Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pu'er Academy with A Gift of Tea

Most of you know by now that +Jo J is the hostess with mostest. I can't think of a time when this is more evident than her Spring White Tea. This was the 12th year running and my third time attending. The theme was a bit different than years past and I loved how representative it was of Jo's personal journey with tea. Pu'er Academy was an intriguing title and I immediately volunteered to assist with serving tea. The table settings were beautifully laid out.

I brought along my travel tea tray and one of my favorite gaiwans. The folks seated at my table were new to puerh so it was great to have the opportunity to geek out and introduce them to one of my favorite types of tea. The teas that we enjoyed were:

Bada Mountain 2014 sheng from +JalamTeas
Bada Mountain 2012 shou from +JalamTeas
+Misty Peak Teas 2014 sheng
CNNP shou (not sure of the year)

One of my favorite things about this annual event is getting to see all of the familiar faces. Fellow bloggers +Darlene Meyers-Perry and +sara shacket were in attendance. Theresa from +T Shop and Lisa from +Tiny Pinecone Teahouse and Bakeshop were there as well as writer Max Falkowitz from Serious Eats. +Evan Draper and +Brandon Hale were the guest speakers and they did a great job of educating without giving the audience information overload.

Make sure that you check out +Jo J's website, A Gift of Tea, to keep tabs on future events like this one.

+Tiny Pinecone Teahouse and Bakeshop's famous olive oil brownie gets the delicious addition of a cherry

Monday, June 29, 2015

Scottish Afternoon Tea at The Lowell with Wee Tea Company

I first heard about +The Wee Tea Company through fellow blogger +Geoffrey Norman. The fact that they were growing tea in Scotland certainly caught my attention. I've been keeping tabs ever since, in part because they give me hope about being the first tea farmer in New Jersey. Sir Geoff kindly shared their smoked white tea with a group of us after the Tea Blogger Roundtable at World Tea Expo this year. The Wee Tea Company recently launched their Dalreoch Estate brand in the U.S. and I had the opportunity to interview Jamie Russel for my very first World Tea News article. I totally meant to share this experience with you guys sooner but life gets in the way of writing sometimes.

I met Jamie at The Pembroke Room of The Lowell Hotel on a rainy evening after work. Their afternoon tea service is legendary and I had never visited before so I was really excited to check things out. From the moment I walked in the front doors, I could tell that I was somewhere special. I wouldn't call it antique or vintage but the whole place had an opulent old fashioned feel to it. Jamie was affable and wonderfully passionate about his tea. I loved hearing about the historical documentation he found about growing tea in the U.K. Who would have guessed that Scotland would have a similar micro-climate to Darjeeling?

We shared a tower of delicious sweets and savories as well as several pots of their smoked white tea. I thought it was very interesting that the tea was served with lime slices. Jamie suggested rubbing the rim of the teacup with them. That little touch of citrus really accentuated the smokiness. This tea was quite unlike anything that I had before. The taste was multi-layered and nuanced, allowing the peach-like fruity notes to shine through.

I think that Dalreoch Estate's innovative agricultural techniques could become very important as climate change affects traditional growing regions. The tea industry may need to evolve in the future and small operations like The Wee Tea Company will be the forerunners.

Click the link below to read my story on World Tea News!

Wee Tea Launches Dalreoch Brand in the U.S.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Round Up: June 21st - June 17th

The Humble Tea Pet
+Payton Swick wrote an homage to tea pets. His explanation sums up their purpose perfectly. I'm quite obsessed with these little characters so I really enjoyed this post.

World Tea Expo: The Matcha Effect
Matcha seemed to be on everyone's mind at World Tea Expo this year. +Linda Gaylard shared a bit about her observations. I noticed the very same trends that she did and found them very exciting.

Way of Whisking
Speaking of matcha, Kohei at Tales of Japanese Green Tea wrote a great post (and accompanying video) about the affects of different whisking styles. His video is in Japanese but English subtitles are thoughtfully included.

Teas and Cheeses
+Georgia SS and +sara shacket both attended an amazing event put together by +Bellocq and The French Cheese Board. I love the idea of pairing tea with cheese. Although I've had a few wonderful experiences myself, I have yet to explore the concept as much as I would like.

