Friday, January 31, 2014

Guest Post: How a Cup of Matcha a Day Can Keep the Doctor Away

Matcha is one of my favorite kinds of tea simply because I love the way it tastes. Regular readers know that I'm not one to push health benefits when it comes to tea. That being said, I was really excited to share this informative guest post with you. Peter from Think Matcha has backed up all of his findings with links to scientific studies.

We all know that practices such as eating right, exercising, and avoiding bad habits like smoking are key in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But what you may not know is that simply drinking green tea can help your body fight off a range of diseases and promote overall health.

Matcha tea is a powdered green tea made from shade-grown leaves that, due to its unique growing process, has very high levels of antioxidants and healthy compounds like amino acids, catechins, polyphenols, and more. And since it is a concentrated form made from whole ground leaves, many of these compounds occur at a much higher frequency than they do in traditional green tea.
Due to the many beneficial compounds found within it, green tea has been the subject of many different scientific studies lately. Institutions all over the world are conducting research aimed towards understanding the medicinal and therapeutic applications green tea may have.

One study carried out by Dr. Mindy Kurzer at the University of Minnesota aims to verify that the catechins found within green tea may help prevent or even treat breast cancer. After the study is conclusively published, Kurzer believes that the results “could lead to recommendations for women to drink green tea,” or even “making dietary supplements out of extract of green tea using catechins might be recommended for breast cancer reduction.”

Another study published in the Journal of Periodontology found that green tea may contribute to improved oral health. Of 940 male participants, researchers found that those who regularly drank green tea had better periodontal health. In fact, “for every one cup of green tea consumed per day, there was a decrease in all three indicators” studied that indicated periodontal disease.

So how can you introduce matcha into your diet in order to benefit from it? While the most traditional way is to simply drink a cup of Matcha tea, matcha can also be used in cooking. Matcha is known for its rich, smooth taste and works well as a healthy cooking additive in either sweet dishes like cookies and smoothies, or even savory dishes like hummus and pasta sauce.

There is a broad price range for matcha which can make it confusing for shoppers. High quality matcha should be refreshingly aromatic, bright green, (vibrant or electric green), and have a slightly sweet after taste. Lower grade matcha has a more dull green color, with brown or yellow tints. The pale green color indicates that the tea contains stems and branches that were ground into it, or that it is not fresh.

The lower grade matcha teas taste completely different than good quality ones. Lower grade matchas have an astringent and less sweet taste, lack that sweet aromatic smell, and have lower levels of healthy antioxidants. Acquiring a taste and enjoying matcha is simple, provided you are using good quality Japanese matcha green tea.

Founder, Peter Sabbagh behind +think Matcha's products began his journey as a health foodie, traveling & exploring great tasting & healthy food alternatives from around the world over 20 years ago.

He has studied at New York University and Harvard Universities. He is also a student of Chanoyu (the study of tea) at the Urasenke Foundation.

For more information on matcha tea, including recipes and health articles, visit thinkmatcha.com.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Podcast: Episode 7 - Interview with Tea DB

I've been a fan of +Tea DB ever since they started publishing on YouTube. James and Denny are hilarious and I love how passionate they are about tea. The Google gods were not with us the first time that we tried to film this episode but we made it through the technical difficulties. Make sure that you subscribe to their channel (linked in the video). They also have some really informative articles on their website, teadb.org.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

J-Tea International Bourbon Barrel Puerh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: very dark brown

Thanks to +Geoffrey Norman and the evil geniuses at +J-TEA I have been obsessed with the very idea of this tea. It was stored in a bourbon barrel from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Being a dark liquor and beer kind of girl and a puerh lover, I just knew that it would be right up my alley. The aroma when I first opened my packet of leaves was incredible. Given the name you might expect that this would taste just like a sip of bourbon. The taste was much more subtle than that. Isn't that always the way it is with tea? The base cooked puerh was earthy, sweet and fairly mild. It provided the perfect stage for the oaky, smokey and bourbon-y notes to come through. The finish had an almost creamy affect that I found very interesting. In my eagerness to dig into this tea I went the easy way and used an infuser in a plain old mug. However, I foresee many sessions with a gaiwan in this tea's future.

