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Garden Tea Bukit No.53 from BOH. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 07/25/2017 - 02:43
Garden Tea Bukit No 53 is such a wonderful way to wake up in the morning! This particular tea is a dark robust tea with finer ground tea leaves than what I am used to.  Brewed up for 3 minutes, allowed to cool, and then topped with frothed milk topping. . .this tea provides all the loving one needs to greet the day.  A delicious morning latte with very little fuss.  Each sip deliver a spot on bold well balanced robust flavor that mingled so well with the light creamy aspects of the milk. When I first saw how little Read More

Persian Rose from Tay Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 23:00
Is this tea? Or flowers? Because by the looks of it, I just steeped up a bunch or lovely pink rose petals with maybe a bit of tea. Even when the tea was done steeping and all the color had been drained from the flowers, the bits of tea leaf was few and far between. So, a tea that is mostly flowers…well that isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on how you feel about floral teas. Some people love them, others not so much. Full disclosure…I am on the “not so much” side of this debate. However, as far as Read More

Vanilla Cupcake from the True Tea Club

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 19:00
It’s hard to resist a tea named Vanilla Cupcake, especially on a day when you just need something cute and sweet to brighten your day.  This tea smells surprisingly fruity alongside the vanilla cake flavors, reminding me of fruitcake or banana bread.  In a world of frosting-flavored, cake-themed tea blends, the amount of fruit flavors and fruity ingredients makes this blend stand apart. The orange and papaya coupled with the vanilla, make this feel more like an orange-glazed sponge cake. Yum!  The banana chips add their own full-flavored sweetness, but there is distinctly less of the traditional “frosting” taste, so Read More

How Does Tea Affect the Brain?

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 16:00

As many of you know I'm pretty strict about not covering health benefits here on the blog. They aren't why I drink tea and in most cases, I think they are overemphasized for marketing purposes. That being said it is undeniable that tea does affect our bodies in many ways. I thought it might be interesting to dive a little deeper into what substances in tea have an effect on the human brain.

Caffeine is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances in the world. It naturally occurs in tea and is partially responsible for the bitter taste that we experience. Caffeine is structurally similar to adenosine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating sleep cycles. Adenosine is built up over the course of the day which eventually triggers our body to rest. Caffeine binds to adenosine receptor sites in the brain so that rather than slowing down we feel energized.

Luckily for us, this effect is not a permanent one. If the adenosine receptors are blocked the body will create new ones. Just as with many other drugs, this is why people can become addicted to caffeine. The body demands more and more of the substance in order to achieve the desired effect. It is also why we might experience withdrawal symptoms if our brains are deprived of caffeine. This seems to be less of a problem in tea circles than it is with the coffee crowd but it's still important to make sure that we don't overdo it. According to the Mayo Clinic, a healthy adult can safely consume up to 400mg of caffeine per day.
L-Theanine is an amino acid found in tea which relaxes the central nervous system and promotes alpha brain wave activity. This can lower anxiety and help us to feel more relaxed. It also increases the levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain. Given what we now know, it isn't so surprising that tea has been so intimately associated with zen and meditation throughout its history.

Some studies have found that L-Theanine is even more effective when it is combined with caffeine (aka tea!) than when it is taken on its own. Shade grown teas such as matcha and gyokuro contain higher levels. L-Theanine is a substance that is almost exclusively found in the Camellia Sinensis. Scientists have only found it in two other sources, guayusa and a species of mushroom.
EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate, is a polyphenol that receives a lot of the attention when it comes to studies on the health benefits of tea. Although conclusive studies are still needed, some studies have found that EGCG has the potential to prevent oxidative damage to brain cells, increase neurogenesis, and improve working memory. It's important to note that the FDA does not allow health claims to made about tea. Retailers can reference studies but the wording must be very careful in order to avoid legal hot water.

GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in reducing excitability in the central nervous system. It is naturally found in tea in low levels but the amount can be increased by essentially making the tea in a vacuum. The leaves are exposed to a nitrogen rich environment during the oxidation step. This process was originally developed in Japan as a natural method for preserving food. Teas that are labeled as GABA should contain at least 150mg per 100g of leaves. Although I can't say that I've noticed any benefits from drinking GABA tea, they have a unique fruity taste that is worth exploring.

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EGCG chemical structure image: Public Domain, Link

Illustrated review: Wish upon a stir

T Ching - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 12:49

“You can enjoy the great outdoors while wishing upon a stir!”

Tstix Classic Organic Green Leaf features an illustration I created a few years ago for “What my Tea says to Me” series. Tealightful!

