Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Tea Sales

Looking for an awesome deal on tea and teaware for the holidays? Check out this list of Black Friday & Cyber Monday Tea Sales I wrote for It includes deals from Adagio, Rishi, Samovar, Teance, teas, Etc. and more. If you have a tea company that's offering a deal for the holidays, please add it to the list! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tea & Cheese Pairings

If you're reading this, you probably love tea and, more likely than not, you're a foodie. If you're a foodie, you probably love cheese. Lately, tea and cheese pairings have been a fascination of mine. I think there's no better time to share them than the holidays -- they're perfect for parties and meals as an alternative (or addition) to wine and cheese pairings. Whether you're a tea business owner looking to spice up your events or a host/hostess looking for a new culinary path for your guests, I think you'll enjoy this approach to pairing.

I recently wrote about the topic for World Tea News. Here's an excerpt from my article, with pairing advice from David Barenholtz (Le Palais Gourmet/American Tea Room), Cynthia Gold (Boston Plaza Hotel, lecturer at the World Tea Expo and other venues) and Mim Enck (East Indes Tea Company, lecturer at the World Tea Expo and other venues):

*Pair opposing flavors – the salty, fruity flavor of Taleggio with the peppery, chocolaty notes of Risheehat First Flush Darjeeling (Barenholtz), or sweet Lychee Black or Pouchong and with salty Gorgonzola or Shropshire Blue (Gold).

*Play on similarities – the grassy-sweetness of Nevat with grassy-sweet Japanese greens, or the herbaceous Vento d’Estate with the honey-hay notes of Golden Needle Yunnan (Barenholtz).

*Consider texture – the fat of a rich Brie with a brisk, palette-cleansing Darjeeling First Flush (Gold).

*Bring out sub-tones and sub-textures – well-aged Comte emphasizes the cleanliness and chestnut tones of Dragonwell (Gold).

* Follow the seasons – seasonally available Irish whiskey cheddar with cold-weather teas like Lapsang Souchong (Enck).

Yum! What are your favorite ways to pair tea and cheese? Interested in doing this with your tea business? Read more on World Tea News.

Friday, November 20, 2009

East/West Tea Tour Ends: Tao of Tea

My last stop on my East/West tea tour/move was my new home, Portland, Oregon. I visited Tao of Tea's gorgeous location in the Portland Classical Chinese Gardens. Here's an excerpt from my review on World Tea News:

The buildings, plants and pond interacted in a distinctive way, completely unlike Western gardens (which often come across as more rigid and controlled) and classical Japanese tea gardens (in which tenuous structures play up a Wabi-Sabi sense of impermanence, while ponds and plants may appear more manicured).

The garden was bustling with visitors, yet a sense of tranquility permeated the space. Peeking into one pavilion, I saw Verinder Chawla, Tao of Tea’s owner, instructing two-dozen people how to grow, process and brew tea. Outside, people gazed at the lake, crossed covered bridges and observed the plants. On our way to the tea house, Marko and I stopped to shake Chinese fortune sticks with other visitors. Mine said something about being tempted; it must have foreseen where I was headed!

It was a lovely end to my journey, and a great beginning to my new journey of tea in Portland. You can read more about Tao of Tea and my visit there on World Tea News.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

East/West Tea Tour: The Tea Grotto

My next-to-last stop on mt tea tour/cross-country move was in Salt Lake City at a charming place called The Tea Grotto. Here's an excerpt from my review:

The Tea Grotto is located in Sugar House, a suburb dating back to the 1850s. From inside and outside The Tea Grotto, it was evident that small business culture was an integral part of the neighborhood. The large space was shared with a small gelateria, which increased the patronage and indie business cred. Tisanes included Ayurvedic and medicinal blends formulated by a local naturopathic doctor. Local regulars streamed in for tea to go, lively discussion with the staff and food that ranged from vegan sweets to a Brie plate paired with Dragonwell.

The food and tea were good, but what really set The Tea Grotto apart was its vibrant warmth. The space – large with high ceilings, whimsical aesthetic touches (including an enormous, colorful tea menu and a lighting fixture made of stemware), free WiFi, local art and plenty of nooks for customers to burrow into – was certainly a factor in the sense of community.

It's rare that I see a tea business that has cultivated such a sense of community. Congrats, Tea Grotto! You can read more about them (and my visit) on World Tea News.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

East/West Tea Tour: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

On my trip across the country, I stopped mostly at smaller tea businesses filled with charm and community. My visit to Boulder included a larger, glossier tea house with the potential unrealized for greatness on an international scale. Excerpt from the review:

After visiting Seven Cups in Denver, my husband Marko and I drove to the famed Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Boulder, Colo. I had read rave reviews of it, and I do not disagree with them. However, Dushanbe wasn’t what I expected. While I would recommend it to others, I doubt I will return.

I can sum it up this way: People are sometimes surprised that the World Tea Expo is in Las Vegas. They say, “Vegas isn’t a tea town,” but they mean, “Vegas seems too glitzy and hollow to capture how I feel tea should be.” Boulder feels more like a tea town, but if there is ever a tea house on the Vegas Strip, it will be something like the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

This was a rather controversial review. Personally, I think it was balanced and that the tea industry is grown enough to handle reviews that do more than pat backs, but, hey, to each his own! Read more on World Tea News.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

East/West Tea Tour: Seven Cups

My cross-country tea tour continues with a trip to Seven Cups Denver! Excerpt:

Walking toward Seven Cups, my husband Marko and I noticed that the Platte Park district where it is located had some of the traits that had attracted us to Portland and started our cross-country move and tea tour in the first place: smiling pedestrians, cute shops and restaurants, a moderately high population density, alternative medicine practitioners’ offices and the like. Tea house owners often say neighborhood characteristics like these contribute to their success, and Seven Cups indeed appeared to be the kind of business that thrives on the foot traffic these neighborhoods encourage.

This was a lovely stop on our way to Portland. If you're in the area, I recommend checking it out! If not, you can still read more on World Tea News. Up next: Boulder, CO.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yay! I'm the New Coffee / Tea Guide

Quick announcement:

I'm the new Coffee / Tea Site Guide! Right now, I'm building up a lot of new content. Soon, I'll be editing some of the recipes, articles, etc. from the previous writer, cleaning any spam out of the Forums and otherwise sprucing the site up. Here are a few new things I've been working on:

Tea, Tisane, Coffee, Cocoa & Apple Cider Recipes
A Guide to Pairing Hot Chocolate with Food
Hot Drink, Hot Drink Equipment & Hot Drink Media Reviews (Side note: If you want to contact me about reviewing one of your products, you can email me at vee (AT) vee tea (DOT) com.)
A Coffee / Tea Blog (The current topic is Tisanes vs. "Herbal Teas" -- it leaves the tisane/herbal tea nomenclature debate up for a vote.)

I'll periodically post updates on the site's progress here, but if you want more info, you can sign up for a weekly newsletter in the top right of the site and follow me on Twitter @AboutCoffeeTea. BTW, if you have any suggestions for new content, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

East/West Tea Tour: House of Cha

Part two of my East/West Tea Tour is up on World Tea News. The trip may have ended, but the reviews go on! Here's an excerpt of the article on House of Cha in Lawrence, Kansas:

Perhaps it is this combination of college-town surroundings and international influence that resulted in the tea room’s unusual dichotomy of tea: bing cha puer cakes line the walls, shelves are filled with large Chinese-style canisters of oolong from the owner’s in-laws’ tea farm in Taiwan and Yi Xing tea ware adorns the counters, yet bubble tea is heavily featured on the menu and the store signage.

It’s rare that a tea business crosses the line between “serious” and “fun” so boldly, so I inquired about it. Freeman informed me that the claim of “the best bubble tea guaranteed” on the banner outside isn’t just ad-speak. Forget artificially flavored syrups – at House of Cha, they brew fresh tea concentrate for their boba three times a day and cook imported, raw Taiwanese tapioca pearls daily.

Even I was temped to try it (despite having sworn off bubble tea forever after a particularly terrible experience), but I opted instead for some of their directly sourced Snowy Moon Oolong (from the last picking of winter in the Chinese calendar), a bowl of house-made soup and a side of matcha-dusted pumpkin seeds.

It was a lovely visit. If you're ever in the area, be sure to check them out! In the meantime, you can read the full article on World Tea News.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

East/West Tea Tour: French Broad Chocolate Lounge

During my move across the country, I had the pleasure of visiting a number of tea businesses. I'll be chronicling my visits to six of them in World Tea News. The first visit was French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, NC. Here's an excerpt from my article:

French Broad Chocolate Lounge is on Asheville’s artsy Lexington Avenue, just south of the vintage clothing stores and eco-chic boutiques. It’s named for the local French Broad River, aptly, since the lounge focuses on the flow of liquid – “liquid truffles” (drinking chocolates), more than a dozen teas and tisanes, and various coffee drinks and local beers. Its specialty is chocolate, which it serves in liquid form and as solid truffles and other confections.

