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Tea Business Spotlight 16 - Tea Vue

Tea Guy Speaks - 10 hours 57 min ago
Welcome to the sixteenth of our Tea Business Spotlights, in which we allow tea people to share insights on running their business. If you're a tea business owner and you'd like to take part in an upcoming spotlight, please contact us.

Tea Vue
Maryland, USA

How long have you been in business?
Since 2013.

What is the size/scope of your business?
We are a startup, online loose leaf tea and tea ware retailer with Amazon as an additional distribution channel.

Why tea?
Our love for tea is multifaceted – the expansive and diverse taste, character, and health properties along with the rich history and ceremonial tradition have been most intoxicating for us.

How did you get the ball rolling on your venture?
While conducting research for a consulting engagement, we became aware of the untapped potential of the tea market in the US and globally. Through the compelling business opportunity, we found an even greater appreciation for the complexities of tea.

What do you feel is the biggest strength of your business?
Our mission is to personally curate only the finest quality teas for our customers. We strive to create an experience through not only the tea itself but with our branding and personalized service. Every Tea Vue tea is presented to the customer in packaging that is worthy of with the tea it holds.

What were/are the biggest challenges of getting into/being in the tea business?
Although the market potential is significant, it is a challenge to educate consumers on how to discern widely-available, low grade, bag and loose leaf tea from loose leaf tea of the highest quality.

What would you do differently, if anything?
We would have commenced pursuing Tea Vue years ago.

How's business?
Repeat business is strong – everyone that has tried Tea Vue’s tea extols praise and becomes an ongoing customer. Reaching those that are not yet aware of Tea Vue is the challenge.

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be in the tea business?
Life is precious and too short – pursue your passion whether tea or otherwise.

The Breville One-Touch Tea Maker

Hojicha Green Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - 12 hours 21 min ago

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf here.

Tea Description:

Green tea from Japan that is rendered brown by roasting Bancha (a summer crop tea, harvested after Sencha) tea leaves. Comes with a toasty nutty flavor and slightly mesquite note. Earthy and warm quality, soothing, clean finish. 

Ingredients:  Roasted Bancha Tea

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

Nice!  I think that Hojicha is one tea type that I don’t offer enough praise to but I should!  I love that roasty-toasty flavor of Hojicha, it’s so warm and cozy and it’s the perfect drink for autumn evenings.  It’s not quite as caffeinated as some other teas – well, actually, I don’t know if that’s true or not.  I’m not an expert when it comes to how much caffeine is (or isn’t) in a tea.  What I do know is that after I’ve consumed Hojicha, I don’t feel as stimulated as I do after consuming an Assam black tea, for example.

So, what I’m driving at is that because I don’t feel as “charged with caffeine” after drinking Hojicha as I do after I’ve had black tea, I am of the opinion that Hojicha is a ‘safe’ evening tea.

Anyway, the warm, toasty flavor of a Hojicha has a very autumnal feel to it.  The texture of the tea is smooth and light.  And while Hojicha is a “green tea” it tastes quite different from just about any other green tea that’s out there because the roasting process of the bancha tea changes the characteristics of the tea.

So, instead of tasting “vegetal” … it tastes nutty and sweet.  Like freshly roasted nuts.  There is a delicate creaminess to it.  It’s “comfort” tea much the same way that mashed potatoes or homemade macaroni and cheese (not that stuff from the box) is comfort food.  It’s something that I turn to when I want a “hug”.  This tea gives me a great big hug and makes me feel better about the world.

So – THANK YOU to Simple Loose Leaf for this hug!

Kiwi Cheesecake Flavored Oolong Tea from 52Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:  

Here’s a special treat–Fujian oolong blended with real freeze-dried kiwi, marigold petals and organic kiwi- and cheesecake flavors. A little tart, a little tangy, a little sweet, and all delicious!

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I can’t say that I’ve ever had a kiwi cheesecake.  I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a kiwi cheesecake except for the photo on the label.  But I love kiwi (and it’s a fruit flavor that is not often used in a tea!) and I love cheesecake … and I love Oolong so I felt fairly confident that I’d enjoy the tea created for the week of August 25.

The aroma that filled the kitchen when I opened the pouch was a sweet, fruity scent.  I could smell the kiwi and I could smell the sweet, creamy notes.  To brew this, I didn’t grab my gaiwan as I normally would with an Oolong because I figured I didn’t really need it with a flavored Oolong.  Instead, I used my Kati tumbler.  I measured out 1 bamboo scoop of tea into the basket and heated the water to 180°F.  I debated with myself on whether or not I should do a rinse, ultimately, I decided to go ahead and try rinsing the tea for 15 seconds and then discarded the liquid.  Then I steeped the tea for 3 minutes.

