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Tea Review 519: Teamania’s Oolong #12 Jin Xuan

Walker Tea Review - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 14:30
  Origin: Doi Mae Salong, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand Harvest: 2012 Score: 88 Price (as of post): 200 g = $13.48  to Walker Tea Review. Get complete access to Member Content.   Sign Up For The Newsletter. Sample provided by Teamania. Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings. Want to see […]

Happy tea cup art

Tea Squared - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 13:00

Just a bit of merchandise spotted at Disneyland recently —

Iced Black Tea from Tazo

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Learn more about Tazo on their website.

Tea Description:

Certain feats, like executing a reverse swan dive into a shimmering pool while wearing a pair of Euro-cut trunks and a captain’s hat, out only be attempted by a select few.  This blend of black teas has the kind of cool, smooth sophistication to pull off a move like that, should it choose to do so.

Taster’s Review:

I received a box of this Iced Black Tea from Tazo from a friend, and while I certainly appreciated her generosity and thoughtfulness, I also appreciated that I didn’t actually buy this tea myself.  I would have been sorely disappointed had I done so.

That’s because this is one of the most mediocre teas I’ve tasted in a long time.  The thing that I appreciated most about this tea is that it helped me realize just how good the other iced teas that I’ve been drinking lately really are.

I tried brewing this many different ways.  I first tried cold brewing the tea, and this produced a rather flat and boring tasting tea.  Then I tried resteeping those tea bags – hot brewing the tea this time – and the results were much the same:  boring tea.  Not much flavor to them at all.  And I wasn’t even looking for “flavoring” type of flavor, I was just looking for a good, brisk, refreshing black tea flavor.  But I didn’t get that.

Then I tried hot brewing new (previously unsteeped) teabags.  Again … just sort of lackluster.  This is the kind of flavor I’d expect from the tea in the yellow, white and red box, but not from a tea that is supposed to be at least one notch above that brand.   But after trying to brew this tea several different ways, there was nothing I could do to make this tea taste good.  The problem wasn’t with the brewing method, but the tea itself.

A really sad tea.  It’s tea like this that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those that claim not to like tea.  I wouldn’t like tea either if this is all that I had to drink.

The post Iced Black Tea from Tazo appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Who Knew It Could Happen Twice?

Joy's Teaspoon - Sat, 04/12/2014 - 00:45

by Naomi Rosen

When I first launched JoysTeaspoon.com, I made a Tea Business Bucket List (Crytpic name, I know). It looked like this:

  1. Offer great tea.
  2. Educate tea drinkers on palate and nuances.
  3. Educate tea drinkers of environmental and social impacts of tea.
  4. Meet Leonardo DiCaprio. (What?)
  5. Be a part of the educational offerings presented by World Tea EXPO.

I do offer great tea, I do educate, and last yeath-r I was a part of a World Tea EXPO panel session discussing blogging within your business. Damn you security guards for thwarting my 100% completion on that list!

That said, World Tea EXPO has asked me to come back. And not just for one session…but two! Firstly, I will be moderating the Bloggers Tea Roundtable (5/30). I admire every single one of the bloggers on this panel and am super excited to hear what is said! The line-up includes:

For my next trick…I was also asked to represent small tea businesses as a panelist in the “New Face of Retail” panel discussion being offered on Saturday (5/31) morning. It’s being moderated by Elyse Peterson of Tealet, who happens to be one of my favorite tea people! Here’s a snippet of the description for this class:

“Join some of the brightest up and coming stars of tea retail in the United States as they come together to discuss the current and upcoming trends in tea retail. This panel will include experts in the area of tea education, in-store blending, popup retail, bitcoin payments, and true tea sales. You do not want to miss this session!”

They called me “brightest”! That almost never happens.

As you can clearly see, between these two sessions, the countless cups of tea I will be ingesting, the US League of Tea Growers meeting I will be attending, and the reconnecting with tea friends, it is shaping up to be an epic three days for me!

I always have a “Lookout List” with me of products, teas, and items I am trying to track down. Is there something you think we should start carrying? Shoot a note over to naomi@joysteaspoon.com and fire off your suggestions!

A New Name?

