Friday, August 29, 2014

Onward, Upward and Outward

Life has been a bit crazy for the last few months. While I've managed to keep the blog going I've been worried about not being able to give it my all. For those of you who don't already know, I am no longer the manager at Tea Drunk. I won't go into the nitty gritty here so let's just say that I learned a lot. While searching for a new career move, I interviewed with quite a few different tea companies. That was definitely an interesting experience. Could you believe that one company didn't hire me because I didn't look alternative enough? Too bad I still haven't gotten that tea tattoo I wanted!

In the end I accepted a position as an assistant manager at David's Tea. This surprised some tea friends but at the end of the day, I'm still doing what I love. I get to drink tea all day while helping New Yorker's discover their love for the leaf. My location is the Chelsea store (in case you want to help me out with some extra sales, lol). It's been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to growing with them as they rapidly expand here in the U.S. What's even better is that I am finally starting to get some work/life balance back. I had forgotten what weekends felt like!

In case all of that change wasn't crazy enough, I'm also moving in with my boyfriend this week. I'm not sure he's completely prepared to live with used leaves in the sink and tea gear everywhere but that will come eventually. All kidding aside, he's very supportive of my tea habit so I'm a lucky girl. I'm excited to finally be able to display my teaware properly. I'll be sure to post pictures once I've got everything set up. I'm also really happy that I'll now have a futon of my own for passing tea friends to crash on when they are visiting New York City.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site are my own and do not necessary reflect the views of DAVIDs TEA.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hankook Tea Brown Rice Green Tea

Country of Origin: Korea
Leaf Appearance: deep green, lots of roasted rice
Ingredients: green tea, roasted brown rice
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and testubin
Liquor: pale green

I have been wanting to try this tea ever since I saw Bonnie write about it on Thirsty for Tea. I have a weakness for genmaicha but this isn't just any brown rice tea. It's South Korean! There is a higher ration of leaves to rice than you will usually see in a genmaicha and the rice is roasted rather than popped. I rarely make an entire pot of tea but this one called for it on an unseasonably chilly day. The taste was sweetly vegetal and mellow with a wonderfully comforting quality to it. There was an almost buttery affect that I've not experienced in this type of tea before. It had just a hint of astringency but it never bordered on bitter. At $9.99 for 40g, I'd definitely consider keeping this one in stock permanently (if I didn't have tea coming out of my ears at the moment). I shared some with my brother as he was recovering from a bout of stomach issues and he enjoyed it as well.

Brown Rice Green Tea sample provided by Hankook Tea.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

White2Tea 2002 White Whale

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

I cannot stress enough what an awesome vendor +White2Tea is. I posted a total newbie question on TeaChat about how to tell the difference between "ancient" and young plantation teas. Paul reached out privately offering samples that he thought would help me to understand. Included in the treasure trove that arrived a few weeks later was a brick of White Whale. I had heard quite a bit of buzz about it from fellow bloggers and on Steepster. Things have been a bit crazy so it had been way too long since I had a good raw puerh when I finally got a chance to sit down and enjoy some. The taste was earthy with a pine-like smokiness and notes of camphor. There was very little astringency and the thick mouth-feel made it feel even smoother. Strangely enough, I was reminded of the rosin that I used on my violin when I was in grade school. That might sound unpleasant for some but it was a nice sensory memory. Holy cow! I must have lost some of my tolerance because I was tea drunk very quickly. As I said when I logged this one on Steepster, Is it the best puerh I've had? Of course note. Is it the best $15/100g puerh that I've ever had? Absolutely!

2002 White Whale sample provided by White2Tea.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Everything Healthy Tea Book by Babette Donaldson

Health benefits can be a touchy subject when it comes to tea. They aren't a factor for me personally but they are what leads many people to their love of the leaf. That being said, I've always thought that was time that we had a fair and balanced book on the subject. The Everything Healthy Tea Book just might be what I've been looking for. I met Babette Donaldson at World Tea Expo and was lucky enough to receive a press copy. Although it is soft cover, this book still weighs in at 304 pages.

