Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tea Guy's Top Teas of 2005

I find end of year "best of" lists tedious at best and excruciating at worst and yet, for some reason, I feel compelled to weigh in with one of my own. It's about tea. Who would have guessed?

Here, with not much further ado, are my top picks from among the many teas I've tasted this year. I've also listed my pick for worst of the year. I was thinking of calling this the Rather Drink My Own Urine Award, but as you know I've got way too much class to stoop that low.

Best Black Tea
Ghoom Darjeeling (
Mambo (Adagio)

Best Green Tea
Dragonwell Requiem (Adagio)
Uji Green (

Best Bottled Tea Product
Rooibos Red Peach (Kombucha Wonder Drink)

Worst Tea
Green Tea To Go (Lipton)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Tea Review 47 - Inko's Cherry Vanilla & Hint O' Mint

Cherry Vanilla
Hint O' Mint
Inko's White Tea

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I'm not terribly keen on vanilla. And though I like cherries I'm also not that fond of cherry flavored stuff.

So it's probably a foregone conclusion that I wasn't going to be wild about Inko's Cherry Vanilla - and I wasn't. Every time I took a sip I couldn't help being reminded of cough syrup.

But, to be fair, I should point out that if you're coming to this variety without my particular set of biases you'll probably feel differently. Inko's products, in general, have a rather light taste compared to many other bottled teas and drinks. Cherry Vanilla is one of their sweetened blends, but the sweetness quotient is actually fairly tame.

As for Hint O' Mint, well that was a whole 'nuther ball of wax entirely. I liked this one quite a bit. I suspect that the fact that it's unsweetened has a lot to do with it. There's another one of my biases.

Hint O' Mint has a very delicate taste, something that's quite refreshing - and rare - for a bottled tea. There's really just the vaguest mint flavor mixed in with the equally light white tea component. According to the label there's also some ginger in there somewhere, but my coarse taste buds didn't pick up on any of it.

Good stuff, tea fans. I'd put Hint O' Mint near the top of the list of bottled teas that I've sampled to date.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Chifir, Or Death By Caffeine

Here's a new one on me. Apparently there's a tea known as chifir that's quite popular in Russian prisons for the rip roaring caffeine kick it imparts.

I did some cursory research and found various recommendations on how to prepare this delight. One version calls for 1.5 ounces of loose tea to ten ounces of water. Another calls for 3-7 tea bags cooked in one cup of water for 10-15 minutes, then flavored with milk and sugar.

Sheesh. Well, as the old saying goes - don't try this one at home. Makes me twitch just reading it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Desert Island Tea 1 Brian Smith (The Tea Smith)

Welcome to the first installment of a new feature - Desert Island Tea. From time to time I'll be badgering various tea fanciers, industry figures and so on, trying to get them to reveal what tea they'd want with them in the rather unlikely event that they're stranded on a desert island.

A difficult choice, to be sure, but our first participant seems to have come through the ordeal relatively unscathed. Tea lover Brian Smith serves, in his official capacity, as "Teavangelist" for The Tea Smith, a tea merchant with two locations in Omaha, Nebraska and a little corner of WWW-land located right here.

Many thanks to Brian for agreeing to take the first shift on our desert island.

If you were stranded on a desert island (an island with clean, fresh water and tea making equipment, of course) what one tea (only one) would you like to have with you and why?

Brian Smith's Answer:
I hesitate to put such a limit on my life, even if isolated. One of the greatest aspects of tea is the wide variety of flavors. That being said, I would take a Jade Oolong which I would carefully prepare in gong fu style since I would need to wring every last drop of every infusion from my presumably limited supply. The time alone would allow me to concentrate on the shifting profile of each short infusion. The interplay of floral tones and development of body would occupy my attention, to the neglect of an escape plan. After all, if you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are stranded, it will cheer you…

Monday, December 26, 2005

Tea & Stinky Old Eggs

I'm sure there are uses for tea that are far more off the wall than making stinky old eggs, but I haven't discovered any just yet. As to why you would want to eat stinky old eggs, well, it beats me. But I've heard that there are people who voluntarily consume chunky peanut butter so obviously anything's possible when it comes to the wide and weird world of foodstuffs.

If you're like me and you were clueless about the existence of Century Eggs or pidan or whatever you want to call it/them, you can read more about this "delicacy" in a Wikipedia entry or as a part of a Webdietitian article in which we're also informed that the egg did indeed precede the chicken.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

What Do You Call A Tea Connoisseur?

I guess the easiest way to go about it would be to call them tea connoisseurs and be done with it. But the thing is that that wine connoisseurs have this nifty word - oenophile - to describe themselves.

As far as I can tell there is no corresponding word for tea fanciers, unless I have been less thorough in my research than I should have been.

Anyway, if anyone out there knows of such a word please do tell.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Basil Tea

I can't quite imagine what tea flavored with basil would taste like. I guess the best thing to do would be to try it and end all the speculation.

Apparently basil tea is very popular in India, where it is known as Tulsi Chai or Tulsi ki Chai. If you're itching to give it a whirl try out this recipe from the Indian food Web site

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas In A South Korean Tea Garden & More

Korea may not be one the first place you think of when tea production is mentioned, but as this article in the Korea Times notes, the Posong County region is something of a hotbed of tea cultivation. Of course, at this time of year, as the photo indicates, there's nothing particularly hot about the area, but then again there are the green tea baths at the bathhouse mentioned near the end of the piece.

If you're gearing up for a grand tour of the world's great tea regions or if you're just in the mood for a little armchair travel, be sure to take a look at this article, from The Hindu, about an Indian hotel in a converted tea factory or this one, from South Africa's Independent Online, about the gradual rise of India's tea tourism industry.

Franz Ferdinand Pan American Tea

In a previous life Tea Guy worked in a variety of record (anyone remember them?) stores and kept pretty much up to date with the who's who of pop music. But times have changed and thus, when I came across a piece about the Scottish group Franz Ferdinand, I was fairly clueless as to their existence.

The gist of the article - Franz Ferdinand are not happy with the availability of tea in the United States. Which is probably a criticism that doesn't have at least some merit. But after doing a good bit of research lately on the tea house scene on these shores I'd go so far as to stay that things are improving.

Anyway, it's a short bit, but you can read it here. Don't abandon us yet, Franz Ferdinand. There's still hope.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tea Review 46 - Kombucha Wonder Drink Jasmine Niagra Grape

Kombucha Wonder Drink Jasmine Niagra Grape
Kombucha Wonder Drink

The last of the five Kombucha Wonder Drink flavors I've had a chance to try - Jasmine Niagra Grape - was probably the most offbeat blend, but, as with the others, it did not disappoint.

One of KWD's two newest flavors, Jasmine Niagra Grape contains kombucha made from organic jasmine tea, organic cane sugar and organic Niagra grape juice concentrate.

Of these ingredients it was the grape that stood out the most. I didn't really detect any jasmine tea flavor at all, but perhaps that's just a shortcoming of my tasting apparatus.

I'm not sure exactly what Niagra grape is all about but I will say that this KWD flavor is a nice blend of sweet and sour. It was also lower in fizz that most other KWD flavors - unless I just happened to run across a relatively flat bottle.

Another winner for Kombucha Wonder Drink. Like all of their blends, the worst thing about it is that there's only 8.5 ounces per bottle. When they come up with the handy two liter size I'll be in line.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tea In Strange Places - Azores

In early October I posted an entry about tea production in places not normally known for tea production, among them the United States (South Carolina, Hawaii) and England.

As it turns out England is not the only European country where tea is grown. The Gorreana Tea Plantation and Cha Porto Formosa, on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores (which is technically part of Portugal) both grow tea and, in the case of the former, have been doing so for more than a century. For a little more info and some photos look here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tea Review 45 - Uji Green

Uji Green Tea (Sencha)

There is green tea, my friends, and then there is green tea. If you're looking for a brew that falls into the latter category then look no further than's Uji Green.

From the moment you crack open the resealable foil bag you know this one is going to be a winner. I fell into the same pattern each time I brewed up a fresh bag. Open the package, stuff my nose into it and wallow in the amazing fragrance, pull out a teabag - "gourmet" teabag, that is, one that gives the tea leaves sufficient room to expand - breathe deeply, taking in more of that incredible aroma and then get down to business.

Go easy on this stuff, tea fans. Two minutes at a relatively cool temperature - even by green tea standards - is all it needs and each bag is good for numerous infusions.

And oh what infusions they are - the bright green color, the amazing aroma and the heavenly taste. Pardon me while I swoon.

And there's that little bit of green sediment that lingers until the last sip and then it's off to fire up the kettle again. What else are you gonna do?

Tea Guy certainly doesn't consider himself a tea expert, not by any stretch of the imagination. But I've tasted a heap of green teas now and I wouldn't hesitate to put Uji Green tea near the top of that heap.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tea Review 44 - Bottled Peach Teas (X2)

White Peach White Tea
Inko's White Iced Tea

Peach Oo-La-Long
Honest Tea

I wouldn't go so far as to say that I've never met a bottled tea I liked, but it's close. The problem with bottled tea, at least for me, is the sweetener factor, that notion that a bottled beverage won't fly with the sugar-addled American public unless it's sweet.

White Peach White Tea is the first Inko's tea I've tried. The propaganda on the bottle trumpets the health benefits of white tea and features the slogan, "what white tea tastes like." Uhhh...

Anyway, the ingredients in this one are premium brewed white tea, fructose crystals (an especially vile "F" word, in my book), all-natural white peach extract and citric acid.

