Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday Round Up: November 23rd to November 29th

Pumpkin Tea Latte
Who doesn't love a good latte this time of year? Inspired By Tea shared this tasty sounding recipe.

You have just two hands
SweetPersimmon is a blog about Chanoyu that I've been reading avidly for some time. This thought provoking post inspired me to pay more attention to how I handle my tea utensils (and TV remotes!).

Cheap Taco Syndrome and the Trouble with Expensive Sheng
Tea Closet draws an excellent comparison between tea and tacos. Are the expensive ones really worth their price tags? I much prefer sheng to tacos myself :)

Fake Puerh Tea: 3 Ways to Avoid Common Scams
White2Tea shared some excellent tips on how to avoid scams when it comes to puerh. This is something a lot of folks are concerned about, especially when buying off of sites like AliExpress.

Puerh Budgeting. Buying Psychology, Hoarding  & A Calculated Strategy
I love the analytically minds of my friends over at TeaDB. Their cost analysis really helped to put some things into perspective.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Contest: Name My Tea Pet!

Most of you are probably familiar with the squirting frog tea pet that I had for many years. Dubbed Ribbit, he was a constant companion on my tea table. Somehow he never made it back to New Jersey after World Tea Expo. I ordered a very close copy but the attachment that I had to him was gone. After spending months in search of a new tea companion, I bought this very happy pig from +Crimson Lotus Tea. Who can resist those chubby cheeks? I adore him but haven't been able to come up with a suitable name.

That's where you guys come in. Leave me your name suggestion for this piggy in the comments section of this post by midnight EST on December 11th. The person who submits the best name will receive a copy of 19 Lessons On Tea and I'll throw in some samples of tea too.

And the winner is Jacqueline C. with the suggestion of Zhu (豬) which is the Chinese word for pig. Why didn't I think of that? Thank you to everyone who entered!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Teavivre Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, wiry
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: reddish amber

I was excited to dive into this one because it is one of the few types of tea that I had yet to try from +TeaVivre's extensive catalog. The first thing that I noticed when I poured the leaves into my gaiwan was the aroma. When I think of the smell of tea, this smell is exactly what comes to mind. Although they were somewhat broken, probably from shipping, there were plenty of whole leaves. Quite a few golden tips were visible as well. The taste was earthy, malty, fruity and smoky all at once. It was very smooth with no bitterness to speak of. A hint of astringency added a refreshing lightness to the finish. One of my favorite things about Keemun is the color of the liquor. This one brewed up a deep coppery red that my cell phone camera was completely incapable of doing any justice. Given its complexity, I strongly suggest drinking this tea straight up. Milk and sweeteners would undoubtedly drown most of that out.

Teavivre was kind enough to give me a few $5 gift cards for my readers. They're good for any time during the month of November, perfect for Black Friday! Just shoot me an email at if you'd like to receive one!

Organic Superfine Keemun Fragrant Black Tea sample provided by Teavivre.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Yezi Tea Tie Guan Yin High Grade

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: greenish gold

It's been a while since I reviewed something from +Yezi Tea and this Tie Guan Yin was calling my name. I previously reviewed and very much enjoyed the Master Grade Tie Guan Yin from this company. This version was different but still made for an excellent cup of tea. The taste was more on the greener side of things. Vegetal notes dominated the flavor profile of my first brew. Lots of floral aroma and a hint of nuttiness kicked in on the second round. I wouldn't quite call it orchid as wasn't as heavy or lingering but in any case, it was a very nice quality. Rolled teas like this usually take a bit to open up so it's common to rinse them. I just can't bring myself to not drink it though. Why waste perfectly good tea? I tend to prefer my TGY a bit more roasty but I still found this one very refreshing. After six consecutive steepings I was sufficiently tea logged but another gaiwan or two could probably have been eked out if I had been inclined to do so.

Tie Guan Yin High Grade sample provided by Yezi Tea.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Adopt of a Tea Plant and Support U.S. Grown Tea!

My friends at +The Great Mississippi Tea Company have launched an exciting new "adopt a tea plant" program. For as little as $12.95 you'll receive a personalized certificate, one lifetime pass to the farm, 1oz of tea once it is available and a coupon for 25% off at +Boston Teawrights. Higher level donations will receive even more tea and more passes to the farm. I definitely hope to visit them some day. I've been following their progress avidly on their Facebook page. They now have over 10,000 plants in the ground and still have more yet to be planted. I've got my own little tea farm on my windowsill so it's been great to learn from their example. Hopefully my plants will be able to move outside once the spring arrives. Otherwise, we'll have to see how they do with a drafty winter.

