Friday, December 21, 2007

Vacation for VeeTea

I'll be away for a little while for my holiday celebrations. Have a fantastic holiday and a wonderful New Year!


Best,
~Vee

PS--Enjoy some tea by the fire for me. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Citrus May Boost Tea's Benefits

Purdue University recently published a study on the absorption rates of catechins in tea with the addition of various common tea flavorants. Lemon juice was found to be the best, followed by other citrus juices. Soymilk, ricemilk, and cow's milk were also tested. Read the full article here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tea Cocktails

Lately, I've been concocting some tea liqueurs and cocktails. I find that they are great for cold weather, especially at holiday parties. I just posted seven tea cocktail recipes on VeeTea. Here's the recipe for my current favorite:

Earl Green Liqueur

1 pint good quality vodka
3 teaspoons Earl Green Tealeaves (or, if you prefer, Earl Grey)
Simple syrup to taste (about 3/4 cup)*

Steep the tealeaves in the vodka for about 20 hours, but no more than 24. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add simple syrup to taste. Serve chilled or over ice.

*Simple syrup is easy to make and can be used for iced tea, liqueurs, and any other liquid you don't want to heat in order to sweeten. It keeps for about 2-3 weeks sealed and refridgerated.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring water to a boil. Stir in sugar until it dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool. Store in a sealed jar or Tupperware container.


Check out more "mar-tea-nis" on VeeTea!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

London Tourism Ad Campaign... with Urination

As one of the world's leading tourist destinations, you'd think that London wouldn't have to go to sad extremes in its tourism ad campaigns. You'd be wrong. What's really weird (but not weirder than urination in a teacup as a tourist lure... perhaps I mean "also weird") is that the guy is supposed to be a punk, but looks more like a skinhead neo-Nazi. What was the stylist thinking?!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Caffeinated Cities

A recent study investigated caffeine consumption in major US cities (or, as I like to call it, "Caffeination Across the Nation"). Read the full article, or just skip to the tea results, which I've copied below.

Most Tea Consumption (Green tea, iced tea, black tea):
1. Miami
2. Tampa
3. Washington, D.C.
4. Philadelphia
5. Atlanta

Least Tea Consumption (Green tea, iced tea, black tea):
1. Minneapolis/St. Paul
2. Detroit
3. San Francisco/Oakland
4. Seattle/Tacoma
5. Boston

Seattle and Boston were non-shockers for the "Least Tea Consumption" list, for obvious reasons. San Francisco, on the other hand, was completely unexpected. Perhaps it's because of the "(Green tea, iced tea, black tea)" specification. What about other types? Had oolong, white, and pu-erh been included, would SF be off the list for "least tea consumption?" Another arguement for SF's low level of caffeination: "...considering how much it costs to live in San Fran (and New York City, which was also on the list), I'm surprised anybody there can afford caffeine once they get done paying the rent." Two points for Widge at NeedCoffee.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tea Towels

Check out these hipster tea towels from down under. (Click "Tea Towels" under "Top Ten.") Very cool. My favorites are the boy with the teaware behind him and "I (heart) Tea Time with you." Cool.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More FAQs

I get a lot of questions through VeeTea. Every now and then, I compile them for my blog.


What kind of acid does tea have?

The types of acids in tea are naturally-occurring in plants. They include phenols (which tend to be aromatic and flavorful) and tannins (which give black teas a more "tart" taste). Tannins include catechins, which have a variety of health benefits. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate, reputed to aid in weight loss and prevent cancer) is the most common catechin in tea. Though tea does not contain hydrochloric acid, the caffeine in it increases hydrochloric acid production in the stomach of people with caffeine sensitivity. Contrary to popular belief, tea does NOT contain tannic acid.


I'm having an allergic reaction to a tisane I drank. What should I do?

Consult a doctor or an herbalist immediately if your symptoms are strong, get worse, or do not go away. Please note that I am NOT a doctor or an herbalist. Herbs are very potent things, so try to be careful with which ones you make into tisanes. (For example, if you have hayfever, you should stay away from chamomile.) Do a little research on what you're drinking. If it's commonly used, read up on it a bit. If not, consult an herbalist before making into a tisane. That way, you can be sure to have the right variety, right part of the plant, right dosage, and right herb for you. Also remember that your reaction may not be to the herb itself. It could be to pesticides or fertilizers applied to the plant, or to an added flavoring. It could also be the dosage (too high), the pot you made it in (aluminum*), or a reaction with another herb or medication you are taking. Don't let this scare you off tisanes any more than the nutrition label scares you off your favorite junk food--just be aware of what you're taking in.

*Please NEVER prepare your tisanes in an aluminum pot, as aluminum is highly reactive and can make your perfectly good tisane turn toxic.


If you're a tea consultant, then why do you have free information on VeeTea and your blog?

Because I'm a generous and caring person. And because it's very, very good for web optimization. (Also, I'm not just a consultant--I write copy for other sites for the same reason. Strong content pulls in way more traffic than a simple sales site ever could.)


Left wanting more? Read a previous list of VeeTea FAQs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holiday Teas

In recent years, season teas have become more and more popular. One side effect is the explosion of "holiday teas." Some are surprisingly good, some are wretched, some seem to bear to connection to any kind of holiday except in name. If you're looking for holiday teas, complete with holiday-themed packaging, names, AND flavors (plus an unexpected French influence), check out Lupicia Fresh Tea. Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Ready to Drink Teas

Bigelow and Arizona are working together to put out a new line of RTD (Ready-to-Drink) hot teas this Winter. Flavors include Mocha Chai Latte and Vanilla Chai Latte. Arizona is also launching its top flavors in teabag form. Two questions spring to mind: Why are so many hot RTDs chais? (Subquestion: Or is that just an excuse for massive amounts of corn syrup?) And did Arizona manage to fit powdered corn syrup into a teabag, or are they opting for stevia/Equal/Sweet-n-Low instead? Seriously, though... if you're going to brew your own tea, why would you want it to taste like a hot version of Arizona's fave three? I find this to be vastly perplexing. Has anyone tried it? Thoughts?

Read the full story here.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Global Warming Teacup

OK, so everyone has seen this global warming mug already. But there's a new one out, and it is marketed specifically as a teacup. Interesting...

Read more on global warming and tea in one of my previous blog posts.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tasting Club

There's a new book out called Tasting Club. It is all about how to hold tastings, whether they are for old favorites like wine and chocolate or for newcomers to the US tasting scene like honey, balsamic vinegar, and, of course, tea. A perfect gift for the foodie on your list, or as a little treat for yourself (and, if you hold the tastings, all your friends!).

Have a tasty weekend!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Green Tea Ice Cream

A company called E-Creamery lets you select your own flavors, add-ins, and packaging for pints of ice cream. Not cool enough already? They have green tea as a flavor, and you can pick a gelato, 12% milkfat base (typical for American icecream), or 14% milkfat base (extra rich and creamy). Personally, I want to try the green tea and coconut gelato with pineapple pieces and mint leaves... or maybe cardamom and cinnamon or clove 14% milkfat icecream with candied ginger... yum.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Tisanes for Sleep

Having trouble sleeping? Learn more on caffeine and tea on my site, and then look over this list of tisanes for something to lull you to sleep.

