Friday, December 29, 2006

Top Teas Of 2006

So many little time. I've had the chance to taste a few teas this year and, of course, there were more than a few winners in the bunch. Here's the list of those that truly stood out.

Hattialli Estate GFBOP SPL (Assam) - Upton Tea Imports

Black, Honorable Mention:
Nahorhabi Estate FTGFOP1 SPL CL (Assam) - Upton Tea Imports

First-Flush Shizuoka Sencha "Hatsumi" -

Green, Honorable Mention:
Matcha-iri Teabags -

Snow Buds (Xue Ya) Organic White Tea - Rishi Tea

Blueberry Rooibos - Rishi Tea

RTD (Ready To Drink):
Anteadote Pure White Tea - Adagio Teas

RTD, Honorable Mention:
Honeysuckle White Tea - Inko's

Image: Rishi Tea

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Product News Roundup

Wendy "The Snapple Lady" recently appeared at the "Snapple Holiday Rejuvenation Location" in New York City to give away samples of Snapple's Green, White and Red Teas. Snapple also used the event to preview a new blueberry flavor.

Ito En is pushing their Sencha Shot as a "green tea energy boost that banishes winter doldrums, excess weight, cancerous cells and cavities, among other ailments." We'll assume that's intended to be a tongue in cheek summation of the product's merits.

Here's what else Ito En has to say about Sencha Shot:
"Each 6.4 fl oz can of Sencha Shot contains 152 mg of the cancer-fighting catechin EGCG. That's 5 times more than the average ready-to-drink green tea, according to the USDA. Sencha Shot contains simply purified water, green tea, and vitamin C. No extracts, no supplements."

You may have heard of a company called Coca-Cola. We most recently mentioned them in connection with their "calorie-burning" tea, Enviga. Coke is in more hot water over a beverage they're marketing abroad with the odd name of Ipsei. Another beverage company with a somewhat similar name is not happy about that one. Read all about the legal battle that ensued in this article from Marketing Week.

Image: Ito En

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

World Tea Expo Moving To Atlanta

World Tea Expo isn't happening until June this year, but it's never too soon to start planning. Here's some info from the Expo gang:

The World Tea Expo, the nation’s premier marketplace for the tea industry, is moving to Atlanta for 2007. The event will take place June 9, 10, & 11 at the Georgia World Congress Center.

The tea industry in the U.S. continues to skyrocket: U.S. wholesale tea sales grew from $1.84 billion in 1990 to $6.16 billion in 20051, and are expected to reach $10 billion by 20102. Keeping pace with the growth of the industry, the 2006 World Tea Expo last March in Las Vegas grew in attendance by nearly 60% and was named by TradeshowWeek as one of the “Fastest 50” growing trade shows in the US and Canada. At the 2007 Expo, 300 world-class companies from around the globe will exhibit, and will be joined by an expected 5,000 buyers.

A complete range of tea and tea-related products can be found at the event, including tea wholesalers and packers; bulk, bagged, and ready-to-drink tea; tea bagging equipment and packaging suppliers; as well as gourmet foods, giftware, tea jewelry, chocolate, and other confectionary items.

With 50 seminars and workshops, the conference program is the largest in the world on the business of tea. It continues to evolve with defined tracks for tea knowledge, sales and marketing, foodservice solutions, tea and health, and business development. In addition to workshops, special events are held throughout the day, ranging from the Tea Ceremonies from different cultures to Cooking with Tea demonstrations by leading regional chefs.

More information on the World Tea Expo, including the floor plan, an interactive directory of exhibitors, and a full listing of events and seminars, can be found on the website.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Around The World With Tea

Here's a selection of interesting tea-related bits from abroad.

From New Zealand's Scoop, comes news of what's said to be the world's first floating tea bar. Details are a bit sketchy as to what that actually means, but you can read the brief article here.

We mentioned a while back that a Malaysian astronaut was going to attempt the not quite death-defying, but difficult, feat of making teh tarik in space. Apparently those plans have fallen through. Find out what teh tarik is and read all about it here or here.

The New York Times paints a rosy picture of leisurely travel through India's tea gardens in this recent article.

Of course, the world's never quite that simple a place, as this little bit about the ongoing turmoil in the Assam region serves to remind us.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Where To Go For Tea

Here's a roundup of some recent newspaper articles about tea houses and whatnot.

One of the San Diego area entertainment guides puts forth four recommendations on where to go for tea. Read it here.

The Portland (Oregon) Mercury profiles the TeaZone, whose lounge serves cocktails made with tea, among other things.

