Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Aiya Tea Konacha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, very small particles
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser and ceramic teacup
Liquor: vibrant greenish gold

Konacha is Japan's OTHER powdered tea. It's not matcha but the leaf particles are very small. This particular one is a by-product of gyokuro production. Just as with a really good dinner the next day, sometimes leftovers can have their own appeal. The smaller leaf pieces give a stronger flavor more quickly than a full leaf tea would. Finding an infuser that would be able to catch them was a bit tough. My old Finum basket did the trick since it has really fine mesh. The taste was surprisingly smooth. It was grassy, vegetal and somewhat sweet with very little bitterness. I don't think that would be the case if it had been made from lower quality material but gyokuro is usually considered the creme de la creme. I didn't attempt a resteep but this tea probably would not be well suited for that. At $40.60/1.1 lb this is a great option for those with gyokuro tastes on a teabag budget.

Konacha sample provided by Aiya Tea.

Monday, March 30, 2015

New York Coffee and Tea Festival - 2015

I was really excited to be able to attend the annual coffee and tea festival since I missed out completely last year. I wasn't sure what to expect because it was moved to a new venue, the Brooklyn Expo Center. The tickets hadn't sold out as they had in past years so I was hoping that it would be less crowded. Unfortunately it seemed like it was more crowded than ever. It was difficult to move through the show floor or even to speak to vendors. I found it exhausting and overwhelming. I love tea events like this because I get to catch up with fellow blogger friends as well as with vendors that I don't get to see often. That being said, there are definitely some issues. The crowd at this particular show seems ruder every year. Now that part is out of the way, here's a bit about my experience.


I got to the Brooklyn a bit later than I had planned, mostly because I rarely get to spend a weekend morning with my boyfriend. I did get there just in time to meet up with +Jo J and +sara shacket at the +Joseph Wesley Black Tea booth. Joe and his lovely wife were crazy busy but still took the time to say hi and pass down a sample of tea. The press of the crowd was a bit much so we made our way over to see Sammy at Everlasting Teas. I promised myself that I wouldn't purchase any tea but his Mr. Su's Experimental Black really caught my attention.

Before I knew it, it was time to head to the seminar that I had signed up for. Oxidation Effects of Green Tea was presented by Shiho Kanamaru, Founder of Cha Do Raku. I welcomed the chance to sit down and relax. Shiho was extremely knowledgeable and did a great job of explaining everything, even with a class of mixed knowledge levels. We tasted six different teas, four Japanese greens and two Taiwanese black teas. The two teas that were oxidized were the ones that I enjoyed the most. They were smoother and sweeter with less astringency than a typical sencha. I think they were something like a Chinese yellow tea in that respect.

After the seminar, I visited the Cha Do Raku booth to pick up a Yume oxidized sencha as well as some gyokuro. After walking the floor for a bit I circled back to pick up their Honey Black that was served during the seminar. I just couldn't stop thinking about it!

Before I left I had to snap a picture of +Capital Teas' super sweet tea van.

I met up with +Natasha N and walked the floor a bit, or at least as best we could. I was particularly excited to introduce her to Lucy from +Silver Needle Tea Co.. Sunday almost felt more crowded than the day before. She wasn't able to stay long but it's always great to catch up. I had a little bit of time to kill before my class so I made it a point to hit up some booths that I hadn't gotten to visit properly. Chief among them was Canadian vendor +ZhenTea. I had to thank them for joining and contributing to the Tea for Me Please Google+ group. They were kind enough to give me a few samples, including a very intriguing Tie Guan Yin that I will be writing about soon.

Last but not least was my seminar Beautiful, Bold, Black Tea presented by Joe of +Joseph Wesley Black Tea. Even better, I sat next to +sara shacket so it was great to have someone to compare notes with. The seminar began with a brief slideshow, discussing how black tea is processed. We cupped seven different black teas. The first three were Assam, Darjeeling and Dian Hong. I hardly ever get to taste these teas together so it was interesting to compare them. Dian Hong was an interesting choice because it is made from the Assamica variety, making it more like these Indian teas than another Chinese variety might be.

