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Lapsang Souchong Black Dragon Tea from Upton Tea Imports

SororiTEA Sisters - 1 hour 38 min ago

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Upton Tea Imports

Tea Description:

Blended especially for Upton Tea Imports, this tea is a pleasing and subtly complex variation on a rich, smoky classic. The perfect gift for the Lapsang Souchong drinker who seeks a less smoky cup. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

This Lapsang Souchong Black Dragon is a very interesting Lapsang Souchong.  It is, as the description above suggests, less smoky.  This is evident even in my very first impressions of the tea when I first opened the package and smelled it.  Smoky, yes, but, it wasn’t an overwhelming smoky aroma.

I didn’t follow the brewing parameters from Upton, instead, I first gave the leaves a “rinse” – a fifteen second infusion and then I tossed the liquid and re-steeped the leaves for 3 minutes.

And this is one of the nicer Lapsang Souchong teas I’ve yet to taste and the reason is because it’s less smoky than the typical Lapsang Souchong.  I like the lighter smoky taste, which allows me to explore some of the fruity notes of the tea – which seem to be highlighted because of the smoke, but they’re something that I don’t really enjoy quite as much as I am here because the smoke tends to be so overpowering for my palate.

But not with this Black Dragon!  This is smoky but not too smoky.  I’m tasting delightful notes of fruit.  Notes of pine and a pleasant caramel-y sweetness.  It’s very smooth until the tail when I note a slightly dry astringency.

It’s a lighter bodied Lapsang Souchong, which are usually much stronger and bolder in flavor (and in smoke).  But I like that.  I like the lighter approach of the Black Dragon.  If you’re one who tends to shy away from Lapsang Souchong because of that heavy smoky essence, I think you’ll find that this is much more appealing.

Shimizu-En Kukicha Tea from Hisabo Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - 13 hours 37 min ago

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Hisabo – this special link will not only sign you up for their newsletter but also qualify you for special pricing for our readers!  By subscribing to the newsletter, you can get in on their limited edition teas!

Tea Description:

“A hug in a cup” is one way I’ve heard Kukicha described. Warm, delicate, sweet, comfortable. A cup that’s likely to take your heart along with your senses. It certainly did for the husband of Yumiko, the 17th generation daughter of the family who runs Shimizu-en. In Japanese tradition, it’s usually the wife that goes and joins the husband’s business, but in this case the quality of the tea was too much to leave (sorry for the pun). 

In fact, it’s a minor miracle we are even able to bring Shimizu-en to you. The company has no website, no distribution, nothing. They just have a small shop in front of the tea garden and they sell out every year. The tea has been recognized multiple times nationally—no small feat for a company that only employs family members and picks most of its entire plantation by hand.

Kukicha is a very unique kind of tea, made from the stems and twigs of the tea plants. What began as ruthless Japanese efficiency has led to a tasting experience that had the entire Hisabo team saying ‘Wow’. This tea is a hands-down winner. Delicate and floral on the nose, once you take a sip you’ll taste a sweetness quite unlike anything you’ve had before. It will have you going back and trying different brewing times just to tweak the exact amount of sweet and grassy that you want. And it will definitely take your heart.

Taster’s Review:

Hisabo is a new-to-me tea company and they are unlike any other tea company I’ve yet to encounter!  They don’t actually sell teas on their website the way most online tea companies do.  Instead, they offer their limited selection of teas to their customers via email.  To get in on their offers, you need to subscribe to their newsletter.  (This link will also give you a special discount that is available only to our readers!)

Well, here, I’ll let you hear it from them:

Hisabo is a little different from most tea websites in that we don’t sell tea directly on our site.  We currently only sell through emails sent to people subscribed to our mailing list.  We’re also launching a subscription service where people can ‘pre-buy’ the teas we sell at a discount to ‘normal’ price.  In short: we send subscribers an email with a description of the tea, the story and pictures of the farm where it came from, as well as tasting notes.

That’s how they described it to me in the email they sent me when I asked them about this tea and where it was on their website.  According to the emailed newsletter regarding this Kukicha, they do still have some of it left, so if you’re interested in it, contact them quickly!

The tea is packaged in 50g foil lined pouches with beautiful Asian calligraphy on the package.  The outer design looks a lot like a block collage of Asian papers.  It’s beautiful!

Inside these beautiful packages is the good stuff.  The dry leaf smells a little like freshly cut grass (and it looks a little like it too!) with sweet, warm nutty top notes.  I steeped this tea as recommended by Hisabo:  160°F for 30 – 60 seconds.  I opted for the 60 seconds, and I scooped 2 bamboo scoops of the tea and put it into the basket of my Breville One-Touch tea maker and poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the jug.  Then I let the tea maker do its thing and about 2 minutes later, I had a teapot of delicious tea!