Tasting: Tea & Cheese Pairings at The French Cheese Board
Pairing Bellocq Teas and French Cheeses

Mini Zen Garden
At this point I pretty much consider +Bonnie Eng of Thirsty for Tea to be the Martha Stewart of the tea blogging world. I adore her idea of creating a zen garden in a shadowbox picture frame. I even have a tiny Buddha statue to place in mine!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Global Tea Hut: May 2015 - Rainforest

May's Global Tea Hut envelope brought a De Hong wild purple raw puerh from spring of 2011. Rainforest strikes me as a perfect name for a tea from Yunnan. I was recently watching an episode of Wild China and was blown away by the biodiversity of the jungles there. Those beautiful images were in mind as I brewed countless infusions in my yixing. I was surprised at how sweet and mellow the the tea was. It still had that wonderfully giddy heady feeling that I love from a good puerh. The gift was a beautiful color photo of the new shrine to Kuanyin at Tea Sage Hut. It's still a dream of mine to stay with them in Miaoli, Taiwan one day.

This edition of Tea & Tao Magazine focused on teachers and tradition. I really enjoyed the articles on Lin Pin Xiang, Wu De's teacher. An article called "Who is a tea expert?" by Wu De also really spoke to me. There are so many people calling themselves experts this day. There are times that it makes me question everything about the world of tea that I love so much.

The fact is that there are no Tea experts. Stay in a state of intelligence. Don't ever lose the passion for exploration and growth. Don't ever stop learning.

He goes on to relate this to a Japanese concept called kaizen, meaning that we remain students. I cannot think of a single thing more important for tea drinkers. No matter how far along our journey we are, we all must continue to learn. I couldn't help but think of James Norwood Pratt's acceptance speech at the World Tea Awards this year. As well respected as he is, he still refers to himself as a student of the leaf.

You can find out more about Global Tea Hut here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

KEDOÇAY Big Red Robe

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain infuser mug
Liquor: deep reddish brown

Thank goodness for Google Translate! Even though +KEDOÇAY is Turkish I'm still able to read their brewing directions and tea descriptions. The instructions for this tea were for a western style brew. When brewing it that way the result was smooth and roasty but a bit thin. I then tried it in my gaiwan which was somewhat better but I felt that I should have used more leaf. It's rare that I try brewing a tea this many different ways but I had a nagging feeling that I hadn't seen this one at its best. After trying both a gaiwan and western style brew there wasn't a ton of tea left so I decided to give it a go in my teeny tiny Petr Novak teapot. The pot fits barely 60ml when empty and I usually use about 3g of leaves. Eureka! Now this tea was finally what I wanted from a Da Hong Pao. It was minerally and almost creamy with a carmel like sweetness. This pot is not glazed and has been seasoned with yancha (mostly Huang Guan Yin) so that may have also made a difference. Cliff teas really do well with concentrated brews and this was a great reminder of that.

Big Red Robe sample provided by KEDOÇAY.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Udyan Tea Rohini AV2 Exotic Black

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green and brown with silver tips
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 195 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: bright gold

First flush Darjeeling teas are always an interesting dichotomy. They often don't look like or taste like a black tea at all. As soon as I opened the sample packet I was immediately struck by how pretty the leaves were. They were incredibly fluffy with a ton of fuzzy buds. Some teas I casually photograph as I go but my first thought was, "I've got to Instagram this!". The taste was mellow with sweet floral notes and very little astringency. Rose was the dominant character but there was also a fruity undertone that was distinctly Darjeeling. I continued to marvel at the leaves after brewing. It's rare to see oxidation and bug bite marks that were so clearly visible. Once again, I had to share them with my Instagram followers. I still had a bit of tea left so I decided to give cold brewing it a try. Holy cow, just when I thought this tea couldn't get any better! The rose notes came even more to the forefront. I use a 1L glass pitcher and I was able to refill at least three times with the same batch of leaves. This is not the cheapest 1st flush that you'll meet it but it was truly one of the best that I've had in a long time.

