Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Handmade Tea Maia Lemoniou

Country of Origin: India and Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: dark, varied shapes
Ingredients: Assam, Ceylon, glazed lemon peel
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark reddish brown

As you can all tell, I'm terribly behind on tea reviews. Life just seems to get in the way sometimes. This blend was the May shipment from +Handmade Tea. What I love most about their teas is that they are truly blends, no additional flavoring beyond the basic ingredients. This one is made up a 50/50 blend of Assam and Ceylon along with some glazed lemon peel. The taste was bold yet mellow with just the right amount of astringency. The lemon was very subtle but that's the way that I like it. It wasn't very sweet, just a hint of citrus zing. It became a bit more pronounced when prepared as an iced tea. The base black teas had peppery and malty notes that meshed really well. If you love having something new to look forward to in your mailbox every month, I cannot recommend their service enough. +Caleb Brown is a flavor combo master and I've definitely been blown away by his creations more than a few times.

Find out more about Handmade Tea here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

On The Daily Tea: A Beginner's Guide to White Tea

Continuing my series on +The Daily Tea, this week I shared a basic introduction to white tea and a few different ways to prepare it. "Grandpa Style" is still probably my favorite way to brew it. Do you have a favorite white tea? Let me know in the comments! Then go check the article out here:

A Beginner's Guide to White Tea

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Round Up - September 21st through September 27th

Need to Know (Sept. 22, 2014)
Tea Biz is my go to source for the latest industry news. Dan Bolton reports from the North American Tea Conference and shares news about an exciting new venture for tea friend +Tony Gebely.

Tea and Wine: A Comparison
+Ricardo Caicedo does a great job of explaining the similarities between tea and wine. Having worked at a wine store in the past, I can tell you that he is right on the money. I never became very interested in wine though because tea offers a much better bang for your buck :)

Spotlight: Dona Chai
+sara shacket of Tea Happiness recently brought to my attention a brand of chai concentrate that I had not known about before. I'm a big fan of homemade lattes so I may have to pick some up.

Record Price: Makaibari
+Rajiv Lochan penned a thoughtful post on T Ching about a recent news story. Makaibari estate made headlines when one of their teas sold for a record price of $1,850 per kilo.

Are robots more likely to have good shoes or to drink good tea?
+Xavier Lugherini over at Teaconomics always gets me thinking. He sums it up best when he says "drink tea but don’t expect wonders apart from the taste and the experience". I couldn't agree more!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Silk Road Teas White Peony

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, grey and brown
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Steeper
Liquor: deep gold

There are some white teas that are so spectacular that you find yourself hoarding them away for special occasions. There are others that are more of your every day drinkers. This was one of those teas. Now, it's important to note that I don't mean that this is a bad thing. The taste was pleasantly light and sweet with notes honey and florals. While not overly complex, I also picked up hints of melon in the lingering aftertaste. Their tasting notes mentioned a grapiness that somehow escaped me. It never got bitter, even when oversteeped. At $13.50 for 4oz this one won't break the bank on you either. On the second infusion I noticed a bit of smokiness. That seemed a bit strange for a white tea but this one was heat dried so that may explain it.

White Peony sample provided by Silk Road Teas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Tea Spot Clouds & Mist Sachets

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup
Liquor: brassy gold

The Tea Spot puts out a very decent line of loose leaf teas and they have just recently released sachet versions. Like most of you, I prefer loose leaf but when traveling or on the go the convenience factor of a tea bag often wins out. I couldn't help but be impressed by this one. They were filled with a generous amount of deep green leaves that were mostly whole. The taste was fresh, light and vegetal. Notes of citrus and a bit of nuttiness added a nice complexity. A few sips in I even started to pick up a bit of buttery creaminess. There was no bitterness and very little astringency. This tea is certified organic by the USDA. While the systems for certification aren't perfect, they are the closest we can get to peace of mind.

Clouds & Mist Sachets provided by The Tea Spot.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What is Terroir?

