Monday, March 31, 2008

Tea Business Survey

World Tea News has launced a new tea business survey to see how businesses across the nation measure up. The data will be compiled for tearooms to use and will include "regional and national averages for average check total per customer, margins, and prices for select teas each month." It seems like it could be a very useful tool if enough tearooms get involved. (Nudge, nudge!)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tea Sale, New Organic Tea, and a New "Tea" from Crystal Light

A few quick notes on tea news for today:

Ito En is having a sale on their Dr. Andrew Weil for Tea line. If you haven't tried them, now is an especially good time to do so. The World Tea Expo previously awarded their ready to drink Darjeeling and Jasmine White teas. I also quite like their Turmeric Infusion, which is a natural anti-inflamitant traditionally drunk in Okinawa.

There's a new line of organic teas on the market. Cool. (FYI, this link will open as a pdf file.)

Crystal Light is releasing a new line flavors for water, several of which are tea-based. According to their press release, "Metabolism+ Peach Mango Green Tea contains a blend of natural green tea antioxidants and caffeine for a short-term boost in metabolism.... Red Tea Mandarin... has 55mg of Natural Rooibos Polyphenols (and) is the first herbal tea mix from Crystal Light." I'm sure it will be disgusting, but it is interesting to me that they are trying to make a comeback by touting tea.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Campaign for Little Britain

A recent trip to Tea & Sympathy tearoom in the West Village in NYC reminded me of the Campaign for Little Britain. Shops and residents in the West Village are trying to get official designation as NYC's "Little Britain" to support small businesses, recognize the area's traditions and identity, honor Tea & Sympathy (which has been there for almost 18 years), increase tourism, and more. <--pdf file, FYI.

A quote from the Campaign for Little Britain site:

"Tea & Sympathy, located on Greenwich Avenue between 12th and 13th Streets, is located at the heart of Little Britain. The owners, Nicky Perry and Sean Kavanagh-Dowsett, have dedicated the past fifteen years to creating a British community on Greenwich Avenue. Thirty million cups of tea, several thousand tons of chips served at A Salt & Battery next door, and seventeen Tea & Sympathy staff marriages later, we think it’s time to put Little Britain on the map of New York.

The couple is joined by Virgin Atlantic Airways, which flies over half a million people between New York City and the UK each year. New York is important to the history of the airline, which launched its inaugural flight in 1984 from London to New York, and has carried over 13 million travelers between the two cities since."

With deliciousness like this (and a surprizing number of vegan and veggie options for British food), how can you not support them?

Sign by May 2 to get your voice heard!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Drinking Tea, Eating Local

Yesterday I had a fantastic conversation with one of the co-founders of The Steeping Room (Austin, TX) about the importance of drinking tea and eating local. We agreed that tea is a marvelous healing herb and that trying to eat local (aside from tea) helps to build community and personal health, and to increase sustainability levels. Over the last ten years, I've found that the more tea I drink, the more I source my food from local areas. (It seems to be a major part of the foodie progresssion.) This year, I'm joining my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture organization). Fresh, local vegetables for 26 weeks--what a way to stay healthy and offset my carbon footprint!

If you're in NYC and interested in CSAs, check out the CSA in NYC Conference this weekend.

If you're in NYC or Baltimore and interested in eating local, check out Local Fork. They're also building new online communities for local eaters in other areas, so if you're a leader in your community, you might consider working with them in your area.

The weather in NYC is divine today. I'm off to enjoy a nice bup of white tea to celebrate!

NYC Coffee & Tea Festival Interview and World Tea Expo Press

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lynda Calimano of The NYC Coffee & Tea Festival. Here's the full tea interview. Excerpt:

"We could have easily designed a show around either coffee or tea but found that there is a tremendous cross over between coffee and tea lovers. Sure, you have some purists that love either coffee or tea, but we’ve seen many sophisticated consumers who really appreciate the quality of specialty coffees and teas. We design the show, and its programming, to appeal to both."

Read more about the festival's history, this year's festivities, and Lynda's love of tea on VeeTea, or learn more about The Coffee & Tea Festival on their site. Don't forget that you can get half-price tickets by entering the promo code "VEETEA" at checkout!

Also, while I was away at SXSW enjoying music and tea, I received some mail of note. The World Tea Expo included my photo in their new press release. I'm the one in red. What a nice thing to come home to!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Adagio's Custom Blends

Adagio has announced a new option on their site: customer creation of custom blends. Returning customers can now place orders for their own blends of Adagio's teas. This seems like a very exciting idea for people who have developed a palate of flavored teas and want to experiment in that range, or for people who have a special occasion and want a themed tea to match. It reminds me of another cool beverage trend from about 8 years ago--Jones Soda's custom labels. Of course, the teas are much healthier. :)

Here's another cool online marketing trend I noticed recently: software that reads food product nutrition labels for its online shoppers. This is great for vegetarians (like me), people who have specific allergies, or people who follow other dietary restrictions (Halal, Kosher, etc.). Cool!