The brewed tea has a much softer scent than the dry leaf.  I barely smell the kiwi and I worried for a moment that maybe the rinse rinsed the flavor right off the leaves!  Fortunately, it didn’t!  I may not be able to pick up on a strong kiwi fragrance but I can definitely taste the kiwi.

I can also taste the cheesecake!  There is a creaminess to it which is probably not just because of the flavor but because of the natural creamy notes of the Oolong tea.  I get a light, tangy cream cheese flavor.  The only thing I find myself missing here is a note of pastry or graham cracker crust.  There is a light buttery tone but I attribute that to the Oolong and not so much to the flavor of the pastry.  I find myself searching – in vain – for the crust of the cheesecake.  Normally, when I am trying one of 52Teas’ cheesecake blends, I can pick up on that crust taste.  This one, I’m not.

Perhaps it’s because I did the rinse.  Next time I brew this, I think I’ll try it without the rinse and find out if that improves the overall cheesecake-y-ness of this tea.

But really, the flavors of creamy, sweet, tangy cheesecake and sweet-tart kiwi are both represented very well here, and I like that while I do taste these flavors, the flavor of the Oolong is not lost.  It’s a sweet and smooth Oolong.  I am picking up on light floral notes from the Oolong and I like the way these delicate flowery tones play in the cup.  The Oolong seems to add depth to the kiwi notes and it was the right choice for the base for this blend.

This is a really unusual but very enjoyable cup of tea.

Product Review: Unsweetened MatchaBooster from Maeda-en

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 16:00

Product Information:

MatchaBooster is a ready-to-use matcha-based powder. It mixes easily in your favorite drink and can used as a cooking ingredient.

Boost up your lifestyle with Maeda-en MatchaBooster♪

Where to Buy:  Maeda-en


Green tea’s smooth and fresh green flavor. Enjoy traditional Japanese green tea!

Learn more about this MatchaBooster here.

Taster’s Review:

I was very excited to receive my shipment of MatchaBooster products from Maeda-en.  I have all four “flavors” – Sweetened, Yuzu, GenMai and this Unsweetened – and I figured that I’d start off with the basic Unsweetened variety and go from there.

This is a very versatile product!  Unlike traditional Matcha, it requires no sifting.  Just add it to whatever you want to boost with Matcha!

For the purposes of this review, I started out simply.  I made it in my favorite water bottle that holds 16.9 ounces of water.

It was very easy to prepare.  To promote your humble bottle of water to a bottle of Matcha on-the-go, just add 1/2 teaspoon to each 8 ounces of water.  So, for the typical 16.9 ounce bottle of water, I took a swig of the water – it leaves enough “mixing” room that way – and then I add 1 teaspoon of this unsweetened MatchaBooster to the bottle and gave it a vigorous shake.  It mixes quickly and easily.  Instantly even!  There are no lumps and no sediment at the bottom.

It tastes a lot like I added Matcha to my water bottle.  Only I didn’t have to sift it, and when I add Matcha to my water bottle, inevitably … there are lumps.  Little ones, but still, there are lumps and/or sediment at the bottom of the bottle.  (Exception:  when I’m using a Matcha product like this that’s intended for cold water bottle mixing – no lumps!  That’s what makes this product great!)

It’s a little “lighter” in flavor than a traditional bowl of Matcha.  It doesn’t have quite as much of that thick, creamy texture that you’d experience with a chawan of Matcha.  It isn’t as dense or rich as that traditional Matcha would be.  Instead, this is light and very pleasantly sweet.  It’s a natural sweetness and unlike some Matcha, this isn’t “bittersweet”.  There is no bitterness at all.  It has a pleasant smoothness.  It has a light vegetal flavor.  It … well, it tastes like Matcha, except that it tastes and feels a little lighter, an extra thin Matcha.

It certainly makes that boring bottle of water taste a lot better!

So I decided to try this product in something else.  I grabbed a bottle of pomegranate juice and I took a drink of the juice (again, to make room for the powder and the shake) and then I added 1/2 teaspoon of MatchaBooster to the bottle and shook vigorously.  My thoughts:  I could taste the Matcha but it wasn’t a strong presence.  The flavor of the juice was strong and I could taste hints of the vegetal quality of the MatchaBooster.  If you want more Matcha flavor, you would want to add a little more than 1/2 teaspoon.

That said, I certainly felt the energizing quality of the Matcha in the juice!  I really felt invigorated after drinking the juice.

And from there, you can let your imagination be your guide.  Want to give your orange juice a boost?  Add 1/2 teaspoon or more of MatchaBooster powder to eight ounces of juice and stir.  Or add some to your coconut water.  Or your almond milk.  Or your breakfast smoothie.

There are some intriguing recipes on the Maeda-en website.  Already, I’m thinking that this would be really good in my tomato soup!  Or try stirring a scoop of it into your favorite hummus!  This is a great way to add the goodness of Matcha to your favorite foods.