Packaged perfectly for work, travel, camping, and road trips, Tstix includes twenty individual mess-free tea sticks cozied into a vibrantly illustrated portable cup. Not only is the presentation inspiring, but so is the delicate taste. Each Tstix Organic Green Leaf packet boasts a subtle yet complex aroma and flavor.  I can almost envision myself lounging around a campfire, gazing up at the night sky, with each sip.

The best part? There are no strings attached! Just stir it!

Simply place a single Tstix into a cup and pour boiling water over the packet.  Then, use the Tstix to stir the water until the steaming liquid is a beautiful golden-green. For a stronger brew, let the Tstix steep in your cup for two to three minutes. Good for one infusion! When steeping is complete, I cut the bottom off, remove the leaves for compost, and recycle the sleeve.

Tstix has a variety of other teas to explore, too.

Wish upon a stir and tealightful sipping to you.

Interested in individually designed tea reviews? Weaving compelling visual stories for social media is a passion of mine. I love creating immersive illustrated reviews that awaken people to tea and culture. If you desire an illustrated review to engage your followers, please contact me.

The post Illustrated review: Wish upon a stir appeared first on T Ching.

White Chocolate Samoa from The NecessiTeas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 07/24/2017 - 11:00
After learning of The NecessiTeas, I was so excited to place an order. I just NEEDED to try all the amazing flavors the company offered. This is one of the teas that really caught my eye. Unfortunately it is also one of the teas that was sold out when I placed my order. Luckily I have a Fairy Godmother…or Fairy Godsisters, I should say. The smell of the coconut is what hits first. However, in flavor, the caramel takes over. It is a little bit chocolate but the caramel is what shines here. Coconut and white chocolate does contribute a Read More

Monkey King Jasmine Green Tea from Numi. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 07/23/2017 - 23:00
Steeping specs: 170° with one teabag in one cup of water for about 2 to 3 minutes This green tea is a great responsible option for travelers who need the convenience of a teabag but don’t want to go with a low-quality commercialized option. This one has fair trade certified ingredients (tea leaves infused with jasmine that is also certified organic) and a biodegradable teabag. So there’s some social responsibility for you. The tea water while steeping turns a yellowish color and immediately gives off a very very floral scent from all that jasmine. Jasmine is actually quite a piercing sent, unlike the green Read More

Let’s Go Bananas! Banana-Themed Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 07/23/2017 - 17:00
Tea with bananas?  That’s crazy, right?  Or maybe it’s just crazy delicious.  Let’s take a look at five banana teas I’ve tasted lately. Grilled Spiced Banana from A Quarter to Tea – Let’s get started with the weirdest banana tea I’ve come across.  Not only does this blend feature bananas, but it also uses smokey flavors to convey the “grilled” part of Grilled Banana.  Brewed, this tea is shockingly creamy, much more like banana creme brule than any overpowering smoky lapsang souchong.  The hint of smoky adds a nice savory note to the sweet banana, like the tasting the sweet-salty Read More

Rebel from Wild Leaf Active Teas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 07/23/2017 - 12:25
My friends at Wild Leaf Active Teas have done a stellar job at creating bagged teas that have gorgeous tea leaves in them.  No crushed up leaves in their offerings! I’ve tried almost all of their teas and a few of them have a permanent spot in my tea stash.   My two favorites right now are Slim and Smart.  Slim (flavored puerh) has become a huge part of my daily routine.  Smart– green tea, peppermint, and Ginkgo  Bilbao- is slowing becoming my tea of choice right after lunch.  I have yet to be disappointed by any of the flavors Read More

Matcha – The Production of Tencha

World of Tea - Sun, 07/23/2017 - 03:34

This is part 4 of a 6 post series on matcha contributed to World of Tea by Tyas Sōsen. After the leaf has been harvested, it is immediately transported to...

The post Matcha – The Production of Tencha appeared first on World of Tea.

La Bohème, from Paris to Detroit, tea, breakfast and lunch: C'est magnifique!

Barb's Tea Shop - Sun, 07/23/2017 - 01:28
La Bohème's menu: from Paris to Detroit
On the corner of Kercheval and Parker in the West Village, a delicious taste of Paris comes to Detroit at La Bohème. Along with quiches, croques, pain au chocolate and macarons, there's also an added bonus to tea enthusiasts: a large selection of wonderful Paris-brand loose tea.