The Devotea - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 20:39

This is a scene from Yes Minister that I have always loved. The second bit, not the first bit. http://youtu.be/OzeDZtx3wUw If you didn’t get around to watching it, there’s a suggestion that legislation is to be enacted in the European Parliament to cause the British sausage to cease being referred to as a ‘sausage’, but […]

The post A New Name? appeared first on Lord Devotea's Tea Spouts.

Cranberry Breeze Herbal Tisane from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 16:00

Tisane Information:

Leaf Type:  Fruit/Herbal Tisane

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

This perfectly balanced blend of subtly sweet cherry and rose hips with tart cranberry and hibiscus make this herbal tea refreshingly delicious and reminiscent of a fun fruit punch drink. Perfect for children and others watching sugar and caffeine; Cranberry Breeze is wonderful hot or iced and is the perfect alternative to sweet caffeinated drinks.

Learn more about this tea here.

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

Taster’s Review:

This Cranberry Breeze Herbal Tisane is not one I would have selected for myself.  I am sipping on it only because it was one of the five teas in this month’s Simple Loose Leaf Selection Club and I opted for the five samplers instead of choosing an ounce or two of two of the teas.  But you know what?  I’m glad that I received this because I am enjoying it.

Yeah, normally, I’m not a big fan of hibiscus, and this is hibiscus-y!  Really hibiscus-y.  When I drink a hibiscus-based tisane, I want it to either be light on the hibiscus, or have ingredients that work well with the hibiscus.  Well, this tisane isn’t light on the hibiscus, but the cranberry and hibiscus work very well together.

Yes, it’s tart.  There are times when I’d even go so far as to say it’s sour!  But, cranberries are like that, and as I said, the hibiscus and cranberry work really well together in this tisane.

I taste notes of sour cherry too, and the cherry and cranberry together give this a very juicy, fruity, party punch flavor only healthier, because even though I am not a fan of hibiscus, it is does bring a lot of health benefits to this party in a teacup.

I like this better iced than hot because the fruity punch flavor just tastes better iced.  Not my favorite tisane, but it is something that I’d drink now and then when I want something a little bit different to give my taste buds a jump start.  Try brewing up a pitcher of this, chilling it, and then serving it to the kids the next time they want something to drink – it’s a great naturally caffeine free alternative to those sugary sodas!

Oh, and don’t forget about Simple Loose Leaf’s special April promotion!  You can get your first month of the Selection Club for just one dollar!  Yes, you read that correctly!  Use this code:  1DOLLARMONTH and enjoy up to five different teas next month for just one dollar!  Wow!  That’s amazing!  Be sure to check it out and tell ‘em that I sent you!

The post Cranberry Breeze Herbal Tisane from Simple Loose Leaf appeared first on SororiTea Sisters.

Seven Cups Dian Hong Gong Fu 2012

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with scattered golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish brown

I couldn't resist picking up a bag of this tea when I ordered my annual indulgence of Huang Xi Zhang from Seven Cups. Chinese red tea is an interesting category because there are so many different kinds. At +Tea Drunk we have a fairly large leafed Dian Hong. They look giant compared to these tiny "gong fu" type leaves. The taste was bold and sweet with fruity notes and an almost brown sugar-like finish. On a cold and rainy day, this exactly what I needed! It wasn't as yammy or raisiny as other Dian Hongs that I have tried but that wasn't a bad thing in the least. There was a just a touch of astringency but I did not find it bitter or unpleasant. If you really must, it was full bodied enough for milk or sweeteners but please try it on its own first. You won't be sorry!