Friday Round Up - October 19th through October 25th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 16:00
Steeped in History: A surprise in every box! The Teapothead posted about a blast from the past, those little Wade figurines that came inside of boxes of Red Rose teabags. That was how I started my tea journey. My mother and I avidly collected the animals series. Tea Travels: United States Tea Explorer recently visited New York and stopped into a few of my favorite places. I think his Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Back Seven: Tea Drunk!

T Ching - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 12:03

drunking tea
until its me
how can I ever stop

drunking tea
until I pee
oh god I thought I’d drop

drunking tea
until I see
everythings a prop

drinking tea
until I’m drunk
I’m liquid, get the mop.

This poem was written by Paul Rosenberg and first published on the blog November 2, 2007.

MAIN:             IMAGE 1:

The post Back Seven: Tea Drunk! appeared first on T Ching.

Balancing Ayurvedic Tea from TeaVeda

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 10/24/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  The Veda Company

Tea Description:

Organic decaffeinated black tea lovingly mixed with delicate flavors of jasmine and bergamot blissfully soothe and stimulate with our “Balancing” tea.  

Learn more about the teas from TeaVeda here.

Taster’s Review:

Of the different teas that I received from The Veda Company, this was the one I was timid to try.  I mean, you know that I love bergamot and jasmine, however, I can recall a couple of bergamot/jasmine blends that have been less than successful as far as I’m concerned.  And this blend has a decaffeinated black tea base and I’ve had a few decaffeinated black teas that I’ve not been crazy about.  So, a few of my ‘red flags’ popped up when I read the description for this tea.

But it’s actually alright.  Maybe even a little better than alright.  Yeah, this is definitely better than alright.  It isn’t the best tea that I’ve ever tried but I am enjoying it.

The bergamot here is on the subtle side.  It’s a little citrus-y, but not really a distinctly crisp, tangy bergamot note that I’d usually expect from a typical Earl Grey.  Perhaps the presence of jasmine softens it a little.  The jasmine offers a delicate floral note to the cup.

I am noticing a slightly ‘thinner’ flavor from the black tea which is a typical “side effect” from the process that decaffeinates the tea.  It doesn’t taste as rich or robust as a typical black tea would.  But I don’t taste that “chemical” aftertaste from the decaffeinated tea and that earns this tea big points.

It’s not my favorite from TeaVeda/The Veda Company, but I enjoyed it.  It’s a tea that I’d drink again if it were offered to me.  It’s pleasant and has a nice balance of flavors.  It tastes good served hot and it’s also nice as it cools.

Orange Spice Flavored Green Tea from Tea of Life

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Learn more about Tea of Life and Amazon Teas here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve had quite a few orange spice flavored black teas, but not quite so many orange spice green teas.  At least, I’m not able to immediately recall very many.  But as I sip this Orange Spice flavored Green Tea from Tea of Life, I find myself wondering why, because this is quite nice!

Sure, it’s a bagged tea and yeah, I’d rather have loose leaf teas as opposed to bagged teas.  But many of the bagged teas that I’ve tried from Tea of Life have been enjoyable and this Orange Spice is one of my favorites that I’ve had thus far.

To brew it, I started with freshly filtered water and I heated it to 175°F in my Breville One-Touch.  (It doubles as a variable temperature tea kettle!  Bonus!)  I grabbed my favorite tea cup and let the teabag steep for 2 minutes.  Say what you will about bagged teas – they are convenient, and sometimes that convenience is important.  Taste is equally as important, so it’s good to find a bagged tea that is also tasty.  That’s what I’ve found with this tea from Tea of Life!

The green tea is sweet and buttery.  It has a nice, soft texture.  It isn’t bitter or astringent.  It isn’t overly “grassy” or vegetal either.  Just smooth and sweet.  It’s a great base for the flavors of orange and spice.

The orange is bright!  Sweet and juicy tasting!  The spices are gently warm.  I taste subtle notes of cinnamon and a hint of clove.  It’s not an overly spicy tasting tea – if you’re one who doesn’t like a spicy tea, you’ll find the level of spices in this tea to be to your liking.

I like that this isn’t overly sweet the way some orange spice teas can be.  Usually they’re all about the cinnamon and you get that “red-hot” cinnamon taste.  And hey, I like those teas too, but something like that would overpower the green tea and the flavoring here doesn’t do that.  It lets the green tea come through nicely, and offers a warm, cozy spice and sunny citrus flavor.  It’s something that works nicely as an afternoon tea when you want something to perk you up and would work equally as well as something that you curl up to in the early evening, especially on a cold autumn day like this!

Yeah, this’ll do!