Bourbon Barrel Puerh purchased from J-Tea International.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shan Valley First Flush Green Tea 2013

Country of Origin: Myanmar
Leaf Appearance: small, dark green
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup
Liquor: greenish gold

I previously reviewed and enjoyed +Shanvalley's Valley Green. While that tea is harvested year round, this one is made from the first harvest of the year. The two are very similar but the first flush leaves a bit more of a refined impression. It was still mellow and vegetal with a mild fruitiness. The smokiness that I had detected in the Valley Green was just barely present here. No sweeteners are necessary as there was very little astringency. Although this is their reserve tea it is really quite affordable. It would make a great daily drinker, especially for keeping at the office. My sample was packaged in a pyramid tea bag but it also offered as a loose tea. I definitely think that I'll be picking some up once the weather warms up because I think that it will make an excellent iced tea.

First Flush Green Tea Sample provided by Shan Valley.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taking Tea In Style Spiced Coconut Chai

Country of Origin: not listed
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with lots of visible spices
Ingredients: black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, coconut, ginger root, black pepper
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

Nothing beats a good basic chai but the coconut in this blend adds an interesting twist. The base black tea was earthy and full bodied with plenty of astringency. I thought that the spices were well balanced and the black pepper provided a nice bit of kick. Although it could stand up to milk and sweeteners, they really aren't necessary. I do not use either one unless I am boiling the leaves in milk on a stove top. If you are not a fan of coconut, don't be afraid to try this one. The flavor was very subtle and it came across in a natural, fruity way rather than artificial sweetness. On the day that I reviewed this tea it was absolutely freezing outside and all of those comforting spices really hit the spot. This is the second tea that I've tried from +Sharon Levy at Taking Tea In Style and so far I have enjoyed them both very much.

Spiced Coconut Chai sample provided by Taking Tea In Style.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Steepster Meetup: Tea Drunk

Now that the craziness of the holidays is over the Steepster meetup group is back in action. Last week we met right on my home turf, Tea Drunk in the East Village. We've gone to several different kinds of places over the last few months and even took a class on matcha. Jason, one of the wizards behind the curtain at Steepster, was able to join in on the fun this time around. While everyone loves tea, most of our group is still in the beginning stages of their exploration.

I was unanimously elected to choose the teas for the evening and while a daunting task, I tried to pick the teas that suited our group's tastes but that also helped to push boundaries a bit. When we first arrived, Shunan (the owner) served everyone a cup of Big Meng Song raw puerh. Everyone hesitated a bit but they were pleasantly surprised to find that it tasted great. The teas that I selected were:

Silver Needle 白毫銀針
Dian Tou, Fu Ding, Fu Jian, Early Spring 2013
Rou Gui 肉桂
Lotus Peak, Wu Yi Mountain, Fu Jian, Spring 2012
Lightest Fermentation Tie Guan Yin 鐵觀音正炒
Fu Di, An Xi, Fu Jian, Autumn 2012
Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong 正山小種
Tong Mu Guan, Wu Yi Mountain, Fu Jian, Spring 2012
We had a kettle set up next to our table so that I was able to continuously brew and pour. The silver needle was served first and it was an immediate hit, even for those who do not usually enjoy white teas. I might be a bit biased since I work at +Tea Drunk but it is truly among some of the best that I've had. Next came the Tie Guan Yin. This one was incredibly sweet and floral with a strong aroma and it was also very popular. Rou Gui is a very roasty tasting oolong with a subtle hit of spiciness while the Zheng Shan is a smoked tea, similar to Lapsang Souchong but of a much higher grade. These two did not seem to be quite as well liked but they are two of my favorites when it comes to the darker teas on the menu.
Tasting the teas as they cooled or seeing how a sip of silver needle prior to drinking Zheng Shan were just some the experiments that were tried. Being a bunch of tea folks, there was a lot of nerdy chatter and sharing of samples. Jason from Steepster brought some goodies from their first Steepster Select mailing so I scored some Karigane from Tea Wing and Nantou Oolong from In Pursuit of Tea. 
If you'd like to join us for future meet ups, just keep an eye on the Steepster message boards. I'm sure that we will be planning the next one soon.
Image borrow from Steepster's Instagram since the one I took came out rather terrible. Make sure that you give them a follow!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Teavana Golden Dragon Yellow Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, twisted and covered in golden hairs
Ingredients: yellow tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degree
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

+Teavana released this limited edition tea to celebrate Nation Hot Tea Month. When I had a chance to try some, all I could say was "You had me at yellow!". The leaves were quite dark in color and their appearance was positively fuzzy. Most yellow teas (the few that I've come across anyways) more closely resemble green tea whereas this one brought golden monkey black tea to mind. The taste was quite floral with notes of honey and a thick, somewhat creamy finish. In my impatience to try this tea when it first arrived I tried it in my Perfect Steeper and while decent, it was not nearly as good as when I prepared using a gaiwan. It stood up fairly well to multiple infusions so don't be afraid to push its limits. Although this tea looks expensive, for yellow tea is actually not that bad.