CARDAMOM

Pros--reduces the effects of caffeine
Cons--doesn't help if you haven't had any caffeine

CHAMOMILE

Pros--sweet and floral, readily available
Cons--a common allergen

KAVA KAVA

Pros--often found in sleep blends, a natural antidepressant
Cons--may cause intoxication when drunk in excess, may cause organ damage when taken in excess in supplement form

LAVENDER

Pros--aids in the reduction of stress and insomnia, tastes good
Cons--some people are allergic to lavender

LEMON BALM

Pros--soothing, pleasant in taste
Cons--not usually used specifically for sleep, but perhaps a useful aid nontheless

MINT

Pros--spearmint and peppermint both taste good and are caffeine-free
Cons--some find the taste to be invigorating

PEACH

Pros--tastes good, caffeine-free
Cons--not used specifically for sleep, but a nice alternative to beverages with caffeine

RASPBERRY LEAF

Pros--many find it to be relaxing
Cons--not used specifically for sleep

ROSE PETALS

Pros--soothing
Cons--You guessed it--not used specifically for sleep

ROOIBOS

Pros--high in antioxidants, particularly antiaging antioxidants
Cons--may cause nightmares in some rare cases

SCULLCAP

Pros--one variety acts as a sedative
Cons--there are over 300 varieties

ST. JOHN'S WORT

Pros--reduces stress and alleviates insomnia
Cons--may interact with some medications

TILLEUL

Pros--soothing, similar in taste to chamomile, (unlike chamomile) not an allergen
Cons--harder to find than chamomile (unless you're in France, where it is very common)

VALERIAN ROOT

Pros--said to be very effective in treating insomnia
Cons--not so popular on the flavor front

For more information on these and other tisanes, read my Tisane Listing articles or consult an herbalist. Sweet dreams!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Watched Pot...

Apparently a watched pot (or kettle, as the case may be) DOES boil... at least when it's a digital simulation intended for entertainment and increased sales. Wait a few seconds and enjoy the show.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tea with Friends

I am so elated. I have finally convinced all of my friends that they a) LIKE TEA (the problem for most was that they had only tried bad tea before) and b) are perfectly fine with meeting me for tea instead of alcohol.

My sister (who NEVER drinks alcohol) would be proud. But the whole tea world from estate managers to tearoom owners should be rejoicing! Tea is getting more and more mainstream in the US every day and it's experiencing a revival in many other countries, too.

In the US, tea drinking basically disappeared after the Boston Tea Party (save for the surge in iced tea's popularity, which began at the beginning of the last century and lingers today), but in a lot of other places it simply became old fashioned. Many people thought of tea as fussy, overly formal, or absurdly frilly. Thanks to a bit of a makeover, tea is recognized for its incredible array of flavors and health benefits, and is becoming popular among Baby Boomers and young hipsters alike. And that, my friends, is why tea is hot.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Tea Videos

Three are tons of tea videos on the internet. I've posted some of them before. Here are a few more. If there's one you'd like me to see, send me the link!

James Norwood Pratt on tea on Chow.com

A tragic love story about tea bags, feat. The Cure

"Good Eats" on tea

Have a good weekend and be sure to drink lots of tea!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bottled vs. Fresh-Brewed

Whole Foods answers a question on bottled vs. fresh-brewed tea. Excerpt:

When you brew tea yourself, you can control this steeping process in a way that will maximize the polyphenol content of your tea. When you buy a bottled tea, however, you may or may not get a tea that has been carefully brewed. In addition, you are likely to get a tea that includes other ingredients and is not simply 100% brewed tea.


Isn't that the truth! Most of the bottled teas on the market have sweetener, flavorings, and all kinds of other additives. Of course, there are a few exceptions to that, but I usually prefer to brew it myself.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tea during Wartime

The New York Times (somewhat) recently started to allow everyone (not just paying subscribers) to see their full archives online. Here are two articles on tea during wartime that I found to be interesting:

The first is from 1916. It's about the German coffee and tea supplies being taken over by the state. There great was concern that when coffee ran out, tea would act as a coffee replacement (in addition to a popular drink on its own) and run out soon after.

The next article is from a year and a half later, when England's tea supply was nearly gone. The man interviewed blamed the shortage on exportation to Germany earlier in the war.

Other notes on tea (and coffee) during wartime:

During WWI and WW2, people in the US often drank chickory in lieu of coffee and rooibos in lieu of "true" tea (from the camellia sinensis plant).

Russian samovars have a bloody history. During wartime, samovars were often melted down to make guns. During times of peace, the guns were melted down to make samovars. Somehow this always makes me think of the scene in Lord of War where they talk about how the militia snorts lines of cocaine mixed with gunpowder. Yikes!

The Opium Wars were waged over tea. Tea had caused an enormous trade imbalance between the Chinese and the British, so the British started growing opium in India and importing it to China, despite laws forbidding it. Soon, the nation was addicted and the government was outraged. And then... wars. Two of them, to be precise.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Vee Tea Event Photos















A few weeks ago, I visited North Carolina for a tea event. It was entitled "Urbana Nirvana: Teas of India." We had eye candy (in the form of a video of footage from my trip to India, edited by my friend Nathan Bezner of Nightowl Productions), six teas from India (one masala chai, one Assam, one Nilgiri, one Darjeeling first flush, one Darjeeling second flush, and one Darjeeling white), tasty Indian food from a nearby restaurant, and hand massages with Red Flower Indian Jasmine massage oil. Of course, I got to talk about each tea with all the guests, which was great fun for me and, I think, for them, too. See for yourself in the photos!

PS--One of the guests at the event was a yoga teacher who recently visited India, too. You can see her travel photos here. All the folders from India have "India" at the beginning of the title.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Post

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. I did! My menu was as follows:

Endive and Fennel Salad with Feta and Homemade Vinaigrette
Sweet Potato Cornbread
Herbed Baguette with Brie and Camembert
Collard Greens with Cayenne
Broiled Salmon with Mustard-Vinaigrette Glaze
Latkes with Applesauce
Port-Poached Pears, Baked with an Oat-Walnut Crumble, Topped with a Port-Yogurt Granita
Mulled Wine
Honeydew White Tea
Lung Ching
Earl Green

What did you make? What kind(s) of tea did you serve?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tea Art?



I recently happened upon a site for coffee art. Anyone out there making frothy tea-based drinks into art? I'd love to see it!

I'm off for a few days to do the Thanksgiving thing. What kinds of tea are you serving at your big meal? (Next week, I'll tell you what I served at mine.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Vee Tea Mention

I recently got to visit Amai Bakehouse for some wonderful tea, sweets, and conversation with the owner, Kelli. Christine Rillo of Adagio covered our tasty and fun visit. Check it out!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cold-Weather Teas

Some teas are just perfect for cold weather, and for the holidays. A few of my current favorites:

Masala Chai: creamy, spicy, sweet, delicious

Russian Caravan and Lapsang Souchong: rich, deep, VERY smoky, strong

Vee's Witches Brew: perfect for fighting colds

Pretty much any good, balanced blend with spices and citrus: evocative, indulgent, AND healthy

"Russian Tea*": soothing, citrusy, sweet, spicy


If you try any of these or have any to suggest, drop me a line. Have a Happy Thanksgiving week!

*This is something my mom used to make. It was part of my very early love for tea. The recipe is below.

Vee's Mom's "Russian Tea"

4 cups water
7 teaspoons strong black tea (Assam works well)
1 small can orange juice concentrate, plus 1 can water
1 small can lemonade concentrate, plus 1 can water
1/2 large can pineapple juice
15 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the tealeaves and remove the pot from heat. Brew tea for 5 minutes. Strain leaves. Return tea to the pot. Stir in juices and spices. Bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain. Serve hot with a slice of orange or a cinnamon stick for garnish.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tea Books

Getting started on your holiday shopping already? (I know I am! Anything to avoid the holiday rush of NYC.) Check out this new book on Korean tea culture and history. Or, peruse Cha Dao's extremely comprehensive post by Nigel Melican, Ten Thousand Titles: The Teacraft Tea Bibliography and see what jumps out at you. Happy holiday shopping!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Diluting the Benefits of Tea"

The NY Times recently put out an article about howtea may not be so healthy for you. The focus: sugary, high-fat drinks are sugary and high-fat EVEN IF THEY CONTAIN TEA. Wow. Excerpt (quoting a noted NYU nutritionist):

"I see so many educated people who, when I tell them it has calories, look at me and say, 'It does?'" said Dr. Young. "These are people who wouldn’t get the whole milk cappuccino, but they get the venti chai because it’s only tea."