Terroir is a term that we often hear bandied about in the wine world but it also applies to our beloved leaf. As we already know, all tea is produced from the Camellia Sinensis. The processing determines what type it becomes. Terroir is another major factor. If you took the same plants and planted them in two different regions, the final teas would not taste the same even if they were processed the exact same way. Here's why:

The textbook definitely of climate is the weather conditions prevailing in an area over time. The temperatures, levels of rainfall and cloud cover are very different in Assam than they are in the islands of Japan. Weather heavily influences when the "first flush" will be. Global warming is increasingly making the start of harvest seasons unpredictable. Droughts will also affect the taste of the tea. It also dramatically reduces production levels.

The tea plant has a deep tap root. Minerals in the soil and even surrounding plants will all influence the taste of the leaves. Wuyi Mountain oolongs have a mineral-like taste because they are produced in a region with very rocky soil. Volcanic soil in Hawaii will make a very different tea than red clay soil in Yunnan

Elevation can have a big affect on tea, especially in regions where there is a lot of mist. Darjeeling would not be the same without it! The same goes for Taiwanese high mountain oolongs. Tea grown at lower elevations is generally closer to civilization and runs a greater risk of exposure to pollution. It also tends to be lower quality.

As with any agricultural product, the culture of the people producing the tea is very important. Cultivation techniques vary greatly depending on the region. Production techniques are passed orally from generation to generation. It's not scientific and it's not something that can be done using a book. Puerh just would not be the same if it wasn't produced by minority tribes in Yunnan Province, each with their own rituals and beliefs.

Tasting terroir can be difficult at first but over time you'll get better at it. The best way to learn is to drink tons of tea. Concentrate while you sip and try to discern if you've tasted something similar in other teas from that region before. For example, all of the Hawaiian teas that I've ever tried have had a sweet, fruity quality to them. Have you spotted terroir in a tea before? Let me know about it in the comments!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tea People Russian Caravan

Country of Origin: China and Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: varied black and green
Ingredients: black and oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teapot and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark amber

This is what I affectionately refer to as a "kitchen sink" tea. It's a blend of Keemun and Lapsang Souchong along with a Formosa oolong for good measure. The taste was actually quite a bit softer than I was expecting. It had the requisite smokiness but in a more subtle way. There was surprisingly little astringency. A subtle hint of brown sugar sweetness lingered in the finish. Perhaps that came from the oolong? All of the Russian Caravan teas that I've tried before contained Assam so that probably explains why I found it to be so mild. It was definitely still bold enough to take milk and sugar but I was perfectly happy to drink it straight. If you are a fan of this type of tea, it's good quality and fairly economical. They are based in the UK but it works out to about $10 for 3.5oz. This isn't a tea that I would drink all of the time but I can definitely see myself craving it on a cold winter evening.

Russian Caravan sample provided by Tea People.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Round Up - September 14th through September 19th

Just My Cup of Tea: unBEARably cute
Books and Tea had a post last week that really caught my attention. She read A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson and paired it with some adorable bear themed teacups.

How to Tea: Cold Brewing
Lu Ann from The Cup of Life tells us all about how to cold brew tea. It's one my favorite methods, mostly because it's so darned easy.

Teaspoons at the Table: Campfire Tea Ice Cream Sandwiches
+Alexis Siemons never fails to come up a recipe that makes me want to eat my computer screen. Lapsang Souchong infused butter comes together with ice cream for a smokey and sweet treat.

Tea of the Week: Sunflower's Jasmine Tea
Talk about a blast from the past! Bonnie from Thirsty for Tea recently wrote about a tea that I think has graced every tea lover's shelves. Who doesn't recognize that classic yellow tin?

Mountain Tea
My friend +Robert Godden of +The Devotea shared a funny story about the trials and tribulations of trying to get a cup of tea in Calgary.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Global Tea Hut August 2014 - Kingfisher Jade

+Global Tea Hut has a major advantage when it comes to sourcing because they are based in Taiwan. That puts them right in the heart of oolong territory. There are three main varieties, called the three daughters. I've tried plenty of Jing Shuan and Si Ji Chun but I've never tried a Tsui Yu, also known as Kingfisher Jade. I find myself looking forward to these monthly shipments more and more. In part it is because it is the one tea I don't do a formal review of. In part it is because I love feeling connected to a community of tea lovers. Another part is that I really, really love seeing what the tea gift will be. I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning whenever the package arrives.