Podcast Episode 10: Teacrafting with Boston Teawrights

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 16:00
Boston Teawrights is an awesome company who imports fresh tea leaves so that tea drinkers can try their hand at teacrafting. Most of my episodes are interviews but for this one I wanted to show a bit of the process that goes into making your own tea at home. It's fun and relatively easy to do using equipment you already have in your kitchen. http://www.bostonteawrights.com If you're Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Shangri La’s chocolates: paradise in your mouth

T Ching - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 12:01

Of all the foods and drinks in this world, there aren’t many (or perhaps any) that can top tea and chocolate. In fact, the two have been featured together in at least a dozen posts here on T Ching. This post highlights a new twist on the theme – chocolates not just infused with tea, but with actual tea leaves in them, giving the chocolates a unique, delicious, and decidedly crunchy character.

Just this past September, Shangri La Tea, a nearly 30-year-old Southern California-based tea company, launched Shangri La Chocolate. Its initial offering includes three milk chocolate options and one dark chocolate one, as follows:

  • Black Currant – combines dark chocolate with black tea and black currants.
  • Earl Grey – combines milk chocolate with black tea and bergamot.
  • Masala Chai – combines milk chocolate with black tea, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom.
  • Chamomile Mint – combines milk chocolate with chamomile, licorice, spearmint, orange peel, and peppermint.

My approach to sampling these chocolates was to start with the Black Currant one. Why? Because I love dark chocolate and the combination with black tea and black currants sounded yummy – a bit like a Black Forest cake. I was not disappointed. As the dark chocolate began to melt in my mouth, I found myself chewing on bits of black tea leaves and currants. This one was my favorite, but the milk chocolate options were also delightful.

I am a pushover for a good cup of Earl Grey, so the Earl Grey chocolate was next up on my sampling list. I like this one because it presents a subtle balance among the chocolate, the tea, and the Bergamot. Some of the less-favorable Earl Greys are heavy on the Bergamot, likely to cover up some low-quality tea. Not so with this product!

The third chocolate on my plate was the Masala Chai. It is hard to come by a good chai, but when you find one you know it. This would have to be my second favorite among Shangri La’s chocolates. All three of the cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom spices are present – and, best of all, you can see them!

Last, but not least, was the Chamomile Mint. I am not normally a big fan of chamomile, but this mixture deserves a second taste, and a third. For those of you looking for a little less caffeine, this is a great alternative.

Of course, all these chocolates taste especially delicious when paired with a tea of your choosing!

With the holidays just around the corner, you may want to pick up a few of these chocolates as gifts.

The post Shangri La’s chocolates: paradise in your mouth appeared first on T Ching.

Wedding Tea Blend from Harney & Sons

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 10/23/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White

Where to Buy:  Harney & Sons

Tea Description:

This elegant tea is a special tea for that special event. Mutan White tea with a touch of lemon-vanilla to taste, nicely offset with pink rose petals.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

A really nice blend from Harney & Sons.  The delicate white tea is flavored with just a hint of lemon and vanilla and rose, creating a soft, sweet, and brightly flavored cup.

The white tea is a sweet and smooth tasting tea and these characteristics are enhanced by the addition of vanilla.  The light touch of vanilla makes the tea taste just a little sweeter, a little smoother and a little softer.  It adds a pleasant creaminess to the cup.

And I like the way the creaminess plays with the notes of lemon.  The lemon is bright and tart, but not pucker-y tart.  The sweetness of the vanilla curbs the lemon so that it doesn’t come off as sour.  Instead, it tastes a little bit like someone may have dissolved a little bit of lemon curd into my tea!  YUM!

To brew this, I used a lower temperature (as is usually the case when it comes to white teas.  I almost always go with a temperature that is 170°F or lower, this time, I used the 170°F) and steeped the sachet for 3 1/2 minutes.

Something else that’s kind of neat about this blend is that because it is the “Wedding Blend,” it can also serve as a wedding favor!  You can even special order it with the name of the bride and groom and the wedding date imprinted on the lid of the little “tagalong tins” (these tins really are adorable).  How awesome is that?  Can you think of a cooler wedding favor to give to your guests on your special day?

Black Needle Pagoda Tea Review – Wild Tea Qi

Lainie Sips - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 19:10
Name: Black Needle Pagoda Tea Retailer: Wild Tea Qi Type: Black tea Form: Teardrop bundles Price: As of October, 2014, this tea sells for $1.98 for a sample, $14.30 for one ounce. Quantity discounts...

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Yunnan Jig Black Tea from Simple Loose Leaf

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Simple Loose Leaf

Tea Description:

Black tea from the Yunnan province of China, the birthplace of tea itself. Yunnan black tea is easily identified by its abundance of soft golden tips, and savory cocoa and black pepper flavors. It is a very forgiving tea; will not taste bitter when over-steeped. Our Yunnan Jig has a sweet, almost creamy aroma. Rich and savory flavor, with a slight cocoa powder finish. Earthy and spicy and soft, smooth mouthfeel and finish. Classic Yunnan. 