I am amazed by how unaware most people are of their health and what they put in their bodies. Yes, masala chai is delicious, but I NEVER drink it daily, not even when I was in India or when I was writing my masala chai recipes. I ADORE iced tea (I'm from the South), but, once again, it's a treat, not a "healthy" tea. I'm glad the Times is trying to raise awareness on this point, but deeply saddened by the fact that it was so low that it needed to be raised in the first place. Sigh...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cooking with Tea and Tisanes

Interested in cooking with tea and tisanes? There are a lot of recipes out there to try. Most of them are sweet, but some are savory. Here are a few to get you started:

SWEET

Baklava with Rose Water and Tea Granita (If you dig the whole popsicle-sorbet hybrid, check out more tea granita recipes from one of my previous posts.)

Bittersweet Chocolate Souflee with Earl Grey Custard Sauce

Boysenberries with Black Currant Creme Anglaise

Caramelized Fresh Pineapple Tiramisu

Chai-Poached Apricots and Plums

Chai Pots de Creme (There are more masala chai recipes on VeeTea.)

Chamomile Creme Alglaise

Chocolate Earl Grey Truffles (This is a personal favorite.)

Earl Grey Madelines with Honey

"Exotic" Caramel Sauce

Fig Fluden (Flat Cake)

Green Tea "Cat's Tongues" (From Chocolate and Zuccini--a fantastic food blog.)

Green Tea Cheesecake with Raspberries and Raspberry-Mint Tisane

Green Tea Ice Cream (There are TONS of recipes for green tea ice cream out there. If there's one you especially like, send it to me and I'll post it!)

Green Tea Panna Cotta

Hibiscus "Tea" Sorbet (This is actually a tisane, but it looks delicious by any name.)

Jasmine Tea Sorbet

Jasmine Whipped Cream (This would pair well with a number of other tea dishes here, or with fresh fruit, pie, ice cream, etc.)

Oranges and Prunes in Cardamom Tea Syrup

Pears Poached in Earl Grey with Dried Fruit

Rhubarb Poached in Jasmine Tea with Ginger

Tea-and-Honey Crisps

Tea Brack (Dark, fruity cake with black tea)

Tea-Poached Pears with Tapioca Pearls and Satsumas


SAVORY

Duck Breasts with Orange, Honey, and Tea Sauce (According to my duck-loving artist friend Rajive, this is not NEARLY enough honey. I don't eat meat, so I have no opinion on the matter.)

Green Tea Rice

Green Tea Soy Broth

Grilled Tea-Brined Turkey

Jasmine Tea Rice

Lapsang Souchong Peanuts

Lapsang Souchong Ribs

Marmalade-Glazed Ham with Sweet Orange-Tea Sauce

Traditional Ochazuke (Tea Rice)

Scallop Tea Rice

Soy-Ginger Beef and Noodle Salad

Spiced Green Tea Rice

Tea-and-Lemon Gravy

Tea-Marbled Eggs

Tea-Smoked Chicken

Tea-Smoked Duck Breasts

Tea-Smoked Mushrooms (I had a similar dish in India at a lovely hotel near Makaibari and Castleton Estates, a few blocks down the road from the Darjeeling Tea Research Centre. It was delicious!)

Tea-Smoked Salmon

Tea-Smoked Sturgeon


If you have any recipes you'd like me to post, send them to me and I'll add them to the list.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A GOOD Kind of Tannin Stain

So, we learned in Tea and Iron that the tannin in tea is NOT tannic acid and it is not inherently bad, but it can decrease your iron absorption. We learned from my dentist that tannins can stain your teeth, and that bagged black tea is the worst. What if we could use tannin to our benefit? One artist poses the question and comes up with some cool answers to ponder over tea time. Click the numbers to follow the intentional tannin staining of the teacup. I also like Time for Tea, a series of tea sets that show the time of day as shadows... in the form of plates.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tea Thrifting




I just found the cutest blog on thrifting. The blogger (Kelly) often posts tea-related finds. Here are two of her recent purchases. (LOVE the heart cups and saucers.) She also talks about crafting a lot, which is always fun. Check it out and have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Osteoporosis

Apparently, drinking tea may slow bone loss. Excerpt:

The bone mineral density in tea drinkers was higher than in non-tea drinkers. Tea drinkers also had less loss of bone density over a four-year period compared with non-tea drinkers. These results took into account factors such as smoking history and use of calcium supplements.

...

"Other variables, such as dietary calcium and coffee intake, physical activity, and smoking did not appear to be important confounders of the relation between tea and [bone density]," write researcher Amanda Devine, of the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia, and colleagues. "Thus, overall our data support the concept that tea intake has beneficial effects on bone structure by reducing bone loss."


Cool. If you're interested in tea and the body, read more about tea and iron absorption on my site.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tea Tattoos


Is tea transient? Ancient wosdom says yes, but at least a few people disagree, and they have the tats to prove it.

I found this image thanks to The Goog.

Seth Goldman from Honest Tea says, "We got an e-mail from a consumer who got an Honest Tea tattoo on his arm." I'd love to see a photo of that!

There's also a short called Tea Tattoo, though I'm not sure it has any actual tea tattoos is it. Anyone seen it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Whole Foods on Green Tea

Whole Foods talks about the benefits of green tea. Excerpt:

"Green tea drinkers appear to have lower risk for a wide range of diseases, from simple bacterial or viral infections to chronic degenerative conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer, stroke, periodontal disease, and osteoporosis. The latest studies provide a deeper understanding of the ways in which green tea."

To read more on the studies, check out their article.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Article: Masala Chai Recipes

There's a new article up on VeeTea! It's a continuation of last week's article on masala chai. There are 17 masala chai recipes, from "Basic Masala Chai" to "Floral Green Chai" to "Hot and Spicy Chai" to "Yummy Chai Milkshake." Check out "Fusion Tearoom Chai 2" below, and then read more masala chai recipes on my site.

Fusion Tearoom Chai 2

This recipe is sweet, savory, and spicy, with the richness of tamarind and the freshness of mint. It’s my Brooklynite-hipster friend Evan’s favorite.

2 cardamom pods, crushed and lightly roasted
1 tablespoon seedless ripe tamarind pulp
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon cumin, roasted and ground
1/4 teaspoon green peppercorn, ground
dash sea salt

1 cup milk
3 cups water

4 teaspoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons Assam black tea

Boil the spices with water for about 5-10 minutes, add the sugar and milk, remove the mixture from heat, and then add the tealeaves to steep for 3-10 minutes. Strain and serve in prewarmed teacups.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tea & Global Warming

I know I normally end the week with a positive note, but... not this week. Today I'd like to talk about how global warming is changing the world of tea. This approach may sound somewhat trivial, but I feel that narrowing your focus can allow you to see the potential impact of such a large problem much more clearly. It's an important issue and, maybe, you can take some small steps toward reducing your own carbon footprint with a little effort over the weekend.

Tea and Global Warming

Sri Lankan tea growers are dealing with extreme weather conditions, such as abnormally heavy monsoons, which are causing the deaths of large numbers of young tea plants. Droughts and floods are expected, as are problems with inequity between rice farmers (who work as family units on small farms) and tea workers (who are assured of set wages despite occasional low selling prices).

