Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tap Water

It's awfully hot outside today, and NPR has a few things to say about NYC and tap water:

NYC urges residents (and, one would guess, tourists) to drink tap water

NPR talks about bottled water ethics

Personally, I use bamboo-charcoal filtered tap water for regular drinking and for tea. It tastes great and I can use a Nalgene or Platypus water bottle (my favorite, because it collapses as it empties) to carry it wherever I need it without having to send more plastic to the "recycling plant" (read: landfill--very little of your "recycling is actually recycled). In India, I will be drinking bottled water and using purification tablets (with my Platypus) to avoid "Delhi Belly." I'll let you know how that goes.

For more on selecting the best water for yourself and your tea, read Water for Tea.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Today, I am not going to talk about tea. I am going to talk about travel. Travel is one of theose things that can be immensely rewarding, but also incredibly irritating at times.

This weekend, I went to Boston and Maine. The company was wonderful. The area was great. The transit was alternately OK and terrible. The way up to Boston was OK. My friend Natalia and I took a Peter Pan bus, and it went smoothly. The car trip to Maine was dangerously rainy and the number of cars on the road was out of control, but the ride back to Boston was fine. The trip back to NYC was a fiasco. I planned to pick my friend Tajee up from the airport at 4:30. We planned to leave Boston at 9AM on a Peter Pan bus. The travel gods had other plans. We arrived at the local bus station an hour and fifteen minutes in advance. Sold out. Waiting list of 18. We decided to drive 30 minutes to a further station where they should have spots left. Horrible traffic jam. Too late. OK, we thought, we'll take the 9:30. Nonexistant. The 10AM was $30 on Greyhound (we discovered too late that it's only $15 if you book it online), so we decided to take a 10AM Chinatown bus. We knew of their notoriety, but thought it would be OK. We were wrong. An hour outside NYC, a tire flew off of a car and shattered the front window of the bus. The driver waited several miles to pull over (I suspect this was because they have no insurance), then announced that the next bus would pick us up in an hour. Keep in mind that this was a FULL bus. How will we all fit? "They only have 9 passengers." Right... Even if that WERE true, we wouldn't have all been able to fit on. We waited. We wished we had just paid the extra $15 for a reliable bus. There was an attempt by the group to decide who could take the "soon-to-arrive" bus. There was a coup. There was a decision made by someone not present to have the (supposedly) nearly empty bus NOT pick us up. There was a mystical "empty bus" that was 30 minutes away... for several hours. There were rumors of another bus with "some spots" on its way. Talk of a taxi. Quality time at the Micky Dee's and the gas station. More waiting. Finally, Natalia and I got a cab to take us to the Metro North, which we oh-so-narrowly caught (yes!) to find out that there was a huge surcharge for tickets purchased on the train (no...). We rode into Manhattan, and then I took the subway out to my place. I walked home as fast as I could, left my bags in my apartment hallway (which is safe), and took my car to the airport to pick my friend up. Fortunately, her plane was late. All in all, 11 hours of travel. A long day.

In addition to this, the whole trip, I was trying to put the finishing touches on my trip to India (like, you know, FINALLY getting my passport processed, even though I submitted it over 18 weeks ago). Now I am beginning to wonder about travel problems there. India is known for its travel glitches, but surely it can't be worse than today... right?

Friday, July 27, 2007

YouTube Tea Videos

Looking to waste some time? YouTube has some tea videos you might enjoy.

Tea Rap 1
Tea Rap 2 (a response to SNL's "Lazy Sunday," skip it if you are offended by gratuitous language)
"I want the best tealeaves."

The Way of Tea
Pu-erh Factory
Yunnan Province

Flowering Tea 1
Flowering Tea 2

Tea for Two (check the links on this one, there are a lot of variations on the right-hand side)

Drinking Tea in Space

I'm off to Boston and Maine for the weekend. I hope you're doing something exciting, too, even if it is exploring teh interweb.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tea makes Guiness

OK, this was on the BBC today and I just HAVE to share it:

"A Hong Kong child pours tea into a cup held by her twin brother. The siblings broke a Guinness world record for accurately serving tea whilst bending backwards."

