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Friday Round Up: October 16th - October 22nd

Tea For Me Please - 1 hour 21 min ago
2017 Tea Festival and Trade Show Schedule
Looking for a fun tea event to attend? +Tony Gebely put together a list of some of the upcoming festivals and trade shows for next year. Those dates will be here before you know it!

Uji Press Tea Tour 2016
+Ricardo Caicedo had what sounds like a once in a lifetime trip to the Uji region of Japan. How lucky is he! I'm definitely living vicariously through this blog post.

Dong Ding Near-Death Experiences
+Geoffrey Norman is one of my favorite tea storytellers (in case you couldn't tell from his many appearances in this round up). This week he wrote about a near-death experience that Shiuwen Tai of +Floating Leaves Tea had on her first visit to Dong Ding.

Jump start your own tea journey with these books on tea
+katherine bellman put together an awesome list of some must check out tea reads. Many of these are permanent residents on my bookshelf but I'm also adding a few to my "to read" pile.

Pacific Northwest Taiwanese Black Tea Comparison
+Charissa Gascho relocated and I've been loving all of the posts focused on the Pacific Northwest. In this post, she compares Ruby 18 offerings from three different vendors.

Favorite Tea Ware - Jeff Cleary of UNYtea Guy

Notes on Tea - 3 hours 34 min ago
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! This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community as well as people who enjoy drinking tea. The series kicks off this fall with tea objects from UNYtea Guy blogger, Jeff Cleary. You can also find Jeff's luminous photographs of tea @unyteaguy on Instagram.

One thing that is equally exciting for tea lovers other than tea itself is teaware. There are so many different vessels and tools used to make tea. One person could look at a “gong fu cha” setup and wonder what all the clutter is about, but each piece has a purpose. So, here are my top pieces of teaware.

Totem non-slip tea tray
from Totem Tea

This tray is small and light and has a thin coating that keeps your teaware from slipping and sliding. I love using it with my cupping sets when I’m doing tastings. It also makes a great tiny travel tray.

180ml Duani yixing pot 
from Yunnan Sourcing (no longer available)

I bought this little guy very lightly used from a tea friend. A few factors make this a favorite. The unique lid and its simple, smooth design is what originally peaked my interest. The pot functions very well, it pours well and holds heat for an appropriate amount of time. 180ml is a little on the big side, but nobody says you have to fill it all the way!

Mixing cup

I bought this at a local market soon after receiving my Duani pot because I needed to find a cup that came close to matching my pot. After not being able to find anything that matched the way I wanted it, I “settled” with this cup for $3 at a local lounge. This cup is a perfect example that great teaware doesn’t need to be expensive or flashy. Everything about this cup works for me; its nice and smooth and feels nice against my lips, it stays warm but doesn’t get to hot to hold, and it holds the perfect amount of liquid (50-60ml). If you like oolongs or puerh tea and you're into that whole seasoning thing, get a simple yixing cup, you’ll thank me later.

Hu Cheng (pot stand/support)
from Bitterleaf Teas

Every now and then we all need a little support, even your teapot. This is more than decoration because it is made of clay and holds heat just like a clay pot or gaiwan. As your tea session goes you just pour a little water on your pot to keep it warm and cozy. Any excess water will drain into your tea tray helping maintain a clean, orderly setup.

I've long admired Jeff's Duani yixing teapot so am glad it's one his favorite tea objects. A non-slip tray seems almost essential when you are styling your teas and wares for photo shoots. Although these pieces were purchased from different vendors, they make a lovely set. A big thanks to Jeff for giving us a peek into his teaware collection!

P.S. Catch up on all the posts in the Favorite Tea Ware series.