If you're in the Milwaukee area, this roundup of the local tea scene, from Greater Milwaukee Today, might be of interest.

Last up, from one of the CBS affiliates, is a report on some coffee and teapots at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Tea Quotation - M.F.K. Fisher

Here's a tea quotation that somehow didn't make it into my two recent lists:

My grandmother died before tea bags. I am grateful. My mother never admitted their existence. (M.F.K. Fisher)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bombilla Gourd & CoffeeSlender

Ready for another bottled yerba mate beverage? How about Bombilla Gourd Mate Tea? It's available in five flavors - blueberry, pomegranate, lemon, peach, and mint and honey. Check out their Web site here. BevNet has reviews of three of the five flavors here.

Perhaps taking a page from the Coca-Cola marketing primer, the makers of a new beverage called CoffeeSlender seem to be positioning their new beverage as a weight loss aid. Lift your feet, I say. Of course, coffee is far from being our preferred subject matter around these parts, but this one caught my eye since Coke is making somewhat similar claims for Enviga, their new green tea beverage.

Read about CoffeeSlender here. And remember, dubious weight loss schemes are always a far better weight loss solution than eating right and exercising.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Boston Tea Stuff, Tea'd Up & More

Time for a roundup of some miscellaneous bits that have accumulated lately.

The anniversary of the Boston Tea Party (12/16/1773) is almost upon us. If you're in the vicinity of Boston tomorrow you might want to check out the 233rd Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party Reenactment at the Old South Meeting House. More here.

Boston Tea Campaign doesn't have anything to do with the Boston Tea Party, as far as I can tell. They do specialize in selling Darjeeling tea - and nothing else - at an affordable price. Until now, BTC has only sold their tea in loose form. They recently began offering it in tea bags.

Tempest Tea has a new product called Tea'd UP. Billed as an Energy Power Shot, Tempest describes is thusly, "a hot new product packed with powerful green tea antioxidants, ginseng, B vitamins and OVER 20% more CAFFEINE per serving than energy drinks."

Enviga has been raising some hackles, thanks to the creative claims Coca-Cola/Nestle is making for the product. Popgadget gives it a more or less positive review here.

Last up, here's a recipe for Green Tea Panna Cotta.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Triple Tea Timer

From CHEFS Catalog, comes a nifty-looking device called a Triple Tea Timer. You can decide for yourself whether it is, as billed, the "perfect tea timer." However, it is only $14.99 and it is the gift-giving season...

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

CSPI Calls Enviga A Fraud

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has been known to rouse a little rabble now and again. These days they've turned their crosshairs on Coca-Cola/Nestle's new green tea-based, miracle weight loss wonder drink, Enviga. You know the one.

If you found yourself skeptical about the claims (burns calories and whatnot) put forth for this product, you're not alone. CSPI suggests calling the drink "Fleece" and plans to sue Coke and Nestle "if they continue to market the drink with fraudulent calorie-burning and weight loss claims." The product is being test marketed now and is expected to hit store shelves - barring any unforeseen complications - in early 2007.

More from CSPI here.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

For All The Tea In England

Here's some information from documentary filmmaker Kerry McLeod about a project he's working on:

"For All the Tea in England" is a short documentary film that looks at the link between tea and Englishness, and visits several tea drinkers to show that the two are still very much interlinked - just not in the way you might expect.

In so many ways, the image of tea as something quintessentially English is synonymous with a sepia-toned image of our nation. Yet with nearly every nation on the planet now represented in London alone, how true does that image remain?

We are producing a short documentary about tea and the many ways it's drunk in England today. We're looking for people from different cultures to take part. If you have a strong association with tea for whatever reason and are interested, then please email Kerry McLeod on

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Mate Like Oxygen, Twinings & More

If you can't understand what would motivate someone to quip that "mate is like oxygen," then read this article by Colin Barraclough. It's from the San Francisco Chronicle and it's a rather in-depth examination - at least by newspaper standards - of yerba mate culture in Argentina.

The Save Twinings guy is still at it, trying to get Twinings to go back to their "original" Earl Grey formulation. Twinings says they have not changed the blend, but one of the company's VPs recently invited ST guy to visit their offices in New Jersey.

Imen, at Tea Obsession, offers up some information about the origin of tipping, as in gratuities. If he (she?) is to be believed, the practice originates with tea drinkers.

Last up is a new product announcement from Seagram's, whose Cooler Escapes line will now include Tea Breeze. It's a flavored malt beverage that blends peach, mango and green tea flavors.