Although health claims are discussed in depth, there are scientific studies sited. I love that! I have a feeling that I will be using this book for reference frequently as I often have customers who have very specific questions about health benefits that I'm not always able to answer. In addition to highlighting every category of tea, there are some very helpful chapters on tea brewing and storage. I was happy to see those there as I think the kind of person most likely to pick up this book will be new to tea. Regardless of if you are a neophyte or old pro, this book has a lot offer in a fun and approachable way.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed it, I still think my favorite book written by Babette Donaldson is Going Gonfu. Make sure that you check that one out when you are picking this one up!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Light of Day Organics All White Tea

Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Leaf Appearance: mottled, somewhat broken
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

I've written about several U.S. grown teas here but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would be writing about a tea that was produced on a Biodynamic farm in Michigan. As you all know, if I write about something unusual it most likely came to me from esoteric tea hunter +Geoffrey Norman. He wrote about this tea back in April and was kind enough to share some when we met up at World Tea Expo. The leaves looked a bit broken and stemmy but very much like a Bai Mu Dan style white tea. Light of Day Organics' steeping instructions struck me as way too low temp so I sort of winged it. The taste was earthier and smokier than I had expected but it was still light and very pleasant. There were notes of pine along with an interesting hint of vanilla. I was worried about it being able to hold up to gongfu style brewing but it held like a champ. This one is definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of white tea.

All White Tea received courtesy of +Geoffrey Norman of Steep Stories.

Friday, August 22, 2014

JusTea Tea Star

Country of Origin: Kenya
Leaf Appearance: dark, pressed flat
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 200 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup
Liquor: amber

When I saw this tea star at World Tea Expo I was really fascinated by it. At first glance you might think that is a typical flowering tea. However, it is actually hand tied Kenyan oolong. Doubly exciting! The guys at +Jus Tea told me a funny story about the naming of this tea. Originally their workers called it buibui, the Swahili word for spider, because that's what they thought it resembled. After a bit of refinement their star was born. Although it doesn't blossom in the traditional sense, the leaves did expand quite a bit after steeping. The string made it easy and mess free to steep a cup even when I was in a rush. The taste was mellow with sweet fruity and floral notes. Overall it was a very smooth and enjoyable tea. There was no bitterness or astringency to speak of. Milk and sugar would not be advisable with this one but neither is needed at all. For another fun review of this tea, check out the thoughts of my friend, Oolong Owl.

I interviewed Britta from their team on Episode 2 of my podcast last year. Make sure you check that out if you haven't already!

Tea Star sample received from JusTea at World Tea Expo.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Awesome Tea Creators of YouTube

I'm always on the look out for fun and interesting YouTube videos that revolve around my favorite topic (tea!). Recently I've discovered some folks who are doing really cool things so I thought that I would share them with you. These are channels that I subscribe to and their content is primarily tea oriented. Some are people that I consider close friends, some of them are total strangers. That's the beauty of the internet getting together with tea. It brings us all together :)

I'm sure that there are some people that I missed so let me know in the comments if there is a channel that I should add to this post!

Tea DB
You might remember these guys from when I interviewed them on my podcast. James and Denny definitely hold the record for the most videos made. They're on episode 66! I really enjoy their chemistry and tea nerd tendencies.

Tea Sisters
This channel makes me wish my sister liked tea. Nicolette and Sophia are an adorably dynamic duo who puts together some really creative content.

The Snooty Tea Person
If you love tea puns, I've got the YouTube channel for you. The Snooty Tea Person is best described by her tag line: Answers. Anecdotes. An-tea-oxidants.

Tea Avenger
I originally found Tea Avenger through their Tumblr blog. She's only got a few videos under her belt but I really enjoyed the Tea of the Day features.

Kathy YL Chan
Fellow blogger Kathy YL Chan has put together a series of great instructional videos involving tea. Some of the recipes sound and look absolutely delicious.
Lazy Literatus
Long time tea friend Geoff Norman has made some very entertaining videos where he reviews tea as Batman. Need I say more?

