Sunday, March 31, 2013

Handmade Tea Orange Peppercorn Breakfast

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka and India
Leaf Appearance: small and dark, colorful peppercorns
Ingredients: Ceylon, Assam, peppercorns (black, white, green and pink) and burnt orange peel
Steep time: 5 miniutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

Every month I look forward to my +Handmade Tea shipment because I know there will always be something unexpected. March's blend brought orange peels that have been burned with a Crème brûlée torch. Each shipment includes a mini tin of the ingredients and I definitely found myself lingering on the orange peels. They smelled amazing! The base teas were rich and earthy with a mild astringency but not overly complex. They provided a perfect platform for the spicy kick of the peppercorns. I've never seen a tea that I used four different kinds before. Pink peppercorns are common, but they are often used for decoration and don't really contribute much to the taste. All of these strong flavors came together to make what could only be described as a super charged Earl Grey. I enjoyed this blend a lot and it will be a great wake up tea to keep at the office.

You can find out more about this tea subscription service here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Green of London

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, very strong citrus aroma
Ingredients: green tea, bergamot natural flavoring, blue mallow, cornflower
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

The Earl and I don't always get a long but I'm a big fan of Le Palais des Thés so I decided to give this blend a whirl. I was a little worried that it might be too citrusy because I was blasted with a big burst of bergamot when I first opened the bag. I was happy to find that the flavoring was strong but it worked well with the vegetal and sweet green tea. It wasn't bitter or astringent at all. I think a big part of that is that the base tea is a Mao Feng. Flavored teas aren't normally made with such high quality leaves but it really made a difference for me. I tend to find bergamot irritatingly acidic but it's citrus bite seemed to pair much better with green tea than the traditional tannic black tea. I wouldn't mind indulging in this blend again and I will definitely be trying it iced once the warmer weather gets here.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cha Dragon Phoenix Pearls

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: green tea, jasmine flowers
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: gold

The dry pearls of this tea had a fantastic jasmine aroma. I thought that this was a pleasant but fairly typical jasmine pearl tea. It was sweetly floral and vegetal with just a tough of astringency. One of the pearls in my pot was actually a whole jasmine blossom. That is not often seen and I thought it was a nice touch. Watching pearl teas unfurl is always a nice experience and this one was no different. Once unfurled, I could see that the leaves were mostly whole buds and appeared to be of rather high quality. This particular tea won a three star Great Taste Gold Award in 2011. This is the second tea that I've tried from Chah and I have enjoyed them both very much. They are based in the UK but they are able to ship to the U.S., Canada and many other countries around the world.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wild Tea Qi Yi Tribal Coins Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very dark brown

I'm a big fan of portable puerh like this coin from Wild Tea Qi. The fact that they are individual wrapped makes it easy to take anywhere and it takes the guess work out of portion sizes. The coin was tightly compressed but it broke apart completely during the second infusion. The taste was mellow, woodsy and sweet. There was a definite earthiness but it wasn't quite the forest floor or barnyard experience that some teas can give. The mouth-feel was thick yet smooth and there was no astringency. Although it didn't taste exactly like it, maple syrup kept popping into my head as I sipped. I did consecutive five infusions but the leaves definitely could have kept going for more. This would be a great tea for those who are looking to dip their toe into the intimidating world of puerh. I've become a big fan of Wild Tea Qi recently because they offer some unique products and their teas are ethically sourced.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Raming Pandan Herbal Tea

Country of Origin: Thailand
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green and brown
Ingredients: Padan leaves
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep gold

A coworker traveled to Thailand and brought back an herbal tea for me called Pandan. According to the manufacturer's website: Pandan helps the heart, relieves thirst, moisturizes your body, emits urination and alleviates disease which is believed to be the cause of general debility, diabetes and heart disease. The taste was fairly mellow. It was reminiscent of green tea but more on the herbaceous side than the vegetal. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered long after each sip. While not bad, it isn't a tea that I would seek out on my own. I general don't like herbal teas very much so I was not surprised by that. I am glad I tried it though because if I ever get around to visiting Thailand, I'll know what to expect when offered a cup of Padan tea.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Teavivre Lapsang Souchong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat curled
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 15 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark amber