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn more about Simple Loose Leaf’s Co-Op program here.

Taster’s Review:

Mmm!  Now this is the kind of tea that I like to wake up to!

The dry leaf is beautiful.  The aroma is very leather-like, evoking thoughts of an old library with lots of old, leather bound books.  The leaves are long and curly, looking a bit like thick pieces of wire in colors of chocolate brown and gold.  When I see golden leaves like this, I immediately think of autumn and the leaves.  I love this time of year with the beautiful leaves!

And I am loving this tea!

I brewed the tea in my Breville One-Touch.  I poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle/jug.  Measuring this tea is a bit of a challenge, because of the long, wiry leaves!  I measured out what looked to me like 2 bamboo scoops of tea.  I guess with teas like this, a scale would be really handy to have, but again, you probably won’t ever find a tea scale in my kitchen because I live by the ideal that tea should be simple and more gadgets don’t make it a simpler process to me.  I set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 212°F.

The brewed tea has more of an earthy fragrance than a leathery one, although I do still pick up on some subtle leathery notes as well as a gentle spice-like note.  It’s a very masculine aroma.

The flavor is delightful.  And as I typed the word “delightful” I found myself questioning the word, because I don’t think that delightful is enough of a word to describe just how lovely this tea is!  It is rich and smooth from start to finish.  There is next to no astringency.  I only pick up on mere hints of astringency – a slight dryness – toward the very tip of the tail of the sip.  It is very slight.  It’s not bitter and while the description above states that it’s a very forgiving tea, I didn’t try to overbrew it to test that out, but based on what I’m tasting, I’d say that’s probably very true.  I’m not even tasting the slightest insinuation of bitterness here.

Notes of cacao and warm spice notes.  There is a sweet caramel-y note that offers a nice contrast to the savory notes of this tea.  It’s an amazing balance between sweet and savory which is what gives this tea it’s smooth character.  It is so well-rounded and palate pleasing.  It certainly has an invigorating quality to it, but this isn’t the tea that will give you that jolt that you might look for in that first cup of the day, instead, this will give you a warm caress that will gently nudge you awake and make you much happier to be alive and kicking!

Matcha Bowl from Studio KotoKoto

Tea For Me Please - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 16:00
Way back in February, I was completely starstruck when I first saw Sakai Mika's matcha bowls on +Studio Kotokoto. The designs were so uniquely modern yet classic at the same time. Unfortunately the particular pattern that I wanted was sold out very quickly. They were very kind when I emailed inquiring if there might be any left but I pretty much forgot about it since then (other than the Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Global Tea Hut: solace in a cup of tea

T Ching - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 12:01

The confessional tone of many contributions to the Global Tea Hut monthly newsletter has led me to believe I already know some of you personally, though we are all spread out across the globe. Is there something in the nature of tea itself that lends itself to confessional storytelling? Or is this impulse brought about by the fact that we are sharing an intimate ritual, yet have never seen each other’s faces, so we compensate by baring ourselves to each other verbally? Thus, as we sip from our cups of tea, each of us in our own corner of the world, we can better imagine the Others. Inspired by your stories, I find it time to come out and bare myself, share my own story with those of you sitting in this circle of tea who are willing to listen:

Humans differ from animals due to two vital activities, as author Michael Ruhlman recently stated: “We use fire to cook our food, and we use language to tell stories.” The ritual of preparing, serving and drinking tea fits well into this distinction and perhaps even intensifies our human qualities by linking us to a millenary tradition. Much like cooking, tea brings together natural elements: water, plants, fire—and human intervention—utensils or teaware, and preparation skill. Moreover, the pause in our daily hustle-and-bustle that tea calls for, both when shared and sipped on one’s own, activates reflection, recollection, removal from the, at times, overwhelming experience unfolding beyond our tea table.

The perspective granted by the ritual of tea can be a gift, as it allows us to gather together pieces of our broken selves. When things fall apart, the grounding nature of tea can help us through, by simply anchoring us to the here-and-now, away from the foreboding anxieties of pain and distress. Tea grounds us as it connects us to immediate sensory experience, and facilitates a moment of repose, which, sometimes unassumingly, expands from a physical state to a more tranquil mode of being.

Though I have been a tea-drinker for a long time, always preferring it to coffee, my deep devotion to tea, and especially to tea as solace, is relatively recent, and is ironically marked by a family tragedy. In December 2011, my sister in Buenos Aires suffered a massive brain hemorrhage as the extremely unfortunate result of a medical intervention with a 2% risk. She spent most of two months in a coma. She is my only sister, twenty months younger, and though our lives took different courses in different places, she is one of the closest people to me in the world. Ten months later, as I write, she is still in the hospital, thousands of miles away, very gradually recovering, but with severe after-effects: she can barely move the left side of her body, and she has no short-term memory. The account still sounds somewhat anecdotal and unreal, even now as I sit here, sequencing the words on the page in front of me.

