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Guide to Tea Blogging: Ethics, Reviews, and Sampling

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 17:00

I kicked off a series called Guide to Tea Blogging back in December but haven't had a chance to revisit it. New bloggers often reach out to me asking for advice so it will helpful to have blog posts on different topics to direct them to. The ethics of sampling come up pretty often so it seemed like a logical next installment. 
Ethics and Sampling 
One of the obvious perks of writing a tea blog is indeed receiving free samples. However, getting free samples should not be the reason that your blog exists. The same rule applies for press passes to World Tea Expo and other events. Unscrupulously greedy bloggers give the good ones a bad name, making some retailers avoid us all together. The CEO of a major tea chain famously painted us all with one brush in a LinkedIn group several years ago for this reason. I have never once solicited a company for samples yet I usually have more tea than I know what to do with. If you write good quality, engaging content companies will contact you.

Another important part of blogging is being upfront and making your process is clear to any company that you're dealing with. I strongly recommend that every blogger put together a review policy and permanently post it on their site. Some things you'll want to include are personal likes and dislikes, how to get in touch with you, and lead time to publication. Most of the email inquiries that I receive don't take the time to read my review policy but it's a lot easier to have a link I can forward them to rather repeating myself over and over again. As your blog evolves, your taste in teas will too. Don’t be afraid to politely decline a sample if it’s not something that you’re interested in.

Above all else, a blogger must always be honest. This can be difficult when we receive product for free or other forms of compensation. Your readers will know the difference though and they will stop reading if they think that you are acting like a shill for a particular company. On the flip side, you should avoid being unnecessarily mean or harsh. It's important to keep in mind that just because you didn’t like something doesn’t mean that other people will feel the same way. I learned this when I first started writing reviews for Teaviews.com. I was sent a sample of a tea that contained chili peppers. My sensitive sinuses screamed from all of the spice and I absolutely hated it. Another reviewer who grew up in Southern California loved it and thought that it tasted like home. If a tea is really undrinkable, I won’t publish a review of it.

Reviewing 
When you first get started, it’s often hard to articulate what a tea tastes like. Reading other blogs can help you with the basics. I’ve also referred to tasting wheels from the wine world when I’m struggling to find the word to describe what I’m experiencing. It will become easier as you become more experienced and your train your palate for tea.

Tea Reviews make up a large portion of the content of many tea blogs. That doesn't have to be the case but most folks do seem to start out that way. Everyone has their own style and you should try to find the one that works the best for you and the way that you drink tea. However, there are a few rules that you should follow:

-Let your readers know how you made the tea. They might go out and purchase the tea after reading about it on your blog. What you write will be their guide so be sure to include information about leaf volume, the tools you used (gaiwan, infuser basket, etc.), steep time, and water temperature.

-Follow the retailers brewing directions! If you want to play around with steep times and water temperature afterward then, by all means, do so. It is one of my biggest pet peeves to read a bad review of a tea because it was prepared incorrectly. Tea is one of those few consumables that can be truly ruined by user error. If you aren’t sure how to make a tea, find out before even attempting a review (i.e. don’t make green tea with boiling water and complain about it being bitter).

-Try to include a link to the product page whenever you review a product. It helps your readers find the tea and brings attention to the company it came from. This is especially important if the tea is a free sample that was provided for you. It's also essential that you disclose whether or not the tea was provided by the company (and use "no follow" links if that is the case).

Is there something that you think should be added to this list? A topic you'd like to see covered as part of this series? Let me know about it in the comments!

