Thursday, August 30, 2012

Real Simple Teas

I know that many of you read Real Simple Magazine.  I do.  Recently they picked some ready to drink iced teas as their favorites and here they are:

Whether you like your brew crisp and thirst-quenching or sweet and silky, one of these iced tea winners—chosen by Real Simple magazine from 74 contenders—will suit you to a tea.
Best Lightly Sweetened: Tazo Organic Iced Black Tea
Brisk, flavorful, and satisfying, this crowd-pleaser comes from—surprise!—the java aficionados at Starbucks (which also owns Tazo).
Best “Sweet”:  Sweet Leaf Organic Sweet Tea
This iconic southern take on tea is strong and sugary but never cloying. Happily, you don’t need to be below the Mason-Dixon Line to enjoy it: Just head to the grocery store.
Best Unsweetened:  Tejava Unsweetened Black Tea 
Unsweetened teas can be harsh and tannic. But not this soft, smoky favorite made with hand-picked leaves from Indonesia.
Best Lemon:  Pure Leaf Iced Tea With Lemon
Like your tea with a little pucker? Give this icy refresher a try. Fresh and tangy, it stops just this side of tart, thanks to a welcome dash of sugar.
Best Peach: Snapple Peach Tea 
Lush, juicy fruit flavor elevates this black- and green tea blend far above the syrupy, candy-like competition. Make it your new convenience-store go-to.
Best Green:  Honest Tea Classic Green Tea
Sure, it’s healthy—courtesy of all those antioxidants. But it’s also delicious: Think vibrant notes of green apple and mango.

This is all very nice and I have tried some of these myself, but I wish they had done more with loos-leaf teas.  Maybe we could suggest that for sometimes in the fall or winter!  I would have to quibble with the best peach.  It really tastes nothing of tea and is heavily chemical tasting.  Generally if I don't think of them as tea, they're ok.

What do you think of their selections?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Burlap Dancing Tea

It is foggy this morning.  In fact, it has been foggy almost many mornings this month.  Supposedly, weather lore has it that the number of foggy mornings in August is the number of snow storms you'll have in the winter. Actually, I just got an email from someone who really keeps track and it's only been 12.  The first winter we were here, that was right on target.  Last year we didn't have much fog and almost no snow.  We'll see how this coming winter is.  We really could use the snow, our ground is very dry.  I am hoping for a beautiful winter as we are going to have a brown fall.  Many of the trees are losing their leaves already and they're just brown - too little rain. We haven't had a really pretty fall in quite a while.

Tea wise, that means I can look forward to some cozy afternoons with a good book and a great pot of tea by my side.  Choosing one will be the problem, as there are so many I like.  As I continue to try different teas to review, my favorites list keeps changing.  It also gets altered by how my favorite tea turned out this year, given the weather in its garden.  I'm not too taken with this year's Yunnans, for instance and the Keemuns seem to be lacking a certain burgundian spark.

Today I am having an Assam - Queen Namsang from Simpson & Vail.  It is last year's harvest from the autumn, and comes from the Rani Estate, all of 157 feet above sea level.  It is organic.  The dry leaves are very black and quite small.  They give off a faint, almost apricot aroma..  I brewed it for 3 minutes with boiling water.

We often think of green tea as dancing as it brews, but I must say, this black is practically doing a jig!  It is really fascinating to watch tea leaves unfurl.

The brewing tea smells a bit like burlap, of all things!  But wait, there's also an aroma of maple/honey candy.  Hmm.  One thing I like about tea is that once you think you have all the scents down pat, along comes a new combination.  That happens with the taste as well.  I can't quite pin this one down.  It is something like sarsaparilla, something like little kids white paste with a trace of nut and a bit of sweet.  I put a bit of cream in it and it rounds out the flavor amazingly and brings out the sweetness.  A good, everyday tea, but nothing really special.

Isn't that a cool tree?  Reminds me vaguely of the flattish tops of tea bushes, ready for plucking.  Shorter than this, of course.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Marlena and the Tea of Siam

My friend Tommy the Toadman sent me some lovely tea in an exchange.  It is from the Siam Tee Shop,  The name is quite long, DMS Oolong Nr. 12 Jin Xuan Blue Pearls.  It comes from North Thailand.  The original plants were from the Ali Shan region of Taiwan and found a home similar enough in Thailand to settle in and produce some good teas.  Thailand has not been a big contender in the tea market, but if this tea is typical, they are small but mighty!