That seems like a very strange record to include, but I guess Guiness is known for that. However, I question the lack of rules in this record. She appears to be using a teapot with an incredibly long spout. Also, HE's bendig backwards, but she's pouring (a.k.a. "serving") the tea. Just because they're twins, it doesn't mean they get to magically count as one person. Am I wrong, or does this seem not quite right?

Taste of Summer

I'm finally getting settled into the feel of summer. I love New York this time of year because it's warm, but there's still a breeze and the nights cool off. Lately, I've taken to cooling off during the day with some tea. No, I'm not rehashing the myth that "hot tea actually cools you off!!!1 4 real!" I'm talking about cold tea. Yes, there's always iced tea, which can be quite tasty. However, I've been partaking of something a little more exciting: tea granitas. The LA Times put out an article on how to make these icy, refreshing Italian treats. Their recipes and flavor combinations appear to be sound, but they take the better part of a day to prepare. (Eight minutes... plus cooling and freezing time.) Also, they seem a little sweet for my tastes (and I'm a southern-born tea-drinker!). So, while you should check out what they have to say, read on here as well.

I have found a way to make delicious, QUICK, healthy tea granitas. It's simpler than you think. All you have to do is whisk powdered tea (matcha or another quality powdered tea by a company like Muzi), juice, water, spices (optional), and sugar/honey in a shallow, freezer-safe dish, place it flat in the freezer, and rake a fork through it once every hour for four hours. That's it. No brewing, no waiting for the tea to cool. Simple. If you're short on time, but you want to make a tea that you can't find in powdered form (Damn that local grocery store for not carrying powdered Lapsang Souchong!), you can always powder it yourself with a spice grinder or (if pressed) a mortar and pestle.

Here are two recipes I whipped together:

Cranberry-Rooibos Spice Granita
3 cups cranberry juice
1 cup water
2 teaspoons powdered rooibos
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
2 dashes powdered cloves
1 dash powdered cinnamon

White Ginger Orange Granita
3 cups orange juice
1 cup water
2 teaspoons powdered white tea
2 teaspoons ginger syrup*
1 ground allspice berry

Whisk together in a shallow, freezer-safe dish. Place flat in freezer. Rake with a fork once an hour until mostly frozen (about 4 hours). Serve alone, with brioche (the traditional Italian way), with a dollop of creme fraiche, or with a sprig of mint. I love to serve them in these fair trade, hand made Moroccan tea cups.

If you come up with your own recipe, I'd love to hear it! Post it on my Blogger page or send me a note through Vee Tea's "ask" page.

*Ginger syrup is something I make in batches and keep around, but you can also buy it from many specialty grocers. If you want to make it yourself, you can follow this imprecise but effective set of instructions (which I will not dare to call a recipe):

Peel and chop a hunk of ginger, boil it for about 10 minutes in just enough water to keep it covered, measure out a quantity of sugar that you feel is roughly equivalent to the amount of water in the pot, and dissolve the sugar into the boiling water. Remove the pot from heat, strain out the ginger pieces, and you're good to go. It will keep (sealed) in your fridge for several weeks.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

NYC Honey

I happened upon this interesting article on illegal honey production in NYC. Regular consumption of local honey is said to be good for preventing allergies, but beekeeping within NYC's city limits is illegal.

I find that milder honey (especially Tupelo honey) is excellent for a touch of sweetness in iced tea. Here's more on sweetening tea. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Caffeine and Tea

Here we have a Whole Foods on decaffeinating green tea. On the flip side, "Death by Caffeine" (a caffeine fanatic site) recently covered a new product called PureCaf, which has an absurd amount of caffeine in a tiny 2-oz bottle. Yes, you can add it to tea if you want.