Rose Chai from Tea Dude

SororiTEA Sisters - 7 hours 16 min ago

I’ve had Rose Chai before from a few different companies. Some have been extremely floral because of the rose and others being extremely chai because of the spices. Rose Chai from Tea Dude went about this offering in a different way Tea Dude’s Rose Chai has – what I would consider – mellower spicy chai flavors and more delicate rose flavors, too! Both the chai and the rose are a bit more muted than other Read More

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Enchanted Narnia from Bluebird Tea Co.

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 23:00

I love the inspiration for this tea and the references to Narnia and Turkish Delight. While the ingredients are rather simple: rosebuds, cocoa shells, rose petals, lemongrass and raspberry leaves, the combination seems a little odd. I personally wouldn’t think that lemongrass would work with roses and cocoa shells, but since I enjoy these ingredients on their own and in other teas, I think they just might work in this blend! The main flavor that Read More

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2017 Tea Festival and Trade Show Schedule

World of Tea - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 18:04

There are a growing number of tea festivals, industry trade shows and conferences around the world. This list is an attempt to capture them all and it will be updated as more dates are released. If I have omitted an event that you are aware of, please reach out to me and I will add it to the list. Which ones are you going to? Be sure to chime in the comments below!

January February March May June July September Not Yet Scheduled

Photo Credit: Terry Madely

Mandarin Masala Chai (powder) from Blue Lotus

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 17:00

Fall is time for Chai. Fall and winter is when I want to start my day with the warm spiciness of a good cup of Chai. While everyone else is craving all things pumpkin, I’ll be over here drinking Chai. I always use Chai teabags, but over the years I have seen powder Chai mixes pop up, I think even Trader Joe’s has one, but they all have milk in them, and so as a Read More

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Firebird Chai from Wendigo Tea Co

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/20/2016 - 11:00

I regret to inform you, darling Tea-ple, that there is nothing I could possibly say about this tea that has not been said better on the tea’s own description. Said information implores you to “brace yourself” for “an imposing beast” that “leaves scorched remnants of other Chai teas far below ferocious wings.” Have I just been schooled? Does Wendigo keep its own Starling! on staff? An even more super Super Starling! ? The tea’s description Read More

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Masala Chai from Hope and Glory

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 23:00

I love that chai is the mingling of the world’s tastes. It’s the tea culture from China; the spice from India; and the English’s ability to spread and co-mingle the two. It’s impossible to untangle chai from its history. Britain colonized India around the time America escaped it. It was called “the jewel in the British crown” because it was so profitable. The English used their property in India and Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) to Read More

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Muse from Tay Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 17:00

Muse. Say it with me…Mew-zzz! Muse from Tay Tea is an herbal tisane that I am rather smitten by. Muse from Tay Tea is blended with 100% organic botanicals: lemon verbena, peppermint, spearmint, lemongrass, lavender, rose petals and lemon balm Upon opening the sample bag and again while infusing my surroundings were pepped up by the wonderful peppermint and spearmint that filled the air! Mint is one of my FAVORITE aromas! The more intense the Read More

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Mandala Tea Temple Stairs 2014 Ripe Pu'er

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark brown with visible golden tips
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: dark reddish brown

There's a chill in the air and I find that my tastes are changing with the shift in seasons. Cravings for roasted oolongs and dark, inky shou puerh has been dominating my tea drinking. There's just something comforting about these darker teas. This tea immediately came to mind on a particularly nippy fall evening.

This 100g cake from +Mandala Tea was beautiful to look at. I almost didn't want to break into it. The leaves were a million shades of brown and gold, especially when I put it inside of my light tent to pictures. They weren't super tightly compressed so I was able to easily break off a portion with just a small needle.

After a quick initial rinse, this tea brewed up an inky dark color. The taste was earthy and sweet with woody notes and hints of vanilla. This is a great introductory tea for those that are new to cooked puerh. It wasn't overly earthy and there was absolutely no fishiness. I did at least five consecutive infusions and then continued to brew a bit the next morning. Later infusions brought out cacao and brown sugar.