The small hand-rolled balls of tea are indeed vaguely blueish in color and give off a faint grassy, herbal aroma.  I brewed it for 2 minutes, after rinsing it.  At first, I just thought it smelled grassy and maybe a bit floral and then there seemed to be some depth to it.  It is mostly orchid tasting, with a few sharp points to keep the interest going.  It seems to be an alluring tea, one that keeps drawing you back when you think you're done.

The unfurled leaves were smaller than I expected, even on the second brew, when they were completely unrolled.  The orchid scent is much stronger this time.  It also carries a sweet note that wasn't there before, perhaps a touch of sugar cookie.  The taste is quite different, however.  There are now metallic hints around the orchid note, but only sometimes.  Other sips are pure floral.  Definitely a tea that keeps you going back for more!

Thanks, Tommy

Ya know, I can see why blue jays have such a bad rep.  There are a few here I would like to throw to Siberia - always with the loudmouth!  It's the young ones, probably trying to make their mark on the world.  They can't seem to distinguish between the dangerous cats - Bert and Ernie and the ones who couldn't possibly stir themselves to attack.  But I might!   If Sarah and Andy do wake up, they just look at them and go back to sleep.

An Imperial robe of the Hapsburgs.  Being an emperor might have its perks, but can you imagine having to wear something coated with gold and jewels - hot and heavy and you couldn't twitch or scratch.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You Put The Lime In The Coconut

At least a few of you will remember that old Calypso song.  Many tropical areas mix the two because they go so well together, smooth sweet coconut, offset by the tartness of the lime.  My tea today is a derivative of that old blend  - Key Lime Colada Tea from the Eastern Shore Tea Company, "Teas flavored with imagination."  (Just as a little side bar, coconuts are the largest seeds in the world and take 2 years or more to sprout and begin forming a tree. That's right, the coconut, the whole thing, is the seed.)

This tea comes in individual foil bags, which serves to keep it fresh.  I got mine at Wegman's, but you can also access them on line at where they come bag-free, and either buy directly from them or find a store near you.

The bags are pretty small, tagless and stringless.  They do smell wonderful, of both their fruits.  I used boiling water and a five minute brew, at their suggestion.  They also suggest complimenting the cup with a "large yacht, lime slice"  I can do the latter, the former will have to wait until I marry a millionaire.  The lime slice would be a good idea, as the coconut is very much to the front and almost cloying in its sweetness.  It almost feels oily, although it isn't.  The flavor lingers in your mouth in a way I can't decide is pleasant or not. For me, I felt the balance of flavors was off and I would have preferred more lime.

We are going to an event today, "Sundaes at the Farm".  This is sponsored by the Co-operative Extension of Tioga County. It is a yearly event to showcase local farms to get people more in touch with where their food originates.  There will be coffee, but no tea, ah well.  There will, however, be many local foods and many calves to pet.  Good for this ole farm girl's spirit, and there are free sundaes.

This huge beautiful bowl is carved from one piece of alabaster.  It is nearly 3 feet across and was owned by the royal family of the Austro-Hungary Empire, which ended with WWI.

Friday, August 17, 2012

News From The Tea World

Celebrate!  The Japanese teas coming from Shizuoka Prefecture, the main tea growing area, has been declared radiation free, so you can feel free to order away from this year's crop.  You can also be reassured that all teas are again tested before they enter this country for sale.  Any reputable company will be more than happy to answer any and all questions you have along this line.

World Tea News is reporting that Fair Trade sales have grown by over 8% this year.  I don't know all the ins and outs of Fair Trade, but on the whole, I believe is a step forward for tea and tea workers, as they try to improve the workers lot and the way tea is grown and processed, which in the long run will benefit all of us.

Archaeologists have discovered the residue of a drink made from a holly bush and containing theobromines - found in tea - in an area near St. Louis.  If you remember, I wrote about this holly, Yaupon Ilex vomitora, a few months ago.  They have dated the site to about 1050 AD.  The name indicates its use, although the vomiting was self-induced.

Canada has released information on 100 teas that it tested for the presence of pesticides and heavy metals.  Although small trace amounts were found in some, they were too small to create any sort of problem for people drinking tea.  I still prefer organic, if I can get it.

Tea Champions

The North American Tea Championship winners have been announced for the Spring 2012 harvest and here they and here they are.  The list goes company, name of the tea and category.

