Thursday, April 30, 2015

Podcast Episode 15: How to Make Matcha

One of the most common requests that I receive for podcast episodes is how to make matcha. It can definitely be tricky when you are first starting out. For this month's episode I did a quick little guide showing how to make a perfect bowl as well as some techniques to help prevent clumps. There were some lighting issues but I hope that you all enjoy it anyway. :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Serving Tea at the New York Travel Fest

When my friend +Mario Nicholas asked me to lend a hand at the New York Travel Fest I jumped at the change. In case you haven't seen his YouTube show, On The Go with Mario, you definitely should! Mario travels with tea as a focus so he thought that serving tea would be a great way to share that with the festival goers. Events like this are always interesting because it's a more diverse group than what you might find at a tea focused event. I was somewhat surprised to find that many of the people who approached our table were fairly well versed tea.

The teas that I selected were Pekoe Sip House Sessa Estate Black Tea and Jalam Teas Bada Unfermented 2013. Serving tea for large groups can be a challenge but this set up seemed to work well. I brewed the Assam in my testubin because it fairly large and keeps the tea hot for some time. This tea was a bit more familiar for everyone so it was the popular choice. I broke out my travel gongfu set to brew the puerh. A few people found it too strong but there were a lot of folks who were surprised at how much they enjoyed it. My Breville One-Touch Tea Maker was a bit of a pain to lug into the city but it was worth having on hand.

I loved getting to share my love of the leaf with so many new faces. It was also great to hear a bit more about Mario's travels in India and other tea destinations. It is my goal to visit a tea producing country in 2016 so I'm sure that I'll be turning to him soon for his expert advice.

Thanks for asking me to join in on the fun, Mario!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tasting Puerh Storage Methods with White2Tea

The kind sir behind +White2Tea sent me a package of tasting samples last year after I asked a total newb question on Tea Chat. How cool is that? I've been slowly working my way through them and they've really helped me to learn the ropes a bit more. Some of you might remember the previous tasting that I did with their 2013 Jingmai - Old Arbor vs Plantation. This time around I'm tasting three raw puerh, each with different storage methods. Storage of aging teas is an often controversial subject in the tea world. There are several schools of thought on this and there probably won't ever be a consensus. For more information on storage methods, check out this great article by TeaDB. As a matter of personal preference, I find that I most enjoy tea that has been stored in drier conditions. Part of that is likely my limited experience with wet stored tea.

I brewed 5 grams of each tea in gaiwans of the same approximate size. Boiling water for 30 seconds is my standard practice so that is what I followed here.

First up is a 1990's Yiwu with dry storage. Tea from this region is known for being relatively mild. It brewed up the lightest of the three. The taste was more vegetal and the mouth feel was quite a lot thinner.

Next we have a 1990's traditional storage puerh. While we don't know the region, a difference in how quickly this tea has aged is definitely apparently. The leaves are darker, looking more like shu than shung. The resulting brew was darker and the mouth feel was somewhat thicker.

Last but not least was a 2001 Changhai Red with heavy traditional storage. This one had the most dramatic differences from the others by far. The leaves actually appeared to have broken down a bit. It brewed up the darkest of the three and the mouth feel was even thicker. A funky mustiness dominated the first few brews. If I was drinking this tea on a regular basis I'd probably do some heavy duty rinsing.

Needless to say, I was extremely over-puerh'd after this tasting. I still prefer my leaves young and dry but I might not be as hesitant to try traditionally stored teas. One of my favorite things about tea is that even after eight years of rabid drinking, I'm still learning and trying new things. My piggy tea pet, Zhu, was also very happy to get so much tea in one session :)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Matcha Issue - Going Out April 30th!

At the beginning of this year I had the crazy idea of changing my monthly newsletter into a quarterly journal. The first issue went out in January and I was overwhelmed by the response. Thank you to every one who sent kind emails, tweets and even packages of tea!

The next issue of my quarterly journal will be going out on April 30th. This time around the focus is on matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea from Japan. I'm excited to share some great articles contributed by +think, Mizuba Tea Co., +Aiya America Organic Matcha green tea and +Ricardo Caicedo. Only subscribers will have access so make sure that you use the form below to sign up if you haven't already!