It is a light and refreshing cup of tea.  I like it served hot but it would also be tasty iced.  As the weather is getting a little cooler now, I’m enjoying more hot teas (happily!) and while this tea has a fresh taste to it, the warm, nutty flavors of it are very autumnal to me.  It reminds me of the flavor of freshly roasted chestnuts together with a subtle grassy note in the background.

The thoughts this tea evokes is a little bit of summer still hanging on now that autumn has arrived.

It’s a wonderful cup of tea.  (It resteeps well too!)  I like this tea and I like the idea behind this company.  Rather than having a bunch of tea in inventory waiting for people to buy it, they only offer you the tea when they receive it and it’s the freshest tea that’s available.  Very cool!

And if that’s not enough incentive to check out Hisabo … their customer service is top-notch!  They are very friendly and helpful and quick to respond to inquiries.  When you check them out, tell them that the SororiTea Sisters sent you!

On The Daily Tea: A Beginner's Guide to Yellow Tea

Tea For Me Please - 13 hours 38 min ago
Yellow tea is probably the one category of tea that most tea drinkers are unfamiliar with. In my latest article for +The Daily Tea I explain how it is processed as well as how to brew it. Do you have a favorite yellow tea? Tell me about it in the comments!
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Tea, Unexpectedly Naked.

The Devotea - 15 hours 17 min ago
If you read yesterday’s blog  (and if not, why not. What’s wrong with you?) you’ll know we left the Oolong Tea Shop very impressed. In fact, I left it believing it to be probably Calgary’s finest tea shop, and so, having business nearby, Lady Devotea and I decided to walk a few blocks and revisit […]

New shop find: Leaf & Kettle

Tea Squared - 16 hours 38 min ago

Found another great tea shop, drank some more superb teas — this time north of San Diego in Del Mar, Calif. The local tea-meetup gathered at Leaf & Kettle to learn about this excellent independent shop and to sample some of their offerings. It was one of those nights when the social chemistry sparked a bit (unusual for meetups), the shop impressed, and the tea absolutely wowed.

Leaf & Kettle has been open in a fancy outdoor mall for a couple of years. It's a classic, simple shop built around a tea bar, behind which are a few dozen stainless steel urns full of teas. Their alluring inventory is available online.

Jenna, the manager, poured three teas for our group. First, the organic Kagoshima Sencha, an aromatic spring green from Japan. The first cup was typically vegetal, even grassy (in that good Sencha way). The surprise was the second cup, produced with a counterintuitive shorter steep, which produced more bang for the buck, as it were. One of those teas that seems so light but really packs a wallop.

Next was the stunner: their Hunan Honey Black. Dry, it smells like brandy and freshly baked honey buns. In the cup, it's a rich black tea with a dessert finish — not uncomfortably sweet, not at all off-putting — tasting of chocolate-covered graham cookies. I say that with some irony, because those exact treats were on our table; this tasting note, however, was jotted down before eating one, which I did while enjoying the second steep (which really brought the unsweetened cacao flavor to the fore). The pairing was supreme.

The closer was a tea cocktail of sorts: she mixed an oolong and a fruit herbal (she also added some sliced fresh strawberries) over ice in a cocktail shaker, shook, and poured into glasses with ice and fresh mint sprigs. Very tasty, smooth, refreshing — if you go for the iced stuff. We asked for a second steep of the oolong by itself, Formosa Silk, which was an earthy delight — milky, buttery, a hint of sauteed mushrooms maybe. Had to buy some of that, eager to pair it with dinner.

It is a wonderful feeling, particularly after relocating to a new city, to find that tea shop that connects, that seems to offer just what your palette craves. Leaf & Kettle, hurrah, does so without the come-on of so many tea start-ups. Just a smart, classy joint.

Global Tea Hut: Sketches of tea

T Ching - 17 hours 35 min ago

This summer, I was privy to partake in more such beautiful tea moments than at any time previous, and most of these occurred outside.

I confess I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to sharing moments of intimate connection with others. My memory isn’t great for things I don’t place much importance on (that means lots!), but moments of interpersonal connection stay etched in my mind very,very clearly. A feeling of connection is what I appreciate perhaps most deeply in life, be it with oneself, other people or Nature. If not attached too much, dependent on or longing for such moments, they are indeed the times I feel most alive.

A few scattered memories of pine needles, friends and The Leaf . . .

On the last day of a road trip with a friend, both of us were tired and cranky when we found ourselves in one of southern Estonia’s most beautiful landscapes, the over 350 million years old sandstone escarpments at Taevaskoda. The primeval thick forest and slowly flowing river lent the air sweetness and sharpness; it was a beautiful, warm day and yet, being tired and cranky, mind noise filtered out much of this beauty. We found a preternaturally pure spring source there which the Estonians revere enough to term “Mother Spring” and were elated by this and the crystal waters which bubbled from it.