I've spoken with many tea lovers who detest Lapsang Souchong and most of them give the reason that it tastes like an ash tray. While I find this to be very true of lower quality teas, a good quality lapsang is actually quite the enjoyable treat. This rendition from Teavivre was a great example of that. It was earthy and sweet with a lingering smokiness. It came across more like smoked bacon than campfire, which is pretty delicious if I do say so myself. There was no astringency and the mouth-feel was very smooth. Although very aromatic, it wasn't offensive or overdone. I did three infusions in a gaiwan using their recommended steep times of 15s, 25s and 40s but their instructions indicate that you can get at least seven. I tend to prepare all lapsang souchong this way because even the good quality ones are stinky and the smokiness was seep into plastic and any non-movable parts.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

New York Coffee and Tea Festival 2013

The New York Coffee and Tea Festival is an event that I look forward to every year and this one was no different. Usually I'm only able to attend one of the festival days but I was able to go to both and had a very tea filled weekend. The venue was different this year and the higher ceilings helped make things feel a bit less cramped. It was still extremely crowded, perhaps a little too much so. This an event that sells out every year but the crowds can make it hard to even get to some of the booths.


I was happy to see that there was a larger number of tea vendors represented. Compared to previous years, I felt that most of them focused on quality loose leaf tea. Events like this always have unrelated booths that don't really seem to fit (like energy companys, ING and The New York Times). I'd much rather see those spaces filled by actually tea or coffee vendors.

This event served as a launch for several companies, including The Tea Lover's Archives. I spent a while browsing the lovely teaware that Darlene had for sale but ultimately resisted as I really don't have any more shelf space. Jo from A Gift of Tea was offering some of my favorite iHeartTeas products so I had to grab some Matcha Mint Julep Lip Balm.

One new company that I was very excited to see was Everlasting Teas. This father and son team offers farm direct Taiwanese teas. Rather than handing out tons of meaningless cups as many booths did, they opted to do tastings for just a few people at a time. I really enjoyed this approach because they were able to talk about each of the teas and explain where they were sourced. They had a package deal that included tea and a white gaiwan for $20 so I picked up a canister of High Mountain Jin Xuan.

Michelle Brody and her Reflections in Tea installation are a frequent fixture at local tea events. I did not get a chance to stop by this time but it seemed that her traveling tea house was a corner of respite for many people.


There were two vendors that will be opening stores in NYC shortly. Press Tea let me take a picture with their giant teaspoon. I thoroughly enjoyed the iced tea and earl grey marshmallows that I tried at their booth.

Chinese tea specialist tea-drunk will be opening a shop in the East Village. They were running tastings at their booth every hour. The one that I attended featured a delicate green tea, white peony and a raw puerh.




Bingley's Teas was there with their line of teas that were inspired by the characters of Jane Austen novels. Their "loose woman" (referring to loose leaf tea of course) sign was a pretty big hit. I sampled the Miss Lucy Steele blend and enjoyed it very much.

Chai Diaries shared some seriously delicious chai granola. The two woman behind the company had a great story and were incredibly enthusiastic. I came home a pack of their peach flavored flowering tea.

Mixing alcohol and tea was also very popular. Capital Teas came up with the novel idea of cold steeping tea in beer. I'm more of a Guinness girl and I don't really like Stella Artois but it was pretty tasty with some earl grey steeped in it.

I've been following The Tealogist on Tumblr for a while so I was excited to visit their booth. They will soon be launching Owl's Brew, a line of teas crafted for cocktails. I had the coconut chai mixed with Captain Morgan and it was delicious.

One of the things I love about tea events is getting to speak with people like John and Mike Harney. They are truly some of the nicest people you've ever met and their passion for tea must be genetic.

Events are also a great chance to catch up with friends that don't live nearby. Alexis from Teaspoons & Petals, Mario from Mario Travels and Effie from International Tea Review are among those that I was happy to see.


Haiyan Grzelak's Chinese tea ceremony was beautiful as always. I've seen her perform at World Tea East and her enthusiasm is contagious.