Friday, March 21, 2008

American Airlines Serves Tea

American Airlines is testing new "food-for-sale" options on their flights. Until the end of this month, the testing includes Lipton Citrus Green RTD tea. Next month it will include vitaminwater and the month after it will include smartwater. (Funny how both companies decided to go all lower-case with their drink names.)

I flew on AA from NYC to Austin and back and I have to say that the food-for-sale program was not being actively promoted at all and, if it had been, I would have considered it to be even MORE of a joke. These were offerings like $3 for a cookie and $7 for a sandwich (with only one choice of type--turkey). The Lipton Citrus Green tea (NOT my favorite, to say the least) was also $3. Perhaps it wouldn't have bothered me so much had my booking not made such a point of asking me what type of meal I would prefer (Pure Vegetarian) in order for them to NOT serve any food besides overpriced meat, chips, cookies, and bad tea. Oh, well. It probably wouldn't have been quite as bad as the atrocious cuppa I was served on my Jet Air flight to San Francisco last year. I guess that sometimes you just really need some tea, no matter how bad it is. (For the record, I didn't finish the tea from Jet Air.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Fair Trade

Fair trade labeling is becoming enormously popular for labor-intensive specialty foods such as tea, chocolate, and coffee. Having personally seen fair trade practices at Makaibari Tea Estate and compared them to other non-fair-trade tea estates in Darjeeling, I can say that it can make a huge difference. (In the case of Makaibari, strides toward gender equality were particularly evident.)

A new film called Black Gold examines and questions production and fair trade practices with regard to coffee. My sister saw it when it first showed in London and she loved it. I am looking forward to seeing it and comparing it to the tea world. It will be showing three weeks in a row in NYC starting April 5. Here's the schedule. If you're in town, check it out!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Photo from SXSW/Austin

For some reason, Blogger is still having major issues. However, I was able to get one photo to load. I'm hoping the issue will be resolved soon so you can see more (the amazing cheese plate, the great performances, etc.). In the meantime...

Delicious Nilgiri tea at The Steeping Room

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Travel Day

Flying from Austin to LGA. Flights delayed due to flooding. I wish they had decent tea in this airport!

SXSW (or "South by" as the locals call it) was amazing. Austin is a very cool town. I look forward to visiting again! But for now, it's back to NYC where I will have friends visiting for the next two weeks. Can't wait to have my full tea collection on hand again...

Tomorrow I'll post more photos of SXSW, tea, and food.

Monday, March 17, 2008


So, I am finally ready to post more on SXSW. Unfortunately, Blogger is being weird and not letting me post all my photos. Once I'm on my own computer again, I'll try to remedy that.

I've been having way too much fun here! Between the great shows, fantastic (and, for a New Yorker, cheap!) food, and the gorgeous scenery, I've been having a blast.

Great Music

Slim Cessnic's Auto Club--The name sounds silly, but the band put on one of the best shows I've seen here! They played off of the Southern revival tradition and said things like, "This song is for good country folk like you and me" before launching into songs that can only be described as pure rockabilly fun.

Akron/Family--I saw a full set of theirs with some friends who missed them before. It was fantastic. They wore headdresses, got the crowd going, jumped into the audience, lead everyone on a march outside at the end of the show... Looking forward to seeing them in NYC (they're from Brooklyn) soon.

The 8-Bit Peoples Show--Gameboys and Segas and printers as instruments. Totally danceable. There were some sound difficulties with Anamanagichi (whose album I recently bought and love), but some of the earlier bands made it all worth it. Very cool.

Fantastic Food (and Tea!)

Vegan macrobiotic goodness at Casa de Luse (yoga center, spa, restaurant, etc.)

Genmaicha and an iced tisane blend at Casa de Luse

Foods from the local co-op (Wheatville):
Vegetarian Frito Chili Pie (a veg version of a Southern favorite that I have yet to see grace any NYC menu)
Sauteed greens (also Southern and delicious)
Tempeh taco (with all the local fixin's!)
Cashew-butter cookie

The local hangover cure

The original Whole Foods

One of the two local beers. The other one is Lone Star. Despite Lone Star's extremely cheap pricing and instant hipster points, I prefer Shiner. (Side note: Craft breweries are popping up all over the US. When I travel, I find that drinking local can be a fun way to try new things and stay more sustainable.)