Inko's does get big points for appearance, with a nice crystal clear amber color. As for taste - not bad, but I just couldn't get past that fructose thing. Sorry, I really tried.

Honest Tea's Peach Oo-La-Long fares a little better in the taste department, though I'm considering giving them a demerit for the excessively cutesy poo name. I'd also knock off points for cloudiness, but granted that's not nearly as important a consideration as taste.

Peach etc. is an organic fomulation that - oddly enough - places organic Fair Trade Certified oolong and black tea fourth in the billing after purified water, organic sugar and organic peach puree. Also in the mix are organic brown rice syrup, natural peach flavor and that yummy old citric acid.

The presence of two sweeteners was somewhat alarming, but the sweetness factor here is actually quite understated or, as the blurb on the bottle would have it, it's "a tad sweet." Indeed. Overall, the taste wasn't so bad. On a stifling hot day I might just be able to knock off a bottle or two of this stuff.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Return Of Who Grows Your Tea

About a week ago I posted a brief item called Who Grows Your Tea, with links to a few resources related to the Fair Trade Tea movement. Along the same lines is this recent article in the Asian Tribune - A day in the life of a Sri Lankan tea worker. It details the unfortunate plight of many such tea workers.

Also worth your while is this piece describing International Tea Day, which is coming up the day after tomorrow.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tea Review 43 - Kombucha Wonder Drink Rooibos Red Peach

Kombucha Wonder Drink Rooibos Red Peach
Kombucha Wonder Drink

I was hanging around my humble tea house (tea apartment, actually) the other day, minding my own business, when who should arrive but a jolly portly old guy in a red suit bearing the two newest flavors from Kombucha Wonder Drink.

Okay, it was actually a brown suit and the guy wasn't particularly jolly or portly. He was actually rather young, now that you mention it, and isn't it a bitch trying to sign your name on that big clunky electronic clipboard thingy with that little fake pen?

But I was happy to take a crack at sampling the latest KWD flavors, no matter how they arrived, and the Rooibos Red Peach was certainly no disappointment. The ingredients in this one are kombucha from Rooibos, organic cane sugar and natural red peach essence.

I was expecting the kombucha to overpower the other flavors, especially when I caught a big whiff of that distinctive sour aroma while pouring the goods into a glass.

But the taste is actually rather mild and the Rooibos surprisingly prominent. As for the peach, I think it was there but maybe I was just succumbing to the power of suggestion.

Anyway, here's another winner from Kombucha Wonder Drink.


Saturday, December 10, 2005

Drink Coke, Drink Tea & Darjeeling Tea Tales

Two more installments of Peter Karthak's Darjeeling Tea Tales are now available at Kantipur Online. Here are the links to parts six and seven. Links to three, four and five are in my previous post and still no sign of one and two.

While we're on the subject of India and tea, here's a little bit of background on the rumored initiative by a certain soda giant to wedge their way into the Indian market for coffee and tea.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy Birthday to CS

Celestial Seasonings, that is. They're 35 years old this year. Read a profile of the tea maker that recently appeared in the Jackson Hole Star-Tribune, among other places.

If you ever happen to find yourself in the Boulder, Colorado area, be sure to take the CS grand tour and check out their tea shop. More info here.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tea Review 42 - Adagio Oolong Symphony 18 & 40

Oolong Symphony 18
Oolong Symphony 40
Adagio Teas

Oolong tea can cover a wide range of territory, from varieties that resemble a green tea to those that are very close to black. There's no better way to illustrate this fact than by comparing two teas from Adagio - Oolong Symphony 18 and Oolong Symphony 40.

Oolong 18 features tightly rolled, large, greenish leaves that are reminiscent of a loose green tea. The recommended 180 degrees and five minutes steeping time produces a pale golden brew with a delicate fragrance that resembles a classic oolong, if there is such a thing. Oolong 18 is available in four sizes from a $4 sample to a pound that goes for $42 and also in teabags.

By contrast, the oolong 40 (according to Adagio, the number represents the percentage of fermentation the leaves are subjected to) is considerably darker, albeit with silver tips. It brews up to something almost like a black tea with faint fruity overtones that are not unlike a Darjeeling.

Oolong 40 is also available in four sizes, ranging from $4 to $39.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tea Guy's Great Botanical Experiment - 3

Pennsylvania is a far cry from Assam, Yunnan or Sri Lanka, but it'll have to do. My tea seeds - burly looking things about the size of hazelnuts - are in the ground, as of today. Since I'm in rather a frigid zone and I'm in an apartment for now the ground is contained in small ceramic dishes - four of them, with one seed in each.

As things progress (if things progress) I'll start posting some pictures. No need to bother just yet since it's just some dishes full of dirt sitting on the window sill.

If all goes well I should be drinking my own home grown tea in several years. Okay, I'm not counting any chickens just yet, but stay tuned. We shall see.

Tea Review 41 - China, Irish & English Breakfast

China Breakfast
Tempest Tea

Farnum Street Special Morning Tea
Emperor Norton English Breakfast

For the life of me I can't fathom the practice of ruining fine black tea with milk/cream and/or sweeteners. Cheap black tea, maybe I can see, but then again I can't fathom why anyone would drink cheap tea. Better to drink none at all...I think.

Maybe if I were English or Irish and had been culturally indoctrinated into the practice of defiling fine English or Irish breakfast tea this way I'd feel differently. But I'm not and I don't.

I guess what I'm getting at is that even with the beefiest of Assams and breakfast blends I still prefer to see that deep brown hue and enjoy the eye-opening robust flavor untainted.

Now that I've finished offending millions of tea drinkers worldwide, let's get on with the review. Of the three breakfast varieties I've sampled recently Tempest Tea's curiously named China Breakfast was certainly no slouch. The one I tasted came packaged in a small "gourmet" type pyramid tea bag. It was very robust, but also quite smooth and not particularly malty. A very dark blend, perhaps the "China" was not so far off base since it kind of reminded me of some varieties of Keemun.

Of the two breakfast teas from, I preferred the Farnum Street Special Morning Tea, though it was a close call. An Irish Breakfast tea, it's a "blend of Assam and Ceylon estate teas."

The other, the Emperor Norton English Breakfast, boasts a "twist of Darjeeling" among its flavor makeup, which is exactly the quality I would unwittingly have attributed to the Farnum Street Special Morning. But hey, what do I know?

All in all, a good trio if you need to get those eyelids peeled open in the morning.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Who Grows Your Tea?

Would you be surprised to know that people who work in the tea growing and production industries are not always treated so well? Didn't think so. If you'd like to do something to change this, at least in some small way, consider buying tea that's Fair Trade Certified.

Here are links from TransFair USA and Ethical Tea Partnership, two organizations working to see that tea workers are treated better.

Here's an article from the Puget Sound Business Journal on Seattle's Choice Organic Teas, one of many companies who offer Fair Trade Certified teas.

And here's an August installment from The Tranquilo Traveler, by Joshua Berman, who was part of a group investigating working and living conditions on Indian tea plantations.

Brew And Brew And Brew And Brew...

How many times do you reuse your tea leaves? How many times can you reuse your tea leaves? If this post at eGullet - complete with photos - is any indication you can get away with as many as ten infusions of a good quality oolong.

I don't recall ever going past four of five infusions of anything, but maybe I'm missing out on something.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Holiday Teas

Here are some holiday teas from two of the big guns of the tea world - Celestial Seasonings and Bigelow. Of course, many of the smaller merchants are also offering holiday-themed teas so be sure to check them out as well.

Celestial Seasonings has come up with six holiday varieties, including two geared toward kids. Get the lowdown here.

Bigelow has two new holiday teas, as well as a few other new ones. Check them out here. I recently tried the Ginger Snappish variety and wasn't completely bowled over. As for the eggnog tea, I couldn't even bring myself to give it a whirl.

Cheap Tea

According to a fascinating factoid at the Twining Teapot Galley Web page, in the early 18th century a pound of topnotch tea might cost as much as a skilled craftsman would make in three weeks.

The Salary Wizard Web site suggests that today the median salary in the United States for a level III carpenter is $44,380. Assume a similar price for today's tea using the carpenter's salary and we'll come up with $2,560 per pound or $160 per ounce.

Enjoy your cheap tea.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I'm A Little Teapot...

I'm neither short nor stout and I don't get too awfully worked up over teaware, though from time to time I do run across something that catches my eye.

My only real requirement regarding tea paraphenalia, as I've mentioned before, is a reasonably eye-catching glass to drink my tea from. The key word here is glass, as in the clear variety. Nothing else will do. I don't care how nice some ceramic ware is. There's something about the light refracting through the brewed tea that, for me, just can't be beat.

But enough of my prattle. If you are into teapots and you're going to be in Salem, Massachussetts in the next few months, head over to the Peabody Essex Museum and check out The Artful Teapot: 20th–Century Expressions from the Kamm Collection.

If that doesn't work for you, you might want to try the Twining Teapot Gallery or the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware.

If neither England nor Hong Kong are on your itinerary, try some virtual teapot gawking at English teapot designer Andy Titcomb's Web page or his blog, Teapots, Teapots, Teapots. The latter has enough links to other teapot related sites to keep you busy for about the next decade or so.

If tea bag wrappers are what strikes your fancy then get thee on over to this site, which displays numerous wrappers from a rather astoundingly large collection.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Tea Review 40 - Green Earth Chai & Cool and Collected

Green Earth Chai
Tempest Tea

Cool and Collected
The Spotted Leopard Teas

It's official. I don't like chai. Time and time again I've tried it, attempting to keep an open mind each time around, but the simple fact remains - I don't like chai. I think there's only one spice commonly used in chai that puts me off the stuff, but I haven't managed to isolate it yet.