To learn more about Darjeeling, check out my Meet the Tea post!

Rohini AV2 Exotic Black sample provided by Udyan Tea.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Perfect Arnold Palmer featuring the Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker

Did you know that June is National Iced Tea month?  I thought it would be a perfect time to share my recipe for making a perfect Arnold Palmer. Named after the American golfer, this combination of iced tea and lemonade is one of my favorite summer drinks. The Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker makes it super easy to brew the tea and juice the lemons, all with a single tool. The Citrus Juicer attachment is super handy and I plan to play around with it a lot more this summer.

2 packets of Takeya Classic Black Flash Chill Iced Tea
6 lemons (5 for juicing and 1 for garnish)
4 cups of water
1 cup of simple syrup
  1. Boil 4 cups of water and let it cool for 1 minute
  2. Steep black tea for 5 minutes and remove leaves
  3. Add 1 cup of simple syrup (1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water, heated on the stove until the sugar is dissolved
  4. Fill remainder of pitcher with ice, seal and shake until melted
  5. Remove one cup of tea from the pitcher
  6. Screw on the juicer attachment and use it to squeeze five lemons
  7. Mix well and pour over ice, garnish with a slice of lemon
Everything can be adjusted to taste. I don't like a ton of sweetener but you can always add more if you'd like. Honey or agave can also be substituted for the simple syrup. If you don't have this particular tea, substitute 10 teaspoons of any full bodied black tea. Assam tends to work very well. For a fun twist, add mint or even a bit of sweet tea vodka.

This is not a sponsored post but product was supplied by Takeya USA.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Round Up: June 14th - June 20th

Visiting Tin Roof Teas in Raleigh, North Carolina!
Angela of Tea with Friends shared a fun post about her visit to a cute tea shop in NC. They'll definitely be on my to do list if I ever visit the area.

BST! - Sencha
+Tyas Huybrechts of +Tea Talk created an awesome downloadable PDF about brewing the perfect cup of sencha. I love that he includes detailed directions for each infusion.

Learning to (Re)Wrap a Teacake
One tea skill that I have yet to master is re-wrapping puerh cakes. I'll have to study this post carefully and put in some time practicing. It kind of reminds me of learning how to do origami.

Matcha Tools and Preparation
+Georgia SS at Notes on Tea recently attended a matcha event in NYC. As a great follow up, she shared beautiful pictures as well as notes on how to prepare a frothy bowl of the green stuff.

The Taste of Tea Lounge
+Ricardo Caicedo visited what sounds like a wonderful place in Healdsburg, CA while he was here for World Tea Expo. I really don't know if I could imagine anything better than a tea house that serves ramen and does spa treatments.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Kettle Shed Tea Company Iron Lady

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: deep green, somewhat rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: stainless steel infuser basket and ceramic teacup
Liquor: gold

The taste of this tea was mellow and sweet with a fruity floral undertone. There was a bit more depth to the second infusion so I would suggest rinsing the leaves before brewing your first cup. A pleasant creamy, roasty quality came more to the forefront. There was no bitterness or astringency to speak of, even when brewed for longer than the recommended three minutes. As far as Tie Guan Yin goes, this tea was sort of middle of the road. I've certainly had better but I've definitely had worse. The wonderful thing about tea is that there are varied levels of quality, each suited for different situations and purposes. Sometimes you want a spendy deal to meditate over in your gaiwan and sometimes you just want a cup of tea. At £8.90 for 100g (or about $14 for a bit over 3.5oz) this tea is priced fairly inexpensively. That makes it perfect for cold brewing iced tea or for brewing on the go. +The Kettle Shed: Tea Company's new packaging features adorable shed shaped boxes. I do wish that the inner bag was resealable though.