To learn more about how caffeine in tea works, what kind of caffeine range to expect in tea, what causes some teas to have more caffeine thatn others, and more, read my article Caffeine and Tea.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Travel Plans

I think today warrants two posts. Of course, I already posted a tea article because it's a Monday and that's what happens on Vee Tea on Mondays. However, today is not just any Monday for me. Today is when the countdown begins, at least in my mind.

In two weeks exactly, I'll be in London enjoying low (afternoon) tea with my friend Natalia. Then we're off to India for three weeks to visit various tea estates and meet up with artist Rajive and web designer (of Vee Tea fame) Pat. Each of us has our own agenda (mine being the tea!), but we'll also experience the culture and landscape, buy beautiful fabrics, enjoy the food, learn some more Hindi, get rained on a lot, and be thankful for the cool Darjeeling air after we leave the heat of Kolcata (formerly Calcutta). Perhaps while I'm there I can learn more about Indian cooking, too. I'm so excited, I can hardly wait! Be sure to check back here--I'll be keeping a travel blog whenever possible.

New Article: Tea 101

It's that time again . . . The weekly Vee Tea article. This one is on the basics of tea. Here's an excerpt:

White tea is the most prized and least processed of all the tealeaves. It comes from the delicate, immature buds and/or leaves of the first flush. After harvesting, it is simply dried. Traditionally, it is left to dry in the sun. Today, some use ovens or fire, but many still follow the custom of sunning. This minimal processing retains the most antioxidants and results in the lowest caffeine level of the leaf (unpowdered) true teas. White tea has a very mild taste that can be somewhat floral. The leaves/buds are very pale/”silvery” in color and produce a pale infusion. A good white tea will have fine white “hairs” covering its surface.

Green tea can be produced from any flush; however, it is typically produced from the third flush in India and, in areas of China that produce a lot of white tea, from the second flush on. Unlike white tea, the leaves may be twisted, rolled, or otherwise shaped during processing. They are also either roasted (most common in China) or steamed (most common in Japan) to dry them and stop them from oxidizing. There is a wide range of flavors and appearances with green tea. Many people think that green tea is “the best for them” because they read about a study that said (insert claim here). This is, in part, because green tea had the most health claims made about it before Western medicine started investigating tea. Scientists set out to test the folk medicine that thousands of years of Chinese and Japanese tea drinking had accumulated, but rarely did they attempt to compare the different types of tea. Don’t worry, though—green tea is still good for you. Plus, it tastes great.

Read more about Oolong, black, pu-erh, tea flushes, and the classifications of tea in Vee Tea: Tea 101.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tea and Health Information

There are always new studies coming out on the and health. It can be difficult to keep track of the newest and most accurate information (which are not always the same thing). If you're looking for specific information on tea and health, here's a reliable and comprehensive source. It's the USDA's collection of studies and articles and it includes everything from analyses of antioxidant levels for various types of tea to studies on the effects of tea on weight loss, diabetes, and heart health.

Also, feel free to ask me if you have a question about something I have yet to cover. If I think enough people will be interested in learning about it, I'll write a new tea article about it!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

OMG! Green tea OD!!!

Too much of a good thing?

Apparently, people can OD on green tea. Sort of. Overuse of supplements of green tea's polyphenols (which contain 50 times the amount in one cup) can lead to liver toxicity. (See link above.) Personally, I'll just stick with the real thing!

Speaking of which, I had a good Nishi (First Flush Sencha) from Rishi today. The astringency and sweetness were well-balanced, and it wasn't overdone (as I find some sencha to be).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

NPR's "Tea Talk"

No, no, it's not like SNL's "Coffee Talk." NPR talks about tea!

Cooking with Tea

The Tea Boom in America

Twinnings and Amercians' Interest in Tea

Tisanes and More

A Tea Primer

Japanese Green Tea Study

Fifty Nifty Foods to Eat before You Die (includes British Cream Tea, which is mistakenly referred to as "High Tea")

Not all of the information is exactly correct, but they did a pretty good job overall. Enjoy!!!