This month's surprise was a set of Chinese medicine stones. They are placed directly into the kettle so that they will soften and purify the water for tea. I've heard of bamboo charcoal being used for this purposed but these were basically volcanic rocks. I don't have the set up to do a double tasting with and without the rocks so I decided to alternate with each infusion. While it was a less than perfect method, I was definitely able to discern the difference. The taste was softer and rounder, even the color of the liquor was slightly different. For this tea, it really helped to bring out the sweet floral qualities. There were some vegetal notes but it remained very smooth, especially on the infusions when I used the stones.

I did a lot of experimenting with teas that I am familiar with in the weeks that followed. For some teas, it visibly improved the taste. For others, I felt that it dampened some of my favorite parts. I eventually took the stones out but I'll definitely be playing with them from time to time. It's a bit silly but I also found that I really enjoyed the clinking sound they made whenever the water came to a boil.

This tea was received as part of a Global Tea Hut subscription.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On The Daily Tea: A Beginner's Guide to Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is probably the one category of tea that most tea drinkers are unfamiliar with. In my latest article for +The Daily Tea I explain how it is processed as well as how to brew it. Do you have a favorite yellow tea? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Beginner's Guide to Yellow Tea

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just When I Thought That I Had Things Figured Out...

Just when I thought that things figured out, my life has gone all topsy turvey on me again. I announced just a few weeks ago that I had started working at David's Tea. Not long after, a nearby fire severely damaged the location that I was working at. Being out of a job for 9 to 12 weeks was just not an option so I had to look for other opportunities. Having spent the better part of this year applying to every tea company under the sun, I was not looking forward to pounding pavement again. As luck would have it, one found me on LinkedIn in the form of a recruiter for Kusmi Tea.

Starting in October I'll be working in a new shop for their sister brand, Løv Organic, in the Gansevoort Market. They specialize in premium organic teas and herbal infusions. I'm really excited to be part of their launch here in the U.S. Another new chapter has started and much sooner than I thought. Tea has been my passion for so long and this year it was goal to turn that passion into something more. I feel blessed to have had the opportunities that I've had so far. I'm also incredibly grateful for all of the support I've received from friends in the tea community. Their words of encouragement were all that kept me going some days.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Teavivre Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-er Cake 2014

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mottled green, loosely compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: bright gold

I previously reviewed and very much enjoyed a 2013 Fengqing from Teavivre so I was really excited to give this one a try. The sample was loosely compressed with mostly whole leaves. I've been so busy with moving and other craziness that it had been a while since I had the time to gongfu much of anything. The aroma of the gaiwan lid after my first infusion was exactly what I was looking for. It was incredibly fresh, sweet and vegetal; everything the smell of a raw puerh should be. I was not disappointed by the taste either. It was sweet, earthy and vegetal with notes of camphor. As my infusions progressed, I noticed a cooling menthol-like effect. The first few rounds were punchy and astringent but that later gave way to a pleasant fruity quality. A tea that is this good when so young will likely be an excellent candidate for aging.

Teavivre Fengqing Ancient Raw Pu-er Cake 2014 sample provided by Teavivre.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Round Up - September 7th through September 12th

Good Mold Bad Mold
Tea Closet is a blog that is technically older than +Tea for Me Please. I've only recently discovered them but have really enjoyed their posts. This week they shared an interesting study about the molds found in puerh.

Tea Waste Bowl
Travelling Teapot posted a great explanation of what a tea waste bowl is and shows pictures of some of his collection. I know it took me a while to understand their purpose. I must confess that I own one but hardly ever use it.

Dark Roast TieGuanYin Oolong from Mountain Tea
Oolongchaser is a new blog on the scene but a very passionate dude. Cody's description definitely makes me want to give this one a try. I haven't yet tried anything from Mountain Tea but I've heard very good things.

What-Cha: Nepal Monsoon Flush 2014 Pearl Oolong Tea, A Tea Review
My Thoughts Are Like Butterflies is another one of my favorite blogs. Amanda mostly blogs about tea but I enjoy the random geek culture ramblings as well. This tea was like a tri-fecta of unusual. It's from Nepal oolong, it's monsoon flush and it's a pearl tea.