The following four teas were Keemun, Bai Lin Congfu, Black Mao Feng and Longjing Hongcha. Joe's Longjing Hongcha has been in my gaiwan constantly this winter so of course that was my favorite. After the tasting, he prepared some very special Jin Jun Mei gongu style. It was truly one of the best black teas that I've had in recent memory. I was surprised to find that a few of my classmates were friends from Instagram. Many of us lingered talking tea and drinking more rounds of that delicious Jin Jun Mei.

The seminars offered in past years rarely caught my attention. While there's nothing wrong with pairing or cocktail classes, they just aren't something that I am drawn to. I was so glad to see programming that was more attractive to the serious tea drinker. There were also much more tea vendors than coffee booths. Sorry bean lovers but I like it that way! I think that alone indicates the health and growth of the tea industry here in the U.S. That being said, I'm not entirely sure that I want to attend again next year. The show has simply grown too large. It just feels like the opposite of tea to me. That is a personal feeling and not necessarily a reflection on the show itself. There are lots of people who went and I'm sure they had a great time.
As if I hadn't had enough caffeine for the day, I stopped for a latte at MatchBar before grabbing the subway home.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 22nd - March 28th

Cooking with Tea - Matcha Fruit Salad Dressing
+Leaf in Hot Water posted a delicious sounding salad dressing recipe that uses matcha. My last attempt at this was less than appetizing looking so I'll definitely have to try their version.

The Passing of a Tea Shaman
On a somber note, the tea world was dealt a loss earlier this week when we all learned about the passing of Steven Smith. +Geoffrey Norman's tribute was touching and personal.

Yes Chef: Genmaicha Do-It-Yourself
Anita over at Chai Bella shared a great how to on toasting your own rice for genmaicha. I will definitely be giving this a try as I have got a ton of sencha on hand right now.

Five bits of tea trivia that are WRONG!
+Gary Robson's blog is one of the most entertaining and informative retailer blogs out there. In this post he disproves some tea facts that I have seen repeated over and over again. As I am gearing up to start on my own tea book, this is definitely food for thought.

Learn to distinguish old and fake raw puerh
The Tea Masters blog is one of the posts that I look forward to the most because of Stephane's depth of knowledge. This week, he shows us a comparative tasting where he taught a student how to spot a fake puerh by tasting the leaves rather than by the wrappers (which are easily forged).

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Podcast Episode 14: How to Use Aroma Cups and Giveaway

There's been a ton of buzz in the tea world about the samples that +Tea Ave sent out, including these beautiful aroma cup sets. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to show you all how to use them.

I'm giving away a prize pack that includes:
-Tea Ave tote bag
-3 oolong samples
-Aroma cup set

To enter, just leave a comment letting me know what you'd like to see in future videos!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teavivre Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep reddish amber

Yunnan black teas are among some of my favorites, especially during the cold winter months. This one wasn't as tippy as most others that I've had. That being said, this is purely a cosmetic observation and not something that is really indicative of the quality of the tea. My tea brewing is usually a bit of a "go hard or go home style" with 30 second infusions throughout but this time I decided to follow Teavivre's suggestions. My gaiwan is a bit larger than their suggested 85ml but that didn't seem to negatively affect the tea at all. After a quick rinse, I started at 15 seconds and gradually worked my way up to 90 seconds. I'm sure that this played a part in extending the life of the leaves. The taste was sweet and malty with a nice bit of fruitiness. There was none of the yam-like grit that I sometimes find with these teas. After the first few infusions, a pleasant floral element popped up and lingered on my palate after each sip. Overall it had the comforting, warming affect that I look for from this type of tea. It's not quite priced as an everyday drinker but they offer other options that are not "nonpareil".

Nonpareil Yunnan Dian Hong Chinese Red Black Tea sample provided by Teavivre.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hankook Tea Hwang Cha Gold

Country of Origin: South Korea
Leaf Appearance: small, dark
Ingredients: balhyocha
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: small ceramic teapot
Liquor: amber

This tea walks a line of technicalities. It's partially oxidized so it isn't what you would usually consider to be a green tea. It's also not black tea because it isn't fully oxidized and it's not oolong due to the processing technique. I've chosen to categorize it as balhyocha here. You can see a detailed explanation of this on World of Tea: South Korean Balhyocha and Hwangcha. The brewed tea was a nice amber color. There was no bitterness or astringency, resulting in a very smooth cup. I was a bit surprised at the level of complexity. A sweet and nutty background provided a stage for the more subtle fruity notes. There was even a hint of chocolate in the finish. The leaves were pan fired so there was also an enjoyable toastiness. I'm not sure that I would gaiwan this tea but I think it did really well in a smaller sized teapot. This is definitely a tea that should be drunk on its own without any milk, sweetener or other additives.