I'm adding a community page to this journal as well. Post a picture of your matcha on Instagram with the hashtag #teaformeplease. I'll pick the best shots to be featured!

Jalam Teas Bada Mountain Unfermented 2013

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

You know there is too much tea in your stash when you pull out something that was received in August of 2013. Yikes! Thankfully puerh is one of the few teas where this isn't really an issue. I enjoyed this tea will having a very entertaining (and somewhat productive) video chat with +Geoffrey Norman, +Chris Giddings+Nicole Schwartz+Ricardo Caicedo+Jo J and +Rachana Rachel Carter. Our virtual get togethers have a tendency to run long so I knew I needed a tea that would keep me going. When asked how my tea was, my answer was punchy. By that I mean that it was vegetal with quite a lot of astringency. There was a sweetness in the finish that reminded me of very tart citrus fruit. I lost track of the number of infusions but I was sufficiently over-caffeinated by the time we were all saying our goodbyes. It's hard to believe but this is the fourteenth tea that I've written about from +JalamTeas. Some cakes were received through a paid subscription and others have been generously supplied by their awesome team. In either case I have yet to receive a tea from them that I have not enjoyed. I really cannot recommend their service enough, especially if you are just getting started with puerh.

Bade Mountain Unfermented 2013 received through paid subscription to Jalam Teas.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 19th - March 25th

2011 Braided Sheng Pu'er  Tea Review
+Charissa Gascho has a knack for finding the most unsual teas on Aliexpress. That site is a bit of a crapshoot but this cake was pretty unique. I've never seen leaves that are braided like that. Anyone know how that would affect aging?

Wymm Tea's Menghai Wangshuji Shou Seventh Grade 2008
I really enjoy +Rah Rah's thorough reviews, especially the detailed breakdowns of each infusion. It seems that samples from Wymm Teas have been making their rounds in the tea blogging world. I know that I've been enjoying the batch that was sent to me.

Tea Shop - Seven Cups
I'm incredibly jealous because Maggie at Sonoran Tea Sprite got to visit a tea place that has always been on my wish list. Seven Cups in Tuscon, Arizona was a huge part of my discovery of tea. I'll get there some day but I'll live vicariously through her pictures for now.

A Tea Tasting with Silver Needle Tea Co.
I don't about you guys but it makes me so happy to see to friends getting together. Whether it's a few tweets or beautiful blog post (like +Jee Choe's). She met up with my friend Lucy of +Silver Needle Tea Co. to taste some of her delicious teas.

Qualifying as a Tea Ceremony Instructor
Tyas at +Tea Talk shared a very interesting post about the process of becoming an instructor with the Enshu Sado School of Tea. Congrats on the accomplishment! I'd love pursue a certification like this some day. I find them so much more appealing than the various "tea master" programs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Everlasting Teas Mr. Su's Experimental Black

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: dark, long and twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: reddish amber

I couldn't resist picking up some of this tea at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival. It turns out that it's experimental because a farmer who usually makes oolong tried his hand at making a black tea.The result was so unusual that they decided to carry it. Sammy's tasting notes caught my eye right away: morning mist, yellow cake and peaches. They might sound like a strange combination but they perfectly sum up this tea.The top note is a really refreshing vegetal note that I’ve never experienced in a black tea. Jo J found it to be a bit mossy (in a good way!). It reminded me of what the grass, wet with dew, smelled like when I went camping as a kid. In the middle there is a sweetness that really does taste a bit like yellow cake batter. Yum! Each sip ends with a peachy note.

Mr. Su's Experimental Black Tea purchased from Everlasting Teas.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wymm Tea Mangnuo Tengtiao "Cane Tea" 2014

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: formerly compressed, sample arrived loose
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 5 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: pale gold

My personal puerh collection mostly consists of young, dry stored, fairly easy going cakes. What that means is that I can do anything to them and they'll still be drinkable for the most part. I've learned that I can't treat all puerhs with the same heavy hand that I am used to so I followed Wymm Tea's recommended method for steeping. After a quick rinse I started with a 5 second infusion and then increased that by a few seconds for each subsequent brew. Initially it was vegetal with quite a lot of astringency. Gradually the bitterness gave way to a very pleasant honey-like sweetness. This aspect came even more to the forefront as I continued drinking, causing me to drink an ungodly amount of puerh. Thank god I didn't have work the next day! The mouth feel was fairly thick for such a young tea. Although the "cane tea" in the name might suggest sugar cane, their website explains that it actually refers to the shape of the trees. They are shaped using a technique that removes all excess branches and larger leaves, leaving just two buds on each branch. I can only imagine how much work it must take just to harvest enough for a single cake.