I wish the other photos would load, but here's a taste:
More tea!
My friend Lauren's famous "Egg Goo" (the perfect post-bar snack)

Gorgeous Scenery

Barton Springs--This is an all-natural limestone spring the size of a football field. I went swimming when it was 91 deg F outside. The water is 68 deg F year-round. I can see why the locals love it so much!

Zilker Botanical Gardens bridge

Unlike NYC, Austin has way more birds than just pigeons. Here are some black ducks and grackles (mean but beautiful black and indigo birds)... and some pigeons.

Small skyline, but what a view of it!

Soon, you'll also see:
Tanaguchi (Japanese Tea) Garden
View from The Pedestrian Bridge
Flowering plants (NYC is still mostly barren)
Austin's rad landscaping

PS--Thanks to Steph for all the well-wishing!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

SXSW Day 3

More on SXSW... In the last 24 or so hours, I:

Drank tea on a front porch

Drank some green powder beverage that had green tea extract and tasted disgusting (I much prefer the green energy bar that's also in the photo)

Saw a local bed & breakfast's tea offerings

Saw "Austin Tee Party" while waiting in line for an Akron/Family day show

Heard Akron/Family (Great show! Hippie meets hipster. Lone Star beers and a suggestion from the band to stay hydrated.)

People-watched on 6th (this street is SO much more crowded at night)

Drank tapioca pearl (boba) tea (The cup is atop an Onion stand, which you can find at practically every street corner here.)

Bought some cute stockings (If you like cool stockings, check out Sock Dreams. They're AMAZING!)


Drank tea and Stella (and ate tasty vegan food and green tea ice cream) at a cute Japanese restaurant (Koriente, right next to Beauty Bar)

Danced to dirty robot rock for hours at Beauty Bar (the uber-hipster joint in town)

Ate some Israeli-inspired food made by my ex-roommate Yinon and his friend Kelsey (who will start working for NPR soon... cool)

Despite the fact that it is not photo-documented, I will also claim to have:

Seen Dark Meat (hippie jam band merges with high school band and covers ska, punk, and metal favorites)
Seen The Raveonettes (good show, annoying audience... I'll just listen to their recordings next time)
Walked around a lot (even for a New Yorker)
Spent about an hour trying to hail a cab (and explaining to all the non-New-Yorkers that if the "Vacant" light is off, yelling and waving will NOT make the cab magically become vacant)
Slept in abundance

Today I'll relax and drink tea (Makaibari Second Flush at the moment) before catching some shows tonight. It's stultifyingly hot (peak of 91 deg F), so I think it will be wise to take it easy. More news tomorrow!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SXSW Day 2

A few quick updates. Photos and links soon.

In response to a reader question: The tearoom I went to yesterday was Jade Leaves on Guadalupe (or "The Drag," as the locals call it). I'll be writing a full review soon.

Last night I had dinner and talked about web design and NPR with my hosts and their friend. We headed into town and I broke the first rule of SXSW (hang out with people you like to talk with) and opted to break off on my own. I had all the info I wanted stored in maps and emails on my iPhone and in about 1,000 rated songs on my iPod (can you tell I'm a Mac fan?), so everything was great... Except that I left my iPhone at my friends' house and the only show I thought I knew all the details for (MGMT) turned out to be tonight, not last night. Unphazed, I headed to 6th Street to take in the New Orleans-esque debauchery and a bit of Kimya Dawson (the long-time low-fi queen who became ├╝ber-famous after Juno) and Capsula (a rock trio from Argentina that put on a great raw and raucous performance). Soon enough, I found out the hard way that I am allergic to Austin's abundant cedar trees and, with some breathing difficulty, hopped a cab "home."

At the moment, I'm on a bus downtown to hear Akron/Family. Hoping to catch MGMT and some boba tea after that. Lots of great shows coming up tonight--tomorrow I'll tell you what I heard.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SXSW Day One

Arrived safely in Austin. Got the party rolling last night with my Austin friends and their friends. Today, I:

Figured out the local transit system (which is better than you might guess)
Interviewed Sweet Leaf Tea (based in Austin) about their RTD sweet tea
Saw an art exhibit on growing edibles in your yard (and on sustainability in general... Actually there was an overlap between this exhibit and one I saw in London at The Tate Modern last summer.)
Went out for amazing tea and food with my friend Austin (Yes, his name is Austin and he lives in Austin. He's also a grad student at UT Austin.)
Visited the local food co-op, where they carry tea-kettle egg timers
Bought a gun
Went show shopping
Swang on a genuine front-porch swing
Drank some "tea" soda that turned out to only have tea extract (lame)

Tonight I'm going to some shows. Tomorrow I'll tell you who I heard and how they were (IMHO--I'm a tea expert, not a music expert!), as well as any more tea news I might have.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Off to SXSW...