Walking into French Broad Chocolate Lounge from the street, I was struck by how fitting the title “lounge” is. Lush surfaces, low lighting and a laid-back vibe permeated the atmosphere. The shop was crowded even thought it was about 3 p.m. on a weekday; the day after I visited, the Lounge opened a second level to accommodate the burgeoning patronage.

Hand-written chalkboards listed the gourmand-centric food offerings, including local cheese plates and vegan options, but what had drawn me to there was the tea. Like other more adventuresome gourmet chocolatiers, the Lounge’s owners have opted to use “trufflefy” (as the menu put it) tea as a culinary ingredient for chocolate. Its tea truffles are White Jasmine (white chocolate and jasmine green tea ganache covered in dark chocolate), Earl Grey (Earl Grey-infused dark chocolate covered with milk chocolate and topped with Earl Grey tealeaves) and Masala Chai (milk chocolate ganache infused with traditional masala chai spies, vanilla bean and Darjeeling black tea).

It was a really fun visit! You can read the full article on World Tea News.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

PDX Update

I'm getting settled into Portland. Exciting! Here are a few highlights:

The move was rough (drove across the country in 5 days, unloaded the truck and unpacked with some assistance from my cousin, but otherwise it was just me & hubby), but we are mostly settled in now.

The first things I unpacked were my water kettle and Yi Xing pot (of course). The tea collection and remaining tea ware followed soon thereafter. Got an order from Jing Tea shortly after my arrival, complete with gorgeous tea glasses. Win!

I am in love with Voodoo Donut.

My visit to Tao of Tea will be on World Tea News soon. Updates later. :)

My cousin took us on a bike tour of a few fun spots, including some food carts, the famous Doug Fir, the "vegan mall" and a cute little Japanese restaurant.

This weekend, we're going to check out a local distillery. We're looking forward to checking out Imbibe's top Portland beverage picks, too. (As I mentioned, people are all about their drinks here!)

Elin from Teafolio sent me a fantastic list of PDX places to visit. Thanks, Elin!

Planning on hanging out with a few tea people here soon. Always a pleasure!

So far, the weather has been good (although the hubby and I didn't fare so well on the way here -- there was a snowstorm in Idaho, complete with power outages).

Overall, everything is great! Looking forward to getting to know Portland better. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Moving to Portland

As a foodie and as a person, I am thrilled to be moving to Portland. Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to most:

Urban planning done right
Bicycling (especially after living in the not-so-bike-friendly cities of NYC and Charlotte, NC)
Eating at awesome restaurants (and the availability of great veggie/vegan food at most of them)
Exploring the thriving food cart scene
Enjoying locally grown food and the riverside market
Partaking in Portland's love affair with beverages -- Imbibe Magazine, Stumptown Coffee and Tao of Tea are all based there; there's an abundance of local breweries; many California wines are readily available there
Checking out all the tea places Elin recommended on
Utilizing Portland's proximity to San Francisco (my favorite U.S. city for tea)

Have you lived there/visited? What do you love the most?

Friday, October 2, 2009

East Meets West Tea Tour

I'm in the process of moving to Portland. My husband (Marko) and I are driving across the country in a moving truck. Along the way, we're making a few stops for tea. Right now, I'm discussing the particular s of tea and travel, as well as chronicling every cup of tea I drink during my trip, on Twitter (@LindseyAtVeeTea). Later, I'll write more detailed accounts of several cross-country tea spots for World Tea News.

So far, I've stopped for amazing masala chai drinking chocolate. Tonight, I hope to stop at two Kansas City tea shops. From there, it's on to Denver, (hopefully) Boulder and Salt Lake City. And, of course, after I've settled into Portland, I'll be visiting local tea businesses ASAP!

There's always something very exciting about making the journey as important as the destination. I doubt I can achieve that goal, given that I'm making a cross-country move, but I can always try. :)

What's your favorite tea travel memory? Have you ever happened upon a great tea spot by chance while traveling?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Samovar "Magalog"

I recently had the opportunity to write the copy for Samovar's new magazine/catalog hybrid. If you've seen content-driven catalogs from companies like Patagonia and Zappos, this is like that for the tea world. You can check it out below (if not for my copy, then for the gorgeous images the photographer and graphic designer came up with!), or pick up a copy at any of Samovar's locations.

Here's a link for the full-size magalog.

PS -- If you're interested in having me develop content for your tea business, contact me at vee (at) veetea (dot) com.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Natural Flavors Primer

Just in time for Expo East, I wrote a new article on natural flavors for tea. It covers what different names mean, how they're made and what to look for in a "naturally flavored" tea vendor. Excerpt:

Natural – A natural flavor from a single source, derived with an approved solvent, such as water or ethyl alcohol (a consumable alcohol). Boehmer said natural flavors often use propylene glycol (a substance that occurs naturally in foods in very small quantities, but which is derived from petroleum) as a carrier.

With Other Natural Flavors (WONF)
– A natural flavor (such as lemon) that is blended with natural flavors from other sources (such as other citrus fruits). According to Vorsheim, the above example would be labeled as “natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors.”

Natural-Type Flavors – Natural flavors that mimic the taste of a particular natural ingredient without actually containing that ingredient. For example, a “natural apple-type flavor” may be a blend of natural flavors from fruits other than apples. According to Boehmer, if a tea blend contains a natural-type flavor and does not contain its namesake flavor (apple) or the flavor source (dried apple bits) as an ingredient, it must be labeled as “artificially apple-flavored with natural flavors.”

Natural Organic Program Compliant (NOP-Compliant) Flavors
– Natural flavors that are made from organic-compliant materials. According to Boehmer, all ingredients must be from non-genetically-modified sources and must be organic compliant. Boehmer said the USDA only allows oil carriers such as organic soybean oil, as well as glycerin or alcohol extracted from organic, non-GMO plant materials for NOP-compliant flavors.

You can read the full article on World Tea News.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal

It's always a treat to go to a favorite restaurant, hotel or spa and find that they serve great tea. However, for tea vendors, getting into top restaurants and other venues can be very difficult. I recently had the opportunity to write on the subject.

If you subscribe to Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, be sure to check out my two-part article on getting your tea into high-end channels (such as award-winning restaurants, hotels and spas). The two-part piece includes interviews with top people from In Pursuit of Tea, Tavalon, Adagio, Mighty Leaf, Art of Tea and more. Part one is general advice for getting into top outlets/servers and specific tips on working with restaurants. Part two will go into more detail about other high-end channels and how to sell your teas to them.

PS -- If you don't already subscribe, you can buy the issue individually -- it's in the current issue (September) and the next issue (October).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kilinoe Green Hawaii-Grown Tea

A while back, I wrote a press release for Kilinoe ("Misty Mountain") Green Hawaii-Grown Green Tea from Narien Teas. It's a very enjoyable tea and a strong sign of Hawaii as a significant new tea terroir, so I thought I'd review it here.

The Leaves:
Wiry and dark with silver tips
The Brew: Clean and clear; befitting the taste, it's the color of a Bosc pear
The Aroma: Light and clean, like a just-ripe Bosc pear, with touches of clover honey and farm notes of fresh-tilled soil and dry plant matter
The Flavor: Light, fresh, clean and sweet with a slight flavor of fall grasses, some pear notes and a hint of raw walnut halves
The Finish: Lush gardenia flavors with clove, violets, nuts and a touch of minerality

This tea starts at $9 from Narien Teas. They have some very unusual teas, including Kilinoe and Kokeicha green tea (not a mis-spelling of Kukicha, I promise... it's and extruded form of matcha paste that brews like tealeaves). Oh, and they sell tea seeds. Cool company -- check them out!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: ITI's Assam Cabernet

During a recent visit to LA, I checked out Chado Tea Room in Pasadena. It was cute and fun, but what I'm here to talk about today is the TEA (more specifically, the "wine inspired" Assam Cabernet).

International Tea Importers (ITI) carry six new "wine inspired" teas. I avoid many "trend teas," but I bought Assam Cabernet and Golden Monkey Marsala on the recommendation of a staff person, and I'm glad that I did.