Spiced Coffee from Handmade Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 16:00
This sample is a SURPRISE SAMPLE from Handmade Tea, a tea-subscription company! I love blind-box subscription companies. What’s going to come? NO ONE KNOWS. It’s like Christmas EVERY. MONTH. Handmade Tea is run by a fella named Caleb, who I think I’d like in person. He looks like a very intelligent lumberjack. In addition to mixing, he hires artists he thinks would go well with the blends. A self-professed foodie, he thinks society’s “only a few short years away from tea pairing becoming very common.” This blurb made me realize — I would love to be a tea sommelier. I Read More

Tea and Travel: My Travel Teas

T Ching - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 13:00

With an often hectic travel schedule, I rely on tea to keep me balanced while away from my home routine. While I love enjoying loose-leaf teas at home, they are not as practical to bring along on my travels. I’ve found a few bagged teas that have become my go-to’s while traveling. They all serve a different purpose, but are equally important to bring along. While many in the tea community are anti-bag, sometimes you just can’t beat the convenience if you’re in a hotel or restaurant without the proper equipment.

That being said, I refuse to compromise on quality. I turn to one of my favorite tea brands, Yogi Tea for great travel options. I’ve also recently added a tea from Numi into the mix. Here are 4 of my favorited bagged teas that are always in my travel “snack pack.” They’re not only for pure enjoyment, but help cure some of the side effects that come along with traveling.

Yogi Tea Raspberry Ginger Digestive Vitality – Ok ladies, I’m mostly speaking to you here. If you’re anything like me, no matter how long the trip, as long as it’s on a plane, you get blocked up. Who knows if it’s the plane ride, time change, or being out of my routine, but either way, I’m always irregular when I travel and sometimes it gets very uncomfortable. I turn to this Yogi Tea when I need help getting things moving. It works every time and with just one cup.

Yogi Tea Ginger Lemon While not as intense as the Raspberry Ginger, I use the Ginger Lemon after I’ve had a particularly rich meal. I often like to indulge in new foods or (okay, AND) sweets when I travel to a new location. This tea helps soothe my tummy. It can also be great for motion sickness or hydration while in transit.

Numi Moroccan Mint – A very recent addition after my trip to Morocco. While it’s not really a Moroccan mint tea, it has a wonderful spearmint flavor and is an excellent tea for when I’m looking for something sweet, but need to cool it on the treats.

Yogi Tea Bedtime – When I travel, my sleep schedule always gets thrown off. Plus, it’s often hard to wind down before bed after all of the new experiences. This chamomile blend is the perfect before bed ritual to help you get your beauty rest for your next big day of exploring.

Do you have any favorite travel teas? Have you tried any of the ones I share here? Comment below! I’m always looking for new recommendations.

The post Tea and Travel: My Travel Teas appeared first on T Ching.

Tea Surprises From Global Tea Hut

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 12:00
Here at Sororitea Sisters we review a LOT of tea and tea related products…and I mean A LOT…we have over 5,200 reviews so far and we are NOT slowing down any time soon. So much so that we average 4 posts each and everyday for the last several months now. So needless to say when we receive something unique to review we like to make a BIG deal about it! When a company sends a little extra something with the order we purchased and/or receive – we get really excited, too! It literally can be ANYTHING…an additional free sample, a Read More

Darjeeling The Second Flush from Lupicia. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 02/13/2017 - 00:00
Darjeeling – The Second Flush certainly grabbed my attention as I was trying to decide which black tea to start my day off with recently. It was then I noticed Darjeeling The Second Flush was one of the Lupicia teas I still had yet to try! When it comes to a Darjeeling – what can you really say that hasn’t already been said? Many of us know that Darjeeling is considered to be or often called the Champagne of Teas. This specific Darjeeling was Lupicia special blend using summer-plucked Darjeeling. It was fresh and fruity and crisp. Just what I Read More

DeTox from Magic Tea Fit. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 02/12/2017 - 20:00
After a capital-D Decadent holiday season and a weeklong vacation recently, my body has been feeling CASHED. While I don’t buy into this whole detox tea trend, I do think that my body feels the difference between drinking another cup of peppermint-sugar-coated-chocolate-sugarplum-chocolate sugar tea (mmmm, the holidays) and an herbal blend with some anti-inflammatory herbs. This tea smells strongly of cinnamon and licorice and tastes the same. I can’t detect any of the red rooibos here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s a hint of hibiscus, a touch of ginger– really, this tea is kind of a mish-mash Read More