My latest adventure in chai tasting was a green variety from Dallas-based tea merchant Tempest Tea. While I'm certain that it's quite a nice blend, as far as these things go, the fact remains - and stop me if I've mentioned this - I don't like chai.

I've sampled chais made with black tea, green tea and rooibos. I'm trying to work out which one I dislike the least, but have yet to come to a conclusion. And so it was that I approached Spotted Leopard's Cool and Collected with some trepidation. After all, it claims to be a blend of green tea, mint and spice - which leads one to the conclusion that it might be kind of chai-like.

But I actually liked this one. The mint provided just the right touch and the spice, whatever it is, is obviously not the dreaded Ingredient X found in most chai. Like most of the flavored teas I've tasted, this is not one I'd turn to on a regular basis, but it would be okay for a change of pace now and then.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Going Pro

Tea Guy is naught but an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to tea, so I'll confess that I didn't know there was such a thing as a Professional Tasting Set or an "international standard ISO 3103-1980, which defines the exact shapes and dimensions of tea tasting crockery."

But lo and behold, if you head on over to Nothing But Tea's accessories page you'll find just such a contraption, not to mention other useful tea gadgetry like a tea thermometer, tea timer and more.

The Great Green Tea Health Benefits Debate

Green tea prevents cancer.
Green tea doesn't prevent cancer.
Green tea cures cancer.
Green tea doesn't cure cancer.
Oh, what is the answer?

Okay, I'm not going to win any awards based on the merits of that particular heap of verse. But I wanted to chime in and point out that two of the nation's biggest newspapers weighed in this month with articles examining green tea's alleged health benefits. Coincidence? Hell if I know.

Yesterday the New York Times offered up a brief piece that concludes, pretty much, that green tea sort of maybe might help "lower the risk of cancer." Read it here.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Times published a now much reprinted piece that takes a much more in-depth look at the whole green tea health benefits issue. Not surprisingly, this article - though more informative - doesn't really arrive at a firm conclusion either. Read it here or reprinted at Newsday here.

My conclusion - if you're a mouse, you're in luck. Of course, if you're reading this you're not probably not a mouse, so shut up and drink some tea already and stop worrying so much.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Whole Lotta Earl Grey

I've never been too fond of Earl Grey tea. Something about bergamot just rubs me the wrong way. But we all like what we like and if you happen to like Earl Grey you might want to check out a nifty site I ran across today - Tending Toward Tea.

It features a rather staggering list of Earl Grey varieties (who knew?). I didn't click every link but it appears that most of them have been reviewed. Pretty impressive.

Tea Treats

Prefer your tea in solid form? How about some Tea Candy Lollipops from Verithe? Or you might want to check out Ten Tea's assortment of flavored tea candies. They've also got tea flavored chocolates, cookies, plums, peanuts and pumpkin seeds. It's all here, tea treat fans.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Tea Guy's Great Botanical Experiment - 2

A few days ago I decided to grow a tea plant and went about ordering the seeds. They arrived today - all ten of them. I haven't done anything with them yet, but I expect I'll be getting them in pots in the next day or two.

If you want to muck about with your own tea cultivation scheme, but you don't have the patience to wait for your plants to grow from seed you might want to go here and order a tea plant. A little rich for my blood, considering that the seeds only cost fifty cents per, but there you have it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A Visit To Darjeeling

If you're not able to visit India any time soon, you can try a little bit of armchair travel with this informative article on Darjeeling's tea industry - Darjeeling: Tea by Any Other Name Would Not Be As Sweet. It's by Bruce Richardson, of Kentucky's Elmwood Inn Fine Teas. It's located here, along with a number of other articles by Richardson.

Coffee, Tea or Kootee

Contemplating a switch to tea, but not quite ready to make the switch from coffee? Maybe a cup of kootee would help ease the transition. Or maybe not - who's to say?

Kootee, also known as qutti, is an Ethiopian tea brewed from the leaves of the coffee plant (yes, you read that right) and sometimes doctored up with milk and spices such as cardamom.

I haven't had the chance to sample any kootee yet but I located a few Ethiopian cafes and restaurants in the United States that serve it. If you're in the neighborhood of any of these be sure to drop by and give it a whirl.

Cafe Lalibela (Tempe, AZ) - I ate here when I lived in Phoenix, though I wasn't aware of kootee at the time. Worth a visit for the food and atmosphere even if you're not in the mood for coffee tea.

Enat Ethiopia Cafe & Mart (Atlanta, GA)

Moya (Decatur, GA)

The Nile Ethiopian Restaurant and Café (Richmond, VA)

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rooting Out More Health Benefits

Can't get enough of those gushing articles about the assorted, sundry and wondrous benefits of tea? Then you'll be happy to know that the Tea Research Insitute in Assam has determined that none other the lowly roots of the tea plant are, as an Indian news site phrased it, a "storehouse of cancer-fighting chemicals." How's about that?

For the full article at said Indian news site, look here.

How Not To Make Green Tea

In an earlier entry I included tips on selecting green tea from Kevin Moore, Supreme Tea Poobah at Kevin was kind enough to provide me with samples of a few of his green teas. I'll be reviewing them soon, but let's just say that my review of the Uji tea bags, the only one I've tried so far, will be very positive. includes explicit brewing instructions with shipments and at their Web site. After reading them I've got a better idea of why my green tea infusions have so often been less than impressive.

First on the list - water. I think I've got this one pretty much figured out. I use tap water filtered into a Brita pitcher and chilled. I think I've also got my proportions figured out, for the most part. Moore's instructions call for a heaping teaspoon of green tea per 10 ounces of water.

Temperature is where things start to fall apart and, as Moore notes, "this is where most mistakes are made." I was aware that green tea needs cooler water, but I had a tendency to boil mine and then wait only a few seconds before steeping. No good. As Buster Poindexter would say, "hot, hot, hot."

Another one of my screwups has been in allowing the tea to steep too long. I've been going with the three minutes most tea merchants recommend. Moore suggest two minutes. He also cautions against mixing, stirring or shaking while steeping, which was a new one to me.

There are various other points covered in's instructions, but these, at least for a knucklehead like me, seem to be the most pertinent. As a matter of fact, using this advice and one of's Uji tea bags I managed to come up with a killer cup of tea - well, several actually. But more about that in another installment.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

More Tea Mania

In case you missed it (I did) Newsweek recently ran an article on the "mainstream fad" otherwise known as green tea. Be sure to hop to it and read all about the "green revolution."

Even more recently Entrepreneur magazine and MSNBC weighed in with their list of 29 Hot Businesses to Start in 2006. First on the list? You guessed it. So go on, tea fans - "ignite your profits."

Tea in Early America

Just in time for the holiday - an article from Maine's Ellsworth American about tea in early America, including information about tea drinking in our formative years, a roundup of some popular herbal teas and a recipe for Sassafras Bark tea.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tea Review 39 - Numi Moroccan Mint

Moroccan Mint
Numi Tea

If you've run across Numi's line of organic teas and teasans (their word for tisane, what most of us typically refer to as herbal tea) you probably remember them for their aesthetically pleasing packaging, if nothing else. Credit goes to Reem Rahim for this. She is one half of the brother/sister team that founded Numi.

But Numi's tea is not half bad either, if Moroccan Mint is any indicator. Like all of their varieties it's organic, though the ingredients list gives no indication whether the mint component is peppermint or spearmint. My money is on the latter.

Traditional Medicinal's Organic Peppermint and a similar variety from Celestial Seasonings are among the better mint teas out there, in my oh so humble estimation. I'm not much of a fan of spearmint teas, but Moroccan Mint - if my guess is correct - is an exception to the rule. There's nothing quite so disappointing as a mint tea with no kick, but Moroccan Mint is sufficiently strong that you're unlikely to find any disappointed consumers, at least not in my neck of the woods.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tea Guy's Great Botanical Experiment

Tea Guy finally got around to locating and ordering some seeds of the variety Camellia sinensis the other day. That's tea, in case you're wondering why it sounded so naggingly familiar.

My hope is to actually grow a tea tree to the extent that I can glean enough leaves from it for at least one cup of tea. I wouldn't say that I have a particularly green thumb, but neither have my past gardening efforts been a total disaster, so we'll see how it goes. I'll be posting regular updates as I go. Stay tuned.

If you'd like to get your hands on some tea seeds and play along at home you might try the Whatcom Seed Company.

More Darjeeling's Tall Tea Tales

A little while back I wrote about Darjeeling's Tall Tea Tales, a series of newspaper articles by Peter Karthak.

Number five in the series came out on Saturday and the links to parts three and four are also listed below. Still no luck finding parts one and two.

Darjeeling's tall tea tales - III

Darjeeling's tall tea tales - IV

Darjeeling's tall tea tales - V

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Grain Tea

from Macrobiotic Cuisine (1984), by Lima Ohsawa

1) Dry-roast brown rice (or any other grain) over a medium flame for 10-20 minutes, or until a rich brown color. Shake the pan and stir constantly to prevent burning.

2) Add 2 tablespoons of the grain to 1 quart boiling water. Simmer 10 minutes. Add a pinch of salt while brewing.