Erosion and landslides due to heavy rains are already major problems in the areas of Darjeeling I visited this summer. According to Rajah Banerjee of Makaibari Tea Estate, the seasons are becoming unpredictable in terms of temperature (stiflingly hot when it should be warm) and rainfall (torrential when it should be drizzling), which stymies tea growth. Invasive pests such as mosquitoes have appeared with the change in climate. Increased mortality rates due to pest-related disease and landslides have decreased worker morale. Very soon, Indian tea producers in Assam and Darjeeling are going to have to figure out what happens when the glacial runoff from the Himalayas dries up. Some are predicting civil war, which makes sense given the already brittle political situation in Assam. All the obvious consequences of this potential tragedy aside, tea would surely take the back burner at best in these circumstances.

Kenya (one of the world's largest tea producers) suffered a major drought last year that caused its tea production to drop by 19%, in a record-setting decline. It is estimated that id the average world temperature rises by as little as 2 degrees C, then large areas of Kenya's tea-growing region will no longer be able to produce tea. Tea comprises about 1/4 of Kenya's current export earnings, and is, at present, essential to the economic growth of this fragile developing nation.

Meanwhile, one of the few tea plantations in the US is in the middle of a major drought. So much for buying local.

The change in climate has caused the beginning of harvest for first flush teas in China to shift from March 10th (when it has begun for hundreds of years) to March 5th, but that's about it. This means that (as the world's top tea exporter) China would actually BENEFIT (financially) from global warming's damage to other tea exporting nations. Not much of an impetus to ratify the Kyoto Protocol...

Of course, England is LOVING the climate change. Hey, at least they can decrease their carbon footprint by buying tea locally. Too bad it had to some to this before most people even knew what a carbon footprint is.

Soon other countries, including Canada, may have increased food production due to climate change. Right in line with Jared Diamond's brilliant Guns, Germs, and Steel, most of the countries that will be hit the hardest are the ones that are already struggling financially. Could those happen to, oh, I don't know... be some of the same ones tht have low enough labor costs to make tea production profitable? Hmm...

And, of course, some of the major tea companies are getting into the game. Lipton came up with this as a quick fix for a Romanian heat wave (brought on by global warming, no doubt). Gee, that's a long-term solution.

In better news, organic tea production is on the rise in India and elsewhere. Still feeling depressed? Read this article on how to "green" your tea and then follow these simple steps for making your life greener. When you're done making all the immediate changes you can, have a nice cup of tea, and then keep making daily decisions with the environment in mind. I promise you'll feel much better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Teas


In honor of Halloween, here are a few of the pumpkin teas on the market:

Rooibos Pumpkin (Dragonwater)

Pumpkin Spice Tea (Adagio)

Pumpkin Cream Spice Tea (SBS Teas)

You can also make your own pumpkin tea by either boiling or baking sliced, seeded pumpkin until it's soft, juicing or pureeing it, and then blending it with sweetened, spiced black tea. Use a masala chai base or add your own spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom...) to a robust black tea (such as an Assam). Serve hot or iced.

(The pumpkin Yi Xing teapot is available here.)

Happy Halloween!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nilgiri Branding

It looks like Nilgiri and Assam will soon be registered under Geographical Indication. This means that, like Darjeeling teas, certified teas from each region will bear an official seal indicating its origin.

The goals of GI registration for Darjeeling teas were to decrease counterfeit Darjeeling tea sales (which were rampant) and (with an increase in regional branding image due to decreased counterfeits) increase their teas prices. The downside was the certification cost (often a large burden for a small estate).

I have to wonder if it isn't preemptive to register Nilgiri and Assam teas for Geographical Indication. Neither is as well-known as Darjeeling, and I've never heard of problems with counterfeit Nilgiri or Assam teas (in sharp contrast to Darjeeling teas--more counterfeit "Darjeeling" is sold each year than true Darjeeling). Is this an attempt by the Indian government to increase tea prices without building brand confidence (which it actually did with Darjeeling)? Will the increase in tea price make the certification cost worth it to smaller estates? We shall see...

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Article: Masala Chai

Today's new article is part one of a two parter on everyone's favorite Indian sweet drink, masala chai. Excerpt:

MASALA CHAI HISTORY

Masala chai dates back to over 5000 years ago (some say 9000), when a king created an herbal version in an Indian or Siamese court (or so the legend goes… I’m fairly sure that this is a myth, much like the Chinese tale of Emperor Shen Nong’s discovery of tea). It was an Ayurvedic concoction from the start and was considered to be a cleansing and vivifying remedy for minor ailments. Early on, masala chai was prepared in a variety of ways, served both hot and cold, and comprised of a wide range of spices. Recipes varied from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, and even home to home.* Many years later (in 1835), the British set up tea plantations in Assam. The black teas produced there seeped into masala chai recipes, and masala chai as we know it today (tea, sweetener, milk, and spices) was born. It didn’t approach its current popularity level until the advent of CTC (Cut, Tear, Curl) mechanized tea production in Assam the 1960. CTC produces very inexpensive tea that infuses quickly and produces a strong flavor, making it perfect for masala chai in the Indian market. Chai’s popularity spread ‘round the globe, but it remains a cornerstone of Indian culture today.

MASALA CHAI IN INDIAN CULTURE

Masala chai is a major component of Indian culture today, but it is ingrained in everyday life much like coffee in the US. The result is that outsiders see it as a big deal, while locals think of it as ordinary. (This reminds me of the time I made hummus for a friend from Tokyo and changed her whole worldview. To me, hummus is a common food, but to her, trying it the first time was a revelation.) Most people in India drink about four cups of masala chai a day. Many many take a break around 4PM for chai and snacks, usually fried samosas and/or pakoras, “farsan” (savory snacks from West India’s Gujarat region), and “nashta” (savory breakfast foods). There is a “family tradition” element to masala chai in India and neighboring chai-drinking countries. Much like that incredible recipe for… whatever… that your grandmother gave you and that you KNOW tops any other variation out there, people in and around India take great pride in their own recipes and feel that theirs is the only REAL way to prepare masala chai...

Read more about masala chai culture and ingredients on Vee Tea! Next week, I'll give you over a dozen of my own masala chai recipes. In the meantime, feel free to post YOUR favorite masala chain recipe here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New Tearoom in NYC

Last night I had the pleasure of visiting Amai, a new bakery and tearoom near Union Square. Amai is Japanese for "sweet," and the name fits. They started as a bakehouse (you may have seen their tea cookies around at Ito En or Takashimaya), but have now expanded to include a lovely shop with a strong tea menu that includes teas from Ito En and Red and Green Co., among others. I'm looking forward to returning for more tea and cookies soon! (Try the chai pudding--it's delish!)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tea Plantation Woes

Tea sales in the US are going upupup, India's tea exports are rising each year, and yet the Indian tea industry is still ailing. Why? Murders and kidnappings by Assamese rebel group ALOF, the increased production cost of ethical employment practices (the British used a system modeled after the cotton plantations in the US... in other words, a slavery system), and poorly managed resources. What's a planter to do? Make tea a tourist industry.

In somewhat related news, a lot of people have been emailing to ask if I'll be starting to tea tours to India in the future. I hope to arrange for a small group trip next year, followed by larger ones in the following years. If you're interested, drop me a line.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pu-erh Investment

OMG, pu-erh is SO HOT right now. Check out this article on speculative pu-erh investment. Personally, I invest my money in stocks and bonds and I buy pu-erh for the taste, but to each his own.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Hipster" Teaware?


I recently happened upon an article about class, design, and "hipster" teaware. I use quotations because the example looks like anything BUT hipster teaware to me. This a perfectly hideous (in a non-ironic way, of course) teapot is from Target. Go figure.