Golden Dragon Yellow Tea sample provided by Teavana.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tealet Doke Rolling Thunder

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mottled greens and browns with some silver tips
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: amber

Rolling Thunder from the Doke Tea Estate in Bihar, India has been on my wish list for a long time. When +Tealet had a sale around Christmas I could not resist ordering some. It is unusual both because it is an oolong and because of where it comes from. The taste was malty, floral and sweet with a mild fruity quality. I wouldn't quite call it muscatel but was sort of grapey. There was just a touch of astringecy but I would definitely advise against using milk or sweeteners. It stood up to several gongfu style infusions but I think it would also work well prepared in a more western fashion. Darjeeling is usually my go to tea on a rainy day but that one could very easily serve as substitute. I reminded of a wonderfully entertaining blog post that my friend +Geoffrey Norman wrote that featured this tea, Blending Tea and Fiction.

Doke Rolling Thunder purchased from Tealet.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Teavivre Superfine Taiwan Qing Xiang Dong Ding

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

This high mountain Taiwanese oolong was mellow and sweet with a strong floral aroma. Citrus and vegetal notes in the mid-palate kept it light and refreshing. Although unroasted, it was not nearly as green as I was expecting. I did about six consecutive infusions and probably could have squeezed out a few more. The leaves unfurled to be quite large and they were fun to play with as I am often prone to do. The picking standard was very consistent as they were almost all groupings of one bud and two or three leaves. As always, I love the amount of information that +TeaVivre provides about their tea. They list everything from where it is grown and how it is processed to detailed profiles of the tea farmer. Seeing a picture of +Angel Chen with the farmer only builds on that element of trust.

Qing Xiang Dong Ding sample provided by Teavivre.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tea Story by Robert Godden

If you haven't read the rantings and writings of +Robert Godden, I must say that you've really been missing out. His latest release is a collection of tea themed fiction called Tea Story. The pieces were all short, sweet and full of Robert's signature wit and humor. I loved the variety of subject matter, ranging from historical to futuristic sci-fi. The one thing that tied them all together was an element of tea. SipEasy in particular had a very well developed plot and I found myself disappointed at not being able to continue on with that story. If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend reading his non-fiction book The Infusiast.

You can find out more about this book here.

Make sure that you check out my Good Reads list of tea books!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Teaneer Aristocrat Green Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark green, long and twisted
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

Last month I wrote about a unique silver needle from Teaneer, a small family farm in Nilgiri. I enjoyed that one a lot so I was really looking forward to trying this green tea. It was produced with leaves from an experimental 0.5 acre plot where the tea trees were allowed grow naturally without any pruning. The dry tea was long and wiry with some visible hairs on the buds. They had a strong vegetal aroma even before steeping. The taste was mellow and sweet with an interesting vegetal note that reminded me of the seaweed used to make sushi. I was able to do quite a few consecutive infusions before I become tea logged. There was also a very subtle cooling affect, similar to what I experienced with the silver needle. Suresh from Teaneer tells me that this may be caused by the wild grass or eucalyptus that grown naturally in this region.

You can find out more about this tea here.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Vosges Haut-Chocolat Matcha Green Tea & Spirulina Super Dark Chocolate Bar

One of the yummiest gifts that I got for my birthday last month was this matcha infused chocolate bar. Does my mom know me or what? I adore dark chocolate and matcha so any meeting of the two is guaranteed to be a hit. The chocolate is 72% cacao but the matcha made it seem like it was even darker than that. I've had a few different bars like this and have noticed the same affect in all of them.

The sweetness of the chocolate tends to mask the vegetal aspect of matcha but some of the umami taste was definitely apparent after eating a few squares. I don't think that I've ever had spirulina before but it did not seem to have affected the final product at all. The cacao nibs added a nice bit of crunch. I've been meaning to visit Vosge's New York boutiques and this certainly gives me a reason to.