Iron Lady sample provided by The Kettle Shed Tea Company.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Silver Needle Tea Co. High Mountain Oolong

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

Earlier in the year I helped Lucy from +Silver Needle Tea Co. at NY NOW. While I loved her passion and beautiful packaging, what really sent me head over heels was her high mountain oolong. It was grown at a staggering elevation of 7,000 feet on Alishan. This is not a tea to drink when you are in a rush. Even with a rinse, the leaves barely opened after the first infusion. The taste started out sweet and buttery smooth with lingering floral notes. Enjoyable as that was it really came into its own on the second and third rounds. The floral notes became deeper, accompanied by a delicious creaminess. I really shouldn't drink teas like this before bed. It's not that the caffeine keeps me up but that I just simply won't lay down until the leaves have given their all. It would be a waste otherwise, right? Over the last few years rolled oolongs have been trending towards the radioactively green sort. They're just not my thing so I was really glad that this one was so well balanced. I've had this tea both western style and gongfu. It performed very well both ways but the gaiwan is always my go to.

High Mountain Oolong sample provided by Silver Needle Tea Co.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Reader Questions: How Did I Become a Tea Blogger?

A reader recently asked if I had ever written about how I transitioned from casual sipper to the crazy life of a tea blogger. I was fairly surprised to find that I never had. Hard to believe, isn't it? This post might be a lengthy one but I don't want to leave anything out. I'd love to hear about some your tea journeys in the comments!

I grew up in a family of tea drinkers although things were quite a bit different from the way that I approach tea now. Red Rose was the brand of choice and I took mine with milk and two sugars. My mother and I avidly collected (and still have) the little Wade porcelain figurines that would come in each box. Whenever we finished a box I loved sticking me nose inside and deeply inhaling the aroma of the tea dust inside.

Fast forward to 2007 and I'm attempting to put myself through college. Milk and sugar aren't practical for mini fridge living so I was drinking my beloved Red Rose without these things. Needless to say that did not go very well. I had never been a coffee drinker and couldn't stand the taste. However, surviving all nighters spent writing papers does require some sort of caffeine. I started exploring the selections at the grocery store and brands like Stash and Celestial Seasonings became my mainstays.

Not long afterwards, my mom showed me a magazine ad for flowering teas because she thought they looked cool. It rocked my world a bit to learn that tea didn't come in a bag and that it could be so beautiful. It was then that I decided I needed a tea upgrade. I ordered a starter kit from Numi Tea with an assortment of flowering teas as well as a small glass teapot. These things were too cool! I soon found myself searching online to learn more, overwhelmed but fascinated at the same time.

It was at this point in my tea discovery that I stumbled upon Teaviews.com. They were looking for staff reviewers to write about tea. What poor college student doesn't love the idea of free stuff? Despite my lack of experience they brought me on board and I was quickly overwhelmed with the variety of teas that were out there. I'll always be grateful for this early education because I was exposed to a wide variety of teas. I also learned the important lesson that each person's tastes and experiences determine the types of teas that they enjoy. I reviewed a teabag with chili peppers in it and absolutely hated it but another reviewer who grew up in SoCal said it tasted like home. For the curious, you can still read the reviews that I wrote there.

A tea shop opened up in the next town over (though they closed not long afterwards) and I became a frequent visitor. The owner had a real passion for tea and her fuss-free approach did a lot to shape the tea drinker that I became. She taught me to drink her Jungpana silver needle "grandpa style". After about two years of writing on Teaviews, I was still actively pursuing my interest in tea and wanted more. I turned to Twitter as a way of connecting with others. Two months later, Tea for Me Please was born.

The rest, as they say, is history. Six years have passed and I'm still digging. At the start of this journey I never would have guessed that tea would lead me down the road that it has. I've connected with amazing people all over the world, stepped outside of my comfort zone and even changed careers because of it. I wouldn't have things any other way.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Grey's Teas Yunnan White Dragon

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: jade green, curled with some buds
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 175 degrees
Preparation Method: Teavana Perfect Tea Maker
Liquor: gold

The categories of tea seem like they are clearly defined but there are quite a lot of grey areas. This particular tea was listed as a white tea on their website but behaved like a green. Was I crazy? I inquired about the processing to see if that might clear things up. The leaves were withered and rolled prior to the heating step. That still didn't tell me much. When I pose the question to my fellow tea nerds on Facebook, the responses ran the gamut of the tea world. After a few days of Googling, I found a listing on Amazon from this same vendor:

This green Yunnan has the special, white downy appearance typical of white teas which are also picked young. Delicate, smooth and floral it is a most attractive yet uncommon green tea.

