Friday, February 27, 2015

Podcast Episode 13: Commonly Mispronounced Chinese Tea Words

Pronouncing Chinese tea words can be nerve wracking for many tea drinkers. Pu'er? Dan Cong? Yixing? Some of these sounds don't even exist in the English language! +Michael J. Coffey  and +Eric Scott lend their expertise as we discuss some of the most commonly mispronounced Chinese tea words. Is there a word that we missed? Let us know about it in the comments!

Friday Round Up: February 22nd - February 28th

Misty Peaks Tea: Yi Wu Shan Da Ye Sheng Bing Stone-Pressed (Yiwu Mountain Green Puer Cake) 2014, A Tea Review
+Amanda Wilson reviewed one of my absolute favorite puerh teas. Can you spot her cute little frog tea pets?

Matcha Cafe Wabi
+Jee Choe wrote about her experience at one of NYC's newest matcha bars. I missed that yummy looking rice krispy treat on my last visit so I'll have to go back soon.

How to Take Better Photos of Your Tea
It's not often that someone makes the round up twice but +Jee Choe contributed a great guest post to +sara shacket's blog. Taking pictures of tea can be tough but these tips will help a lot.

Yunnan Sourcing Premium Plan Club – February 2015
I always enjoy +Kayleigh Jade's thorough tea reviews. She got some great shots that really showed off the teas from +Yunnan Sourcing.

A High Mountain Happy Accident
Only +Geoffrey Norman could find a way to relate Bob Ross and his happy trees to a high mountain black tea from +Eco-Cha Artisan Teas. That made my day :)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Tea Pet Addiction Continues

I always liked the idea of tea pets and lately I find I'm even more enamored with them than ever. Ribbit has been my faithful companion for many years and then along came Zhu. Two new friends have graced my tea table lately. Their names are still undecided. I've got to get to know them a bit more.

I fell in love with a collection of tiny monkey tea pets at +T Shop. At the time, I told myself, "If he's still here the next time I visit, then I'll buy him.". It's a little game I play to keep myself from doing too much impulse shopping. Two weeks later I had some time to kill between meetings so I stopped in to have some tea. He was still there waiting so how could I not take him home?

While placing an order with +Yunnan Sourcing, I couldn't help but take a peek at their assortment of tea pets. Since he was only $3.50, I used the shipping charges to justify adding him on. He is ordinarily a brassy color but turns bright gold when hot water is poured on him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stone Leaf Tea Organic Lapsang Souchong

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

This is the tea that I was most excited to try in my sample box from Steepist so I saved it for last. Lapsang is one of those teas that I really enjoy but I have to be in the mood for it. On a very cold winter night, my boyfriend and I sat down to relax and watch Guardians of the Galaxy. In that moment this tea was everything that I wanted it to be. The smoke was there of course but the base was a wonderfully sweet and full bodied Fujian black tea. There was even a hint of fruitiness shining through in the background. I think it's safe to say that +Stone Leaf Tea House nailed it. This kind of tea is very easy to overdo and there are a lot of bad ones out there for sale. I wasn't left with that gross creosote aftertaste but it wasn't whimpy either. The fact that it's organic and reasonably priced are added bonuses to an already pretty awesome tea. If you're ever in Vermont, be sure to look them up.

Organic Lapsang Souchong sample provided by Steepist.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crimson Lotus Tea Xiaguan T8653 2014 Sheng Puerh

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

You all know how much I love my sweet and mellow Yiwu but sometimes I need a puerh that packs a punch. +Crimson Lotus Tea describes this as an "iron cake" and the name seems apt as even my sample size was hard to break apart. One of the things I love about puerh is that I'm still discovering it. This is the first tea that I've tried from the Xiaguan Tea Factory, one of the oldest in China. My first infusion was on the lighter side but that was a bit deceptive because the leaves were still very tightly packed, even after a couple of rinses. I missed their warning to handle this tea gently so I went with my usual 30 second infusion. Holy cow is this stuff strong! I shortened my infusions a bit and it settled back down. The taste was vegetal and earthy with plenty of astringency. In the later brews I was surprised by an interesting floral note that popped up mid-palate. Tightly compressed cakes like this one take longer to age and mellow. If I had a whole bing, I'd probably let it chill out for a while.