Mangnuo Tengtiao "Cane Tea" 2014 sample provided by Wymm Tea.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pekoe Sip House Sessa Estate Black Tea

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, dark with golden tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and mesh infuser
Liquor: reddish brown

This tea was a fairly run of the mill Assam. There were quite a lot of golden tips, which is purely cosmetic but still something that I like to see. The taste was earthy and sweet with dominant malty notes. There was some astringency but overall the mouth feel was very smooth. That natural sweetness tells me that this tea would work well as an iced tea, possibly even for cold brewing. I bumped the second infusion up to 5 minutes and the flavor stayed fairly constant. It's priced a bit higher than what I would call a daily drinker but it certainly isn't the most expensive Assam I've ever had. Keep in mind that +Pekoe Sip House is a certified B-Corp so you'll be supporting the work that they do through your purchase. You can read more about that in my review of their Grand Yunnan. This tea is bit on the mild side so use sweetener if you must but I wouldn't recommend adding milk. That more than likely drown out most of the flavor.

Sessa Estate Black Tea sample provided by Pekoe Sip House.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Adagio Teas Kai Hua Crescendo

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, needle-like
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: deep gold

+Adagio Teas  is well known for their fandom blends but every once in a while, they offer a straight tea that really makes me sit up and take notice. I ordered a sample pack this tea because it was a rare case of something that I haven't tried before. Most tea lovers are familiar with Long Jing (aka Dragonwell) but not many are familiar with Long Ding (aka Dragon Peak). The aroma while brewing was intoxicating. I kept sticking my nose into the tea maker, impatiently waiting for the required two minutes to tick by. The taste was sweet and complex with a heavy floral lean. Notes of orchid and stone fruit ended in a pleasant vegetal aspect that reminded me of sugar snap peas. I even picked up some creaminess in the finish. My second infusion was just as enjoyable. There was no bitterness and hardly any astringency. I get frustrated by reviews on their website sometimes because they are so often misguided. Bitter? Grassy? Bland? This tea is none of those things!

Kai Hua Crescendo sample purchased from Adagio Teas.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Round Up: April 12th - April 18th

Time for the Tea Buyer Tutorial
One blog that I look forward to reading every spring is Tea Adventures, written by Winnie of Teance. I live the harvest in each region vicariously through her frequent and refreshingly candid posts. This one in particular made me giggle a bit this week.

Amazing Tea Race
Speaking of living vicariously, the team at +Tealet is off on this year's amazing tea race. Rather than picking just one post, I suggest checking out their entire journey.

Roasted Blackberry Matcha Pops
+Bonnie Eng at Thirsty for Tea is always coming up with the most delicious sounding recipes. This one really caught my eye because it combines two of my favorite things, matcha and blackberries. I've never thought of roasting them in the over before but I will definitely be giving it a try soon.

2013 Raw Pu'er Maocha from Misty Peak Teas
It was good to see +Danielle Pigeon dusting off her gaiwan and posting again. Her descriptions of +Misty Peak Teas maocha were spot on. This is one of my favorite puerhs for a reason. I just love that sweet Yiwu leaf juice.

Specialty Tea Manifesto
I believe I've mentioned it here before but Austin of +Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas (and lots of other industry folks) are pushing for standards in tea. This post does a great job of summing up why these measures are needed.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What-Cha Nepal 1st Flush 2014 White Tea

Country of Origin: Nepal
Leaf Appearance: varied greens, some interspersed needles
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: very pale gold

This white tea is from Greenland Organic Farm in Nepal. The dry leaves were quite beautiful, closely resembling Bai Mu Dan. There were visibly broken leaves as well as some interspersed silver needles. The taste was mellow and sweet with a pleasant peachy aroma. There was no bitterness or astringency, even after letting the leaves sit in water for a bit. That makes it a good candidate for drinking "grandpa style". The taste stayed constant through my second infusion but the leaves were pretty much spent after that. You may be able to get more out of them using a gaiwan. I previously reviewed the Silver Needle from this producer, also courtesy of What-Cha. I did enjoy that tea a bit more but that is to be expected since it is a higher grade tea. Considering that there is not much of a price difference, I would recommend the Silver Needle before this one. Of course I'll also be an enabler and tell you that it would be interesting to taste them side by side too.