3) Strain and serve.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Book Review - The World of Caffeine

The World of Caffeine:
The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Drug

by Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer

It would be nearly impossible to write a book about caffeine that doesn't deal with the three beverages/foodstuffs in which we most frequently ingest it. Those substances, of course, are c*****, tea and chocolate. So it should come as no surprise that the authors of The World of Caffeine have written a work that might just as easily have been called The World of C*****, Tea and Chocolate.

Weinberg and Bealer have essentially divided the book into two sections. The first deals rather exhaustively - and sometimes to the point of being exhausting - with the history of this holy triumvirate of caffeine bearing plants and their influence on human affairs. Part two takes a closer look at caffeine itself, including it's chemical makeup and its effects on human physiology.

Unlike a number of other books about caffeine this one pretty much takes the position that, when used sensibly, caffeine is a relatively benign and even useful substance. Chocolate, not surprisingly, gets the least amount of attention and it's c***** that seems to garner the greater focus, in spite of the fact that tea is said to be the most popular beverage in the world, after water.

Very informative, though a little dry in places. Recommended.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Energy Fiend & Death By Caffeine

Tea Guy doesn't spend much time reading other blogs. Nothing personal, but there's only so much time in a day. However, I happened to run across Energy Fiend the other day and found myself lingering for a while.

The site offers an appreciation of caffeine and energy drinks and whatnot. It also features Death By Caffeine, a nifty calculator that tells you how much of various caffeine containing products it would take to kill you, based on your height and weight.

As an example, it looks like I'm in no danger of dying from an overdose of green tea any time soon, since it would take 737.1 cups to do me in. Thank you, Energy Fiend, for providing such a valuable public service.

Tea Rules

According to Gail Schumann, writing in an article posted at, a pound of tea yields 10 times as many cups as a pound of c*****. As if you needed another reason to swear off that nasty stuff...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tea Review 38 - Tahitian Vanilla Winds & Out of Africa

Tahitian Vanilla Winds
Tempest Tea

Out of Africa
The Spotted Leopard Teas

Tea Guy is not averse to a bit of dark chocolate now and then and I'm fairly neutral when it comes to vanilla, but the notion of a tea flavored with either of these substances was not a concept that made me sit up and take notice.

But I went ahead and brewed a cup of Tempest's Tahitian Vanilla Winds anyway. It's described as an "organic Indian tea" and is obviously flavored with vanilla. The leaves are small and very dark and have a nice aroma, as does the finished brew. As for the taste - not bad at all, though the vanilla is very subtle.

Vanilla and black tea are also melded together in Spotted Leopard's Out of Africa blend, but the mixing doesn't stop there. Out of Africa also contain rooibos, chocolate and coconut.

Chocolate is the dominant aroma and flavor here, with just a hint of vanilla and coconut though, once again, the flavors were considerably more understated than the aromas.

What surprised me most of all was that I actually liked both of these teas. Admittedly I didn't like them so much that I'll be likely to choose them over straight up tea too often, but they are worth a try.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Tea & Peanut Butter

It would be presumptuous of me to declare that Krema Nut Company, of Columbus, Ohio, makes the best peanut butter in the world. Obviously I haven't tried every peanut butter in the world - yet - though I have sampled quite a few.

But if you're a fan of all natural peanut butter, which, in my book, means a substance that contains only ground peanuts, you could do a lot worse than Krema.

Krema's peanut butter is available in jars, cases and the ever so handy five pound pail. I ordered two of the latter recently - that's ten pounds of the stuff, friends - so that should give you a prety good idea of how highly I regard this one.

But what's all this got to do with tea, you ask? Well, I'm working my way around to that. You see, in my humble estimation, there are only really a few ways to consume peanut butter.

The best way is straight from the jar, with nothing to get in the way. Next on the list is with apples and that's about the extent of it, as far as I'm concerned, though with carrots or celery is acceptable.

The problem with eating peanut butter straight from the jar is that is tends to gum up the works after while and you eventually begin to feel like you're going to choke. There's a valid scientific reason for this phenomenon - this whole sticking to the roof of the mouth thing. It's simply that peanuts have such a low moisture content that peanut butter - especially in large quantities - sucks up your saliva and makes for tough swallowing.

Which is where tea comes in. For, if you're like me and you like to eat massive quantities of the stuff there are few better ways to cut the stickiness than with a hot cup of tea. Anything will do, but I'm kind of partial to black in a situation like this.

So try it, as the old ad slogan goes, you'll like it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tea In Space With Sir Paul

Paul McCartney - you may have heard of him - will direct two songs from an upcoming concert to a captive audience, the current inhabitants of the International Space Station. The songs - Good Day Sunshine, which has been used previously in connection with the space program, and English Tea, a song from Sir Paul's latest album. The full story here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tips for Selecting Green Tea

Courtesy of Kevin Moore, president and founder of, here are a few things you should know about purchasing green tea.

Green tea from the first harvest is always superior to subsequent harvests.

Most green teas available to North American consumers, both at the store and on the Internet, have spent considerable time in storage and transit. Freshness is very important with green tea; know when it was packaged and when it expires.

Green tea should always be consumed within a relatively short time period after contents of the package have been exposed to the open air. Once exposed to oxygen, its shelf life drops to three months or less.

Avoid flavored green teas. High quality green teas do not need added flavorings or herbs to make them palatable, and most such teas are rarely going to be fresh.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Tea and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

If you vote based on your candidate's preference in tea - and if you happpen to live in Vancouver - you might find this article interesting. It discusses a recent tea party attended by mayoral candidates.

All other things being equal, I'd have to cast my vote for the Sencha candidate. The Lapsang Souchong guy would be least likely to get my vote.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The American Frugal Housewife & Tea

A few thoughts about tea, as noted in Lydia M. Child's The American Frugal Housewife. The book was first published in 1828 and appears, in an 1832 edition, at Project Gutenberg.

Do not let coffee and tea stand in tin.

Green tea is excellent to restore rusty silk. It should be boiled in iron, nearly a cup full to three quarts. The silk should not be wrung, and should be ironed damp.

There is a kind of tea cake still cheaper. Three cups of sugar, three eggs, one cup of butter, one cup of milk, a spoonful of dissolved pearlash, and four cups of flour, well beat up. If it is so stiff it will not stir easily, add a little more milk.

Young Hyson is supposed to be a more profitable tea than Hyson; but though the _quantity_ to a pound is greater, it has not so much _strength_. In point of economy, therefore, there is not much difference between them. Hyson tea and Souchong mixed together, half and half, is a pleasant beverage, and is more healthy than green tea alone. Be sure that water boils before it is poured upon tea. A tea-spoonful to each person, and one extra thrown in, is a good rule. Steep ten or fifteen minutes.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Recipe - Russian Tea

Russian Tea
from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking (1953)

1/4 ounce cinnamon (1 stick)
1/4 ounce whole cloves (1.5 teaspoons)
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
2 oranges (2/3 cup juice)
1 lemon (1/4 cup juice)
2 tablespoons black tea
6 cups boiling water

Simmer spices and honey with the 1 cup water for 10 minutes and let stand 1 hour. Strain. Add rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon if desired. Squeeze fruit juices, steep tea in boiling water 1 minute. Strain. Add fruit juice and spice mixture to strained tea. Reheat and serve hot. Garnish with orange slices. 10 servings.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

UDV, DMT & Tea

Looking for tea with a truly different kind of kick? You might try hoasca, a sacramental tea used by members of a religious group called O Centro Espírita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal, also known as UDV. But be prepared to have the hysterical Just Say No types in the U.S. government, who don't look so favorably on hoasca use, breathing down your neck.

For more information on hoasca, including an argument in favor of using it for religious purposes, check out this editorial from the Christian Science Monitor.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Tea Guy Rambles III - Go East, Young Man

It's a c***** drinker's world. We just live here. But that's okay. Because while the c***** drinkers are at the motel's continental breakfast this morning, scavenging for dollar a pound rotgut in styrofoam cups, I'm making do with a cup of Ti Kwan Yin Goddess oolong here in the comfort of my own room.

Ti Kwan Yin is one of four Adagio teas I've sampled that use their gourmet tea bag format. It's also the only one I haven't had the opportunity to try before as a loose leaf tea and it's a fine one at that.

Onward to Nashville!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tea Guy Rambles II - Tea At Last

All hail the utiliTEA and gourmet tea bags - mankind's great hope for a decent cup of tea on the road.

Knowing that pickings would be slim once I hit the road Jack, I planned ahead and packed a utiliTEA - a "variable temperature kettle" from Adagio Teas, along with an assortment of their gourmet tea bags. Oh, and one of Adagio's thirteen ounce glass mugs - hardly would do to go to all that trouble and then be forced to drink from styrofoam.

I woke Sunday morning in Amarillo, feeling more than a little bit discombobulated after twelve hours of driving the day before. But with another 600 miles to go until Little Rock I figured I'd better not dilly dally with making tea. It was time to hit the road.

Six hundred miles later, at around nine o'clock that night, I finally rolled into Little Rock, where I determined that I was having tea, damn it, even if it kept me up all night.

Out came the utiliTEA, a quite marvelous and excruciatingly simple gadget - and convenient as all get out too. A few minutes later and I was sipping some fine Dragonwell from one of Adagio's gourmet tea bags, quivering with delight at the notion of consuming good tea on the road with a minimum of fuss and muss.

And I slept quite well, thank you for asking.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Tea Guy Rambles I - The Long Tealess Road

Tea on the road is a dicey thing, at best. I knew that. But the fact was reinforced last Saturday when I left Arizona, on a five-day jaunt to Pennsylvania.