Xiaguan T8653 Sheng Puerh sample purchased from Crimson Lotus Tea.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Teagora Biluochun Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, curled
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 1 minute
Water Temperature: 17 degrees
Preparation Method: glass test tube steeper
Liquor: very pale green

The winter weather had me craving a touch of spring so I grabbed this sample from Teagora out of my "to do" bin. I love that they displayed the name of the grower on the tin. The dry leaves were fairly large compared to many other Bi Luo Chun that I have tried but its important to remember that this name refers to the making method and does not indicate much else. Most companies do not do this but I think it's important to draw attention to those who work so hard to produce our tea. Their website even tells you his age and how long he's been in the industry. The taste was vegetal and sweet with just the right amount of astringency. Floral and fruity notes were at the forefront while a pleasant roasted quality provided the background. At $9 for 50g, this tea is moderately inexpensive as far as Chinese greens go. It'd be a great choice for those who really enjoy this type of tea but don't want to break the budget.

Biluochun sample provided by Teagora.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Round Up: February 15th - February 21st

Kokang has great tea!
+Gingko Seto's blog posts are always full of knowledge. This one in particular brings light to a region in turmoil that many tea drinkers may not be aware of. *Warning* There are some graphic images towards the bottom of the post.

High Mountain Concubine Oolong (#49)
I've been avidly following the tea adventures of Bethany over at All Tea. No Crumpets. It's a bit like reliving the good ol' days of when I first got started. In this post, she writes about one of my favorite oolongs.

Japanese Tea Producing Areas
Tea producing areas of Japan is still something that I'm trying to get a handle on. This post by Florent at Japanese Tea Sommelier was immensely helpful. I'll definitely be bookmarking this one for future reference.

10 Things In Every Tea Session
I'm so happy to see posts from +Adam Yusko of The Sip Tip popping up in my feed again. This post is a great reminder of all of the things we might want to consider when brewing tea.

The Six Immutable Laws of Tea Storage
+Tony Gebely of World of Tea has a knack for providing information in a very succinct way. Rather than drone on about how to store tea, he gives us six easy to follow and understand rules.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chobani Green Tea Greek Yogurt

Tea flavored things have a habit of jumping out at me when I'm at the grocery store. On a recent trip, this new green tea yogurt from Chobani screamed out, "Take me with you!". I was immediately drawn to the Camellia Sinensis blossom on the package. I thought it was interesting that they opted for that instead of just a cluster of leaves. The taste was very subtle, much more like vanilla yogurt than tea.

I really wish that they had gone the easy route and just used matcha instead of "green tea essence". Greek yogurt has fairly strong taste and the green tea needed to be more present in order to stand out. That being said, I was happy to see that didn't assign any additional health benefits because of the added green tea. Tea can be good just for its own sake. I've got a recipe in mind with yogurt and green tea so keep an eye out for that soon. :)

The ingredients listed on the container are:

Lowfat Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk, Cream, Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei), Evaporated Cane Juice, Green Tea Essence, Spirulina Extract and Fruit Juice Concentrate (For Color), Locust Bean Gum, Pectin, Lemon Juice Concentrate.

You can find out more about this yogurt here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Day at NY NOW with Silver Needle Tea Co.

A few weeks ago I made the acquaintance of Lucy Yung, founder of +Silver Needle Tea Co., through a mutual friend. She was in the midst of planning a booth at her first ever trade show, NY NOW at the Javits Center. That's an exciting but scary time for any business! She was in need of some helping hands at her booth and I jumped at the chance. While I've attended lots of trade shows (both tea and otherwise), I've never had a chance to experience things from the vendor point of view.

Lucy's booth was beautiful in its simplicity. It perfectly matched the aesthetic of her brand and really drew the eye right to the star of the show, her line of grower-direct teas. I was obsessed with centerpiece of pink flowering branches. Considering that NYC got a big dumping of snow that week, they were a much welcomed glimpse of spring. Surrounded by photos from her sourcing trips, I helped to serve tea and greet booth visitors.

NY NOW is more of a lifestyle show so it was interesting to see the reactions of show-goers. Many of them had never experienced "real" tea but they were all intrigued. Sencha seemed to be the biggest surprise for many of them. That umami sneaks up on you! One of the biggest perks of the day was getting to enjoy some of Lucy's teas and her hear stories about traveling to source them. I fell in love with the high mountain oolong. Even in less than optimal brewing conditions, an incredible amount of complexity came out in the third and fourth steeping. I was impressed!

