Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thoroughly Modern Spirits

Tea-flavored vodka is not exactly new to these pages. Charbay Winery and Distillery makes one that's flavored with green tea, which I first mentioned here. I also wrote about it here, in a piece that mentioned a few other tea-flavored alcoholic beverages.

To this list we can now add a tea-flavored vodka from Modern Spirits, who make a line of eight flavored sipping vodkas. The tea flavor is made using "three remarkable tea blends from Paris." Among the other flavors are Chocolate Orange, Celery Peppercorn and Black Truffle.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Tea Review 50 - Inko's Lychee & Blueberry

Lychee White Iced Tea
Blueberry White Iced Tea
Inko's White Tea

I've never tasted anything flavored with lychee and I've certainly never eaten a lychee, at least not knowingly. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't recognize this particular fruit if the sky suddenly opened up and started dumping them on my head.

Having said that, I'll go on to say that Inko's Lychee variety is pleasant enough, if rather low key. As far as what to compare this flavor to I have to confess to being a bit stumped. Definitely on the fruity side though. I'll go that far.

Inko's Blueberry worked a little better for me but that's most likely due to the fact that I'm keen on blueberry to start with. The best thing about this variety - and I also found this to be the case with Inko's Honeydew - is that it actually tastes like what it says on the bottle.

As I was drinking this one I could actually imagine someone squeezing the berries into the jar and then topping it off with a bit of white tea. While I suspect that's not how the actual production process works, it's a winner nonetheless.

Recommended on both counts.

See my previous Inko's reviews here, here, and here.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

You Say Sri Lanka. I say Ceylon.

The Financial Times published an interesting article yesterday on the tea industry in the country formerly known as Ceylon. For another article on Sri Lankan tea production, as well as some links to fair trade resources see my previous post here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Energetics of Tea

If you'll be in the Santa Cruz (CA) area tonight and you've got some time on your hands stop by Way of Life, in Capitola, for Wayne Brennan's talk on The Energetics of Tea; Blending Tea and Herbs. If you're like me and you have no idea what this means you can find out more in this article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Philadelphia Tea

Tea Guy set out yesterday - in the company of the lovely Mrs. Tea Guy - to check out another of Philadelphia's purveyors of tea. Actually we came up a bit short of the city this time around, running to ground at the King of Prussia mall, an impressive bastion of material excess so vast that it can't be contained in one building.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Teavana is gunning to become the Grand Exalted Poobah of the retail tea world. The company is based in the Atlanta area, but is gradually fanning out around the country. According to their Web site, Teavana currently has 35 locations in a whole bunch of states and even one in Mexico City.

The Teavana at King of Prussia is their only Pennsylvania location - sort of. You see, there is actually a Teavana in each of the King of Prussia mall buildings - these are called the Plaza and the Court, if you're scoring at home. This seems a bit odd, but nobody really asked me what I thought. They just went ahead and did it.

Crack, detail-oriented journalist that I am, I can't tell you if we were in the Plaza or the Court, but I'm sure it was either one or the other. Anyway, Teavana is a nicely appointed kind of place that fits in rather well in this upscale palace of conspicuous consumption. The store is not very big and most of the display space is given over to a wide variety of teapots, along with a few other accessories.

The decent, but not staggering, selection of tea is kept behind the counter and there is also a nicely designed leaflet that describes each variety. A helpful gentleman approached us as we entered the store, pressed a number of samples upon us, dogged our every step and kept up a running commentary on the health benefits of tea and so on. A little more hard sell than I prefer, but no big deal really.

The samples were quite nice, especially the Assam Golden Rain. In the end I decided that since I have so much "real" tea around the house I'd just go with a Rooibos Peach, which turned out to be very nice. I also picked up a proper tea measuring spoon and we were on our way.

All in all I declare Teavana to be a good thing. Personally I'd prefer a place with a little more tea, not so many teapots and a bit less of an aggressive approach from the sales staff, but these pretty much fall into the category of minor quibbles.

See the previous installment of Philadelphia Tea here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Kicking Tires On Teakettles

A couple weeks ago the LA Times took a bunch of teakettles - electric and otherwise - out for a spin. Read what they had to say here.

After wandering off to another room and melting his last teakettle (oops!) Tea Guy, for some strange reason, still clings to the stove-top type kettle, a cheap ten-dollar job with a copper bottom that actually does the job quite nicely.

