I’ve been busy, peeps. Between design, tea, tastings, travel, orders, writing, teaching, expos, learning… and starting a tea magazine, you can see why my blog posts have been lacking!
Yes indeed I’m starting a new magazine called: SIP.A publication about liquid pleasure. That means tons of articles on tea (we might even sneak in some info now and then on wine!)
The launch date is scheduled for Fall 2009. An exact date has yet to be determined. We are still in the design and writing phase but are making headway. We will announce the date via Facebook,Twitter and of course the TeaLove® blog! It will be available for download on the Pearl Fine Teas website. It’s very exciting!
It’s a mag about things we sip that make us happy: like tea! Our first Issue will have information on Taiwanese Oolongs (my fav) along with new info on tea and health. There are a lot of exciting features and departments along with some very cool, hip info in the IN EVERY ISSUE section.
I think you will love this new source of info! We are also looking for contributors. Want to write for or advertise in SIP?Send us a note at: info@ pearlfineteas.com.
I’m late with this review. I know it. But better late then never I suppose so here goes. Why not go grab a cup of tea and settle in to read…
Earlier this year (May) after the World Tea Expo, and graduating from the Specialty Tea Institutes (STI) Level 3 certification, I headed to Colorado to visit with my family for a few days. As you probably already know, my nieces and sister-in-law and I visit a different tea room each time I am out there. This time, I went to Dushanbe Teahouse alone so that I could properly taste a few different teas and make some notes.
I’ve wanted to visit Dushanbe for the longest, but never seemed to have enough time. Now was my chance and I’m so very glad I did.
The story of this special Teahouse can be found on their website (I encourage you to read it) but in short the story goes like this: it was in 1987 when Mayor Maksud Ikramov announced that the city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan was going to present Boulder with a Teahouse to honor and celebrate it as a sister city. It took about 3 years to build with the help of over 40 artisans. Teahouses in Central Asia serve as gathering places for friends and family to meet, play chess and talk over a cup of tea. The Master woodcarvers carved their names in the ceiling and the painters wrote their names on the green painted area above the entry to the kitchen. There is a message carved in the ceiling that says: “…artisans of ancient Khojand whose works are magical.”
Isn’t that just lovely? The place is magical from front door to last sip.
Anyway, I drove to up to Boulder on that really clear, sparkly day in May, parked the car and found my way to the front of the Teahouse. I was welcomed with this beautiful sign carved out of wood with the Teahouse menu behind glass. I was already mesmerized.
I walked around their front garden for a bit taking it all in. Since it was early spring their rose bushes weren’t in bloom. But I could tell that in just a few weeks the grounds would be bursting with color! The whole entry is so welcoming, peaceful and serene. I contemplated sitting outside but quickly ruled that out since there was a chill in the air. Anything below 72˚ is chilly to me.
So I made my way to the front door, and walked in. The smell of spices greeted me immediately. The decor was lush and overwhelmingly beautiful. I was in trouble. I knew this wasnt going to be a one cup of tea visit. Instead of waiting for a table I headed for the bar to sit. It was graduation day (UC Boulder) and so many families were there celebrating and I didn’t want to take up valuable real estate (ie: table for one).
The bar was perfect. I found a seat, spread out and was ready to attack the menu. Very nice tea selections. Hard to choose. I went to the back page where they had specials, limited-edition teas and some rarities. I started with an oolong. No surprise there. I ended up tasting 7 different teas including: white, green, oolong, black and a flowering tea. In some cases I did not get the time, temp and tea weight info from Peter the bartender. He was overloaded with orders and I just had to go with the flow. I believe I steeped many of them at around 1.5 minutes except for the black teas. Here are my notes in order:
1. Sijichun Oolong: Formosa. Early Spring with a floral style aroma. Steeped at 175˚ for 1.5 minutes. They used 1 tablespoon of tea. The liquor was light, very pale actually almost white. Strong floral notes (just what I like) and the taste was smooth. No detection of bitterness. It reminded me of a classic Jade Oolong.
2. Fancy Formosa Silver Tip Oolong: Same temp, time and amount. This was an exquisitely handcrafted oolong. Very sweet and aromatic with rich mellow flavor and a mild, gentle aftertaste that was a bit nutty and creamy. This tea was richer than the first tea. Highly reccomended.