Fighting a temptation to drive on, we sat on an elevated patch of pine forest, just twenty meters away from this spring, shielded from passersby by a wall of trees. I prepared a spectacular Bulang gushu sheng Pu- erh, at first a little too intensely. However, bitter tastes, it is said, have a way of dissolving the walls which shield closed hearts, and we instinctively let the tea do this work. The words spoken there are now forgotten, offered up to the forest spirits. But the subtle feeling of inner shift which occurred is still very real to me. We spoke, then we didn’t; we listened to the birds, to the ducks in the distant river, and to other people’s expressions of glee upon discovering the spring, or we just looked up at the immense trees towering above us and our petty concerns. Drinking this sublime tea with water we had ourselves fetched just meters away, sitting directly on the ground which had nourished the water with its primeval energy, and feeling ourselves relax into the tea’s balancing energies was pure bliss. We both left the space at peace, mind noise gone, back on track, hearts opened.

Another memorable session happened in the middle of a bog on the border between two of the least populated countries in Europe, Estonia and Latvia. It was a hot, sunny summer day (even by Northern European standards) and we were the only people in this vast space of wetlands, of short, tentative trees, mossy carpets of venus flytraps and blueberries. It seemed like there were no artificial or human noises in a vast radius of space around us, and we reveled in the sounds of the breeze and of mammoth dragonflies buzzing around us. This time, sipping bowl tea, shirtless by the side of a pitch-black bog lake made us feel as if we were melting into our surreal surroundings.

Another time I brought my tea paraphernalia to a boisterous Russian beach party: little kids, teens and a few overly dramatic adults included. A Buddhist temple green tea, plucked just a few months prior, was greeted unenthusiastically at first, served on the sand . . .  and then worked its magic. I soon was circled by curious faces, and one teenage girl who didn’t want even a sip at first (“I don’t like tea at all!”) ended up drinking the most, at least 15 little cups-full, smiling, “I had no idea tea could taste like this! I feel great!”

There were many other sessions: with coworkers in a park, forming a long-lasting bond when we ‘should’ have been working; with a normally boisterous fifteen year-old boy who sat still, calm, focused and smiling throughout; by myself, pondering inner questions in a forest or smiling contentedly up at the clouds, huddled snugly between trees and caterpillars in a thick park.

When the Brew Doesn’t Work Its Magic Quickly

Although the simple act of sitting and drinking tea in novel surroundings will tend to relax people, if you find yourself with someone unable to be calm or who is chattering a bit too much, one way to instill a peaceful shared space is to get them to focus on the sounds around you. Gently nudge them to listen to the ambient sounds. For example, squint your eyes a tad and ask, out of curiosity, ‘Cool! How many different kinds of birds can you hear?’ Or, ‘Hey, can you hear the sound of the wind in the treetops?’ Or, help turn their focus on the feeling of sitting on the ground, the temperature of the breeze, the witch-on-a-broom-shaped cloud passing by overhead, the smells which waft to and fro, etc. Guiding someone gently to focus on their physical sensations has a way of calming the noisy mind.

Or, make tea the focus. If someone keeps asking questions all the time or feels the need to tell you things, allow them some release, nod gently and then close your eyes after taking a sip and say, ‘Hmm, after you take a sip, see if you can follow the tea down inside and just see where it goes—deep down, back up to the head, into the chest . . . ?’ That usually helps them be still and focus, at least for a while.

If even that doesn’t work, then that’s OK too. Maybe it’s meant to be a more chatty session. Just mind yourself and keep yourself centered and peaceful, and that will transform the others more than any technique will.

I can’t wait for some winter tea picnics in the snow!

 Sketches of Tea was written by Steve Kokker and originally published by Global Tea Hut in September, 2012, as part of the article Have Tea Will Travel.  (You can find part one here.) Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week.  These will appear on Wednesdays.

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Cool Coconut Rooibos Chai from Big Tea House

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 03:59

Chai Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Where to Buy:  Big Tea House

Chai Description:

Enjoy the fun and spiced infusion of chai gourmet loose leaf tea infused with the exotic flavor of coconut!

Learn more about this chai here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  The name of this tea led me to believe that I’d be enjoying a somewhat tame version of a masala spice chai but this tisane has got some kick to it!  Sure, it’s got the sweet, creamy coconut notes to soften the flavors a little but I’m still getting a lot of zesty flavor from this chai blend.

I love the coconut’s role in this blend.  It’s a creamy note and together with the spices, it evokes thoughts of a chai latte without the addition of dairy.  The coconut adds a pleasant sweetness too and I like the way the sweetness contrasts with the spices.

The spices are lively.  The ginger and pepper are the most prominent of the spices and the heat seems to bring out the spicy side of the cinnamon, making it more of a ‘hot’ cinnamon than a sweet cinnamon.  The cloves and cardamom add depth to the flavor.

The flavor of the rooibos is not easy to discern here, but I’m alright with that.  I do taste a very delicate earthiness from the rooibos and this complements the earthiness of the spices.