Bonus article: NYC's Fat Cabbie Food Tours.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"One of the healthiest beverages you can drink . . ."

This NY Times article says tea is one of the healthiest beverages you can drink. Strangely, it says coffee is roughly equivalent, though it lacks most of the beneficial compounds in tea and has loads of potential side-effects not associated with tea. Odd . . .

I'm getting ready for my trip to India. I can't wait!!! In a week or so, I'll post my packing list as a reference for all you other travelers out there. Maybe when I get back I'll post a revised version entitled, "What I SHOULD Have Packed."

Monday, July 16, 2007

New Article: High Tea

OK, kids! Time for the Vee Tea weekly article! This one picks up where last week left off, with High Tea. Here's an excerpt about High Tea (a.k.a. "Meat Tea") fare:

As the name suggests, “meat tea” includes meat, and often an abundance of it. Below is a listing of common high tea dishes, sorted by type. Foods that are particular to a region or country have their origin listed in parentheses. The few foods that are usually vegetarian will have one asterisk (*) and the fewer foods that are usually vegan will have two (**).

Meat Dishes

Bacon and Egg Pie—a very meaty pie with a lard crust and (occasionally) with some vegetables (Irish)

Ham—large, baked, meaty

Other Meats—served hot or, more often, cold (particularly in England)

Poacher’s Pie—a pie made with beef, rabbit, chicken, and game (Wales)

Roast Beef—a large piece of beef, usually rump roast with fat marbling, that has been roasted with gravy

Sausages—various types

Sausages and Eggs—just like it sounds, sausages (be they beef, pork, or a blend) cooked and served with eggs (Scotland)

Steak and Kidney Pie—a pie dish, filled with diced steak, beef kidneys, and a thick beef sauce (England)

Steak Pie—another pie dish, filled with steak, onion, carrots, and gravy (Scotland)

Yorkshire Pie—Think “chicken pot pie with beef instead of chicken” and you’re getting close . . . except that these pies were often huge and made in fancy shapes with designs made from dough on the surface.

Fish Dishes

Haddock—lightly smoked and flavored (“Finnan Haddie”) or just heavily smoked, sometimes made into a stew (Scotland)

Kippers in Milk—herring poached in milk (Scotland)

Pickled Salmon— salmon preserved in vinegar

Soused Mackerel—mackerel baked with vinegar

Baked Goods

Barm Brak—fruitcake (Irish)*

Biscuits—You know this one already.*

Bread and Butter—sometimes in the form of a sandwich, or buttered toast*

Cakes—many kinds, many flavors, all types of sponge cakes with jam were very popular at the time*

Crumpets—small, round, pancake-like baked goods often eaten with butter*

Drop Scones—an easy-to-make variation on British scones (Scotland)*

Dundee Cake—a rich fruitcake (Scotland)*

Gingerbread—in this case, a moist cake flavored with ginger and molasses (Scotland)*

Muffins—various types*

Sally Lunns—a bread/cake that is often round, sometimes square, and always surrounded by legend and controversy*

Scones—served with cream and/or jam/preserves (usually strawberry)*

Various Other Pastries—Use your imagination.*


Onion Cake—a.k.a. “Teisen Nionod,” a slow-baked potato and onion casserole (Wales)*

Potatoes—mashed, stewed, boiled, baked with seasonings, and just about every other way you can think of preparing them

Various Other Vegetables—Other vegetables were served in dishes and on their own, but not much attention was paid to them, as meat was considered to be more important.