We stopped in this weekend for lunch and for a party of five, I found it wasn't a bad idea to call ahead for reservations. It was quite busy this Saturday afternoon. And, although the dining area is not large, we had plenty of space and found the ambiance casual and comfortable. Our tables were waiting for us when we arrived a little early and the staff was warm, friendly and accommodating.
My husband, Chris, and I got there before the rest of the family, so decided to have a little "appetizer" of pain au chocolate, a light and flaky croissant filled with chocolate.  It was simply scrumptious!

When the rest of our gang arrived, we ordered lunch.  I had a maurice sandwich - layers of ham and cheese housed in a baguette slice - served up with a light mix of greens and a garnish of grapes.

Others in our party ordered different croques, a type of grilled sandwich. All gave two thumb's up to their selection. These are generous-sized sandwiches, so some of us reserved a little to take home in order to save room for the pastries.

We ordered a few of the many tempting delights that are displayed in a glass case in easy view of all dining tables.  The pastries are as beautiful to look at as they are tasty to eat. We loved the Marie Antoinette, a pistachio macaron with raspberries and creamy filling.

We also ordered the chocolate lava cake. Truly decadent and delightful, it's a sweet, dense cake with a lush chocolate center.


But the figurative icing on the cake is the tea! All tea is from  Palais des Thes, a Paris brand tea. All the tea is loose and brewed in individual pots. Perfectly brewed and steeped, the tiny pots are brought to your table and all you need to do is pour.

We sampled some blacks and herbals and I found the Earl Grey to be particularly delicious. It was a smooth blend with a well-balanced citrus-y note, not overbearing as some can be.

Sugar and milk are served in an eclectic mix of china and silver pieces as are the tea and variety of comestibles.  (There's also a fine selection of coffee for those who wish to partake in the "other" hot beverage).

The decor is simple, yet artful and distinctively French. It reminded of us of the informal elegance of many of the Paris cafes we visited when in France a few years' back.

We met with co-owner and Paris native,  Jean-Yves Jeannot, who opened La Bohème this past February. There are more exciting plans for this lovely cafe in the very near future. Crepes will be on the menu and hours of service may be extended a few nights a week for dinner. We'll keep a close watch on that.

In that spirit, there are two clocks that hang on one of the cafe walls which are set to Paris time and Detroit time. We say, anytime is a great time to visit La Bohème.  C'est magnifique!!

Just “Peachy” from AKA Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 17:00
Summer is coming and it is almost time for juicy, ripe peaches! I am enjoying that flavor early today with this delightful honeybush blend from AKA Tea. The website has a lovely recipe for making this as a sweetened iced tea and I can hardly wait to give that a try, but for today I am in need of tea FAST and it is overcast and gloomy outside. This is a great day to try this one hot! And oh man, did it ever hit the spot! This tastes just like biting into a fresh peach that is still warm Read More

Cacao Tea from MiCacao. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 07/22/2017 - 12:48
I don’t eat a lot of chocolate. Mostly because in the area I live there aren’t many dairy-free chocolate store-bought options. Therefore, I choose a cup of Cacao Shells or nibs instead. That is exactly what happened recently with this cup! Cacao Tea from MiCacao is pretty awesome – I have to say! Herbal chocolate tea made from the shell of the cacao bean. This Cacao Tea is 100% cocoa based and is completely natural, preservative free, and without any artificial flavors or starches. It’s also Sugar-free, Organic, Gluten-Free, and Vegan-friendly! It’s naturally sweet, naturally chocolaty, naturally creamy, and naturally…WONDERFUL! Read More

Lemon Poundcake Oolong from David’s Tea. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 23:00
I don’t like lemon tea, honestly. I know that was not what you were expecting for the first line of a review on Lemon Poundcake Oolong tea, but it’s the truth. That said, the reason I decided to pick up some of this tea was: #1 I had some Frequent Steeper points I wanted to use and #2 The description of a “buttery Oolong” was tempting, and even though I may not generally like lemon tea I do like Lemon Poundcake. (or any poundcake, for that matter)   The first thing I noticed upon opening the bag was that there Read More

Cinnamon Bun from Pinky Up. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 17:00
This delectable tea was part of my first order from Pinky Up. I have to admit, I am so impressed with this company. Not only are their teas packaged in these adorable tins, but I also purchased a cute black kitty cat mug. Unfortunately, the mug was broken and I contacted the company. They sent me a brand new mug! It was really nice. Anyways, back to their teas. They sell loose leaf as well as blooming teas- which are tea leaves wrapped around flowers that literally “bloom” as you steep them. Today, however, I am reviewing their Cinnamon Bun Read More

Friday Roundup: July 16th - July 22nd

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 16:00
THE TEA EXPLORER, Interviews with Jeff Fuchs & Andrew Gregg

Rita at Adventures in Tea Land recently had the opportunity to interview Jeff Fuchs (of Jalam Tea fame) and Andrew Gregg. I am so looking forward to watching their feature length documentary. Canadian tea friends can catch it on the CBC Documentary Channel, Sunday July 23, 2017 at 9 PM. EST.