It seems that there are always tea friends everywhere that I go. I had no idea that +Alexis Siemons and +Darlene Meyers-Perry would both there so I was really glad to have a chance to catch up with them. Sid from Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling even stopped by to chat. Thank you for Lucy for giving me a bit of an inside view. It was a fantastic day!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tea Places: Chalait

It seems like NYC is the place to be for matcha these days. +Chalait is the third matcha bar to open up in the last year. While there's some danger of the market becoming overcrowded, I love that all of these places are introducing people to tea. In addition to matcha they offer espresso and a menu of bites and sandwiches. The first time that I visited the shop was very crowded. I grabbed a shot rather quickly. Served in a tiny espresso cup, it was a bit of a different experience than the one that I had at Matcha Cafe Wabi. I was excited to see that their loose leaf is supplied by In Pursuit of Tea.

On my second visit I was with some tea friends and it was a much more relaxed experience. We got seats at their sunny window and it was a great place for people watching. This time I went with the matcha americano and a matcha croissant. Holy cow was that delicious! I loved the combination of matcha cream with the raspberries. It's something I'll definitely have to try replicating at home. The americano basically tasted exactly like the shot but in a bigger service size. I'll probably order that in the future, especially if I'm eating a flaky pastry.

You can find out more about Chalait here.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Tea People Desi Masala Chai

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

I love a punchy chai but sometimes it good to have one that I can drink straight, without the rigmarole of stove-top preparation. That's exactly what this selection from +Tea People was. Cardamom definitely dominated the flavor profile. I believe that this is because the pods were cracked rather than whole as I've normally seen. The base black tea was a bold, malty Assam with just the right amount of astringency. It certainly could take milk and sugar if you were inclined but I had no problem drinking a big mug without adding either one. I've only tried teas of Indian origin from this company but so far, they seem to know their stuff. The product description for this tea included this interesting history of masala chai:

When tea was first grown in India to break Chinese monopoly on tea, it was not a popular beverage among the locals. The usual practice was to drink 'kadha' instead which was water and milk boiled with spices (as was recommended according to the Ayurveda, an ancient alternative medicinal system based in India). The Indian Tea association (at that time under the British) promoted tea among them in the preferred British way by adding a little milk and sugar. However Indian vendors began adding tea to the kadha they drank already. Although the Tea association at that time frowned at this practice as this reduced the usage (and thus the purchase) of tea leaves, the practice stuck and Chai tea was born! 

Desi Masala Chai sample provided by Tea People.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Round Up: February 8th - February 14th

The Tea Whisk or Chasen
Tyas posted an  interesting post on +Tea Talk. I couldn't agree more with his defense of the chasen as the best tool for making matcha.

Preparing Usucha
Speaking of whisking matcha, +Oca Ocani wrote an excellent guide to preparing usucha.

Great Horse Tea’s Bai Ji Guan Wuyi Rock Oolong
+Tea DB had a special guest on this episode who shared his experiences traveling in China. I love a good Wuyi oolong.

Practising Mindfulness in a Busy World
Revoluzzion gave an important reminder about how tea can help us to be in the moment. I don't always remember to do this myself but when I do, I always relish the feeling,

The 5 Tenents of Teakwondo
Instead of her usual pun-filled video, +The Snooty Tea Person brings us a bit of wisdom from her taekwondo retreat. My fave is: "When that guy with a Red Bull laughs at your mug, that’s fine. Dragon Well gives you wings.".

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jalam Teas Meng Zhr Unfermented

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: varied greens and browns, compressed
Ingredients: puerh
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: gold

There is something about shipments from +JalamTeas that brings out the photographer in me. I've had some major catching up to do so this was actually sent in February 2014. Good thing puerh gets better with age (most of the time)! The leaves of this one were quite beautiful after a few steepings. I love finding whole bud sets in my puerh. I've never had a tea from this region but the informative postcard that accompanied it explained that it is close to the border of Laos. While it had a strong character, I was surprised by its mellowness. The taste was vegetal with a crisp and clean finish. The aroma of the leaves was quite nice as well. Towards the end of my session I even picked up a bit of fruitiness. This is the kind of puerh that I put in my travel mug to brew over and over again throughout the day. It's strong enough to wake me up but not so strong that it punches me in the face. I used about 6 grams since that's my comfort zone but the brewing directions advised using 8 grams. It also said that the locals will use as much as 12 grams. Somehow I feel like this tea wouldn't have been nearly as mellow if I had done that.