I'm not sure why this is, since I have a nice electric model from Adagio that is clearly superior. I think it must be a combination of inertia and a temporary lack of counter space. One of these days I'll get with the program.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Don't Sit There

Tea Guy would be the first to admit that he's not really a tea party or frilly, hoity-toity tea room type of guy. So I guess I could be forgiven for not knowing that, when at a tea party, one should not park one's big butt in the chair at which the spout of the tea pot is pointing. According to this article, in the Auburn (NY) Citizen, that's a big tea party no-no, as that's where the hostess (or host) is supposed to park their big butt. So don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Tea Review 49 - Numi's Collection - Assorted Melange

Numi's Collection - Assorted Melange
Numi Tea

I've tried a smattering of Numi's teas before, but as I was scanning the tea shelf at my local food emporium I decided to take a crack at their sampler. Actually I mostly had my eye on the Yunnan black, but I thought I might as well check out the others while I was at it.

This sampler contains two bags each of Numi's mostly organic full-leaf teas and teasans - their term for tisane or herbal tea. As nearly as I could tell, seven of these nine are organic.

Let's start by looking at the "real" teas. The Chinese Breakfast, a Yunnan black, did not disappoint. It had a nice robust flavor and was gone in no time at all. Temple of Heaven ,a gunpowder green, was a little bit of a disappointment though. It had a nice color, but seemed to me to be lacking some of the flavor I was expecting from a gunpowder.

Monkey King, a jasmine green was not bad. I'm not a huge fan of jasmine tea but I've grown to like it a little more over the years and this one was pleasant enough.

Then there was Smoky Tarry, a Lapsang Souchong black. Friends, I am just never going to like this stuff, no matter how hard I try - and I have tried. Really. But if the truth be told I didn't make it past the first sip. As a matter of fact, I barely made it past the smell. As I've mentioned before, if you've ever tasted Lebanon Bologna, you're probably going to find the whole Lapsang Souchong experience kind of weird.

Now, on to the teasans. I've reviewed Simply Mint, a Moroccan mint herbal, separately. Read that review here.

Fields of Gold is a lemongrass teasan that has a light pleasant taste. This one's good if you're looking for an herbal tea that's not fruity. Bushmen's Brew and Red Mellow Bush are Numi's version of the South African Honeybush and Rooibos teas and always come highly recommended. I tend to prefer the latter, even though they're rather similar tasting.

Which brings us to Dry Desert Lime. This one sounded great - in theory. I was ready to like it, but I didn't. It was just too frightfully tart, even when I mixed it with a bit of honey - something I hate to do to any tea or tisane - and even when I blended it with an equal measure of mint.

But Numi has gathered together a pretty good bunch of liquid refreshment here and it's a great way to get acquainted with some of their wares.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Back To Tea School

Your friendly neighborhood Tea Guy was just thinking how clever he was and starting to feel rather proud of himself when he ran up against the Tea Association's Tea Test. Go here and take a few moments to run through it. I hang my head in shame to reveal that I came up with a nearly failing grade of 24 correct out of 33 questions. That's 72%, by my calculations.

I guess it's time to seriously consider enrolling in the Tea Association's certification training. In the meantime I guess I'll have to make do with the likes of these online tea classes from Imperial Tea Court.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Happy 300th To Twinings

Say what you want about Twinings of London, but don't say that they don't have the longevity thing figured out. The company is celebrating their 300th birthday this year and is planning to commemorate the occasion with a special tea. Here's an article on Twinings from the Toronto Star and here's some information on the company's London retail shop.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bonkers, Nicotea & Tea Cola

A few items from the odds and ends file.

Bonkers International makes a line of seven "functional" teas that includes Super Skinny Lemon Peppermint, Brain Boost and Rejuvenate. They are made with various teas and herbals - including black, green, yerba mate and rooibos - and assorted and sundry other ingredients.

The next time you find yourself in circumstances where smoking isn't an option you might want to give Nicotea a whirl. The "world's first cigarette replacement drink" comes in mango and peach flavors. Hard to tell if there's any actual tea involved, but I'm guessing not.

Here's an article on an Indian effort to develop a tea cola that uses Assam tea. Tea sodas are not a new thing, by the way. I reviewed Steaz Lemon Dew here and that review contains links to my other reviews of their root beer and key lime flavors.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tea Review 48 - Inko's Honeydew & Honeysuckle

Inko's White Tea Honeydew
Inko's White Tea Honeysuckle
Inko's White Tea

Honeydew flavored white tea is a flaky concept, but it's flaky enough that it sounded kind of appealing to me. And what do you know? It works.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this blend is that the honeydew tastes like actual honeydew, rather than some chemist's half-assed notion of what it should taste like. There's also ginger, citric acid and fructose crystals in the mix, but all I really tasted was the honeydew and the tea. Very nice.

Honeysuckle lacks the sweetener and ginger and has a very, very understated taste, kind of along the lines of Inko's mint blend, but even more low-key. My clunky palate could only pick out the faintest of floral undertones (or is that overtones?) but that's not a bad thing, mind you. Just don't go into this one expecting the typical bottled tea explosion of coarse flavors and cloying sweetness.