Image: Twinings

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Book Review - What to Drink With What You Eat

If you're looking for the lowdown on food and beverage pairings, you'd probably do well to check out What to Drink with What You Eat, by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It's billed as "The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers."

If you're going to buy the book solely for the advice on pairing food and tea, I'd caution you to look at a copy first. While it contains some excellent advice about tea pairings, as well as the other beverages mentioned, wine is really the primary focus of the book.

To read my full review of What to Drink With What You Eat, at, click here.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Turkey Shaped Teapots

It's that time of year. Here are a few teapots that seemed appropriate to the occasion.

The first (pictured) is currently up for grabs at Amazon. It's described as a "Turkey Thanksgiving Teapot Autumn Tea Pot Holiday Home Decor Kitchen Party Entertaining Gift." But I guess that goes without saying.

As one of the selling points notes, it's "perfect for table top, bedside table, or desk." Darn right it is.

Hurry up, though. Only $24.98 and just one left in stock.

From the Puzzle Museum, which describes itself as "home to the World's finest collection of Mechanical Puzzles," comes a photo of a turkey-shaped pot from Peru. Scroll to the bottom of the page to feast your eyes upon it and feel free to congratulate me on my clever play on words.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How To Make Tea & More

I've run across a smattering of interesting tea-related items lately. I thought I'd share a few.

I don't care much for chai, but this time of the year (brrr...) I find myself gravitating toward Good Earth's Original blend. It's not unlike chai, but it lacks that ingredient - I think it's cardamom - that puts me off of the latter. It's available in two versions - one with caffeine and the other, which is made with rooibos, has none.

What brought this all to mind was the recipe for Good Earth Zucchini Bread that I found here, which actually uses the tea as one of the ingredients.

The more you find out about tea, the more you realize that the issue of How To Make Tea is not such a simple one. Here's a rather detailed entry on the topic. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page you'll find numerous links to other "how to" pages.

Last up is a tale, from the Australian press, about an Australian man whose ginseng teabags were not what they first appeared to be. Hint: He was arrested for possessing them.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Tea Review 82 - Rishi Jasmine Pearl

Jasmine Pearl
Rishi Tea

As I tend to mention just about every time the subject of flavored teas comes up, I'm not much of a fan of them. I guess I could be accused of belaboring the point.

A good jasmine-flavored green would generally be an exception, though. Rishi's Jasmine Pearl fits my description of a good jasmine-flavored green.

If you haven't run across Jasmine Pearl before, it would be worth your while to give it a whirl. As you can see from the photo, it's composed of small balls of jasmine-scented green tea, in this case an organic green from China's Fujian province. The jasmine flowers used for flavoring are also organic.

Here's part of Rishi's description of Jasmine Pearl:
"The most tender green tea leaves and buds are hand rolled into small pearls and infused with the essence of fresh jasmine blossoms. The fragrant blossoms are mixed with our reserve Dragon Pearl green tea according to a traditional tea scenting process that dates back more than 9 centuries."

This one has a very smooth taste. Like most good green teas, it stands up well to repeated brewings. I brewed it at 90 seconds, rather than Rishi's recommended 3-4 minutes, but I find myself underbrewing these days with almost every tea I drink.

If you're a fan of display teas, Jasmine Pearl pretty much fits the bill on that count too. It's fun and relaxing to watch the pearls unfurl while you're waiting for your cup of tea.


Image: Rishi Tea

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Specialists Revisited

I don't consider myself an expert on business or tea. But if I were looking to get into the tea business nowadays I think I would specialize in one small niche. For my money, it seems that there are too many tea merchants out there trying to do it all.

I wrote about a few of these niche companies previously. There's Kyela Teas, which focuses on Darjeeling and, which narrows its focus to Japanese green teas.

Here's an interesting informational site about Pu-erh tea called Pu-erh, A Westerner's Quest. Oolong fans might want to try, which is run by "a dedicated group of High Mountain Oolong Tea aficionados living in Australia."

What got me thinking on this topic again was an email I received yesterday announcing that Matcha Source had opened their "doors" for business. Matcha, of course, is a Japanese green that's probably best known as the tea used in Japanese tea ceremonies. Of course, nowadays it might be better known as a tea used in assorted and sundry Starbucks drinks.

Image: Matcha Source

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Green Tea In The Sahara these desert people, tea drinking is one of life's non-negotiables, taking precedence over virtually all else. It is such an ingrained ritual, it seems as though it's been part of their culture since prehistoric times.

