Monday, January 30, 2017

The Many Faces of Oolong

Whenever I get asked what my favorite tea is, I usually cheat and say oolong. That's because oolong is one of the largest and most diverse categories of tea. Oxidation levels can range from around 8% all the way to nearly 80%. That means that the taste can also vary but from very green to so dark that you might think it was a black tea. You also might see this type of tea referred to by the traditional Chinese name, Wu Long, which translates as "black dragon".

I thought it might be fun to do a run through of the different types for those of you that are just starting to toe the waters. Oolong is often categorized by the style of the leaf so we'll so start there. Names can be a bit trickier as the vary quite a bit depending on the origin.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Round Up: January 22nd - January 28th

Let Faith Arise
There are many tea people in my life who are inspirations. +Darlene Meyers Perry is definitely one of them. This post about her journey to Japan is a reminder that sometimes you just have to show up.

The Tea Squirrel reports from the Global Tea Initiative at UC Davis
It seems like the awesome tea events are always on the opposite coast from me. At least I get to live vicariously through +Anna Mariani's coverage of this very exciting event.

Silver Tea Pot Review and Testing
If my Instagram feed is any indication, silver teapots are all the rage. +Charissa Gascho gives a very thorough comparison to other popular brewing vessels like yixing and ruyao. The pros and cons she lists are a great place to start if you're considering buying one.

Mr. Chen’s Magic: Best Bug Bitten 2016
The wonderful thing about Instagram is that it can connect us with fellow tea lovers around the world. Even tea farmers are getting in on the action. Tea Leafster recently got to enjoy some of the teas produced by Mr. Chen. I've been enjoying his pictures for some time so it's good to hear that his tea is as tasty as it looks.

White2Tea 2015 Smooch - S.W.A.L.K.
I love a good puerh ball, especially when it's from White2Tea. Diary of a Northern Teaist's description made me really want to give this one a try. We're in total agreement on the resemblance to marbles and the child-like joy that brings.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Quadruple Shou Puerh Tasting with Jalam Teas

Having too much tea is a very nice problem to have. That being said, I do feel a bit bad when tea sits around without being enjoyed. I've started to taste them in groups for that very reason. That way I can dig through the "to drink" pile faster and no one gets left out. On a very chilly winter day, I did just that.

For this tasting, the only thing the teas have in common is that they are all shou, or cooked, puerh from the same vendor. Each of these teas was brewed in a porcelain gaiwan (luckily, I have those laying around in spades) using 8g of leaf and boiling water. I did a quick 10-second rinse before proceeding with standard 30-second infusions.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Bowl of Peace - Lessons from the Life of SEN Genshitsu

The world seems a bit more chaotic than usual as of late. This blog is not a political platform and I would never want it to be (please note that political comments on this post will be deleted for that reason) but a story I heard some time ago came to mind and I thought this was a good time to share it.

Tea has long been celebrated as a connector of people and a facilitator of conversation. The Japanese tea ceremony,  or chado, is a particularly good example of that. I've never formally studied it but have read every book I can find on the fascinating subject. We often hear legends of samurai meeting peacefully because their swords could not fit through the low entrance designed by Sen No Rikyu. I heard a more modern story of peace through tea on Tea Life Audio (though I cannot recall the episode) and the message really hit home. I just had to find out more about it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Round Up: January 15th - January 21st

Tea and Presidency
+sara shacket published a timely post this week on intertwining histories of tea and the U.S. presidency. I don't think it's a coincidence that so many historical greats had a penchant for the leaf.

Attack of the Adorable Tea Vloggers
+Geoffrey Norman made a round up of his own this week, a list of some of his favorite tea vloggers. Yours truly is included amongst some of my favorite YouTube channels.

Silver Bud Winter Mar-tea-ni
Few things excite me more than seeing a new blog post pop up in my feed from a blog that hasn't been very active. I definitely smiled when I saw this tasty Ya Bao infused tea cocktail from Tea Foodie [by Zanitea].

4 Principles of Japanese Tea (Sado) That Will Help You Become a Better Version of Yourself
+katherine bellman's posts are always a bit soothing to the soul. Tea has been a component of spiritual contemplation for centuries. In this week's post she explores how Sen No Rikyu's guiding principles can still be used to guide us today.

Tea in an Italian stovetop espresso maker
Tea in an espresso maker, blasphemy or delicious meeting of worlds? +Anna Mariani gives us a guide to making hojicha in an unorthodox way. I am definitely giving this a try if I can get my hands on an espresso maker that hasn't been used yet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Jade Leaf Shan Cha Summer 2016

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: dark reddish amber

Taiwanese black teas have become something of an obsession for me over the last few months. They were always something I enjoyed but for some reason, they just seem to hit that sweet spot. I really enjoyed the Red Jade #18 from this company so that set the stage for high hopes for their Shan Cha.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Video - Episode 24: Interview with Lauren Purvis of Mizuba Tea Co.

