Monday, May 30, 2016

7 Clues You Have a Tea Buying Problem

There comes a time in every tea drinker's life where we must admit that we have a problem. Our friends and family will notice what is going on long before we do. Luckily for us, tea is a healthy indulgence (except for where our wallets are concerned). I thought it might be fun to put together a list of some of the "symptoms" of being a dedicated tea buyer.

1. You could really use a new pair of shoes but your favorite tea vendor is having an awesome sale. 

I've often have friends tell me I'm not a typical girl because I don't buy new shoes or purses very often. What they don't realize is that I'm not super frugal. I just think my money is much better spent on some really good tea!

2. You know you have too much tea but just can't bring yourself to cancel your multiple tea subscriptions.

Global Tea Hut, White2Tea Club, Jalam Teas...all of that tea can really add up but how can we miss out on all of that awesome leaf? I often justify puerh subscriptions by telling myself that the tea is only getting better if I don't get around to drinking it right away.

3. Every year you resolve to organize your tea collection but it just seems to keep multiplying.

We might try our best but tea hoarders are beyond the help of The Container Store, Real Simple Magazine or anyone else who thinks they have this organizing thing down pat. Tea is like tribbles. It multiplies before our eyes!

4. You started out with a single shelf or cabinet but your tea has now taken over other areas of your home.

I find that most of start out with a single shelf or cabinet. We're proud of ourselves for being so organized and neat. That moment of joy is short lived though because a love for tea cannot be contained. The tea collection will inevitably spread to more cabinets, drawers and even other rooms of the house.

5. Your kitchen counter space is taken up mostly by tea gadgets and gizmos.

Between my Breville One-Touch, milk frother and the Sharp Tea-Ceré that I have on loan, my counters is full the max. My Kitchen-aid mixer even got downgraded to the top of the refrigerator!

6. The dictionary on your smart phone has more tea words added to it than you can count.

You've posted on enough message boards and done enough Google searches that the predictive text practically speaks Chinese...and Japanese...and Korean.

7. You have a vast network of tea enablers who share your problem.

Twitter, Instagram, Steepster and Facebook groups are full of tea enablers. We all suffer from the same affliction yet are constantly encouraging each other to accumulate more tea and teaware. I'm looking at you hauls!

As I'm sure you know, this post is all in good fun. I'm a big proponent of not taking ourselves too seriously, even if we are mega-tea nerds. Is there a clue that I missed? Let me know about it in the comments!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Round Up: May 22nd - May 28th

Matcha Tea Ceremony Utensils
+Georgia SS wrote a great post this week about some of the essential tools for preparing matcha. I really love the look of her chawan.

Podcast 030: Sharp Tea-Ceré
+Ricardo Caicedo interviewed the brand rep for Sharp about their super cool matcha machine. I've got one of these babies on loan for about a month and I'll be sharing it with you all soon.

How to Eat a Scone Properly
+Jee Choe settles the great scone debate once and for all. It's funny, I know scones should be eaten with your hands but it always felt a bit improper given the formalities of afternoon tea. I'm a cream first kind of girl too.

Japanese Dark Tea Tasting
+Heather Porter was lucky enough to do a tasting of fermented Japanese teas with Noli of Sugimoto. This is a little explored category but I've definitely seen an increased interest in it among my tea friends.

White 2 Tea Bulang Maocha 2005 Shou
Fine Tea Leaves is a blog I recently found out about through a Reddit post. I've really enjoyed reading their posts and am looking forward to more in the future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

3 Leaf Tea Wild Pu'erh Buds

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, pine cone-like buds
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass gaiwan
Liquor: very pale yellow

Ya Bao is a bit controversial in the tea world these days. There's a raging debate as to whether it is puerh or white tea. Some say it's not even tea at all. My vote is for white tea (due to the way the leaves are processed) but I've heard good evidence for each argument. In this case I'm listing it the way the vendor does, if only for the sake of consistancy. The leaves looked pretty similarly to other teas of this type that I've tried. They always seem to remind me of fuzzy little pine cones. At first sip it seemed like there was nothing there but then a sweet vanilla aftertaste took me by surprise. A few infusions in there was even a hint of spice in the background. The directions for this tea were more western style but I definitely think gongfu'ing it is the way to go. There's really no chance of overdoing it. Towards the end of the session my infusions were over a minute long. That might not seem like very long but it is when you're using a 100ml gaiwan. Ya Bao is one of those teas I don't find myself drinking often but when I do it always seems to hit the spot. This one is comparably priced with Verdant Tea and most of the other ones that I've found on the market. I'd recommend giving it a try if you're curious about Ya Bao.