Now that the type is settled, let's get to the tea! It was mellow in the cup with sweet meadow notes and hints of melon. My second infusion had a nice floral quality that had not been as present on the first go around. There was hardly any astringency, making it a good candidate for travel mug brewing. I find that's really the best way to get the most out of your green teas. Just keep refilling with water until the flavor is gone. £14.33 (about $22) for 125g, this tea is a fairly decent buy.

Yunnan White Dragon sample provided by Grey's Teas.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Round Up: June 7th - June 13th

The Midwest Tea Festival, Part 1: Presentations and Tasting Cafe
+Jennifer Ballmann at Not Starving Yet shared a bit about her experience at the 1st ever Midwest Tea Festival. I was living vicariously through all of my tea friends that attended.

99 Grams of Poundcake from White2Tea
We all know that +Cwyn N lives dangerously when it comes to tea drinking but this post takes the cake. +White2Tea sent out a gourd of their new Poundcake puerh to members of their tea subscription. Rather than risking injury by breaking off pieces, she did the only logical thing and brewed the whole thing all at once. Hilarity ensues.

National Iced Tea Day: Puerh Masala Chai Iced Latte Recipe
National Iced Tea Day was this week. In celebration +Lu Ann Pannunzio a delicious sounding recipe for a cool summer treat. I'm really looking forward to trying this one soon

National Iced Tea Day
A big congrats to +Alexis Siemons! She was featured in a spot on Fox 29 Good Day morning show in Philadelphia. I loved watching her blow the news guy's mind. Is that sparkling wine? Do it! What? :)

Happy 5th Anniversary Tea Journey
We have another cause for celebration because +katherine bellman's blog turned five this week. Happy blogiversary!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Darjeeling: A History of the World's Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler

I'm always on the look out for new tea reads so I was excited when I saw a Twitter friend tweet about this book. I was even more excited when the author replied and offered to send me a copy. Thanks again Jeff! It arrived just in time to accompany me on both of my very long flights from World Tea Expo. Darjeeling is a region that has fascinated me since the very beginning of my tea journey. Years later I'm still enraptured and digging deeper. Although this book initially struck me as somewhat similar to The Darjeeling Distinction by Sarah Besky, their slightly different angles make them both worth the read.

Jeff offers an in depth exploration of Darjeeling and the Indian tea industry in general. From the East India Company to modern political issues, he covers the entire storied history of the Himalayan hill station. I particularly enjoyed the insight into the Kolkata auctions and the ownership changes of each estate through the years. The discussion on organic and biodynamic farming was also very insightful. Darjeeling's socioeconomic issues will have a big impact on the tea industry in the coming years so I think it's important that tea consumers be as informed as possible.

Jeff's passion for tea, Darjeeling and its people add warmth to a story that might otherwise be a bit more doom and gloom. Overall the book was very readable and well organized. The section of glossy color photographs in the middle were a nice surprise. There are maps and snippets from the past as well as some interesting modern day shots. You've got to love the mutton chops on ol' Robert Fortune!

You can find out more about this book here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mandala Tea 2012 Noble Mark

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: deep reddish brown, nearly opaque

I find that I drink far more raw puerh than the cooked stuff. It's not that I don't like it but the super dark and earthy taste isn't usually what I crave. Noble Mark stood out for me because it had an incredible smoothness that I wasn't expecting. +Mandala Tea blended together four different grades of leaves (grade refers to size, not necessarily quality) with the intention of creating a well-balanced. I think it's safe to say, mission accomplished! The taste was sweet with pleasant woody notes and even a bit of dark chocolate. I can't explain it but pumpernickle bagles from my childhood came to mind. There was a savory note that probably reminded me of them. It never bordered into that weird mushroom territory (take it from the picky eater who hates mushrooms). The finish was very clean, without the grit that I've experienced from some other teas. I found myself continuing to drink even after the color started to fade. This would be a great shou for initiating friends into the world of puerh.