Back home in Barcelona in early 2012, after spending some time in Buenos Aires, struggling to make it through unfathomable pain at a distance, I found myself getting up out of bed earlier and earlier each morning, before dawn, to sit for a while in silence with just the sounds of my tea, before my family woke up and I was forced to find the strength to reassume my role of mother, wife, teacher. One day I realized that the tea was offering me some comfort, through the opportunity to let go of my story, to just sit and be. The direct immediacy of tea’s stimuli on my senses, along with its permissive nature, allowing me to not have to do, be, remember, think or speak of anything else in that moment, had me eagerly coming back for more.

Until recently, I had woken up each and every morning for five years to a long, strenuous Ashtanga yoga practice. For years this practice was my anchor, something secure I could rely on to accompany me every day, no matter where or how I was. But in this new state and situation, I found myself gradually and even at first unwillingly needing to soften my regular practice. At first, I would rise long before dawn to allow myself time for a session of sitting meditation followed by tea before the yoga. Somehow the repose and respite offered by the stillness, as opposed to the vigor of a practice that took more energy from me than I had to offer, seemed more fitting to the situation.

It took a while to accept this change in what had so long been a daily ritual for me; perhaps only now, as I put it down on paper, can I grasp that big changes in our lives require changes in even our most rooted practices. This is easy to observe in our habits on a small scale: we are often naturally inclined to drink more green tea and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables in the warmer months, whereas when the weather starts to change we crave more warming teas, such as Puerh or Oolong, and slowly-cooked meals. The seasons demand changes in our body’s requirements, functions and demands. So taking on the enormous challenge of accepting a life with a loved one’s health in serious danger meant, for me, learning to listen to the possibilities and requests my body, mind and spirit now set upon me. Though for a while I struggled to maintain the physical activity I was accustomed to, a morning session of silence and stillness with tea and meditation began to take shape, almost in spite of myself, as the way to make it through harrowing moments, one sip at a time.

I arrived in Buenos Aires on December 17, three days before everything changed. As a holiday gift for Melanie I brought along a ceramic kyusu and two small porcelain teacups, some Genmaicha tea (which she loved), and one of my favorite cookbooks. As this was the first time in many years that I was traveling without my children, we were looking forward to some quality time alone together, time we really hadn’t had a lot of in the14 years we’d been living on separate sides of the globe. We had made plans to share that time cooking, drinking tea, chatting leisurely. Obviously, those plans didn’t come through for us, and the teapot and cups sat for months in her empty apartment, unused and gathering dust. I returned to my family in Barcelona in January not knowing how I could bear the pain of my sister’s agony, and living it from so far away.

But tea as solace throughout the past year has not been merely a solitary endeavor; in recent months I was finally able to share it with my sister. As soon as the school year ended in early July, I took my family to Buenos Aires for the entire summer (winter there). By then Melanie was well enough to take part in the tea-half of our projects, so one of the first things I did was pack up the teapot and cups from her apartment and, carefully wrapped, place them, together with two types of Japanese green tea, in the small nightstand next to her hospital bed with the very few possessions she has there (mostly toiletries, such as the red lipstick she asks for whenever someone comes to visit).

During the seven weeks I spent in Buenos Aires, we developed our own daily tea ritual: after our mother left, and as soon as Melanie’s lunch tray was taken away, I made some tea for us with hot water from the dispenser in the third floor hallway. Some days, when I offered, she may have said she didn’t care for it, but I prepared it anyway. The moment she took her first sip never, not once, failed to arouse a timid sigh of pleasure. She thanked me for the tea, every day. Sometimes, I brought along a treat to nibble on: dark chocolate, some pastries or dried fruit. We deliberated on which snack paired best with each tea.

These simple pleasures are the only ones she has now, and she reveled in them every time.

Tea, as Okakura Kakuzô reminds us in the classic Book of Tea, shows that well-being lies in simplicity rather than complexity. Confronted with the complexities of her rebirth in this new state, my sister highly valued these shared, stolen moments of simplicity, in which everything else could be put on hold, and well-being was limited to the steamy goodness of a sip of roasted Bancha. When I wheeled her down to the hospital gym for her afternoon rehabilitation session, I parted until the next day in hopes that the calm, alert state tea helps us attain might stay with her during the session, aiding her to work towards regaining her physical and mental functions.

The nurses giggled at our ritual, not used to seeing their patients drink tea other than the one served in the hospital for afternoon snack (plain “black” tea from a teabag with lots of milk and sugar). They also admired the teaware, implicitly acknowledging how nice it was for my sister to enjoy some beauty in the midst of the stagnant, aseptic hospital surroundings. Melanie has always had a strong appreciation for aesthetics, and there was so little beauty in this place. Bringing her beauty in the shape of a teapot from the outside world nourished her spirit as well.