Dian Hong Gong Fu 2012 purchased from Seven Cups.
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39 Steeps - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 14:24
{ That's some jade there, all right. }  Jade Oolong, (Premium) by Green Hill Tea.
My students wanted to know what "jaded" meant. Of course, I knew the basic meaning: to be tired, cynical, unenthusiastic. But going to the more obvious meaning, it means a faded green, a pale echo of the bright color we see in our mind when we imagine that color.
Green Hill does not identify the source of their Jade Oolong, other than to say it's a high-mountain (2200 feet) crop from China. Generally speaking, I like to know where a tea is from, because I'm still learning and want to educate my palette as I taste. 
So in this case, I rely entirely upon my observations. I infuse with water just below boiling. Unfortunately,  here at work, I rely upon an electric kettle of filtered water, rather than my Japanese white charcoal setup I have at home. 
Dry, the leaves are tight and richly green, and quite fragrant. Wet, they take on a seaweed aroma, not unpleasant, which reminds me of the scent of the seashore. I depend on my sense of smell for my first introduction to a tea, and this is . . . okay, but not an unadorned delight. So this tea is not all about the aroma of the wet leaves, then. Good to know.
The wet leaves are a characteristic Chinese oolong: large leaves, which have readily opened up in the first steeping. So not very tightly twisted. Quite a bit of complete leaf, some broken, very little stem.
FIRST STEEPING. The liquor is -- wait for it -- a pale, jade green. You didn't see that coming at all, did you. The tea is good, quite good. It's a straight shooter, with a moderate vegetal quality, a flowery high range, and very little at the bottom of the register. Smooth, but with a hint of drying, a touch of an edge, which sharpens the senses. This tea wants you to stop and pay attention to it, rather than sitting good-naturedly and minding its own business. I enjoy its smoothness, and the huigan, or aftertaste (one of the few Chinese words I easily remember, so I use it often) holds in the mouth for minutes. Again, quite a straight shooter. The flavor of the tea and the huigan are closely linked, and I do not get a wide variety of flavors that develop in my mouth and nose over time. Though the tea liquor itself is green, it doesn't taste green, if you catch my meaning. It tastes golden-orange: mellow, a hint of brightness, burnished, open, not overpowering.
SECOND STEEPING. On the second steeping, I went rather long, with a moderate amount of leaf. The appearance of the cup is still a clean, pale green, as transparent as you would hope it would be. The cutting edge of the tea has arrived, and the vegetal note is more pronounced. This is not an especially assertive tea, so if you want a tea so strong you can stand a spoon up in it, you'd be better off with a meaty assam or an opinionated Ceylon mix. But even here, the smoothness and laid-back quality of the first steeping is long gone. This oolong is balanced between the acidic brightness, the slight dryness, and the overarching floral smoothness. Nicely done.
SO WHAT ARE THESE OBSERVATIONS ALL ABOUT? you may ask. I want to remember what I drink. I want to remember what I think when I'm cupping tea. Flavor and aroma are tightly bound to memory and place, and I want to capture some of my life I pass through it. This moment is green oolong, lightly sharp flavor, blue sky, end of winter, bare trees, deadlines I need to meet, anxiety I'm holding down, beloved by family, enjoying my teaching job, quiet moment in the midst of some familiar struggles, needing more sleep, wishing I were traveling, enjoying Shakespeare's "As You Like It," and trying to get back to work captioning. In other words, pretty much a normal morning, with a lovely cup of tea worthy of attention, rather than just let slip by unnoticed and unmarked.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!

First tea set

T Ching - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:00

Five miles of hiking uphill would land you at the cabin I was raised in. Water came from a hand pump, light from a kerosene lantern, heat from a wood cook stove, milk from a series of goats – always inexplicably named “Billie” – and fresh greens from our garden. My father hunted ducks, pheasants, and venison. My mother made bread, tofu, and wild berry preserves. We all fished for trout! In the spring, we gathered mushrooms, miner’s lettuce, and in summer, wild onions. In the fall we gathered berries, and more mushrooms. One day a week, we would rest, read, take a stroll, play Dominoes or Scrabble, sing with Mom while she played the guitar. For a child who had never known of television or the shopping mall, it was the ideal life.

Three or four times a year, my grandparents would come to visit. They would park their car at the end of the road, shoulder huge packs, and trudge their way to our cabin. While our high Sierra lifestyle was rewarding, there were many things we could not grow, gather, or shoot, and some of these things had to be brought in. My grandfather would always carry a twenty pound bag of brown rice and a few gallons of kerosene. Grandma would carry several pounds of fresh and dried fruit, a pound or two of loose leaf tea, new jeans for one of us, and sometimes a simple toy for me – a yo-yo, jump rope or top. All of these items were hugely anticipated and appreciated . . . but the thing my parents would hug to their chests when the packs were opened was tea.