In fact, tea was first imported into this part of Africa in the early 1800s. For nearly a hundred years, it remained a luxury item, consumed mostly by the wealthy. Only in the early twentieth century was it adopted by the culture at large. It was so popular, and addictive, that Muslim scholars wrote long opinions on whether drinking it was permitted by the Koran.

Historically and today, the everyman's brew in this region is green tea from China--though not because the nomads were aware of its myriad health benefits. The British deemed green tea to be undrinkable, so their merchants used crates of it as ballast for their ships. When they docked at the Moroccan port of al-Swaira, the tea was unloaded and sold off cheaply, then the holds of the vessels were filled with African goods.

from Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold
by Michael Benanav

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tea Review 81 - Rishi Pu-erh Ginger

Pu-Erh Ginger
Rishi Tea

As you may have gathered from reading the last few reviews, the fine people at Rishi Tea were good enough to send some samples my way recently. Of that bunch of stuff, the one that turned out to be something of a surprise was the Pu-erh Ginger.

I haven't had a lot of experience with Pu-erh. In fact, I've tasted exactly two varieties. One was not bad at all and the other was...let's just call it an acquired taste.

So I wasn't necessarily expecting too much from this experience. Especially since, as I've mentioned before, I'm not overly keen on flavored teas. Even though I'm quite a big fan of ginger, I wasn't expecting to have much good to say about this one.

As it turns out, I rather liked it. Some Pu-erh has a reputation for having a flavor that you might call earthy. Or you might call it like drinking from a mud puddle, depending on your inclination.

I thought I caught a faint undertone of earthiness in this variety, but the ginger and orange peel worked to tone down any strong flavors and make the taste rather pleasurable. Granted, the ginger bite might not be for everyone, but it's not too pronounced. I think I could find myself getting used to this one.


For an in-depth backgrounder on Pu-erh, go to Rishi's Store and click Pu-erh Tea.

Image: Rishi Tea

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Name A Taiwanese Tea

From Taiwan, a country that's probably best known for it's oolong tea, comes an article about a tea variety simply called Taiwan Tea No. 1. The Taipei Times reports that the researchers involved in devising this black tea are looking for a snappier name for it.

If you'd like to contribute a suggestion, send it to them at Read the full article here.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Malawi Tea, Yellow Tea & More

Here are a few offbeat teas I ran across recently. I thought I should share.

African teas don't seem to get as much press as the varieties grown in China and India. But if you scroll to the bottom of this page from Nothing But Tea, you'll see several interesting varieties that originate in Malawi (if the name sounds familiar, thank Madonna). Also take note of the unusual Georgian teas listed at the top of the page.

You don't run across yellow tea too often, but if you're keen to try some check out these two varieties from Seven Cups.

If tea and chocolate get you going, you might find this article from Culinary Muse interesting. It's about a new line of tea-flavored chocolates from Charles Chocolates and Teance Fine Teas.

Rock and roll fans should take note of the fact that Violent Femmes bassist Brian Ritchie has moved to Sydney, Australia to open a tea shop. He will continue to play with the band as well. More here.

Last up is a bit that's not really about tea, but it's too good to pass up. A Nice Cuppa recently wrote about a new model from Audi that's equipped with an espresso maker. Is it just me or is this an incredibly dopey idea? And I don't say that just because I'm biased against coffee.

Anyway, Nice Cuppa's post seems to be MIA, but you can read all about it at Gizmodo - here and here.

Image: Seven Cups Tea

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Interview - Michael Mascha of FineWaters

For most of us, bottled water is just water and that's the end of it. But for Michael Mascha, publisher of the FineWaters site and author of the new book, Fine Waters: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Most Distinctive Bottled Waters, it's not that simple.

If Mascha has his way, bottled water will be taken seriously one day, rather than being viewed as just a convenient way to drink while you're on the run.

We reviewed Fine Waters here a few weeks ago. Michael Mascha was kind enough to take a few moments out of his day recently to talk to us about water.

In his book, Mascha estimates that there are about 3,000 varieties of bottled water worldwide. He guesses that he's tasted between 300 and 350 of those. Asked whether he could pick a favorite, Mascha is quick to respond, "No, and I'm glad I don't have to."

Mascha does mention a few types of bottled water he's fond of, including soft (low in mineral content) rainwaters, high TDS (total dissolved solids) waters, naturally carbonated waters, and carbonated waters with smaller bubbles. He says he likes the latter because the tiny bubbles "don't disturb the food so much."