I'm about to head off to the airport for SXSW! Here are my travel teas for the trip. I'll be updating on music and tea all week. A few things to come:

Visit to Sweet Leaf
Boba Tea
Indie Rock Goodness
Electronica Fantastica

Monday, March 10, 2008

Woman Jailed for Worshipping Teapot

A woman in Malaysia was recently jailed for worshiping a teapot.

"For the eccentric sect, which emphasised ecumenical dialogue between religions, the tea pot symbolized the purity of water and 'love pouring from heaven.' But in Malaysia, despite constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship, born Muslims such as Mrs Ali are forbidden from converting to other religions."

In other random news, I leave for Austin, TX tomorrow for the annual insanity that is South by Southwest. When I'm not listening to the incredible array of music, I'll be interviewing local tea people and checking out some tearooms. My posts this week will cover the music and the tea, so all you indie rocker tea fans should check back often!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Urban Beekeeping Day

For those who sweeten their tea, listen up:

Tomorrow is Urban Beekeeping Day! You can register for a session on urban beekeeping in the Bronx (near the Hudson River) from 9:30-12 or 1-4 by calling 718.549.3200 ext. 305. For directions, information about the garden/cultural center where the event will be held, and more, visit their site, Wave Hill.

Learn more about sweetening tea with honey on Vee Tea.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

More Cool Teaware

You may remember that a while back I wrote a teaware post on Charles and Marie and followed it up with their (then) new product, the "On/Off" mug. Well, they sold out of their "On/Off" mug almost immediately and have decided to sell a new "Hot/Cold" version (with a presale to make sure they have enough this time around).

Here are a few of their other tea products that I haven't talked about yet:

cheeky NYC-streets-meets-Dutch-china 5-piece tableware set

super-engineered "radiator" mugs

a little something for those of you still drinking tea from teabags!

Cool! I'm already looking forward to seeing what they carry next!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Sustainable Tea

This Saturday, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is having a very cool local food event. They'll have workshops on the best foods to grow locally, how to grow in limited NYC space, sustainable watering practices, and more.

The only workshop addressing "tea" is "Brewing Compost Tea" (which, for those of you unitiated to the ways of composting, is nothing you'd want to drink!), but I think that this relates to the bigger picture of tea in that it has to do with the choices we make about what we consume. More and more people are turning to not only local, but organic, biodynamic, fair trade, and sustainably packaged foods and drinks. This is especially true of tea and other "luxury" or "specialty" foods. (I still find it funny that you can get an exceptional loose-leaf tea for about 25 cents a cup, yet it still gets pigeonholed as a "luxury item." Sure, it's luxurious, but it costs much less than your average soda!) This trend is growing in both the US and in the UK. Organic teas are becoming easier and easier to find (some companies, like Zhi Tea, sell only organic teas), and fair trade teas are following close behind in many areas. Sustainable packaging will be addressed at the next World Tea Expo and (I think) will become increasingly popular in the tea market. Now it's even possible to buy local tea in the US (if you live in South Carolina, Washington state, or Hawaii, or if you know the right people). Tea is one of the few (only?) foods that is closely linked to both foodie and health culture.

I am very interested to see where it will go as trends from both sides influence its production, processing, packaging, and marketing in the US and elsewhere. What do you see in the future of tea? Anyone care to read the leaves and speak up on the issue?

PS--The event I mentioned before rambling, Making Brooklyn Bloom, is free if you print out a flyer from their site.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

NYC Coffee and Tea Festival

Now that the weather's warming up, I'm reminded that the annual NYC Coffee and Tea Festival is fast approaching. This year has an exciting line-up that includes:

A traditional Japanese tea ceremony demonstration
Tea Blending
Coffee and Tea Cocktails
Green Tea 101
Tea Leaf Reading
Coffee and Tea Exhibitors

Learn more on the Coffee and Tea Festival site, and remember: you can get half-off tickets with the promo code "VEETEA."

Monday, March 3, 2008

Flowering Teas Go Mainstream

That's right, handcrafted flowering teas are now being sold at (drumroll please...) Target. Teaposy is their supplier, and they have a variety of teaware, eight types of flowering tea, and several gift sets offered online. (I would imagine that individual stores' offerings vary.) It's interesting to me that flowering teas are becoming so popular for several reasons:

1. They are getting more people to drink loose leaf tea.
2. They are easy to brew, which increases their popularity.
3. They are beautiful, which also increases their popularity.
4. They don't usually excel in the flavor department, which means they may not increase loose leaf tea's popularity overall.

It is my hope that, despite flowering teas' frequent failings in flavor, people will start drinking loose-leaf tea with flowering teas and move on to other loose-leaf teas from there. We'll see what happens!

Read more on flowering teas on VeeTea or check out Target's flowering teas.