The Leaves

The leaves of Assam Cabernet are small and mostly black, with dark, cinnamon-colored pellets (which I can only assume are the wine flavor EDIT -- THESE ARE CINNAMON BITS.). They have an intense bouquet with notes of dark cherry compote, a big, round California Cabernet, tannins and lots of vanilla.

The Brew

The brew is a bright, coppery color. Its aroma is very full, with notes of stewed cherries, orange rind, malt and ground mace.

The Flavor

Given the bold aroma of this tea, the flavor is very mellow. It's less fruity and sweet than the smell, and is dominated by flavors characteristic of a malty, somewhat tannic second-flush Assam.

The Aftertaste

If the flavor description leaves you saying, "Meh," read on my friend. The lingering aftertaste gets exciting again with floral, fruity, vanilla and tannin flavors.

Had the aftertaste been mediocre, I would not have recommended this tea, but it pulled through and left me a fan. It's not my new favorite, but it's definitely worth checking out if you're interested in both tea and wine. Have you tried it? What do you think?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Article: Tea Time in a Hot Town

As many tea business owners will tell you, summer tends to be a slower time for U.S. tea sales. However, tea business owners in Phoenix are finding way to counter this trend. I talked with them about their tactics that beat the heat. Here are a few they shared:

* A focus on health, including organics, natural flavors, general benefits and
overall lifestyle
* Cooling Ayurvedic or Chinese medicinal blends
* European-style teashops
* Frozen tea treats, like slushes, smoothies, ice creams and gelatos
* Locations in artsy areas, or former coffee shops
* Modern, gender-neutral aesthetics
* Pairing tea with desserts and meals
* Partnerships with herbalists, caterers and other tea-related professionals
* Tea body products, like soaps and lotions
* Tea for rubs, marinades, smoking and other outdoorsy recipes
* Tea cocktails, mocktails and sodas
* Tropical and desert flavors, like passion fruit and prickly pear

Sources indicated that these kinds of tactics may work elsewhere, and shared other tea-in-hot-weather advice for World Tea News in my new article, Tea Time in a Hot Town. In a summer slump? Check it out!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Help Makaibari

I've posted this on Twitter and passed on the news to World Tea News (who did a story on it), but I wanted to post here as well. Darjeeling's Makaibari Tea Estate was hit by a cyclone recently, and there was quite a bit of destruction. IMHO, Makaibari is an incredible tea estate with honorable labor and environmental practices, and excellent teas. (Their Silver Green is phenomenal and their Second Flush Muscatel is one of the highest-priced auction teas in the world.) You can donate to help Makaibari through Eco Prima a wholesale tea company, the sole U.S. importer of Makaibari teas, owned by Anupa Mueller, the sister-in-law of Rajah (Makaibari's owner) and a wonderful person in her own right.

Edit -- I originally mistyped and called Anupa Rajah's sister. She is his sister-in-law. Also, I received the following update:

Anupa -- Makaibari was not the only garden to be hit. The entire sub-district got hit pretty bad. Makaibari is situated in the Kurseong Valley in the district of Darjeeling - the entire valley was affected. (I've provided Rajah's description below).

Rajah -- Castleton had heavy damages in their Dhargaon village. There is a huge landslide which has taken away a considerable portion of their tea. The landslide is so devastating that even today a month after the cyclone hit, the slide continues traumatising all in the vicinity with the sound of the slide. More so in the dead of night, as the sliding earth groans horrifically, like a wounded lion as it cascades downhill. The first few nights were sleepless. On top of Singell tea estate, a massive landslide buried a family. all members died. At Longview tea estate, a massive tree which was uprooted, trapped an adolescent girl for over a day, killing her, as none could extricate her. Goethals school, has lost their entire sports campus. Happy Valley lost a great deal of tea as well as a village near the factory, 6 people died on the spot. Goomtee tea estate suffered enormous damages in their villages- mercifully no deaths. Arya tea estate has lost tea and property damage. The list goes on and on. There were about 50 people who died in the cyclone in the district. The loss to property in the Kurseong subdistrict alone is around 6 million dollars and the sub-district is quite small.

Anupa -- This should give you some idea. And now with the monsoons there, rebuilding is a real problem. They will have to wait until after the rains to get permanent structures built. Thank you for all your efforts. Rajah tells me that his people are overwhelmed at the generosity of people thousands of miles away and have hope that they will come through because of it.

In answer to my question regarding why Makaibari is the only estate that seems to have support here in the states, Makaibari got the press because we (Eco Prima) are here devoted to its cause! Other gardens do not have personal representatives here necessarily and we live at Makaibari and have a market presence here in the U.S. I would not even know how to get relief to the other gardens and there is no district-specific effort that I'm aware of. It makes a difference when the owner lives on the estate and is personally aware of all the grief and damage - it brings it to the forefront and you are more motivated to get attention to it - that's the difference.

(Lindsey -- And because I asked World Tea News to cover it. :) No, really, Anupa has been a much bigger supporter than I. She is very devoted to Makaibari.)

Anupa -- BTW, I concur and would add that Rajah is such a dynamic force that all of Makaibari's devoted fans know of him and his unique compassion for the land and the people of Darjeeling, so there is a human connection to the estate, not JUST the great tea.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tea Punch

If you like a little more than sugar and milk in your tea (nudge, nudge), check out my new Samovar blog post on tea punches. Excerpt:

Tea and punch have a long history together. Some say punch originated in India, where it was made from five key ingredients. (In Hindi, the word for five is “panch.” Many think this is where the word “punch” originated.)

These five key ingredients were: lemon or lime juice, sugar, water, liquor and vaguely defined “spice,” which could mean something we currently think of as “spice” (like nutmeg), something we would probably shun today (like a whale secretion that’s only used is perfume these days) or (yes, yes) tea.

As punch recipes spread across Europe in the 1600s, they evolved. Mixtures of multiple citrus juices and liquors were employed, and green tea and champagne widely replaced water as a core ingredient.

These innovations became much of the groundwork of the art of mixology, which is (gladly) enjoying a revival in San Francisco and other major U.S. cities right now.

Read more on Samovar's tea blog, and happy sipping!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chilled Tea

Whew, is it hot in Charlotte today! Fortunately, I have the remedy for stultifying weather -- chilled teas. I wrote this post for Samovar, but it applies elsewhere, too. :)

Lately, I've been considering blending traditions and making an iced pu-erh with preserved lemons. Pu-erh was traditionally made as a savory, soupy concoction with spices, aromatics and even citrus. However, my initial inspiration for this was the Southern tradition of iced tea with lemon. I think it will either be delicious or terrible, with no middle ground. What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Commercials: Coffee vs Tea

I am increasingly realizing how absurdly outpaced tea ads are by coffee ads. Even in the 1980s (before specialty coffee was popular), there was this Coffee Association Commercial featuring celebrities like David Bowie. More recently, there have been a number of ads in the U.S. and the rest of the Western world featuring coffee as a drug-like substance that is either necessary to function or illicit and (therefore) sexy. Examples:

WNBA coffee commercial makes coffee look like the key to a successful life and links it to skill in sports.

European coffee commercial features coffee as a necessary supplement for daily functioning.

Eastern European (possibly Russian?) Starbucks commercial makes life without coffee absurd and potentially dangerous.

Secret society coffee commercial shows a sexy, exclusive side of coffee.

Cinderella coffee shows coffee as romantic and fated.

How do Western tea ads compete?

Snapple white tea ad portrays tea as simple. (Seriously? Come on...)

Spanish tea commercial shows tea as whimsical. (Meh.)

Lipton ice tea ad makes tea seem like a feel-good, taste-good choice (and is my favorite of the tea Western commercials I've found for that reason).

A different Lipton commercial shows tea as a Zen mind-body-spirit lifter and as an escape from the everyday. (Not bad.)

Lipton also shows tea as refreshing, psychedelic and even sexy, which puts it in competition with coffee. That's important in markets like Portugal (where it was screened and coffee is more prevalent than tea).

From what I can tell, this Pickwick tea ad shows tea as Zen yet urgent. I think it's funny if you know the language (I don't), but it shows a monk grimacing when he sips the tea at the end. (SALES FAIL. ... Or tea and casting fail? Perhaps it's that bad and the guy can't act through the immense badness.)

Of course, there are some cool tea commercials coming out of Asia (notably the weird Mugi-Cha commercial and the cute caterpillar commercial), but these days there are even better Asian coffee ads:

Celebrity coffee ad shows coffee as desirable and more important to reporters than what a famous person has to say.

David Lynch coffee commercial makes coffee mysterious and (seemingly) more important than a missing woman. (There's a whole series of these on YouTube.)

And... Brad Pitt is in not one but TWO Japanese coffee commercials. Need I say more?