Western Tea Culture & Tea Hermits

James at TeaDB raises some excellent points about the habits of western tea drinkers and the effects of isolation. It can be hard to find others who are passionate about tea as we are but things are changing. Living near NYC, I have the advantage of being close to a quickly developing gongfu culture.

Mao Feng vs Mao Feng: A Lesson in Pick Dates

Tea friend Dylan has been sharing his tea adventures in China on his blog and I've been reading avidly. This week he shares how a tasting in a tea house led to an important realization about the importance of when a tea is harvested.

Gongfu is not always better
MarshalN focused on the not often discussed downsides of gongfu brewing this week. Some teas really do better when brewed in other ways so it's worth experimenting. In this post, he advocates drinking aged oolongs and even puerh teas grandpa style.

A Flight Through China with Teavivre

Mel Had Tea has really been stepping up her tea review (and photography) game lately and I'm loving it! This week she takes us on a tea tour of China through three awesome selections from Teavivre. I've got a few of these in my "to be reviewed" pile and I can't wait to try them.

White Peony – Bai Mu Dan from Teasenz

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:38
I usually stick to the “accepted parameters” for white tea – 180 degrees Fahrenheit for three minutes, but Teasenz says to be brave and go with 195 degrees on this one. So I did! And on top of that, I was busy and couldn’t get the leaves out of the pot right away when the timer went off so it went a few seconds longer. And you know what? There was not even a hint of bitterness to the tea. As is the case with white peony tea, we have a light/medium yellow tea when it is steeped and a Read More

Blast from the past: Tea time two

T Ching - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 12:00

This article was originally posted to T Ching in July of 2014.

Along with Oscar Wilde, I am a firm believer that “Nothing succeeds like excess.” While it is doubtful that he was referring to the imbibing of tea, or cake, for that matter, I like to believe that he was.  So joyfully faced with the task of choosing which stone fruits (peaches, plums, nectarines, and their numerous hybrids) from the colorful tapestry available at markets now, I have concocted what I call “Tea times two” as the perfect vehicle to be gilded with those fruits, syruped and perfumed with tea.

If you’re a fan, like I am, of robust black teas from the Nilgiris in India, or Keemuns from mainland China, you probably have most of what you need on hand to make this teatime treat. Shop for the perishables to add to what you probably already have in your pantry, and you’re on way to achieving this portable, easy-to-make gateau de voyage, perfect to take on a picnic or to a summery outdoor concert (pack the fruits in tea syrup in an airtight container and ladle over the cake once ensconced in your alfresco setting).

Yield:  8-10 servings.

For the Lemony Teacake: 

2-1/4 c. (approximately 8.75 ounces) cake flour

1-1/4 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

1/3 t. salt

½ pound (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1-1/4 c. (9 ounces) granulated sugar

3 large eggs (approximately 4.8 ounces)

2-1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. (8.75 ounces) sour cream

1 t. grated lemon zest

1 T.  lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally during the mixing process. Add eggs and vanilla and mix to blend. Add dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the zest and lemon juice making sure they are well distributed in the batter. Transfer the mixture loaf pan measuring 8” x 5” x 3” which has first been lined on the bottom and sides with parchment paper and then sprayed with pan release spray.

Bake the cake for about 45 minutes on a rack set halfway up from the bottom of the oven until done (test by inserting a wooden skewer into the cake; it should come out clean and dry). When tested done, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Now make the Tea-Syruped Fruits as follows:

2-3 lbs. of stone fruit—peaches, nectarines, plums, hybrids (choose the most fragrant fruits that are yielding to gentle pressure, indicating perfect ripeness),  cut into wide thick wedges—peel the peaches first if you’d like

2 c. brewed tea of your choice (Indian orthodox black tea from the Nilgiri region or a fragrant Keemun from mainland China are my favorites here, brewed using 3 grams of the dry tea leaf per 6 ounces of water; brewed for 3-5 minutes for a nice robust and strong infusion)

1 c. granulated sugar

Prepare the fruit. Bring the tea and sugar to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the fruit. Cook at the barest simmer until the fruits have softened (but are not disintegrating about 10-15 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow the fruits to cool in the syrup.