Since this shou is on the milder side I definitely recommend being a bit heavier handed with leaf volume. I wound up using about 8g in a 150ml gaiwan. Increasing your steeping times as you go will help to maintain strength as well. Mandala Tea's website is down at the moment but once it's back up you should definitely check out what they have to offer. Their customer pressed teas, like this one, are among some of my favorites.

Temple Stairs 2014 sample provided by Mandala Tea.

Floating Leaves Tea - Da Yu Ling, a Taiwanese Oolong

Notes on Tea - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 15:54

I'm going to tell you what the Floating Leaves Tea Da Yu Ling oolong tastes like in the sixth sentence of this review. I enjoyed this tea but I couldn't pinpoint exactly its essence. I had not completed my session but decided I would take a break and run a few errands. One of my errands allowed me to flip through magazines one of which had an interview with Giada de Laurentiis. In the article Giada mentioned cooking farro risotto with cherries. And just like that, I knew that Da Yu Ling is like a risotto flavored with cherries. The oolong doesn't literally taste like risotto but drinking it is similar to eating a creamy risotto. I have never eaten cherries with my risotto but I can imagine it and I think this comparison is pretty accurate. Even if this assessment is merely figurative, Da Yu Ling would pair well with a risotto.

I followed the steeping directions provided my Floating Leaves Tea: 7 grams in 120 mL of (195F) water with infusions times of 25s, 20s, 17s, 20s, and 35s. The dry leaves of the Da Yu Ling smelled similar to the other high mountain oolongs I've been drinking from Floating Leaves but it was sweeter smelling. The rolled leaves were bigger with visible stems.

The first infusion was pale colored with rich, green smelling leaves and a light creamy liquor which reminded me of the sweetness of a gyokuro. (Yes!) There was a hint of flint in the end note. The second infusion was buttery with a detectable fruit note of fresh cherry to maybe strawberry jam. The liquor from the third infusion was noticeably more robust. It smelled floral, buttery and like green leafy vegetables. It had a smooth, buttery texture with an fruit end note. The front note reminded me of a hot breakfast of oatmeal topped with brown sugar. This tea has so many facets. The fourth infusion made me think of a tieguanyin's floral and vegetal characteristics but these greens were buttered and the liquor lingered with a cherry/blackberry flavor. The final infusion was one dimensional in contrast to the previous steeps. Poured out of the pot it released floral notes, drunk from the cup it tasted like butter, and finished with a cherry stone aftertaste.

Da Yu Ling is a high mountain tea or gao shan cha. Dayuling is part of the Yu Shan (Jade Mountain) range, and the tea gardens there are "among the highest in the world, at an approximate altitude of 8,500 feet (2,600 m)" according to Kevin Gascoyne et al. (2016). In response to the environmental conditions present at high altitudes, teas produced from these regions have deeper and more complex flavors. I'd say this is true of this Da Yu Ling from Floating Leaves Tea. I look forward to drinking more of this tea and using different steeping parameters.

I purchased this and other oolongs in the Taiwan High Mountain Oolong Sampler from Floating Leaves TeaCurious about teas in the sampler? Here is my review of the 2016 Spring Ali Shan.

Caramel Walnut Shortbread from Simpson and Vail

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/19/2016 - 11:00

The first thing i noticed about this green Rooibos blend is that it smelled rich and coffee like. In fact, it reminded me of a flavored coffee I used to buy, maybe caramel or something? I can’t remember because it’s been so long since I’ve bought coffee! But this tea made me want a cup as soon as I smelled it. I would serve this tea to die hard coffee drinkers that can’t imagine why Read More

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Matcha to Go from Aiya

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 23:00

Today I am reviewing Matcha to Go from Aiya!! When I first opened the stick-pack (easy to use, and perfect for while on the go), there was a very earthy scent. There was a scent that I couldn’t quite place, but after a while I realized that the scent reminded me of seaweed. Once I stirred and let the tea cool for just a bit, that allowed the earthy matcha scent to become pleasantly strong. Read More