As for bottle designs, Mascha says he enjoys bottles that have some kind of connection to the area they come from. He names Antipodes (New Zealand) and L'Aubade (South Africa) as examples.

One of the most unusual bottled waters Mascha's run across is not one that's meant for internal consumption. It's Dead Sea water with a very high mineral content and it's made for external use. Though he can't help but wonder if the sports cap sends a mixed message.

Mascha says that bottled water doesn't get better with age, but by the same token, it pretty much has an infinite shelf life. He stresses that the waters themselves may vary widely in age, depending on their source.

As the conversation turns to water and tea, Mascha says that an inexpensive home filtration device should produce water that's on about the same level as a low-end bottled water.

Though he hasn't done a lot of experimenting with water and tea, he uses soft water to brew rooibos herbal tea and feels that rainwater, with its very low mineral content, would be a good choice in general. As for a specific brand that might be readily available and good for tea drinking, Mascha say that Fuji is "a good thing to start with."

Thanks to Michael Mascha for taking the time to speak with us. Read our review of Fine Waters here.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

C-Swiss Hemp, Watte Series & More

C-Swiss Hemp Ice Tea bills itself as "the refreshing hemp ice tea." I'd be willing to be that it's actually the only one, but I could be wrong.

The product, which is made in Austria, is a blend of green and black teas and also contains hemp syrup. It does not contain any THC - the ingredient in marijuana that makes you goofy. Although the fact that the manufacturers chose to include a marijuana leaf on the can, indicates that they might want you to believe otherwise.

This appears to be a slight variation on the hemp tea we mentioned in June. At the time the product was not available in the United States, but it appears that that's about to change.


If you've been choosing bottled teas over soda in the hopes that they are better for you, then just hold on a minute, pardner. Some of them may actually be better for you, but in the sweetness category, at least, they sometimes exceed soda. Here's an article from the Australian press that offers more details.

Also from Australia, a report on the tea shop scene in Sydney.


Looking for "the most exclusive teas in the world"? Well, look no further. According to this Web site, that would be the Watte Series Teas, from Ceylon's Dilmah tea company.

Image: Ceylon Tea Services Ltd

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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Mysterious Origins of Bubble Tea

One thing you can't deny about bubble tea is it's ever increasing popularity. Something that's not clear - apparently - is exactly how, when and with whom it originated.

Tu Tsung-ho, owner of Taiwan's Hanlin Tea Room, claims to be the originator of bubble tea, but a District Court ruling there says that's not the case. Liu Han-chieh, owner of Chun Shui Tang Cultural Tea House, in Taiwan, is also laying claim to being the originator of bubble tea - claiming to have come up with the concept as early as 1984.

For more on the whole thrilling saga, look here.

For an overview on bubble tea, read what Wikipedia has to offer.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Green Tea, Koots & HIV

We last wrote about Koots Green Tea in May, around the time they were opening their first green tea cafe in the Seattle area.

Apparently the chain still has only that one location (and 10 in Japan) but are planning to expand. It probably won't hurt that founder Kouta Matsuda was profiled in the New York Times yesterday, in an article that positions him as the man who took on Starbucks, but questions whether Americans are ready to give up their coffee for tea.

Read the full NYT article here.

If you follow the assorted and sundry health claims made for green tea, you might have trouble keeping up. The latest claim is elaborated in an article in the Houston Chronicle. Seems that green tea, or at least epigallocatechin gallate, a component in green tea, "holds some promise in fighting HIV."

Read all about it here.

Image: Koots Green Tea

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tea Review 80 - Rishi Rooibos (x2)

Jamaica Red Bush
Blueberry Rooibos
Rishi Tea

I've never been much of a fan of flavored tea. That's tea, in the strictest sense of the word, as in the beverage made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. But when it comes to rooibos and its African cousin, honey bush, it's a different story. While I can drink either one plain, in my opinion, they both benefit from the judicious addition of flavorings.

Which Rishi Tea does quite nicely, at least with the two flavors under consideration here. What caught my attention with both of these blends is how strong and fresh the flavoring is. In each case, when I opened the package, I was nearly bowled over by the aroma - and I mean that in a good way.

Jamaica Red Bush was a little less to my liking than the blueberry, but that's a matter of personal taste. Its a blend of organic ingredients, including rooibos, hibiscus, honey bush, lemongrass, schizandra berries (a new one on me), rosehips, licorice root, orange peel, natural passion fruit flavor, natural essential oils of orange, tangerine and clove, and natural mango flavor (sheesh). The overall aroma and taste of this one tends toward citrus and it's very nice.