After two months in Buenos Aires, in late August I crossed the Atlantic once again towards Barcelona to begin the school year. I sip my tea in the mornings on my own again, and wonder whether anyone has used the teapot and cups with Melanie since I left. I hope so.

Article by Camila Loew, originally published by Global Tea Hut in October, 2012. Global Tea Hut has generously granted permission to T Ching to publish past articles from their publication each week.  These appear on Wednesdays.

Loading image from T Ching archives.  Post images courtesy of Global Tea Hut and used with permission.

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Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha Iced Tea from Southern Boy Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 10/22/2014 - 03:59

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Southern Boy Teas

Tea Description:

Premium Organic green tea with organic flavors. Each 14g teabag will make one 2-quart pitcher of DELICIOUS iced tea. Re-steep the teabag and you can get a full gallon out of each one.

Learn more about this tea here.

Learn about SBT’s subscriptions here.

Taster’s Review:


The first thing that blew me away with this blend is the smell!  The aroma of the dry sachet – it smells like a marshmallow treat!  And the brewed tea smells like that too.  The brewed tea smells a bit more like genmaicha than the dry sachet did, the dry sachet smells like a fresh batch of marshmallow treats.  Mmm!

This is seriously good iced tea.  If you liked the original Marshmallow Treat Genmaicha from 52Teas, you’re going to like this iced tea version from Southern Boy Teas.  It’s sweet and tastes like the name suggests.  It tastes like a marshmallow treat with a little bit of green tea flavor in there too.

Genmaicha is not usually a tea that I usually think of when I think “iced tea” because the toasted rice has a very warm flavor and it’s been something that I think tastes better when served hot.  But, this really works well as an iced tea.  It does have that delicious roasty-toasty flavor of the Genmaicha, along with the light, fresh green tea taste of the green tea.  The rice of the genmaicha gives this just the right amount of warmth to give this marshmallow treat a “homemade” sort of taste (and homemade marshmallow treats taste better than those commercially packaged treats!)

To brew this, I heated a quart of water to 170°F and let the sachet steep for a 1 1/2 minutes.  Then I strained the tea into my iced tea pitcher and resteeped the sachet in the second quart of water, adding 30 seconds onto the steep time.  (Then I stashed the sachet in an airtight container and put it in the fridge so that I could steep it again for another pitcher of tea.)

Really, really good.  I’m glad that this tea is now offered on the website (it was originally created as a “thank you” for the Kickstarter supporters) because I’m going to want more of this!

Three green teas by TeaVivre

Notes on Tea - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 20:52
I appreciate the generosity of TeaVivre. The company has provided me with multiple samples of several types of green teas. The tea quality is very good. The label on each tea packet includes the place of harvest. Today I share with you three green teas: Huang Shan Mao Feng, Pi Lo Chun, and Bai Mu Dan.

The Nonpareil Te Gong Huang Shan Mao Feng in Grown in She County, Huanshan, Anhui Province. The aroma and taste are fruity. The leaves, curled when dry, are pretty.

The first Pi Lo Chun I drank was Huang Jian Lin's for Adagio Teas as part of the company's Roots Campaign. Read my review. TeaVivre's Pi Lo Chun was grown in on Dongting Maountain, Jiangsu Province.

TeaVivre's Organic Superfine Long Jing or Dragon Well has a classic appearance and aroma. I wonder if its organic status contributed to its good flavor. This tea was grown in Lin'an County, Hangzhou, Zheijang Province.

I have more teas from TeaVivre so watch this space for reviews. You can purchase the teas mentioned in this post on the TeaVivre website.

Vanilla Almond Black Tea Blend from The Secret Garden Tea Company

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:00

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  The Secret Garden Tea Co.

Tea Description:

One of our staff favourites! Pair with desserts such as marzipan pear tarts, lavender shortbread, and chocolate bon-bons for a decadent treat.

Learn more about this blend here.

Taster’s Review:

This Vanilla Almond Tea from Secret Garden is so smooth!

By the time I started writing this review, I was more than halfway finished with my first cup!  It is just so tasty and so unbelievably smooth and easy to drink that it began to disappear quickly.

The dry leaf is quite appealing to the eye with lots of almond slivers and bright orange-yellow petals (calendula and sunflower) mixed in with the dark brown tea leaves.  To brew this tea, I used my Breville One-Touch and added 2 bamboo scoops to the basket and poured 500ml of water into the jug.  I set the temperature to 212°F and the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and I let the machine do it’s thing.

The tea brews up dark and sweet smelling.  I can pick up on delicate notes of almond and vanilla but mostly what I’m smelling is the black tea.  It’s not an overly fragrant brewed tea but I still find the aroma quite pleasant.  It reminds me a bit of freshly baked cookies!