Monday, October 22, 2007

New Article: Tea and Iron

So, I FINALLY got around to writing a new tea article, and it's a good one. It's all about tea and iron absorption, which is something a lot of people ask me about. Excerpt:

Let’s begin with tannins. Tannins are naturally occurring molecules in tea and (as you may have noticed) they have a bad reputation because of their association with tannic acid (which is used to tan hides to make leather). Though the tannins in tea are in the same class of chemicals as tannic acid, tea does NOT (contrary to popular belief) contain ANY tannic acid. The tannins tea DOES contain are catechins (like EGCG, which is reported to aid in weight loss) and other bioflavonoids (molecules that are noted for their antioxidant properties). Some of these tannins are responsible for the dark color and astringent taste in some teas, particularly black and Oolong teas. Many of them are found in other “healthy” foods, such as berries, pomegranates, and wine.

So tannins are good, right? Yes and maybe also no. It all comes down to iron...


Read more on tea and iron on VeeTea.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Brooklyn Goes Veg

Starting Sunday, Brooklyn Goes Veg (for a week). It's the first annual Brooklyn Vegetarian Restaurant Week. Restaurant Week is a deliciously egalitarian tradition that has been around since (strangely enough...) the mid 1980s. I hope this Brooklyn-based vegetarian version sticks around a while, too!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ito En Teas

I recently placed an order with Ito En. (I live in NYC, but I've been too busy to make it to the store since I got back from India, so I decided to take the easy way out and order online.) My order consisted of:

2 oz Dragon Well Qing Ming
3 oz Lapsang Souchong
3 oz Organic Makaibari Estate Silver Tips
2 oz Taiping Houkui
1 oz Uji Gyokuro
3 oz Ureshino Tama Ryokucha
1 oz Yame Gyokuro

Thoughts so far:

Dragon Well is one of my favorite teas of all time, and this one is no exception.

I thought the Lapsang Souchong would be a good choice for the fall chill we have going on up here and, boy, was I right.

I knew the Makaibari would be great because I was drinking it daily for a while there in Darjeeling. An excellent choice, as always.

I'd had Taiping Houkui (a.k.a. "Monkey King") before, but this one is really special. The flavor and aroma are superb and the imprint of the cotton cloth adds to the visual aesthetic quite nicely.

The gyokuros are a gift for a friend. I haven't tasted this batch, but I've had them before and they were exceptional.

The Ureshino Tama Ryokucha was new to me. It's a Japanese pan-fired tea, like houjicha, but it tastes more like a mild sencha or gyokuro. Vegetal, mellow, lightly sweet... I'm really glad I ordered this one without waiting to try it elsewhere first. Three cheers for new tea!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pesticide Tea, Anyone?

As food safety concerns rise, more and more people are talking about how to clean your foods. If you are finding yourself concerned about any undesirable additives in your tea, I suggest the following:

Buy from a reputable company. Take a minute to look into the company itself. (This is easy enough to do online.) Does it seem ethical, or does it seem like it would sell you turpentine tea to turn a buck? If it seems ethical, is it a mega-corporation with employees paid to make it LOOK ethical, or is it actually kind of ethical?

Consider paying a little more to ensure your tea's quality. 'Nuff said.

To (ideally) eliminate pesticide and artificial fertilizer content, buy certified organic.

Consider buying Fair Trade. (Happy workers are more likely to treat the tea better. I've seen this in action.)

Take a cue from gong fu (high-skill) tea ceremonies: rinse your tealeaves.*

Keep in mind that at least some of the pesticides used in tea production are evaporated during the drying stage of production. It's not totally reassuring, but it's good to know.

AND

Relax. Despite all the media's hullabaloo about food contamination, your tea will probably be just fine. Stress, on the other hand, is a real killer.


Hope this helps. Enjoy your tea!


*How to rinse your tealeaves: Place the leaves into the brewing vessel. Pour water (at the brewing temperature) over the leaves, and then pour the water out. Your leaves are now rinsed and ready for brewing. According to the gong-fu tradition, the leaves are also "awakened" and ready to make the best tea they can.

Related study: Organic food is on the rise, as is local food. 80% say they eat a healthy diet. (Ha! Right...) 59% identified China as a problem area for food safety. The odd thing to me is that people who purchased organic food tended to earn more than those who didn't. Organic food doesn't have to be expensive! In fact, when it's done properly, it should cost LESS than conventional food. (Read "The One Straw Revolution" for more on the costs of organic food production.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spa Week in NYC

It's that time of year again! Yes, spa week. I'm off to my ayurvedic facial right now. Check out this article on spa tea treatments. It's almost as good as the real thing.*



*OK, not really. But you can pretend.


UPDATE--My facial was fantastic! It was specially formulated to balance and cool my fiery nature. The scents were incredibly soothing, the shoulder massage was just what I needed, my skin feels great, and (best of all) they served tea in a tea lounge after the service! Ah, I love Spa Week...

Monday, October 15, 2007

For the Designo Tea-Drinker in Your Life...

Happened upon a teapot that brings my college's industrial design department's lingo to mind. ("Sleek... svelte... graceful... modern... clean... form meets function...") Added bonus: The shape and materials are designed specifically to keep the water at a lower temperature, making it perfect for white and green teas. Check it out!

More on water temperatures for brewing tea. More on tea infusion methods.

Happy Monday! Drink some good tea!

Friday, October 12, 2007

NY Times Indian Tea Tourism Article

The NY TImes put out a fantastic article on tea tourism in India. Excerpt:

Flying to a remote corner of India and braving the long drive into the Himalayas may seem like an awful lot of effort for a good cup of tea, but Darjeeling tea isn't simply good. It's about the best in the world, fetching record prices at auctions in Calcutta and Shanghai, and kick-starting the salivary glands of tea lovers from London to Manhattan.

In fact, Darjeeling is so synonymous with high-quality black tea that few non-connoisseurs realize it's not one beverage but many: 87 tea estates operate in the Darjeeling district, a region that sprawls across several towns (including its namesake) in a mountainous corner of India that sticks up between Nepal and Bhutan, with Tibet not far to the north.

Each has its own approach to growing tea, and in a nod to increasingly savvy and adventurous consumers, a few have converted bungalows into tourist lodging, while others are accepting day visitors keen to learn the production process, compare styles and improve their palates — a teetotaler's version of a Napa Valley wine tour, but with no crowds.


The writer visited Makaibari and Goom (which I also visited) and Glenburn (which I only saw from across the mountain). He has some very interesting insights into the journey, and he talks about tea tasting for the tea newbie a bit. Read the rest here. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

VeeTea Press/Event

"Urbana to Hightlight Teas of India"

excerpt:

Guest speaker Lindsey Goodwin, owner of Vee Tea in New York City, will present teas she learned about during a three-week tour of plantations in India. She will give a video presentation of images from her trip.

The 7:30 p.m. event will be in Urbana's teabar.

Urbàna serves more than 100 teas from China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Africa and South America. About 15 percent are from India, including black, white and green teas, as well as chai.


The event is tonight. I'll be serving six Indian teas, talking about tea in India, and showing video footage (in the form of projected video eye candy). If you're in NC, call 704.543.1700 to reserve a seat. (They're almost full!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

FAQs and Not-So-FAQs

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions through my ask page. I've decided to post a few in my blog. If you have a basic tea question or a question about Vee Tea, feel free to ask me! For more complex questions, contact me to arrange an hour-long tea class or consultation (in person or via telephone).

"Where can I get your teas?"

I get this question a lot! The answer is, "in my kitchen." I don't sell tea. I am a tea educator. I offer tea tours as well as tea classes, consultation, and training, and I write copy for tea sites.


"Are you doing tea tours in India?"

At this moment, I only offer tea tours in NYC. However, I am interested in putting a group together for a trip to India in the near future. If you're interested, let me know early in the planning stages so I can be sure to include you and your interests. Otherwise, I am available for classes and events outside NYC. (Contact me for more info.)


"I'm a coffee drinker and want to drink tea instead. What do you recommend?"