Nepal 1st Flush 2014 White Tea sample provided by What-Cha.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Global Tea Hut - February 2014: Inner Path

February is a time of celebration in China and Taiwan because of Chinese New Year. The tea "gift" included in my envelope was a trinket that is supposed to bring good fortune. I hope it works because I could sure use some of that. I put off drinking this one for a bit because I just have to be in the mood for shou in order to enjoy it properly. That being said, their description intrigued me. The mao cha was aged for five years prior to piling and it was fermented to a lesser degree than most modern shou tea.

This type of tea usually makes me sleepy but I felt an unexpected liveliness while drinking it. The mouth feel was thick with a lot of sweetness. A mild earthiness was accompanied by woody notes and even a hint of liquorice root-like sweetness. It stayed dark and strong over the course of many infusions. I absolutely abhor liquorice root when it is blended in tea but in this case it was a welcome aspect. The tea left interesting patterns of particles every time I finished my cup. The one that I have pictured at the end of this post reminds me a bit of a tiger. What do you think?

The magazine was full of valuable tea knowledge as always. There were several articles on yixing teapots that were very informative. There are so few English language resources on this topic that I really appreciate being able to get a bit of an "insider's" perspective. I find myself recommending Global Tea Hut to fellow tea lovers whenever I see them lately. While it may not be for everyone I certainly feel that I have benefited. Once again I reminded to take the time to make tea, not for reviews or deadlines, but simply for the sake of having tea.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Five Annoying Things About Being A Tea Blogger

As you probably saw after reading yesterday's list, I think being a tea blogger is awesome. I wouldn't trade what I do for the world! That being said, there are downsides to everything. Here are a few of the things that I find annoying about being a tea blogger.

1. People who think that they "get it".
When I tell people that I'm a tea blogger inevitably the response that I get is, "Oh, that's cool. I LOVE tea. I drink Sleepy Time every night and I love going to Tea-a-vana (pronounced how I spelled it).". While there's nothing wrong with anyone loving either of those things, this is the kind of person who usually zones out and doesn't want to hear about how much more there is to the world of tea. I've had people call what I do dumb, pointless and other not so nice things. Those people have mostly been removed from my life.

2. I have more tea than I know what to do with.
Yes, one of the perks from yesterday's list is also an annoyance at times. I have so much tea to review and there just aren't enough hours in the day. Sometimes it really stresses me out and I wish that I could drink tea just for simple enjoyment. Luckily those moments are far and few between.

3. Tea retailers who are impatient and demanding.
I publish five days a week and the blog is usually pre-written at least a month in advance. I understand why this might cause concern for someone who sends samples. That is why I send a very detailed review policy before accepting samples from anyone. Every once in a while a retailer will consider themselves an exception to these rules. Snippy emails, threats, being unfollowed on Twitter; childish behavior like that will never gain respect or reviews of their teas.

4. Companies who don't take my word for it.
I don't profess to know everything about tea. However, I do know when a tea is just simply bad. Over the years I've had a few companies send me samples that were less than stellar. In some cases, they were downright deceptive. Inevitably when I let these companies know my opinion of their product, their responses are "You aren't our target demographic anyway." or "We had to sweeten it for the Western palate.". You sent samples to me for a reason, don't brush off my advice because it isn't what you wanted to hear.