Although I had those few simple toys, working with my parents on our five acres was my life. From the time I could tell the difference between a”pretty rock?” and a vegetable seedling, I was put to work picking up the former and weeding around the latter. When my mother made tofu, I was given a little bowl and cheesecloth. When my father split shingles for our cabin, I picked up and stacked the shingles. I learned to add by playing dominoes and to read from playing Scrabble or listening to my father read aloud from one of the ten books we owned. When I thought of things I wanted, they were mostly practical items . . . a rake and a shovel that were just my size; or a pair of scissors of my own.

So it was perfect that during one of my grandparents’ visits, Grandma brought me my own Child’s Tea Set. It was packed in a pressed paper box, and contained a teapot, sugar and creamer dishes; four saucers and four cups. It was beautiful, and I loved it! I was, at five years old, a seasoned tea drinker. I had made tea for my parents on many a work day. When I was nine years old, we moved back to the world of traffic and institutions. My only regret is that we never took any photographs of those nine years in the country, but I can still see my father and mother, sunburned and windblown, standing in the goat pen, each cradling a child’s tiny teacup and saucer. To this day I have the tea set, although one saucer was broken during a raucous tea party with imaginary guests.

This post was originally published January 28, 2008.  Written by the mysterious contributor, Rosie Pussytoes, she no longer appears on the contributor page for T Ching.

MAIN:           IMAGE 1:              IMAGE 2:

The post First tea set appeared first on T Ching.

Tea pot and cup rings

Tea Squared - Fri, 04/11/2014 - 12:00

This photo of these adorable rings has been kudzu-ing along Twitter and Pinterest in recent weeks, but without any source information (like where to buy). If you know, do tell.

The original Oriental Beauty

A Tea Addict's Journal - Wed, 04/09/2014 - 17:25

As some of you know, I’m a historian in my day job, and my new project is working on the history of how ideas (drinking practice, health concerns, etc) and technologies (plantation methods, processing techniques, etc) pertaining to tea moved across borders. Taiwan turns out to be the most interesting place to look at, because of its close connection with China, but at the same time because of its distinctive history and geopolitical location, thanks to it being under Japanese jurisdiction for the first half of the twentieth century. It ends up being a nice, big melting pot of stuff, perfect for my purposes.

As a result, a side story I’ve been pursuing on and off is the history of the tea Oriental Beauty (dongfangmeiren), more commonly known locally as Pengfeng tea (bragger’s tea). There are two kinds of legends surrounding the origins of this tea. One has something to do with nomenclature – the name Oriental Beauty. You have probably read this online somewhere, most likely from some vendor trying to sell you tea, but the story usually involves some queen of the United Kingdom (some say Victoria, others Elizabeth II) drinking it, finding it absolutely marvelous, and therefore giving it this nice name. This story is almost certainly false, and is made up to sell tea.

The most common name for the tea in the local community, Pengfeng tea, means bragger or bluffing tea. The idea is that the farmer who originally made the tea was able to sell it for such a high price, he bragged to his friends and neighbours, none of whom believed him. So, the name of the tea was born.

This story has always sounded sort of true, but like many such stories, there are lots of slightly different versions, making you wonder whether it’s true or not. What we do know is that the tea was from Beipu. The farmer was probably surnamed Jiang 姜 and there were large sums of money involved. Exactly how large, nobody knows. Everything I saw was a “it is said that” sort of version.

Everything, until today.

On my last trip to Taiwan I was able to get a copy of many issues of a journal called Taiwan no chagyo, or Taiwan’s Tea Industry. It was a trade journal from the colonial period. I have been going through the issues to look for information on all sorts of things, and today, reading one issue from 1933, I came across this

Bingo. The headline is “A high class tea worth a thousand yen”. Not a thousand yen for one jin, mind you, but a hundred jin, which doesn’t sound like a lot of money, until you figure out that the average jin of tea back then sold for a yen or less – so one jin of tea that sells for 10 yen was, indeed, an astronomical sum. The tea was one of the participants in a local tea competition, and it broke the 300 point mark in whatever scale they were using to grade the teas. The buyers included the governor’s office. It was obviously a cheap and easy way to promote better tea production – encouraging farmers to make better tea and they would be rewarded too with great prices if their tea were good. As the Taiwanese government was trying hard at that time to increase the production quantity and quality of tea for export, it made sense to pull a PR stunt like this.

