from outside, but from within. One’s preconception and understanding become themselves a limitation. One must somehow come to terms with the awareness that one’s perspective faces a fundamental challenge and that to deepen one’s knowledge you need to see things from another angle.
The purpose of the World Tea Tours – Immersion: Pu Er program this past November was to gain a deeper understanding and knowledge of this ancient and sometimes esoteric tea through intensive, hands-on training with some of the most renowned experts in the field. These experts live in the world of Pu Er tea and understand things in a more intrinsic way. They have acquired their knowledge within the context of their own culture and senses and by spending countless hours drinking in the lessons from trees hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.
In the West, we often consider our perspective to be the best and most accurate way of understanding and communicating a subject. Yet, it was on the first day of the program that we learned that we needed to expand our minds and look at something as basic as tea tree classification differently from how we are used to thinking about it. We are taught that the tea plant belongs to the genus Camellia. We simplistically consider that there are two members of this group, Camellia japonica, a flowering bush, and Camellia sinensis, from which tea is made. Further, we believe that from the latter, there are three varietals, Camellia sinensis sinensis, Camellia sinensis assamica, and Camellia sinensis cambodi. From these, there are a number of plant cultivars, which can, in turn, be further segregated into thousands of sub-cultivars. According to the Chinese system, however, these classifications are notably imprecise and oversimplified.
We tend to consider things from the point of view of the present and to forget that plants as we know them now have evolved over millennia. There are uncountable variants from the “original” source – if you can even say there is one source. The Yunnan/Guizhou plateau of southwestern China is an expansive, yet contained, ecosystem from which thousands of plant and animal species have proliferated. From prehistoric times, there have been many Camellia varieties. One of them is referred to as “Dali” – also the name of a region in western Yunnan province. Over the ages, this plant (thought of as a bush that can easily grow to 30-40 feet in height) had been domesticated and cultivated in organized gardens. As a result of the adaptation to the environment, these plants transformed into tea trees that are called “guo du,” or transitionary trees. Though rare, some of these trees still exist today. They, in turn, developed into a number of types, one of which is referred to as “Pu Er.” Again named after a place in Yunnan, it is these Pu Er trees from which the other familiar tea plants across China came.
In addition to the local big-leaf “Da Ye” plant, Yunnan also has a small-leaf plant. This is the ancient source for, among others, the small-leafed Dragon Well bush in Zhejiang Province. It can be said that Yunnan is the primordial origin for the cultivars that are used for making oolong and black teas as well. It is thought by Pu Er scholars that the Assam plants in India also come from the progenitor Pu Er trees.
Yunnan is not only the cradle of the tea plant, but also the birthplace of post-fermented teas, the most famous of which is also called Pu Er, named after the ancient tea-trading town. This point can be confusing in that the name Pu Er refers to both a plant varietal as well as a specific type of manufactured tea.
So then the question ultimately comes down to: What is a Pu Er tea? In fact, this is a matter of some contention and even experts disagree on the precise guidelines of what qualifies as Pu Er tea. Some say that any post-fermented tea that is made from the Yunnan big-leaf tea bush can be called a Pu Er tea. Others maintain that big-leaf tea bush leaves that have been processed as green tea and dried under the sun must be used. Some maintain that the geographic location is also critical and that the transplanting of a Da Ye bush to another region disqualifies it as true Pu Er, even if the same manufacturing procedure is followed. There are several Pu Er production centers in Yunnan and certainly Dali and Lin Cang producers also feel they are producing genuine Pu Er tea. In China’s Pu Er tea circles, books and magazines abound that debate the finer points of the definition, citing the views of various renowned, but conflicting experts.
Besides environmental factors, small differences in processing methods also lead to distinctions between different manufacturers. Length of withering time, temperature, pan-frying duration (to arrest oxidation), amount of rolling, and drying conditions all result in nearly limitless variations. The microbes that create the fermentation can vary. Then come the effects of steaming and compressing into cakes, either immediately or after some time has passed.