Congrats on your decision to make the transition! I think you'll find that it is very beneficial to you. On to the answer! If you like the roasty flavor of coffee, try the Japanese roasted twig tea "houji-cha." If you like a robust flavor and more caffeine, try Indian Assam black teas. Is earthy and rich more your bag? Try a pu-erh (also spelled "pu'er") tea (unless you're on a tight budget!). If you want something really smoky and strong, opt for Chinese Lapsang Souchong, its more mellow sister Tarry Souchong, or its cousin Russian Caravan (also from China). If like spices and you drink your coffee with a lot of milk and sugar, try an Indian Masala Chai (commonly called "chai" in the US). If you want milk and sugar sans spices, try an Assam black, a "breakfast blend" (China Breakfast, English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast...), or one of the Ceylon (Sri Lankan) teas that says something like "takes milk and sugar well" on the packaging. If you don't want any caffeine, like the woody notes in coffee and don't mind a little sweetness, go with the African red "tea" (tisane) rooibos. If you usually drink flavored coffee, pick up a similarly flavored tea. Welcome to the world of tea!


"What is a low quality Chinese tea from the last of the crop called? B---A (five letters)"

Hmm... was this a crossword puzzle question?! I'll put the fact that I consider this to be cheating aside for a moment and answer your question. "Bohea." When Chinese tea first became immensely popular in England, a lot of it was mixed with other vegetable matter to increase profit. Excellent teas from the Wuyi region suffered badly from this kind of pollution and their name ("bohea") became synonymous with cheap, degraded tea. Sad, but true.


"I am so envious of your travels...how do you make your living? Are you an heiress? (I am smiling)"

Like a lot of other New Yorkers, I work two jobs. I'm not an heiress, but some guy called me "Paris Hilton" at the park last week. (I think it was my sunglasses. I just hope it wasn't all the weight I lost in India!)


"Does herbal tea have any caffeine in it?"

Generally speaking, no, herbal teas (a.k.a. "tisanes" or "infusions") do not contain any caffeine. However, yerba mate is VERY high in caffeine and any herbal teas with chocolate or kola but will have a little bit of caffeine. Blends with any "true tea" (white, green, Oolong, black, pu-erh, or (rarely) yellow tea) will also have caffeine, even if they're labeled "herbal." For more info, read my article on Caffeine and Tea.


I hope this clears a few things up! Contact me if you have any tea questions!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tea Tasting

Lately, I've been writing a lot of copy for tea retail sites. At the moment, most of the writing is descriptions of the teas the sites carry. For this reason, I have been undertaking tea tasting in a more serious way than I have before, and I have found that I LOVE tea tasting.

Aside from the fact that tea tasting means that I get to consider drinking tea and thinking about how it tastes "work," I love tea tasting because of the huge array of tastes out there. There are so many teas to try, and so much to taste in each tea!

Happening upon unexpected flavors is always a special treat. (Grapefruit rind and dried apricot in an Oolong. Orange blossom and cream in a white tea.) So is the unveiling of a winning aftertaste. (The build in complexity and intensity. The crescendo of a multitude of flavors. The receding of flavors that ends in a lull, an absence of the richness that was there only a moment before, a punctuation of how good it was.)

The complexity of some teas is particularly alluring to my senses right now. The elements that make up complex Oolongs are pretty easy for me to pin down (Jasmine. Yuzu. Nutmeg.), but pu-erhs are trickier. The dampness and darkness of the taste is harder for me to associate with the familiar. Perhaps I should spend a weekend or two camping to build up my sense memory of earth after the rain, fermenting wood, mushrooms, and the like! In the meantime, I'll just enjoy my tea tasting wherever I am.*

*Raleigh, NC at the moment

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tea-V

I rarely watch TV, but today I made a very special exception. On The History Channel, Modern Marvels put on an excellent program on my favorite topic, tea. It included some great segments on The Opium Wars, East India Company-run Assamese tea plantations, tea bags, iced tea, tea blending, and tea & health. It also included one of my favorite tea celebrities, author/educator James Norwood Pratt, and the owner of the fabulous Imperial Tea Court, Ray Fong. It will be showing again tonight at 7PM EST. Check it out!

Friday, October 5, 2007

In NC

Still in my home state, North Carolina. I had the most amazingly de-stressing hot stone massage the other day... one of the many perks in doing events with a teabar/spa! The video editing for the (Indian-tea-themed) event is coming along very well. (One of the many benefits of having a good friend who happens to be a professional video editor.)

It's hard to believe it has been more than a month since I left India! Seeing all the footage is making me miss it all the more. Still hoping to return soon.

I've been tasting more teas for the company I'm working with. Heavenly. I even found a flowering tea with a taste that would make it worth drinking even if it weren't gorgeous! (I find this to be quite a feat. Most flowering teas are much more of a treat for the eyes than they are for the tastebuds.) I'm looking forward to trying the rest of their flowering line over the next few days.

Well, I'm off to grab a late dinner with an old friend (Indo-Chinese food). I'll be back on Monday with a more coherent post.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

"Spiced Tea"


I recently noticed that, in the long tradition of naming beauty products after foods, Clairol Natural Instincts has a shade of hair dye called "Spiced Tea."

One of my favorite things in the world when I was a child was the spiced tea my mother would make every winter. It was a black tea (probably Assam) with pineapple juice, orange juice, cloves, and cinnamon, and I couldn't get enough of it. However, I wouldn't want to drink a tea that's the color on that box. On the up side, they thought that "Spiced Tea" sounded "exotic" enough to hang out with "Egyptian Plum" and the rest. Also, they chose "Spiced Tea" for the main photo on their product page (linked above), so you can tell they like the color. Eh. You win some, you lose some.

Down in my home state. Capturing and editing footage from my India trip. Fun times.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Honey for Tea & Colony Collapse Disorder

If you haven't heard already, I adore Tupelo Honey as a sweetener for tea (especially iced tea). For that reason (and for general environmental concern), I've been reading up on a recent phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, which causes worker bees to abandon their hives (including the queen and larvae). It has been blamed on everything from global warming to cell phone signals, but what may be the real reason has recently surfaced.

Tests on US bees with and without the infection revealed the presence of a honeybee virus from Israel in the infected bees. However, the effect is much stronger on the American honeybees than their Israeli counterparts. The reason may be that US bees are already suffering from parasitic mite infestations (which damage their lungs and eventually kill them) and fungal attacks on their hives. More on NPR.

I'm headed down South today to edit my India footage for a tea event. Check y'all latah!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

I saw "The Darjeeling Limited" over the weekend. It was fantastic, although it had very little to do with Darjeeling OR tea. It was funny, visually luscious, charming, touching, and a tad pretentious... all the things I love about Wes Anderson's films.

This New York Times Style Profile sould give you some idea of the film's gorgeous aesthetic. It also notes, "[Wes Anderson] scouted tea plantations in Darjeeling* with painter Hugo Guinness [click "Imports," and then click "Hugo Guinness"... annoying, I know], but found Rajasthan more suitable for filming." Apparently, a lot of people feel that way. Rajasthan is far more heavily represented in the celluloid world than Darjeeling. I guess we'll have to leave it to some other brilliant auteur to make the film about Darjeeling we've all been waiting for. In the meantime, "Limited" is more than worth checking out, as is its prequel short, "Hotel Chevalier". Enjoy!

*According to my sources, he also spent time in nearby Kurseong, checking out the biodynamic Makaibari Tea Estate.

PS--"Rushmore" is still my favorite.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Eating Local/October Discount

The New Yorker recently published an article on eating local in NYC. I love my local farmers' market (scroll down bit), but I have to admire this guy for trying to eat ALL local (save for olive oil and spices) in NYC for a whole week. He notes that it's much easier in the fertile and biodiverse valleys of food-obsessed San Francisco. (This is yet another reason why I love SF. For more reasons, read about my recent trip to SF.)