Ingredients: dark chocolate, cacao nibs, matcha, spirulina powder

You can find out more about this chocolate here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Joseph Wesley Black Tea No. 7 - Lapsang Souchong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, wiry
Ingredients: smoked black tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: bright reddish brown

Lapsang Souchong can be a very polarizing tea. Most people that I have talked to either hate it or absolutely love it. This one was a very different experience from other Lapsangs that I have tried. The taste was malty and aromatic with an almost chocolate-like richness. It had a sweet note reminiscent of caramel that I was not expecting at all. It turns out that this particular tea isn't smoked at all. What a difference that makes! I really loved being able to truly experience the tea instead of having to search for it hiding behind the taste of char. It was not overly astringent so no milk or sugar are necessary here at all. When made gongfu style using a gaiwan, this tea had a really pleasant lightness to it. The more subtle nuances of the taste became more apparent. Tea lovers should try brewing it both ways, perhaps even side by side, to see which way they prefer, I love that the packaging explains exactly where it came from (Tong Cheng Village in Fujian) and when the leaves were harvested (March 2013). The cardboard canister is beautifully designed and would make an excellent gift. Even if you aren't particularly a fan of this type of tea, I would definitely recommend giving this one a try.

Lapsang Souchong sample provided by Joseph Wesley Black Tea.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

JING Tea Ali Shan Oolong

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

The taste of this tea was deeply floral with a sweet and vegetal finish. In short, it was everything that I love about Ali Shan oolong. Fruity notes added a pleasant lightness that kept it from being too "green". The mouth-feel was smooth and almost creamy. I did about six consecutive infusions and the flavor remained consistent throughout. The leaves took their time unfurling but they had completely filled my gaiwan by the time that I was finished. They had a incredible aroma, even after brewing several times. Using a gaiwan or gongfu sized teapot is definitely the recommended way to go with this one. I've been very impressed with the quality of the tea that I've tried from +JING Tea.

Ali Shan Oolong sample provided by JING Tea.

Monday, January 13, 2014

KEDOÇAY Milan Dancong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: long, dark and somewhat twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep amber

This is the second tea that I've reviewed from the Turkish tea company +KEDOÇAY. Their website isn't in English but thanks to the power of Google Translate I am able to understand their product listings pretty well. This is a highly oxidized oolongs and just happens to be one of my favorite varieties of tea. The taste was complex and roasty with sweet notes of honey and a strong floral finish. The mouth-feel was smooth and there was very little astringency. Multiple steepings abound with oolongs and I think these leaves would be able to go at least six or eight rounds. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience drinking this tea and it is the kind that I will often find myself drinking all day long. I do wish that I knew which variety of Dancong this was as they are usually categorized by fragrance.

Milan Dancong sample provided by KEDOÇAY.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Join the Takeya Healthy Hydration Party!


I always look forward to Takeya's twitter parties and there is one coming up on January 14th. +Alexis Siemons, their brand specialist, will be giving an exclusive first-look at Takeya’s newest product and recipes. Plus, Alexis will reveal fast facts and top tips that highlight fun and easy ways to stay healthy and hydrated in the New Year. Prizes—including the most recent addition to the Takeya line of products—will be awarded throughout the party. Make sure that you follow #TakeyaHealthyHydration to catch all of the fun.

Takeya's Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker is one of my most frequently used tea tools. They've generously agreed to do a giveaway, just for +Tea for Me Please readers. Just use the widget below to enter for your chance to win a pitcher, teas and a water bottle. Contest is open to U.S. residents only. Sorry international tea lovers!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Guest Post: The Peculiarities of the Japanese Tea Ceremony

Today I am excited to share a guest post from Paul Smith. He is a writer who is interested in the Japanese tea ceremony.

What do we know about “The Land of Rising Sun”? I am sure that just those people, whose life is somehow connected with this country or whose, who are extremely interested in its culture, traditions, architecture and, of course, economy, have extensive knowledge about Japan. Most people know just a few facts about this country, such as: this is an island nation; this is the country of samurai; machine building is extremely developed in Japan and a few others.

I’d like to improve your knowledge about this beautiful and interesting country and tell you about Japanese tea ceremony or the Way of Tea. This ceremony is also called ChanoyuSado or Ocha in Japanese. There are two types of tea gatherings in Japan: chakai and chaji.

Chakai is relatively simple course of hospitability that includes sweets, thin tea and a light meal. This ceremony is comparatively short: it can take from 20 minutes to an hour.