2012 Noble Mark sample provided by Mandala Tea.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cha Do Raku Honey Black Tea

Country of Origin: Taiwan
Leaf Appearance: small, dark and twisted
Ingredients: black tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method:glazed clay teapot
Liquor: amber

I attended a class given by Cha Do Raku on oxidized Japanese green teas which was wonderfully informative. We were served several outstanding teas but this honey black tea really made me sit up and take notice. I just to pick up some to try at home. The brewing directions were a bit unusual:

Brew with: 3g (2 heaping tea spoon) tea with 200ml water
1st infusion: rinse at 100C at 10 - 15 sec
2nd infusion: at 100 C for 3 min    *add 1 table spoon of cold water before adding the hot water over tea. Observe powerful honey like aroma emerges!
3rd infusion:  at 100 C for3 min  

I could not believe the intensity of the honey aroma. I was reminded of a delicious Hawaiian honey that a tea friend gifted to me last year. This self confessed honey addict gobbled up most of it straight. The super sweet feeling in the back of my throat after doing that was exactly what this tea replicated. That intensity only started to fade a bit on the third pot. By that time I was quite tea logged and unable to drink more even if I wanted to. I still had honey aromas in my throat and palate for close to thirty minutes after taking my last sip. I decided to throw the used leaves on my tea roaster and the apartment was filled with wonderful smells. You all know that I have a penchant for Taiwanese black teas. I've had the good fortune to try quite a few fantastic examples but this one might just take the cake.

Honey Black Tea purchased from Cha Do Raku.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Golden Tips Teas Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea 1st Flush (Organic)

Country of Origin: India
Leaf Appearance: jade green, tons of downy buds
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 180 degrees
Preparation Method: ceramic teacup and stainless steel infuser basket
Liquor: pale, greenish

Nilgiri lives in the often overbearing shadows of Assam and Darjeeling but many quality teas are being produced there. The pluck for this Avvata green was very fine with lots of downy buds. If I didn't know better, I'd say it was a Chinese white tea! Easy going in the cup, the taste was crisply sweet and vegetal without any astringency. Fruity and floral notes round out to a mellow finish. It resteeped well which made me want to experiment with brewing it in my glass gaiwan. The aromas intensified while maintaining a delicateness that I found really appealing. Call me crazy, but it almost started to taste like Long Jing. There was a cooling affect in that aftertaste that tells me this tea would be great for gongfu'ing on a summer day. I really like that it is Rainforest Alliance Certified. While these certifications don't always mean a whole lot, they are one of the few indicators that consumers have to go by.

Avaata Supreme Nilgiri Green Tea 1st Flush (Organic) sample provided by Golden Tips Tea.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday Round Up: May 31st - June 6th

Booze Teas for Boob Teapots
Leave it to +Geoffrey Norman to find a way to combine boobs, booze and tea in the least offensive way possible. This week he shared the story of Xi Shi, a woman so beautiful that her breast is forever commemorated in the shape of a teapot.

A resource for those who love tea and history
Angela at Tea with Friends has knack for finding useful links concerning tea and history. It's pretty hard to trump this 1899 report on growing tea in South Carolina.

Iced Matcha Lemonade
I've seen a few recipes for matcha lemonade but have yet to try making any myself. This recipe from +Oca Ocani at A Matcha Enthusiast's Diary looks super simple. I love that it's just enough for one serving. I'm the only one who will drink this in my house so it doesn't make any sense to make bigger batches,

Beach Season Approved
Speaking of summery drinks, +Rachana Rachel Carter is a tea mad scientist and her latest cocktail recipe sounds awesome. I haven't tried the tea concentrates from Finest Kind Tea yet but they are on my wishlist. I love that she puts a health spin on it, substituting Vee Acai Liqueur for vodka.

teaspoons at the table: strawberry shortcake with cardamom black tea whipped cream
Whenever I need inspiration for tea infused deliciousness I always find myself turning to +Alexis Siemons' fabulous blog. My boyfriend insists that I give her latest recipe a try because it will put the Kitchenaide mixer he bought me to good use. :)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Zhen Tea Tie Guan Yin - Classic