But it's the Blueberry Rooibos that made me sit up and take notice. These Rishi guys are on to something with this one. It's a blend of rooibos, blueberries, schizandra berries, hibiscus, natural blueberry and strawberry flavors. The interesting touch here is that the blueberries are real or, as the packaging puts it - "real wild blueberries."

As a result, the aroma is so strong that you could actually use it as potpourri if you didn't care to drink it. Or you could do both. I made some into a batch of iced tea and the smell permeated the entire apartment. Oh, and it tastes good too.

Recommended on both counts, with a very high recommendation for the Blueberry Rooibos.

Image: Rishi Tea

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Good Earth's New Organic Teas

Good Earth Teas announced recently that they're adding a line of 12 organic teas. Look for them to hit store shelves some time around January.

According to Good Earth, growth of organic teas is on the upswing, with a 30 percent increase over a one year period ending in mid-summer 2005.

Here's the list of Good Earth's new teas:

• Organic Apricot Ginger Black Tea
• Organic Cool Mint Herbal Tea (Caffeine Free)
• Organic Good Night Herbal Tea (Caffeine Free)
• Organic Green Tea
• Organic Decaffeinated Green Tea
• Organic Jasmine Blossom Green Tea
• Organic Original Sweet & Spicy Tea
• Organic Original Sweet Spicy Herbal Tea (Caffeine Free)
• Organic Red Tea (Caffeine Free)
• Organic Seven Spice Chai Tea
• Organic Decaffeinated Seven Spice Chai Tea
• Organic White Tea

Image: Good Earth Teas

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Tea Review 79 - Rishi Snow Buds White

Snow Buds (Xue Ya), Organic White Tea
Rishi Tea

I've sampled assorted and sundry white teas before. I remember liking most of them, but nothing really stood up head and shoulders above the pack. But just recently I found myself really impressed with Snow Buds, from Rishi Tea.

This is an excellent white tea, or at least so say I, but I think part of the fact that I liked it so much had to do with my tea drinking habits lately. Which has pretty much consisted of a whole lot of strong, heavy black teas - Yunnans and Assams mostly.

To suddenly make a changeover to a delicate white tea was a nice switch and served to remind me that black is not the be all and end all of tea.

Rishi describes Snow Buds as "a rare white tea that is hand harvested in very limited quantities for Rishi on the high mountain peaks of northern Fujian, China."

As for the flavor, there's no point in me reinventing the wheel, when Rishi has already offered up a good description, "its clear infusion offers a fresh green note with a complex savory flavor and aroma that can be likened to toasted grains and baked sweet potato."

I don't know that I'd have been clever enough to isolate the two latter components of the flavor, but I also won't argue with that description.

If you're looking for a nice, light white tea, whether as an antidote to too much black or just because, you could do a lot worse than Snow Buds.

Highly recommended.

Image: Rishi Tea

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Tea Review 78 - American Classic Tea

Our last tea review covered Tregothnan's teas, which are made from the only tea plants grown in England for commercial use. With that in mind it seemed logical that the next review should be of American Classic Tea, which is the currently the only tea being grown for commercial use in the United States.

It all takes place in South Carolina, at Bigelow Tea's Charleston Tea Plantation. The Plantation's Web site is located here. There have been a flurry of articles in various newspapers about the Plantation over the last few months. Here's a recent one by the Associated Press. Here's a good article, from TeaMuse, about tea production in the United States. It's kind of a limited topic and the article is about five years old, but it's still worth a look.

American Classic Tea, as far as I can tell, is only available in tea bag form. It's a black tea and my understanding is, that because there's not a whopping amount of tea produced at the Plantation, it's blended with other black teas. While it would be interesting to taste the Plantation's tea on it's own, in loose tea form, apparently that's not possible right now.

As for the tea itself, well, I have to say that I wasn't exactly bowled over by the taste. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was bad, but I found it to be a little bit on the harsh side. Of course, I typically drink everything straight up - no additives. If you're keen on milk, sugar, lemon and whatnot, you might find American Classic to be much more agreeable.

You can order American Classic Tea directly from Bigelow, but you'll have to buy a minimum of six boxes (144 bags total). I haven't done any research into where to buy it in smaller quantities, but I'm sure Bigelow could answer that one, if you'd like to know.