Chaji is a formal tea ceremony, which usually consist of full-course kaiseki meal (traditional multi-course Japanese dinner), an intermission in the garden and then a solemn thick tea ceremony with sweets, which is followed by the less solemn thin Japanese tea ceremony. Chaji can last up to four or even five hours.

Chanoyu is an artistic pastime unique to Japan that feature the serving and drinking of Matcha, a powdered Japanese green-tea. Green tea was introduced to Japan from China in the 8th century, but Matcha powdered green-tea did not come into use there until the end of the 12th century. At the very beginning the practice of holding a social gathering in order to drink Matcha was popular only among upper classes. Such tradition was extremely popular among rich people during the 14th century.

For Japanese tea ceremony we will need the following things: tea bowl (there are four different bowls for each season of the year), tea scoop or chashaku (the tool with the help of which you will take tea from tea caddy put put it into the tea bowl), whisk or chasen, Wagashis (sweets) for chakai and kaiseki meal for chaji. The Japanese tea ceremony consists of the following steps:
  • clean the serving bowl;
  • boil a pot of water;
  • serve a sweet treat to guests before the tea (sweet should balance the bitter taste of the Matcha tea);
  • mix Matcha with water. There are two main ways of preparing matcha for tea ceremony: thick (koicha) and thin (usucha), for this tea we use the best quality tea leaves. In order to prepare usucha we whipped matcha and hot water with the help of tea whisk (chasen), while koicha is kneaded with the whisk to smoothly blend the large amount of powdered tea with the water
  • serve the tea to guests.
So now we know the main steps of Tea ceremony and it’s time to speak about some behavior peculiarities during Chanoyu. Here they are:
  1. Bow when you receive the cup of tea which is called a chawan.
  2. Take the chawan with your right hand and place it in the palm of your left hand.
  3. Turn the chawan clockwise three times before you take a drink.
  4. When the tea is gone, make a loud slurp to tell to the host that the tea was truly enjoyed.
  5. Wipe the part of the chawan your lips touched with your right hand.
  6. Turn the chawan counterclockwise and return it to the host.
Now you knew a little about the steps and peculiarities of Japanese tea ceremony. It is not as simply as it looks. In order to learn Chanoyu many people take classes or join clubs at dedicated tea schools, colleges or universities. Even if you do this, it still will take years of practice to master the art of Japanese tea ceremony. 

Keep in mind that the traditional Japanese tea ceremony is more than just drinking tea; it is a spiritual experience that embodies harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.


About the author: Paul Smith is very interested in other cultures and history. He works as a writer of custom written essays and composes the guest posts for various blogs. Feel free to contact him at Google+.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Aiya Tea Kukicha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, stemmy
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Hagi glazen houjin
Liquor: pale green

Kukicha is often a lower quality tea because it is comprised mostly of stems. That doesn't make it bad but it obviously would not be as well made as a fine sencha. This one is a bit different because it is made with 50% Gyokuro stems. It was vegetal and sweet with a very strong grassy aroma. I have a habit of chewing the leaves that fall into my cup and they tasted oddly oceanic. Multiple infusions abound, especially when using a small brewing vessel like my houjin. If you are a Gyokuro addict like me, this tea would a make an excellent substitute for daily drinking. I think that it would also work very well for cold brewing. +Aiya America Organic Matcha green tea is one of my go to companies for Japanese greens. Although it is no longer required, they test their teas monthly and post the results on their website. How is that for full disclosure!

Kukicha sample provided by Aiya Tea.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy Earth Tea Turzum Organic Darjeeling, Second Flush 2013

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: wiry, dark with some silvery tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

Last year I reviewed and very much enjoyed an oolong from the Turzum Estate so I was really excited to try a traditionally styled Darjeeling from there. This tea is graded SFTGFOP1 (Super Fine Tippy Golden Flower Orange Pekoe 1) so the leaves were fairly large and mostly whole. The classic muscatel taste that you would expect from a Darjeeling was present but it was also rounded out by a strong apricot character that lingered long after each sip. It also had a floral element that stayed mostly in the background. The mouth-feel was somewhat thick with just the right amount of astringency. It was crisp yet medium bodied so milk and sugar would not be necessary. +Happy Earth Tea has definitely become one of my go-to's when it comes to Darjeeling, although they do have other kinds of tea too! I love that they offer sample sizes. It really helps to be able to taste the tea before making a big commitment.