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

When I saw +ZhenTea at the New York Coffee and Tea Festival, this tea really caught my eye and they were kind enough to gift me a bit to take home. Prior to the 1990's Tie Guan Yin was produced as a strip style oolong with heavier roasting. This tea was produced in that older style. The vividly green, tightly rolled oolong that we know today is a result of influences from Taiwanese processing and changes in market demand. The difference was quite remarkable. My tea station was instantly flooded with the scents of citrus. In the taste the citrus took on a slightly smoky, almost caramelized affect. The mouth-feel was somewhat thick and there was a pleasant floral sweetness that lingered long after each sip. There was no bitterness or astringency to think of. I increased the steep time by about 10 seconds for each round and it stayed strong until I was brewing for well over a minute. I was positively smitten with this tea. It was everything that I wanted Tie Guan Yin to be ever since I first discovered loose leaf tea. Some Instagram followers questioned that validity of this tea being Tie Guan Yin, insisting that it was in fact Tie Luo Han. I can tell you that after tasting it that this is definitely TGY. I had about 2g of leaves leftover so I decided to give bowl brewing a try later the same evening. It worked perfectly that way too! The floral aspects became a bit more pronounced while the roasted quality stepped to the background.

+ZhenTea recently shared an excellent travelogue of their tea consultants travels in Anxi. I highly recommend taking a look!

To find out more about Tie Guan Yin, check out my Meet the Tea post!

Tie Guan Yin - Classic sample provided by Zhen Tea.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Happy Earth Tea Himalayan Evergreen #121, Organic Jun Chiyabari, Autumn 2014

Country of Origin: Nepal
Leaf Appearance: varied shades of green, twisted
Ingredients: green tea
Steep time: 3 minutes
Water Temperature: 190 degrees
Preparation Method: glass teapot
Liquor: pale gold

Happy Earth Tea is one of my favorite vendors. I love that 10% of the proceeds from this tea are donated to the Ama Foundation, a nonprofit that houses abandoned and disadvantaged children in Nepal. Given the severe earthquakes that this region suffered recently, their work is even more important than ever. The dry leaves were quiet nice to look at. They were gently rolled so they were mostly whole with lots of complete bud sets. In truth I don't drink as many green teas because they usually don't have kind of complexity that I'm looking for. This tea was an exception to that rule. It was sweet and vegetal with complex floral notes. For some reason green bell peppers kept coming to mind. Overall it was a crisp cup without being astringent or overly drying. It held up well to multiple infusions and might even do well if prepared using a gaiwan. If you haven't experienced many Nepalese teas, I think this one is an excellent place to start.

Himalayan Evergreen #121, Organic Jun Chiyabari, Autumn 2014 sample provided by Happy Earth Tea.

A photo posted by Nicole Martin (@teaformeplease) on

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Q&A with Mario Leite of Tea-rrific! Ice Cream

Tea and ice cream might not seem like they go together but they definitely do! A few years ago I met Mario of Tea-riffic! Ice Cream at World Tea East. Not only did he used to live in my hometown but his Chunky London Misty really knocked my socks off. There is always a long line for samples whenever I see them at local shows and events. Today's post is a bit of a Q&A. Mario shared how he started his company, where he draws inspiration from and more.

Make sure you check out the special promo code just for +Tea for Me Please readers at the end of this post!

Q: Have you always been a tea drinker? What’s your favorite kind?

A: Yes, I have always drank tea since I was young. My favorites are earl grey, cha, jasmine green tea and green tea. 

Q: Ice cream and tea aren’t usually associated with each other. What was the inspiration for starting Tea-rrific! Ice Cream?

A: I am an ice cream fanatic and as I said in the last answer, I love tea and have always drank it since I young. I have been making ice cream at home ever since my co-workers from my first job after college gave me an ice cream maker for my birthday....did I say I was an ice cream fanatic? :)

So through the years  I always made ice cream at home. Several years ago my wife bought me a Cuisinart ice cream maker but when I started my investment banking career I had little time for making ice cream. After I lost my job in August 2011, I started making ice cream again and the first thing I thought of doing was making tea-infused ice cream. I thought tea was a great ingredient that was little explored. The varieties of tea are endless and they are very flexible in terms of their ability to pair well with other ingredients. It was also a healthy way to flavor ice cream.

