Monday, March 30, 2009

Tea in Phoenix

I'll be speaking at a nutrition & wellness conference in Phoenix next month and I have just enough time for a handful of tearoom visits in Phoenix and the surrounding area. So far, I've got Urban Tea Loft, Souvia, Mandala, White August, Arcadia Farms... Where else would you suggest?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earl Grey Variations

Earl Grey is, unarguably, a classic. It's a great way for tearooms to comfort inexperienced tea drinkers who just want a "normal" cup of tea. However, twists on Earl Grey can be a crack in the wall to opening more traditional and/or habitual customers up to new and different tea types. I've noticed quite a few variations on the market lately and received samples of two different Earl-Grey-inspired blends in the last few weeks. Here are my tasting notes:

Mighty Leaf's Earl Green: The leaves and the brew are both very dark for a green tea. At first I wondered if I might have received Earl Grey by mistake! Once it brewed, I know it was green from the aroma. The perfumey bergamot tops out the fragrance, but some subtle astringency from the green tea remains. It's a little over-flavored for my tastes, but not bad. I still prefer Rishi's Earl Green, even though it's technically a Pouchong.

David's Cream of Earl Grey: I'm still sifting through a group of samples from David's Tea, a new-ish company out of Canada. Cream of Earl Grey isn't unique to David's, but it's a very good blend. The flavors are balanced and sophisticated. I wish the black tea at the base were of slightly higher quality, but it's a wonderful choice for those who usually prefer flavored teas. I'll be reviewing more teas from David's (including a fantastic Japanese green and a few rooibos blends) soon. And I'll go ahead and say it now: I LOVE their marketing materials and web design!!!

I'm hoping to try a few samples from Serendipitea's Earl Grey variations and from the World Tea Expo soon. In the meantime, what are some of your favorite Earl Grey variations? I'd love to try them, too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tea in SF, NYC

San Francisco is at the heart of America's tea renaissance, and one of the companies that's really fueling this revolution is Samovar. I'm so glad to be a part of their new site, SamovarLife, as a contributing blogger. Here's my most recent blog post on tea in SF and America. It should give you an idea of what's happening with tea in America and, more specifically, SF. If you want more info on tea in SF, check out this tea industry roundtable on tea in SF and beyond.

New York City is probably second to SF in terms of tea culture in the U.S., but it still has a ways to go. I was very sad to see Harlem Tea Room close last year. I recently received an email (copied below) about a new tearoom that is struggling to open in Harlem. If you're in NYC or you visit often, I highly encourage you to check the email below out and consider donating to help them make this dream a reality!

"Dear Friends,

Take a stroll down Seventh Avenue and you'll find an abundance of eateries, but none like Harlem's newest tea room, Tea and Things of That Kind. We are a local, family owned business transforming the culinary and health landscape of our community. We are determined to open our doors but we need your help to realize this dream.

Our Story
The Najieb family, my neighbors for the past three years, started this endeavor in 2007 with two store front properties (a former bodega and laundry mat) on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 137th Street which they completely gutted and renovated.

Our Vision
Laila and Na'im Najieb are returning to their roots as certified holistic health counselors and creating a tea room in our community that embodies three principles: holistic, healthy and healing. They have partnered with holistic health expert, Dr. Llaila Afrika to offer health consultations and workshops to expand knowledge of food that is nurturing and substantive. The vitality of our community starts with nourishing the mind as well as the body.

Your Help
The tea room needs a store sign ($7,000), two sets of China ($400) and white table coverings ($200) which totals $7,600. If you can't afford to purchase an entire set of China or 50 yards of white table cloth at $200 each, a donation of $1-200 will help towards the cost of materials. Our goal is to open in time for Mother's Day. If we can't meet that goal, I'm afraid the tea room will have exhausted most of its resources. We're at the final stretch and we want to give Tea and Things of that Kind a chance to live out its fullest potential -- we've come so far!

You can send your donation in two ways:

1. Paypal Account - pay pal is a secure way to send money from your account via the internet. Our paypal account address is:
2. Snail Mail - Send a check or money order to Tea and Things of That Kind at 234 West 137th Street, New York, NY 10030 (Attn: Na'Im Najieb)

It is my goal to receive all donations by April 23, 2009. If you can not donate at this time, I ask that you forward this message along to close friends, family and community members that may be interested in supporting Tea and Things of That Kind. I am making a personal pledge to donate to invest in this family-run business because I firmly believe in their vision and commitment to the health and well being of our community.

If you have any questions and/or suggestions regarding fund-raising for the tea room, please feel free to contact me at my email address:

Thank you in advance for your generosity and support!


Leniece K. Flowers

P.S. (Our community so desperately needs this tea room and I want to do whatever possible to ensure that the Najieb family's dream is realized -- please help us in this endeavor)."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sen So'Oku, Chanoyu "Rock Star"

I recently had the chance to interview tea master Sen So'Oku, who Rona Tison ("The Matriarch of ITO EN") dubbed a tea "rock star." Fun! Here's an excerpt (where WTN = me):

WTN: Have the reasons for studying tea changed?
Several generations ago, people learned the way of tea to learn etiquette and how to behave, but today people are interested in learning in order to acquire knowledge about tea and art, in order to enjoy.

WTN: Is there a renaissance of tea culture in Japan?
There is a lot of interest in tea. Magazines for young people that have nothing to do with traditional art and tea are doing stories about tea ceremonies. You could call it trendy or a mini-boom, but there are many people in creative businesses, like art directors, art curators or artists, who want to get involved in tea.