Ale—a full-bodied, barley malt beer, sometimes with a fruity or buttery taste, and sometimes spiced**

Coffee—Yes, back in the day you could serve coffee at a tea meal without starting a row. In fact, tea was popularized by coffeehouses during this era, so fans of both beverages got along quite amicably.**

Tea—more on this later**

Other Foods

Baked Beans—seasoned with molasses and ham, and then served on toast (England)
Cheese—various kinds, served with bread*

Eggs—served in a variety of ways*

Glamorgan Sausage—a.k.a. “Selsig Morgannwg,” an odd dish that is made of cheese, bread, leeks, and eggs, but shaped like a sausage and fried (Wales)*

Irish Rarebit—a variation on Welsh Rarebit, topped with onions, herbs, gherkin pickles, and vinegar instead of tomatoes

Sandwiches—(see Low Tea for more information)

Shepherd’s Pie—a deep pie filled with chopped beef and onions and covered with mashed potatoes (England)

Various Fruits—these varied with the season**

Various Jams, Jellies, Preserves, and Marmalades—Strawberry was and still is the most popular.**

Welsh Rarebit—a.k.a. “Caws Pobi,” a cheese, bread, and tomato casserole (Wales, obviously)*

Here's more on High Tea foods, etiquette, history, and tea. Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Tiny Tea Cozy

Here's something cute to counter the whole "Friday the 13th" thing.

I love crafts. (Well, SOME crafts. I think others are remarkably tacky and bad.) Occasionally, I'll surf crafts sites to see what's going on with the Stitch 'n Bitch revolution. Here's a little something I found that involves crafts AND tea. Fun. (Now if they would only make them for Yi Xing pots . . .)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tea Quote

I love this quote:

The first bowl sleekly moistened throat and lips,
The second banished all my loneliness
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
Sharpening inspiration gained
from all the books I've read.
The fourth brought forth light perspiration,
Dispersing a lifetime's troubles through my pores.
The fifth bowl cleansed ev'ry atom of my being.
The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals.
This seventh...
I can take no more.

- Lu Tung, Chinese Poet

I'll be drinking tea with friends and family from out of town and with a client over a tea class this weekend. Whatever you're up to, enjoy your tea and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Vertical Farming in NYC?

The BBC posted this story about the possibility of vertically stacked greenhouses in Manhattan in the near future. HowStuffWorks'posted a longer coverage. What does that mean? More sustainable (and organic?) local produce for us New Yorkers. Cool! Hmm, imagine locally-grown, organic tea . . .

(Bonus Articles--NPR talks about NYC rooftop vineyards. Plus, an article on green roofing.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Fancy Food Show

Just when you thought I was done talking about trade shows . . .

I went to the Fancy Food Show on Sunday and Monday. It was ENORMOUS. There were tons of tea (and chocolate and cookies and cheese and . . . ) people. There were so many products and companies to learn about! As for the people . . . . I met the Katrina from Vosges (an undeniably cool company) and some other people I hope to see around in the future. I also got to catch up with a bunch of people I already know, which was great. The only down side of the show was that I couldn't see everyone and everything I wanted to see. Of course they DO hold it four times a year, so I'm sure I'll be able to attend some other time.

One thing that came as kind of a shock was how many people in the food industry know very little about tea. Perhaps I should focus more on employee tea training for a while.

Meanwhile, I can't wait to share what I learned in my classes and tours . . .

PS--Food blog "The Food Section" covered much more of the FFS. Check it out if you're interested. I must disagree on one point and concur with another. They praised Scharffen Berger's soon-to-be-released "sea salted" almond/milk chocolate bar. I have to say that I think Scharffen Berger is VASTLY overrated, and note that I am (at the very least) sketched out by their "undeclared milk recall." Besides, Vosges did it better years ago. On the other side of the spectrum, I'm so glad they included Ito En's Matcha Latte, even if they did link it incorrectly. Mmm . . . tasty.

Monday, July 9, 2007

New Article: Afternoon Tea

I've decided to leave the rest of my samples until after I get back from India in September. Right now, I just have too many other things to write about!