Hwang Cha Gold sample provided by Hankook Tea.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How to Make Sakura Blossom Tea

Sakura (also known as cherry blossoms) are a sure sign of spring. In Japan, they are a popular herbal tea as well as a flavoring for everything you can think of. There are even sakura Kit Kats! Since Friday was technically the first day of Spring, I thought I'd share a little guide on how to brew them.

Need a source for sakura blossom tea? My go-to source is Yunomi.us!

Yunomi banner 728x90

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 15th - March 21st

Tung Ting Oolong
I love finding new tea blogs to follow (hence why I started this round up). What I love even more is finding one written by a 15 year old who writes some amazing tea inspired poetry.

Notes on tea - Teatulia
Teascopia, written by tea sommelier Gabriella, is definitely one of the most beautiful blogs out there. In this post she gives a succinct review of three of +Teatulia Tea's offerings.

A Matcha Comparison
Lu Ann at +The Cup Of Life posted a really interesting comparison of four different matchas from her tea stash. I love that she doesn't reveal the brands. It puts the focus on the tea!

The Littlest Critic Visits: Podunk
+sara shacket's daughter is quite the opinionated little tea drinker. I recommended that they try visiting Podunk and I was so happy to read that she enjoyed herself. It may not be NYC's most popular or trendy afternoon tea spot but their food is delicious.

Tea as Meditation
+Payton Swick shared a thought provoking post about using tea as a meditation object. Tea really does lend itself to ritual and mindfulness. I love the beautiful photographs of his Cha Xi too.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

4 Reasons Why Your Green Tea Tastes Bad and How to Fix It

Green tea is the one variety of tea that people consistently tell me that they don't like. I always see posts on Reddit, Quora and other websites with similar complaints. Well, I'm here to tell you that green tea is actually pretty awesome! If your cup turned out less than stellar, it's most likely because of one of these four reasons.

1. Your water is too hot.
This one is the most likely culprit. Unlike black tea or oolong, most green teas cannot tolerate boiling water. Tea contains polyphenols called tannins (the same substance that gives you a dry mouth-feel in red wine). Hotter water will release more tannins from your green tea, resulting in a bitter and unpleasant cup of tea. Start with your tea vendor's recommendations and adjust to taste from there. Most green teas will fall within the 160-180°F range.

2. You brewed it for too long.
Just as with water that is too hot, brewing your tea for too long will make for a poor end result. Green tea, especially a high quality one, has a very subtle taste. I've seen a lot tea drinkers brew their tea for a very long time because they want it to be "stronger". In truth, this only extracts additional bitterness and won't really improve the taste in any way. Every tea is a bit different but most green teas should be steeped for no longer than 1 to 3 minutes. Green tea can offer a lot of complexity but your palate may have a hard time discerning that if you are used things like very strong black tea, spicy foods or coffee. Give it time and your patience will be rewarded!

3. The tea is old.
Tea very rarely spoils but the taste can and will degrade over time. This is particularly true of green tea. The greener the tea, the shorter the shelf life. I recommend consuming green tea within a year of harvest whenever possible. Tea bags will degrade faster for several reasons. Firstly, you will be hard pressed to find a tea bag that tells you when the tea was harvested. Your supermarket more than likely has last year's tea on its shelf. CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl) style tea will also oxidize more quickly because there is more surface area exposed to the air.

4. It's just bad tea.
It's also very possible that the tea you have is just simply a bad tea. This occurs often with flavored teas since their bases aren't always the best quality. The artificial flavor can do some funky things when added to hot water. To remedy this, look for a retailer who really knows what they are doing. If they can't tell you where it is from (details like region and approximate harvest time, not just country), then you probably don't want to drink it. If you don't have a reliable local shop, I highly recommend Teavivre for Chinese green teas and Yunomi for Japanese green teas.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Tea Infused Beauty with Puritea Naturals

I've had the good fortune to receive samples of everything music CD's to pillows filled with tea. The one category that I always approach with a bit of skepticism is beauty products. Apologies in advance to my male readers, the struggle is real! I have sensitive, blemish-prone combination skin that gets painfully dry in the winter months. Cleansers, toners and moisturizers that won't make matters worse are very hard to find. It took a lot of experimentation and wasted money at Sephora to get things figured out.