Chado-En DBA The Taste of Tea, Sakura Karigane Organic - Blended Green Tea

Teasource, Jasmine Silver Needle - Blended White Tea

Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Ceylon Orange Pekoe - Ceylon

Florapharm Tea USA LP, Organic Darjeeling "Jungpana" Wonder Muscatel - Darjeeling

International Tea Importers, Organic Pu-erh Tea - Dark Puer

Black Tusk Trading Co. Ltd, West Lake Dragonwell (Pre Qing Ming) - Dragonwell

Florapharm Tea USA LP, "Summer Passion" - Flavored Fruit Blends

Tea & Beyond Llc Dba Teagschwendner, Asian Pear - Flavored Green Tea

Dethlefsen & Balk Inc., Sunny Herbs No. 22948 - Flavored Herbal Blends

Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Bollywood Mango - Flavored White Tea

Silk Road Teas, Jinggu Grade One Mao Cha - Green Puer

Sipping Streams Tea Company, Imperial Matcha - Matcha

Osulloc, Osulloc Illohyang - Pan-Fired Green Tea

World of Tea - Le monde du thé Sencha, Maroyaka - Sencha

Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Verdant Summer - Steamed Green Tea

Marketspice, Six-Herb - Unflavored Herbal Blends

Teas Etc, Bai Mu Dan Superior Organic - White Tea

How many of them have you had?  I hate to admit it, but I haven't had any of them - best get to work and order some.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So Long Assam

Oh dear, I have a tea I really like and now discover it is no longer available. Phooey.  I am not a great fan of Assam tea.  Many are wonderful but many get too tannic too fast or they are too malty or too heavy or just too something.  And no, I am not going on a rant.  The tea is Assam Breeze from Teavana and it is a very attractive tea, a fine mix of brown and gold.    The dry aroma is chocolate-y with a twist of lime.

I brewed it a bit light, with boiling water for 3.5 minutes.  The result is a medium amber cup that is very, very pleasant.  Nothing special, no particular nuances or tastes.  I had it with cream and felt very cozy.  It is perhaps like the teas I had as a child, milky, soft and surrounded with love.  I am sorry this tea is discontinued, but I know there are other sources for some very nice Assam teas, so I won't cry too hard.

The weather here is finally moderating and our temperatures are just upper 70's, perhaps low 80's, with little or no humidity.  Summer as it should be, in my book.

I have also been drinking "Ice Tea Blend" from our local tea shop, Serendipity.  I think she may get it from Metropolitan Teas, a big wholesaler.  It is so accommodating.  I put it in the pitcher in the morning yesterday and forgot about it until this morning and it's lovely.  Usually, overnight is about all you should do with black teas.  It is mild and on the plain side, with teas from about 7 countries.  I like my ice tea to be gentle, whereas Himself likes it strong enough to carry bricks and then he puts milk in it!  As you might imagine, we always have 2 pitchers of ice tea going.

A lot of trees are beginning to show color.  Or maybe they are dying from heat and drought stress, although the latter usually takes 2-4 years.  The canopy was much thinner this year, as well.  The stream that comes out of our bog is the very merest trickle, hardly worth mentioning.  I have heard that bears up in the Adirondacks are breaking into houses in search of food, as the drought has produced so little for them.  I don't think it is that bad here, but I noticed that blackberries that are generally half a thumb size are only pinky sized.Quite the reverse from last year's overwhelming rains.

How's this for a cool relicry?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ranting Tea

Here it is, Monday again.  I shouldn't be surprised, it happens every week.  I guess I am just surprised I haven't written anything in a week.

A.C. Cargill wrote an interesting blog on the English Tea Store Blog a few days ago.  It was about choosing a tea for when you go on a rant about something.  It was quite good and I took it to heart.  As I remember she recommended a good strong black you didn't have to think about too much to accompany you as you raved.  Well, I have been ranting about the weather - too hot, too dry, too bright, just tooooooooooo.  And my perennial hatred, politics, which is also toooooooo.

I think I have found a "ranting tea", at least as I brewed it and for the moment.  It comes from Verdant Tea and is Zhu Rong Yunnan Black.  I will tell you right up front I  did not brew it as suggested.  I think I used one scoop too many and hence, it is very strong.  They suggest multiple 1-3 second infusions, but if you are having a fit, that is far too much fuss.  A straight 3.5 minutes and it better like it.  Aah, something I can control.

The dry leaves were quite attractive, twisted and dark, with a few golden buds for color.  Some were almost in little rings, really pretty to look at.  The dry aroma was interesting as well, carrying the scent of roasted squash, acorns and something sharp, like fresh peas, perhaps.  The brewed aroma was a bit simpler, being dark and woody with a strong tone of acorns or dried oak leaves.  (Perhaps autumn really is coming, hooray, hooray!)