Lately, I've been getting a lot of questions about British afternoon tea. It has a very interesting history, so I decided to write an article about it. Here's an excerpt:

If you live in the U.S., you have been lied to about high tea. Well, maybe not LIED TO, but you’ve been given incorrect information at the very least. You’ve probably seen a scene in a movie or heard a joke in which rich and snooty women chit-chat over “high tea,” which is portrayed as an elaborate spread of tea, scones, and finger sandwiches served on doilies atop tiered silver trays. In fact, the event being represented is afternoon tea, or LOW tea. The problem is that many Americans equate the word “high” with class and formality. In fact, the word “high” refers to the height of the serving table: high tea is served at a high dinner table, while low tea is traditionally served on low tables in a sitting room.

So, what’s what? High tea is a full meal served at around 5 or 6 PM. It is usually associated with the members of the lower classes, who were hungry after a long day at work (often with no break). Low tea is a light meal traditionally begun at 4 or 5 PM and ending before 7 PM. It is associated with the high class, who saw it more as a social occasion than a meal and used it to stave off hunger between an early lunch and a late dinner. Think of high tea as a meal and low tea as “finger foods.” Or remember etiquette savant Judith Martin’s quip regarding the confusion: “It’s high time we had something to eat.”

Click to continue reading about Afternoon Tea on VeeTea.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Tea-Shirts and More

I'm tired of talking about samples at the moment. Instead, I'm going to talk about t-shirts!

Here's another in the my series of internet finds. Some of them are pretty cool. Some, meh. Personally, I like this one best. Check it out, have a good weekend, and (most importantly) enjoy your tea!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Vee Tea in the News

TeaMuse just published an article about Vee Tea! Cool. Check it out to learn more about my tea tours and classes, and about Vee Tea in general. Enjoy!

Samples: Mint Verbena

Today's Expo sample is Harney & Son's Mint Verbena. It's a caffeine-free tisane made of mint (it doesn't say which kind) and lemon verbena. "Lemon verbena" is the same thing as Verveine Odorante, or French Verveine, which they also carry. I think the reason they don't label it the same way is that their verveine is a beautiful, delicious, whole-leaf tisane that tastes amazing and their bags of Mint Verbena just don't stand up to that. Sure, the packaging is lovely. The bag is large and pyramid-shaped and made of polyester mesh. The infusion smells good and has a rich color. However, the leaves are small and broken, and the brewed tisane is more harsh than soothing.

Somehow, this kind of inconsistency is what I have come to expect from Harney. The owner is quite a character and he's good with people. (Cool.) Some of the teas are delicious. The packaging is good. (Great.) The company has the potential to be an excellent tea merchant. (Wonderful.) But it's not. (Ohh . . . not so good.)

I think that the problem is that they carry a range of quality levels, but they don't delineate them very clearly. Some of their loose teas are excellent. Others, I regret drinking even once. Here's another major inconsistency that gets me. They sell a line of "premium" teabags, which would be great, except that it seems that these teabags are lower quality than their line of tea in sachets. Sachet is supposed to mean bag, right? I'm sure it's not just me who thinks this. So how is it that their premium tea is a lower grade than their tea of unspecified quality in bag-type-infusers? If they want to appeal to people at a variety of interest levels and price points, then that sounds like a good business move to me. But I'd just as soon skip the Orwellian double-speak and hear and honest appraisal of what they are offering. Wouldn't you?

In the meantime, I'm sticking to my Verveine! (If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th!

For the 4th, I thought I'd focus on a summer classic--iced tea. First, check out the winners of the World Tea Expo's iced tea competition (below). Then, read (or reread!) my article on iced tea. Have a happy holiday and enjoy your tea!

The World Tea Expo's "Ready To Drink" Winners and Runners Up

Unflavored: Ito En's Darjeeling, Adagio's Anteadote Black Tea/Papa's Simplici-tea Unsweetened Green Tea
Flavored: Ito En's Jasmine White, ZredT ZT Peach Red Tea
Sweetened: Papa's Simplic-tea Green Tea, Ito En's Matcha Latte (Tried it yesterday--it's one of the best ready-to-drink teas I've ever tried!!!)
Packaging: Adagio's Anteadote Black Tea, Adagio's Anteadote Green Tea
Overall: Ito En's Jasmine White (no runner up, you may remember that I tried this sometime back and really enjoyed it (about 3/4 of the way down the entry))