Saturday dawned and all of our worldly goods were packed up and ready to go. Cleverly, I'd remembered to leave the tea kettle out until the last minute. One does have one's priorities, after all. Also on hand were some of Adagio Tea's quite fine gourmet tea bags.

I fortified myself with two cups of the very robust Golden Yunnan (black tea - sorry if it's confusing), paused briefly to howl and thump my chest and then set out for a day and a half stretch with no tea. Gasp. Yes, that's right - 36 hours with no tea.

Now, it's not like I couldn't have found tea along the way. I'm sure if I'd looked hard enough I could have even managed to find a c***** merchant who stocked something passably drinkable. But since I'd set a first day goal for myself of more than 700 miles that didn't leave much time for exploring.

Of course, I'm sure I could probably have rustled up some rotgut cheapo crap in a convenience store somewhere along my route. But when it comes right down to it, why bother? After all, cheap tea is not much better than no tea at all - and maybe even worse.

But the compensation of rambling through southeastern Arizona and a good chunk of the great state of New Mexico helped to ease my tealess state and after what seemed like an eternity of driving at finally arrived at my first day's destination - Amarillo, Texas.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scotch on the Rocks, With Dragonwell?

Imports of Scotch whisky to China are on the upswing, if we're to believe London's Times. And would you really be surprised to know that the Chinese like their whisky with green tea? Of course not. Read all about it here.

Tea Review 37 - Adagio Opus Pouchong

Opus Pouchong
Adagio Teas

When it comes to oolong tea my descriptive vocabulary - which is no great shakes in the first place - tends to break down. To paraphrase that age old cliché, I don't know about oolong, but I know what I like.

Opus Pouchong is a Formosa oolong, a reference to the island - now Taiwan, once Formosa - where it's grown. Oolong teas may run the gamut from lightly processed and resembling a green tea to heavily processed and much closer to a black tea. Pouchong refers to an oolong which falls into the former category.

Opus Pouchong has large green leaves that brew up to a light amber color in the cup and give off a nice delicate fragrance. As for the taste, well, here's where my vocabulary breaks down, but I can say that it's a very pleasant flavor, very smooth with almost none of the "bite" that tends to put me off of some oolongs.

Available, as always, in four sizes, from a $2 sample tin to a half pound size that goes for $28.


Contents: Sample tin
I paid: na

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kit Kat Green Tea

Can't get enough green tea? How about a Kit Kat Green Tea? They're only available in Japan and they are a limited edition so you may be out of luck, but it doesn't hurt to try. While you're at it you can also try to get your hands on the Kit Kat Azuki Bean, Green Tea, and Cream, also available in Japan.

Here's an article about the popularity of Kit Kat bars in Japan and a Wikipedia entry about Kit Kats, including a list of some odd flavors that have appeared over the years.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

TeaGschwender - Book of Tea

Love those catalogs. The latest one I've had a chance to peruse comes from tea merchant TeaGschwender, who are based in Germany and have a U.S. office in Chicago.

Though it’s a catalog, the name Book of Tea is not totally off-base, since it's actually one of the more informative tea catalogs I've encountered. Each of the company's products - teas and accessories - are listed, along with descriptions and preparation instructions for each of the teas.

The catalog also serves as a very informative primer on the world of tea - literally - with brief, but informative, articles on each of the world's major tea growing regions.

To peruse TeaGschwender's goods online and to get a copy of the Book of Tea, go here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Telling Fortunes By Tea-Leaves

Telling Fortunes By Tea-Leaves
By Cicely Kent

Hmmm. I'm never quite sure what to make of this sort of thing. You see, Tea Guy is perfectly willing to believe that there is more to existence than what we ordinary muttonheads are able to sense. But then again nobody ever went broke preying on the great multitude of suckers Barnum alluded to.

So what's up with reading tea leaves? Is it the real deal? Damned if I know, but Cicely Kent, author of Telling Fortunes By Tea-Leaves, seems pretty darned convinced that it's on the up and up. The book is apparently in the public domain now, by the way, so you can read it for free at Project Gutenberg and various other online archives.

The "meat" of Kent's book is informative, but actually rather short - weighing in at about eight thousands words or so. The rest is given over to various sections full of information on how to actually interpret symbols that appear during a reading.

I'd venture to say that anything you'd want to know about reading tea leaves
- and probably a good bit more - is covered here. Kent runs the gamut from very down to earth, nuts and bolts advice on technique all the way to rather fine and esoteric matters of interpretation.

The book was apparently written in 1922, but the information contained here doesn't strike me as something that would have dated much in the intervening decades.

Beware though, as the author notes, "Indian tea and the cheaper mixtures"
should be avoided since they contain "so much dust and twigs" that make it difficult to get a good reading. You've been warned.

Tea Review 36 - Battle of the Senchas

Upton Tea Imports

Sencha Premier
Adagio Teas

I was coming to the end of a few samples of sencha not long ago so I thought I might as well line them up for a side by side taste test.

Upton's entry is their Kabusencha variety. I think it's actually called Spring Harvest Kabusencha - the only Kabusencha listed at their Web site - but since I threw out the package I can't be sure. Anyway, it's one of a number of senchas they offer from countries of origin that include Japan, China and Vietnam. Adagio's Sencha Premier is the pricier of their sencha offerings - the other one is called Sencha Encore. Premier is a first flush from the Shizuoka region of Japan.

Both teas have a very strong and satisfying aroma before brewing and dark green leaves that are thin and flat. The Adagio brewed up to a nice golden color and was clear in the cup. The Upton was noticeably greener and just a bit cloudy.

As for taste, Adagio had more of a grassy flavor, while the Upton had just a hint of brininess or fishiness - not actually as bad as it sounds. Actually, seaweed might be a better point of reference. The Upton also tasted greener than the Adagio, if that makes any sense.

I'd recommend both and neither one any more than the other. They were surprisingly different - perhaps not like apples vs. oranges but more like different varieties of apple.

Sencha Premier is available in four sizes from a sampler ($5) to one pound ($62). Kabusencha comes in a 12 gram sampler ($5) and a 100 gram caddy ($28).

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tea Review 35 - Four Faces of Rooibos

Redbush Chai Tea
Yogi Tea

Red Chai at Night
Mango Rooibos
Ginger Roibos
Tempest Tea

Feeling a little twitchy? Indulging in too much of the old Camellia sinensis? Maybe it's time to take a break and try out some caffeine free Rooibos, one of a few herbal beverages that can stand in - sort of - for real tea.

I've had a bunch of Rooibos come my way lately. I reviewed several a while back and recently I rounded up the rest and had a tasting session.

First, the chais - which is kind of a tricky thing actually. I keep giving chai another chance, but to be honest, I really don't like it much.

So with that caveat, on to the Rooibos chais. First up, Redbush Chai, from Yogi Tea. This one comes in a tea bag and uses all organic ingredients, including cardamom, cinnamon bark, ginger root, clove bud and stevia leaf.

At the same time I brewed a loose leaf Rooibos chai from Tempest Tea called Red Chai at Night (clever). This one brewed to a darker color than the Yogi and with a fuller taste, though not as spicy. I could smell a little more cinnamon and could taste some of the Rooibos that was overpowered in the Yogi variety. Not bad for a chai.

Also up from Tempest was Rooibos Mango. This one is good, but the mango aroma and flavors are very subtle, at least to my leaden palate. Tempest's Ginger Rooibos was considerably less subtle, with a nice ginger bite complementing the Rooibos rather nicely. It no match for the king of all ginger teas - Traditional Medicinals' Ginger Aid - but it's quite good.

The Wet Stuff

What's tea without water? Well, it's still tea but it sure doesn't go down as well.

My point being that a good cup of tea really only has two ingredients - unless you like to desecrate yours with milk, sugar and whatnot. That said, it's in your best interest to make sure that you're using good water to brew your tea.

Tea Guy swears by a Brita pitcher for all water drinking and tea making needs, but if you're one of those bottled water types here are some resources you might find useful.

The Bottled Water Store - Features a Water of the Month Club and waters from about sixty different manufacturers.

Mineral Waters of the World - A site maintained by a Swiss gent with no apparent connection to the bottled water industry. He says, "My aim is to create the largest database of bottled waters in the world and a valuable resource in finding your favourite water."

Fine Waters - This one is described as "a site designed to be the definitive voice for water connoisseurs and their accompanying lifestyle."

And a few industry sites:

International Bottled Water Association
Canadian Bottled Water Assocation
The Australasian Bottled Water Institute Inc.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Green Tea in the House of Spirits

Some time ago I posted a brief piece about Charbay Green Tea Vodka, which is manufactured by the Napa Valley-based Domaine Charbay Winery and Distillery. That got me to thinking that there surely must be other alcoholic beverages out there that are made using tea.

And what do you know? There are other tea-based spirits and beers on the market. If you head over to the BevMo Web site you can pick up some Bison Jasmine Green Hard Tea, which contains jasmine tea, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and guarana. Also at BevMo - and probably some other specialty beverage sites - is Zen Green Tea liqueur, which gets a bonus point for it's aesthetically pleasing green bottle.

If you like a little tea with your beer, then try some iKi Bier, which is apparently a product of the Netherlands. And if you'd like the essence of the hard stuff, but still want to respect yourself in the morning, get thee to Culinary Teas and try out their Liquor Tea Sampler. This one consists of five samplers of black tea with liquor flavorings and is guaranteed not to cause your inner teetotaler any undue distress.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tea Review 34 - Ghoom Darjeeling

Ghoom Darjeeling

Ghoom Darjeeling is a thing of wonder. Let me get that out of the way right at the outset. Not long after receiving my shipment, I brewed a cup to drink with breakfast. I couldn't resist taking a quick sip immediately after brewing it, even though it was still hot enough to incinerate my eyeballs. Based on that sip, I was ready to be disappointed.