Click here to adopt your plant!

Disclaimer: I am not in any way affiliated with The Great Mississippi Tea Company and this post was not sponsored in any way. I simply love the work that they do and want to help spread the word.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Round Up: November 16th to November 22nd

Quality of Matcha
+Oca Ocani shared some tips on choosing a quality matcha. The pictures showing different grades are especially helpful.

How To: Store Loose Leaf Tea
I recently discovered an excellent blog called Steep Inclined. Holly shared a helpful post on how to properly store tea, complete with a video.

A Hong Kong love story: Chinese Tea meets European Chocolate
Pairing tea and chocolate has been very popular in recent years. It was very interesting to hear about the traditional Chinese teas that Charles will be tasting.

2014 Holiday Gift Guide for Tea Nerds
+Tony Gebely of World of Tea shared his list of nerdy tea gifts on Tumblr. The Vietnam tea box is sitting right next to me so I can vouch for its awesomeness.

A Japanese tea ceremony (Omotesenke school)
Stephane of the Tea Masters blog posted some beautiful pictures of a Japanese tea ceremony he experienced in an apartment in New York City.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tea Journeyman Amba Estate Hand-Rolled GF OP1 Ceylon Black Tea

Country of Origin: Sri Lanka
Leaf Appearance: long and wiry, dark brown
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Steeper
Liquor: reddish amber

Amba Estate has become one of my favorite sources for Ceylon tea. You might remember that I previously reviewed and enjoyed their OP1 with Tea Flowers from Tealet. The leaves were absolutely gorgeous after brewing. I have never seen a Ceylon tea that was this whole or with this many buds. All of the extra work of hand rolling definitely payed off. The taste was exactly what I was hoping for. It was clean and brisk with complex notes of honey, fruit and chocolate. This is a tea to inhale deeply and take your time with. I did three consecutive infusions and the flavor held up very well throughout each of them. As always, I really appreciate the depth of the information provided by +Tea Journeyman Shop. +Kevin Craig's tasting notes come from a tea blogger's perspective so it's almost like he reads my mind. In case you haven't already, make sure that you check out the blog that inspired the business, Tea Journeyman.

Amba Estate Hand-Rolled GF OP1 Ceylon Black Tea sample provided by Tea Journeyman.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy 4th Anniversary Harney & Sons SoHo!

On Monday I was very excited to stop by +Harney and Sons Fine Teas for their 4th anniversary party. It was quite a packed house when I first arrived. It was wonderful to see many people who love tea in one room. At first, it was a bit hard to navigate the delicious spread of hors d'oeuvres, tea and cocktails. I searched the crowd for a familiar face and above everyone else I spotted my very tall friend +Mario Nicholas. We grabbed some quiche and tea cocktails while catching up.

The star of the evening was their brand new blend, Celebration Tea. It's a very well balanced black tea base flavored with apricots and spice. It's also very special because it is one of the last teas that John Harney had a hand in crafting. I didn't pick up a tin at the party but I'll be stopping back in to get some soon. I do wish it was available in loose tea rather than sachets but I think I may be using them as a fun add on to Christmas presents this year.

Another familiar face was +Verna L. Hamilton. I couldn't believe that these two had never met before. It seems that we all follow the same people on Twitter. +Chris Halpert made a brief appearance too. I'll be seeing him soon when the NYC Tea Social Meetup visits MatchaBar. Just when I thought that it was time to go home, +Jo J and her lovely daughter joined us. I love getting to see tea friends! As the event wound down we got some group pictures and gave our thanks to the Harney family. They were consummate hosts as always.

Photo: VL Hamilton

Photo: Harney & Son's SoHo

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tea Places: T Shop

It seems that SoHo has become tea central in New York City. This neighborhood is home to some of my favorite haunts such as Harney & Son's and Palais de Thes. When a friend told me about T Shop, a new spot that just opened on Elizabeth Street, I just had to check them out. It was a bit hard to find, but I recognized the psychic sign (a separate business) on the door from their Instagram.