Rob Murray from Puritea Naturals impressed me before even sending samples because he wrote a personal but professional email that showed he had actually read my blog. You'd be surprised at how few companies do that. He's also a fellow New Jersey native so that automatically add some awesome points. He generously sent me full sized bottles of both of their products. Here's a bit about my experience:

Kombucha Toner

The toner doesn't have much of an aroma. There was just a touch of the fermentation smell from the kombucha but it wasn't gross or off putting at all. I really liked the fresh, slightly tingly feeling that I had after using it. There was a noticeable difference in the number of blemishes over time. The few that I did get were not as angry and disappeared faster than they usually would have.

Puritea's all natural Kombucha Facial Toner is made from only a handful of high-quality, natural ingredients to give you a healthy way to remove blemishes, shrink pores, and brighten your complexion

Ingredients: Kombucha, Witch Hazel Hydrosol, Organic Chamomile Extract, Organic Calendula Extract, Distilled Water

Green Tea Moisturizer

The moisturizer basically resembles very green coconut oil. It smells like matcha and that makes me so very happy. The directions recommended using it at night. I was worried about making my pillow greasy but that hasn't been an issue at all. My skin absorbed the moisturizer quickly, leaving behind a soft and smooth feeling. I've been amazed at how much less dry my skin is during the day, even during a bitter cold spell. I'm in my early 30's so the age-defying aspect is yet to be evaluated (I hope).

This deeply moisturizing face cream contains 10 simple ingredients that each serve to nourish and provide instant hydration to your skin. It is enriched with age-defying Vitamin C and can be used every day as a part of your daily skincare routine.

Ingredients: Virgin Coconut Oil, Organic Macadamia Oil, Green Tea Extract, Organic Matcha Green Tea, Organic Kelp, Organic Pomegranate Oil, Vitamin-C (L-ascorbic Acid), Lavender Oil, Vegetable Glycerin

I've been using both of these products along with my regular cleanser since February. I'm sure you get the picture but I highly recommend them. In fact, I like them so much that I asked Rob if he could make travel sizes. That would make it much easier to take them with me to World Tea Expo or even to give as small gifts.

Samples provided by Puritea Naturals.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mandala Tea Temple Stairs 2014 Ripe Pu'er Mini Tuocha

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

I'm a sheng girl through and through but one does not say no to mini tuoacha from Mandala Tea. I was intrigued when I read on their site that these were custom pressed from higher quality material. A blend of Bada and Mengsong leaves from 2012 and 2013, care was taken to use only tea from pesticide free plantations. After a rinse and a couple of brews, the liquor turned an almost inky dark color. Shou is usually associated with an almost unpleasant forest floor type of earthiness. There was none of that here. Instead, I got a smooth and comforting cup of tea with an unbelievably complex flavor profile. Sweeter notes of chocolate and burnt sugar gave way to hay and dark grains. I love a good stout and somehow that is what this tea brought to mind. There was a bit of eau de fermenation in later infusions but I didn't find it off putting at all. One tuocha kept trucking through at least 10 infusions over the course of an evening. I've still got a 100g bing of this tea to dig into but I can definitely see myself picking up some of these little guys once that is gone.

Temple Stairs 2014 Ripe Pu'er Mini Tuocha sample provided by Mandala Tea.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Monday, March 16, 2015

Happy Earth Tea Himalayan Autumn Bouquet #153. Jun Chiyabari, Nepal. Organic Autumn 2014

Country of Origin: Nepal
Leaf Appearance: mottled greens and browns
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 5 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: mesh infuser basket and ceramic teacup
Liquor: amber

Jun Chiyabari is one of my favorite tea estates. Their commitment to quality tea and organic cultivation is always appreciated. The leaves of this tea were nothing short of stunning. When dry they had the curled and twisted appearance of a fine Mao Feng. After brewing they unfurled to reveal whole buds and large, intact leaves. I immediately regretted not using my glass gaiwan because that would have really shown them off. I rarely post Steepster notes these days but this tea inspired me to write one that said the taste was "all fruity, nutty, spicy yumminess". The floral notes reminded me very much like Darjeeling but not in a copy cat kind of way. I'm not sure if that make much sense to anyone outside of my tea-addled brain but that's what came to mind. The taste stayed strong through a second infusion and I probably could have squeezed out a third if it wasn't already past my bed time.