5. Combating trolls and tea snobs.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, tea people are generally pretty awesome. Every barrel has a few bad apples, though. There are a select few in the tea world who like to look down on others and flex their keyboard muscles. It's hard to not let these types of characters get to you but I've developed a thicker skin over time.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Five Awesome Things About Being A Tea Blogger

I'm a bit biased but being a tea blogger is pretty awesome. There are definitely some perks that have changed my life better over the last six years. It was hard to narrow it down to just a few but here's a quick list:

1. I've met some really amazing people.
Let's face it, tea people are simply good people. Through blogging and the power of social media, tea has connected me with some of truly wonderful individuals. Many of them are now close friends that I probably talk to more often than my non-tea world friends. I couldn't even count the number of wonderful retailers that I've met who have taken the time to share their stories and their tea with me.

2. I have more tea than I know what to do with.
Seriously. I actually had to develop an organization system because I received so many samples of tea to review. I have the luxury of never having to worry about running out or finding something new to drink. There's always tea that needs to be drunk and written about.

3. Tea is a never ending journey.
When I first started my blog, I never would have thought that I'd still be constantly discovering and learning new things six years later. Would you believe that I've reviewed over 800 teas? Tea is never boring and I love that!

4. Tea has become more than just a hobby.
Last year I decided to finally make the jump to making tea my career. That never would have happened if it had not been for this blog. There have definitely been some missteps along the way but I've learned so much more about tea and myself.

5. Connecting with my readers.
I get to share my passion with my readers every day. Even after all of this time I'm still a bit awed that people actually want to read what I have to say. Whether it's a quick comment, an encouraging email or sharing some of their tea stash; my readers are the best! You are all a big part of my motivation to keep this blog running.

In tomorrows post, I'll be taking a look at some of the less than awesome things about being a tea blogger. Make sure that you check that one out too!

Friday, April 10, 2015

I'm a World Teas Awards Nominee! + Houjicha Giveaway from Yunomi

I am beyond excited to announce that I am nominated for two World Tea Awards! I'm in very good company among my fellow nominees. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me. It really means the world. Only World Tea Expo delegates are able to vote for the final winners and the results will be announced at the awards dinner on the Queen Mary. I wasn't able to attend this dinner last year but I'll be going this year and sitting at a table with some of my favorite people. I can't wait to get dressed up and have a great time with tea friends. In honor of my nominations, I'd like to offer a giveaway for you guys. Check out the details below! has generously offered to give five lucky readers  50g bags of their organic houjicha.

Roasted from organic sencha harvested and produced in Kyoto & Kagoshima. YUNOMI's hojicha, roasted green tea, has a clean, sweet taste perfect for refreshing your taste palette after dinner.

Participants must agree to be registered on YUNOMI and be subscribed to their email list. You'll also be added to my quarterly journal email list if you aren't already subscribed.

Want to enter? Just fill out the form below. First come, first serve! Once the five winners are selected, I'll email you all individually to get your shipping address.

All winners have been selected. Thanks again everyone!

Friday Round Up: April 5th - April 11th

Some 1860's directions for making tea
Angela of Tea with Friends made a very interesting find in an old cook book. Who ever heard of a gill of water? Now you know :)

TeaDB Special! [Episode 100]
The guys at +Tea DB celebrated a very special milestone this week, their 100th episode! I'd like to send a big congrats to Denny and James.

Matcha No Bake Granola Bars
Believe it or not, I love granola bars. This no bake recipe from Inspired by Tea definitely caught my attention. I love that it incorporates matcha. I'll definitely be giving these a try soon.

A"Bit" about Qi
Cwyn's Death By Tea wrote a lengthy and very intriguing post about the concept of qi in tea. This is something that is often debated but I've rarely seen a clear conclusion drawn.

Steep! In the Name of Love!
Dinah at A Chomp At Life wrote a beautiful post comparing western style brewing with gongfu and Moroccan style brewing. This is a great place for tea newbies to start to get a handle on the different brewing methods.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Matcha Meditation with The Shinnyo Center

The life of a tea blogger can seem a bit bizarre to those who haven't been bitten by the Camellia Sinensis bug. I get to drink a lot of tea but one of my favorite things is the wonderful experiences that never would have happened otherwise. I received an invitation on Twitter from The Shinnyo Center to attend a matcha mediation last week. My yoga instructor did some guided meditations during class but that was the extent of my experience with meditation. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was able to bring a guest so I asked +Jo J to come along for the ride. We were happy to find that fellow bloggers +Georgia SS  and +Jee Choe were also in attendance.