Unmold the cake. Slice the cake, placing portions into deep wide bowls. Ladle the fruit and a generous amount of the syrup over each portion of the cake and serve immediately.

MAIN:                     IMAGE 1: 

The post Blast from the past: Tea time two appeared first on T Ching.

Matcha – Harvest

World of Tea - Fri, 07/21/2017 - 04:52

This is part 3 of a 6 post series on matcha contributed to World of Tea by Tyas Sōsen. Traditionally, May 2nd is considered the 88th fortnight calculated from the...

The post Matcha – Harvest appeared first on World of Tea.

Favorite Tea Ware - Anna Mariani of The Tea Squirrel

Notes on Tea - Thu, 07/20/2017 - 18:40
As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from the chasen to the yixing teapot. Everyone has their favorites! I designed this series as an opportunity for tea drinkers to showcase the very special tea objects in their personal collections. Today's selections are brought to you by Anna Mariani of The Tea Squirrel. Anna takes a minimalist approach to her teaware collection. To accommodate her lifestyle, her collection is composed of a "few essential and versatile items that don't go out of fashion."


The very first time I used a gaiwan was at the Chinese garden in Portland, OR, one the most authentic Chinese gardens outside of China. At the beautiful teahouse overlooking the serene pond, sitting by the open patio doors, I tried my hand at gong fu cha. It was a beautifully sunny summer day and I couldn’t take my eyes off the reflection of the pavilions and bridges, trees and the sky in the pond. It was like being in a painting. It felt really special, we had tea and mooncakes. I guess that was my rite of passage as far as my tea journey is concerned.

I bought my gaiwan in San Francisco at Red Blossom Tea Co in Chinatown. It’s called the spring gaiwan, it’s made of very thin white porcelain, so thin that it is almost transparent when held against the light. I was shown it in comparison to a cheap gaiwan and the difference was incredible. My gaiwan is definitely the most used item in my collection. I love how interactive a gaiwan is and how much control it gives you over the resulting brew.

“The Italian Teacup” aka The Beginning of My Tea Journey

This teacup is not part of my tea collection, but it’s an essential part of my tea journey. It’s one of a six-piece tea set which belonged to my grandmother. I fell in love with tea as a child. I would spend my afternoons at my grandmother's house and tea time was a daily ritual. It was not officially called "tea time" (it was called "merenda", the Italian word for "afternoon snack" or “afternoon break”) but it was definitely a ritual which I remember looking forward to every day. She would serve black tea (I think it was an English Breakfast blend or Earl Grey) in these fine porcelain cups. There was always something sweet to eat. Sometimes it was a cake she had lovingly baked, sometimes a croissant from the nearby bakery. The very same cup served as a measuring cup for baking her signature cake, “the teacup cake” (“la torta della tazzina” in Italian), the most delicious sponge cake flavored with freshly grated lemon zest.

Tea Pet

My lucky charm and low-maintenance tea companion is a squirrel tea pet, as you might have guessed from my blog name. How did a squirrel become my spirit animal? That’s a great question! Years ago, when I was living and studying in Vienna, Austria, my German language skills definitely needed improvement. One day, I was talking to my boyfriend (now husband) and was telling him how surprised I was because I had seen a squirrel right in my backyard. Vienna is full of beautiful parks and it’s not rare to catch a glimpse of wildlife. But European squirrels are very different from their American cousins. They are shy and won’t approach humans hoping to get food. I was really surprised to see one. Unfortunately, my sentence didn’t come out right. I had confused two words in German, the word for squirrel and the word for unicorn. I basically told him I had seen a little unicorn in my backyard. That’s how the squirrel found me ;-) I suppose I could have been “the tea unicorn” too...but I like my tea squirrel better!

Glass Serving Pitcher

I think serving pitchers are the most underrated tea ware items. When brewing tea the gong fu way, they are essential. If you pour from the gaiwan directly into the tasting cups, someone is going to get a lighter brew, someone is going to get the last pour, which means a stronger brew. I believe in equal opportunities for all ;-) There’s a reason why the Chinese call it the “Fairness Cup”! I love this glass serving pitcher I bought at Asha Tea House in San Francisco. It’s the perfect size and I can see the colors of my tea. I can even use it as a brewing vessel if necessary, like when I used it to brew Tai Ping Hou Kui, those leaves are so long they would never fit in a gaiwan!

A white gaiwan is one of my essential favorites, too! Anna's squirrel is a unique tea pet in terms of the material (wood, not clay) and the animal (it's a squirrel, not a pig or other zodiac animal). I wonder what animal will find me for tea? Thank you for sharing your minimal approach to tea ware, Anna.
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