But the real treat is in the sip.  As I mentioned above, it is one of the smoothest teas I’ve tasted lately.  There is very little astringency, especially the first few sips.  Now that I’m nearly finished with my first cup, I am picking up on more astringency than I experienced at the beginning of the cup.  It’s a slightly dry sensation that I’m experiencing but it’s quite slight especially in comparison to other black teas that I’ve consumed.

This is so smooth from start to finish.  It starts out smooth and creamy, I pick up on the vanilla immediately.  As the sip progresses, I notice the almond and the sweet, nutty flavor accentuates the creamy, sweet vanilla tones beautifully.  These two flavors were made for one another!

The black tea is a smooth, even-tasting black tea.  It’s probably a Ceylon.  It isn’t an aggressive, astringent, bitter or overly robust black tea.  It is smooth.  It melds amazingly well with the flavors of almond and vanilla.  There is a slight caramel-y undertone to the black tea that further highlights the sweetness of this blend.  I like that it is a sweet drink but not cloying.

Because it isn’t an overly sweet or cloying tea, I think it would make the perfect tea to serve along with dessert.  You really wouldn’t want something too sweet paired with dessert because the dessert is already sweet.  This is smooth, not too robust nor is it bitter or overly astringent.  It wouldn’t detract from the delightful confection that you’re enjoying for dessert.

It would also make a lovely afternoon tea.  A great tea to choose for a tea party or perhaps something to serve to guests after dinner.  I find it to be a very “welcoming” sort of tea.  When I sip it, I feel like it’s communicating to me:  “Welcome home.”

Teavivre Organic Superfine Dragon Well

Tea For Me Please - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 16:00
Country of Origin: China Leaf Appearance: jade green, flat Ingredients: green tea Steep time: 1 minute Water Temperature: 185 degrees Preparation Method: glass test tube steeper Liquor: very pale, greenish I tend to not be much of a green tea person but there is nothing like the smell of Dragonwell brewing. With good quality green tea subtlety is key. At first, I was hardly able to taste Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.com0

Tea poetry: radio’s contribution

T Ching - Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:03

One long summer in Honolulu, Oahu, I spent the morning hours watching old movies on a local television channel.  In addition to adaptations of literary works such as David Copperfield and The Count of Monte-Cristo, all of which I had then read only in Chinese, there were also obscure cinematic pieces like Elephant Walk and Green Mansions.  My family had just immigrated to the States that year.  Lack of close captions did not hinder me from comprehending the gist of the stories presented, or from concocting my own interpretation.  I like to think that it was the programming manager’s unique sensibility that led to such an eclectic selection and presentation every morning, which in turn alleviated my angst stemmed from the trial of learning a new language in a less-than-ideal environment.

Besides the aforementioned matinee, the Disney channel contributed to my addiction to the small screen.   Had Hayley Mills’s movies from the 1960s not re-run multiple times daily on the station, I would not have questioned the remaking of the1998 The Parent Trap.

Many years later, when my reading and listening skills in English improved, I introduced myself to the magazine The New Yorker and Mr. Garrison Keillor’s radio program A Prairie Home Companion.  Mr. Keillor is also the host of the daily program The Writer’s Almanac. Catching A Prairie Home Companion fortuitously while on the road is easier and always a delight.  The Writer’s Almanac, on the other hand, can be most readily accessed via the Internet.

Will you pick a favorite among the following tea-themed poems featured on The Writer’s Almanac?

The December 29, 2009 program ended with Dale Ritterbusch’s Green Tea.   You can listen to Mr. Keillor reading this poem here.  A few months earlier, also in 2009, Rock Tea by Gary Gildner was in the spotlight. And most recently, there was Margaret Hasse’s At the Tea Garden, from her poetry collection Earth’s Appetite – what a title for any publication!

The shortest and sweet Green Tea has my vote because I drink mostly green teas nowadays.   Moreover, I have a penchant for English words like “celebration.”

It was not necessarily the grade F I received in the Communications class – or the teacher who made fun of the spelling and pronunciation of my last name – that made the learning environment in Honolulu less than ideal.  The educational system is perpetually plagued by the disenchantment of major players, and by dearth of meliorism in general.   

Greek Theatre, Los Angeles. June 7, 2014

This summer I finally saw Mr. Keillor, in person, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.  Why didn’t the strangers sitting around me laugh heartily?  Perhaps they were new to the hilarious characters featured in many of the regular segments?  As always, the sketches were teeming with cultural elements that were distinctively American, and forms of sophistication that are both erudite and lucid.

Most likely Mr. Keillor has hosted a live program near wherever you are in the States.   Search the archive, or attend a live performance the next time the troupe is in town!

Images courtesy of the contributor.

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