3. Gopaldhara White Peony Rosettes (India): I didn’t get the time, temp amount info from Peter (my waiter/bartender) for this one. I didn’t actually realize I was ordering a blooming tea. For some reason the word Rosette didn’t register. They are not typically my favorite but I gave it a shot. The flavor was very much like a white darjeeling and was quite frankly, amazing. The very light hints of sweetness was most unexpected. A most unusual tea.
4. Cloud Darjeeling Green: What a treat! Very light liquid. The wet leaf was a mixture of green and brown. There was a slightly vegetal taste but it wasn’t over powering. Floral notes lingered with its very clean finish. It reminded me of an oolong.
5. Plum Oolong: Tart, naturally fruity, aromatic with a pink infusion that I found very interesting! Slight hints of spice and of course a plum-y finish. I would sip this one again!
6. Puttabong Estate, 1st Flush Darjeeling, 2008: Full gold color in the cup, brighter on the palate. Herbaceous floral and a bit winey. The wet leaf was very green! There was an astringent aftertaste with hints of pepper that really livened it up. The steep was 2-3 minutes on this one.
7. Ceylon Nuwara Eliya: A high mountain ceylon. Classic and bright in the cup and in taste. Very smooth with no astringency or bitterness in the finish. A lovely cup of tea.
Drinking all this tea made me hungry so I decided to order food from the menu. Everything looked amazing and it was hard to choose. I ended up with a simple Mediterranean Salad
which consisted of: Mixed greens, hummus, dolmas, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives, herb vinaigrette, house flat bread for a mere $9.00. It was outstanding!
I’ll be attending some of the classes as well. I noticed that Donna Fellman will be teaching Tea 101. Donna is one of my STI instructors, the director of the Tea Education Alliance (T∙E∙A), and she is wonderful. For those of you interested in tea and want to learn the basics, I highly recommend Donna. You’ll get her for 2 hours for $15.00. Take her class at STI and its well over $500.
This is my third year attending the World Tea Expo so I was able to prioritize and work the show floor in a day which left more time to relax, mingle with my teapeeps and attend a few choice classes. The one at the top of list was given by Jane Pettigrew on Rare Teas. If you haven’t been exposed to Jane, you surely are missing out. She is simply fabulous. Her love, knowledge and passion for tea fills the room.
I tweeted about each tea during the tasting. I found them interesting and was pleased to be able to sip something out of the ordinary. I will say that my expectation for what I considered RARE was different then what WTE thought. To me a rare tea for example, might be… an aged puerh that was produced in limited quantity 11 years ago and only a 10 people in the world have access to it. This seminar was more about UNUSUAL Teas. That said, I still loved it and was grateful to have atteneded.
Here is a brief recap:
Tea 1: Malawi White Tea (Antlers)
This was the biggest surprise of the 6 for me. While I like white tea well enough its not a “go to” tea for me. It took just one sip and I was, well, in TeaLove. The liquor was sparkly, clear and sweet. There were light notes of fruit. No leaves were used to produce this tea which we all found interesting. A leafless tea made only with the stems. This was my top pick and favorite. 8 grams, Steeped at 176˚ for 5min.
Tea 2: South Korean Spring-Picked Green Tea
Very unusual for a green tea. The immediate smell is nutty which I wouldnt have expected from a green. It was more like a tie kwan yin. The wet leaf had a beautiful aroma that was slightly vegetal and nutty. The color: a bright, vibrant green. Very light colored liquor and taste. This teas is handmade. 8 grams steeped at 14o˚ for 2 min. (The steep should have been longer to bring out the flavor)
Tea 3: Ancient Lotus Green (Vietnam Flavored Green)
An immediate burst of anise both in aroma and taste! Quite unexpected. Dry leaf was dark and long but also rolled. Liquor was light gold. Wet leaf was long and curly. This tea is handmade and infused with Lotus blossoms. Steep time and temp wasn’t given.
Tea 4: Thai High Mountain oolong (Chang Mai) Most of you know my deep, unwavering love for oolongs, so I was excited to try one from Thailand. The dry leaves were very large, rolled balls. The liquor was golden and had hardly any aroma. But perhaps the paper cups smell was getting in the way. I likened this oolong to an extremely light Jade Oolong. Its a 2 day production for this one as opposed to the usual 1 day for oolongs. 8 grams, Steep time 180˚ for 4 min.