After a few moments the Ghoom had settled down a bit and cooled off to where it was drinkable. I took another sip and at this point I did something I almost never do. I made an involuntary exclamation expressing my immense satisfaction. Yep, just squeaked right out of me.

Since then I've been hitting the Ghoom rather hard and each time I do I'm almost overcome by an impulse to click up my heels, grab an umbrella and caper around the room, bellowing show tunes at the top of my lungs. Which kind of worries me, because I'm not really a bellowing show tunes kind of guy. But I guess a really kick-ass Darjeeling will do that to you.

Varieties like this are a reminder of why we drink fine teas, friends. So go to the phones. Operators are standing by.

Mmmm...Diluted Sugar Water

If you've been tuned in here for a while then you know my opinions about the alleged health benefits of tea. In fact, you're probably tired of hearing me prattle on about it. But to summarize as briefly as I can - health benefits are fine and dandy, but I drink tea because I like tea.

Now, if you too have reason to suspect that the health benefits of tea were sometimes being...overstated, then you might find this report interesting. It's from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and it says that the health benefits of certain formulations of tea may have been, well...overstated.

And you gotta love that comment about "diluted sugar water."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Power of Tea

It would hardly be overstating the issue to say that tea has had a considerable influence on the affairs of human beings. If you'd like to explore this issue in a little more depth here are some reading recommendations:

Did Tea and Beer Make Britain Great, is a brief, but interesting article by Alan Mcfarlane which examines the role these beverages supposedly played in bringing about the Industrial Revolution.

I mentioned Tom Standage's A History of the World in Six Glasses a while back, but it's a great book and deserves another plug. Standage has taken a book-length approach to examining the role of six beverages and their influence on the affairs of human beings. Of course one of the beverages is tea (also c*****, beer, wine, spirits and cola).

For another entertaining and offbeat history - one that has nothing to do with tea - you might also want to check out Standage's The Victorian Internet.

Tea Review 33 - Tempest White Snow & Apricot

Organic White Snow with Apricots
Tempest Tea

To make a good fruit tea that strikes just the right balance of fruit and tea is a tricky business, but when it's done right it's a thing of wonder.

Kind of like Tempest's White Snow with Apricots, which also gets a bonus point for the evocative name. A blend of an organic Chinese white tea with organic apricot pieces, this one hits the nail right on the head, if you'll forgive my descent into tepid cliché.

The fruit overtones are just about right, giving the blend a very smooth taste and a noticeable flavor of apricots that doesn't go too far and become overpowering. This is a very smooth and mellow tea with hardly a trace of bitterness.

Available in three sizes, from one ounce ($5.40) to one pound ($36). The sample I tried was in a pyramid bag that allows the tea leaves more room to brew, thus releasing more flavor. If I'm reading their Web site right, Tempest offers nine flavors of tea in this type of bag.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Best Places to Brew Sun Tea

Tea Guy doesn't bother much with sun tea, but if I were going to I'd be in a pretty good place for it (at least for now). If this table is to be believed then Tucson, my current home base, is seventh on the list of the nation's sunniest cities.

Sacramento, the last place I hung my hat, was ninth and Phoenix, before that, was second. Not bad and it sure beats the hell out of Cold Bay, Alaska, a place for sun tea fanciers and SAD sufferers to avoid at all costs.

Tea Review 32 - Adagio Pi Lo Chun

Pi Lo Chun Green Tea
Adagio Teas

I've had the good fortune to try a number of very nice green teas lately, several of which came from Adagio Teas. And while Pi Lo Chun didn't top Adagio's Dragonwell Requiem (that would be quite a feat), it did surpass every other green I've sampled recently.

Another tea from China's Fujian province, Pi Lo Chun (Green Snail Spring) takes its name from the shape of its leaves. It is only picked in late March and early April and is processed by hand. It has a great fragrance dry and brews up to a nice pale amber color with a delicate fragrance and flavor that had me rushing back until the tin was empty.

Available in four sizes, from a sampler ($4) to one pound ($27).


Contents: Sample tin
I paid: na

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sample Tea Tins

A few days ago I held forth on the subject of sample size packaging and inflicted my opinion that Adagio's sample tins were a good thing. As nearly as I can tell Adagio does not sell just the tins, though there are worse things than having to buy their tea in order to get a tin.

However, in browsing Adagio's forums, I found a link to a site where you can order just the tins.

Mr. Smithers, Your Tea Kettle On Line One

Hands up. Who remembers the Internet park bench Microsoft dreamed up a few years back? Okay, put 'em down.

Hands up. Who remembers the Internet toilet - the iLoo - Microsoft dreamed up a few years back?

It may come as a surprise to find that Microsoft is not involved with a recent effort to devise a tea kettle that can be activated with a cell phone. Not to be confused, of course, with the I-Pot (which would have been a good name for the Internet toilet, by the way), a kettle with Internet capability that's used to help monitor elderly Japanese.

The gadget, the ReadyWhenUR, is a joint venture from tea makers PG Tips and cell phone company Orange. It's expected to go on sale in January.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Tea Review 31 - Ticolino Mint, Raspberry, Chamomile

Mint Medley
Red Raspberry,
Serengeti Tea Company

Say what you want about Thomas Sullivan and that little gimmick he came up with about a hundred years ago - the tea bag - but don't say that it didn't make tea drinking more convenient.

A century or so later Serengeti Tea Company is trying to go Sullivan one step better with their Ticolino tea infusers. These are small foil straws filled with tea that have tiny holes in one end to allow the hot water to pass through.

The company makes the infusers in three herbal flavors and three tea varieties and were kind enough to send a sample of each. I tried out the herbal flavors first, starting with Mint Medley.

Serengeti recommends brewing their tea for 90 seconds. I wasn't seeing much color at that point so I let it go for twice as long and then some. Even then the flavor was on the weak side, but since I like a mint tea that's strong enough to make my toes curl and my ears flutter that may just be a matter of preference.

Chamomile also came out a little bit weak side but, once again, that may just be me. Red Raspberry brewed up quite a bit stronger and produced a nice bright red color in the cup.

As far as convenience goes, Ticolino tea infusers rank right up there. They are certainly easier to work with and less messy than a tea bag. As far as taste is concerned, the three herbal flavors were a bit too polite for my likes.

Desert Teas

Yes, friends, that's desert teas, not to be confused with dessert teas.

Tea Guy is originally from back East, but I moved to the Southwest about seven years ago and immediately decided that almost everything about the desert is good.

Oddly enough, one of the things I've never gotten around to experimenting with during my time here are the native plants that can be used to make herbal and medicinal teas.

If you'd like to know more about those plants check out Tea Time in the Desert, an excellent article from the equally excellent Web site, DesertUSA. And be sure to heed that warning. Oh, and watch out for rattlesnakes too.

And hey, while you're at it, how about some tea flavored with prickly pear cactus fruits? Check it out here.

High Tea? Afternoon Tea?

Quick, what's the difference between high tea and afternoon tea? And no, high tea is not when you drink tea in an airplane.

That's okay. I didn't know either, at least not until I read Brenda Coulter's article explaining the difference between the two.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tea Review 30 - Kombucha Wonder Drink Himalayan

Kombucha Wonder Drink

I'm growing very fond of this Kombucha Wonder Drink stuff. So far I've tried three of their five flavors and look forward to checking out Jasmine Niagara Grape and Rooibos Red Peach as soon as I can track them down.

KWD Himalayan is made with organic green tea, organic cane sugar and organic lemon flavor. That telltale sour taste of kombucha is not as pronounced in this blend, but I'm actually getting to like that aspect of the drink.

I wasn't quite as fond of Himalayan as I was of the other two flavors. If I were to rank them, I'd put Asian Pear Ginger at the top of the heap, followed by Orient Blend and then Himalayan.

Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with Himalayan or that I don't recommend it because I do. So take that.

Contents: 8.5 ounce bottle
I paid: na

Typhoo Tea Sold To Apeejay

Acquisitions, acquisitions, acquisitions. Big businesses sure like to toss companies around, don’t they?

As you may recall - it was only two days ago - India's Tata Tea announced that they were buying California tea maker Good Earth, as noted here. On the same day English paper the Guardian reported that another Indian firm, Apeejay International Tea, was buying British tea company Typhoo, the country's third largest.

For the full report from the Guardian, look here.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Tea Review 29 - Rooibos

Organic Rooibos
Rooibos Orange
Rooibos Provence

Rooibos, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, is an herbal beverage made from a plant - Aspalathus linearis - grown only in South Africa. It is brewed like tea, contains no caffeine and is commonly known as red bush, a reference to its color.

Most of the Rooibos I've tasted thus far has been in tea bag form. I recently had the good fortune to sample three loose varieties from tea merchant, who sell about a dozen types of loose Rooibos in "plain" and flavored varieties.

Organic Rooibos brews up to a very appealing dark reddish brown color and has a great flavor. While it doesn't really taste like black tea, I'd say it's about as close as you can get if you're looking for a caffeine free substitute.

Rooibos Orange is flavored with citrus peel and orange blossoms. It has a whopping strong aroma dry, but a rather delicate and pleasing taste.

