Sunday, July 8, 2012


A lot has happened since I last wrote here! I traveled to Japan and Taiwan. I spent over five months researching material for my first book in India. I stopped by London for a bit, and revisited my former hometown of NYC. And, oh yeah, I set up a new website that reflects my current body of work and introduces you to some of my collaborators: Copy & Taste. Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Baking Scones

Had you told me a year ago that I'd be really into baking scones right now, I probably would have laughed and said something like, "I think you must be confusing me with someone else." And yet here I am, baking batch after batch of scones.

I'm good at brewing tea and cooking off the top of my head (meaning sans recipes) when I focus on either activity, but I always thought I was a terrible baker. And it wasn't just my imagination -- I WAS a terrible baker. But it turns out I just needed a little focus and a few key pieces of information to be a pretty good baker. Here's what I learned that helped me go from being a terrible baker to a passable one:

1. Don't try to rush it. Cutting in butter, properly flouring a surface and kneading dough, preheating an oven fully... these things take some time and patience. When you're first learning, baking in a rush is neither enjoyable nor productive. If at all possible, cultivate a Zen approach to baking.

2. Weigh, spoon or sift your flour. Never scoop it out of the bag with a measuring cup. Seriously. You end up with about twice the amount of flour you're supposed to have. This was my main mistake in years of sub-par baking.

3. Follow the instructions. I'm what people call a "creative type," which is a nice way of saying that I don't like to follow the rules. I prefer to do things my own way, and usually that works great for me. Not so much the case when it comes to baking. (For example, I learned the hard way that "cold butter" means cold butter, not room-temperature butter and certainly not melted butter. Sure, it's harder to cut in, but your scones will be sooo much fluffier in the end!) If you're considering a shortcut or substitution (like melted butter), see step one again, and remember that baking involves many, many years of wisdom that you're unlikely to outdo with minimal knowledge of how it really works. Learning to bake is a bit like learning algebra -- at first, you have to just follow the formulas you're given and hope for the best. Once you really get the rules and have more skills at your disposal, THEN you can get creative.

The end result of this adventure in baking is a small (but growing) collection of scone recipes, including:

* Almond Scones
* Orange-Ginger Scones
* Pecan-Cinnamon Scones
* Rose-Walnut Scones
* White Chocolate-Orange Scones

My next scone-baking experiment involves baking vegan scones with virgin coconut oil in lieu of butter. If it turns out well, it will get added to the collection. Wish me luck! (And if you have any tips for baking with coconut oil, I'd love to hear them!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Tea Content

Lately, I've been developing quite a bit of content for Although I've never been much of a coffee drinker, the chance to discuss tea on such a popular forum has been an exciting opportunity for me. Most of the tea content is geared toward beginner tea drinkers, but I have been able to sneak in a few more advanced pieces of content, too. Here are some of the pieces I'm most proud of:

* An illustrated guide to tea & breakfast pairings
* Image galleries of Japanese green teas and white teas from China and beyond
* A guide to the tea-producing regions of India
* An intermediate-level tea quiz
* Hubs of content about kombucha, yerba mate and common tea drinks

Being a visual person, I find the illustrated guides and image galleries to be the most exciting and rewarding types of content to produce for About, so I'll probably continue to develop more of those in the near future. If you have any suggestions for content to add, I'd love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Japan Trip

My trip to Japan was a success! I'm still catching up, both from the two weeks away from my usual tea work and with writing about what I learned during the trip. For now, here are a few tea highlights from the trip:

* Learned to brew super-premium gyokuro & sencha the old-school way.
* Hung out with organic tea farmers who market directly to clients (a rare thing in the Japanese world of tea agents, wholesalers, retailers, etc.). Harvested bamboo shoots, wild mountain herbs and tea with them.
* Tasted Japanese kocha (black tea, also very rare).
* Went to a tea museum in Shizuoka. It left me far more impressed than my visit to London's tea museum.
* Tasted more tea-based foods than I can even remember. Learned that if it's a greenish pastry, it probably has matcha in it.
* Saw what I'm gonna go ahead and call the most beautiful tea shop in the world. Three floors of dizzying caffeine highs and absurd attention to design detail. Drank delicious koicha (thick matcha), usucha (thin matcha) and ocha-presso (sencha brewed like espresso) amongst the gorgeous sights there.
* Interviewed a tea researcher whose institution discovered theanine, an amazing sado (Japanese tea ceremony) specialist from one of the revered (but lesser-known outside Japan) tea families, multiple tea farmers (one of whom started a collective to fight for fair tea prices and increase organic production), a chanoyu museum curator, a famous tea production expert, people from one of Kyoto's most famous tea shops and other amazing tea people.
* Got my mind blown on multiple occasions, including a visit to a tiny tea shop in Kyoto (it looks humble, but was amazing enough to be featured in the French Michellin Guide) and a chic Tokyo tea cafe (where the tea sommelier is perhaps geekier than me about tea -- he even designed a custom tea brewing vessel for his cafe that's unlike any I've ever seen).