At the end of a long hallway, I walked through the glass door and was immediately transported. The space was incredibly quiet and serene. One of the owners, Theresa, and another patron were the only two there. I was immediately invited to partake in some Iron Arhat before making my own selection. Cliff teas aren't always my thing but this one was lovely. It had a very pleasant lingering aftertaste.

Their selection is limited for the time being but I immediately chose a compressed Moonlight White for my tasting. What can I say, I'm a sucker for that stuff. The price of $10 was very reasonable considering that it was expertly prepared the tea using a gaiwan. It was sweet like sugar cane with a really nice floral note. Theresa regaled us with stories of her tea sourcing travels in Taiwan.

When that tea was finished, I wasn't quite ready to leave my new-found sanctuary just yet. I ordered their Four Seasons Oolong next. While this is generally considered an "every day" tea, it was very enjoyable. We had an insightful discussion on the importance of growing region when it comes to high mountain oolongs. Then we focused on Shui Ping teapots and closely compared three different pots that Theresa had on hand.

If my budget had been unlimited, I would have walked out with most of the teaware on the shelves. Everything is hand selected and it shows. I did pick up a bamboo tea pick as this was yet another tea tool that was missing from my arsenal. I'll definitely be back for a few other pieces that I admired, including an unusual cup that appears to change shape while you drink.

Overall it was a really great experience. The pictures in the post were hastily taken with a dying cell phone battery. They really don't do this place justice so I'll replace them with better pictures on my next visit. I'm planning to go back with a friend in the future for table service, where you can brew the tea for yourself. This is exactly the kind of tea place that New York needed. They are engaging without being intimidating or snobbish. The prices are accessible enough for beginners but the teas are attractive for old pros. I wish Theresa and Yuki the best of luck on their venture. They are sure to do great things.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Color of Japan, Color Harvest

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a ceramics exhibition by Tomomi Kamoshita at Globus Washitsu. Even more lucky was that I was able to enjoy it with tea friends +The Snooty Tea Person+Jo J and +Verna L. Hamilton. I made the tragic mistake of forgetting my camera at home so please excuse the terrible pictures. The do not do Tomomi's work any justice. For those of you not familiar with it Globus Washitsu is a truly amazing space, a New York City penthouse converted into a Japanese tea house. I had not been there before this event but I have been avidly following their pictures and events on Facebook.

When we first walked in, we were greeted warmly and escorted into an entry way where everyone removed their shoes. Understandably, the dirt of the city has no place on their tatami mats. Artificial grass and stepping stones replicated the garden entryway of a traditional tea house. There was even a basin for cleansing yourself. Funnily enough, one of the first things were shown was the bathroom.They have one of those fancy Japanese toilets with a million buttons. In hind sight, I should have taken a picture to show you all. Two items in tea house that really caught my eye was this beautiful caligraphy and a two toned chasen.

We arrived just in time as the reception was just starting. Stephen Globus and Souheki Mori of Tea Whisk welcomed everyone and introduced Tomomi. Souheki translated as Tomomi shared her story and thanked us all for coming to see her exhibition. We were then treated to the music of Jun Ando. He composed a piece just for this event.

Photo: A Gift of Tea

Tomomi makes several different kinds of ceramics but her kintsugi work definitely caught my eye the most. Kintsugi is a method for making repairs that uses lacquer mixed with gold. In the end, pieces often wind up looking even more beautiful than they did before the break. The level of artistry shown here was truly amazing. They were definitely out of my price range for the moment but I would love to add something like these to my collection some day. As we were leaving Tomomi gifted us with a small ceramic tile, signed and everything. While seemingly simple I think it will make a beautiful addition to any cha xi (tea setting).

Thank you to everyone who made the evening possible. It's wonderful to see traditional Japanese arts being nurtured in the heart of New York City.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Round Up - November 9th through November 15th

Oolong Tea Tasting at T Shop
+Jee Choe from Oh How Civilized visited my new favorite tea spot in NYC. I'll definitely make sure to order the roasted oolong the next time I go there. A post about my experience will be going out next week.

Why Canon cameras go so well with oolong tea
Did you know that Canon shares a connection with Guan Yin? A fascinating tidbit from +Gary Robson.

Hidden Jems
A reminder from Cha Xi Collective that tea tools can be found in the most unexpected places. In a way, that makes our finds that much more special.

