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.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Honest Tea Mate Reviews

I recently got to try the new Honest Tea Yerba Mates. I'm glad to see more yerba mate RTDs on the market. Yerba mate is high in antioxidants and caffeine, but it seems it doesn't give as many people jitters as coffee. However, AOL recently published a popular health article about possible health risks associated with yerba mate. I guess it was a bad time to launch the line, but the "teas" themselves are pretty good. They're made with green (unroasted) mate, I'm guessing for more antioxidants. I'm pretty sure it's why they taste more bitter than other mates I've had, but I'm more of a tea person than a mate person, so I'm not positive. (Any thoughts, readers?) The first two I tried were pretty sweet (I wish Honest Tea's "slightly sweet" approach was a little more slight than sweet, but that's a whole other topic...), but the third was awesome. Reviews:

Agave Mate: Both bitter and sweet, but in a very different way from when I, say, home brew super-strong mate in a gourd and add a bit of agave nectar. My least favorite, perhaps because I like my version so much better. :)

Tropical Mate:
Aside from a bitter aftertaste, I really like this one. It is definitely tropical and the tartness of the fruit balances out the sweetness of the cane sugar very well. The thing I don't like it this -- the label pictures fresh fruit, says "A Tad Sweet" and clearly indicates that it is yerba mate. Seeing that, I think, "Mmm... fruit juice and mate. It has vitamins from fruit and caffeine from mate. Win!" However, it contains less than 1% juice and has about 1/6th the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Now, I'm glad the label is also informative enough to tell me these things, but it seems somehow... (no, not dishonest)... misleading. Still, it's tasty enough that I'd drink it again.

Sublime Mate: It has the same labeling issues as Tropical Mate, but it's definitely my favorite of the three. Great lime aroma and taste, no bitter aftertaste and (I think) an ideal balance of mate boldness, lime tang and cane-sugary sweetness for a lightly sweet RTD. It seems like a perfect refreshment for a hot summer day. Seriously if you like lime and/or mate check it out ASAP.

Have any of you tried these? What did you think?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cutting Costs in the Tea Industry

Is your tearoom getting your bank account down? Check out my new article on cutting costs without sacrificing quality. Excerpt:

Cutting costs is all the rage in a recession, but poorly chosen cuts blight productivity, quality and consumer confidence. Tea business owners can make positive cuts, however, if they know what to skip snipping and where to trim.

Costs of goods

With today’s food costs, it is essential that tea shop owners look at costs with “big business manager” eyes, said Dean Jablon, CEO of The Mulberry Tea House, who will speak on the topic at the upcoming World Tea Expo.

Jablon advised evaluating every menu item’s cost. Other sources recommended rectifying under-priced items by adjusting serving and purchase sizes, and making deals.

Jesse Jacobs, owner of Samovar Tea Lounge, scrutinized how products were being prepared and found that about half the time, teas were brewed with an incorrect amount of leaves – most often too much.

“Even a quarter teaspoon too much can make a huge difference when you’re talking about 1,000 pots of rooibos,” Jacobs said. He implemented staff training for standardized, accurate production.

You can read the rest on World Tea News. Check it out and make some (good) cuts!