Beyond just ads, a popular South Korean drama is based in a coffee shop run by actor/model heartthrob Gong Yoo. (Here, he's in a coffee ad, but re: the show... Talk about product placement!) In Asia, coffee has become hip, edgy, alluringly exotic, cool. Too bad tea hasn't managed to do that on a bigger level here yet!

Tea industry, we have to be able to compete! These ads are WAY better than our ads and (as you can see) they've been around for much longer (in the U.S.) and are way edgier (around the world). Part of the issue is money, as you can learn in somebody's Powerpoint presentation on coffee advertising budgets, but part of it is an issue of cultural identification. We need to finally embrace the idea that tea is cool (at least in the U.S.)! After all, which is the unusual, exotic beverage (in the U.S.)? Which makes you feel better for longer? Which is embraced by tech rock stars like Kevin Rose? Which is the beverage of choice of foodies in-the-know? We can do this, people. I want to see innovation! After all, you weren't attracted to tea because it was the same-old thing, right? Why make commercials that make it seem like something boring that you only drink for health? Or just another goofy ad for another random product?

(Side note one: I'll probably post some weird tea commercials from Asia soon. (There are plenty to choose from.) Look out for it!

Side note two: If you can't do ads, at LEAST do press releases. Don't have time? I write them. Contact me at vee (at) veetea (dot) com for details.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Article: Unusual Tea Origins

You can blame it on climate change, shifting economic status or connoisseurs' need for something new, but the fact remains that unusual tea origins are getting to be hot right now. I just covered the trend for World Tea News. Excerpt:

Terroir, the concept of distinct flavor imbued by region-specific factors such as climate, soil and varietal, originated with French wine-making, but it also applies to tea. Pettigrew said today’s tea consumers want to treat tea like wine and are taking a new interest in origin.

“You don’t excite people with just average tea; you need the unusual experiences (such as new origins) to make it more exciting,” she said.

Cain said this new-found connoisseurship does not mean tea businesses should forgo old favorites – then, he went on to passionately describe his current favorite tea, a “fruity and full” first flush Nepalese black tea with “fascinating” peaks and levels in flavor.

This kind of excitement about new discoveries – and the work of people like Melican, who has traveled to 26 tea-producing countries on six continents – is encouraging the expansion of specialty production techniques into a multitude of new and unexpected places.

Some traditional origins are also producing orthodox teas and using foreign processing methods in response to customer connoisseurship, Cain and Pettigrew added.

This was fascinating to research. I hope to write more on some of these individual origins in the future, when they are further along. In the meantime, you can read the full article on World Tea news.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Organic vs. Non-Organic

I know you all purchase organic products when you can (right?), if not for yourself, then for the environment. However, sometimes organic can equate to expensive, and right now high price tags can be as hard to swallow as pesticide-laden foods. Dr. Weil recently posted these twelve foods to buy organic regardless of the price tag. He also posted twelve non-organic foods with minimal pesticide residue (a.k.a. "items you don't have to buy organic"). You may notice that tea isn't on either list. The truth of the matter is that conventional tea is still relatively low in pesticide residue... but that doesn't mean it's better for the planet, the plants or the producers. You may be glad to know that I recently heard a pound of tea has less pesticide residue than a single apple. Wow! Lemme know if you'd like to see a full story on pesticides in tea and I'll pitch it this month.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Harvard Business Review on Tea

The Harvard Business Review has an interesting article on tea in China in the 19th century. Excerpt:

Chinese methods of processing and enjoying tea were reinvented over the centuries. As late as the Song dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), powdered teas were gourmet extravagances, which gave rise to the varieties central to the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu). Tastes changed decisively in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.) to favor types of loose, whole-leaf teas like those of the present day. No longer beaten to a froth in bowls and drunk out of them, tea was now brewed or steeped in teapots (another innovation of this period) and sipped from cups. By the middle of the eighteenth century (the mid-Qing dynasty), the three major classifications of contemporary Chinese teas had emerged—the fully fermented black teas (hongcha) favored throughout the former British Empire, semi-fermented teas (gingcha), such as the oolong so popular in North America, and unfermented green teas (lücha), which secured a following in more limited markets, such as North Africa. As evident in the nomenclature, the degree of fermentation or oxidation allowed in tea processing largely determined the nature of the output. Whether done manually or mechanically, the manipulation of newly picked leaves activates their oxidation, and firing or drying halts the process at the desired point.

Very interesting! You can read the rest and see more rare photos here.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tea in Film

I recently asked my Twitter peeps about their favorite movie scenes involving tea. Here are their responses:

Winnie at Teance said, "the scene in Fearless with Jet Li before the fight is good."

HonestTea said, "The Mad Hatter's tea party from AliceinWonderland!"

JeeJuno said, "Karen and Felicity drink tea in a scene from Out of Africa, not a grand scene, but a GRAND movie!!"

dcbuck said, "The only scene I can even think of is the bit from the second Karate Kid movie just before the very dramatic storm sets in."

Also, thetearooms linked this segment on tea at Harrods. (I visited Harrods' tea department when I was in London. Fantastic!) The film clip includes an amusing (and very dated) segment on how to brew tea with a teabag. YouTube kindly led me to this old film how to brew tea with information that's (mostly) still relevant today. (I love the use of the words "tea juice" throughout...)

What's your favorite movie scene involving tea? Seen any interesting old tea films lately?

Monday, June 1, 2009

iPhones for Tea

My iPhone died over the weekend. I have been a Mac user for as long as I can remember and I never had any problems with my computers or my first generation iPhone. Also, I use it for my business quite a bit -- calls, texts, email, interview recordings, photos.... I need this phone pretty much any time I want to get work done. Fortunately, when I took it to the Apple store, they were AWESOME! Great customer service. They replaced my iPhone within an hour, despite the fact that I didn't have an appointment and they were slammed with customers. No hassle, no rudeness, just support. I wish more companies ran like that! It made me respect Apple all the more.

Apparently, Apple thinks my kind of business is pretty cool, too... or at least something their customers would be into. A new iPhone commercial features the operation of a tea business as an example of how you can use your iPhone.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tweens Tea Essay Contest

A new press release from Teas, Etc. and The Tea Shop Girls:

Teas Etc and The Teashop Girls author Laura Schaefer are pleased to announce an essay contest for young writing enthusiasts. The contest was created in an effort to encourage imagination, writing and summer reading and to introduce the next generation of tea drinkers to premium quality loose leaf tea as a healthy beverage alternative.

To inspire each participant Teas Etc will send out free tea samples at the time of registration, which begins June 1st. "We want young people to use their imagination and not be intimidated by the topic of tea which is why we are sending out the inspiration samples." said Laura "While tea needs to be a central theme, the story can be a fairy tale, science fiction or whatever the writer creates. It’s all about self expression and creativity." Register at and receive your free tea inspiration sample.

Entrants will be judged in one of two age groups 7-10 and 11-14. The essay must include tea as a part of the story, be 400 words and be submitted no later than June 30th, 2009, 12 midnight EST. Stories will be judged on creativity, writing style, voice and grammar appropriate to the age group. Submit essays at

Winners will be announced on July 18th. Prizes will be awarded to the top essay in each age category. Each winner will receive a free copy of Tea Shop Girls, signed by author Laura Schaefer and a Flowering Tea Gift Set with Ceremony Side Handle Teapot which includes a beautiful ceremony style glass teapot and 8 handcrafted flowering teas that bloom as they brew.

In addition to the prizes awarded, winners and their essays will be featured in World Tea News ( a weekly online publication that brings the latest tea news and hot new trends, to readers across the globe. "World Tea News is pleased to participate" says George Jage, President of SFG Group owner/operator of World Tea News, "as a tea news publication how could we say no to the next generation of tea drinking writers?"