I've gotten a bit off schedule when it comes to videos over the last few months. 2017 is a new year so let's start off on the right foot! I'm going to change the format a bit going forward. For starters, I'll only be publishing episodes here (and on YouTube, of course). I discovered that the majority of viewers were watching there anyway.

This will help me to avoid having to pay podcast hosting fees and I won't have to render two different versions of every episode. For that reason, I won't be calling it a podcast anymore but the content will remain largely the same. You can still expect tea industry interviews, how to's, and more.

I first met Lauren on Mizuba Tea Co. at World Tea Expo a few years ago. It turned out that we had been following each other on Instagram for years! Her effervescent personality and passion for matcha made us fast friends. In this episode, we talk about how Lauren discovered tea and the happy accident that led her to start her own matcha company.

Read more about Lauren and Mizuba Tea Co. here:

A Mizuba Matcha Moment with Friends
Guest Post: The Chasen by Lauren Danson

Is there something (or someone) that you'd like to see in a future video? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Round Up: January 8th - January 14th

5 Things I Know About Tea, That I Didn't Know Last Week
Elizabeth is the author of a new to me blog called The Tea Journals. She's just starting to go down the rabbit hole and I've really been enjoying following her journey.

Causes for Sour Flavors in Puerh Tea
+Cwyn N's posts are always insightful and full of knowledge. This week she sheds some light on some of the reasons why sour flavors might occur in tea.

How to Make Matcha Green Tea
+Lu Ann Pannunzio wrote a fantastic post (with an even more fantastic video) on making a perfect bowl of matcha. This is definitely great post to check out if you're not sure where to start.

Spotting Old Arbor Bullshit
Cody at The Oolong Drunk pulls no punches with this week's entry. He did an awesome job of tackling some of the controversies that are popping up in the tea world when it comes to the age of the trees use to produce puerh.

Art of Tea - Silver Needle, Fukamushi Sencha, and Crimson Oolong
+Georgia SS at Notes on Tea is always very thorough in her tea reviews. I really enjoyed this week's post because she compared three very different different teas from the same vendor.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Four Seasons Tea Co. Lan Hua Xiang Oolong

Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark green, tightly rolled
Ingredients: oolong tea
Steep time: 10 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

I hate to break it to you, tea friends, but I have another really awesome Four Seasons Tea Co. tea to tell you about. I will not be held responsible for any damage that might now be done to your wallet or yearly tea budget. At $1 per gram, this tea is not an inexpensive one. I do have to say that it is definitely worth it for a special treat. Proceed at your own risk. 😜

Those of you familiar with Phoenix mountain oolongs might know that the Chinese word Xiang roughly translates as fragrance. Lan Hua, or 兰花, means orchid. Add the two together and we know right off the bat that this tea is "orchid scented". It can be a bit hard to explain how a tea can taste like another plant. The closest I can come is to say that it sort of tastes the way that orchids smell. Does that make sense?

The holiday season had me super busy with work, leaving little time for gongfu'ing. I knew exactly what tea I was going to have when I finally had a moment to relax and this one is it. In my Instagram caption, I called it liquid gold. That was not only because of the lovely color of the liquor but also because it was one of those rare teas that really captured my attention.

The taste was incredibly creamy and floral with sweet notes of honey. Each sip was wonderfully aromatic and complex. Later infusions brought an interesting fruity quality that reminded me of honeydew melon. Overall it was very smooth without any astringency.  There was also a really nice hui gan, or lingering sweetness, that I was still experiencing long after my last sip.

I went a little heavy on leaf volume while preparing this tea. Sometimes that can backfire but in this case, it only made the mouthfeel that much more viscous. The infusion times that they provide might seem a bit short but I highly recommend following them. These leaves really took their time opening up. I was able to get ten consecutive infusions using this method.

Lan Hua Xiang Oolong sample provided by Four Seasons Tea Co.

A photo posted by Nicole - Tea for Me Please (@teaformeplease) on

Monday, January 9, 2017

Reading Tea Leaves: A Book Club for Tea Enthusiasts

It's probably no secret by now that I am a major bookworm, especially when it comes to the subject of tea. I've written over fifty reviews on this blog alone. I love sharing my reading experiences here but sometimes that just isn't enough.