Of course, aside from the dietary restraints and huge time commitment involved with eating all local in NYC, the thing I'd really miss is the TEA. Then again, I could just grow my own.

OR... I could skip a bit of the locavore hype and read this Financial Times article about the environmental impact of shipping food long--and short--distances:

"Transport has been taken out and highlighted," says Rebecca White, a researcher at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute (ECI). "But you can't single out one part [of the food system] and say something that's come from thousands of miles away is automatically less sustainable - it's much more complicated than that."

Sure, I could buy conventionally-grown tea from Charleston, SC to reduce shipping, but I could also source my tea from the biodynamic Makaibari Tea Estate in Darjeeling to reduce my environmental impact in terms of emissions (they use biofuel) and pesticides (they are certified organic). Besides, it's not like tea is something consumed by the pound. The most I ever consume in a day is an ounce. (One ounce of tealeaves can make about ten cups of tea. And that's if you only infuse the leaves once.) If I compare that one ounce to, say, my daily vegetable intake, then I see that shipping tea all the way from India (or Japan, or China, or...) really isn't all that bad.

So, as usual, it's all about the big picture. Why am I not surprized?



All this talk about local and imported food reminded me about the October discount! Anyone from outside NYC who takes a tea tour during October gets a 10% discount. Email me at vee at veetea dot com to set up a tour.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Another Shout Out

I'd like to give another thank you to my readers. I've enjoyed hearing from some of you, and I'm glad to see how quickly your numbers are growing. Here's a bit about who you are now and who you were a few months ago:

Top Countries By Total Visits

Now:
1. US
2. UK
3. Canada
4. Australia (New to the list)
5. Finland (though India is close behind)

Then:
1. US
2. Finland
3. UK
4. Canada
5. Sweden


Top States By Total Visits

Now:
1. New York (Of course)
2. California (Still in the "two slot")
3. North Carolina (Still at number three)
4. Florida (A newbie on the list)
5. Illinois (Hello, Chicago!)

Then:
1. New York
2. California
3. North Carolina
4. Texas (Austin represent!)
5. Massachusetts (though Jersey is close behind)

Top Countries By Average Time on the Site

Now:
1. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
2. Portugal
3. Singapore
4. United Arab Emirates
5. Denmark

Then:
1. Israel
2. Bhutan
3. Trinidad/Tobago
4. Singapore
5. Thailand (though New Zealand is close behind)

Top States By Average Time on the Site

Now:
1. Hawaii
2. Louisiana
3. Arkansas
4. Oregon (Still at number four)
5. Maine

Then:
1. Utah
2. Kentucky
3. Missouri
4. Oregon
5. A tie! Massachusetts and New Jersey

Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend, and drink lots of tea for me!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Variable Temperature Tea Kettle

Now that I'm getting settled into my new apartment, I had time to sort through my some papers and find a note about a product from Adagio. It's a variable temperature electric tea kettle. It's the first of its kind, it can go all the way from white to pu-erh and tisanes, and it has received excellent reviews.

Zarafina also has a similar variable-temperature product. It brews the tea (with variable time, for mild to strong for each type of tea) AND pours it into a pot (like a coffee-maker). I got word from a client who has tried it that it's "pretty good," but not something she'd want to sell in her tearoom. Interesting product, nonetheless.

If you (like me) prefer to do things the "old fashioned way" and you need some guidance, read my article on water temperatures for brewing tea.

Randomness: I love having a farmers' market near my place. The other night I made squash blossom soup (with farmers' market squash blossoms) for the first time. (Squash blossoms need to be stored carefully and used as soon as possible. That's why you rarely, if ever, see them in grocery stores.) I served it with an Oolong with dried apricot and grapefruit notes. Yum!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Craft-TEA?

Some time ago, I posted a link to a link to a tiny tea cozy for Friday the 13th, but I think this find is just right for a Wednesday. It's a cozy for a mug and a French press.

(Yes, you can use a French press for tea! Read more on tea infusion methods in the articles section.)

Happy Wednesday. Use it to get your tea on AND your knit on.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

No sooner did I get back from my trip to Darjeeling, I started seeing ads for Wes Anderson's new movie "The Darjeeling Limited." Wes Anderson is my favorite filmmaker, so (needless to say) I am very excited about this film. Tonight at 9PM, Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman (who stars in "Darjeeling"), and Natalie Portman (who has a bit part in "Darjeeling") will appear at the 5th Ave NYC Apple Store for a screening of a prequel/short called "Hotel Chevalier." More info from The Wall Street Journal.

From the Apple site:

Join Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, and Natalie Portman for a special screening of Anderson’s new short film, Hotel Chevalier, starring Schwartzman and Portman. This 12-minute short, set entirely in a Paris hotel room, is a prequel to Anderson’s new film, The Darjeeling Limited. After the screening, Wes, Jason, and Natalie will take questions from the audience. Download The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, and Fresh Air interviews with Wes from the iTunes Store.


Now my question is... how much tea is there in "Darjeeling?"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hot Teaware

Welcome to the working week. To make things a little more exciting for you... Fitzsu Society presents: really hot teaware. With Eva Solo's neoprene-clad teapot and the Seiger by Furstenberg Emperor's Garden Covered Sugar Bowl, they run the style gamut from modern with an S&M twist to ironic-hipster bird-and-flower-adorned cuteness. And still, there's more. I just wish they had the real Teastick instead of this German imposter. (I love Blomus, except when they reinvent something that was done better the first time.)

Part MoMA gift shop, part Charles and Marie. Overall, a fun site with some very unusual finds. (One-of-a-kind Mark Mothersbaugh toy car, anyone?)

Friday, September 21, 2007

"Green"

NPR tackles the topic of green politics and purchases. How Green is Green? Check it out, and have a great weekend!

PS--I've been filling in the missing blog entries from August. Since the internet connection in India is spotty at best, I kept a journal while I was there. The journal entries are being rewritten as blog posts and added to VeeTea. Start with my trip to London or my arrival in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) or my journey up to Darjeeling or my visit to Makaibari Tea Estate (or where ever else you want to start) and see where it takes you!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn

As the weather cools, I find that I start to drink even more tea than I do during the summer. Whole Foods recently published an article on delicious and healthy Autumn foods. Excerpt:

In contrast to the light and cooling foods of summer that help to counterbalance the season of highest heat, autumn begins to initiate that transition into cold weather that makes us eager for a bowl of hot soup or steeped tea.


My response: Why not both?

In totally unrelated news, I adore my new apartment. It makes me so happy, I wish I could give it a big hug.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Caffeine and... Not Tea

A while back, I was doing some research on caffeine and tea. I happened upon a blog about caffeine obsession called Energy Fiend. It had a particularly funny entry on the lack of information on the caffeine contents of various energy drinks. It made me wonder (once again) when more tea companies will start providing (accurate) information on their teas caffeine contents. (Few do at present.) I've heard horror stories of tearoom and tea shop employees telling customers that white tea and yerba mate have no caffeine and that black tea has "a whole lot" of caffeine. On a less extreme level, I've also heard people say that black tea always has more caffeine than green (not true), that tea always has less caffeine than coffee (also untrue), and that no tisanes have caffeine (yerba mate and tisanes with cocoa content both do). It's things like this that make me glad I'm a tea educator. Perhaps someday people can go to tearooms without fear of getting the wrong story altogether! Ah, what a nice dream...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tea Songs

I heard Led Zeppelin's "Tea for One" over the weekend and was inspired to compile a (completely not comprehensive) list of songs with lyrics about or titles including the word tea. Here's what I have so far. (A lot of British groups on here...) Comments with additions to the list are welcome!