Photographer Jon Gurinsky captured some great video of the festival.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bellocq White Wolf

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: woodsy, varied shades of green
Ingredients: organic white tea, cedar, vanilla. star anise and mint
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: bright gold

When I visited Bellocq's Brooklyn shop, I felt like I was walking into an enchanted forest. This blend made me feel the exact same way. It was woodsy and earthy with notes of spice and mint. An underlying creaminess tied it all together. The base white tea was floral and sweet with no astringency. I've never seen cedar used in tea before but it was a welcome addition to the flavor palate. The ingredients of this blend are not ones that I would have ever put together on my own but they work amazingly well. Everything is very balanced and while flavorful, still mellow and not as "in your face" as other blends might be. This definitely a tea that I can see myself stocking back up the next time I visit. I'm going to have to try it iced once the weather is on my side.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tealet Houjicha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: dark brown, stemmy
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: amber

Although the leaves are brown in color, this is a green tea that is made from the leaves that are harvested in the summer and into the fall. They are then roasted to enhance the flavor. This tea was sweet, toasty and oh, so comforting. There were notes of smokiness and even a hint of a seaweed. I always forget how much I enjoy houjicha but it makes a great winter tea. My second infusion was just as delicious but I don't think I would have been able to squeeze out much more than that. There were some leaves left in my sample packet so I threw them in a water bottle to cold brew. It was so refreshing, I think I might have even enjoyed it more that way! The farmer who produced this tea, Akihiro Kita, seems like a real character if the video on his profile is any indication. I love that Tealet has a video discussing each of their teas. It makes the tea buying and drinking process more personal. I've included the one about this houjicha below.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Darjeeling TeaXpress 2012 Darjeeling Second Flush Sungma Musk Supreme Black Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and somewhat curled with a few golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep amber

The threat of a snow storm had me holed up at home and what else is there to do at such a time but make a pot of Darjeeling? This particular tea hit the spot. It was hearty and brisk with notes of chocolate and spice. I can certainly see where the musk part of this tea's name comes from because there was an earthy floral quality. The finish was dry and slightly astringent but no unpleasantly so. My second infusion was much softer than the first but the signature muscatel flavor became more apparent. Although the two infusions were very different from each other, they offered the best of both worlds. As much as I love all tea, I have a major weak spot for Darjeeling. This is the second tea that I've tried from this company and so far I have been very impressed. They seem to really know their stuff.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Legends of The Leaf: Dragonwell

Dragonwell, also known as Longjing, is one of my favorite types of green tea. There several legends that surround this famous tea. In a city by the same name, there is a well that was said to be inhabited by a dragon. The local people would pray to it for rain when there is a drought. I have heard from several people who have visited the well that after rain, the lighter rainwater floats on top of the dense well water creating a rippling effect. It is this curious phenomenon that is often attributed as the source of the legend.

 Another story tells of Emperor Qianlong visiting a temple and watching the ladies picking tea. He enjoyed it so much that he decided to give it a try. While he was picking the tea he received a message that his mother was ill and that she wished for him to return home. In his haste to leave he shoved the leaves into his sleeve. When the Emperor visited his mother, she noticed the smell of the leaves and he had it brewed for her. It is said that the distinctive flat shape of Longjing is designed to mimic those leaves.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Fleur de Geisha (Gourmet Tea Bag)

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: small, varied shades of green
Ingredients: sencha flavored with cherry blossom
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: gold

This tea was packaged in one of Le Palais des Thés' beautiful muslin teabags. I always feel guilty throwing them away because they look so handmade. The flavoring was delicately floral and sweet but notes of cherry became stronger as it cooled. Underneath it all, the vegetal and somewhat nutty sencha still shined through. It had a soft mouth-feel and there was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. Some "sakura" type teas are too heavy on the cherry flavoring but this one was very nicely balanced. I think that it would make an amazing iced tea. I'll definitely try it once the warmer weather gets here. I think I'll be picking up loose leaf though since they sell it in a really pretty washi paper tin :)

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Podcast Episode 1: Interview with Rachel from iHeartTeas

I am beyond excited to announce the launch of my podcast! There a few kinks to work out and I'll need to get a few more episodes under my belt before iTunes will add it to their store. If you click on the new Podcast tab, you'll be able to see a list of all of the episodes as well as how to subscribe using the RSS feed. My first episode features an interview with Rachel of +iHeartTeas. I'm glad that I did my first one with someone I already knew well because I was very nervous. Practice makes perfect and I am going to work on a lot of things (like remembering to put my phone on silent next time). Please let me know if you have any questions about tea that I can answer in a podcast or if there is anything that you would like to see on a future episode.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Persimmon Tree Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, somewhat flat and needle-like
Ingredients: organic green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: pale gold