Winners will also be highlighted on both sponsor’s websites – and

Tea Shop Girls

Laura Schaefer loves to write almost as much as she enjoys drinking tea. As a regular contributor for the Princeton Review she is the author of Man with Farm Seeks Woman with Tractor (Thunder’s Mount Press, 2005). Her first novel for young readers The Teashop Girls (Simon & Schuster/Wiseman), released December 30, 2008, has been well received and can be found at The book hosts an official website that includes tea party photos and the latest in Tea Shop Girl happenings. Laura resides in Madison Wisconsin and is currently working on her second young adult novel, entitled The Hollywood Scoop. Tea Shop Girls is online at

Teas Etc, Inc

Teas Etc, Inc., an importer/exporter of specialty teas and related items, has been providing retail and wholesale customers with quality products for over a decade. Dedicated to maintaining the highest level of quality, the Company is USDA Certified Organic, with green facilities in West Palm Beach, Florida. In addition, it maintains a satellite office in China and a showroom at AmericasMart in Atlanta. Teas Etc is online at

Media Contacts:

Tea Shop Girls
Laura Schaefer

Teas Etc, Inc.
Newman Johnston

VeeTea comments:

Cool! I read The Tea Shop Girls. It was cute -- the kind of thing I think a tween would really enjoy. I'm glad to see this contest encouraging young women to write and to drink tea!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tea Cocktail Fail

Have you ever had a tea cocktail that made you go "Eww..." instead of "Ooh..."? As you can see, I did. Apparently, "jasmine tea cocktail" means a teabag dropped into what tasted like sour mix, sour mix and more sour mix. Why must generally good restaurants keep giving tea cocktails such a bad name?! Less rhetorically speaking, what's the worst tea cocktail you've ever had? What's the best?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teance Spring Harvest Parties

Teance is quickly selling out of seats for their Spring Harvest Parties. I went to a Fall Harvest Party there last year and HIGHLY recommend it. Details from Teance:

May 29th 7pm
Spring Harvest Tea Party I

Celebrate the Spring Harvest with us at Teance. Our tea buyer will share stories from this year's tea trip during a slide show and a tasting of rare teas. She will speak extensively about farm conditions, the tea market in China, and of course entertaining anecdotes of the lives of the tea producers she meets along the way will be included. Each trip is full of surprises!

Rare Phoenix Oolongs
Maojian Green
Taiwan Oolongs

Space is limited. PLEASE RSVP. $18 per person

The Art of Tea reaches its zenith in the form of these rare teas, produced each year in extremely small quantities by only a few remaining qualified artisans. They are usually commissioned by the Central Government of China for gift-giving, and never available for sale. Even the most die-hard tea aficionados may never get a chance to taste such rarities.

Anxi White Tea
Keemun Spring Bud
Nanjing Yu Hua Rain Flower

Space is limited. PLEASE RSVP. $25 per person.

Make a reservation here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kevin Rose Tea Interview

At the World Tea Expo, I had the pleasure of interviewing a number of tea celebs. The interviews will be popping up on World Tea News over the following weeks. Here's the first of the interviews I conducted: talking tea with Kevin Rose of More soon!

Teas, Etc. Sale

Teas, Etc. is having a Memorial Day Sale through Monday. It's 20% off all teas, teaware and accessories. I'd suggest their Bai Hao Silver Needle and their award-winning Assam Reserve, but there are lots of great tea (and more) to choose from.

What are you up to this long weekend?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tea in LA

For me, tea and travel go hand in hand. I love checking out the unique tea culture in each place I visit. This July, I'm heading out to LA. To prepare, I'm looking for tea recommendations from my fellow tea lovers. So far, I have:

The Tea Garden & Tea Emporium
Leaforever in Pasadena
Bamboo Tea House in Pasadena
Palace of Tea in Beverly Hills
Tranquil Tea Lounge in Fullerton

(Thank you for your suggestions, fellow Twitterers!!!) Do you have any suggestions to add? I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More on Tea & Health

I recently interviewed prominent tea researcher Dr. Iman Hakim on tea & health. Excerpt:

Goodwin: What are your findings on tea and heart health?

Hakim: Tea is shown to improve the fluidity of the blood, which makes circulation easier, so it can lower your blood pressure and lower incidence of stroke. We have also seen a very beneficial effect on lipids in general. One study was on patients in the Middle East who drank two to three cups of tea a day. It showed a decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol) and an increase in HDL (good cholesterol) that was particularly strong amongst women who smoke.

Goodwin: Does tea impact diabetes?

Hakim: As long as it doesn’t have any sugar in it, of course, tea can control blood sugar. It can also prevent complications, like the cardiovascular effects that accompany Type 2 diabetes. The research was first done on black tea, but now they are studying green tea. Both black and green come from the same plant, so if it works with one, more than likely, it works with the other.

You can read the full article on tea & health on World Tea News.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Random Fun Links, Part Two

Here are a few more random, fun and vaguely tea-related links. Enjoy!

Hot Tea/"Hottie" T-Shirt (Fans of Arrested Development may remember Lucille making the same pun about, ahem, Buster's Dad. *Queue music*)

Broken English Tea Packaging... Winning.

Top Tea Cocktail on LA Weekly

Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea (This stuff got me into trouble when I got a round of it -- and won a t-shirt and hat -- at my local music trivia night last week. It's dangerous! Here are some Vee Tea tea cocktails, in case you want to make your own dangerous tea-based beverages.)

This tea steeps in your mouth. I'm kind of horrified.

Of Montreal's Id Engager has a teapot (among many other things. Can you find it?

Join the Tea-V Set. Join the Vee Tea Set!

Pots de Creme with Matcha Stars Yum!

Have a link to add? Post it below or email it to me at VEE _at_ VEETEA _dot_ COM.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tea & Sweets

Dessert Magazine has a new issue about tea desserts and pairings that looks seriously yummy. My favorites? The Matcha Panna Cotta with Elderflower Syrup, the Masala Chai Creme Brulee and the Green Tea & Jasmine Delice (from The French Laundry). What caught your eye?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cool Tea Gadgets

I love cool new teaware (more here and here). This post is dedicated to techie teaware and other tea-related gadgetry.

Williams-Sonoma variable temperature kettle -- OK, so the "a temp for b class of tea, c temp for d class of tea" thing is a gross generalization, but selecting specific temperatures for your water is incredibly useful for making tea if you know what temperature you should actually use

Yanko Design's Turtle Tea Kettle -- Best for blacks and tisanes, as it reaches a full boil

Three award-winning tea kettle designs -- Very cool concepts! I wish the first one could indicate more than one temperature, but it is undeniably awesome anyway. I love the magnetic trivet idea! The second one seems a bit dangerous (how do you avoid spilling boiling water when you release the switch?), but is a novel idea. The third is cute, but I wish it had a built-in strainer for us loose-leaf tea drinkers. Which is your favorite?

"Sonic Boiler" -- Quite possibly fraudulent, but interesting nonetheless.

Tea Forte's "Tea Over Ice" Pitcher -- Cool, but not as cool as Hario's "Ice Brew Teapot," which I saw for the first time at Sungarden's booth at the World Tea Expo. Ice slowly melts in the top compartment, filters past tealeaves and then collects in the bottom compartment. It's a similar concept to their "coffee water dripper". Sadly, I couldn't find an image on their site...

A mug that cools tea sip-by-sip -- Very clever...

Handpresso for handmade espresso -- I suppose you could also use it for "Redpresso" or rooibos that's ground espresso-style, and maybe even for other partially-ground teas and tisanes. What do you think?

Cute, Unbreakable French press mugs and tea infusers -- There are lots of options like these on the market these days.

Collapsable travel strainer for tea -- I like that the strainer can also store tealeaves for reinfusions.

What are some of your favorite tea gadgets?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bramah Museum of Tea & Coffee

According to this article on London tourist spots, The Bramah Museum of Coffee & Tea is set to reopen this year. The tea museum's website says they're set to open early this year... but May isn't exactly early, is it? Have any of you heard anything? Is it open? If not, do you know when it will open?

Monday, May 11, 2009

World Tea Expo

This post is dedicated to the World Tea Expo. It was, as usual, fantastic. Here are a few highlights from my week in Vegas, from the Expo and otherwise:

Seeing so many tea people -- I love learning about what everyone is up to, talking tea and connecting with people and ideas in the industry. Connections took the forms of chatting between classes, touring the show floor, interviewing like mad, holding a TweetUp, sending the obligatory "where are you now" texts to find fellow attendees... I only wish I'd had more time to spend with everyone!

Trying new teas -- ITO EN's new shincha (sold out already), Hawaii-grown teas from Sherri Miller, oolongs from Teas, Etc. and much more... Along with the people, this is one of my favorite things about the Expo each year!

Interviews -- I held about two dozen interviews over the course of the Expo. Some were informal talks, some were sit-down-with-a-recorder interviews and some were video interviews. The videos were with notables like James Norwood Pratt, Jane Pettigrew, Bruce Richardson, Kevin Rose and Steve Schwartz. They'll start showing up on World Tea News soon.

Classes -- My favorite class was Rona Tison's Japanese green tea cupping course. Tasty! A few of my other favorites were with Charles Cain (TeaGschwendner USA), Michale Cramer (Adagio) and Elisabeth Knottingham (The Teacup in Seattle, WA), who held a fantastic class on hiring and keeping great employees.