To be honest, I mixed my cup with about 1/3 straight water, as I knew I would hate it otherwise.  Therefore, it is only a dark brown instead of almost black.  There is a pleasant forest woodsiness to it, but there is something sweet there as well.  This sweetness carries through after you sip, a pleasant bonus.  I like it very much.  Verdant Tea needn't worry about its quality.  The only problem is that this tea simply doesn't taste much like Yunnans I've had previously, which I am very much in love with.  I am going to brew it at a proper strength next time and see what it's like.

Some grand old Swiss Pike staffs at Schloss Spiez.  Maybe I could borrow one to puncture a few egos.

There, I told you I was on a rant.  But the tea seems to be working its teaish magic and I am feeling calmer.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Celebration Tea

It is a stunningly gorgeous morning.  The birds are singing, the sun is shining on rain sparkled flowers and it is cool!!!!!!  All my windows and doors are open to catch the breezes, the cats are stalking mice, the front garden smells delicious and the compost piles are cooking.  Asters and golden rod are carpeting the fields with purple and gold and my tomatoes are almost ripe enough to pick.  Hooray for today in all its glory!

I am celebrating with a special tea from Steepster.  It comes from Verdant Tea and is Laoshan Black tea.  This tea comes from the small 15 acre farm of the He family on Laoshan Mountain, which is already famous for their Laoshan Green tea.  The leaves are black , slender, twisted. Their dry aroma is first chocolate, then autumn forest, nuts and dry or drying leaves. 

I brew it for 3 minutes with boiling water.  The scent now has shifted to a strong, oakiness with some chocolate, but it is also sweet.  The liquor is a pale medium amber.  It feels silky and it has a rich, sweet taste of chocolate with an overlay of acorns and oak.  It's a lovely tea and I am going to get more.  This one is special.

Oh, speaking of acorns, we can also celebrate the summer acorn drop, which occurred this week.  That will make room for bigger ones in the fall.  it is not nearly as abundant as it was last year.  But this has been a drier and hotter summer, on the whole.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Easy Does It Summer Dessert

Julia Child has a note on her pound cake recipe - which makes a lot - that if there is some that's stale, you can toast it and use it as the base for an ice cream sundae.  Well, I have found, if  you have some left over summer fruit, say strawberries or blueberries, you can make a sauce for your sundae as well.

You wash and cut up the fruit , mash it a little, add some sugar and some water, over medium heat, cook until it looks right - about 5 minutes or so, add a pat of butter, stir and there you have it.  Don't add too much water, just enough to come halfway up the fruit.  If it is too runny, cook it a while longer.  You can add a liqueur or a spice if you want or mix your fruits.  I made some blueberry sauce and stirred it into some vanilla ice cream - best blueberry ice cream I ever had.  It keeps about a week in the fridge and warms in the micro quite easily.

This cake and sauce or cake, ice cream, and sauce is a nice thing for a tea dessert, especially if someone stops in.  The sauce you can have on hand or just make up while you're getting the tea ready, which is what I did the other day.  A dessert that looks special but you can just whip up in 10 minutes or less - my kind of summer cooking.  If you have no cake, but you have a scone that needs to be eaten, that also works or a sugar cookie.

I had this with some of that lovely Yunnan tea from Tea Vivre I reviewed a few days ago.  I didn't drink the whole pot, so I had it in the fridge - it's really good iced.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Tea East Is Coming To Town

Hey Everybody!  World Tea East is having its second grand event in Philadelphia, Oct 2-3.  It will be at the Convention Center.   I am hoping to go this year, so there will be no floods, tornadoes, hurricanes or tropical storms to get in the way.  Last year I was marooned on our hill, along with several others for several days.

There will be a New Business Boot Camp for those wanting to start a business or who have recently done so.  Jane Pettigrew will be presenting this.  The world will be toured in tea tastings for an entire day, Oct. 1, from 8 am to 5 pm.  More tea will be tasted in focused classes.  The winners for 2012's North American Tea Championships will be introduced to the Eastern and Southern  states and there will be a real emphasis on tea quality.  There will be over 100 tea merchants present.

Although this is primarily aimed at business owners, there is likely to be a great deal for those of us who are not.  Consider going, so you can see and taste the new teas and tea-related products, meet up with tea professionals and network with other tea lovers!

Please go  to   for more information - you'll be glad you did.  As I learn more, there will be updates here, as well.