Tea 5: Bolivian Organic Black Did you know Bolivia produced black tea? I didn’t. This tea endures 18 hours of withering, has a very large leaf that is rolled. The color of the liquor was a lovely medium redish brown. The taste reminded me of a ceylon but with more complexity. It was slight fruity or plumy and very smooth. 8 grams, Steep time 212˚ for 4 min.
Tea 6: Tregothnan Classic Black (Cornwall, UK)
Tregothnan means “house at the top of the hill.” Not a true tregothnan, but a blend. Made locally. The dry leaves are small and cut like a CTC process yet this was all handmade. Impressive. Wet leaf fluffed up and turned brown. The liquor was a lovely shade of deep red. The taste was immediately astringent and made my lips pucker.Steep time and temp wasn’t given.
Today is the last day of the Expo and I’ll be attending Lisa Richardson’s class on pairing tea and chocolate! More posts to come later!
I love teapots. I have a giant collection of them and can’t stop buying new ones. I probably need to open a store just to showcase them all.
I ventured into teaware last fall. I’m picky about my pots so I made sure to test them over and over again. Sometimes you see a cute design, take it home and it drips when you pour. Me no likee. Or, the mesh infuser is too thin and bends making it impossible to use again. Me really no likee.
Then there are the ones that just dont hold enough water for teatime. You know, the ones that give you just one cup of tea. I need at least two per sitting.
I’ve been happy with the choice I made with regard to iPot Teapot and have decided to keep them around for a while. There are some others I’m testing out in the TeaLab, but I’m not ready to release just yet.
Recently I ordered some new designs. How cool are the ones with the yoga positions etched into the side? Love it. Will definitely keep a few for me. 🙂 I am offering them in 3 colors: Bamboo and Grape (tree pose) and Carribbean Blue (lotus pose). There are matching cups as well that make such a nice gift. Either for yourself or someone who loves tea and yoga.
I also just had to have the Cherry Blossom design which is simply gorgeous and perfect for this time of year. We are in Cherry Blossom Season here in DC so it just makes it all the more fitting. It a also has a matching teapot.The duo is so feminine.
Happy New Year, TeaPeeps™. Here we are in the middle of January, and this only my second blog post. Where has the time gone? You’ll be happy to know I’ve been sipping and sampling some very nice teas these last few weeks. I’m a lucky TeaGirl!
Ok, so the big news for the new year is that our “Drink for Change” Obama Blendtea has made it to TEA. A MAGAZINE. Yep you will see it, yet again, on the cover of the Winter 2009 Issue. Thanks to Pearl Dexter, Editor/Publisher for approaching us! She has also featured a little story about us and Jack Chengon Page 28. See what one little Twittercan do? If you haven’t already picked up your issue, scurry on out and scoop up a copy. This issue could sell out quickly! I believe it hits news stands… any second. History making cover? Yes. Amazing tea illustration? Absolutely. Tasty tea blend? You will love it.
Order Drink for Change! $15.50 (3 oz) Let me be absolutely clear, this organic African Red Bush Rooibos based tea has Honeybush, Pineapple, Papaya, Ginger, Rose petals and Cornflowers. It’s smooth, fresh and lacks bitterness. Environmentally friendly, unexpected, and a little left of center. Contributes to your overall well being and Health(care). Steep for 3-5 minutes and enjoy. Caffeine Free!
*10% of each sale will go to the Washington Humane Society
** Tea illustration by Jack Cheng
Here’s to our new President Barack Obama (let’s send him positive energy) and the beginning of living and sipping change!
The Big News for today, November 4th is… well, who will be our next President. It’s pretty hard to trump that, but given that we are totally TeaCentric (and have already voted) we have some Big News of our own to share with our fellow TeaPeeps and followers:
I have been invited to speak and show at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show right here in Washington DC at the new Convention Center! We are selling our fabulous loose leaf tea along with some amazing tea ware. Our booth is #910 (right across from Beer, Wine and Spirits) so if you live close, stop by and introduce yourself. I am a featured speaker on Tea on Sunday, November 9th from 12:30-1:00pm. Very exciting.