Leaving the Strip -- Sometimes Vegas is just so... Vegas-y. This year, I got off the strip on a few occasions. Downtown Vegas' First Friday with my husband, my World Tea News boss and her husband (and his beautiful flower shop, set to open soon) was fantastic. Red Rock Canyon was gorgeous! And tapas with the Gamila Teastick crew was was tastier (and cheaper) than most of the strip fare.

What was your favorite part of the Expo? What are you looking forward to about next year?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tea Chocolates

Did you get your mom something tea-related for Mother's Day? I did! Check out these yummy tea chocolates from Charles Chocolates and Teance. Other mom-friendly tea gifts include:

Flowering teas
Flower-based tisanes
Chocolate teas
Cool teapots
Afternoon tea for two (or more)

What did you get for your tea-loving mother?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Web Two Point What? (Part Two)

The Expo was awesome! More on that later...

You may remember that I wrote about using the Internet as a marketing tool for your tea business a while back. Well, here's tea & the Internet, part two. It talks about social networking, photo, video and other means of using the internet to market your tea company, and has a few notes on web culture. Here's an excerpt on sources' web marketing ideas that were not covered in detail:

*Imbed Web 2.0 tools like Digg and StumbleUpon into your site.

*Offer RSS feeds on specific topics, such as green tea.

*Include real-time reviews on your site.

*Respond to reviews on sites like Yelp and Citysearch. (Jacobs politely responds to every Yelp reviewer with a coupon, which he said increases loyalty and causes 80 percent of the negative reviewers reverse their reviews.)

*Launch specific, targeted, unique Google Adwords campaigns. (Lawrence went from all organic traffic to 75 percent search engine traffic after doing this.)

*Encourage viral marketing.

*Post on community message boards, related informational sites and blogs to increase backlinks.

Most of the rest of the article goes into much more detail. It's been getting some retweets, so I'm guessing that means it's useful. :) Check it out on World Tea News.

I'll post about the Expo next week, when I'm a little more caught up on things. In the meantime, I'll just say that it was fantastic connecting with so many tea people!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Yesterday, I received an email announcing the arrival of Shincha (first flush, "New Tea" sencha from Japan) from ITO EN.

Here's a taste of ITO EN's two Shincha offerings (from ITO EN's email):

Chiran Yutaka Midori Shincha
This YUTAKA MIDORI varietal is grown in the CHIRAN region of Kagoshima Prefecture. The warmer climate of the southern most island lends a more flavorful and vegetal quality to the teas grown here. This CHIRAN YUTAKA MIDORI SHINCHA is no exception, with an intoxicating aroma and vibrant green color, that only hints at the wonderful flavor that awaits you.

Tanogashima Shincha
Tanegashma Shincha comes from a small island off the coast of Kyushu. This Shincha is noted for its deeper flavor and rich palate, ending in a clean finish. With a complexity that is both unusual and delightful in a Shincha, Tangegashima is one that we hope you will enjoy this spring season.

What a wonderful heralding of spring! I can't wait to see more first flush teas at the World Tea Expo and at various retailers over the next few weeks as they are plucked, processed and imported fresh from the source. What's your favorite first flush tea? Is the first flush your favorite?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chanoyu News

Sadly, Mr. Hisashi Yamada (founder of the NYC Urasenke Chanoyu Center) passed away last week. You can read a bit about his fascinating, tea-centered life in his obituary (the first I've ever written) and in this NY Times profile.

If you're interested in learning more about the art of chanoyu, be sure to check out the Modern Teaism demo at the World Tea Expo!

Also, if you're interested in architecture and/or design, be sure to check out this tiny teahouse by Terunobu Fujimori. It's the fourth pageview into the sampling Tashcen has provided. You can see more of his tea architecture on Dezeen.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tea Sales

There are a number of tea sales going on right now. Here are a few I've found. Feel free to add to the list!

Teas, Etc.'s Earth Day sale
Through April 26

ITO EN's Shipping & Handling sale
Reduced standard (UPS Ground) shipping & handling prices for volume orders. Save 20% on shipping & handling for orders over 70lbs or save 25% on shipping & handling for orders over 120lbs through May 4, 2009.

The Tea Table's $3.95 flat rate shipping sale
$3.95 flat rate shipping on all orders through May 1st at 5PM Mountain Time. Through???

Zhi Tea's Mother's Day Sale
Free Shipping on all tea orders for Mother's Day. Use Coupon Code IHEARTMOM.

Urbana Tea's Half-Off Black Tea Sale
All black teas half-off. Through???

In Pursuit of Tea's specials list
Various teas and teaware. Ongoing.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Numi RTD Puerh Reviews

Numi recently launched a line of puerh (also spelled pu-erh, pu'er or puer) teabags in controversial flavors like "Chocolate Puerh." This was just crazy enough that I knew it would be either: a) the worst thing I have ever tasted, or b) actually really good for a flavored tea. Thankfully, Numi knew to put in extra effort when taking risks and made Chocolate Puerh (a potential nightmare in liquid form) into a balanced, rich tea in which the flavors (vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon) mimic the tea itself's naturally rich and chocolaty taste. Now, they are launching a line of RTD (ready-to-drink -- bottled/canned) puerh teas. Will these widen our perceptions of puerh and draw new audiences deeper into the world of tea types? Or will they taste like cotton candy that has been used to clean out a garbage can? Let's find out!

"Earl Grey Puerh Black Tea" -- Earl Grey is the starter tea of starter teas, the one tea offered in most Western "one-tea-only" establishments and (occasionally) a decent cuppa. The packaging on this tea is technically correct (It is a black puerh, yes.), but also slightly misleading to noobs (Those looking for a regular black Earl Grey are sipping from the wrong bottle with this one.). That said, it isn't a far cry from what you'd expect from any other "lightly," "barely" or "other-word-meaning-not-absurdly-and-overpoweringly" sweetened Earl Grey RTD. Citrus notes dominate, followed by tannin and honey. (To be clear -- honey notes. It actually contains agave and evaporated cane juice, but no honey.) The citrus notes are in the form of not only aged Earl Grey tea (which has traditional bergamot essence), but also brewed orange peel and lemon myrtle, creating a more nuanced taste than your usual Earl Grey. I'm not a big fan of the aftertaste, but otherwise I am very impressed with this one!

"Moroccan Mint Puerh Green Tea" -- Whoa! EXTREME minty blast like you can only experience in a chewing gum commercial! I love mint in moderation, but this is just out of control. Hands down, my least favorite of the bunch.

"Magnolia Jasmine Puerh Green Tea" -- More magnolia than jasmine, more green than puerh. As someone who was raised in the South, the fragrance of magnolia blossoms holds a special place in my heart. The taste... not so much. To me, magnolia has a bitter taste, kind of like jasmine green steeped in overly hot water. I'm told that this is because I'm a super-taster. Perhaps that is true, but let's just say that this is NOT my new favorite RTD. If you try it, let me know if you get the "sweet floral taste" the label touts.

"Mango Passion Puerh Black Tea" -- When you open this bottle, you are immediately hit with the fragrance of sweet, ripe mangoes, followed by the tang of passionfruit. The tea reveals itself later in the flavor. This is a great intro tea or a tea for a hot day. The label says it is a "freshly brewed white tea and puerh black tea blend," but the ingredients list a black puerh without any other brews. If the latter is correct, Mango Passion and Moroccan Mint are the only two teas in the line with only one tea type used. The rest have several types included. For this reason, the tea profile is simple, leaving the fruit profile to dominate. Thumbs up!

"Peach Nectar Puerh Green Tea" -- White tea, osmanthus, peach puree... this is a fruity-sweet treat. Along with Mango Passion and Moroccan Mint, it's the sweetest of the bunch, but it's not as sweet as many peach teas and the green puerh cuts the stickiness I associate with peach brews. It's refreshing and smooth -- perfect for Summer. I just wish I didn't spill it all over myself while opening the bottle. (This was an ongoing problem. At first, I thought it was me. Now, I think it's the pop-top. Don't open this over your keyboards, people!)

All this said, I'd like to point back to an article I wrote about a year ago predicting the rise of more diverse RTD tea types with more diverse sweeteners. Not that I was the only person saying this, but... yeah, I totally called it. :P

Bonus Review -- Numi's "Honey Lemon Rooibos Teasan" -- First off, what's up with "teasan?" Haven't we confused tea noobs enough with the whole "it's not a tea, it's a tisane/infusion/botanical" thing? (And, for the record, many "infusions" are actually NOT infusions. If they need to be boiled, they're actually "decoctions." The deeper you go, the more complex it gets...) Now we're saying it's a "teasan?" I'm a respected professional in the tea industry and even I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. (It's a tisane with tea-like properties? No... It's a blend of a tea and tisane? No...) Moving on, this one is not kidding about the "Honey" part. It has more honeybush (rooibos' cousin) than rooibos, which gives it a naturally honeyed taste (hence the name). It's also "Barely Sweetened" (No...) with honey and agave. As you may have guessed, this is a VERY sweet brew. I'd recommend it for people who love Southern-sweet iced tea, but want to skip the caffeine.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Random Fun Links, Part One?

