I have learned a lot through the Master Gardener Program, some of which was how little I know. However, one handy thing I have learned that can apply to tea research, if you are so inclined, is to put ".edu" after an inquiry, such as "tea and health.edu." This connects you with colleges and universities who might be doing research in your query. Generally colleges and universities will be doing more accurate research than an organization that is funded by a tea company. They also have links to other institutions doing research.
I love to potz around flea markets and antique shops and sometimes I find some very nice tea things. We just had a new antiques mall open in town and there I found some very delicate and pretty hand painted cups and saucers, with matching dessert plates. And they were inexpensive, which is always a huge plus. I also saw some very expensive ones I lusted after, but a bill-paying session put an end to that.
Bigelow teas is running a contest which could net you some interesting stuff, not the least of which is a Bigelow Tea Chest. Check it out at www.bigelow.com . I did and discovered they have loose teas, so I ordered some, from their Charleston Tea Plantation. When it arrives, I'll let you know how it is.
My Upton's catalog just arrived. A tea friend refers to it as "The best tea porn". Indeed it is, inspiring lust and greed. They have many new offerings and being susceptible, I ordered some. So you can look forward to that, as well. One of the ones I ordered is tea flowers from Nepal and I am really eager to try them.
For now, I am going to content myself with some lovely green tea that somehow got lost in my cupboard. It is Tong Cheng Small Orchid, semi-wild 800m, Harvested and manually processed in April 2011. I got it from Life in Teacup, www.lifeinteacup.com , my favorite shop for green and Oolong teas. I believe it is pre Qing Ming, but that may not be accurate. The lovely thinly rolled green leaves smell of a combination of orchids and children's library paste. As it brews, there is the aroma of fresh green life underscoring the orchid and the paste has dropped out. The first wash, of about a minute, is a very very pale green that tastes of orchids, but faintly. The leaves are standing up in their glass pot and barely unfurled.
The next brew is about another minute and more of the green and vegetal aroma and flavor are coming through. The liquor is meatier and there is a bit of a roastedness to it. The leaves are much more unfurled and you can see they are 2 tiny leaves and an even smaller bud.
By the third wash, all the leaves are unfurled, the water is a delicate yellowy green and there is a hint of dandelion in the aroma. That's a new one to me and I like it, clean and a bit sharp. There is a sharp edge to the taste as well, yet it is all of a piece, even though that subtle orchid floral taste has returned.
On my fourth brew, the leaves and I are done. But it has been quite a journey, in one little tea cup, holding only about 2 ounces. That is what I love about tea, each cup can be a trip of many nuances, calling to mind many things - flowers and meat, library paste and dandelions, the everyday to the exotic. May you all have pleasant journeys with your tea.