The even BIGGER NEWS is that Smith & Hawken has signed on to support us! They have asked us to create a holiday event exclusively for their Chevy Chase, MD store. The seminar is called: “Tea in the Garden: Understanding Orchids and Orchid Oolong Tea.” Pretty fabulous! They will also be present at our booth and are outfitting our space with orchids galore and furniture from the store which should be just fantastic. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to not only speak at the Metro Cooking & Entertaining Show, but to help with this exclusive holiday event for Smith & Hawken. Anyone that knows me can tell you that it is truly one of my favorite stores. What an opportunity!
If you are not familiar with Orchid Oolong, you may be missing out on a spectacular experience. Here is a brief description of the one we carry at Pearl Fine Teas:
High mountain green oolong from Taiwan which is shipped to Fujian Province China to be scented with fresh orchid flowers. Yulan, the type of orchid we use is a much larger flower and much more aromatic than a jasmine. The danger can be that the tea absorbs too much moisture or becomes over scented and the crucial balance between tea and orchid taste is lost. This year’s crop represents the zenith of the art of scenting.
How can you not be enticed?
Remember: Please Vote! (and sip tea, we did!). There’s still time!
As a self proclaimed “tea snob” sometimes its hard to wrap my hands around a trendy blend. Especially some that are just… the oddest of concoctions. I’ll refrain from mentioning anything specific, but one that comes to mind is a tea with so much strawberry in it I dumped it out immediately. It wasnt tea, it was Strawberry Quick!
We don’t sell “crazy blends.” I like a blended tea that keeps with the integrity and mission of the company which is to: source and sell the best leaf with the best flavor. Quite simply: I like quality. Recently, a fellow TeaPeep & tea merchant strongly recommended I give chocolate tea a try. Here is what happened:
I loved it.
With just a touch of local honey (buy local!) to boost the chocolate flavor – you’ve got yourself one of the best secrets out there! Rich, smooth and creamy it reminded me of sitting fireside in Vail … watching everyone ski and snowboard into each other.
Do you have a chocolate addiction? Consider yourself a choco-holic? Like a chocolate-y snack around midnight? Try chocolate tea to satisfy the craving. I highly recommend this wonderful, surpising tea as a way of enjoying chocolate and tea without… consequence. (ie: calories).
Any news about ceylon tea is going to catch my attention. So when an article by Steve A. Morrell popped up in my email box this morning about ceylon tea sales it caught my attention.
According to Russel Tennekoone, Director of the Ceylon Tea Brokers, Ltd., “there is serious concerns that the market has dropped.” Mostly because of what is happening in the Dubai port of Jebel Ali. Apparently, there is congestion with cargo movement which is restricting the flow of goods and services. Tea being one of the major categories affected. The other issue was that Dubai has introduced a “Quality Certification” not just for tea coming out of Columbo but for other seller origins. From what I can gather from the article, the bottom line is that growers were going to have to work harder to produce teas of high quality. In an auction last week by Quantum, 6.2 million kilos of tea was sold. “Good teas were sold, bad teas were discounted.”
What countries are the largest buyers of Ceylon tea? According to the Tea Market Update, Volume 4 No. 2, UAE (United Arab Emirates) beat out Russia by the end of the first half of 2008 with imports of 23.5 million kgs of Ceylon accounting for 16% of total tea exports from Sri Lanka. Russia showed a minor drop from 24.6 to 23.2 million kgs. Iraq, Jordan and UAE are among the top 10 destinations.
Top 10 main destinations of Ceylon Tea:
9. Saudi Arabia
At the end of the article Mr. Morrell also reports on interesting news related to tea and health which I found most important:
“There was an interesting news piece in the tea market report of Ceylon Tea Brokers. ‘A single cuppa contains 200 milligrams of flavonoids. Drinking three cups a day, would increase flavonoids in the blood by approximately 25 %. Flavonoids help fight pre-mature aging,heart decease, and some types of cancer.”
I’ve heard that steeping tea between 3-5 minutes brings out the most flavonoids. Admittedly, I sometimes prefer my black teas around 2 minutes, but will go to 3 minutes with a fabulous ceylon. For me, ceylon tea is smooth, complex and lacks bitterness. I often say that ceylon tea is the Pinot Noir of the tea industry. At least according to my taste buds.
Our ceylon this year comes from the Shawlands tea estate which is located in an altitude of 1,173 mts. with a tea growing area of approx. 295 hectares. Tangy tea straight from the UVA district.