You can find out more about Jalam Teas here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How I Keep My House Smelling Like Tea

How I Keep My House Smelling Like Tea

There is nothing quite like the smell of tea and I love filling my home with it. Much to my boyfriend's chagrin, it's something that I've experimenting with a lot lately. Is there a way that you use tea around your home? Let me know about it in the comments!

Dry Leaves Deodorizer
I wind up with A LOT of used tea leaves on a daily basis. Without the capability to compost them, I always felt like I was wasting them. That is, until I started using them as a deodorizer. Tea is really absorbent of odor so it works well for this. All you need to do is dry out the leaves. This can be done in an oven, by laying them in the sun or using a tea roaster. Then just place the leaves in the area where you need to remove odors.

Green Tea Incense
A Twitter friend in the U.K. sent me a package of a green tea scented incense. How cool is that? They smell pretty good and I often use them during gongfu sessions to add to the ambiance. You can find them on Amazon here.

Tea Roaster
A few months ago I let you all know about a Kickstarter project from Ec-Cha. I won an electric tea roaster through their referral contest. Needless to say I was beyond excited. I haven't yet found a tea to experiment with roasting but I have been using it to roast my used leaves. The apartment smells beyond amazing whenever I do, especially if it's an aromatic oolong or Dian Hong.

Tea Linen Spray
My mother has a knack for finding the most unusual tea related presents. For Christmas she surprised me with a tea linen spray. That's right! It has extracts of green tea, oolong, ginseng, orchid and lemon. I absolutely love how it makes my bed smell. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find anything about it online. For those who'd like to track some down, it is called Beautea Organic by Par Pureliving

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tribute Tea Company Wen Mountain Baozhong Oolong

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

This tea had a fairly light oxidation level, even for a Bao Zhong. Some might even confuse it for a green tea. The taste was incredibly floral and sweet with a lingering aftertaste. A touch of fruitiness came through in the background but the orchid aspect definitely dominated. The mouth feel was buttery smooth and there was no astringency to speak of. This tea stayed strong through four or five consecutive infusions. They probably could have gone on for a few more rounds beyond that. Pouchongs can bother my stomach a bit if I drink too much so I wasn't able to do my usual marathon session. I put these leaves in my tea roaster after I was finished with them and my apartment smelled absolutely amazing.

Bonus tea nerd factoid: Bao Zhong is Chinese for "the wrapped kind". It comes from an old technique where the leaves were wrapped in paper. This step is rarely done nowadays but the name remains.

Wen Mountain Baozhong Oolong sample provided by Tribute Tea Company.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Meet Me at World Tea Expo 2015!

I'm super excited to be attending +worldteaexpo again this year. Last year was my first time and it felt a bit like the first day of school. I had been speaking to many of the people there for years through the internet but never met them in person until then. This year feels more like a class reunion. I'm excited to see all of the friends that I made last year and make some new ones too.

One of the events that I'm most looking forward to is the tea blogger roundtable. I'll be a panelist again (eeek, public speaking!), along with +Gary Robson+Naomi Rosen+Chris Giddings+Jo J+Geoffrey Norman+Jen Piccotti and +Rachana Rachel Carter. Will you be able to join us in the audience? If so, fill out this form and let us know what topics you'd like to discuss!

In addition to the round table I'll be a speaker on the panel at +Jen Piccotti's seminar, Amplifying Your Business Voice Through Tea Bloggers. Fellow bloggers +Jo J and +Geoffrey Norman will be joining me.

Learn the secrets to approaching the right bloggers for your target market as well as the do's and don'ts of requesting a product review. Knowing the right way to partner with bloggers not only raises awareness of your company and products, but also increases revenues with no-to-low cost to you.
I think a seminar like this is really important for the industry. There's so many small tea businesses out there. Knowing how to effectively use bloggers to help your business is a tremendous asset.
You can see my coverage of this event last year here.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Round Up: February 1st - February 7th

Discover the World of Tea at the Toronto Tea Festival
Lu Ann at The Cup of Life shared a great summary of her experience at the Toronto Tea Festival. This is one event that is definitely on my to-do list.

5 Point Checklist for Gongfu Tea Preparation
+White2Tea is one vendor whose blog I read religiously. This post is a great reference point for tea drinkers that are just starting out.