Tea Geek
Tea Geek is the host of a show called Let's Talk Tea. They've had a handful of episodes so far but they've all been very thought provoking.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lochan Tea Doke Black Fusion 2014

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: dark, wiry with golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 205 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain infuser mug
Liquor: dark amber

One thing that I love about the teas that I've tried from +Lochan Tea Limited is that they are never quite what I expected. Of course, I mean that in the best way possible. The dry leaves were mostly whole with some golden tips interspersed. I was surprised to find a depth and complexity that I've never really gotten from an Indian grown black tea before. The taste was robust with notes of molasses, rose and a pleasant bit of maltiness. It wasn't exactly what I would describe as sweet but it had a unique sugary mouth-feel. I drank this on an unusually rainy and windy night and it really hit the spot. Even though this is a fairly full bodied tea I have to strongly suggest giving it a go without any additives. You would be robbing yourself of many of its nuances. There was some astringency but it never crossed the line into bitter or unpleasant.

Doke Black Fusion 2014 sample provided by Lochan Tea.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tea Journeyman Satemwa White Antlers

Country of Origin: Malawi
Leaf Appearance: dark, twiggy
Ingredients: white tea stems
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale amber

Every once in a while I hear about a tea that I am dying to try and this one has definitely been one of those. I met the folks from Satemwa at World Tea Expo and was really impressed by how much they care for their staff. Unfortunately I visited at the end of the last day of the show so the leaves of this tea had been spent. As luck would have it, +Tea Journeyman Shop carries it so I was overjoyed to receive a sample. It is unusual in that it is from Malawi and because it is a white tea that is comprised entirely of stems. The taste was incredibly complex with dominant notes of honey and spice. There was also an interesting vanilla quality that lent a bit of creaminess. At first I was skeptical of the claim that this tea could be brewed five more times but it was really true. It maintained the aroma and flavor profile right up to the very end.

Satemwa White Antlers sample provided by Tea Journeyman.

Monday, August 18, 2014

World Tea Podcast - Episode 7: Tea for Me Please? Of Course!

Last week I was a guest on World Tea Podcast, which is hosted by my Canadian tea friend TJ . He was part of the crazy crew that stayed in the beach house with me at World Tea Expo. We brewed four different kinds of tea, including a Japanese green that he crafted himself while interning at Kyoto Obubu Tea Farms. If you have haven't subscribed to his show in iTunes, you definitely should!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Teavivre Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: bright green with a lot of buds
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 185 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale, greenish

+TeaVivre is one my go to's for Chinese teas and whenever I see nonpareil in the tea name, I know that it's going to be a really good one. This term designates a tea that was once used as a tribute to the emperor. This Mao Feng is also what is known as pre-Qing Ming, which means that it was harvested before April 5th. The taste was refreshingly mellow and sweet but by no means simple. There were hints of toasted rice, fruits, nuts and even a hint of floral notes. It was vegetal but not overly so, making it a great choice for those who don't like that aspect of green tea. Think fresh peas rather than seaweed. The funny thing about good quality green tea is that the taste often hits you on the back end, almost as an aftertaste. Subtlety is key!

Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea sample provided by Teavivre.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Daily Tea: Have Tea, Will Travel

I always make sure to take tea with my when I travel but figuring out which teas work best can be tough. In a recent article for +The Daily Tea, I've listed six great options from some of my favorite tea companies. Do you have a favorite tea for when you are traveling? Let me know in the comments on The Daily Tea article here:

Have Tea, Will Travel

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reader Questions: Is It Possible to Drink Too Much Tea?

A few people have asked this question so I thought that I should address it as best I can. I'm not a health professional and you should speak to your physician if you have concerns about tea and your health. That being said, I consume large quantities of tea on a daily basis and have never had any negative side affects because of it. I'll usually drink between four and eight cups along with several cups of iced tea throughout the day.