The two types of Pu Er are based on method of fermentation, namely Sheng (raw) and Shu / Shou (ripened). While the Sheng method has been in use for centuries, the Shu method is actually quite recent. Raw Pu Er tea was shipped from Menghai to Guangdong province in the southeast. The warm, humid coastal environment accelerated the fermentation of the leaves, turning them a darker color and rendering the taste decidedly more earthy and robust in only a fraction of the customary time. With this knowledge, the famous Menghai Tea Factory (in Yunnan’s southern XiShuangBanNa prefecture) initiated this accelerated process in the mid-1970s. Though Pu Er connoisseurs will easily tell the difference in taste and aroma, this new technique effectively reduced the fermenting time from years to about 47 days. This made Shu Pu Er a much more viable business in that more product could be produced and sold in a shorter time. This tea is highly favored in Guangdong, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other Pacific Asian areas.
Tea from South Yunnan has been an important trade good for well over a thousand years. Transported in many ways, one of the most romanticized routes is known as the Tea/Horse Road. More of a network of trails that linked a number of trade routes in Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet, and Qinghai, the Cha Ma Gu Dao (Tea Horse Ancient Road) was the artery for trade of all goods.
Tea was carried by both mule and man along the often precarious and always arduous trail. It is said that the naturally fermented Sheng Pu Er tea came to be so not out of conscious planning, but rather serendipitously through prolonged exposure to the elements. Taking months for a consignment of tea to reach its final destination, along the way it would have been subjected to a range of moisture and heat conditions. Since tea leaves are in essence a green leafy vegetable, it is no surprise that it should begin to degrade along the journey, even begin to mold and compost. Natural, fresh tea at its origin became something quite different when it reached the cup of the drinker so many miles and months later.
Now this process is done intentionally under controlled conditions to produce a distinctive tea that is not only appreciated by millions, but also collected as a treasure. A well preserved cake of 30-40-year-old Pu Er can fetch amazing prices on the collector’s market. In the 1960s, a 2.5-kilo Golden Melon Pu Er was discovered in storage in the Forbidden City in Beijing (among a huge trove of tea). It had been a part of a tribute gift in the late 1800s and was insured at a value of $2.6 million.
As Pu Er tea becomes better known outside China, more dealers are offering more choices from more suppliers. There can be a wide range in quality, so it is best to start slow with smaller quantities or lower grades. Get to know a particular brand and grade first; then start branching out to discover the range of tastes of Pu Er.
This article was originally posted to T Ching in April of 2013. For current information regarding World Tea Tours, visit their website.
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the bombilla to the whisk (aka chasen). Everyone has their favorites! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. Today I am excited to share the favorite tea vessels of Lisa Chan of Tiny Pinecone. Although the tea and sweets shop is now closed, you can read about Lisa's adventures on her blog and on Instagram. She's working for Jhen Tea in Taiwan.
My gaiwan and tea tray. It is so simple, but so efficient! The fastest way to get the best out of tea. My best friend found this one on Amazon, and I have others, but since he gave me this one it is my favorite.
My most favorite cups! They were handmade in Taiwan. It fits right in my hand so comfortably, and I love the interior crackle that is revealing itself over time. It is nice to see the coil and how it was made. Especially fun are its three feet. Countless times I have knocked the cup over, but it saved itself by the curve of its belly. So cute and roly poly.
My matcha bowl is not traditional. It is stoneware but looks like a bent and dented bowl you'd find at a campfire. I love it because I keep my matcha in a repurposed soup can, and this bowl fits right in. I found it in NJ at Mitsuwa, and it turned out to be the perfect size for a bowl of matcha.
When I enjoy infusions like barley tea, or corn tea, I love using my chubby glass Kinto pot. The cups and saucers were handmade for Tiny Pinecone by the Brooklyn artist, Beth Bolgla. All the thought Beth put in to the tea ware makes the user smile...from the tactile quality of the dots, to the fun stamps on the bottom that only show when you take your last sips of tea. When I hold these cups, I hold all my memories of serving the lovely customers that came to visit our pop-up shop.
