Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday Roundup: December 10th - December 16th

Book Review: "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" by Lisa See

Maria of East Meets West Tea reviewed a novel that I really loved and often recommend to others. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is definitely a must read if you haven't checked it out already, especially if you have an interest in puerh or Chinese culture.

Sweet and Rare, Unicorn Japanese Black Tea from World Tea House

Mel from Mel Had Tea always takes such lovely photographs of the tea she reviews. This week was no exception as she shares a bit about an unusual black tea. It definitely made me smile to see that she found it at my friend Phil's Canadian tea shop.

Send the Oolong Drunk to Houston!

Cody from The Oolong Drunk, a frequent fixture here on the Friday Roundup, has an amazing opportunity to speak at the Houston Tea Festival. He's going to need some help with travel expenses to make that happen. Please consider contributing to his fundraiser.

Tea Reflections

There are few things I enjoy more than having tea together with friends. That doesn't happen as often as I would like but I get to live vicariously through blog posts like this one. Anna from The Tea Squirrel and Mike from The Tea Letter each wrote about their experiences sharing what sounds like a very unique tea.

Puerh Rescue Dot Org

Cywn's signature wit and humor always make my day when a new post appears in my feed. I too would like to volunteer on behalf of all of the neglected and abused puerh out there. Remember, a puerh tea is a living thing and it has feelings. The adopt-a-pu illustration really puts this one over the top.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WuyiOrigin Mi Lan Xiang

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, long and slightly twisted
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

There are some pretty cool things about being a tea blogger. Finding random boxes of mystery tea on my doorstep definitely takes the cake. I was lucky enough to have such a box arrive from WuyiOrigin, operated by the well-known tea producer Cindy Chen. I first made the acquaintance of Cindy when tea friend Eric Scott from Tea Geek mentioned how much he enjoyed the beautiful photos she shared of the Wuyi mountains. She and her husband Mr. Zhou both come from tea families and they only sell teas that their family processes.

I'm sure it has been mentioned before but I have a major soft spot for dancong, aka phoenix, oolongs. Huang Zhi Xiang was the first tea that I really fell in love with. It led me down a rabbit hole that I am incredibly happy to still be diving deep into. There are hundreds of different aromas assigned to this type of tea but the most commonly available one is probably Mi Lan Xiang. I often recommend it to beginners as a starting point to educating their palate and discovering what the tea world has to offer.

Even before taking my first sip of this tea I found myself inhaling deeply from both from the bag the tea came in and my gaiwan after the liquor had been poured out. The same sweet, floral aroma that drew me in was reflected in the cup. Mi Lan Xiang means honey orchid fragrance and I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better descriptor. I've had other examples with a more dominant honey note but this one was very well balanced, exactly how I prefer it. There was a strong feeling of hui gan, or returning sweetness, in the back of my throat after each sip.

Be prepared for a long session because these leaves keep giving. I honestly have no idea how many infusions I drank of this tea. They were all delicious though. If you've never tried phoenix oolongs, I highly recommend checking out what WuyiOrigin has to offer. You simply cannot do better than going directly the source.

Mi Lan Xiang sample provided by WuYi Origin.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Roundup: December 3rd - December 9th

Daintree Tea and Tim Tam Slams

Char at Oolong Owl paired Australian grown tea with a sweet treat. She even tried to gongfu it (note to self: don't do that). Thanks to an Aussie tea friend my fiance is completely addicted to Tim Tams. If you haven't tried them yet, you're missing out!

6 Ways to Celebrate Your Birthday with Tea

Happy Birthday to Lu Ann from The Cup of Life! This week she brings us six great ideas to incorporate tea into your celebrations. My own birthday is coming up in a few weeks so I'll definitely be trying out a few of these.

Gui Fei: the Taiwanese Honey Tea

Gaby the Tea Guy is a fairly new tea blog that I've just discovered. In this post, he gives us an ode to one of my favorite Taiwanese oolongs. His descriptions make me want to go drink some right now. We can all give thanks to the leafhopper insect for its delicious honey aromas.

What Camera Do You Use?

Jordan from Tea-Tography gave some excellent insights into how to capture beautiful photographs of your tea. I love that she shows us similar shots from different cameras, proving that there are a lot of other factors where the difference is made. Her pictures constantly inspire me to do better with my own photography efforts.

[Paris] Yam'TCha

Get ready to start drooling. Tea friend Joo, from Made in Joo, traveled to Paris and visited a most wonderful restaurant that offers a full tea pairing course. This post is a seemingly never-ending stream of gorgeous plats of food paired with traditionally served teas. What a wonderful experience for any tea drinker!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Friday Roundup: November 26th - December 2nd

Holiday entertaining. Tea and food pairings to wow your guests

Wondering how to work tea into your holiday gatherings? She's covered everything from cocktails to dessert. I'm definitely going to have to give some of these ideas a try when I host my family for Christmas Eve dinner.

White Teas from Vietnam

Geoffrey Norman of Lazy Literatus always has a nose for sniffing out unusual teas from interesting origins. Vietnam has a lot of potential as a tea producing region and I loved seeing the pictures that Geoff Hopkins shared.

Oollo Tea's Four Seasons Oolong

Michelle at One More Steep reviews a delicious sounding oolong from Canadian brand Oollo Tea. I just love her photography style and thorough yet straightforward writing. Notes of roasted chestnuts would really hit the spot right now!