Last year I really enjoyed The Persimmon Tree's Chocolate Banana so I was looking forward to trying some of their unflavored teas. First up to bat was this sencha. I brewed it in a small ceramic teapot with a built in metal sieve. This worked well because it caught all of the small leaf particles. The taste was sweet and vegetal with a clean, somewhat dry finish. Although there were definite grassy notes they were not as strong as I might have expected. There was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. My second infusion was not lacking in flavor at all but that is probably as much tea as I would be able to get unless I was using a gaiwan. I found this to be on the mellow end of the sencha spectrum, making it perfect for newbies that are testing the waters of Japanese green teas. At just $8.99 for 2oz, it would also make an economical daily drinker. I'll be reviewing a black tea, oolong and white tea from this company soon so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Tea

Today being St. Patrick’s Day, I could not resist sharing a bit about my roots. Both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family hail from the Emerald Isle; specifically Dublin, Ballinah and Corbalah. They survived the potato famine and a host of other difficulties before finally emigrating to America in the 1920’s. One thing that we often hear about the Irish is that they drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world. I don’t believe that there is actually scientific proof of this but I suppose that could be where I get the bug from. Although they prefer tea bags (still working on that!), nearly all of my family members are regular tea drinkers.

The Irish prefer a stronger tea than the English so if you are looking for a cup with a punch, look no further than an Irish Breakfast tea. Aromatic with plenty of astringency, they are usually blends of several different black teas but Assam is a very common component. Tea is taken with milk and sugar in Ireland and even I will add these when drinking such a strong tea. I don’t sip them often but when I do, it brings to mind my ancestors and the stories that I’ve heard about them. Sadly, none of them involve tea but they are treasured all the same. I can’t give you my recipe but I will tell you that nothing goes with a cup of Irish Breakfast quite like soda bread. It has a reputation for being dry but the best recipes are deliciously moist (hint: look for sour cream in the ingredient list).

The other day I came across the quote that I think perfectly sums up the Irish people and their love of tea.

In Ireland, you go to someone's house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you're really just fine. She asks if you're sure. You say of course you're sure, really, you don't need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don't need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn't mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it's no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting. In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don't get any damned tea. I liked the Irish way better. 
― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

While we are on the subject of the Irish and tea, Jen over at International Tea Moment put together a wonderful menu for an Irish tea party. I am dying to try the Irish herb scones recipe that she included.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bellocq Tai Ping Hou Kui

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: extremely broad and flat
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

I have been utterly fascinated with this tea and I was unable to resist the urge when I finally visited this Brooklyn tea shop. The leaves are broad and flat, like a super sized Dragonwell. It was unlike anything that I had ever seen. According to Bellocq's website, it is flattened by being pressed between mesh with a roller during a low fire baking process. On many of the leaves I was actually able to see the pattern left behind by the mesh. How cool is that? The owner of Bellocq's description of this tea was spot on. He told me that while steeping it smells like a pile of leaves before you jump into it and that it tastes like butternut squash. I don't really think that I could sum up this tea any better than that. It was incredibly sweet and fresh tasting without being overtly vegetal. There was just a hint of smoke and although the finish was somewhat dry, there was no bitterness. My second infusion was just as delicious. I have a feeling that I will be going through my small stash of this tea very quickly.

You can find out more about this tea here.
If you look closely, you can see the texture left by the mesh
Look at those gorgeous long leaves

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kiva for Tea

I'm starting a new project that I'm really excited about and I hope that you will join me. First, let me explain what Kiva does. They are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. Leveraging the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions, Kiva lets individuals lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world.

As tea drinkers, I believe that we have a social responsibility to help those who work hard to produce our tea in any way that we can. Through Kiva, I've been able to make loans to two Kenyan tea farmers. If you sign up using this link, you'll get a $25 bonus just for signing up. I'll also get a bonus that I can then use to lend to another person in need. Imagine all of the good that we could do together. Please join my Kiva team and spread the word!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Art of Tea White Coconut Creme

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: similar to white peony with bright petals
Ingredients: organic white tea, organic safflower, organic coconut, natural flavors
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

I was excited as soon as I poured the water over these leaves because the smell was intoxicating. My family even took notice and they very rarely notice by teas unless the odor is offensive. I was happy to find that the taste did not disappoint. Imagine how you'd feel after eating just a spoonful of vanilla buttercream frosting and that is exactly the impression that this tea left. It was sweet and decadent yet subtle. I was still able to taste the floral notes of the white peony but the coconut and cream were definitely the stars of the show. This would be a perfect dessert tea to stave off your sweet tooth. Art of Teas flavored blends are very well put together and this one was no exception. I've been very impressed with all of the teas that I have tried from them.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Three Years of Wandering in the Northern Provinces of China by Robert Fortune