Maple Almond Dragon Pearls from A Quarter To Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 02/12/2017 - 16:00
Sometimes when you do tea swaps with other tea lovers, you find yourself surprised by added teas you did not expect nor ask for. And by sometimes, I mean basically every time. Gotta love the generosity of tea friends! Well, this particular tea is one of those surprises and I was super excited to try it out. If I am being honest, it was the fact that these were black dragon pearls that appealed to me the most. I just love being able to pop a couple of balls of tea into the mug and watch them blossom. It is Read More

Masala Chai Black Tea from The Tea Obsession. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 02/12/2017 - 14:24
My taste buds have started it seems.  I used to be all about the sweet dessert like teas but lately I have wanted a more spicy kick.  This tea was the perfect answer to my after dinner tea with my stepsons the other night. In the past, I have steered away from Masala Chai blends but after having this one, I think I need to be a bit more open minded.  Right out of the pouch this tea greets you with that familiar warming spice blend that warms you to your toes.  My stepsons saw I was brewing up a Read More

Coconut Cream Pie from David’s Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 02/12/2017 - 00:00
Full disclosure time, you guys. I’ve never eaten coconut cream pie. So before we dive into this tea review, I want you to know that I have zero frame of reference here and kiiiiiind of have no authority on the subject of which I am about to speak. Just FYI. That said, if I were to try and imagine what coconut cream pie tastes like (creamy, coconutty, smooth, light?) I think I’d pull the exact same adjectives for this tea. It was lighter than I was anticipating, with a creamy oolong base just kind of slipping into the background. The Read More

Chai Houjicha from 52Teas . . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 20:00
I was so excited to try this tea. I love love love Chai tea. I love Chai green tea especially since I’m working on cutting back on caffeine. And doing some Googling I discovered that Houjicha is green tea that has been roasted. The roasting process cuts down on the earthiness of green tea, making it more caramel like in flavor, and also cuts down on the caffeine. This makes it a nice tea to serve in the evening. Bonus!! As soon as I opened the packet, I could smell cardamom, which excited me because with a lot of Chai Read More

Product Review: Red Hair Girl Walking a Dog on Orange Damask Tea Tin from Tea & Tins

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 16:00
Here at Sororitea Sisters we are trying to do more and more product reviews. That is reviews of tea-themed or tea-related products and/or items that tea fans might be interested that aren’t just tea to sip on. Today I’m sharing with you…a Product Review: Red Hair Girl Walking a Dog on Orange Damask Tea Tin. This is a fun and youthful tea tin with a French twist that is perfect for storing your loose leaf tea and/or just displaying in your kitchen, craft room, workplace, or to take with you on the go! This tin can hold about 2 oz Read More

Sugar Plum Tea from The Tea Can Company. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 12:00
Sugar Plum Tea from The Tea Can Company smells AMAZING! Sugar and plums – folks! Sugar and plums! I could see a nice sized square chunk of fruit in the see-thru silken bag. Impressive! Ceylon Black Tea, Stevia Leaves, Dried Strawberry, Mango, and Hibiscus are the ingredients to Sugar Plum Tea from The Tea Can Company. I must have located the mango when I was looking! I didn’t see much of the hibiscus which was totally fine by me! As for the flavor once infused – I do have to say the Stevia was hepped-up! If you are sensitive to Read More

Cocteau from August Uncommon. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 02/11/2017 - 00:00
Tea swaps are a thing of beauty. They really and truly are. Switching out your unwanted teas for hard-to-find favorites or samples of new blends…what’s not to love? And sometimes if you are lucky, tea swaps can lead to making tea friends. You know…the people who you meet up with to exchange teas and talk about your lives. Now, if you are REALLY lucky, you might even find a tea twin. For me that person is the wonderful Roswell Strange, a former Sororitea Sister. Her and I started our tea journey at the same time and quickly learned we liked Read More