Classic Tea Time Christmas Wreath

This week Bonnie at Thirsty for Tea brings us a crafty and creative Christmas wreath. I love the idea of using mini tea tins and tiny teaspoons. I have a ton of things like this from my time working at Teavana so I will definitely be making my own version soon.

They say that great minds think alike and I find that is especially true when it comes to tea blogs. Three of my favorite writers posted holiday gift guides this week.

The Tea Happiness 2017 Gift Guide

Three Gifts for Tea Drinkers

Gifts for the Discerning Tea Lover

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Teabento Jiri Horse - Balhyocha

Country of Origin: South Korea
Leaf Appearance: small, dark, and wiry
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: reddish amber

Teabento names each of the teas they offer after animals and photographs the leaves inside of simple line drawings of their namesake. It's admittedly a bit gimmicky but I love it anyway. Something you might not know about me is that I am a big animal person, especially when it comes to horses. That was definitely why I picked this one first out all of the samples that Teabento generously sent me.

Jiri Horse
Balhyocha is often referred to as a black tea but things are always so cut and dry. Any tea that is oxidized can be called balyhocha. This includes what might be categorized as oolong (depending on your definition) as well as black tea if it were grown elsewhere. Tony Gebely at World of Tea has an excellent article on South Korean Balhyocha and Hwangcha if you'd like to dig into this category further.

This is only the second balhyocha that I've had the opportunity to write about (though there might be a few more in the works). The dry leaves were dark and slightly wiry, kind of a cross between Dancong and Wuyi oolong in appearance. From the very first sip, I was struck by the intense cocoa aroma. There was a lot of natural sweetness with a nutty background that lingered on my palate. That combined with a silky smooth texture made this tea a very enjoyable and memorable cup.

I found it interesting that this tea lacked the kind of maltiness that black teas from other regions will often have. Is it a product of terroir or perhaps the processing technique? I'll definitely need to drink quite a lot more before I get to the bottom of that query. Gongfu is definitely the way to go with this tea. My personal preference is to leaf a bit heavier. Teabento's recommendation of 4g per 120ml makes a good starting point for experimentation though.

Jiri Horse - Balhyocha sample provided for review by Teabento.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Trouble with Tech Startups and Tea

Last year I wrote a bit of a rant about crowdfunding and the issues that it presents the tea world. Not much has changed since then but the recent demise of tech startup Teforia got me thinking about this subject again. Dan Bolton's article on World Tea News provided some great insights into why this happened but there was one glaring issue that I haven't seen discussed. The trouble with tech startups is that they all try to solve a problem that doesn't actually exist!

Tea Robots Aren't Necessary

People have been drinking tea for a very, very long time. There hasn't been much in the way of technological innovation (with the possible exception of variable temperature kettles) since the days of Shennong and Lu Yu. It isn't that the world's tea drinkers are stuck in the stone age but rather one simple fact, making tea is not difficult. Whether you are dunking a Lipton teabag or having a serious gongfu session all you really need is leaves and hot water. If you go grandpa style you don't even need to have a strainer on hand.

I do not want or need a robot to make tea for me. Something tells me that most of you reading this feel the same. A huge part of the allure of drinking tea is the process of actually making it. There is something very relaxing and meditative about watching the leaves unfurl. This is why many of us make the switch from tea bags to loose leaf. Even fruity tutti what-cha-ma-call-it from one of the big chain stores provides the user with an interactive experience. That is something that cannot be replicated by an app or any other piece of modern technology.

The Teforia

A Disconnect from Their Customer Base

I have been writing about tea for nearly a decade and in that time I've seen many entrepreneurs come and go. They were all ambitious and absolutely convinced that their product would be the next big thing. The vast majority were genuinely nice people but I always felt like there was a big disconnect from the intended customer base. Most of them have been brand new to the industry with a background in an unrelated field. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (we all have to start somewhere), it means that they don't actually understand tea drinkers.

I think part of the reason for this is the stereotype of the American tea drinker. We're all sugary iced tea addicts who can't understand anything beyond Lipton teabags (and those are only for when we're sick), right? There are a ton of market research studies that will tell you that's who we are. Robots that dumb down the process might seem like the perfect solution for that kind of consumer but there's a big part of the picture that's missing. Someone who takes tea seriously enough to consider purchasing a high-priced dedicated device already owns several ways to prepare it. For this reason, dedicated tea drinkers just don't see value in something like the Teforia. Is it cool? Sure. Do we need it? Not really. Especially not for more than $1,000.

Venture Capital Supports an Unsound Business Plan

One thing that many of these have in common is that they raise lots of venture capital. What this means is that the owners do not have the funds to make their dream a reality themselves or that they don't want to assume the risk themselves. In many cases, this is because traditional forms of funding, like bank loans, would reject an otherwise unsound business plan.

Teforia raised millions of dollars in several rounds of funding and yet none of the news articles about their closing up have revealed exactly how many units were sold. Judging by the course of events I would bet that it was far under the number that they projected. Media outlets like World Tea News and Fortune compared the company to the also doomed startup Juicero.

Gary Vaynerchuk wrote an article a few years ago on why you shouldn't take VC money and I think it still rings true today. What do you think about all of this? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!