Ever since I read Sara Rose's book, For All the Tea In China, I have been meaning to read the writings of Robert Fortune. I spotted this copy in the Kindle store on Amazon for $2.99 so I finally got around to downloading it. The first half of the book was mainly botany nerd filled descriptions of the fauna that he discovered in China. I still found it a decent, if somewhat dry read but not everyone will feel the same. At about the halfway point there was plenty of discussion on tea growing and processing. This book was written before Robert Fortune's infamous industrial espionage trip to China. It gives a good context for his relationship with the Chinese people and how he viewed them.

Fortune made it a point to explain how much adulterating occurred with exported teas. The idea of drinking tea coated in Prussian blue is beyond comprehension. I, for one, am very glad that this practice is no longer needed or accepted. The edition was riddled with typos as many older digital texts are. However, by the end of the book I found that these were no longer a hindrance as I had started to remember what each typo actually meant. Fortunes other published work, A Journey to the Tea Countries of China, is definitely on my wish list for future reading. I've added this book to my tea book list on Good Reads. Feel free to vote for your own favorite books!

You can find out more about this book here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Adagio Teas Masters Collection: Anhui Keemun

Photo: Adagio Teas
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with some golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh strainer and ceramic teacup
Liquor: dark reddish brown

I love Chinese black teas and Keemun is one of my favorite varieties. This one was a great example. I loved the smoky smell of the dry leaves. The taste was complex and earthy with notes of cocoa and pepper along with a mild wine-like fruitiness. The aftertaste was all brown sugar and molasses. The mouth-feel was very thick and buttery. There was also a slightly baked taste that reminded me of fresh bread. While there was some astringency, it wasn't offensive at all. I also tried this tea in the pyramid bag and it was just as tasty. I've been very impressed by the Masters Collection from Adagio. While the price point is higher, so is the quality and I think it is worth the extra splurge.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Where's the tea love New Jersey?

I proudly call the state of New Jersey home. It’s the land of Bon Jovi, Springsteen and 24 hour diners. Much to my chagrin, the one thing that we do not have a lot of is tea. I live a short train ride from NYC and the difference in tea cultures is astounding. The Big Apple is experiencing a veritable tea renaissance, unlike anything that I have seen. The two places are very different but I’m still left wondering, where’s the tea love New Jersey? The closest local tea purveyors to me that do not require a Hudson River crossing are a bubble tea place and a coffee shop with a collection of dusty, stale tea in glass jars. Finding good tea is next to impossible, especially without a means of travel beyond NJ Transit.

For years, Whole Foods and Wegmans were the only places where I was able to purchase halfway decent tea. Can you believe that I’ve only ever eaten at two restaurants in New Jersey that served loose leaf? I am surrounded by decadent Italian eateries and yet when I ask for tea, I’m brought a piping hot carafe of water and their very best Lipton tea bags. I’ve taken to carrying loose leaf sachets in my purse at all times. Even our local Asian restaurants serve tea bag made green tea. While I’m weekend brunching at my favorite local spot, I can’t help but wish and dream of a Harney & Son’s SoHo style cafe where I can sip a good cup of tea and nibble on a scone or two.

There have been two outstanding tea establishments that I watched slowly fail and eventually close, Janam in Jersey City and Cha Ma Gu Dao in Montclair. I believe that both businesses were before their time and perhaps a little too niche. Janam specialized in Indian teas and if at all possible, they were too geeky before tea became the new coffee. Cha Ma Gu Dao was a serene and somewhat austere Chinese tea specialist whose business model made the Starbucks crowd uncomfortable. They actually had Yelp reviews complaining that there was no music playing!

Is the Garden State too unrefined to support a high end tea retailer? No, I very much believe that tea can succeed here. We don’t need the pushy sales tactics of the usual shopping mall retailer and we don’t need snobbery. What we need is a place that can present tea in a fun, approachable way. I don’t have the resources or time to be that tea savior but I’m writing this in the hopes that I can plant a seed in the mind of someone else who does.