Cider Spices Wassail Kit from Oliver Pluff & Company. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 20:00
Today we have a little bit of a different review of sorts to share with you! Cider Spices Wassail Kit from Oliver Pluff & Company is what’s on tap! One random weekend in the not-so distant past I grabbed 2 half gallons of local cider and stopped to visit my parents with Cider Spices Wassail Kit from Oliver Pluff and Company in the other hand. My mother and I were like the Swedish Chef and Beaker in the kitchen having FUN with this nifty tin of wholesome ingredients! This Cider Spices Wassail Kit includes their 3 Muslin Spice Bags with Read More

Wake the F* Up from Modest Mix. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 18:30
-Please be warned:  There is profanity in this review.  Thanks!- The tea brand Modest Mix is not for the delicate of spirit. Their company’s tagline is “We’re f*cking awesome.” Their teas are named things like “Wake the F*ck Up,” “Sorry To Hear You’re Such A P*ssy,” “Dumbass,” and, my favorite: “Lemon and Mint Just Banged In Your Mouth.” The censorship stars are just there for your delicate eyes. They aren’t on Modest Mix’s site. I’m going to stop using them shortly, because they’re a hassle to type, so if you need to, go find some pearls to clutch. Because we’re Read More

Friday Round Up: February 5th and February 11th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 17:00
The science and nomenclature of tea processing. Part 1: Enzymatic browning.
The science behind tea processing is something that we are still learning about and there are a lot of myths still being floated around out there. Thankfully we have +Eric Scott at +Tea Geek to fill us all in on the particulars.

The Current State of Organic Orthodox Tea in Nepal
Nepal has been producing some really fantastic specialty teas in recent years. This week World of Tea brings us a status report on the progress that has been made there and the work that still needs to be done.

A Winter Nightmare with Puer
Puerh storage is a foreign concept for many tea drinkers and it can be really tricky to figure out for those of us in North America. Cody at The Oolong Drunk conducted some pumidor experiments that sadly went awry.

Toronto Tea Festival 2017 Recap and Thoughts
Ever jealous of Canada's rapidly developing tea culture, I eagerly read +Lu Ann Pannunzio's post this week about her experience at the Toronto Tea Festival. I'm still in wedding savings mode so traveling is unlikely to happen for me soon but I hope to be able to attend myself in a few years.

The Many Oolongs of Four Seasons Tea Co.
Speaking of tea loving Canadians, +Mel Had Tea wrote about one of my favorite oolong tea specialists. Her photography makes me want to try those lovely teas all over again.

Bristol Chai Coming to Montreal in April

World of Tea - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 15:36
The foursome behind the Montreal-based Camellia Sinensis— Kevin Gascoyne, Jasmin Desharnais, François Marchand, and Hugo Américi, are brewing up a new venture with Gabriel Svaldi centered on masala tea. Svaldi...

Blast from the Past: What do Teapots have in Common with McDonald’s?

T Ching - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 13:00

Tea and McDonald’s? It might sound strange, but follow along with our L-theanine fueled logic.

A customer asked if certain tea pots should be used with different teas. For the purposes of this discussion, we will rule out talking about Yixing tea pots since they are specifically made to take on the flavor of the teas brewed in them. We will also assume that you wash the pots after each use.

We are talking about the other 99% of pots that most people use – ceramic, glass, iron, steel or porcelain.

Not a huge amount of pots are made from stainless steel, mainly because they are costly. Some people say that certain drinks taste better out of a bottle than a can. The craft brew industry uses cans, not to mention the entire beer industry brews in stainless steel. Almost all meals prepared in restaurants are made using stainless steel vessels. This taste difference is a myth.

Porcelain and ceramic are both made from clay. The difference is that porcelain is more refined and purified, making it harder and offering more design flexibility. That is why fancier cups and pots are made of porcelain, allowing them to make thinner and more elaborate designs.

We all know glass, and the teapots made from glass are generally on the thin side. Aside from a level of fragility, they are flavor neutral like everything else we’ve mentioned.

Iron pots are coated with enamel, and thus the metal never comes in contact with the tea.

From a pure taste perspective, none of the aforementioned materials will make any difference with regards to the taste of the tea.