I fondly recall the dotted Tiny Pinecone cups. I now have a simple, white gaiwan, which I haven't yet used but think it will become a favorite. I'd like to thank Lisa again for participating in this series. Your vessels are beautiful. All photos and stories courtesy of Lisa Chan.
One of the joys of the city of Chicago is that there’s always something new to find. I love to take detours on my way to work, late arrivals be darned, and I’ve found some great places. After my souring experience trying some of Dunkin’ Donuts’ tea selections, I was looking for some other places to combine a love of tea and love of sweets during that precious half hour I have between arriving in Chicago on the commuter train and my arrival at the office.
At the behest of a family member, I decided to meander once again outside my normal route to work and check out The Doughnut Vault, one of the many doughnut shops scattered throughout downtown Chicago. I could give you my thoughts about all of the shops I’ve encountered, but that’s for another blog. This particular Doughnut Vault is hidden away inside a building across from one of the major train stations, and I almost missed it the first time I walked past.
My fiance and I went into the Vault for, what else, a doughnut, and I discovered that not only do they sell doughnuts (and very good ones, I might add) and specialty coffee drinks, but also teas curated by Rare Tea Cellars, a tea wholesaler known locally as a place to find some interesting flavors. They are a proud supplier of the teas at suburban favorite Madame Zuzu’s Tea House, as well as many hotels and restaurants in the city. Their specialties are rare and unique teas, so I was surprised to find some of them served alongside gourmet doughnuts.
Maybe I was unimpressed by DD’s tea selections because they didn’t pair well with their namesake pastry, although I’m doubtful. The pistachio doughnut I devoured in the vault was wonderful with the lightly-roasted oolong I had with it. I will agree with many that coffee is the superior doughnut co-star, but this was excellent. A big ol’ bag of oolong in a cup of hot water, and I am a happy man.
I do wish that better methods of making tea in cafes was prevalent, as I received a cup of hot water with a bag of leaves, but that’s just the way it is. I was fortunate enough that I wasn’t in a huge hurry, or I’d resort to my usual option of carrying around a second, empty paper cup to stash the tea bag before the tea got too bitter. But having a higher quality leaf sold in a place I wouldn’t normally expect to see it is a huge step in the right direction. This particular shop also serves their coffee with the grounds in the cup, so maybe it’s just their style.
If you’re looking for a quiet place to have a sweet breakfast and a tall hot cup, I highly recommend the Doughnut Vault. Just remember to get there early. When they run out of doughnuts, they close, and you’re out of luck.
Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Bluebird Tea Co
Don’t we wish prime ministers today were as good as the ones in the good old days? Take PM Earl Grey, he was the cream of the crop. Not only did he help abolish slavery and reform the House of Commons, he also invented the legendary Earl Grey tea! So we’ve created this creamy tribute just for you old chap!
Learn more about this tea here.Taster’s Review:
It’s been a long time since I’ve had this tea from Bluebird Tea Co. In fact, I think that this was one of the first teas I tried from this company way back when it was first starting up! I’m not the biggest fan of Earl Grey teas on their own, but when they’re mixed with vanilla or cream, they can really hit the spot.
The scent of this cup is of black tea and bergamot.. I don’t pick up on a ton of creamy vanilla, but if I remember correctly, there is some creaminess in the actual flavor and not so much in the scent. Sipping… I taste, most strongly, the bergamot and the black tea.. a bit of sharp bitterness. Interestingly, it does seem slightly softer than an ordinary Earl Grey. Most of the vanilla comes at the very end of the sip. It isn’t prominent, but is just enough to tone everything down.
I wouldn’t say that this is my favorite Earl Grey Creme as I’d like a bit more of the creme flavor, but it’s sweet, soft and interesting. I would definitely add this one to my cart in a future order. This is a good choice for those who enjoy Earl Grey, but don’t want to completely lose the bergamot flavor with the addition of vanilla.