Image: Bigelow Tea

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tea Review 77 - Tregothnan Tea

English Estate Classic Tea
English Estate Afternoon Tea
English Estate Green Tea
English Estate Earl Grey Tea
Tregothnan Tea

Tea and Britain. They go together like peanut and butter, like cup and cake, like sand and wich. Well, you get the point, however awkwardly made.

Of course, all of the millions (billions? trillions? gazillions?) of gallons of tea the British have guzzled over the last few centuries have been imported. Until recently there was no other option.

Enter Tregothnan Tea, the first company to offer tea that's actually grown in Britain. It all takes place at Tregothnan, an estate in Cornwall, in western England, that's been around since 1335.

The good people at Tregothnan were kind enough to send samples of each of their four teas. They are all blends of the tea grown at Tregothnan with assorted and sundry other varieties. They also offer a limited-edition, single-estate variety that is 100% Tregothnan. Unfortunately, it's so limited that it's currently not available.

I wasn't sure what the expect from these teas, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised. Here are a few brief notes on each. Though they're available in tea bags, in each case I sampled them in loose form.

English Estate Classic Tea
Tregothnan's Classic Tea is a robust black that's similar to a breakfast tea. Which is okay by me. It mixes the Estate's tea with black varieties from China and Assam. A nice blend, with a good flavor and very little bitterness. Takes milk and sugar well, as they say in the tea catalogs, though that sort of thing is not my...cup of tea.

English Estate Afternoon Tea
Though I tend to gravitate more toward the stout Assam varieties than the delicate Darjeelings, I'd have to say that this blend was probably my favorite of the four. As I've already suggested, it takes Tregothnan's homegrown and mixes it with Darjeeling. Though I could taste a hint of the latter, overall it's an interesting mix that I can't quite compare to anything else.

English Estate Green Tea
This one is blended with what's simply described as "specially selected green tea." I'm going to assume that it was selected from China. I could swear that I tasted just the faintest hint of the gunpowder variety in there. This one's not really the bright shade of green you might expect if you're accustomed to Japanese teas, but more of a yellowish-golden color.

English Estate Earl Grey Tea
I've never been able to make my piece with bergamot - the "active" ingredient in Earl Grey tea. Though I have tried. So I won't offer much in the way of comment on this one, except to say that the flavoring is rather low-key. If I've got my story straight, the bergamot, as well as the tea, is grown at the estate.

Image: Tregothnan Tea

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Enviga - Coke's Green Tea "Calorie Burner"

When we first mentioned Enviga, Coke/Nestea's new green tea drink, it was still buzzing along under the radar. Since then the drink has begun to get some press and now has its own Web site.

It's a Flash-heavy site and for some reason I haven't had much luck getting to it. One of the few times I did, I discovered that it features the slogan - "be positive. drink negative." This refers to the notion that Enviga not only has no calories, but actually taketh them away. Or so saith its makers. If that notion sounds as flaky to you as it does to me, we're not alone.

Over at Gizmodo, they don't mince words when it comes to the claims put forth for the product. Unless I'm misinterpreting the phrase "snake oil scam."

A recent Reuters report comes to similar conclusions, though it does it in a more mannered, journalistic style.

Even the gang over at BevNET, a beverage trade magazine and Web site, seem a bit dubious about the whole affair. You can read their thoughts and check out reviews of each of the three flavors here.

On the plus side, I will say that the can designs are not so bad, especially for the "plain" green tea flavor.

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Only the finest imported teas at Golden Moon Tea

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Black Gold & Red Espresso

No, we're not going over to the dark side here at TGS. But there's a new movie that has to do with the other hot drink (you know the one) and that seemed worthy of a mention.

It's called Black Gold and it takes a look at how your cup of coffee makes its way to your breakfast table or your local Starbucks counter or whatever the case may be.

The Sundance Film Festival's concise take on the movie, which is posted at the Black Gold site, reads thusly:

"Black Gold is a moving and eye-opening look into the 80-billion-dollar global coffee industry, where the spoils of overpriced lattes and cappuccinos are sparsely shared with the farmers who make it all possible."

Speaking of coffee, how does a tea espresso grab you? Huh? What?

In the strictest sense of the word, red espresso isn't a tea drink, given the fact that it's made with Rooibos, the South African "herbal" tea also known as redbush. But let's not split hairs.

I guess it remains to be seen whether there's a market for this sort of thing, although the company's Web site indicates that the product is already available at some South African cafes.