There's no kitchen sink in Rooibos Provence, but that's about the only thing not present. The flavorings in this one are lavender, rose petals, dried black currants, dried blueberries, rosehip shells and the rather mysterious "natural flavors."

All three of these teas are quite good, but the last was probably my least favorite. One of the flavors didn't quite click with me, though I couldn't place what it was - perhaps the currants.

Anyway, for a nice iced tea you might try one part Organic Rooibos, one part Rooibos Orange and one part mint. I used Celestial Seasonings Organic Peppermint, which packs quite a kick, as the latter ingredient.


Sample Packaging Awards

Well, not really. Just a few thoughts on the packaging of tea samples.

I've already confessed my fondness for reasonably priced sample packets. Among the tea merchants who offer these are Upton, Adagio and Alltea.

Upton's samples come in a grey foil/plastic packet that's constructed so that it stands by itself. It's a little larger than a playing card.

Alltea uses a similar material, but in a longer, thinner shape and in a nice copper color. This one also stands up, but on it's side.

But for my money Adagio takes the cake with its mini sample size tea tins. They're resealable, reusable and all around wunnerful. Yes, they probably cut into Adagio's bottom line more deeply but they lend the proceedings a touch of class and I hereby declare them to be a very good thing.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bad Monkey...Bad

A man, a monkey and the insidious influence of green tea. If you've never read Green Tea, a short story by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a renowned Irish writer of supernatural tales, then maybe it's about time to rectify that matter.

Check it out at Project Gutenberg. It's paired with another Le Fanu story, Mr. Justice Harbottle, which is also worth your time. Now that you mention it, there are plenty of Le Fanu tales that are worth your time, but this is as good a place as any to start.

Tata Buying Good Earth

If you follow tea news, you might be aware of rumors that India's Tata Tea was looking to buy an American company. As it turns out, the rumors were not greatly exaggerated. The Washington Post, among others, reported today that Tata, the world's second-largest branded tea company, has announced plans to buy Good Earth.

Good Earth will keep its name and continue to operate in Santa Cruz, California. The Post article, with all the thrilling facts and figures, is here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Half Baked Fake Tea

Want to create the illusion that you're one of those discerning tea drinker types, but just don't have the time or the inclination to brew up a cup of tea?

Well then, get thyself right over to Half Baked Food Novelties' Web site and check out their fine fake tea products, which include iced and hot tea items and even a pitcher of iced tea.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Tea Review 28 - Adagio White Assam

White Assam
Adagio Teas

White Assam. Who knew? Certainly not me.

I should preface these remarks on White Assam by saying that there are few things I like better than a good, robust black Assam. It's the sort of thing that makes me want to thump my chest, pinch the senoritas and shoot holes in the ceiling.

But White Assam doesn't go there, as you might have guessed. What you get for your 180 degrees and seven minutes steeping of these long, thin leaves - mostly grayish, with a smattering of white - is something quite different.

The last time I brewed White Assam half of the leaves hung suspended in the water and half sunk, which created a nice effect that reminded me of stalactites and stalagmites in a cavern. The leaves produce a light reddish-brown brew with a delicate taste and perhaps just the faintest overtones of fruit and malt. Overall, I though the taste was closer to a nice Darjeeling black, but what do I know?

Available, as most Adagio teas are, in four sizes. In this case, a sample size ($4) all the way up to a half pound ($38). Not for bargain hunters, but well worth it.


Contents: Sample tin
I paid: na

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tea Review 27 - Kombucha Orient Blend

Orient Blend
Kombucha Wonder Drink

My first experience with Kombucha Wonder Drink was with their Asian Pear Ginger variety, which I liked quite a bit. Now that I've had a chance to sample another of their blends I realize that kombucha, in it's "purer" form is something of an acquired taste.

I gather that Kombucha Wonder Drink's Orient Blend is their version of "plain" kombucha. It consists of kombucha brewed with oolong tea, organic cane sugar and nothing else. When I tried the Asian Pear Ginger, I wondered if perhaps the tartness might come from the asian pear component, but now I know that's not the case.

Orient Blend is quite a tart one, now that you mention it, with a flavor best compared to cider made from really overripe apples. I didn't really detect much cane sugar flavor, so I can only imagine what "straight" kombucha must taste like.

But once again, after the initial shock, I began to adjust, though a little more slowly than the last time around. I can see myself getting used to Orient Blend, but for now I'll probably stick with the flavored varieties of KWD.

Contents: 8.5 ounce bottle
I paid: $1.99

Tough Times For Tea Tasters

For those of us who love tea, working as a tea taster seems like it would be the ultimate dream job. Of course, like anything else, I'm sure the reality probably falls rather short of the fantasy, but who knows?

Anyway, if we're to believe the Calcutta Telegraph, there are less and less people all the time who aspire to such a position. Apparently the Indian tea industry is having a tough time drumming new tasters into the ranks. Read all about it right here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pure Inventions Green Tea

I've said it before and I'll probably say it many more times. I don't particularly give a rat's ass about the assorted and sundry health benefits of tea, some of which I elaborated upon in this previous posting. While it's a nice fringe benefit, I'd still be an avid tea drinker even if there were no benefits and, as a matter of fact, since I have a bit of a sensitivity to caffeine I generally feel rather shabby after drinking tea. Don't weep too copiously for me, though. I can take it.

I'm working my way around to a point here and that is that I drink tea, like so many people, because I like tea and I like the entire experience of tea drinking. The notion of getting my tea in a pill or a eye dropper doesn't get me excited.

For those of you who might be interested in getting your tea from an eye dropper, there's Pure Invention's line of flavored tea extracts - six in all. I'll go so far as to say that this sort of thing isn't my cup of tea, but perhaps it would be yours. So here you go.

Tea Review 26 - Steaz Lemon Dew

Steaz Lemon Dew Green Tea Soda
The Healthy Beverage Company

Steaz makes eight different flavors of green tea soda. I've sampled five so far - Orange, Root Beer, Key Lime, Cola and now Lemon Dew. The other three flavors are Ginger Ale, Grape and Raspberry. Of the Steaz products I've tried up to this point I liked Key Lime the best. Lemon Dew isn't bad, but I didn't like it enough to give it the top ranking Steaz-wise.

Lemon Dew has essentially the same mix of ingredients as other Steaz sodas - sparkling filtered water, organic evaporated cane juice and organic Ceylon tea. This time around it's "natural lemon flavors" that give this variety it's unique taste. The problem is, if you ask me, that there isn't nearly enough of it. The drink has a pleasant enough taste, but it's not one I'd walk a mile for. Of course, I like lemons and have a marked preference for stronger flavors when it comes to this sort of thing. Lemon Dew is more like a weak lemonade.

With all that said, Lemon Dew is not really bad - just a little light on that key ingredient. But I think I am belaboring the point.

Contents: 12 ounce bottle
I Paid: $1.49

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ipsei? Pepsi? Rooibos? Huh?

From the Who Really Cares desk. Coca-Cola is apparently poised to launch a non-carbonated beverage called Ipsei in the United Kingdom. I mention it here because it contains rooibos (redbush) extracts, among other things. claims that Ipsei is derived from the Latin word for self, but that other big soda pop maker thinks there's more than a passing resemblance to the name Pepsi and they're not so happy about it. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the giant sugar water manufacturers.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pumpkin Tempest In A Teapot

(Updated 09/19/06) - The Asia Dragon link below seems to be down for the count. Here's one for Dragonwater Tea's rooibos pumpkin tea.

Let's see. If it's autumn, then it must be time for pumpkin tea. Texas tea makers Tempest Tea (pardon my gross alliteration) is offering - for a limited time - Pumpkin Bubble Tea and Pumpkin Tea Latte. The catch, as far as I can tell, is that you have to be in Texas to take advantage of the offer - Dallas, to be exact.

But fret not, there are other pumpkin teas out there, believe it or not. Adagio offers one and you can also give this one - from Asia Dragon - a shot.

I have to confess that I'm a little behind the curve on bubble tea, having not had a chance to try any yet. But I'm working on it. Tempest's pumpkin variety is made with Ceylon tea and flavored with pumpkin (duh), nutmeg, vanilla and more, essentially the same mix as their Pumpkin Tea Latte.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go wait for the Great Pumpkin.


You learn something new every day, or so the old saying would have us believe. What I learned today (well, a few days ago) is that there's a type of soup made with green tea.

It's called Ochazuke and it's popular in - you guessed it - Japan. Apparently the two standard ingredients in Ochazuke are green tea and rice, which are livened up with assorted and sundry others, depending on the preferences of the chef.

For a little more info on Ochazuke, check out this brief piece over at While you're there, be sure to take a look around. The page is a production of the Japan-based World Green Tea Association and they've got plenty of information there on green tea. Maybe you'll learn something new today.

Friday, October 07, 2005

High Tea on the High Seas

If you fly coach on the average commercial airline, as I did recently, you'll probably have to make do with mass market trash tea, for lack of a better term. If that doesn't work for you then you might want to consider traveling on Seabourn Cruise Lines, who recently introduced a menu of more than a dozen rare estate teas, as well as a selection of teas and tisanes - the latter being the "proper" term for what most of us refer to as herbal teas.

The program has been christened Seabourn to a Tea and the teas presented will be loose leaf. Pardon me while I swoon. Among the varieties you'll encounter if you decide you're up for some upscale cruising are Bleu Peacock, a blend of premium Chinese and Formosa oolongs; Jasmine Downy Pearls; Himalaya Peak Darjeeling Organic and such herbal blends as Ginger Twist and Verbena Mint Organic.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Nifty Gadget Post

I ran across two products recently that sort of work along the same lines. I haven't had the opportunity to try either one yet.