The few tea flavors that were available in the market were not well executed and they were not very authentic tasting. So I started trying it out. The first flavor I made was London Mist, which is Earl Grey with a hint of vanilla. It was a hit with all who tried it. Around the same time I saw a Family Circle article focused on how to was being infused into all sorts of foods and I took it as a sign. Thus Tea-rrific! Ice Cream was born!

Q: I really enjoyed the Chunky London Mist when I tried it at World Tea East a few years ago. What’s the most popular flavor?

A: That is one my of my personal favorites but our Ginger Matcha is our best seller, followed by Masala Chai, Chunky London Mist and Chamomile. The Chamomile is a finalist for a 2015 Sofi Award in the Ice Cream/Gelato/Frozen Treats category. Final judging takes place at the summer Fancy Food Show at the end of June. 

Q: I love that your commitment to not using any artificial colors or flavors. Was it hard to create recipes using only all-natural ingredients? 

A: Absolutely, but one thing we will never compromise on is the use of gums, preservatives and corn syrup. As an ice cream lover (sorry, fantatic), I got tired of the gummy overly sweet ice creams available on the market. They left a coating on your tongue, were over-artificially flavored and just sat in your stomach. I wanted to make an ice cream that was rich, creamy and satisfying but that also was refreshing and finished clean off the palate; like something a chef would make from scratch with natural ingredients.

Most manufacturers and co-packers are used to making ice cream with these additives. It has become common practice but I wanted our ice cream to be pure, clean and just like old-fashioned homemade ice cream. To make ice cream like that to scale is very challenging, but worth it. It was particularly challenging because the delicate nuances of the teas can easily be masked or overwhelmed by the cream or other flavors you are adding to them. It took us the better part of a year working with tea specialists and ice cream production veterans, along with a lot of late nights and trails to the get the recipe right. We still tweak things, based on the knowledge we have gained to continually make an even better product.

Q: How do you decide what goes into each flavor?

A: I get inspired by many different things, from a walk through the aisles of a specialty food store to the foods I eat when travel to what tea blenders are combining their teas with. Sometimes the combinations just come to me. I'll have an idea for a flavor and then we'll try different things until we get the combination right. Sometimes the flavors are more exotic, sometimes the flavors are based on traditional flavor combinations that just work well with tea.

Q: What were the biggest challenges that you faced when starting your business?

A: Securing the right distribution and understanding the best ways to spend your sales and marketing dollars. We are doing something particularly challenging in the food industry and that is to sell a premium product based on truly unique flavor profiles that the majority of customers are not familiar with, especially in ice cream form, but we believe it they just try it they will love it.4

Q: Where can my readers find your ice cream?

A: Our ice cream is distributed throughout the Northeast in places like Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, Fairway, Kings and Mr. Greens. We are now just starting to expand into the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. We also just recently launched an online store and we ship throughout the country.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Tea Cupper's Notebook by Antonio Moreno Areces

Tea journals are hard to come by. In fact, the only other one I've reviewed is the now out of print Moleskin Passions Tea Journal. What impressed me about this notebook from +Čaj Chai was that is is very straightforward. There's no unnecessary fluff like recipe pages. The pages are large enough to allow plenty of note taking while still being portable and easy to manage. I've never seen fields for the shape, type of leaf or number of buds before but those are definitely appreciated. Instructions are provided for using the ISO-3103 method of evaluating tea but the pages could just as easy be used for gongfu brewing.

The flavor wheel is simple but enough to get the beginning note taker thinking in the right direction. The list of organoleptic terminology in the back is a great guide for tasting notes when you are drawing a blank. I love that there aren't definitions provided for them because each drinkers's interpretation can be different. One person's honeysuckle is another person's orchid. There is room for notes on 30 teas. While that's not a huge amount, it isn't very expensive so I wouldn't mind picking up a few of these. I highly recommend giving this notebook a try. Whether you're just starting out or you are an old pro, it is flexible enough to provide something for everyone.

You can find out more about this book here.