The center was a very beautiful and serene space. I almost instantly felt the stress of the work day lighten a bit. I was very happy to hear that this series of matcha meditations was a collaboration with the Urasenke Chanoyu Center of New York. Our meditation guide, Qalvy Grainzvolt, did a great job of letting us know what to expect. First, we watched as the ladies of Urasenke skillfully performed a formal tea ceremony. It would have been hard to see every movement but they thoughtfully projected it all onto screens so that we wouldn't miss a thing.

Qalvy then guided us through a short sitting meditation. The breathing and visualization exercises really helped me to relax and focus. He asked us to imagine our ideal tea house. I know at least four people in the audience who likely did not have any trouble with that part. A beautiful shot of Mt. Fuji that I spotted on Instagram came to mind as the view from my imaginary sanctuary. As we were all deep in meditation, the Urasenke ladies were hard at work whisking up bowls of frothy goodness for everyone. The meditation continued as they worked to hand everyone their bowls.

My turn finally came and the tea was absolutely delicious. As a funny coincidence, my bowl was painted with an image of Mt. Fuji. I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a bowl of matcha quite so much. I'm sure a large part of that was the skill with which it was prepared. However, I think that my state of mind after the meditation had something to do with it as well. I will definitely be experimenting with that a bit in the future. I am so glad that The Shinnyo Center found me on Twitter. Their center was an oasis of calm that I feel drawn to return to.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Golden Tips Teas Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling White Tea Second Flush (Organic) 2014

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: small, covered in silvery hair
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: gold

Some of you might remember that I reviewed a Muscatel Darjeeling, also from Okati, from +Golden Tips Tea Co Pvt Ltd late last year. I've always enjoyed Darjeeling white teas so I was excited to dig into this one. The taste almost reminded me of dry white wine. It was fruity and sweet but had a refreshing crispness to it. Floral notes provided a soft background that came more to the forefront in the second infusion. I tend to brew my white teas loose in a glass teapot, leaving just enough water to cover the leaves. That is also my method for Chinese green teas because I find that it helps to maintain the flavor. Although there was some grassiness it never became unpleasant. I do wish that they called the tea lightly oxidized rather than fermented but that's one of my tea nerd pet peeves. There are also some doubts as to the claim that the caffeine level is negligible. Caffeine is concentrated in new buds so theoretically this tea would have quite a bit.

Okayti Silver Needle Darjeeling White Tea Second Flush (Organic) 2014 sample provided by Golden Tips Teas.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Global Tea Hut - January 2015: Buddha's Palm Oolong

Gosh, I am so behind on writing. There's posts scheduled for all five days that I publish but sometimes things like this really great oolong from +Global Tea Hut slip through the cracks. There wasn't time for a full photo session but in a way, I think that I might have enjoyed it more because of that. I had a quiet and meditative moment at my kitchen table. The ever faithful Zhu was my only companion. The tea was everything I wanted; aromatic, floral and expertly roasted. The articles about roasting and its history in the Taiwanese tea industry were very interesting.

The magazine that accompanies each month's tea is always something that I look forward to. It is interesting because with each one, it seems that a different type of story will resonate with me the most. The one that I found myself reading a few times over was by Sam Gibb. He wrote candidly about being a teacher and the feeling of being a failure. Tea became a way to connect and engage with his students in a very meaningful way. I loved reading the notes from all of the kids about how they felt about tea and the changes that it brought about in their lives.

Much like a kid on Christmas morning, I really look forward to seeing what the "tea gift" will be each month. January's enveloped brought a pair of wooden chopsticks complete with their own fabric case. The meditation cushions at Global Tea Hut were made out of the same material, tying us all together. Isn't that a nice thought? I think I'll go order some sushi so that I can put them to good use.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Crimson Lotus Tea Spring 2014 Kunlu Shan 'Huang Pian' Sheng Puerh

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, varied shades of green
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 10 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: glass gaiwan
Liquor: gold

I just had to try this tea after reading the description on +Crimson Lotus Tea's website. It's a tea that the farmers in Yunnan keep for themselves because they leaves are not considered pretty enough for the Chinese tea market. You can read more about Huang Pian on their blog. I decided to live dangerously and make this in a glass gaiwan even though the water was at a full boil. Surprisingly, I only burned myself once this tea session. The taste was bitter but smooth at the same time. It was somewhat more like a green tea than a puerh but not quite as sweet. I bumped up my infusion time a bit with each infusion. A really pleasant floral character started coming out once leaves had a chance to open up. I must say that after a few rounds, the leaves looked much prettier than they did before I started. This tea is nice reminder that ugly teas are often still quite tasty. Only a small amount of this tea was available so it is now sold out but I would definitely order this if it is offered again.