"All Nighter" by Elastica ("Got to get some fags and make some tea")
"All Too Much" by the Beatles ("Show me that I'm everywhere/ And get me home for tea")
"Bitter Tea" by The Fiery Furnaces ("Aren't you curious?/ A little curious/ About what the osmanthus blossoms taste like?")
"Englishman in New York" by Sting ("I don't drink coffee/ I take tea, my dear")
"Getting to Know You" by Rodgers & Hammerstein (from "The King & I;" "You are Precisely/ My Cup of Tea")
"I'm a Little Teapot" by Harold Ketchum
"Let It Bleed" by the Rolling Stones ("I was dreaming of a steel guitar engagement/ When you drunk my health in scented jasmine tea")
"Live with Me" by the Rolling Stones ("I got nasty habits/ I take tea at three")
"Pennyroyal Tea" by Nirvana (technically a tisane, but we'll forgive Kurt)
"Polly Put the Kettle On" (children's rhyme)
"(That's Why They Call Her) Sugar" by ... someone whose name I'm forgetting and can't find online... an early 20th century singer... If you know the name, please post it here! (There's a line about Oolong.)
"Suzanne" by Leonard Cohen and covered by Nina Simone, Peter Gabriel, and others
"Tea for One" by Led Zeppelin
"Tea for the Tillerman" by Cat Stevens
"Tea for Two" by Vincent Youmans (for the musical "No No Nanette"), covered by Ella Fitzgerald, Fatz Waller, and others
"Tea in the Sahara" by The Police
"They Can't Take That Away from Me" by George & Ira Gershwin and covered by many("The way you sip your tea... No, they can't take that away from me")
"Waking Up" by Elastica ("Make a cup of tea/ And put a record on")
"When I Take My Sugar to Tea" by Frank Sinatra and others

Monday, September 17, 2007

Happiness is a hot tea?

In her blog "The Happiness Project," happiness-guru Gretchen Rubin wrote:

Pay more for healthy food. It’s a sad fact that fruits, vegetables, and healthy food are more expensive than fast food, but eating healthfully will pay off in the long run, in terms of your good health and energy.


I couldn't agree more. Paying a little extra for foods that improve your mood, health, and productivity is extremely rewarding. Also, as you develop your palate and (potentially) your chef skills, you can find a lot of joy in cooking and eating your slightly-more-expensive culinary creations. With tea, this could mean making the leap from bags to loose leaf, shelling out the cash for the first flush, buying organic instead of conventional, or getting into matcha. (I just realized that the matcha thing sounds like a drug reference. Then again, matcha is delicious and rejuvenating to the point of being addictive, so it makes sense.) Back to the point! Good tea is worth the money. Go ahead, make your day: buy yourself some quality tea.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Caffeine + Exercise = Cancerous Cell Death?

According to this study (of hairless mice), maybe. Of course, tea and excerise are both good for you, so I'm sure you're already partaking of both... right?

On a side note, I took up yoga recently. I've been doing it every day for at least 30 minutes and, oh, how worth every second it is. I feel happier, more centered, calmer, and more energetic. In the past, I tried doing it a few times a week, but doing it daily makes ALL the difference. Waking up to tea feels great, but waking up to tea and yoga feels divine.*

*L-theophyline, a compound in tea, increases the production of alpha-waves in the brain. So do meditation, yoga, and massage. Alpha-waves induce a feeling up euphoria and well-being. So I'm not making it up! It really does feel amazing.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Toxic Waste

A little teatime humor today. Really, though, we've all heard that rumor about how preservatives are making it harder for forensic pathologists to accurately predict the time of death of a corpse. Anyone know of that's actually true? It's not exactly polite conversation, but I'm quite curious to know.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

11:11 Tearoom

You may remember that I visited 11:11 Tearoom a while back when I was in Atlanta for last year's World Tea Expo. Christine Rillo of TeaMuse just published her own take on the place, from the very same visit. Check it out!

In totally unrelated news, I got the apartment I wanted! Yay! Very exciting. I'll begin my move on Friday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vee on "teh World-Wide Interweb"

I was browsing through the World Tea Expo site today and saw that I'm on it. My picture ended up in the 2007 photo collection. I'm the one in the bright red on the right, looking very focused. It's at a tea tasting (the Sri Lankan one, perhaps?).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tea in NYC

So, I'm doing the apartment search thing. In case you don't already know, that process is INSANE in NYC. However, I think I may be in luck. I found a great place that (unlike the places in my current neighborhood and a neighborhood I was very seriously considering) has good tea nearby! Yay! My current neighborhood has (as far as I can tell) nothing but bad coffee (diners), OK coffee (Duncan Doughnuts, which I HEAR is good), almost OK bottled tea (bodegas), and great tea (at my place, not commercially available). The neighborhood I'm considering has readily-available good tea. Oh, and my new roommate used to work as a tea somellier, too. So, yes, there will be excellent tea at our place as well. Exciting! Wish me luck.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Homegrown

Did you know that tea will grow outside of the warm climates we typically associate with its growth?

The BBC recently published this article about Taylors of Harrogate hiring Assamese tea experts to teach them to grow tea in Yorkshire. While I was in India, I talked with a friend of the Assamese experts. He said the project is coming along quite nicely.

For those of you who are interested in growing your own tea at home, check out this article to learn how. After all, if you REALLY want to consume locally-grown foods... :)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Oolong, the rabbit

I'm doing research on Oolong tea for a new article. I happened upon Oolong, the rabbit. He just had to be the topic of my next internet oddity post.

Apparently, Oolong was very famous; he was even in the New York Times. He was a domestic rabbit in Hokkaido, Japan and was known for balancing things on his head. Most of the things he is shown balancing on his owner's site are foods, but I found this image of him balancing a teacup. And, if you don't mind scrolling a bit, look for "Oolong's Postcards series 2" on this page and check out the Yi Xing teapot in "pear skin" (deep purple-brown) on Oolong's head.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Soda Linked to Heart Disease

According to a new study, as little as one soda a day may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome and, in turn, heart disease. I say it's yet another reason to drink freshly-brewed, unsweetened tea. :) If you're making the change from soda to tea, start with flavored teas (preferably naturally-flavored). Popular flavors include jasmine, rose, fruit, and masala chai/spice. You could also drink tea with a squeeze of lemon (adding a slice to your cup may decrease your chances of skin cancer) or (though less conventional) a splash of orange juice. (OJ is great for beginner matcha drinkers, especially if the matcha is a lower grade.) Something I sometimes add to more elaborate tea-based drinks is a ginger decoction I make by boiling sliced, peeled ginger root in a small amount of water for 10 minutes. It works very well with stronger black teas.

If you don't want to brew the tea yourself, there are some decent bottled teas on the market. Indicators of a good bottled tea are low-to-no sugar content and something on the packaging about how it's made. You want tea that is made with leaves, not from dust and certainly not from concentrate. See my previous post on the World Tea Expo's top bottled tea picks for a few good choices from what's out there.

If you're just starting to drink tea, you might also find my article on tea basics helpful. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Back in NYC!

I've been getting some "Are you alive?" emails lately, so I decided to get into gear and start posting again. I'm back in NYC. India was absolutely phenomenal and I have a lot so say about that very soon. Between getting readjusted to the city, plannning a move for later this month (still in NYC, just in a different borough), and catching up on all my business stuff (I'm holding classes, tea tastings, and a video lecture for various people in the very near future, and writing copy for a client's website), things have been a little crazy. However, I will be filling in the missing posts from my trip over the next few weeks and I should be adding articles within the month. So check back soon!

Friday, August 31, 2007

To Delhi

Today I flew to Delhi. I miss Darjeeling already.

A friend of a friend took me around town upon my arrival. I saw the India Gates and the Red Fort, and ate at the most exclusive club in Delhi. We had great conversation, which eased the transition out of the lush mountains and into the dirty city a bit.

Tomorrow, I fly to London, and then to NYC. I'll catch you later from the other side of the world!