Overdosing on caffeine is possible but fairly hard to achieve. There are no black and white rules when it comes to tea. For years the industry parroted antiquated beliefs that white and green tea were low in caffeine and black tea was high in the substance. This has since been proven to not be true at all. Some white and green teas are very high in caffeine. Every batch of leaves and every cup has a different quantity. Each person also has a different level of sensitivity. I'm not very affected by it at all so I'll frequently have a gongfu session with raw puerh right before bed. In many ways it actually helps me sleep. Other people, like my friend +The Snooty Tea Person, are very sensitive to its stimulating effects. My advice is to know your body and what your tolerance level is. Drinking water and snacking in between tea sessions helps a lot as well.

The other day I stumbled upon a funny little online tool called Death by Caffeine. I'm sure that it's not terribly accurate but according to its calculations it would take just over 227 cups of black tea to kill me. I highly doubt that I would ever be able to consume that much in a single sitting.

Last year there was a story being circulated about a woman who suffered from skeletal fluorosis due to excessive tea drinking. The thing that many news outlets forgot to say is that she "habitually consumed a pitcher of tea made from 100 to 150 tea bags daily". That's insane! I don't know what would possess someone to drink tea that was concentrated at such a high level. One can only assume that she was also using the most inexpensive tea bags that she could find. That was probably a contributing factor as well. Drinking large amounts of instant tea has also been shown to have negative effects.

The moral of the story is everything in moderation. Too much of anything, even a basic life requirement like water, is not good for you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Steepist Monthly Subscription Service

I'm always on the look out for new and interesting tea subscription services so I was really excited when Steepist offered a sample of their inaugural box. The company was started by Jiho and Sungwoo, two tea lovers who were roommates at Princeton.

"After graduating, they adopted the habit of drinking tea but eventually grew dissatisfied with the dearth of high-quality, tasteful options. So they decided to do something about it and change the way tea is perceived and consumed today. They set out to redefine the tea experience, and Steepist was born."

For $23 a month, subscribers receive four .05 oz samples of carefully curated tea. Free shipping is included. The tea was packaged well with plenty of padding to help avoid crushed leaves. A card was included with background information about each of the companies featured.

The teas that I received in my box were:

Organic Lapsang Souchong from Stone Leaf Teahouse

I really like that this is more of a tea discovery service. It would be a great way for someone who is new to tea to discover the variety of options out there. This is probably a sign that I drink way too much tea but I've actually already reviewed all of these except for the Lapsang Souchong previously. I'm really excited to dive into that one because I had heard a lot about Stone Leaf Teahouse from tea friends who frequent their Middlebury, VT location.

Sample provided by Steepist.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shan Valley First Flush Green Tea 2014

Country of Origin: Mynamar
Leaf Appearance: deep green, somewhat broken
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: deep gold

Mynamar, also known as Burma, is not widely known for producing tea but they are the second largest country in Southeast Asia. Some of you might remember that I reviewed a selection of +Shanvalley's teas last year, including the First Flush Green Tea. The sample I tried previously was a pyramid bag so I was excited to dig into the loose leaf. The taste was deeply vegetal with a pleasant sweetness. I was reminded very much of homemade spinach. The finish had a refreshing zing with hints of citrus. There was also a nice toasted quality that I found very comforting. If you are in need of a good basic green to use for iced tea or making in bulk, this one is a great candidate for that. $3 per ounce is an unbelievably low price.

First Flush Green Tea 2014 sample provided by Shan Valley.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Mandala Tea Milk 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: pale gold

I love milk oolong but finding an authentic one is very difficult. A lot of those available in the US are artificially flavored using powdered milk and other dubious tactics. +Mandala Tea has yet to let me down and this tea was no different. It was incredibly aromatic with a complex flavor profile. All at once my senses were bombarded with fruity and floral notes along with an almost sugary sweetness. The floral aspect was reminiscent of orchid, similar to what I would expect from Tie Guan Yin. All of this was enveloped in a buttery mouth feel and heavy notes of cream. For some reason I was reminded of one of my guilty pleasures, Cow Tails caramel candy. The creaminess stayed strong for the first several infusions and then eventually gave way to a more vegetal lean. There was no sour quality or unpleasantness, even long after the leaves were "done".