The tea probably already existed by this time, but this was what made it famous. It probably is also where the name Pengfeng originally came from – maybe not so much a bragger in the liar sense of the word, but the farmer getting rather pleased with himself and annoying all the neighbours. Either way, it’s very gratifying to have found the smoking gun, so to speak, for the story, and it’s good to know that sometimes some of these legends do have some basis in fact.

The Spirit of Tea

The Sip Tip - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 18:35
Through over 5 years on my blog, many things have changed personally, some at least in part inspired by tea.  As tea drinkers we get a lot of questions on what tea is to us, or why we drink tea.  Honestly though through those 5 years and actually back further I realize tea has pretty much been a constant in my life.  Why does this simple set of leaves thrown into hot water help people relax, wake

Drink your tea now

A Tea Addict's Journal - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 09:43

Many of you reading this are probably sitting on more tea than you can consume in your lifetime, or at least some multiples of years, if not decades. For those of you who fit that description, I have a story for you.

A relative of a family friend recently passed away due to a heart attack. It seems like he was interested in a number of things, tea being one of them, and teapot being another. I was called in to take a look at what’s there, to see what can be done about it. I brought along a couple of friends who are tea vendors, since I wasn’t going to buy what could be a couple hundred cakes of stuff.

Turns out there weren’t a couple hundred cakes – there were maybe 60 or 80, plus some random liu’an, so on and so forth.

You can see some of the cakes here. You might notice a few things, one being that almost all of the tea is still shrink wrapped. The second is that they all look old. These teas seem to be purchased from multiple vendors over a number of years, but probably bought no earlier than maybe the early 2000s or so. Some of the teas are supposed to be 70s or 80s tea, more are 90s or maybe early 2000s. Some are cooked, others raw. It’s not a big collection, but it’s a collection.

And the guy never got to drink any of these.

Among these cakes is one, placed in a box on its own. We opened it, and before us was the classic Red Label wrapper. When I picked it up, however, it felt funny – too light, and the cake’s shape is not right. Upon further examination, it is pretty clear that this must’ve been a fake, and not a very good one either. The price he paid, however, was real – the price tag was still on it from a department store in Hong Kong, for the grand price of $120000 HKD, which is about how much a cake of the 50s Red Label would’ve cost about 8-10 years ago. These days it’s more like $100000 USD a cake.

It’s still shrink wrapped too.

It’s hard to tell what kind of condition most of the cakes are in, since they’re wrapped so carefully from the vendors. It’s pretty obvious that most of them are pretty wet – some terribly so. The cakes that were not shrink wrapped were on the heavy side of traditional storage, to the point where they would be rather heavy going for those who are not used to the taste, and would depress the relative resale value. But it seems like the guy liked it that way – he has a lot of cooked tea, and heavy-going seems to be his preferred profile.

Of course, I don’t know what he’s drunk, so maybe he consumed most of his teas already. He passed before getting to 70, so while he wasn’t exactly young, he wasn’t very old either by today’s standard. The Red Label, I suspect, was a pride and joy, and he kept it separately because he paid dearly for it. Even though it’s a fake, or maybe precisely because it’s a fake, he was the only one who was going to be able to really enjoy the tea – he would think he’s drinking the real thing, and since we know that paying more for wine gives you more enjoyment for it, I think the same pattern probably applies to tea. He would’ve really loved the taste of the cake, thinking that one session is costing him upwards of $2000 USD.

Many of us sit on tea that we say to ourselves “I’ll drink it for that special occasion” or “I’ll wait till later before I enjoy it” or “I can’t bear the thought of drinking all of it.” Well, don’t let that hold you back, because chances are you are the only one who’s going to enjoy it. We can always delude ourselves to think that maybe our kids, or relatives, or whoever, will like tea, but more often than not, it’s just not the case. At least here in Hong Kong, there’s the option of selling it back to people who are in the tea trade (my vendor friend seems to do it a couple times a year – called by various friends of friends, etc). Good luck doing that in the States or Europe. So, drink up!