Image: Red Espresso

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Only the finest imported teas at Golden Moon Tea

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tea Review 76 - Inko's White Tea Energy

Inko's White Tea Energy
Inko's White Tea

Until now my experiences with energy drinks have been rather limited and totally unsatisfactory. In fact, the full extent of my experience has been about two sips each of a couple of the big name ones - which shall remain nameless and which really sucked, if I may be blunt. But maybe taste is not a key factor when it comes to selecting these products.

If you're looking for an energy drink that doesn't taste like cough syrup, you could start with Inko's White Tea Energy. Inko's also makes a quite fine line of bottled white teas, with nine flavors in all, most of which we've reviewed here at TGS.

Inko's White Tea Energy comes in an attractive, blue 15.5 ounce can and contains 92.4 milligrams of caffeine, which Inko's claims is "jitter-free." Since I'm fairly sensitive to caffeine, I decided not to test their claim by downing a whole can of the stuff. But I did taste it and found the taste to be quite nice, kind of like a lightly sweetened lemonade.

While I didn't really pick up much of a white tea flavor, it's nice all the same and it sure beats those carbonated Robitussin knockoffs.

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Only the finest imported teas at Golden Moon Tea

Sunday, October 15, 2006

China Top Tea Grower & More

India's Business Standard reported Friday that China is now the world's top tea-producing country, a distinction that was formerly held by India. The International Tea Committee says India produced 927 million kilograms of tea in 2005. China edged them out by just 7 million kilograms, producing a total of 934 million kilograms last year. Read the full report here.

I didn't know there was a need for a bubble tea subsitute, but apparently there is. The AP reports that a group University of Idaho food science students won a prize - and $10,000 - for devising such a substance using alginate, which is made from seaweed.

Here's a link to the AP's brief report. For more detailed information, check this page from Danisco, who sponsored the contest.

If you're looking for Tea Smoothies, Jamba Juice has got 'em. The chain recently announced that they will offer the drink in three flavors - Tahiti Green Tea, Razz 'n Red Tea, and Matcha Green Tea Blast.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tea Smith, Diversitea & More

If you're in Nebraska and you're itching for a cup of tea, be sure to check out the Tea Smith. If Nebraska's not on the itinerary, then check out their newly redesigned Web site.

This one might be the ultimate specialty tea. It's called Diversitea and it's designed to help divers reduce fatigue caused by multiple dives. Find out more here and in this article about the company here.

Garden of Life recently announced the launch of Living Foods Organic Teas. These are single-serve tea concentrates in liquid packets that you can mix with bottled or hot water. They are "from the pristine Wuyi Mountains of China," and come in traditional green tea, lemon-flavored green tea, and coffee-flavored oolong tea. More here.

If you're looking for more information on the Malaysian tea scene, you could start with this article from the Scotsman. It's a profile of Malaysia's Boh tea, whose Web site is located here.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tea Review 75 - Voyant Chai Cream

Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur

If you like the taste of chai tea but you find yourself longing for something with a little more muscle, Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur might be just what the doctor ordered.

Voyant, which bills itself as "the original chai cream liqueur," is a mix of "Aged Virgin Island Rum, Fresh Dutch Cream, Black Tea from India, Premium Spirits from Holland and a Distinctive Blend of Spices."

Since I first mentioned this product a while back, I've had a chance to sample it. I should say that I'm not much of a tippler these days and I've always been impervious to the charms of chai. With that in mind, I've got to admit that I found Voyant Chai Cream surprisingly tasty.

I didn't catch too much of the tea flavor, but that's not surprising, given the nature of the other ingredients. The creaminess was appealing and the chai component didn't overpower the other elements, which was a big plus for me.

Voyant Chai Cream also gets points for the eye-catching design of its bottle. I'm not much for knick-knacks, but I was tempted to keep one on hand just for decoration.

More about Voyant Chai Cream at their Web site. For cocktail and food recipes that use the product, visit the Voyant Creations section.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Japanese Tea Drinkers Break Record

I've given up trying to figure out why people do the goofy things they do. "Why ask why," as the ad slogan goes.

But when it comes to gathering together to do goofy things, I guess you could do a lot worse than hooking up with 14,717 of your closest pals to drink green tea.

That's what happened yesterday in Nagoya, Japan, where they set a new record for simultaneous tea-drinking. The line of tea-drinkers, who faced off against each other in pairs, stretched for nearly a mile.

If ever there was an article that could have been enhanced by a photo it's this one, but alas, no such luck.

While we're on the topic of records and tea and whatnot, I'll refer you to my earlier pieces on the World's Largest Teapot and the World's Largest Tea Bag.

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