Wednesday, December 31, 2008


My New Year's resolution? Drink more tea! A lot of people seem to agree, as evidenced by a recent tea article on Reader's Digest that made the top ten list on digg.

Side notes:

"Bag it." I wonder if, when they say tea from bags had the highest antioxidant content in Consumer Reports' testing, they meant compared to bottled and instant. I think that must be the case, as full-leaf tea is higher. What do you think?

"Dunk the bag." Yes, or the brew basket. But don't squeeze the bag! It only makes your tea bitter (ah, tannins).

"Brew a batch." Did you know that antioxidants are lost as tea sits out? Brewing it means it's much fresher than, say, bottled tea, but letting it sit in your fridge kind of defeats the purpose if you're trying for antioxidants, especially if it's not in a sealed container (like bottled tea is).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year in Review

It has been a great year for tea! Despite the economic downturn, tea is holding strong, and there have been many advances in terms of health studies, new tea business openings and new levels of exposure and acceptance for tea across the U.S. Conveniently, these are the topics addressed in World Tea News' tea Year in Review. Here's an excerpt from my contribution to the article:

Teas are popping up in boutiques across the nation, and with the dollar down and international tourism to the U.S. up, American department stores are following the leads of international equivalents (such as Harrods and Takashimaya) by offering tea. Select Bloomingdale’s locations paired up with Tavalon for café and retail offerings, and custom Tay Tea blends appeared at several Henri Bendels. Both plan to expand to additional locations during 2009, and more retailers are likely to make similar moves in the near future.

The trend of tea and spa, previously thought to have peaked, has kept growing this year. Boston’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel opened a tea lounge in conjunction with its spa, Qua opened a scaled-down version of its Vegas tea experience in Atlantic City, Urbàna Cityspa & Teabar put its tea collection online and announced plans for a second location, and a number of other spas released blends as both beverages and treatments. Meanwhile, home spa treatments are holding strong: OPI added two tea-based treatments to its manicure-pedicure line, Allure Magazine gave Fresh’s Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask their Editor’s Choice Award and Pekoe Sip House partnered with Origins for a “wellness spa” offering tea and home-spa products.

Read more on the year of tea on World Tea News!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tea as Disease-Fighter

Can tea help fight the flu? Dr. Weil investigates. He also addresses green tea's potential in fighting tooth disease when used to replace sodas and citrus drinks. (I just wish he weren't always so focused on green tea specifically, as most true teas provide similar benefits.)

Also, here's an interesting debate about tea, disease and urbanization. The initial proposal (the idea that tea-drinking lead to urbanization in England) is somewhat intriguing (though probably wrong), but the follow-up comments are what make this page really worth reading.

What do you think about these issues?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Vee Tea Article (SF Roundtable Part 2)

Two weeks ago, part one of an SF roundtable on tea I lead went up on World Tea News. Today, part two is going up. It gets more into depth about the national and international economy and tea with top tea professionals in the Bay area, and even touches on the idea of growing artisanal tea near SF. Excerpt:

WTN: How have national and international sales changed since the economic downturn began?

Portman: We were growing strong through February and March. Our clients (for the ML premium tea line) are restaurants, cruise ships and hotels throughout the world, so we’re seeing reduced volume in our current clients, but we’re picking up more clients. Our retail growth has been very strong nationally and internationally because people are looking for sensory ways to enjoy themselves at home instead of going out. We are striving for strong two-digit growth this year. Tea is going to continue to have higher demand to counter all this tremendous fear and stress over the next year, plus as a result of what’s around us.

Zheng: I don’t feel a major impact. Some customers have reduced orders somewhat compared to last year, not because they’re selling less, but because they are reducing their inventory to have more cash on hand. I think the tea industry will only see moderate downturn.

Fong: My order numbers are up, but the order sizes are smaller. Things aren’t so bad that people are ready to go back to lower grades of tea. We have this very exceptional Dragonwell once a year. We sold 14 pounds at $600 a pound. We still sold out in three weeks and have a waiting list. If you do your job right, people will look for the easy comfort of tea.

You can read more on tea in the Bay area on World Tea News. I'll be off until after Christmas. I hope you all have a fantastic holiday season and enjoy your tea!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lipton Event Photos, Part Two

A continuation of last week's photos... More from the Lipton Tea event!