Turzum Organic Darjeeling sample provided by Happy Earth Tea.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Tea Places: Teavana - Newport Mall, Jersey City

It's been a long time since I had a tea place to write about in New Jersey. Where's the tea love New Jersey? I live in a veritable tea desert so I was excited to see that my local mall would be getting a Teavana. Even if you aren't a fan, something is better than nothing in my book.

They had literally just opened the day before my visit so things were still crowded and a bit flustered. Unfortunately the staff seemed to have been trained under the "old" regime because pushy sales tactics were spotted over and over again. I also overheard a staff member tell a customer that a Chinese and Japanese tea came from the same plant. I meant that not in the "all tea comes from Camelia Sinensis" sense but in a literal sense. He told her that one comes from the top of the plant, which is why it is more expensive, and the other comes from the bottom of that same plant.

I only hung around long enough to get a cup of monkey picked oolong to go. While they will probably never be my go to source for tea, it's nice to have them there. I can also use and earn Starbucks rewards cards there. Now if only an independent shop would open up locally who can grab all of these new tea drinkers and educate them...

Speaking of tea places, have you followed Tea for Me Please on FourSquare yet? Save my Tea in New Jersey list and you'll always be able to find a cup of tea :)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Teavivre Custom Made Chinese Gongfu Gaiwan

One can never have too much teaware. At least that is what I tell myself when I look at my overflowing shelves. That didn't stop me from doing a happy dance when +TeaVivre included this adorable gaiwan with a recent batch of samples. The design is wider and squatter than all of my other gaiwans (this one is number five). It was comfortable to hold and pours very well. The capacity isn't too large and its white color really helps the color of whatever tea I am drinking to shine. At just $13.90, this gaiwan would be a great first step for someone who is just starting to explore the gongfu method.

Gaiwan provided by Teavivre.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Little Red Cup Tea Company White Monkey

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, somewhat curled
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: glass test tube steeper
Liquor: very pale

Despite it's name, white monkey is actually a type of green tea that hails from the Hunan Province of China. The leaves were quite curly and many of them were covered in downy hair. The taste was delicate but by no means lacking in flavor. There were sweet vegetal notes along with a slight floral quality. It had some astringency but only just enough to leave a clean and refreshing aftertaste. Of course, I have to mention that this tea is both organic and Fair Trade certified. While the efficacy of both certifications is debatable, they are currently the tea drinkers only guide for finding ethically grown teas. +Little Red Cup Tea Co. does an excellent job of finding quality selections and I love that they are a small, family-run operation. I discovered them through Fab,com several years ago and have been enjoying their teas ever since.

White Monkey sample provided by Little Red Cup Tea Company.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reader Questions: Why Don't You Sell Tea?

One of the questions that I get asked most frequently, especially by non-tea people, is "Why don't you sell tea?". I definitely understand their confusion. Tea is one of my greatest passions in life and as the saying goes, do what you love. My answer is usually, "Well, it's complicated.". There are a few different reasons so I thought this might make an interesting blog post.

1. I don't have the time or resources.
Starting a business takes time, money and resources that I just do not have right now. If I were independently wealthy things might be different but that's not likely to happen unless my office lottery pool hits it big.

2. I fear it would be the end of Tea for Me Please.
Let's face it, this blog is my baby. For the last five years it has been the one constant thing in my life. I would be utterly bored without it. In addition I pride myself on being unbiased and honest. If I sold tea, could I really continue to review tea from other companies (my competition)?

3. I don't want to take away from the companies who have supported me.
The generosity of the tea world never ceases to amaze me. My "to be reviewed" bin is a testament to that. While I can't always buy the tea that I want to buy, I hope that my reviews help all of those companies in some small way.

4. If I do it, I want to do it the right away.
Over the years I've seen a number of bloggers become tea sellers. I've also seen just as many close up shop after a few years. This hurts the industry in general because it makes it appear that a tea retailer is not a sustainable business model. The truth of the matter is that when people eventually have to choose between their dream and a career, the career is usually the winner.

5. I don't know what I want.
A business needs to be sure of itself, to know who its customers are and what they are looking for. I often have many different and varied ideas floating around my head. No one idea has really grabbed me as a "this is what I want to do" concept. Perhaps in a few years that may change but for right now I'm still exploring everything that the wonderful world of tea has to offer.