None of these warrant a full post on their own, so I bring you: RANDOM FUN LINKS

This is probably part one in an ongoing series of me being too lazy to write cohesive blog posts because I'm too busy writing even less cohesive articles and copy. (I hope I'm kidding about that last part, but too busy to know for sure!)

This book is awesome. Read it.

Good Magazine says tea is more sustainable than coffee. Rad.

I officially declare this the cutest tea packaging of all time.

Bryan Stafford gets added to the World Tea News blogger list. Welcome!

Samovar on How to Get Into Tea. Forward it to the uninitiated.

The World Tea Expo is NEXT WEEK. I'll be there. Will you?

This message was brought to you by...
a giant tea cozy.

Enjoy your tea!

Tea in SF

Tea in SF is boomsploding right now. Not sure what I mean by "boomsploding?" Check out these links:

diggnation talks tea

Samovar/Kevin Rose tea starter kit

SF Chronicle's new piece on tea (This went up today and includes quotes from yours truly.)

Monday, April 20, 2009


Went to Phoenix to speak about tea at a wellness conference last weekend. While I was there, I visited with some tea business owners and learned some very interesting things about tea in Phoenix, which I'll be sharing on World Tea News soon. In the meantime, here's a taste of my trip:

Prickly Pear Cactus "Tea"

A "teatini" at Chandler Urban Tea Loft -- Yum!

Chihuly glass pieces at the Desert Botanical Gardens -- Gorgeous!

I also got to eat at Quiessence, which is a local, artisanal restaurant. Loved their pan-seared cobia with pureed cauliflower and their caramelized onion soup with sorrel. Their menu changes daily, but I'm sure if you visit you'll find it to be as delicious as I did!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New Article: Tea & the Internet

I have a new article out on using the Internet as a marketing tool for your tea business. Excerpt:

Twitter is sometimes referred to as “micro-blogging” because it has informal, blog-like content and a 140-character maximum. For each tweet (Twitter message), Jacobs said, he averages less than 10 minutes of writing and more than $500 in revenue.

Cason launched a Twitter campaign in March to reach 10,000 followers (readers) by April 1. Although he failed in the goal, he did generate publicity and reached 1,100 followers – enough to temporarily crash his site when he tweeted a 40 percent off sale.

“The best thing about Twitter is you get to follow who you want,” Cason said, “so you know that everyone who is receiving your tweets wants to know what you have to say. All you have to worry about is telling them what they want to hear.”

Dake recommended Twitter over other social media, video and blogging, explaining that it’s efficient, easy, free and effective for immediate connections with people. At the recent SXSW festival in Austin, TX, he used Twitter for a Tweet Up (get-together) where he gave away Mighty Leaf. He said it generated word-of-mouth publicity that lasted weeks after the event.

Sources gave these tips for using Twitter:

*Put content before sales.
*Keep posts educational, casual, unique and personable.
*Give it a face, but don’t make it overly personal.
*Follow Twitterers in related areas.
*Tweet often.

You can read the full story on World Tea News. Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The NecessiTeas Reviews

Today, I'm reviewing assorted teas and tisanes from The NecessiTeas. They are not, by any stretch of the imagination, serious, artisanal teas -- they come in flavors like "Rootbeer Float" and contain ingredients like Andes Mints -- but they are fun and, as far as dessert teas go, very good. My reviews reflect this. After all, I'm not reviewing a rare oolong from a 100 year old tree, so why write about them like I am?

Chocolate Orange -- You know those chocolate oranges they sell during the winter? The ones in orange foil with the segments that you break apart by vehemently rapping the whole foil-wrapped chocolate mass against something hard before you open it? That's what this is like, except without the violence-inducing packaging and with some rooibos antioxidants. Yum!

Chocolate Coconut Lime -- I know coconut is a polarizing flavor, so I'll start off by saying that I love it. The aroma of the dry blend is mostly lime zest. The brew's aroma is more complex, but still mostly lime. The taste has a hint of chocolate and definite coconut notes, but it could still pass as a key lime black tea. For those who love flavored teas with sugar and milk, I strongly suggest this one. It's not exactly what I was expecting from the name, but it definitely is as "exotic" and "tropical" as the label claims.

Strawberry CHEESEcake -- This is a black tea with dried strawberry pieces. The aroma of the leaves is very tart, but, once brewed, it mellows and sweetens substantially. The taste itself is nothing special, but the aftertaste is uncannily like strawberry cheesecake with strong black tea.

Strawberry SHORTcake -- Different from the one above. This is a white tea with dried strawberries and natural flavorings. It doesn't look like the highest quality white tea out there (in fact, I'm not sure it will even meet the new standards of white tea that are being developed), but it DOES smell exactly like strawberry shortcake, and tastes quite a bit like it, too. I'd say this would score 9/10 for a gift to your favorite 20-something female friend who likes cute stuff from the 1980s.

Lemon Raspberry -- Light, refreshing and way less tart than the dry odor of the blend. It's a pretty basic, soothing citrus-berry green.

Caramel Dipped Apple -- I have to admit that I was hesitant to try this one. It smells VERY strong. However, the taste isn't so overpowering as you'd guess. It reminds me of Caribou Coffee's caramel apple cider, but WAY less intense.

Coco La Ven -- I'm not usually big on chamomile OR lavender, yet I love this blend of black tea, vanilla, lavender, coconut and (you guessed it) chamomile. The directions suggest "a touch of sugar and splash of milk," but I think it's great on its own -- rich, complex, sophisticated... This is a fantastic example of the new wave of dessert teas that have been coming out lately. It's not enough to add flavor to a tea and call it a day anymore. Blenders are stepping (and steeping) up to the challenge of making a great dessert tea. It's my favorite of the bunch.

Banana Split, Strawberry Banana and Banana Cream -- Yes, these are three different flavors and, no, I'm not reviewing any of them, as I hate dried banana and feel it would be unfair to review them. Still, I thought those of you who DON'T hate dried banana might want to know that these are offered. :) If you want them, email me your addy at vee (at) veetea (dot) com. The first person to ask gets them.

Orange Glow -- This one smells like orange cheesecake with lots of hibiscus. It tastes pretty much the same, but weaker. With this one (as with the others) I'm glad to see actual orange rind, flowers and flower petals and other "real fruit and flower" means of flavoring for the majority of the taste.

Rootbeer Float -- I recently tried e.lix.r's Rootbeer Tonic for comparison and I like this better. It tastes just like rootbeer, but less sweet, warm and not carbonated. Having reread that last sentence, I feel I should also say that it's way better than that sounds! I don't really get the "float" part from it, but that's probably for the best, as the only time I drank/ate a rootbeer float I vomited almost immediately. (Sorry if that's TMI...)

Mint Chocolate Chip -- Enter the "Andes Mints as tea ingredient." I loved Andes Mints as a child, so this blend makes me all nostalgic and warm inside. That aside, it's a good blend, so long as you don't mind a waxy surface (a pet peeve of mine with many chocolate teas). Refreshing, minty, rich, lightly sweet... I'm a fan.

Have any of you tried teas or tisanes from The NecessiTeas? What did you think?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

World Tea Expo

After attending an awesome webinar today (Charles Cain talking about how to purchase tea), I'm am getting really excited about the upcoming World Tea Expo. I'll be attending classes, interviewing some top tea experts, watching demos, writing for the show dailies, leading a tearoom owners' roundtable and orchestrating a TweetUp (follow me on Twitter to attend). My classes are:

Hire & Keep Great Employees (A challenge for most businesses, tea or otherwise...)
Focused Tasting: Oolong (I went to last year's oolong tasting an wanted to go again. Oolong is such an amazing tea!)
Focused Tasting: Puer (Attended Guang Lee's (non-tasting) session on puer last year and wanted to learn more, especially after writing about puer for World Tea News.)
Sell Your Tea Online Successfully (One of their most popular classes. I can see why!)
Skill Building: Japanese Green Tea Cupping (With the fabulous Ms. Rona Tison of ITO EN -- I'm sure it will be amazing!)
Model a Successful Teashop (With Charles Cain. Once again, I'm sure it will be great.)
Price It Right and Sell it Smart (I think this is an important topic, especially now. Can't wait to learn more!)