Enjoy your tea!!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Samples: Keiko Green Tea

Today's Expo sample is from Keiko Tea. It's a bagged, shade-grown Kagoshima green tea packaged like the tea in the link's lower right corner. As you can probably see, the packaging for this bagged tea is very cool. What surprised me when I opened it was that the teabag itself looked EXACTLY like My Green Tea, which I discussed in a previous post, right down to the pH neutral tag and ultrasonically-welded thread. The My Green Tea sample was so bag, that I began to worry that the tea would leave me disappointed in Keiko.

You see, I hung out at their booth a bit at the Expo and was quite impressed with their range of Japanese green teas. Also, they had a supremely cool matcha machine, some tasty green tea candies, and good (in some cases even great) loose teas. How could their bagged tea be as bad as the horror that was My Green Tea?!

As it turns out, it wasn't. It was pretty good for a bagged tea. Not the best I've ever had, but pretty good, nonetheless. It was mellow and mildly sweet, pleasant. It lasted through several infusions. Nice. Still, I really prefer their loose green and specialty teas. Try them out if you get the chance!

Monday, July 2, 2007

New Article: Flowering Tea

I just got back from a long weekend in Maine, so this is a bit of a late post! Maine was wonderful (green everywhere, a puffin-watching tour, ocean breezes, lots of tea-drinking . . . incredible), so it's worth the late work tonight!

Anyway, on to the point . . .

I get a lot of questions about flowering tea. For my own edification (and yours!) I decided to do some extra research on the topic and write an article about it. It covers their mythology, how they are made, how to brew them, and some sources for buying flowering teas. Here's an excerpt:

Hand-sewn teas are, well, hand-sewn. There’s much more to it than that, though. They are most commonly produced in the Yunnan province of China near the borders of Vietnam and Laos. Green flowering teas are the norm, but other types of tea can be used. The leaves may or may not be scented with jasmine or other flowers before they are sewn. Like the reeds and wood of basketry, the leaves for flowering teas must be kept damp when they are shaped. They are laid flat, and then sewn with cotton thread to form various shapes. The sewing and shaping may take as little as one minute or as long as ten minutes, depending on the complexity of the design. Sometimes, flowers such as jasmine, globe amaranth, chrysanthemum, marigold, carnation, or rose are placed inside so that when the tea unfurls, it reveals a hidden, colorful bouquet. Occasionally, there are flowers that are visible on the exterior of the flowering tea, though this is usually just with simple shapes, like spheres. Ah, this brings us to another topic: the shapes. The most common shapes are peaches (often called “peach ball,” and said to signify longevity) and spheres. Less common shapes include mushrooms, cones, cylinders with rounded ends, eggs, hearts, and various abnormal forms. After the teas are sewn, they are dried in their new shape and sold either individually or in packages at upwards of $1 each (and often more).

After all the work that is put into flowering teas, you’d thing that brewing them requires great skill. Don’t worry--brewing flowering teas is incredibly easy. All you need is a glass teapot, large clear cup, or pale, shallow bowl and some good brewing water at the right brewing temperature. (Since the leaves are tied together, you don’t even need a strainer. I find these teas are great for people who are transitioning from bottled or bagged tea and don’t mind the price point, but are very concerned about ease of brewing.) Flowering teas tend to be mild, so you can brew them over a longer period of time (like a meal) without worrying about them becoming too astringent. Most of them can withstand multiple infusions (often 5, sometimes up to 15). This means that flowering teas can be displayed over the course of the tea-drinking and refilled with additional warm water as they are used up. (In other words, it’s a natural conversation piece.)

Read more about flowering tea on Vee Tea.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

July Discount: Educators

For the month of July, I'm celebrating teachers (and their summer holiday) by offering a 10% discount to all educators. It applies to tea tours and classes, so pass it on to all your teacher friends. They deserve a break!