To steep:  I used 195°F water and steeped the leaves for 10 minutes.  I usually use a little extra leaf with a chai, so I used a scoop and a half for a 12 ounce cup.  A warm and flavorful chai.  If you want to go latte, use a little more leaf and a little less water so that the infusion is strong and doesn’t become to diluted by the addition of milk or cream.  But I found that with the coconut flavor, this doesn’t really need milk or cream to taste latte-ish!  A little bit of raw sugar does enhance the flavor of the spices nicely though, so I recommend adding just a half teaspoon of sugar to your cup!

Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Ruby Black Tea (Competition Grade) from Cameron Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Cameron Tea

Tea Description:  

Region: Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

Type: Black Tea

Harvest Time: Winter 2013

Oxidation level: Fully oxidised

Taste: Natural flavour of cinnamon with a slight hint of mint.

When to drink: Throughout the day

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Having tried and LOVED the Premium Grade Sun Moon Lake Ruby Black Tea from Cameron Tea, I was excited to try their Competition Grade Ruby Black to see how it would compare.

I brewed this tea in my ceramic teapot which I warmed using hot tap water prior to measuring out the tea leaves.  I pinched out what appeared to be the equivalent of two bamboo scoops of the tea into the vessel.  This tea – because of it’s long, wiry leaves – is difficult at best to attempt to actually measure out with my trusty bamboo scoop.  So, unless you have a scale, you’re probably better served to use the noggin here and give it your best guess rather than to try to measure this tea with scoops or spoons.  I personally do not have a tea scale – and I don’t want one!  Tea should be simple and scales = scientific.  Science = not simple.

Anyway, after putting an estimated 2 scoops of tea into my teapot, I then added 16 ounces of near boiling (205°F) water to the teapot and let the tea steep for 3 minutes.  The result is a near perfect cup of tea!  (Well, actually, a mug of tea!)

It’s been a little while since I last tried the Premium Grade Sun Moon Lake Ruby Black Tea, but what immediately caught my attention about this tea is the cinnamon-y spice notes!  I don’t remember the spice notes being quite as forward in the Premium Grade version of this tea, and I’m not sure why that is.

Just beneath the cinnamon-like notes I notice flavorful notes of cacao – now those flavors, I remember!  I think that the big difference, at least in flavor, between the two grades is that this Competition Grade has a more pronounced spice note and the Premium Grade has a stronger cacao focus.

Other than that, this tea is very similar to the Premium Grade … both are rich, satisfying teas that would serve well as a breakfast tea or mid-to-late morning tea.  There is a strength to this cup that I find appealing, it’s the kind of tea that I want early in the day to keep me going.

This is really quite lovely on a day like today, when the weather is getting just a little cooler.  Not a lot cooler yet, but, I’m certainly ready and eagerly awaiting more signs of autumn to appear!  But this tea definitely has an autumnal sort of flavor going on and I like it a lot.

Another cup of AWESOMENESS from Cameron Tea!

Just When I Thought That I Had Things Figured Out...

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 16:00
Just when I thought that things figured out, my life has gone all topsy turvey on me again. I announced just a few weeks ago that I had started working at David's Tea. Not long after, a nearby fire severely damaged the location that I was working at. Being out of a job for 9 to 12 weeks was just not an option so I had to look for other opportunities. Having spent the better part of this year applying to every tea company under the sun, I was not looking forward to pounding pavement again. As luck would have it, one found me on LinkedIn in the form of a recruiter for Kusmi Tea.

Starting in October I'll be working in a new shop for their sister brand, Løv Organic, in the Gansevoort Market. They specialize in premium organic teas and herbal infusions. I'm really excited to be part of their launch here in the U.S. Another new chapter has started and much sooner than I thought. Tea has been my passion for so long and this year it was goal to turn that passion into something more. I feel blessed to have had the opportunities that I've had so far. I'm also incredibly grateful for all of the support I've received from friends in the tea community. Their words of encouragement were all that kept me going some days.
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Tea with The Black Dragon

The Devotea - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 14:25
After a day in Banff and Canmore, there was an expectation that the next day might be quiet. The plan was a visit to the Downtown area for a look at where our son worked, a spot of lunch and then some river fishing. Visiting downtown when it’s empty and easy to get around in, […]

Tuesday tea tune: 'Texas Tea'

Tea Squared - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 12:30

The phrase "Texas tea" refers either to petroleum gushing from a well or to a better-known cocktail cribbed from Yankees. Nonetheless, I've found this fresh electronic track by Deadbeat to be great brewing music ...

Canny scots

T Ching - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 12:02

“The tea fields of Ceylon are as true a monument to courage as the lion is to Waterloo.”

Visit Sri Lanka’s tea plantation in the high country and you find beautiful carpet-like green tea fields, pluckers in their colourful saris, and colonial style bungalows where you can enjoy a cup of freshly manufactured tea. A moment that should be sipped and savoured.