Announcement: World Tea Expo 1st Annual World Tea Awards

Tea Pages - Wed, 04/02/2014 - 18:03

I wanted to share this info provided to me by George Jage and the folks at World Tea Expo. If you have enjoyed my writing over the years I’d be honored to see Tea Pages nominated for best tea blog or “A Tea Reader” nominated for best book. In any event, make some nominations. Honor those tea leaders, retailers, educators and others that we all have learned from and enjoyed over the years.

From a press release:

World Tea Expo will be moving from Las Vegas to Long Beach, California this year and along with the move will be the introduction of a black-tie Awards Dinner on the historic Queen Mary on Friday, May 30 at 7 p.m. The event will be hosted by George Jage, founder/director of World Tea Media, and Gail Gastelu, publisher of The Tea House Times.

New Products winners at this year’s WTE will be recognized along with winners from categories selected by the public. The categories are:

Best Tea Publication
Best Tea Book
Best Social Media Reach
Best Tea Room Website
Best Tea Retail Website
Best Tea Blog
Best Tea Educator
Best Tea Room Menu
Best Tea Short / Commercial
Best Tea Spirit
To submit your nominations, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WorldTeaAwardsNominations
The nomination period will end April 24th.  Finalists for each category will be announced, and voting by the community will follow.  The Awards dinner will culminate with the recognition of Devan Shah with the Cha Jing Lifetime Achievement Award.

This is a ticketed event and you do not need to be a delegate of the World Tea Expo to participate.  Delegates of the Expo can add the event to their registration online or individual or table reservations can be made by sending in this form.
For more information, contact World Tea Media at 702.253.1893.

The dangers of dry and cold

A Tea Addict's Journal - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 09:39

Well, regular readers know that I’m skeptical of storage conditions that are too dry or too cold. The combination of these two things is generally not good news for puerh tea. It makes for bad tea.

I recently bought a few cakes through Taobao from a vendor in Tianjin. I’ve bought from them before, years ago. Their tea is not that bad. These teas I got are not bad tea per se, but the storage on them has made them pretty poor. Specifically, the cakes (all different) all share a slightly sour, thin, and unpleasant note. Two of the teas are themselves very decent originally – the base tea still shines through, a bit, but without any of the thickness and richness you’d hope to see from teas that are 7-10 years old. Instead, they are just…. sour and a bit bland. If I have teas that old that taste like this, I’d be disappointed.

One of the cakes is a nice Yiwu that I know didn’t taste like that when first made, because I tried it way back when it first came out. I never bought any, because it was out of my budget at the time living on grad student stipend. I wish I had some, and was hoping that this cake would be ok, but it’s not – not in this condition.

Tianjin is typical north China – cold, not too damp, although probably damper than some of the more inland places like Beijing. This is why I normally don’t like to buy teas that are stored in any of these drier climates – they taste bad. The damage in taste is also not obvious when you’re buying online – the cakes, even when held in person, look perfectly fine. There’s no really obvious sign that something is awry, until you put it in water and try it.

This is not to say the tea hasn’t changed – it has. The colour has changed, the taste is also not what you’d see when it’s new. But as a tea that is getting better with age? No, not really. Just because a tea changes over time doesn’t mean it’s changing for the better over time, and a lot of people in these areas have never had a good tasting 10 year old to compare against, so it’s not obvious to them what’s wrong with teas like this.

Now the next question is whether some wet weather storage in Hong Kong can salvage the tea. I’ll let you know in a few years.

Mother’s Day at the White House – Part 1

Tea Pages - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 00:01

Standing at the White House security gate, dialing the contact number and listening to the phone ring unanswered, my heart was in my throat. It was like every nightmare I’d had leading up to the event.

“I need your hard press pass,” the security guard said with a stony expression.

“I don’t have one. This is my first White House event. They told me that my name would be on a list and my credentials were approved.” I was beginning to sweat. This was it. After all the work to get here, the months of emails, the early morning trip to the airport, the cost of the flight, the hours walking around the city waiting, after all that, I was going to miss the event.

Finally, after redialing for the eighth or ninth time I saw two staffers walking down the drive toward the gates, meeting the rest of the press that had gathered. A woman strode over to the guard and spoke to him for a few minutes then greeted me through the tall fence. “You must be Katrina. Come on in.” Finally, I could breathe again.

