Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday Round Up: February 12th and February 18th

My tasting notes: Indonesian rolled black tea
+Anna Mariani's pairing of this Indonesian black tea with homemade olive oil challah bread and olive oil passion fruit curd sounds absolutely delicious. She got to share lunch with Melanie Halim of Harnedong Organic Tea Estate too!

Going Back to Bitaco...with Video
+Geoffrey Norman is doing a sequel month on his blog, revisiting some of his favorite gardens. He had so much to say about this Colombian grown tea that there was no choice to make wonderfully rambling videos of his thoughts.

Tea & Oranges
+Linda Gaylard drew some inspiration from Leonard Cohen's Suzanne. She paired four different teas with four different kind of oranges. The photography she took of her experience is impeccable as always.

White2Tea - Long Jing (February 2017 club)
Microshrimp's blog is one that I've always enjoyed but it's fallen a bit silent lately. It's nice to see something new pop up in my feed again this week. +White2Tea is usually known for their puerh so this post really made me sit up and take notice.

2016 Midas Touch Sheng Puer from Crimson Lotus Tea
+Charissa Gascho, otherwise known as Oolong Owl, reviewed a tea that's been on my wishlist for a while now. I don't think I've ever seen puerh compared to drinking pepto bismal. But now I want to experience it for myself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Eco-Cha Four Seasons Spring Oolong Tea

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale green gold

Whenever I get asked for Taiwanese oolong vendor recommendations, +Eco-Cha Artisan Teas is one of my immediate go-to. I've been writing about and enjoying their teas for close to five years now. Andy and Nick have both been contributors on the blog as well as inside the pages of Tea for Me Please Quarterly. Trust me when I say that these guys really know their stuff.

Four Seasons is produced from the Si Ji Chun variety, which is so named because of its ability to be harvested four times a year. I find that it often gets written off when compared to sexier high mountain teas like Dong Ding but Four Seasons is still one of my favorite oolongs. As Eco-Cha explains on their website, this particular tea is actually only harvested three times a year. The tea garden where it was sourced is a prototype for sustainable tea farming.

The taste was intensely floral with notes of orchid and a noticeably viscous mouthfeel. Later infusions transitioned to more fruity aromas with a refreshingly vegetal finish. Crisp pear and sweet apples were what came to mind as I sipped. The leaves of this tea were handpicked and it shows in the end product. I couldn't help but marvel at the whole bud sets that I pulled from my gaiwan. It performed equally well in porcelain as it did in a thicker walled yixing. This tea is almost sold out so make sure to get your hands on it soon!

Four Seasons Spring Oolong Tea sample provided by Eco-Cha.




Monday, February 13, 2017

Guide to Tea Blogging: Ethics, Reviews, and Sampling


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!