But take a second and ask your selves who was responsible for the carpeted green fields, and the colonial bungalows? Where did the ladies in their colourful saris arrive from?

Tea is steeped in over 5000 years of history. The story of Scottish men venturing out from the homeland to create the Ceylon tea industry from scratch is just another page in the ever-evolving history of this wonderful beverage.

The Pioneers

The first men to venture to Ceylon were a rough and tough bunch. The majority came from the Scottish highlands. The opportunity for cheap land and the chance to achieve great riches in a far-flung colony of the The British Empire was too much temptation for the first men who boarded the ships bound for Colombo and Point de Galle. Although Ceylon is known for its tea, the first plantations that were established in the country were, in fact, not for tea – but for coffee.

The first coffee plantations were established outside of the ancient kingdom of Kandy in Gampola. The Arabs first introduced coffee; the Dutch tested planting of the crop in the southern part of the island. However, the hot and humid climate of the south proved not be the utopia for growing coffee.

The Gampola valley – roughly 3000 feet above sea level with crisp cool climate – offered the perfect location for the growing of coffee.

Young Scots looking to plant coffee on the land that was offered faced two problems. First, it was covered with dense tropical jungle; and second, the local Sinhalese population refused to be employed. In the 1800′s – well before the advent of the chain saw, and earth moving equipment – the task of felling and clearing dense jungle for the planting of coffee fell to the planter and his army of workers.

The plantation workers who call the many tea estates their home today can see the legacy of these men. The workers who make up the heart and soul of today’s estates are of Tamil descent from South India who were bought to Ceylon by British agents to rear the fledgling coffee industry. Planters who took up the task of finding their fortune soon found that learning Tamil was an essential element if they where to be successful in achieving their dreams.

The planter and his workers would clear a section of jungle – 50-100 acres of land at a time. The task entailed the felling of trees by hand followed by burning the area to be suitable for the planting of coffee. To get a sense of the idea of the scale of this massive task, picture yourself making yourself at home in the jungle, habitat for vipers, leopards and malaria-carrying mosquitos. Many a planter has been trodden on by a wandering elephant while he took a few hours rest.

Many of these men would not see another European face for months – if not years – on end. Heaven forbid they were to fall ill from one of the many tropical diseases, for their fate would be sealed.

Coffee Boom

By the1860′s, families of Scots had migrated to Ceylon after hearing of a relative who had established a Coffee plantation and was slowly making his fortune. PMD’s original home of Maskeliya, which borders the slopes of Adam’s Peak, provides one with no better example of the legacy of these men. The names of the early coffee estates located in the area have a very Scottish flavour:  Dalhousie; Moray; Glentilt; and Braemar are some of the names that you will find in this part of the world. In fact the current site of Maskeliya town is established on part of Glentilt estate, because the previous town of Kintyre Maskeliya was flooded in 1969 to make way for a hydroelectric dam.

One of the first men who ventured to the Adam’s Peak area was a Scotsman named James Fettes Moir, who established Tarf coffee estate. Today, Tarf is merged with Brownlow estate. Moir was one of 14 Scots who made their way to the region, including three brothers and two cousins – one of whom was the pioneer of the Ceylon tea industry – James Taylor.

End of Part 1.  Part 2 of Canny Scots will publish next Tuesday, September 23.

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Peach Cobbler a la Mode Flavored Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Learn more about Southern Boy Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

This is delicious and refreshing.  I don’t know if I’m tasting peach cobbler a la mode or not … but I definitely am tasting the peach cobbler.  And it’s really yummy.

Peach cobbler is one of my favorite desserts.  There are few desserts out there that say “summer” quite as clearly as peach cobbler!  Sweet, fluffy, golden-browned biscuit atop sweet, juicy peaches and their juices.  Mmm!

To brew this tea, I went with the hot-brew method.  I brought 1 quart of freshly filtered water to a boil and then tossed in the tea bag and let it steep for 90 seconds, removed the bag and then poured the tea into my favorite tea pitcher.  I repeated this process – bringing another quart of water to a boil, this time steeping the same tea bag for 2 full minutes, removing the bag and pouring the hot tea into the tea pitcher to combine both infusions.

Then I let the pitcher cool down a while before stashing the tea into the chillbox and refrigerating for a few hours.  Mmm!  Frosty, delicious iced tea!

The peach notes are sweet and I can taste notes of buttery, biscuit-y pastry that’s been caramelized.  These flavors are evenly matched with the brisk-tasting black tea.  It’s sweet and fruity, but not too much.  The black tea balances out these flavors.  The black tea isn’t bitter, and I like that it’s a rich, solid tasting black tea.

This is SO MUCH better than one of those ready-to-drink iced teas that you can buy in the grocery store that are mostly sugar.  I can taste the black tea here.  This isn’t an overly sweetened, overly flavored tea.  It’s just a really refreshing, smooth-tasting, flavorful drink that tastes more like tea than a bunch of flavors and sugar … and it quenches my thirst on this hot summer day.  I like it.