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Thyme Chai from Balcony Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 17:00

When I first saw this, I thought it had to be a mistake. When I think of traditional chai tea, I think cinnamon and anise and all those sweet, warming spices, and I just can’t imagine thyme lingering in the mix. I love thyme when I’m cooking up some hearty, savory dishes, but in tea? I resisted trying this tea for awhile because well, fear. But finally, I decided to open my mind and give Read More

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Inner Fire from Urbal Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 10/18/2016 - 11:00

Sometimes a tea aroma stumps my nose and today that tea is Inner Fire from Urbal Tea. This flavored Oolong/Green Rooibos/Yerba Mate blended base smells like cinnamon apple sauce with a hint of blueberry. The funny thing is I can’t see that it has ANY apple in the blend! Inner Fire from Urbal Tea contains Dandelion leaf, Chickweed, Bilberry, Horsetail, Fennel, Yarrow, Eleuthero, Burdock root, Green Rooibos, Cinnamon, Rhodiola root, Dandelion root, Wuyi Wulong Oolong, Read More

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Sweet Pear from Dave and Solomons Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 23:00

I love the idea of pears in teas more than my experience with them in the past. For some reason, I always detect something artificial and medicinal.. I think it might just be from the pear flavoring, unfortunately. I do well with pear jelly beans and candies, but the pear flavoring in tea bothers me. The scent of this tea is reassuring as it’s a nice balance of sweet pear and a rather woody rooibos. Read More

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Sun Moon Lake Black Tea RUBY Competition Grade from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 17:00

I know I shouldn’t judge a tea by its name but I couldn’t help it with this one – I mean look at this – Sun Moon Lake Black Tea RUBY Competition Grade from Cameron Taiwan Premium Loose Leaf Teas. A couple of years ago LiberTeas reviewed several teas from Cameron and I was a bit envious of her tea experiences but recently I started by day with Sun Moon Lake Black Tea RUBY Competition Read More

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How Many Types of Tea are There?

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 16:00

How many types of tea are there? The answer to that question really depends on who you ask. There are many gray areas in tea and there is much left open to interpretation. The western world is also just now discovery categories of tea that have existed in the tea lands for centuries. In this post, I will be listing the categories of tea as I see them.

Before we move on to the different types, did you know that all tea is made from the same plant? The differences just come from how the leaves are processed. Check out this post for more:

Does All Tea Really Come from the Same Plant?
White Tea
White tea is the least processed type of tea. Contrary to popular belief and many tea vendor's websites, it is not rare! After picking, the leaves are laid out to dry in the sun. Hot air can also be used to achieve this. There is no "kill green" step and the leaves are not typically shaped in any way. Some withering occurs but it is not necessarily something producers try to achieve (like they might with black tea or oolong). Silver Needle is probably the most well-known white tea but there are other varieties that are made with more than just buds.

For more on white tea, you might want to read:

Meet the Tea: Silver Needle
Green Tea
Green tea is often referred to as unoxidized but that's not exactly the case. Tea leaves begin to wilt as soon as they are removed from the plant. Heat is applied to the leaves by the tea producer as quickly as possible. This brings oxidation to a halt so as to preserve them in their green state. Chinese teas are typically pan fired whereas Japanese green teas are usually steamed. Some manufacturing methods also use blanching the leaves in hot water.

Want to learn more about green tea? Check out:

4 Reasons Why Your Green Tea Tastes Bad and How to Fix It
➢ Chinese vs Japanese Green Teas
➢ Meet the Tea: Tai Ping Hou Kui
Yellow Tea
The processing of yellow tea is very similar to green tea. What differs is that the leaves are repeatedly wrapped in paper or fabric in between several firing steps. This process can take several days and results in a smoother, less grassy taste. Yellow teas are rather rare on the western market (as evidenced by the fact that I've only ever written about two of them). There are some admittedly valid arguments that there is no true yellow tea anymore but for now, I do consider it different enough to need its own category.