A Reprisal of Gaiwans
+Payton Swick shared an excellent Q & A about gaiwans and why you should have one. He even included a helpful video on how to pour with one.

Forgive Me
+Jo J of A Gift of Tea has been so busy lately that her blog has been rather silent. In this post she catches up on what she's been up to.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

On The Daily Tea - Tea Tutorial: Pu-erh Tea

My series for +The Daily Tea  on the different categories of tea has come to a close with an article on puerh. This is the one type of tea that I think is most misunderstood in the west. It's not that scary, I promise! Do have a favorite dark tea tip? Let me know about it the comments over there!

Tea Tutorial: Pu-erh Tea

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tea Wisdom by Aaron Fisher

Many of us in the tea community know Aaron Fisher as Wu De, organizer of Global Tea Hut. In this adorably small book he's put together a collection of quotes about our favorite beverage. It was the perfect size to tuck into my purse each day without adding a ton of bulk. I recently had to trudge through two days of jury duty and this book helped me to keep my sanity. Some of them are from historical figures that we all know such as Lu Yu and Sen no Rikyū. Others are from movies, books and celebrities.

Peppered throughout the chapters are beautiful pictures of tea scenes and Wu De's calligraphy. There is something to be said for quality of construction and this book was a great example of that. Although it is paperback the cover is sturdy and the pages are printed on glossy, high quality paper. The only thing that I would change about this book is to add an index of quotes listed by who said they are attributed to. That would make it an even better reference book for the future. Don't let the 239 page count scare you. It's an enjoyably breezy read. If there's a tea lover in your life, this selection would be an incredibly thoughtful gift.

Tea Wisdom provided for review by Tuttle Publishing.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Global Tea Hut: October 2014 - Elevation

October's shipment from +Global Tea Hut was the tea that I have been waiting for all year, their annual Sun Moon Lake black tea. The leaves of this tea were quite beautiful and definitely worthy of bowl brewing. They brewed up a really pretty copper color and became quite large after a few infusions. Mellow fruity and malty notes ended in a clean finish. It never lost its smoothness, even when left steeping for some time. I use a fairly small rice bowl and was able to brew them at least four times over. Being produced from semi-wild trees, the tea was noticeably more uplifting than other examples that I've tried from this famous Taiwanese region.

The magazine issues are always packed with interesting articles. This month focused heavily on the concept for Qi. It's a bit of an abstract concept that has never really been part of my tea experiences. Sure that are teas that make you feel amazing, but who is to say what exactly causes that? I was hoping to have a bit more insight into the history of Sun Moon Lake tea. It is very unusual because the Assamica variety of the tea plant was propagated there by Japan for research purposes. Each shipment from Global Tea Hut includes a small gift and this month's was some nifty sealers for bags of tea. They've all already been put to good use.

Elevation received as part of paid Global Tea Hut subscription.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Le Palais des Thés Feng Huang Dan Cong Special

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, wiry, twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 6 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Steeper
Liquor: amber

I was really excited to try this selection from Le Palais des Thés' Grand Cru collection. The name Feng Huang means Phoenix and Dan Cong refers to tea that originates from a single tree. This type of tea is usually categorized by fragrance and I wish that they had included that information. The taste was woodsy and spicy and if I let it cool for a bit a hint of stone fruit popped up in the background. Phoenix oolongs are renowned for their lingering floral aroma and I felt this tea was missing that. My second brew was lackluster. Oolongs should be able to give multiple infusions. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I had used my standard gongfu brewing? At $90 for 3.5oz, I don't feel that this tea is worth the price of admission. Having a tea fall short of expectations is always a difficult thing for a tea blogger. Should I publish a review at all? Maybe there's something wrong with my taste buds? These are questions that we all ask ourselves. It's important to keep in mind that one disappointing tea does not a bad vendor make. I absolutely love their Grand Cru Dong Ding and frequently stock up on their Margaret's Hope 2nd Flush. Tasting tea is of course a subjective thing and Dan Congs are very hard to get right. My instinct tells me that the brewing directions given may be largely to blame for this misfire.

Feng Huang Dan Cong Special sample provided by Le Palais des Thés.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday Round Up - November 2nd to November 8th

Garam Masala Tea Pulled Pork
This creative slow cooker recipe from Tea Foodie uses root beer, tea and spices. I actually don't like pork but I think I might give this a try with a pulled chicken instead.

