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.