I stumbled my way through security, unzipping bags for inspection, stammering as my nerves got the better of me. Then I found myself standing inside the gate, on the drive that leads to the entrance, press pass around my neck. I would likely never have this chance again and I intended to embrace every minute of it.

Press makes their way into the White House

This was the annual Mother’s Day Tea for Military Families hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. I had read about the event for the past few years and I had decided that Tea Magazine had to be on site. I have the good fortune to have a dear friend who is a journalist and helped put me in touch with the right people. Numerous emails and phone calls later and fewer than two weeks before the event I received my approval.

Guests assembled in the East Room

We were shuttled to the press room to wait. I may or may not have had my picture taken behind the podium. It was quickly apparent that there was a large contingent of British press and that there was a surprise planned for the day. We were finally brought into the entrance of the White House, whisked quickly through the foyer into the East Room. I wish I could have taken a moment, to absorb what I was seeing, but the sea of journalists and photographers found themselves standing behind the velvet ropes looking at an exquisitely decorated dining room.

Crystal chandeliers light the East Room along with ornate sconces. Portraits of George and Martha Washington take center stage on either side of the large gold curtains and the two American flags flanking the podiums. The round tables were draped with pastel cloths and topped with gold rimmed china. The centerpieces were gorgeous bursts of color thick with roses. And the honorees? 170 active-duty military women, military spouses, and children were there to be thanked for their courage and sacrifices. Seated among the honorees were the Women of the Year from each branch of the military and, a celebrity in her own right, the First Lady’s mother Marian Robinson.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden address the crowd.

While the whole event was clearly old hat for some of the photographers and journalists, my eyes kept racing around the room, trying to remember everything. And then the hosts of the event, the First Lady and Dr. Biden entered the room.

More next time — What they ate, the events in the White House Dining Room, and a very special guest.


Oh, and what was in those teacups? Chamomile tea from the White House kitchen garden.

Cold Brewed [Steeped] Tea

The Sip Tip - Sun, 03/23/2014 - 23:50
In passing with another tea person I know I had a brief although provocative conversation.  I mentioned that I was drinking some Cold Brewed Keemun I made for a party I hosted, and his initial reaction was that it was a waste of good tea.  I a bit shocked at the somewhat up front condemnation of how I was drinking this tea, decided to ask him more about what he meant, and the conversation that

The Days and the Tea March On…

Tea Pages - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 20:19

I find myself closing in on one of those “big” birthdays — the kind that end in a zero. The funny thing is that I have very distinct memories of my mom hitting this age and thinking it was an enormous deal. Now I find myself so many years later, my children much younger than I was, and realizing that in my mind I am no longer aging. I feel the same as I did ten years ago. Yes, certainly, much has happened in those ten years, including three kids, but fundamentally, I am the same.

I don’t have birthday anxiety like many of my friends and family. As my mom always says, “It’s better than the alternative.” Truly though, the last decade was the best so far and I feel incredibly optimistic that I’m going to enjoy this next one even more. I am comfortable in my life, happy, fulfilled, and full of ambition.

What really struck me though as I was thinking about time passing is just how long tea has played a big part in it. It was nearly twenty years ago that I discovered specialty tea, when I opened those first books to dig into its fascinating past and present.

Where has it brought me since then?

* To this blog of course – While my posting is erratic, it has been a part of my life for six and a half years. Mind blowing. I sometimes hesitate to read those early posts — so much I thought I knew was wrong. But then I am struck by the growth and opportunity.

* To writing and editing as a profession – I have found my work published in trade magazines, regional publications and even national magazines like Yankee. I was interviewed by USA Today. One of my proudest accomplishments was helping transform Tea Magazine from a small but loved publication to a nationally distributed magazine with the quality of writing and design that could compete with the best. I had the chance to interview Dr. Andrew Weil and Padma Lakshmi. I worked with an amazing editor and writing team. Leaving the magazine was one of the hardest decisions I have made professionally, but it was the right thing for me. I am sad that the print magazine has now ceased to exist. It is actually kind of heartbreaking to be honest. So many 3 a.m. nights getting things edited and to press on time. Countless hours line editing and writing and choosing images. I am sure they will make a go of their new endeavor and I will cheer their progress. I do feel its loss though, even as I take pride in what we accomplished. You can see some of my work here.