Himalayan Autumn Bouquet #153. Jun Chiyabari, Nepal. Organic Autumn 2014 sample provided by Happy Earth Tea.
A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 8th - March 14th

5 Common Misconceptions about Puerh Tea
I loved this post from +White2Tea that breaks down some of the most common misconceptions about puerh. There are lots of companies out there who still repeat these so be on the lookout!

Irish Oat Flapjacks
When I hear the world flapjack, I usually think of pancakes. Little did I know that in the UK they are a yummy sounding granola bar type confection. +Bonnie Eng put a matcha spin on them and I can't wait to try the recipe.

Interview with Tea Ave's Jeff Chen
It seems like everyone is talking about +Tea Ave lately. I really enjoyed this interview with one of their founders that was posted by +Georgia SS. I loved learning about everything that went into the design elements of their beautiful teaware.

+Wymm Tea is a new company to me but I'm excited because there are samples on their way to me. Until then, check out these great reviews from +Charissa Gascho and Sororitea Sisters.

Jingmai Sheng Puer Spring 2013 from Wymm Tea

Menghai Shou Pu-erh Third Grade (2008) from Wymm Tea

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What-Cha Yunnan Graceful Purple 'Zi Juan' Purple Varietal Green Tea

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark greenish, needle-like
Ingredients: green
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

I've tried a few different purple teas over the years but never a green one from Yunnan. The look of these leaves drew me to them immediately. They were comprised of mostly whole buds and had the most unusual color. I wouldn't quite call it purple but they were very dark for a green tea. I wasn't able to snap a picture but they were really beautiful while brewing. Many of the buds floated vertically and danced about in the pot. The taste was a bit unique for a green tea as well. While there was some grassiness it stayed in the background. Floral notes and a hint of smoke dominated the first infusion. The smokiness softened up a bit on subsequent brews, giving way to a subtle fruitness. These leaves resteeped well enough for me to make another pot or two. I recommend keeping them covered with a bit of water in between infusions to keep the strength going.

For more about purple tea, check out my article on +The Daily Tea - Purple Tea: Innovation or Hype?

Yunnan Graceful Purple 'Zi Juan' Purple Varietal Green Tea sample provided by What-Cha.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Encha Ceremonial-Grade Organic Matcha

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: vibrant green
Ingredients: powdered green tea
Water Temperature: 160 degrees
Preparation Method: traditional
Liquor: deep green

I've been seeing Encha making the rounds among Instagram friends so I was totally psyched when they offered me a sample. I must say that I'm impressed with the passion and drive of their CEO, Li. His positive energy is easily felt through their Instagram feed. Their matcha is sourced from organic farmers in Uji, Japan. I don't have a personal preference when it comes to growing region but I know some tea drinkers who are very picky. The powder was very fine and vibrant green, just as it should be. It sifted easily and didn't clump up at all. Even with my inept whisking it had a thick, almost creamy texture with a deep vegetal aroma. The umami factor was present but not dominating. Matcha is probably the one type of tea that I am the least experienced with but in my opinion this tea gave a very good experience. Life gets hectic and busy but I've been trying to remind myself to take the time for a bowl whenever I can. It serves as a very effective pick me up, especially after a long day at work.

Ceremonial-Grade Organic Matcha sample provided by Encha.
A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Satemwa Estate White Bvumbwe BSP

Country of Origin: Malawai
Leaf Appearance: varied greens and browns, somewhat broken
Ingredients: white tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: deep brassy gold

The leaves of this were a hodgepodge of greens and browns. Although they were somewhat broken, I still spotted a few scattered needles and whole leaves. The BSP in the name stands for Broken Special Pekoe. It brewed up a gorgeous brassy gold color. When I posted a picture of my pot on Instagram, several people said they though the pot was made out of colored glass because of the beautiful liquor. Enough about the leaves already, what did it taste like? It was sweet and floral with fruity notes. I also started getting a bit of a biscuity aroma that I usually only find in Darjeeling. It's no surprise that I enjoyed tea because I was quite taken with two of their other white teas, Zomba White Pearls and Satemwa Antlers. My favorite thing about this tea is that it really stands out on its own. Smaller growing regions like this will differentiate themselves over time. From what I've seen, Malawai is ahead of the curve.