When we're closer to the event itself, I'll tell you more about who all I'm interviewing. Hint: It's going to be awesome!

Are you attending? What are you taking? What are you looking forward to the most?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rishi's New Powdered Tealeaves

Rishi recently sent me some powdered tealeaves. I was inspired enough by one of them to use it in one of my three cocktail submissions to the World Tea Expo's Top Tea Cocktail competition. I thank you all for your votes and support, but, sadly, it did not win (nor did my other two). Still, there's always next year! (Now I have a better strategy -- realize that it is a popularity contest and act accordingly -- only submit one, warn fans about overvoting, submit far before the deadline (as voting starts upon submission), promote early, etc.) In the meantime, here's a review of three of Rishi's new powdered teas:

Matcha -- Matcha is traditionally made with hot water and a whisk. It's sweet and warming and vegetal all at once. It's shared as a way of connecting with other people and appreciating the temporal, imperfect beauty around you. Rishi's new matcha is made by pouring it into a plastic bottle and shaking it. Before anyone points fingers, I want to say that I don't blame them. They're not the first to make tea the new Crystal Light. (Kidding about CL... But seriously... In Japan, ITO EN has a bottled water with a special cap that releases matcha when twisted. Same idea, just more high-tech.)

Genmaicha -- Genmaicha is a toasted brown rice and sencha blend that is popular because it is economical, low in caffeine and sweet/roasty/nutty in taste. Strangely, it is also popular in the U.S. with a matcha coating as "genmaimatcha." Genmaimatcha is more expensive, has a more astringent taste and has a higher caffeine content, which would seem to defeat the purpose... yet it remains fairly popular. Well, if genmaimatcha can do it, why not genmaicha that's powdered (like matcha)? It smells great. Tastes pretty good cold. I let it reach room temp and like it much better -- more aroma, more taste, sweet, nutty, mildly vegetal. Very tasty!

Matcha -- Matcha is fairly widely available. The only thing that sets this one apart from others is the packaging (which is single-serving, but actually not unique to Rishi from what I can tell -- it looks like a standard single-serving import, complete with Japanese text). I prepared some of it hot using the traditional method and was left feeling lukewarm about it. The cold, plastic bottle preparation was OK. (Side note -- they aren't kidding when they say shake well! Whew! I knew from taking chanoyu classes how intense matcha clumps can be, but somehow I wasn't prepared to anticipate that from a beverage in a bottle. SHAKE. WELL.) This is a convenient way to drink matcha for travel, sport, etc. Otherwise, stick with the real deal.

Golden Oolong -- My favorite of the three samples I got. (Didn't get the fourth they offer, Sencha.) It's a unique and flavorful variation on green oolong, or pouchong. Light floral notes compliment a richer, deeper, sweet/vegetal flavor. It has the complexity of an oolong and the freshness of a green tea. It's no replacement for a great, fresh-brewed oolong, but it seems like it's sweet enough for concentrated tea shots and it makes for a great champagne tea cocktail (ahem).

I'm very glad to see these on the market for two reasons:

One, it's a fun way to experiment with tea in cocktails, cooking, baking, etc. I hope tea can reach a broader audience through these avenues.

Two, it's very easy to use (as in, easier than a teabag), but it maintains a quality standard not associated with flat teabags, dust and fannings or (yes, yes) Crystal Light. This is specialty tea. And it had the potential to reach people who are too lazy/busy/whatever to actually brew tea, even in bag form. With companies like Muzi, ITO EN and Rishi all making powdered tea, will it become the next teabag -- convenient, ubiquitous and ... well, tea-producing? Only time will tell, but I think it stands a fair chance.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

NYC Coffee & Tea Fest

If you (unlike me) are in NYC next weekend (I'll be speaking at a wellness conference in AZ), visit the NYC Coffee & Tea Festival! You can check out cool tea companies like Tavalon (say hi to Chris for me!), Tay Tea (say hi to Nini for me!), SerendipiTea (ditto Linda), Harney & Sons, Biscottea (and Laurance), Adagio (Christine), Zen Green Tea Liqueur, Hancha Tea, Srina, Tea Classics and Te Light. Tea writer Ellen Easton will also be there (hi, Ellen!), as will my favorite beverage magazine, Imbibe. As a thank you for being my personal messenger, here's a promo code for $10 off admission -- enter "VEETEA" (without the quotation marks) during online checkout. Enjoy the show!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Chocolate Spice Rooibos Reviews Wax Philosophical

It seems like David's Tea and Mighty Leaf are on the same wavelength lately. I recently reviewed David's Cream of Earl Grey and Mighty Leaf's Earl Green, both of which are Earl Grey variations. Today, I was going to review a selection of David's Teas, but ML sent me a new sample -- Coco Chai -- that is similar to David's Spicy Chocolate Rooibos*, so I decided to review them both together. Last time, David's won out as my favorite of the two. Who will be the winner this time?

Spicy Chocolate Rooibos -- First off, I want to say two things: I love spice and I don't like banana unless it's fresh or baked into banana bread. This "spicy" blend has pink peppercorns, but not the spice the name would indicate. What it DOES bring in full force, though, is dried bananas. As far as dessert blends go, it's good -- smooth, balanced, not drastically overdone -- it just happens to lie far, far from my personal preferences.

Coco Chai -- I'm a sucker for a great masala chai. The piquancy of the ginger and (sometimes) peppercorns, the sweetness of the cloves, the spice of the cinnamon, the richness of the cardamom... Gotta love it! This is by no means a great chai. The aroma starts off pretty well, but the taste leaves me wanting more. There's no cardamom in the blend, and hardly any ginger. There are pink peppercorns, but they don't add much flavor. It tastes just about exactly like mildly spiced hot cocoa made with water instead of milk, which is (once again) not as alluring as the name suggests.

So who is the winner? I don't know. Is it the tea connoisseur? Hardly.

What about the tea companies seeking to make money off dessert blends like these? I have to wonder if the enormous surge in creation of dessert blends is outpacing the growing demand for them. (I'll address that further in an article for World Tea News later this year.)

It's easy to say the winner is the noob tea drinker who wants something to replace soda or orange mocha frappuccinos (Zoolander nod). However, I think it goes beyond that. These teas attract a whole new kind of tea drinker. Some of them will stick with flavored teas until the days they die, but some will refine their tastes and pick up more sophisticated blends or (gasp!) unflavored teas. I grew up drinking sweetened, iced tea, so who am I to judge?

As much as some of the purveyors of more sophisticated teas moan about how macadamia-vanilla-spice-chocolate-mint-orange rooibos is ruining the tea industry, I think that all new tea drinkers are just that -- another person in the world who is drinking tea -- and there's no reason to complain about that. Maybe, if you're nice to them, they'll become YOUR customer one day. :)

On top of that, it's hard to deny that dessert blends are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated. Had you told me a year ago that I would actually like a flavored oolong, I would have laughed. Now, yup, there is one that has put me in my place. (More on that another day!)

So, maybe, just maybe, by attracting more customers and providing more options, the whole tea industry wins. And you thought this was a simple "David's vs ML" post. Hah!

*David's also carries a Coco Chai Rooibos. I'm well aware that comparing the two would have been a fairer fight, but given the outcome, I think all is well in the world of online tea reviews. :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hanami -- The Cherry Blossom Festival

As I recently said in the Samovar blog, I planned a hanami celebration with some friends. It was incredibly windy on the day of, so although we made matcha, it was left undocumented. Here are a few photos we DID manage to snap. I hope you enjoy them, and take the time to welcome spring with your friends!

We celebrated at my favorite park in Charlotte -- Freedom Park. Here's the view near the entrance.

Here's the view from our barbecue spot.

Veggie Yakitori + FIRE


Happy Vee! (If you look closely, you can see my hubby, Marko, reflected in my sunglasses.)

Maybe it's just that I was very happy, but it also seemed that the ducks and ducklings were enjoying the weather. :)

Hanami Crew

Andrea drinking matcha. She'd never tried it before, nor had Adam (also pictured).

The willow tree near our barbecue was lovely, but...

... we came for the cherry blossoms!

We found a nice spot to enjoy our veggie yakitori/kabob-type food (yum!) and assorted sushi (veg + otherwise) from our fave local sushi joint, Ru San's (nothing fancy, but very fun -- fusion rolls like walnuts and Sriracha hot sauce).

Later, we ate wagashi (higashi, matcha agar and youkan) and played soccer. (Below) Marko (our official photographer and my beloved) kicking our collective butts with his Eastern European soccer skills.