Tea of the Pacific Northwest
Everyone's favorite tea fairy, +Elyse Petersen wrote a post on T Ching about her recent tea travels in the Pacific Northwest. She visited two tea farms, twenty retailers and several festivals along the way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Tribute Tea Company Cassia Bark Oolong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: very dark amber

Cassisa bark oolong, also known as Rou Gui has become one of my favorite types of tea lately. Wu Yi oolongs have become more and more expensive every year so I really appreciate that +Tribute Tea Company's is priced so well. The taste of this one was smokey and earthy with a ton of natural sweetness. I was almost reminded of the delicious burnt sugar used to top crème brûlée. The spicy undertone was subtle in the flavor profile but very present in the aroma. I found myself sticking my nose into the gaiwan on more than one occasion. There was very little astringency and the mouth-feel was fairly thick. So far all of these that I've had from this company have been excellent. The founder, Brett Holmes, is truly passionate about tea. He's just getting started but I think he will do great things in the future.

Cassia Bark Oolong sample provided by Tribute Tea Company.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Tea Spot Mile High Chai

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of spices
Ingredients: black tea, ginger root, cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, peppercorns, cloves, natural chai flavoring
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark brown

Somehow the word chai became synonymous with spiced tea here in the U.S. even though the word is actually Hindi for tea. Therefore when you are in line at Starbucks and order a chai tea, you're really asking for tea tea. The correct term would really be masala chai, which indicates the typical spices used in this type of blend. This rendition from The Tea Spot was a fairly typical, plenty of kick and a bold black tea base. This style of tea is the one case where I think CTC style leaves taste better, especially if it's an Assam. That is exactly what they used here. Ginger and cinnamon were the dominant spices but I was able to taste the other ingredients as well. I drank it straight but it would work well with milk and sugar if desired. I can't quite pin it down but there just seemed to be something missing. Perhaps it was the chai flavoring that threw me off? The full impact that I expect from this type of tea just wasn't there. This is something that really comes to down to a matter of personal preference. For some chai drinkers, this blend is exactly what they are looking for.

Mile High Chai sample provided by The Tea Spot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Chambre De Sucre Kyushu

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green with bright petals
Ingredients: organic green tea, organic safflower, organic coconut, organic banana pieces, organic flavor
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: yellowish green

Sencha and banana sounds like a really odd flavor combo. That of course made this blend instantly appeal to me. The only teas that I could ever recall having banana in them were rooibos based. The taste was vegetal, fruity and sweet. The unusual pairing worked well and I was so glad that it didn't taste artificial at all. They have an excellent line of teas but Chambre de Sucre is probably best known for their artisan sugars. I added one of their adorable mini hearts to my cup and the touch of sweetness really made the flavors pop. This tea was even better as an iced tea. The umami of the sencha became much more prominent. Each of Chambre De Sucre's teas are named and numbered after Lisa's family members. This one is named after the place in Japan where her father is from and it is numbered 6 for his birthday. It adds a uniquely personal touch that I really enjoy.

Kyushu sample provided by Chambre De Sucre.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tea Journeyman Thea Kuan Imm Thai Oolong Tea

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

I've had a handful of Thai teas with some mixed results. Their tea industry seems to still be in a transition period but there are some really exciting things happening. This Tie Guan Yin has a higher level of oxidation of around 70%. Although technically a darker oolong, I was reminded more of honey and brown sugar than roastiness like I might expect from a Chinese version of this tea. The taste was surprisingly sweet and fruity. There was also a floral aftertaste but it wasn't a dominant part of the flavor profile. Overall it was a tasty cup of tea and a fairly affordable one to boot. One of my favorite things about +Tea Journeyman Shop is that the wizard behind the curtain, +Kevin Craig, started out as a blogger like myself. Because of this perspective he includes all of the nitty gritty details that the nerdy sort crave. A full set a pictures and tasting notes gives the tea buyer a really clear idea of what tea they are purchasing.

Thea Kuan Imm Thai Oolong Tea sample provided by Tea Journeyman.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Round Up - August 31st through September 5th

There are a lot of really great tea blogs out there so I thought that I would start a new feature. Every Friday I'll be highlighting some of my favorite posts from fellow bloggers across the globe.