The "Mind" Room coming to life -- This is where we learned about tea and the brain

The "Body" Room -- The Wii Fit, pilates balls, yoga mats and tea helped with physical fitness

The Teabar in the "Spirits" Room -- This is where I held tea tastings and pairings

Displays in the "Spirits" Room

Lounge Area in the "Spirits" Room (before guests arrived, obviously)

Dr. Tea introducing me and Peter Goggi to one of the groups

Me Lecturing on tea tasting

A group tasting tea

Time for the pairing!

The tea-chocolate truffles were amazing! (You can read more about pairing tea and sweets on World Tea News.)

A group taking notes on tea pairings

Another group tasting paired teas and foods. There were five lectures through the day, with three different sets of pairings depending on the time.

Tea cocktails were served at the end of the day. (You can read more about tea cocktails on World Tea News.)

You can contact me for tea events at vee at veetea dot com, or read more on Vee Tea.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lipton Event Photos

Some of you may remember that I did an event with Lipton a few months back. It was a media immersion event that provided tea education to the press with regard to tea and brain activity, tea and health and tea tasting/pairing. I lead a tea tasting and pairing that matched Lipton's newish pyramid bags (which are much more sophisticated blends than their flat bags) and PureLeaf RTDs with tea-based and regular foods. Editors and writers were lead by "Dr. Tea" through four different rooms, each with a different feel -- a Lipton "store" where they could fill bags with Lipton merchandise, a "classroom" where they learned about tea and the brain, a "gym" where they played on a Wii Fit and learned about tea and weight management and a "lounge" where they learned to develop their palates and taste different teas. It was put on with a lovely, creative group of people from Ogilvy, the international PR company. Needless to say, this was a fun event to be a part of. Here are a few photos from the day. I'll be posting more from the event next week.

The "Store" Window

Cool Fruit and Spice Display

The "Store" Interior

Peter Goggi, who is Lipton's buyer, a professionally-trained tea taster and a writer for Tea, A Magazine, at the tasting bar in the "Store"

The Lipton Tea Bar

More next week!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mighty Leaf's Chocolate Mint Truffle

I just tried Mighty Leaf's new blend, Chocolate Mint Truffle. It's pretty good and I'm glad to see that they've added it to their line. Right now, it's only available at World Market and online at, but I hope that they will add it to their food service offerings, as so many restaurants only do bagged teas and Mighty Leaf's silken pouches are amongst the best.

However, I've noticed that chocolate-mint rooibos has become quite a popular blend lately, and I think it has been done better before. For example, Tay Tea's Better Than Sex blend made waves as the 2007 and 2008 NYC Coffee & Tea Festivals, and not just because of its name. It has Belgian dark chocolate bits, peppermint, vanilla and marigold petals, plus a fantastic aroma. Yum! I recently sampled a chocolate-mint rooibos Urbana Teas and Tonics is about to add to its offerings that was pretty impressive, too.

I never thought I would say this about a flavored tisane, but I think that Mighty Leaf's new rooibos is not flavored enough. Wait, wait... Hear me out. Hot cocoa (when done well) is rich, satisfying and (some may say) divine. (It was literally considered to be divine by ancient Aztecs.) So why flavor a tea or tisane with chocolate unless you can compete with such a decadent beverage? Lightly flavoring rooibos with chocolate and mint won't cut it for cocoa lovers, especially when you put "Truffle" in the name. You need depth and complexity. It doesn't have to come from the chocolate itself -- it could be from mint, floral elements (like Tay's marigold petals), vanilla or other flavors -- but it needs to be in there for the beverage to be as satisfying as a cup of cocoa.

For all you future chocolate-rooibos blenders out there -- Need inspiration? Check out Vosges' Drinking Chocolates, MarieBelle's Spicy Hot Chocolate or Jaques Torres' Wicked Hot Chocolate for starters. There are lots of flavors that go well with chocolate... I promise.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fortnum & Mason Sale

Fortnum & Mason is having a 10% off and free shipping sale for all Daily Candy readers through January 31st. Be sure to check out their tea collection and tea accompaniments, like biscuits and jams in their Food Hall section. Yum!