Spring 2014 Kunlu Shan 'Huang Pian' Sheng Puerh purchased from Crimson Lotus Tea.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 29th - April 4th

TEA REVIEW: Lochan Tea – Doke Black Fusion (first flush 2015)
+Drew Bednasek wrote a great review of the newest 1st flush for one of my favorite teas from last year, Doke Black Fusion. That reminds me that I should stock up!

Power of Design - Kimono
I recently missed out on a spectacular kimono exhibition at Globus Washitsu. Thankfully I was able to live vicariously through +Jo J's fantastic blog post. I love all of the colorful fabrics.

Broadening Our Experiences with the Aging Process
The Guide to Puerh Tea is one of my new favorite reads. In this thought provoking post, Varat discusses puerh in relation to other aged and fermented drinks. It's a fascinating subject that the U.S. tea industry is just starting to dig into.

Tea Owl Tea Blending!
Who doesn't love a good April Fools joke? +Charissa Gascho got us all good when her tea owls created a very unusual blend. Oolong, puerh, rooibos and prime rib rub are all part of this mysterious concoction.

Chai Syrup
+Jee Choe always comes up with the most delicious sounding recipes. Her chai syrup is super simple and I can imagine a million different ways to use it. I'll definitely be cooking up a batch soon with my favorite chai blend.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Grey's Teas Assam Smoked Oolong

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: mix of greens and browns, curled and twisted
Ingredients: smoked oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212
Preparation Method: ceramic infuser cup
Liquor: amber

I'm usually an unflavored/unscented tea person but every once in a while an usual offering makes me sit up and take notice. Assam, smoked and oolong are three words that I never thought I'd see together. Grey's Teas explains on their website that it is smoked with an oak-like wood. As usual, +Geoffrey Norman has already been down this smoky path. I wasn't sure of where in Assam this tea was produced but he let me know that it was Mothola. The brewing directions said 3 minutes but no other parameters were given so I played it safe the first time around. Going lighter on leaf volume and with a temperature of 195, it tasted something like oak smoked peaches. The fruitiness was subtle but I found that it lingered long after each sip. Having plenty of leaf to experiment, I pushed the temperature up to boiling. Holy cow, it tasted just like whiskey (without the alcohol burn)! Most teas that I sample only get touched a few times before I have to move onto the next candidate. Over the course of the week, I found myself repeatedly craving and drinking this tea. I have yet to play around with gongfu-ing it but I definitely will be doing that soon.

Assam Smoked Oolong sample provided by Grey's Teas.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

I love finding books where fiction and tea meet. A reader recently recommended this one so I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle. Memory of Water is a dystopian tale that focuses on a young girl who is studying to become a tea master. Elements are definitely drawn from Chanoyu but the author doesn't make many specific cultural references. I enjoyed that aspect because the reader's imagination is free to construct whatever they chose. My own past experiences biased me a bit in that respect. I couldn't help but think of the traditional tea houses and rituals of Japan. Interestingly, the tea ceremony depicted uses whole leaf green tea rather than matcha.

In the future world, water has become a precious resource that is carefully protected by tea masters. I was struck by the simple honestly and truth of that sentiment. Although our current situation is not as dire as depicted in the book, the world's water supply is certainly at risk from a variety of calamities. Tea is mostly water so this is an issue that we really should be concerned about. I found myself realizing that I take for granted the fact that I can fill up my kettle from the faucet without a second though.

Itäranta's language is flowery and descriptive, almost to a fault. There is a lot of focus on small scene setting details but the reader is often left in the dark when it comes to major occurrences. Although it is a novel in length, it reads a bit more like a short story. This would be my only criticism of this book. If you can get past that aspect, it is a very enjoyable read.

You can find out more about this book here.