And here are a few non-tea-related highlights:

* Visited "Okonomiyaki Street," where most of the restaurants serve pizza-like okonomiyaki or its gooier relative munja. My friend Yuka (who works for one of Japan's top restauranteurs) and I ate at one of those you-make-it kinds of restaurants. She brought her okonomiyaki-making skills on in full force. Sooo good...
* Made new friends and reconnected with old ones. Had a great time hanging out with a long-time tea penpal (who makes an iced tea that tastes like a gin gimlet) and with several close friends from high school/college.
* Saw a massive protest in the yakuza part of Tokyo. Apparently this kind of thing is quite rare in Japan, so it's unusual that I saw it during such a brief trip there.
* Ate raw egg, natto and other crazy (and often slimy) foods.
* Talked food politics with farmers, tea retailers, a bottled drink blender, tea auction buyers and various restaurant industry people.

One of the things that struck me the most about this trip wasn't actually the trip itself. It's the uniformity of the response from almost everyone I've mentioned it to. Almost every person said something along the lines of, "I'm so envious!" To that, my response is this:

Japan is not that difficult of a travel destination. Most signs are in English. It's very safe and clean. If you're connected in the tea industry, you can meet enough people to make the trip very educational and enjoyable, and relatively inexpensive. If not, you can still have a great time. Also, if you live on the West coast, there are some very reasonable deals for flights. (I got a direct flight to and from Portland for about $800.) And, if money is an issue, there are deals to be had through youth hostels, work-live experiences, sales and the like. Honestly, the most difficult thing for me was the jet lag, and even that was OK on the way there. So if you really want to go to Japan, stop wishing you could do it and make it happen!

Side note -- You can see some of the treats I picked up on my About Coffee/Tea blog. I've posted about green tea caramels, green tea yokan (a gift from my tea penpal friend), green tea bath salts (which I gave to my mom) and three kinds of tea toothpaste. Other tea finds included all kinds of wagashi, green tea Kit Kats (which I'll review on About) and some new crop green teas that were harvested during my visit.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tea in Japan

I'm about to fly out to Japan for first flush. Trip highlights include visiting tea farms, drinking lots of fresh tea, tasting fresh wagashi and visiting a dear friend in Tokyo. I'll update on Twitter (@LindseyAtVeeTea) whenever possible and write more when I return. For now, sayonara!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Developing Your Tea Menu - World Tea Expo

Just wanted to post a quick note that I'll be speaking at the 2010 World Tea Expo about how to create mouthwatering tea menus. The presentation spans from early development (like tea selection and signature drink development) to final touches (like menu design and tea description writing). I've worked with companies including Samovar Tea Lounge, urbana cityspa & teabar, Narien Teas, Tula Teas and Takashimaya in these areas and I look forward to sharing what I've learned over the years about how to set your tea menu apart.

The session is intended for those who are developing their tea menu, making changes to their tea selection or developing printed materials or web content to showcase their products. You can read more about it (and sign up) on the World Tea Expo site. If you know of others who may be interested in attending, please pass this information along!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tea in Seattle

I recently had the opportunity to explore Seattle's tea scene with a fellow Portland tea person who has been kind enough to show me around. It was a day trip, but we managed to check out quite a few spots:

Jade Garden - A dim sum place in Chinatown/"The International District" known for its delectable shrimp dishes. The jasmine pearls wasn't bad for a restaurant.

New Century - A charming tea shop, also in The International District. They have a gorgeous tasting area, complete with a carved old-growth tree tea table. I was impressed with their selection of teaware and picked up a basic gong fu boat while I was there.

The Teacup - A cafe-style tea shop with lots of regulars hanging out and plenty of people stopping in for a quick cup of tea. Good blended tisane selection. I've heard The Teacup's owner speak at The World Tea Expo, so it was fascinating to see in person what she had spoken about. Bonus - Brett (who is, I believe, the manager there) just got back from Taiwan and brought some of his finds with him. Awesome!

Floating Leaves - Not much to write home about in terms of ambiance, but my favorite in terms of tea selection. Very impressive Chinese and Taiwanese teas ranging from flowering teas to artisan oolongs. Bonus - The owner, Shiuwen, is extremely knowledgeable and has a great sense of humor. She also offers tours to Taiwan... and I have to say that I am seriously considering going on one soon!

Miro Tea - A cute, trendy tea cafe that, at first glance, reminded me a bit of Soy in NYC (across from Tea & Sympathy). I can't say much about it, as I was famished when I stopped in and ended up heading over to Root Table for dinner instead of teasing my appetite with Miro's crepes, etc., but I hope to visit again next time I'm in Seattle.

Speaking of next time... I hope to have time to sit down with Elin Head (who also writes for World Tea News) and Michael Coffey (of Tea Geek) and to stop by a few more tea places (Recommendations welcome!). I'll probably be in town for the Northwest Tea Festival, but perhaps sooner. We shall see!