Daily Candy is also offering a 30% off sale for "previously featured" items on the Target "Red Hot" shop, which includes a cute star-shaped mug. Rad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wintertime Chai

One of my favorite types of tea for Winter is masala chai. It's so warming and rich, perfect for a cold day or an evening by the fireplace I wish I could afford in NYC. :) A while back, I wrote two articles on it. Here's some info on the history, culture and ingredients behind masala chai and here are some masala chai recipes. Do you have a great masala chai recipe to share? Feel free to post it as a comment! We'd love to try it out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I finally got around to adding photos to my SF trip posts. You can see them here, here and here. I wish I had taken more to share! Maybe next time...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Another Sale

Oi Ocha Dark, a new, darker version of Ito En's best-selling Japanese green tea, is on sale. It's $30 per case (24 bottles, usually $36) through Jan. 31st. Have you tried it yet? What do you think? Also, if you hear about any good sales, please send me an email at vee at veetea dot com. I'd love to include them for the rest of readers. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tea is Growing Despite the Economy's Shrinkage

Apparently, tea is growing despite the economy's shrinkage. Tearooms, tea retailers and other, similar businesses reported sales growth over last year with third quarter monthly averages topping out at 15% in July and September. Awesome! Go, tea industry! Read more on World Tea News.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Urbana Teas and Tonics is having a 15% off sale for first-time online buyers. Just enter the promo code "URB6853" during checkout for the discount.

Those of you who know me or have been reading my blog for a while probably know that I used to be the teabar manager there, and that a large part of my passion for tea grew out of drinking it regularly at their South Charlotte location. My favorites? Darjeeling 2nd Flush Muscatel from Makaibari (where I had the pleasure of visiting last year), Vanilla Cream (I rarely like flavored teas, but this one is fantastic!), Strawberry-Pepper/Unity (complex, piquant tisanes), Kukicha (a very creamy one...) and Spicy Ginger Yerba Mate (with emphasis on the spicy!). If you try them, let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Vee Tea Article

World Tea News put a new a new article I "wrote" out yesterday. I use quotations because, well, I used quotations. It's an edited collection of interviews with SF Bay area tea professionals, so I asked questions, transcribed and edited a lot, but didn't really write anything outside of what my sources said. Here's an excerpt:

WTN: What are your thoughts on the current state of tea in the Bay Area?

Yu: We call this city “the hotbed of the tea renaissance.” Tea houses showcase teas through fusion and bridge the gap between ethnic shops that offer teas and more accessible, modernized and mainstream, but authentic, formats.

Jacobs: I believe the Bay Area is the epicenter for tea culture in North America, due in part to the weather, which works for hot and iced tea, and because there are many different cultures in a small area. Also, San Francisco is very progressive. It’s a hotbed of new ideas. I can’t think of another area in the world that has all those three things together. It has allowed tea culture to take off. Sure, people drink Moroccan mint tea in Morocco as daily life, but they definitely don’t drink Japanese gyokuro or tea from a samovar. There’s nowhere else with a more international tea culture.

Zheng: San Francisco is pretty provincial and small compared to New York. There’s less distraction. If you have five or six tea stores in the city, everybody knows. The level of competition is very high in terms of getting high quality teas. People in Berkeley and Palo Alto are also very into tea. I live in Marin County, and they include tea tastings in county fairs along with the art, crafts and local foods.

The people I interviewed had some very interesting things to say about tea, SF, America, the economy and the world. You can read the rest of the SF roundtable tea talk on World Tea News.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Tea Sweets

Here are some tea sweets I recently enjoyed. I made the tea-poached pears myself; here's a variation on the recipe, complete with tapioca pearls, but it's really very simple to make my basic version. Just poach peeled, cored pears in spices and enough sugar to form a simple syrup, add black tea for about 5 minutes while simmering and strain with a slotted spoon. You can add some butter early on if you want a richer taste. All the credit for the ginger-green tea cake goes to Ambrosia Bakery at my local CSA. They often use coffee and tea as ingredients in the baked goods, with fantastic results! (Or so I hear... I'm allergic to coffee, so I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the same love for the espresso brownies as everyone else.) What are your favorite tea sweets for the holidays?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tea Eggs

Tea eggs are a beautiful, traditional Chinese dish made with tea, eggs and spices. They're fun and easy to make, and the flavors are perfect for cold weather. I recently made some with a variation on this tea egg recipe. (I substituted loose leaf Assam black tea for the bagged tea and changed up the spices just a bit.) Yum! I just wish the crackling turned out a bit better. Have you made them before? How did they turn out? Do you have a good recipe to share?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Art of Tea Sale

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I did, and the masala chai was a big hit, as was my friend Matt's pomme puree. Yum! What was your favorite food this Thanksgiving?

Art of Tea, who won a number of awards at last year's World Tea Expo, is having a 24-hour online sale for 24% off your order. Enter code 24GIFT. Ends tomorrow!