Cowabunga! Life begins at Thir-tea

Barb's Tea Shop - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 22:02
Prince Harry turns thirty today and less than a month ago, my own Lord Gulley the Younger, (aka, my oldest son, Rob) turned that same magical number. It's easy to dismiss it as being "soooo young", but when the Younger sank into a bit of a funk a week before his birthday, I tapped back into the long- ago and remembered having to come to grips with that age myself -  the somewhat arbitrary society-imposed demarcation between "young & carefree" and "responsible adult". Like most things, the dread is worse than the even itself and, as most of us discover, those milestones are really worth celebrating.

The Younger enjoying the first iteration of TMNTThirty is a great number. It's three decades of something and if the trajectory was mostly good, it's commendable.

Other recent 30 year milestones for 2014:

Thirty year tea commemorates three decades of Harney tea

  • Apple introduced the Mac., and that seems to have turned out pretty well.
  • Chrysler brought the world the mini-van. (seems like I drove those for years)

Celebrating 30 plus 1 years in May

  • Lord Gulley Senior,  and I celebrated our 31st anniversary (taking liberties, here, 30, plus 1).

The Younger is actually old enough now to see the recycling of some childhood favorites. Our family room used to be filled with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines, villains and vans. Last month, he saw the recent TMNT movie opening night. He may be a responsible adult, but "turtle power" says, you're still young & carefree. In fact, you're downright awesome, dude!

Old enough to see Turtle Power return & pair it with  adult favorite Breaking BadA self-help book written in 1932, gave way to the well-tread phrase of the Twentieth Century, "Life Begins at Forty". In 2014, it's fair to say life begins at thir-tea. In this new(er) millennium, where everything is fast-tracked, it's time to start the fun even sooner and it will be totally tubular.

Organic Light Oolong Tea from Arum Tea

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Arum Tea

Tea Description:  

Very Smooth. Light golden hue with a fruity and floral fragrance. As the tea develops, the initial earthy flavors transforms into a lingering finish of herbs and flowers.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I wanted to try this Light Oolong tea not too long after trying the Medium Oolong Tea from Arum Tea to see if I could describe some of the differences between the two teas.

The appearance of both teas in dry leaf form are very similar.  They look very much the way a greener Oolong tea looks (think Tie Guan Yin) with the leaves tightly wound into small pellets.  The aroma of the dry leaf of this tea is sweet and fruity, with fragrant floral notes.  The brewed tea smells more floral than fruity while the dry leaf smells more fruity than floral.  In contrast, the dry leaf aroma of the Medium Oolong tea is nutty and sweet with a slight earthiness.

Parameters:  I steeped this tea using my gaiwan as the brewing vessel.  I put one bamboo scoop of tea into the bottom of my gaiwan and then poured 180°F water over the leaves – just enough to cover the leaves.  I let that steep for 15 seconds and then drained off the liquid and discarded it.  (The rinse cycle!)  Then I refilled the gaiwan with water (same temperature) and let the leaves steep for 45 seconds.  I strained the tea into my teacup and resteeped the leaves for 1 minute.  Then I added the newly brewed tea to the teacup with the first infusion.  I combine 2 infusions with each cup, and I infused these leaves a total of 8 times for four cups of delicious tea.

The brewed tea here is lighter in color than the Medium Oolong.  This cup is a very pale golden yellow, and the flavor is lighter too.

The first few sips were very delicate, but after two or three sips, the flavors began to develop.  As the above description suggests, those initial two or three sips were light and earthy.  Now, I’m tasting more of an herbaceous floral note and this flavor stays on the palate long after the sip.  For as light in color as this tea is and as light in flavor as the first couple of sips were, I was really taken by surprise by just how flavorful this tea has become.

This tea is quite smooth but not so much buttery or creamy like you might expect a greener Oolong like this to be, however, as the tea cools slightly, I find that some creamy taste and texture develops.  The floral notes are profound.  There is a very distant background note of earth, and equally as distant is a fruity tone.  These flavors are off in the distance as if to beckon to the palate, saying, hey!  Keep on steeping so you can experience us!

My second cup (infusions 3 and 4) was stronger in color and flavor.  The floral notes of the first cup are still present but they’re not quite as sharp as they were toward mid-cup of the first cup.  Smooth and sweet!  The fruity notes are making their way out of the distance.  I find that the flavors here taste less focused and distinct, although the overall flavor is stronger, the notes have become more unified.

Later infusions became smoother tasting.  I found the third cup (infusions 5 and 6) to be the strongest in flavor.  The flavors at this point are really quite seamless.  The individual flavors are less focused than they were in the first cup, but the flavor is richer with this cup.  The fourth cup started to become softer in flavor, reminding me a bit of the first cup, although with the fourth cup I could taste more of the fruit and earth notes that were mere insinuations in that cup.