Wild Pu'erh Buds sample provided for review by 3 Leaf Tea.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Snapchat for Tea Lovers

Social media has always been a huge part of my tea experience and my latest obsession is Snapchat. That's right, it's not just for teenagers! The main purpose of Snapchat is to share live, in the moment pictures and videos. It's a bit more off the cuff and less polished than Instagram. The other major difference is that your posts can only be viewed for 24 hours. A warning: viewers can take screenshots so you should still be careful about posting anything you wouldn't want to have out in the world. Content posted to your story (the Snapchat equivalent of a timeline) is viewable by everyone who follows you but you can also send them to directly to someone rather than posting publicly.

There's some neato features like geofilters and all of those funny faces you see your friends posting on Facebook. To access these all you have to do is press on the screen over your face until you see a white grid briefly appear. After you take a picture get creative by adding text, emoticons or drawing some artwork. One of the coolest things about Snapchat is that your profile picture is actually a QR code that people can use to add you.
Don't forget to add me!
It can be hard to find people to follow at first since Snapchat doesn't have a discovery feature like other social platforms. I recommend downloading an app called Ghostcodes. Add yourself to the directory and search for people who share your interests.

Basic Snapchat Etiquette

-Skip the TMI (Too Much Information). We don't need to see EVERYTHING you do every day.

-Don't send a picture or video directly to someone that you are also sharing publicly to your story.

-Turn off the sound in videos if you are taking them in a very loud place.

-Don't snap and drive. Seriously! I'm always amazed by how many people do this. It's just not safe and probably illegal in most states since you shouldn't be using your phone while driving.

Tea People to Follow

I created an account (teaformeplease) for the blog a while ago but only recently started diving in. I've been mostly using it to share "behind the scenes" stuff that I'm not sharing elsewhere. It'll definitely be a fun way to share my experience at World Tea Expo!

+White2Tea is one of my favorite puerh vendors. They have an eccentric and fascinating Snapchat account. Expect lots of late night sheng sessions, music and insights into sourcing puerh in Yunnan. You might even catch glimpses of the mysterious Two Dog.

Quantitea is a fairly new tea company that specializes in tea flights. I've been living vicariously through the snaps taken on their most recent sourcing trip.

Fellow tea blogger +Georgia SS posts about her tea and foodie adventures. She's spending some time in the D.C. area so it's nice to do some vicarious sightseeing too.

+Jee Choe seems to always be on the go (and finding the yummiest treats along the way). I'm really enjoying getting a peek into the tea sommelier certification classes that she is taking.

+sara shacket is just getting started on Snapchat but I'm really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

I think I may have actually found someone who drinks even more tea than I do. Check out besstic's snaps for lots of tea with a touch of humor.

Are there any tea people that I should be following? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Friday Round Up: May 15th - May 21st

Camellia Flower Pu'erh Cake - Aliexpress
+Kayleigh Jade of Kitty Loves Tea wrote about the infamous "God of Night Sweats" cake. I think I may be one of the last of my tea friends to try this rather dubiously translated cake.

Cody at The Oolong Drunk wrote a great review of a Bing Dao puerh from Bitter Leaf Teas. I love the thoroughness of his posts. I never can get myself to track that much detail but I love reading it on the blogs of others.

A Guy and His Gaiwan
+Geoffrey Norman told the story of his first gaiwan, simultaneously on the new gaiwan service offered by +Smith Teamaker. That gaiwan staking basket is definitely something I think all tea nerds could use!