Cha Doraku
+Ricardo Caicedo never fails to surprise me with new info about Japanese teas. On his latest podcast episode he discusses bihakkou, a method of making green tea that involves an extra step of oxidation.

The five-fold essence of tea
I've really enjoyed the articles from +Wu De (of Global Tea Hut fame) on T Ching. Tea is indeed friendship :)

2007 Ronzhen Imperial Concubine Sheng Raw Puerh from PuerhShop
I've just recently discovered a new blog called Hot Leaf Juice Tea. I really enjoy his review style.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bellocq Giddapahar Darjeeling 2nd Flush

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with scattered golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: dark amber

It had been a while since I visited Bellocq so I stopped in while I was nearby at MatchaBar. Their shop is so beautiful that I often get distracted and forget what I came for in the first place. I had been planning to stock back up on their White Wolf but then I realized that I was completely out of Darjeeling. Blasphemy! They had a few to choose from but I opted for the 2nd flush from Giddapahar as I thought my boyfriend would enjoy it the most. The taste was full bodied and brisk but with a lot of pleasant sweetness. I wouldn't quite call it muscatel but there was some grapiness accompanied by a lingering floral aftertaste. It's probably best to not add anything to this tea but a touch of honey might be nice if you were so inclined. This one is middle range for their offerings but a little expensive for Darjeeling. It's not a daily drinker for me but I whip out when the mood strikes.

Giddapahar 2nd Flush sample purchased from Bellocq.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Teavivre Da Hong Pao (Big Red Robe) Wuyi Rock Oolong

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

Da Hong Pao, often known as Big Red Robe, is one of my favorite Wuyi oolongs. This selection from +TeaVivre was fairly large leaved compared to others that I have seen. Their generously shared sample packet was 6.4g, just under the recommended 7g. Close enough, right? The taste was warm and toasty with notes of caramel. A subtle floral element in the finish kept it from becoming too heavy. This tea has what is known as a high, or long lasting fragrance. I still caught hints of it in my palate long after taking my last sip. This type of tea does not last as long as others so I highly suggest using gongfu methods to get the most out of the leaves. The reputation of Da Hong Pao can sometimes cause people make their expectations very high. If you compare this tea to the old legends, you will more than likely be disappointed (like some of the reviewers on Teavivre's site). If you drink it for what it is, then it is a great intro Wuyi that isn't terribly expensive.

Da Hong Pao Wuyi Rock Oolong sample provided by Teavivre.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

KEDOÇAY Dragon Well Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, flat
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass gaiwan
Liquor: pale green

We tend to mostly familiar with US or Asian based operations but there are tea companies all over the world. +KEDOÇAY is a retailer based in Turkey. Having reviewed a few of their selections, I've found them to be good quality and very well priced. This Dragonwell is a great example of that. It didn't have the prettiest leaves that I've ever seen but it was still pretty darned tasty. Notes of sugarsnap peas and baby spinach gave way to a soft, floral finish. There was hardly any astringency. Due to its economic advantages, this tea would be a great daily drinker for the office or for when you are on the go. Making green teas shine in a gaiwan can often be tricky but I find that leaving the lid off during steeping helps tremendously. If you opt to brew "grandpa" style, go sparingly with the leaves to avoid bringing out bitterness.

Dragon Well Green Tea sample provided by KEDOÇAY.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wild Tea Qi Artisan Yunnan Black Needle

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: needle shaped, lots of golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish brown

My biggest soft spot is probably Yunnan black teas, especially pretty ones with lots of gold. They're the teas that make me relax and say "Ahhh..." as soon as I take my first sip. That's exactly what happened with this handmade selection from +Wildteaqi. Notes of burnt sugar (a la crème brûlée) and cacao accompanied a really nice malty element. I did at least six infusions before the flavor started to fade. Even then, it was still pretty darned tasty. The mouth-feel was fairly silky and there was no bitterness to speak of. This is a tea that no milk or sugar should be added to. Trust me, you'll loose much more than you would gain. I enjoyed this tea while catching up on House of Cards with my boyfriend and found that I had trouble focusing. Jason caught me with my nose in the gaiwan on more than one occasion. +JT Hunter and +Shana Chang offer some truly amazing teas and this one was a great example of that. I love that they show profiles of the farmers for every tea in their catalog. It shows that they are connected to their source, something that is very important to me.

Artisan Yunnan Black Needle sample provided by Wild Tea Qi.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on