As I promised, I offer the following comparison between the Medium and Light Oolong teas from Arum Tea:  while the Medium Oolong has more of a honey and nutty flavor, the Light Oolong is flowery with notes of fruit.  There are certainly some similarities to the two teas, but they are two very distinctly different teas, and I think that both deserve to be experienced by those that want to experience Oolong teas from Indonesia!

Teavivre Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-er Cake 2014

Tea For Me Please - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: mottled green, loosely compressed
Ingredients: puerh tea
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: bright gold

I previously reviewed and very much enjoyed a 2013 Fengqing from Teavivre so I was really excited to give this one a try. The sample was loosely compressed with mostly whole leaves. I've been so busy with moving and other craziness that it had been a while since I had the time to gongfu much of anything. The aroma of the gaiwan lid after my first infusion was exactly what I was looking for. It was incredibly fresh, sweet and vegetal; everything the smell of a raw puerh should be. I was not disappointed by the taste either. It was sweet, earthy and vegetal with notes of camphor. As my infusions progressed, I noticed a cooling menthol-like effect. The first few rounds were punchy and astringent but that later gave way to a pleasant fruity quality. A tea that is this good when so young will likely be an excellent candidate for aging.

Teavivre Fengqing Ancient Raw Pu-er Cake 2014 sample provided by Teavivre.
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A Tea Surprise in Tulsa

Tea Time With A.C. Cargill - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 14:00
We recently shared a tea surprise in Tulsa. A little shop with a rather noticeable presence on Facebook caught my eye soon after hubby and I made the move from the east coast U.S. to the more central part of the country. We had come from an area where we had access to a variety of food products from “across the pond” and various Asian countries to one where we had to search high and low and the nearest possibilities were in the oil town of Tulsa. So finding this little shop online was an irresistible allurance. The problem was the distance needed to check them out, but we finally arranged it. And the trip proved worthwhile. Here are our “fnds” safe back at our home:

The focus of the store’s products seems to be eastern European and Russian. But we found Duerr’s Orange Shred, McVitie’s Digestives, lemon curd, and Fanta orange soda. There were also foods from India, Sri Lanka, and other far corners (from us) of the world. But our internal tea radar zoomed in on the tea selections. There were some typical brands (PG Tips and Typhoo, among others) and some wonderful surprises. We selected a black “Russian tea” and a black Ceylon tea. While selecting these teas, we got to chatting with a woman who turned out to be from Ukraine. She was surprised at meeting someone here in the U.S. who knew something about “Russian tea,” even if only to a limited degree. Considering that tea to most Americans is Lipton, her surprise was understandable. And it was equal to our surprise and delight at discovering these teas available in the small Tulsa shop.

Another delight in the store not to miss is the meats and cheese counter. They will let you sample and then slice off the amount you want (we bought three cheeses – a smoky one from Poland, a more pungent one from Brittany, France, and a mild, creamy one from Russia) and wrap them with paper between each slice. You can also buy fresh-caught fish there. Some books, teawares, lots of international candies, and more are all crowded into this small but very lively space. Hope you can check them out soon!

Euromart on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EuroMart

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text

Mountain Tea

The Devotea - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 13:42
My self imposed rule about not reviewing tea places in countries where our own teas are available has meant not much action in the review arena for some time, and now here’s two at once! Whilst the title of this post may briefly excite @lahikmajoe, @lazy_literatus and other Greek Mountain Tea enthusiasts, this post is […]

The travelling teacup

T Ching - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 12:01

Have tea — will travel. Or could it be — will travel for tea?

Eleven years ago, I asked two questions: What is tea anyway? And why was tea associated with tranquility and spirituality? You know what is said about asking questions and being ready for the answers. All the preparation and planning in the world isn’t as powerful as tuning into your own inner wisdom. And, when you ask serious questions, you must get quiet enough to hear the answers.

So many business ‘gurus’ tell you to map out your plan — write out your goals — create your business plan — visualize it — create it in your mind — make it real — plan every step — execute every step — stick to your plan; yada, yada, yada.

Over the last decade, I’ve hung out with some of the big guns in the personal development world, the spiritual community, and the book world, but could I ever have planned out these last eleven years? NO! 

Just as time with a cup of tea teaches us to be present in the now, to go with the flow, to surrender, to allow and to simply be — sometimes even the greatest business plans need to be scrapped in order to trust a greater wisdom.

Could I have planned these past eleven years any better? I think not, and even if I did think anything could have or should have been changed — there isn’t anything I can do to change the past, is there?

Did I know those two simple questions would change my life? NO!

Did I write down a plan to change my life? NO!

Did I let things unfold as they needed to? YES!

Can I be in charge of some things in my life? Yes. Do I want to be in charge of everything in my life? Not anymore. Can I make new plans and simply trust that things will evolve as necessary? Yes, and that is what I am doing right now.