But what about heat? There are some that recommend certain pots from a heat transfer perspective. For example, glass pots are generally thin so they do not insulate and therefore lose heat faster. Some say green tea would be better suited in a glass pot since it is consumed at lower temperatures versus black tea.

Iron has a higher heat transfer rate than ceramic. This is true, although you still can’t pick up either at the bottom with your bare hands. One writer mentions, “Due to their composition these pots transfer heat easily (they very quickly lose the temperature of the tea liquor)”. This is true only if you pour hot water into a cold iron pot. Think of a cast iron radiator. It holds heat for hours right? It takes a while to heat up, but once all that metal is heated – it stays warm. So simply filling up an iron pot ahead of time with hot water will ‘prime’ the pot. Once warmed up, your tea will stay warm for a long time.

Heavy ceramic pots can also be pre-warmed, especially during the winter. Incidentally we tested an insulated ceramic pot (it has a built in tea cozy) and found only a limited improvement. At the end of the experiment I asked myself who takes so long to drink tea anyway? There are other solutions – an insulated tumbler which can hold tea for a few hours or a tea candle.

In practical terms, regardless if you drink green or black tea, and assuming you are not brewing in an ice cold pot, your tea will taste exactly the same when brewed in any of these pots mentioned. Even if you switch tea types, assuming you wash the pots you should not taste remnants  of previous brews.

So how does this compare to McDonald’s?

Back in the mid 80’s McDonalds tried to solve a problem that didn’t exist and came up with a novel concept that ultimately flopped. It was the McDLT.

The goal of this concoction was to keep the meat side and the toppings side in separate chambers so that you would have an extra fresh and crispy burger. The concept never took off, and people found that a big mac in the regular box sufficed versus a cumbersome box that you had to then assemble. They developed this product and spent a lot of time on a non-issue. The customer just wanted a burger, already made in the standard box they were used to. The customer never noticed any change in taste to make it worth the trouble. Although it proved to make entertaining and catchy commercials!

Back to the tea pots. Ultimately, there is no reason to over think this. Do what feels natural. Would you drink a nice vintage of wine in a thick water glass? No. The same applies to tea. Brewing a pot of Gyokuro in a thick and stout ceramic pot will taste exactly the same as glass, but lets be honest – doesn’t green tea look better in glass?

One could brew a chai frothed with milk and sugar in an iron pot,  but it wouldn’t feel natural to serve chai from a heavy iron pot into a fancy porcelain tea cup.

For new tea drinkers, getting something that isn’t too “out there” would be ideal. A standard ceramic pot is just fine. And as your tastes expand, you’ll find yourself compelled and drawn to certain pots for certain types of teas. Use the pot that feels naturally good for the tea you are drinking.

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The post Blast from the Past: What do Teapots have in Common with McDonald’s? appeared first on T Ching.

Coming Soon: TeaMarket!

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 12:00
Get ready, tea-sters!  A new tea supply site is opening up for beta testing this spring. (My wallet is already flailing in despair.) I spoke to Tony Angelos, the owner, to get the scoop, and here’s what I’ve learned! Tea Market (teamarket.us) is a multi-boutique platform that will, like Etsy, Amazon, or Ebay, allow individual sellers to sell their teas to the user. What makes the site unique will be its tea focus, so the search parameters will be specific to tea types, ingredients, etc, which can be difficult to search on current sites. Tony expressed his initial idea for Tea Read More

Top of the (Blueberry Lemon) Muffin to You! A Curiositea Blend

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 02/10/2017 - 00:00
Blueberry Lemon Rooibos from Curiositea makes me think of muffins– top of the muffin to you! The nutty rooibos paired with these fruit flavors remind me of blueberry muffins with lemon peel, or a delectable lemon poppyseed cake.  The lemon of this blend is more creamy than tart, and comes through slightly stronger than the blueberry. There is a darker sweetness in the undertones of this brew that keeps the lemon from getting too sharp, and I must credit this flavor to the blueberries. When iced, the flavor combination in this blend could pass for blueberry lemonade rooibos.  There is Read More
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