Three Words: Japanese. White. Tea
+Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories is always hunting down some sort of unusual tea. This time I think he might have found the holy grail. A Japanese white tea almost unheard of.

First Anniversary Tea
Tea blogger friend +Payton Swick recently celebrated his wedding anniversary with a backyard tea ceremony. Bowls of matcha and a special puerh sounds like a great day to me. Even the dog joined in on the fun. Congrats guys!

Mandala Tea "Heart of the Old Tree" 2012 Raw Pu'er Tea Review
I always look forward to +Charissa Gascho's tea teviews, in large part because of the adorable owls that pop up in every post. You know a tea is good when she says "I needed to take a big breath in between sips and then I felt super invigoratingly tea drunk. WOOOOOOO!".

The Out Liar of Good Tea, or Your Big Zhong is Not Gay Enough
I've recently discovered a most unusual tea blog called Cwyn's Death by Tea. It's full of sarcasm and whit along with plenty of knowledge too. There are only a few posts so far but I'm already hooked.

Yunnan Sourcing, Featured Vendor
+Tea DB, otherwise known as the tea loving duo of Denny and James, is one my favorite video shows on YouTube. They also have a ton of great articles on their website. This week they did an interview with +Yunnan Sourcing that I really enjoyed.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tea: The Drink that Changed the World by Laura C. Martin

There's a few tea books that have been on my wish list for a while and this is definitely one of them. It's not just because the author has the same last name as me! Tea truly is the drink that changed the world. Although the hard cover volume is diminutive in size, it covers a lot of ground. I wouldn't call it a complete history but it is certainly very thorough. Martin follows the path of the tea plant from its origins in China to Japan, Korea and the shores of England. The U.S. is briefly discussed, as it often is in most books. The wonderful thing about that is that our tea culture is only just coming into its own now.

There were some parts that felt a bit dry but otherwise I found this to be a light, informative read. It's important to keep in mind that it was published in 2007. Many of the statistics quoted are out of date or no longer relevant to today's constantly evolving tea culture. There are other books that are more in depth about certain topics of interest (like production methods) but this book is a great introduction for someone who is just getting started on their journey with tea.

Sample provided by Tuttle Publishing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Shanghai Cha Anji Mountain White Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 170 degrees
Preparation Method: glass tube steeper
Liquor: very pale

Every once in a while I across a tea that makes me say wow before I even brew it. This Anji Bai Cha was one of those elusive teas. Despite the name, it's actually a green tea whose leaves are almost white when they are unprocessed. The aroma that filled my senses as soon as I opened the tin was incredible. It was something of a cross between alfalfa hay and fresh cut apples. It lingered in the bag within my tin and I couldn't resist sticking my nose in more than once. The taste was just as delicious. It was sweet and vegetal with fruity notes and even a hint of florals. Many tea lovers that I know lean away from greens because they find them to be a bit flat when compared with the complexity of oolongs. This is a tea that challenges those judgments. The leaves were so beautiful while steeping that I had to snap some pictures to share with you all.

Anji Mountain White Tea sample provided by Shanghai Cha.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Le Palais des Thés Pure Indulgence Lavender Oolong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong, lavender blossoms
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: gold

I'm not usually one for floral teas so jasmine and rose usually don't do it for me. Lavender on the other hand is a whole other story. There is just something about it that makes me incredibly relaxed. Paired with this Chinese oolong, they are a match made in heaven. The taste was very floral but not perfumy or soapy at all. The base tea was fairly green but had a really nice buttery quality to it. There was a lot of sweetness but the vegetal aspect of the oolong added balance. The part that I loved the most is that this is just a plain and simple blend. No flavoring (artificial or otherwise) was needed and both ingredients were still able to shine. +Palais des Thés really knocked it out the park with this one.

Pure Indulgence Lavender Oolong sample provided by Le Palais des Thés.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Daily Tea: A Beginner's Guide to Green Tea

+The Daily Tea and I are kicking off a series of tutorials for beginners with an article all about green tea. I'll be comparing eastern and western brewing methods. More articles will be following over the next few months about each category of tea. Check it out on their site now!

A Beginner's Guide to Green Tea

What is your favorite type of green tea? Do you have a tip or trick that I missed? Let me know about it in the comments!