I am introducing, The Travelling Teacup, (yes, with two l’s) and just as I wish to journey with, and for tea, I wish to include others in my tea travels. I see The Travelling Teacup being a travel blog of sorts, a teacup that travels with me, and shows up in all kinds of places. I will write about these places, educate people and enlighten people, and of course, spread a universal message of oneness through a cup of tea. No other beverage has the power to do that other than the world’s number one beverage next to water: TEA.

I have simply put ‘out’ my desire to travel in 2015, and I am truly amazed at all the invitations I’ve already received to visit tea-growing areas.  With both of my kids now “out of the nest” it is time for me to create a new life, a different life. Do I know exactly how that new life will look? No. Am I worried? No, to that, too.

The Travelling Teacup made its maiden voyage, of sorts, early in August with a road trip up the west coast of this country from San Diego into the mountains of lower British Columbia; well over 3,000 miles in total. In my mind, that’s an awesome start!

With a teacup I will travel and I will share my journeys with you. With a teacup I will travel, and I will spread the word of oneness, for indeed, the whole world is in every cup of tea.

Images courtesy of the contributor.

The post The travelling teacup appeared first on T Ching.

Original Herbal Chai Rooibos Blend from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Rooibos

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tea Description:

Chai is a type of tea typically served in India with milk and sugar. Our Herbal Chai is comprised of rooibos herbal tea along with a combination of ginger root, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and black peppercorn. This herbal version offers a remarkable authentic chai flavor while remaining naturally caffeine-free.

Ingredients:  South African Rooibos, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Ginger Root, Cloves, Black Peppercorn

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club subscription program here.

Receive 25% savings on the Selection Club from Simple Loose Leaf.  Just type in SISTERSELECTION25 in the coupon field and save 25%!  This discount is applicable only to the monthly Selection Club subscription and not the retail selection of teas.

Taster’s Review:

This Herbal Chai from Simple Loose Leaf’s Selection Club Sampler Box is a very finely ground rooibos!  The rooibos leaves are chopped finer than I’ve typically seen in most rooibos blends.  It’s almost like a fine, “instant” powder … almost, but not quite.  This still needs to be steeped.

So I steeped it using a T-Sac.  I don’t usually reach for a T-Sac when I’m brewing tea, but with a tea/tisane that is as finely ground as this is, I usually choose a T-Sac to steep the tea because I don’t like loose, floating leaves in my brewed tea.  I’m not in to floaters.

Additional parameters used to brew this tisane: with freshly filtered water heated to 195°F and 1 tsp. of Herbal Chai in the T-Sac, I steeped the tea for 10 minutes.  Because this is a finer chopped chai, you don’t want to use a little extra leaf – as I often do with chai because I want a little stronger flavor with all the spices that are in the blend – but with this blend, the fine chop means that there is a lot of surface area and this is going to get plenty strong with the 1 tsp of leaf to 12 ounces of water ratio.

The aroma of both the dry leaf and the brewed tea is so delightfully spicy.  It reminds me of the smell I would experience when I visit the spice shop in Portland.  Notes of cinnamon, clove and pepper are prominent.  I can also smell the cardamom and ginger.

Mmm!  This is a perfect tisane to send out for September.  As the air becomes crisp and the weather turns cooler for the coming season (Autumn!) this tea serves me as a reminder of what is to come.  As I’ve said many times before, fall is my favorite season of the year.  And … yes … the reason is TEA!  Tea just tastes better hot.  Yeah, there are some teas that taste better iced, but for the most part, I find that teas just taste better when they’re served hot and I find that hot tea tastes best when the weather is chilly.

And my favorite kinds of teas to sip during my favorite season of the year are chai blends like this because the warm spices are just so cozy and comforting!  This is a perfect autumnal blend!

The finer chop on this blend makes for a very strong tasting chai, so don’t go overboard when you’re measuring out the leaf!  You might want to even use a little less leaf because it does get very strong.

The spices are robust.  The clove and ginger and pepper are the strongest flavors that I’m tasting.  After these flavors are recognized by my palate, then I begin to pick up on the cinnamon and cardamom.  The rooibos doesn’t offer a strong flavor to the cup, it’s more like a slightly sweet, nutty background flavor that is quite complimentary to the earthy notes of the spices.

I’ve got to tell you that when I saw that this is a rooibos chai, my thoughts were “Oh, another rooibos chai.”  I wasn’t all that thrilled with the prospect.  But this is one of the better tasting rooibos chai tisanes that I’ve tasted in some time.  The finer ground on the blend makes for a deliciously pungent, spicy chai and that’s just fine with me!

This tastes great with a dollop of honey or a half a teaspoon of sugar.  I find that the sweetener accents the spices in a chai (sugar and spice makes a chai taste real nice).  Add a splash of milk or cream for a tasty latte … it’s a wonderful, caffeine-free treat to drink any time of day.

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