White Bvumbwe BSP sample provided by Satemwa Estate.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Monday, March 9, 2015

Guest Post: The Chasen by Lauren Danson

The next issue of my quarterly journal is going out at the end of April. In it, matcha maven +Lauren Danson of Mizuba Tea Co. will be sharing her experiences sourcing tea in Japan. I'm also excited to share this great guest post that she wrote about the most essential tool for making matcha. To make sure that you don't miss the journal when it is released, just sign up using the form below!

Chasens bridge the world of art to the everyday. While fundamentally a utensil, the beauty of the detail, material, and its shape make the whisk a treasure of tradition worthy to keep on display. 
To take good care of your chasen whisk
  • Do not store it in its original plastic container. Because bamboo is a natural material and retains moisture, chasens can occasionally be susceptible to slight molding. No need for concern ­– just be sure your whisk is able to air dry. We store our whisk standing upright on its base in a cool, somewhat dark environment. 
  • Should mold occur, place your chasen in boiling water. 
  • In everyday use, do not wash your chasen with soap. Simply run it under hot water. 
From crafted by artisans, to crafting your tea: How chasens are made, and how to make Matcha with a chasen 
A relatively conservative industry, not many artisans showcase the skill and meticulous finesse it takes to create a chasen whisk. There are six major steps in creating a chasen: 

1) The chasen begins as a single piece of bamboo. The wood is peeled, and cut into 16 equal parts (although this may vary depending on the type of chasen created) to make the whisk’s basic shape. 
2) The parts are cut again into individual tines. 
3) The artist will dip the tines in hot water. They are then shaved, ironed, and shaped. 
4) The tines go through a second process of shaving, making the whisk more angular. The shape helps Matcha not stick to the whisk. 
5) The tines are separated into inner and outer sections by threading each prong individually. 
6) The height and space between tines are determined by inserting a bamboo spoon between the two sections. The final chasen is then arranged into its iconic, beautiful shape. 

Making Matcha with your chasen 
The purpose of a chasen is to aerate your tea to create Matcha’s classic foam and froth.  Place about 1½ chashaku spoonfuls of Matcha in your chawan. Pour just enough ~160-175ºF water over your Matcha to make a paste. Use your chasen to incorporate evenly, breaking down any clumps. Carefully pour ~4-6 ounces of water over your tea, filling your chawan. Sip and enjoy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Round Up: March 1st - March 7th

No matter how you brew it, it's still tea!
Some people (thankfully very few) in the tea community feel the need to bring others down. I was happy to see +Leah Nadeau stand up for herself after being bullied on Twitter.

What is commodity tea?
+Elyse Petersen of +Tealet explained the difference between commodity and specialty tea on T Ching. I strongly believe in the importance of standards in tea. It's the only way that we can move forward as an industry, especially here in the U.S.

A Young Yiwu Pu-Erh Afternoon
+Geoffrey Norman gets to hang out with some of my favorite tea people on a regular basis. In his latest post, he describes a backyard tasting he had with Nick from +Misty Peak Teas. Make sure you check out the pictures of a puerh ball the size of a baby!

Interview: Joseph Uhl of Joseph Wesley Black Tea
+sara shacket interviewed the owner of one of my favorite companies, +Joseph Wesley Black Tea. I loved the insights that he gave into how he discovered tea. My favorite quote was "There’s an absolutely sublime magazine that was just released called The Great Discontent. I have absolutely no idea what it’s about but dear lord it is beautiful.".