Last year I read an article about Emma Watson's feminist book club called Our Shared Shelf. As I followed, I kept thinking about how much the tea world would benefit from something like that. The idea escaped me for a while but then one night I couldn't sleep and it popped back into my head. I tweeted about it and was surprised to find that lots of people expressed interest in participating.

It took some time to get everything rolling but I am happy to announce the start of Reading Tea Leaves. This is my first time running a book club but Good Reads seemed like the easiest platform to make it happen. I couldn't think of a better first book than James Norwood Pratt's The Ultimate Tea Lover's Treasury.

It's the time of year for new year's resolutions. Why not start off on the right foot but diving into a year full of tea filled reads? I'll be adding old favorites as well as selections that are new to me. This book club is meant to be a collaborative, community effort. Please consider joining, participating and commenting. I'll also be looking for moderators to help out with keeping things running smoothly.

Reading Tea Leaves's currently-reading book mon...
Reading Tea Leaves 5 members Reading Tea Leaves is a tea focused book club. The books discussed will be primarily non-fiction ...

Books we're currently reading

View this group on Goodreads »

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday Round Up: January 1st - January 7th

Best Teas of 2016
+Rachana Rachel Carter put together a list of some of her favorite teas from the past year. I have to say that she has great taste. Several of my own favorites made the cut!

The Tea-Stained Glory that was 2016
+Robert Godden drew some inspiration from my post on Monday and put together a top 10 of his own blog posts. If you haven't read his writing before, this entry is a great place to start.

Oolong Owl's 2016 Tea Consumption and Stash Data
I don't know anyone who keeps more detailed records of their tea drinking than +Charissa Gascho. Her yearly state of the tea union is something that I look forward to reading every year, mostly because it gives me delusions that my stash isn't THAT bad. 😛

Getting My Tea Groove Back
+sara shacket's penned a very relatable yet intriguing post this week. She gives us an idea of what the next year will hold for her blog along with lots of hints of some very exciting projects that are in the works.

A Moment for Something New
One blogger voice that I've missed over the last few months was +Jen Piccotti. In this brand new post, she fills us in on what's new and lets us know about her experiences with the Teforia tea infuser.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Gunpowder Gardens or, A Time for Tea: Travels Through India and China in Search of Tea by Jason Goodwin

I always get excited when I come across a tea book that I haven't read before. This one popped up on Kindle Unlimited so I was able to read it for "free" through my subscription. The digital version is still fairly inexpensive even if you do have to purchase it.

There have been many books written about the history of tea but The Gunpowder Gardens takes a bit of a different route. He uses the lives of his grandmother's, one who lived in China and one who lived in India, to tell the story of this simple leaf we all love so much. This book is as much a travel book, if not more so, as it is about tea.

The author's adventures in China with Professor Tea were probably some of my favorite passages in the entire book. It's funny to hear that Yunnan pressed green tea (aka puerh) is not economical or popular. That's quite a stark contrast to the 2007 bubble and today's current dark tea craze.

Overall it was a well written and enjoyable narrative. The many differences between these two points of origin and the way tea is enjoyed are simply fascinating for a tea nerd like myself. The reading might be a bit heavy for someone new to the cult of the leaf but it'll be worth re-reading down the road. There's something to be said for personal experience versus just absorbing facts and figures. For those of us not yet able to travel, books like this can be an invaluable part of our tea journey.

My one point of contention is that there are important parts of tea history, particularly human rights issues in India, that were a bit glossed over. For this reason, I always recommend and practice reading everything you can about tea. Getting multiple perspectives deepens our understanding of every subject.


Monday, January 2, 2017

My Top 10 Blog Posts of 2016

This past year has been a bit of a whirlwind for me. I got engaged and spoke at World Tea Expo. The direction of the blog also changed a bit. I find myself doing fewer tea reviews and putting more effort into writing informative posts instead. A big part of that is because of my own changing tastes and preferences. According to my Google Analytics, these are the ten most popular posts in 2016:

  1. 5 Buzz Words Tea Companies Should Stop Using
  2. Why Microwaving Tea is a Bad Idea
  3. 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Drinking Tea
  4. Chinese vs Japanese Green Teas
  5. What Makes Tea Bitter
  6. 7 Clues You Have a Tea Buying Problem
  7. What I Look for When Buying Tea
  8. Why Tea Shouldn't Be Made in K-Cups
  9. Snapchat for Tea Lovers
  10. 5 Things You Should Know About Phoenix Oolongs

I can't thank you all enough for reading this blog and supporting what I do. It means more than I could ever tell you. Your comments, emails, and tweets are what keeps me motivated to keep this blog going. 

Do you have any tea related New Year's resolutions? Let me know in the comments!