WTN: Is chanoyu more expressive than it was?
There was a time when the tea ceremony was very rigid and people’s impression of it was very formal, so young people especially didn’t like it and stayed away from it. That attitude is changing. Now, you can be creative with tea. In order to make a new style or be expressive, you have to have the basic form. I think there will be two directions of tea in the future. One direction is, you keep and protect the tradition of tea. The other is to enjoy the tea in a contemporary setting, to make a special moment in ordinary life.

You can read the full article on World Tea News. He'll be presenting at the World Tea Expo. I saw his lecture and demo at The Japan Center in NYC and I highly recommend you check him out in Vegas!

PS -- It looks like I am a finalist for Top Tea Cocktail, though the final results will be announced next week. Thanks to all of you who voted and passed on the link!!!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tea Cocktails

Today is your last chance to vote for Vee Tea for the Top Tea Cocktail contest at the World Tea Expo! Vote Oolong Champagne and help me be a finalist!

Also, you can check out another tea cocktail I created on Samovar's blog for St. Patrick's Day. I'm happy to announce that I'm now posting on their blog along with noted tea writers James Norwood Pratt and Jennifer Leigh Sauer. Exciting!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Art of Tea

The art of tea is broad and varied. From the fine craft of Taiwanese oolong rolling to Modern Teaism to teabag fashion, tea has inspired many an artist. It also recently inspired the curators at the Yale art museum, who put together an impressive collection of teaware for chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony (which is, in itself, considered to be an art form). My favorite image was this chanoyu flower container that was repaired with gold lacquer and metal pins. How better to emphasize the value of age than to repair something wooden with gold lacquer?!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Japanese Tea Gifts

A lovely tea friend from Japan recently sent me some fantastic tea-related gifts! I thought I'd share a few with you here.

Lupicia Teas -- Outer Packaging

Lupicia Teas -- Inner Packaging

(Clockwise from Bottom Left) Tea Stickers, Kaishi (Japanese tea ceremony napkin-type papers), matcha sweets (pictured last), paper crane paper (How Postmodern!), a teapot/teacup cloth napkin, kyusu (teapot) chopstick rests (bottom) and a teacup-covered napkin (center)

Tea candies, a geisha postcard and youkan (delicious red bean/agar-agar sweets -- Oishi! (Delicious!))

A tasty matcha-based desert. I paired it with sencha. Yum!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Vote for Vee Tea

I've entered the Top Tea Cocktail competition for the World Tea Expo. You can help me become a finalist and concoct one of my three cocktails (Oolong Champagne, Bad Monkey or Las Vegas Iced Tea) at the Expo -- with the chance to be published in Imbibe Magazine (one of my FAVORITES). Please vote here and help me become a finalist! If you also pass it on to your interested friends, that would be even more awesome of you! Voting ends on Monday. Thanks, and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring Tea Party

Teaspoons & petals and Vintage Connection in Philadelphia are having a Spring Tea Party. I can't make it, but if you're in the area, I hope you can!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quick Update

I'm finally getting to the point in moving that I feel (mostly) settled. It has been a long process, as I moved from NYC to Charlotte, NC, and also moved in with my husband (we had never lived together before), continued my usual load of freelance work and started up a new freelance assignment upon arrival. Now that I'm more settled, I'm looking forward to three things:

Seeing my local friends more often (I'm from here, so I still have friends here)
Exploring the city (It has changed so much since I moved away!)
Posting more here about my recent tea adventures (which include tasting the Honest Tea's new yerba mates and Green Tea Mango and Numi's puerhs, doing Urbana staff training and getting ready for the World Tea Expo)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New Article: Tea Promotions and Marketing

Lately, a lot of my writing has been focused on helping the tea industry through the recession. After writing a piece on sales tactics for tea businesses, I now have a new article on tea marketing and promotions. There will be more in the series soon, so check back for updates (now that I'm finally posting them again!). Here's a clip from the marketing piece:

Adam Notebaert, manager of The Little Teahouse, stopped placing print ads last year. Others are following suit for one consistent reason: low return on investment.

However, Ginny Durand, co-founder of The Tea Exchange, said print isn’t dead … in certain markets. She gets good results from advertising in local publications that go to captive audiences with time to spare, such as hotel guests in resort areas.

Generally, print ads work when there is a strong alignment between the business and the publication, added Jeffrey Lorien, co-owner of Zhi Tea.

But most sources preferred other forms of traditional media. Bryan Stafford, Fava Tea’s Business and Marketing Leader, said radio and TV are particularly effective when the message is embedded in content through interviews, product placement or sponsorship.

Bret Wingert, owner of Souvia Tea, agreed; underwriting NPR has strengthened his customers’ loyalty.

As for direct mail and billboards, Stafford said these are good for sustaining business, but don’t drive sales as much as more engaging media, like TV, radio and the Internet.

You can read the rest on World Tea News.

VeeTea on Twitter/New Tea Article

I finally did it. I joined Twitter. You can Tweet me and/or follow me here.

Also, I have a new article out on WTN: Which Medium for Your (Tea) Message? Oh, and I had a new one out last week that I never posted about: Sales Tactics That Move Inventory. Oh, and one more from two weeks ago... Puer Market Crash Creates Opportunity. It seems I forgot that this is why I should be posting daily!

Monday, March 9, 2009

New Zhi Tea Teas

I'm going to try to start posting four times a week again. We'll see how THAT goes, but in the meantime, here's a quick post to whet your whistle:

Zhi Tea has a selection of new teas out now. They were blended in-house and flavors include Mango Black, Ambrosia, White Pear and Tropical Green. Yum!