Misty Peak Teas: young sheng
You all know that I'm a big fan of Misty Peak Teas. +Jake // gives his take on the 2012 Autumn cake as well as the new rolled puerh.

Pairing Japanese Green Tea with Food
+Ricardo Caicedo shared some great tips on how to pair Japanese green teas with food. I will definitely be trying gyokuro with parmesan cheese soon :)

A Tea Blogger Directory Moment
+Jen Piccotti of Internation Tea Moment just released the tea blogger directory that she has been working so hard on. It's sure to be a great resource for the tea industry.

What-Cha: Malawai Satemwa Antelers White Tea, A Tea Review
+Amanda Wilson and her small army of froggy tea pets reviewed one of my favorite African teas. I'm glad to read that she enjoyed it just as much as I did.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Global Tea Hut: September 2014 - King of the Forest

I am terribly behind on tea reviews lately, so much so that I'm publishing September's Global Tea Hut post in November! King of the Forest is a 2013 puerh produced by the Mengku Shuanjiang factory. The leaves were part of a compressed cake but were still beautifully whole, even after making the journey to me from Taiwan. It has been a crazy past few months with a lot of ups and downs. Sitting down in my kitchen with nothing but this tea and one of my favorite yixing pots was a much needed moment of zen. The taste was robust and earthy but with a lot of sweetness as well.

The tea gift this month was a thicker magazine that was even more jam packed with articles than usual. Although the articles tend to have a Buddhist/spiritual lean, I learn something new with ever issue. It's helped to depend my understanding of this aspect of tea culture quite a bit. I really could not recommend their subscription enough. Not only do you receive a well put together magazine and sample of a special tea each month but you will also support the construction of their new center in Taiwan. I hope to be able to visit there some day (and a million other places!).

King of the Forest received through paid Global Tea Hut subscription.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

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

Did you know that black tea is referred to as a red tea in China? My lastest article for +The Daily Tea is all about the basics of black tea. Check it out for a quick summary of leaf grades as well as tips on brewing.

A Beginner's Guide to Black Tea

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Joseph Wesley Black Tea Classic Chinese Black No.3

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark brown
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 45 seconds
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark reddish amber

A few weeks ago I picked up some tasty apricot preserves that used +Joseph Wesley Black Tea's Darjeeling. Joe came all the way from Detroit to serve tea for the event. I was eager to hear stories from his recent trip to China and he generously shared a tin of the 2014 version of his Classic Chinese tea. What makes this tea unusual? It's made from the same cultivars that are used to produce Long Jing! The leaves were absolutely gorgeous, both when dry and post-steeping. This is a fairly mellow red tea so I went a bit longer on my steep time than usual. There notes of cacao along with a pleasant fruitiness. I had a lot of fun being a fly on the wall and watching the other event attendees try this tea. They were all amazed at how smooth it was. Americans in particular are so used to the idea of black tea being bitter that they are always shocked when they get to try the good stuff. It performed well every which way that I've brewed it. Whether I used a gaiwan, celadon gongfu pot or my Teavana Perfect Steeper; the taste was a consistently delicious. Although it could probably handle milk and sugar, do yourself a favor and try it sans additives first. You won't be sorry!

How gorgeous are these leaves? Classic Chinese No. 3 from @josephwesleytea

Classic Chinese Black No.3 sample provided by Joseph Wesley Black Tea.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Promote Sustainability - Get Great Tea

Taiwanese oolongs are some of my favorite teas but like many fellow tea lovers, I have concerns about the commercialization of tea production and reliance on agro-chemicals. Who really wants pesticides in their cup? +Eco-Cha Artisan Teas recently launched a crowd funding project that addresses those very same concerns. The goal is to show other farmers and the Taiwanese tea industry that there is a global demand for organic tea. They are working together with Mr. Lin, a farmer who has converted his family's land into an organic tea garden.

The tea planted is a new hybrid called Tai Cha #20 was developed to be pest resistant. In addition to purchasing the entire winter harvest, Eco-Cha will be producing a documentary of the whole process. They've already reached their funding goal but backers can still contribute until November 21st. A donation of as little as $10 will reward you with awesome tea and some good karma to boot. :)