The Health Tea Wand is made by Wisdom Wands, Inc. and is allegedly "the most remarkable tea accessory ever invented." That's laying it on a bit thick, but like I say I haven't had a chance to try it yet. Maybe it really is.

Anyway, if you're familiar with the bombilla, an ornamental straw with filter that's used to drink loose yerba mate, then you've got an idea what the Health Tea Wand is all about. It's a clear glass straw with fine holes at one end. Brew your loose tea in a glass, stick the straw - err, wand - in and drink. The only issue that's not clear to me is how you keep from oversteeping your tea or keeping the leaves from blocking the filter portion.

The other product is the Ticolino Tea Infuser, from Serengeti Tea Company. This one looks a little bit like a straw, but is actually a single serving packet of tea that you unwrap, pop in your glass, steep and remove. Looks like an okay product too. The only potential issue with this one is that it doesn't seem like the leaves have much room to breathe and get the maximum contact with the water.

Anyway, the TTI is available in three tea and three herbal varieties, though with a minimum order of $40 I'm thinking that it's geared more toward the retail and food service trade.

Tea Review 25 - Kombucha Asian Pear Ginger

Asian Pear Ginger
Kombucha Wonder Drink

After writing about Kombucha Wonder Drink the other day, I decided I'd like to give it a try. One trip to my local Wild Oats store later and I was in possession of a bottle of the Asian Pear Ginger variety.

The full ingredients list is kombucha from organic oolong tea, organic cane sugar, natural pear flavoring and organic raw ginger juice. Though it purports to be "subtly carbonated" it pours up with a color and head on it that looks just like beer.

The flavor was quite tart, almost sour - kind of like grapefruit juice mixed with apple cider - but after the initial shock it grew on me rather quickly.

Though it's a little on the pricey side, I could see myself getting into a regular KWD routine. I think I'll make my way back to Wild Oats and try out the other flavors, which include Himalayan Blend, Orient Blend and two new additions - Jasmine Niagara Grape and Rooibos Red Peach.


Contents: 8.5 ounce bottle
I paid: $1.99

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tea and Coffee Towers

If you're interested in offbeat tea and coffee ware and you're in the Phoenix area any time soon, you might want to make your way to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art to check out Tea and Coffee Towers. The exhibit, which features tea and coffee sets by "twenty of the world’s most innovative architects," runs until the end of the year. More info here.

Tea Review 24 - Adagio Golden Needle

Golden Needle
Adagio Teas

While I'm by no means immune to the charms of a good oolong or white tea and I'm even fonder of quality green tea, nowadays I find black the most appealing. Unfortunate, perhaps, given the fact that I have a sensitivity to caffeine, of which black tea contains the most, but so it goes.

Adagio's Golden Needle is one of those that keep me coming back to black tea. Named for the thin leaves and golden tips that give it added visual flair, it is grown in China's Fujian province and hand processed.

Golden Needle has a great aroma dry and brews up with a very pleasing reddish brown color. I steeped it for the recommended five minutes with boiling water and came up with a brew with a very smooth and mellow taste, flavorful and with just a hint of malt.

Golden Needle is available in four sizes, from a three dollar sample size to a one-pounder that sells for $34.


Contents: Sample tin
I paid: na

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Kombucha Wonder Drink

The Portland Tribune recently reported on the exploits of Steve Lee, who was involved with the founding of Stash Tea and later Tazo Tea. Lee's current project is Kombucha Wonder Drink.

KWD's Web site describes it as "a refreshing organic sparkling fermented tea". For those of you who are not familiar with kombucha, there is also an FAQ at the Web site that should help bring you up to speed.

I actually had an experience with kombucha some years back, courtesy of a coworker who was quite fond of the stuff. He convinced me to take a crack at making it, a process that basically consists of using a bit of starter culture to ferment and make your own.

Memory's a tricky thing and I have to confess that I don't recall the result of this adventure. Something tells me that the brew-in-progress got tossed after while because my better half felt that it was thoroughly nasty. Or maybe it was me who felt it was thoroughly nasty. But to tell you the truth, I don't recall. I guess I'll have to give it another try sometime.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tea In Strange Places - US & UK

When you think of great tea-growing regions, the United States doesn't immediately spring to mind. Nor does England, in spite of their legendary fondness for the drink. But tea growers have turned up in both countries lately and, by all accounts, are doing rather well.

Tea has actually been grown in the United States - primarily in South Carolina - since 1848. Charleston Tea Plantation, growers of tea marketed under the American Classic Tea brand and for a long time one of the nation's only such concerns, has been operating in South Carolina since 1987. For a good summary of tea history in this region, see Martha Bowes' article, Brewing Up American Pride: Charleston Tea, over at Tea Muse.

Now Hawaii - a state better known for its premium grade Kona coffee - is taking a crack at tea production, according to a recent article from MSNBC. The effort, set in motion by the United States Agriculture Department and the University of Hawaii, has been going on for about five years and the crop currently occupies a modest eight acres. For more information, check out the Web presence for the Hawaii Tea Society.

Over in England, according to another MSNBC article, tea is under cultivation, for the first time, at the Tregothnan estate, in the southwest part of the country. Things got underway there in 1999 and the premium tea is finally hitting the market.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Tea Review 23 - Republic of Tea Pink Grapefruit

Pink Grapefruit Green Tea
The Republic of Tea

The field of flavored green teas is looking a little crowded these days, but Republic's Pink Grapefruit entry sounded promising all the same. It's part of the company's Sip For the Cure line, which also includes Pink Lemonade, Pink Rose and Pink Lady Apple. A portion of the proceeds from each sale go to support breast cancer.

The ingredients list for Pink Grapefruit includes Premium China green tea, pink peony petals and natural pink grapefruit flavoring and it's all packed into a nifty round tea bag. When I opened the single serving sample pack I was assaulted by a strong grapefruit aroma. Not a bad thing, mind you. In fact, I kept the empty packet around for a little while just to enjoy that fragrance.

Unfortunately, the pink grapefruit flavor and aroma didn't carry over to the tea quite so well. After brewing, I caught a faint whiff of it and then for the first few sips there was an ever so subtle grapefruit overtone, but this seemed to dwindle.

But this is not such a bad tea, all in all, as the green tea component is good enough to make up for the relatively weak grapefruit taste.

Contents: Single serving sample packet
I paid: free

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Mudob? Bodum?

Bodum USA

Some time back, when I was still gainfully employed, I went together with that rarest of beings, a tea-drinking coworker, to buy a set of tea glasses. I was a bit disappointed to find that they were these little frail things, but over time I grew to like them and was even distressed when one took a flying leap from a kitchen cabinet and did itself in.

Until recently - yesterday, actually - I though the cups were made by a company named Mudob. It was only when I went to the Bodum Web site and saw the glasses (Sumatra) listed that I realized that I'd been reading from the wrong side of the glass.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed this gripping anecdote as much as I've enjoyed relating it. The point of all this is that you should check out Bodum's Web site. They have some great stuff there for tea drinkers - cups, pots and the like. There's also a bunch of coffee gear too, but whoop dee doo. Coffee, schmoffee.

A Catalog Cometh - Republic of Tea

The Republic of Tea

It's always a happy day when a new tea catalog arrives in the mail. The latest to grace my mailbox is from The Republic of Tea. You may know them from their distinctively designed tea tins, which seem to turn up mostly in high-toned groceries and specialty shops.

Republic's latest catalog is their 75th and the first one I've seen. According to the cover, it retails for a dollar. That seems odd for a catalog, but what do I know?

If you're looking for a wide variety of single estate teas and that sort of thing, there are probably better places to look than here. While Republic offers a nice selection of black, green, oolong and white teas, they seem to lean more toward flavored teas and infusions, many of which are offbeat and rather intriguing.

Some of the more notable offerings include the gourmet Imperial Republic line, the Red Tea (rooibos) line, a selection of fair trade certified teas, a nice assortment of white teas and an organic line.

Republic also seems to be branching out rather extensively into bottled ready to drink teas. I'm not much of a fan of this sort of thing and these seem a bit pricey, but hey, everyone likes what they like.

Also on hand are a wide assortment of kettles, pots, accessories and related merchandise, including such oddities as stir-fry tea tree oil and a really nifty iced tea pitcher. And while I don't often get excited over tea ware, there are some quite striking clear glass cups and pots by Bodum and a set of modernist stainless steel tea ware that caught my eye.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Natural Latitudes Yerba Mate

Natural Latitudes LLC

While putting together an article on yerba mate recently, I had the opportunity to correspond with the eminently helpful Andrea Segovia, of Natural Latitudes LLC. The article will appear in one of our fine local publications, but I thought I'd put in a plug for Natural Latitudes in the meantime.

Andrea hails from Uruguay, where, from what I've gathered, yerba mate is everything coffee is on these shores, and quite a bit more. Yerba mate, by the way, is an herbal beverage - sort of like tea - that's indigenous to and very popular in several South American countries.

In fall of 2004, Andrea and Joel Heyn went live with Natural Latitudes, which currently offers its wares - fine quality yerba mate and accessories - at their Web site. Plans are to have a retail outlet up and running locally at some point in the near future.

Locally, in Andrea and Joel's case, means Madison, Wisconsin. I suspect that Wisconsin must be quite a stretch if you originally hail from Uruguay, but I didn't ask. Perhaps they should consider offering a cheese-flavored yerba mate?