Matcha Review: Shokei by Ippodo
+Oca Ocani posted a great review of Ippodo's new years matcha. I really wish that I had made into their NYC shop to pick up some of this. The tin features an adorable sheep label for 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Le Palais des Thés Tawaramine Shincha Ichibana 2014

Country of Origin: Japan
Leaf Appearance: deep green, glossy
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 2 minutes
Water Temperature: 160 degrees
Preparation Method: kyusu
Liquor: bright green

Shincha is not a tea that I get to indulge in often, especially not one that is $115 for 3.5oz. The dry tea was beautiful to look at, needle-like with a glossy sheen. This tea is part of +Palais des Thés' Grand Cru line. I love the extra depth of information that they provide in the description on their website. It's not often that you see a larger company name their farmer. A tea like this tastes very mellow at first but then the complexity unfolds after you swallow each sip. It starts out vegetal with notes of seaweed. That soon gives way to surprising hints of fruit and even a bit of creaminess. It all culminates in that indescribably savory taste known as umami. I brewed these leaves three times over (in part because I locked myself out of the house after pouring the first infusion) and they had some real staying power too. I don't think that all of those subtleties would have come out if the water temperature was not so low. Treat this one gently and you'll be rewarded.

Tawaramine Shincha Ichibana sample provided by Le Palais des Thés.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Yunnan Sourcing Feng Qing Black Tea Mini Bricks

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, tightly compressed
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: celadon gongfu teapot
Liquor: dark reddish brown

Some of you might remember that I did a Tandem Tea Tasting with this tea a few years ago. I picked up a bag of these bricks on a recent +Yunnan Sourcing order so I thought it might be time to do a formal review. At $8.50 for a 100g bag you really get a lot of bang for your buck. I just had to throw in a few extra toys to make the shipping worth it. I used a gaiwan the time that I had this tea so I went with my celadon gongfu pot instead. It took a good rinse and a couple of rounds for the leaves to really open up. Once they did, the flavor just kept going and going. The taste was earthy sweet with notes of cacao and a hint of maltiness. I even started getting a bit of savory sweet potato. The combination had a really comforting affect. There was no bitterness but a bit of tannic astringency added a refreshingly clean finish. This a perfect cold weather tea. When I drank it I was snowed in and crunching deadlines. Each pot helped me get all of that writing done.

Feng Qing Black Tea Mini Bricks purchased from Yunnan Sourcing.
A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

My First Petr Novak Teacup

I've obsessed over the work of Czech potter Petr Novak for quite some time but I only just recently made the jump to purchase something. Czech based tea retailer Klasek Tea lists some of his pieces from time to time and when I saw this cup, I just had to have it. The size is just right, not too big and not too small. An important factor for teaware for me is how it feels in the hand and when you take a sip. In both cases this cup is perfection for me. It's a very tactile piece and I love the smooth but rough texture. It reminds me a bit of some of my hagi yaki pieces in some ways. My thumb has a habit of resting on the unglazed white patches. I haven't seen much work like this but apparently it was inspired by Korean Bun-cheong. There's a very interesting blog post on Klasek Tea's website that explains the history of this production method.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Modern Tea by Lisa Boalt Richardson

There are A LOT of books on tea but sometimes it seems that most of them repeat the same facts over and over again, even those that aren't quite accurate. +Lisa Boalt Richardson is a well respected author and tea specialist though so I had high hopes going in. I ordered the hardcover edition and I thought it was beautiful before I even opened it. The matte texture and striking cover imagery immediately drew me in. What impressed me even more than the cover was the contents of its pages. There are lots of pretty books out there but this one manages to be wonderfully factually and informative as well.

Lisa's tone throughout the book is approachable and casual, drawing the reader in and making them want to know more. One of the things that I enjoyed most was how she draws from her own travels. These experiences really help to bring the facts on the page to life. One of my favorite sections was The Art of Tasting Tea. Her descriptions of the steps involved in tasting teas is not something I often see in books. It helps that they also echo many of my own approaches.

I was glad to see that Lisa took a different approach to the stereotypical cooking with tea section. Rather than just filling it with recipes that the reader might never attempt, she gives practical advice on infusing tea into just about everything. Quotes from some of the best in the biz and specific examples provide a lot of guidance for the reader without being too restricting. There's enough there to spark a ton of ideas without overwhelming them.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was my companion just before bed for several weeks and I found myself looking forward to picking it back up each night.

P.S. If you plan to pick up a copy, please use this Amazon affiliate link. I'm saving up my commissions for a much needed camera upgrade :)