*Just a special side note, this is 100th tea review that I've published this year! :)

Milk Oolong sample received with order from Mandala Tea.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Daily Tea: Getting the Most out of Your Expensive Oolong Tea

As promised, I'll be contributing content to +The Daily Tea twice a month. Even thought the articles will be over there, I'll be sure to post about them here so that you don't miss them. Oolongs can be one of the most expensive types of tea. Beginners often struggle with how to get the most out of their leaves so we thought this was a perfect opportunity to share some pointers. Check it out on The Daily Tea here:

Getting the Most out of Your Expensive Oolong Tea

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Butiki Teas Oriental Beauty

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mottled mix of greens, browns
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 4 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: amber

I purchased some Taiwanese black teas a while ago and a sample of this tea was included with my order. We usually think of Oriental Beauty as a Taiwanese tea but this one hails from the Anhui province of China. The leaves were very pretty to look at, a hodgepodge of cool earthy tones. Its taste was wonderfully complex with notes of stone fruit, honey and florals. Oddly enough it had a biscuity quality that reminded me of second flush Darjeeling. There was very little astringency, making for a very smooth cup. Milk and sweeteners would be travesty here. I sometimes worry that it comes of snobbish when I make a strong recommendation like that but I hope that it encourages people to try the tea all its own before trying to add anything. At just $10.99 per ounce, this tea is quite a steal. I love that it is organic and that +Stacy Lim gives the name of the cultivar as well as the tea master who crafted it.

Oriental Beauty sample received with order from Butiki Teas.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy Earth Tea Yunnan Gold Supreme Organic

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, tippy and golden
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teapot
Liquor: deep reddish brown

You all know that +Happy Earth Tea is my go to when it comes to Darjeeling but they also have a very nice selection of teas from other growing regions as well. I love Yunnan red teas and this one was very nice. The leaves were mostly whole leaves with a nicely mottled golden color to them. Love those fuzzy buds! The taste was earthy and sweet with a pleasant maltiness. Subtle notes of chocolate, fruit and even florals added a nice level of complexity. It was full bodied but not super bold about it so I wouldn't recommend using milk or sugar here. I've got a bit of this left and I'll definitely be gongfu-ing it as I think it will come out even better than it did in my little Tsuki Teapot from Rishi. If you are ever in Rochester, NY be sure to stop by their tea studio. It's on my "must see" list and I'll be going as soon as I can find someone with a car who loves tea as much as I do. :)

Yunnan Gold Supreme Organic sample provided by Happy Earth Tea.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Whittard of Chelsea Assam Hazelbank

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Steeper
Liquor: reddish brown

I really enjoy a good Assam. It's a full-bodied breakfast tea that puts a little hair on your chest. I was initially attracted to this particular one from +Whittard of Chelsea because the estate name is given. It's still not very common to see but I'm glad that this practice increasing. The dry leaves were small but good quality. They were mostly unbroken with scattered golden tips. The taste was bold and flavorful with lots of malty pep. This is definitely a tea that can stand up to milk and sugar if need be, maybe even a drop of honey. It's a tasty and economical brew so it would make a great choice for iced tea or a daily drinker. It can be tempting to be heavy handed with leaves but go sparingly because it packs a punch.

Assam Hazelbank sample provided by Whittard of Chelsea.

Friday, August 1, 2014

White2Tea Rougui Oolong Tea

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

+White2Tea is probably best known for their puerh but they do stock a few oolongs as well. I've never been much of a yancha person but lately Rou Gui has been one of my favorites. The name translates as cassia, aka Chinese cinnamon. Don't think cinnamon flavor but a very pleasant spicy undertone. I find that I prefer them on the roasted side because it brings out that spice and this one was very nice. There was the classic mineral quality of a cliff tea as well as a subtle smokiness. It is priced very well for the level of quality too. It's not the best Rou Gui I've ever had but it's definitely the best $12.50/50g Rou Gui that I've had. I'd like to get a small yixing to use for this type of tea at some point. I'm not entirely sure that I'd use it often enough to justify the expense though.

Rougui Oolong Tea sample provided by White2Tea.