2016 Fade Sheng Puer from April 2016 White2Tea Club
+Charissa Gascho reviwed a puerh tea that I have definitely had my eye on. It's a brick made out of Huangpian, what is generally considered a less desirable leaf. The material used is high quality though.

Interview w/Emilio of The Jade Leaf [Taiwan Tapes] — TeaDB James InBetweenIsode Episode #82
James at +Tea DB traveled to Taiwan and interviewed Emilio from The Jade Leaf. I am in love with those wooden side handle teapots!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wymm Tea Jingmai Sheng 2013 First Spring

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied greens and browns, compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 degrees
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I was a bit sad to discover that this was the last sheng puerh sample in my "to review" pile from Wymm Tea. Thankfully there is still one last shou left to savor until I'm able to place an order. I know I've mentioned this before (like every time I've written about one of their teas), but I absolutely adore the mulberry paper that their tea is wrapped in. It's just so soft and it smells amazing! This tea hails from Jingmai in Southwestern Yunnan province. It was harvested in 2011 and pressed in 2013. I always like to see both dates listed for puerh tea because they are equally important. The taste was surprisingly floral. There were notes of orchid that I would definitely have only expected from an oolong. A welcome level of astringency tempered the natural sweetness that might have been too cloying otherwise. I did at least 10 consecutive infusions before running out to run some errands. Later that evening I squeezed out a few more so these leaves definitely had a lot to give. This tea is a bit pricey but if I had $300 to blow on a cake of tea, this would definitely be one that I'd buy. I've visited Wymm Tea's website many times before and only just now noticed that there is a music section. How cool is that? To my delight there are four albums with selections ranging from Yunnan folk songs to Chinese classical music.

Jingmai Sheng 2013 First Spring sample provided by Wymm Tea.

Monday, May 16, 2016

5 Things You Should Know About Matcha

1. Matcha can only be produced in Japan.

Matcha can only be made in Japan just as Champagne can only be made in Champagne, France. More specifically, matcha should be made from a shade grown tea known as tencha. In order to meet market demand a ton of "matcha-like" powdered teas are being produced in China and other nearby countries. This is definitely one subject that I get on my soap box about. Would you want to pay Champagne prices for California sparkling wine? Of course not! Inexpensive powdered green tea has its place but it should never be called matcha when it isn't the real thing.

2. Powdered tea originated in China during the Song Dynasty.

Matcha is very much associated with Japan but a lot of tea drinkers don't realize that powdered tea has roots in Chinese history.  At that time tea leaves were pressed into cakes, much in the same way that puerh is. Pieces were broken off, ground into a powder and whipped into a froth. This style of making tea was popularized by the Buddhist monk Eisai when he publushed the book Tea drinking cure 喫茶養生記 in 1214. It eventually involved into the matcha that we all know and love today.

3. It can take up to an hour to grind just 40g of finished tea.

As you can imagine, it takes quite a lot of leaf in order to make just a small amount of matcha powder. Matcha is ground into a very fine powder using stone mills. Other materials will cause too much friction which would negatively affect the taste of the tea. This is part of why you wouldn't get the same results by throwing your leaves into a food processor or spice grinder. Check out the video below from +Aiya America Organic Matcha green tea to see the entire process:

4. Ceremonial grade doesn't mean anything.

Despite what your tea vendor's advertisements might say ceremonial grade is a meaningless term. While it's usually used to imply higher quality, there are no regulations as to the use of the phrase. Ask your supplier if their matcha is endorsed by a tea ceremony school such as Urasenke or Omotesenke. It's also important to learn the differences between high quality and low quality matcha. Color is always a huge indicator. Look for a vibrant, deep green color with a silky smooth feel.

5. Since it's a powder, matcha can easily be added to almost anything!

I love cooking and baking with matcha. It's super easy to add to cookies, cupcakes, pudding and more. Just remember that a little bit goes a long way. Using too much tea in your batter can make for a bitter taste. Matcha is also a great addition to smoothies and shakes. I even mix into my orange juice! In Japan they have everything from matcha noodles to green tea Kit Kat's.

Is there something that should be on this list? Let me know in the comments!

Header image - "Matcha" by yakubovich is licensed under Creative Commons BY 2.0