* To publishing a book – A book with my name on the jacket. From a publishing house that releases its catalog each season and is known in the industry. A book that brought me into contact with people and stories that I will never forget. Each time I pick up one of Laura Childs’ new books (including her new NYT BESTSELLER), I think of how nervous I was asking her to write an essay for me. I remember my first phone call with Jane Pettigrew, someone I now can approach at a tea event and have a nice conversation with, picking up where we left off. It let me spend time with James Norwood Pratt and so many other tea friends I feel honored to know. My fingers are constantly poised on the keyboard, ready to work on the next. So many projects begun. I know there is certainly another book to come.

* To amazing tea shop memories – The lemon curd and scones on a rainy afternoon at the Clipper Merchant in Limerick, Maine. The dozen or more cups of tea at Savvy Tea Gourmet in Madison, Conn. A tea auction and dinner at the Park Plaza with Cindy Gold. Chatting with Bruce Richardson over tea and amazing treats at Fancy That in Walpole. Sitting in Tealuxe in Cambridge with my husband, enjoying a hot cuppa on a snowy day.

* To new cities and places – I traveled to London to a masterclass with Janet Pettigrew. I had my first foray into Las Vegas for World Tea Expo. I saw a different side of NYC as I perused its tea spots and had my first tea at the Plaza and attended A Gift of Tea’s amazing White Tea, enjoying laughs with The Devotea. I met great blogger friends in Philly at World Tea East and visited Russian Tea Time in Chicago. And perhaps the biggest tea event of my life — a trip to the White House to cover last year’s Mother’s Day tea. Each trip I take now always begins with a search for the must-hit tea shops.

And here I sit, ready for the next decade. (In case you’re shopping for me, you have a few weeks until the big day.) Maybe by the time that next zero rolls around I’ll have written that next book, launched my dream e-magazine, and found a way to make sure I can make a living with putting words on a page. In any event, tea will be part of it all.


My most recent Tea Biz posts: Tea for Your Teeth, Uncovering the Truth: Is Tea Full of Pesticides, and The Lighter Side: Tea the Key to a Good Relationship?


Tea Pages - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 12:48

I think if I could write my blog posts in the shower I’d be the most prolific writer out there.

I find myself dictating entire blog posts in my head and then they never get typed here.

I miss my blogging community. I’ve been writing semi-regularly over at Tea Biz (http://www.tea-biz.com) with my most excellent partner Dan Bolton. Be sure to check us out there.

And, believe it or not, a post is on its way over here later today. Will wonders never cease?

And, no, I didn’t type it in the shower.

Tea Book: The Love of Tea, by Carol Mark

Notes on Tea - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 21:00
The Love of Tea cover via The Love of Tea (source)
Cooking and baking are among my favorite hobbies as is preparing tea so I have a  collection of tea cookbooks and recently the collection grew by one with the addition of Carol Mark's The Love of Tea. The recipes are divided among five categories: starters, mains, desserts, cocktails and afternoon tea.  Each recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the ingredients or the finished dish.

Although I have not yet prepared any of the recipes I am intrigued by the desserts section.  Reverse Earl Gray Chocolate Truffles Best Chocolate Tea Cake. The recipes are short which I take to mean easy to prepare.

Non-imbibers will appreciate the mocktail versions of the tea cocktails.  Don't Basil Fawelty made with rooibos, basil, and orange and pineapple juices or Red Blitz Blast with rooibos, lemonade, and cherry juice sound refreshing?!  (Oh, warm weather dreaming.)  And some of the cocktail recipes were designed without alcohol in mind like the Cucumber Sandwich Mocktail prepared with matcha.  This one sounds like a drink for afternoon tea.

Plan your next home afternoon tea using the recipes in the afternoon tea section.  Make classic egg, cucumber, and chicken sandwiches.  Bake scones, shortbread, and sponge cake.  And don't forget the lemon curd!

The Love of Tea is available on iBooks.  You can find Carol Mark hanging out on Google+.

Thank you to Carol Mark for a review copy of the book.
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