Do you have a favorite tea place in New Jersey? Perhaps there is a hidden gem I have yet to uncover. Let me know about it in the comments!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Peony Tea Shop Golden Cassia

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I love when I find a tea that is so amazing that I have to struggle to describe it. That is exactly what happened with this tea. The dry leaves had a fantastic smell to them and I found myself nose deep in the sample bag. Even after steeping it was incredibly aromatic with strong and sweet floral notes. The mouth-feel was smooth and buttery. With each infusion, a pleasant vegetal aspect became more pronounced. It almost reminded me of fresh baby spinach. The leaves unfurled quickly but maintained their flavor through four consecutive steeps. They were large in size and had a beautiful dark green color to them. I've really enjoyed all of the teas that I've sampled from Peony Tea Shop but I think that this one would have to be my favorite. I'll be needing to restock on oolong to brew in my yixing tumbler soon and this one may just be it.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tealet Japanese Black Tea

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with some stems
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: clay teapot (glazed)
Liquor: dark amber

This was a very interesting tea for me because black teas from Japan are rarely seen. The taste was mellow, earthy and sweet. There were notes of chocolate and nuts with a lingering aftertaste. There was just enough astringency to make it refreshing but it was fairly gentle for a black tea. This would be a perfect tea for those that don't normally enjoy black tea since it is sweet and not very tannic. If you plan to re-steep your leaves, I would up the steep time a bit as my second go was on the weak side. I love that Tealet gives background information on their tea farmers. Osamu, the grower of this tea, began working at the Obubu Tea Plantations before starting his own independent farm three years ago. Tealet's founder Elyse tells more about this tea in the video below.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Le Palais des Thés Grand Cru Dong Ding

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I have an yixing teapot that is dedicated to Dong Ding oolong. The name translates to cold summit or icy peak, which refers to the mountain by the same name where it is grown. Unfortunately it's been neglected as I ran out of this wonderful Taiwanese tea some time ago. I couldn't resist picking up some when I visited Le Palais des Thés shop in SoHo. This part of their Grand Cru line of high end teas. I made this in my gaiwan the first time around so that the clay of my pot wouldn't affect the taste. It was full of orchid aroma and sweet floral taste with a subtle vegetable note. There was no astringency and the aftertaste lingered long after each sip. One of the things I love about Dong Ding is that it is a marathon tea. I did five consecutive infusions and probably could have gone for more if bladder had been capable of holding that much tea. A second session with my yixing produced a deeper and rounder version of the tea. They both have their merits but I think that I prefer the yixing version. Keeping in mind that I have not used this pot in well over a year, it becomes obvious how much of a difference a dedicated yixing can make.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Darjeeling TeaXpress 2012 Darjeeling Autumn Flush Gippadahar Black Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark with a decent amount of golden tips, somewhat twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: deep amber

Despite my love affair with Darjeeling, I had never actually had the opportunity to try an autumnal flush until now. The dry leaves had a wonderful baked quality to them. I confess that I was caught with my nose in the sample bag more than once. What have been missing out on? This tea was full flavored and complex with notes of citrus, chocolate and spice. Although it was brisk, there was no bitterness and the sweet finish lingered long after each sip. I don't often have time to resteep my leaves (sad fact, I know) but I couldn't resist making more of this tea. The second infusion was lighter but equally delicious. Even though it would probably stand up to milk and sugar, I think it would be a travesty to do so. I loved this tea so much that it now joins the "Favorite Teas" club on Pinterest.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Aiya Tea Organic Sencha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: greenish yellow

Nothing beats a good sencha on a chilly day. The dry leaves were like a breath of fresh air reminding me that spring is just around the corner (hopefully!). It was classically vegetal and grassy with nutty notes. The aftertaste was sweet and lingered in my palate long after each sip. The finish had a light, brisk astringency but there was no bitterness. My second infusion was just as delicious. Pesticides are a big concern for me, particularly because they are used quite heavily in Japan. The fact that this tea is certified organic gives me peace of mind. I have been thoroughly impressed with everything that I've tried from Aiya Tea so far. They truly are Japanese tea specialists and have become my go to when I need a green tea fix. Make sure that you check out their blog for some delicious recipes using matcha.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Monday, March 4, 2013

A Tea Bloggers Worth

My friend Jo, author of Scandalous Tea, recently wrote about a bloggers worth and it got me thinking about my own thoughts on the subject. The tea industry is in a very interesting place right now. The world is waking up to all of the possibilities that are out there beyond your everyday teabag. Bloggers and the online tea community in general are having more and more influence over the way tea is bought and sold. That being said, there have been discussions in some LinkedIn groups where retailers have expressed frustration and hesitation when it comes to be bloggers.