Oolong tea is partially oxidized. It is the largest category of tea so the tastes can range from very green and floral and dark and roasted. Oolong is often described as being between green and black tea. While that is sort of true, it generalizes things a bit. Leaves destined to become oolong are withered, rolled and carefully oxidized. The producer needs to apply heat at precisely the right moment in order to prevent the leaves from oxidizing completely.

You might find these articles on oolong helpful:

5 Things You Should Know about Phoenix Oolongs
➢ Meet the Tea: Tie Guan Yin
➢ Legends of the Leaf: Tie Guan Yin
Black Tea
Black tea undergoes the same processing steps as oolong but the leaves are completely (or very nearly) oxidized. Both the finished leaves and the brewed tea will have a reddish brown coloration. This is caused by catechins being converted into thearubigins. The taste of black can vary quite a bit depending on the region and how the tea is made. Although it's usually thought of as being served with milk and sugar, black tea is not always the punchy and astringent kind.
Here's a bit about some of my favorite black teas:

Meet the Tea: Dian Hong
➢ Meet the Tea: Darjeeling
Dark Tea
The category of dark tea, also known as hei cha, refers to any tea that is fermented. It's important to note that fermentation in tea is a different biological process than the one used to produce beer and wine. Puerh falls under this category as do similarly processed teas from regions of China other than Yunnan. Some argue that raw puerh should be categorized as a green tea but there are some key differences. Sheng is heated in a similar fashion but the leaves are dried in the sun rather than by hot air. They retain some of their natural enzymes and bacteria which will allow the tea to gradually oxidize as well as ferment over time.

Check out these past posts for more on puerh:

Raw Puerh vs Cooked Puerh
➢ Tasting Puerh Storage Methods with White2Tea
➢ A Tales of Two Nannou
Please let me know in the comments if you prefer a different method of categorizing tea. I'd love to get some healthy discussion going on this!

Hindbaersnitter Shou Mei from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 11:00

I typically don’t pick white tea or white tea blends because I find the flavors to be very delicate. Sometimes I’m in the mood for them, but I typically want something stronger and more flavorful. This tea smells delicious – a lovely, grassy white tea with a strong note of raspberry. Sipping… I first taste that creamy, somewhat floral white tea base. It reminds me of other white tea blends I’ve had before. The raspberry Read More

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The Tea Planter's Wife, a Book Review

Notes on Tea - Mon, 10/17/2016 - 01:04

When I lived in Virginia last year, I attended the Ceylon Tea Festival at the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Washington, DC. I enjoyed many of the teas I drank so when Crown reached out to me about reviewing The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies, a novel set in Sri Lanka, I happily accepted the offer.

The mood evoked by the book jacket design is carried throughout the plot. While the book is not a thriller, it is suspenseful and contemplative. There are so many secrets! Although tea is not a central character per se, the politics and economics of colonial tea production inform many of the relationships in the book. The landscape is described so evocatively in parts that I could imagine myself watching the action unfold. Nuwara Eliya, described as "to Ceylon tea what Champagne is to French wine", is the setting of the novel and coincidentally that is one of the teas I received as a parting gift from the tea festival.

An international bestseller, The Tea Planter's Wife has been marketed as a story about a tea planter who's secrets could drastically alter the future of his new family. However, I think a different framing could widen the appeal of this novel. Following Gwen(dolyn), the tea planter's wife, one becomes aware of the racial bigotry, ethnic tensions, and class and gender relationships that infused plantation life in pre-independence Sri Lanka. I actually found these dynamics to be the most compelling element of the book and look forward to reading more about the history of tea plantations in former British colonies.

Read the novel for its mysterious plot set on a tea plantation. Or read it as a window into colonial tea society.

Thank you to Crown for a review copy of this book.
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