I believe that the bulk of the problem is this, the internet allows anyone and everyone to call themselves a tea blogger. There are bloggers who passionately pursue our love of the leaf. Even if I never received another sample, my blog and journey with tea would continue on as it always has. However, there are those who start a blog simply because they want free product. They solicit and hound retailers, demanding samples and providing reviews that do not benefit the retailer in any way. I have seen far too many blog posts with a bad review because the tea was prepared incorrectly. Bloggers, please do your research! If you don't know something, find out before making both yourself and the company who generously provided the sample look bad.

Unscrupulously greedy bloggers give the good ones a bad name and make many retailers avoid us all together. I have never once begged or solicited for samples yet I usually have more samples than I know what to do with. My blog is not the best one out there, not by a long shot, but if you write good content companies will contact you. If bloggers are ever going to gain the respect of the tea industry and its retailers, we need to stop giving them reasons to not trust us.

On the flip side of this, retailers need to recognize that there are good bloggers out there. It's not that hard to discern the difference. I've seen the way that some companies will look at bloggers at events such as World Tea East. They more than likely had a bad experience and have decided that we are not worth their time. Please don't lump us all together! I've heard from enough retailers about how much my reviews have helped them to know that things don't have to be that way.

Wow, this post turned into a bit more of ramble than I was expecting! I'd love to hear others thoughts on this subject. Whether you are a blogger, retailer or just a lover of tea; let me know what you think.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tea Tech: Teaity

For almost as long as I've been blogging about tea I've struggled with finding a tea timer to use on my phone. The cool apps were always available for iPhone's while I was left in the dust, first on my Blackberry and now on my Droid Razor M. The timers available in the Google Play store never really cut the mustard for me but I made due with the Teavana app. That is, until I found Teaity.

It is a web based timer so it works both on my computer and on my phone. That makes it convenient and easy to use whether I am sitting on the couch at home, at my desk at work or if I'm on the go. The home page offers generic timers for each type of tea but the times are easily altered to your needs with a simple click. They also have a growing database of teas so that I can search for the specific tea that I am steeping. I think that Teaity will have some really exciting things in store for the tea community in the future and I can't wait to see where they go with it.

You can find out more about Teaity here.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Talbot Teas Luscious Lemon Meringue

Country of Origin: South Africa
Leaf Appearance: reddish brown, twiggy and needle-like
Ingredients: rooibos, lemongrass, calendula petals, natural lemon and vanilla flavors
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: deep reddish brown

A sample of this tea was included with one of my Tea Magazine deliveries and I completely forgot about it until now. I'm usually not one for rooibos but it was late at night and I wanted to avoid caffeine so close to bed time. This herbal blend certainly lived up to its luscious name. It was incredibly creamy and sweet, a perfect desert tea. The vanilla did not mask the rooibos base and I still able to detect its signature woodsy taste. I thought that Talbot Teas hit the flavoring nail on the head with this one, not too much and not too little. I actually found myself a little disappointed when my cup was empty. This was the first offering that I've tried from Talbot's Teas. I have been meaning to check them out ever since I saw their presentation on Shark Tank and I am very glad that I did.

You can find out more about this tea here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Teavivre Black Dragon Pearl

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly rolled balls
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

I was really excited to try this because it is unusual to see a pearl tea made with black tea, especially one that is not jasmine scented. Teavivre made it easy to prepare because they gave a count of how many pearls are needed rather than the standard teaspoon measurement. It took them a while to unfurl and they were fairly large in size. The taste was mellow for a black tea. Even if I had not know from the description, it was obvious that this tea was from Yunnan. There were malty notes along with hints of chocolate and a sweet finish. There was no bitterness and the mouth-feel was very smooth. I did three infusions but the leaves definitely had a lot more left to give. After a few infusions, I was amazed at how large the leaves are. I found several complete bud sets, stems and all. It takes a lot skill to get those leaves into such uniform pearls. This was another great tea from Teavivre. I've really enjoyed their selections as well as the wealth of information they provide about each one of their teas.

You can find out more about this tea here.