Highly recommended on both counts. I'm not generally too keen on sweetened teas but I'd have to give the nod to honeydew this time around.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Fish Tea

Yum. Fish tea. Okay, so it doesn't really seem to have anything to do with tea, at least not as we know it, but I couldn't resist passing along this article from the Cayman Net News. If you happen to make it to the Fish Tea Cook Off, be sure to let me know how it goes.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Philadelphia Tea

Tea Guy was born and raised in central Pennsylvania, so I'm no stranger to gloomy winters. But, after seven years in warmer climates, I'd forgotten how the unremitting bleakness begins to work on you (or maybe it's just me).

Mrs. Tea Guy and I decided to take a trip to Philadelphia yesterday and seek out some tea houses. Lo and behold, it turned out that we had an unseasonably sunny and warm day for it. Nearly brought a tear to my eye.

I initially planned six tea-related stops, but since we started late we shaved that number in half.

First up was Great Tea International, a small tea house near 18th & Sansom. It's located downstairs from street level and has about ten tables in one room, along with a nice selection of teas, teapots and other merchandise. I chose to take my tea with me, selecting a few ounces of rooibos and moving on to our next stop.

Which was Bubble House. It's also on Sansom, near Drexel University, at 34th Street. Bubble House is a nice, airy place, with plenty of light natural wood furnishings. We decided to have a little something to eat and, of course, some tea. It was quite delightful to be presented with a menu and a tea list.

Anyway, it was a day for firsts. Mrs. Tea Guy ordered an almond latte bubble tea - the first experience either of us have had with bubble tea. I don't see myself ever acquiring a bubble tea habit, but it was a nifty novelty type drink.

As for your humble author, after much study of the list, I decided to go with Pu Erh Mini Tuo Cha, which was another first for me (pu erh, that is). It was quite nice and I look forward to trying some more.

From there our next stop on the tour was supposed to be Teavana's King of Prussia location. But, due to some sort of directional befuddlement and accompanying flabbergastery that portion of our program had to be pushed back to a later date.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Drink More Yerba Mate

I've been consuming mass quantities of yerba mate these days and I've been drinking it the traditional way, thanks to the fine people at Natural Latitudes, who were kind enough to supply me with a mate (drinking gourd) and bombilla (filtered metal straw).

NL recommend that you fill your mate about 3/4 of the way full when you begin your busy day of yerba mate drinking and keep topping it off with hot water until you are unable to squeeze any more more flavor from the leaves.

I've been doing things a little differently, I must confess, after one not so impressive experience with this method. I tend to start with two spoonfuls of yerba mate for the day's first infusion and then add a spoonful for each additional infusion. Works quite nicely and my wife, the unrepentant c***** drinker, has even developed a taste for the stuff.

London's Independent has discovered yerba mate, which they suggest may be "A weight-loss tea that's full of antioxidants..." It's also said to be favored by such luminaries as Madonna, Hilary Clinton and Matt Dillon, though the reporter who penned the piece was clearly not enamored with it's unique flavor. Now I'd have thought that someone who can choke down a cup of c***** could stomach just about anything, but hey, what do I know?

Anyhoo, the article appeared in today's online edition of the Independent. Check it out here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Reasons Not To Leave Your Tea Cup Untended - Part Two

Tea Guy's not exactly up to date on all the latest pop culture crapola, but I'm gonna guess that Celebrity Big Brother, as mentioned in this article, is a reality TV show. Anyway, the subject matter here's a bit revolting really, but if you can't get enough of this sort of news, refer back to my previous posting.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Kashmiri Tea

If the only thing you knew about Kashmir was that it was a pretty decent Led Zeppelin song, then you probably didn't realize that there was much to say about Kashmiri tea. As a matter of fact, there is, if this entry from Ellen's Kitchen is any indication.

Here's another article on the topic, from Asiacuisine.com.

If you don't have a samovar handy or you don't want to go through the hassle of trying to make your own Kashmiri tea from scratch, you might want to try a commercially blended approximation. Honest Teas offers one here.

More about Stash Tea's version here.

Last, but certainly not least, is Oregon Chai's contribution to the world of Kashmiri teas.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

How To Open A Tea Room

Ever thought about getting into the tea business? If you have you may find this Web site interesting. It's called How To Open A Tea Room and it offers varying levels of assistance for would be tea room operators from a training manual all the way up to personalized consulting.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lotus Tea

From VietNamNet Bridge, here's an article on the fine art of making lotus tea. If you're itching to try some, though it's probably not quite like what's described in the article, head to Stash Tea and have a look at this herbal variety. Or you can frequent your local Tazo dealer and try out their blend, which is made with a base of green tea.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Fair Trade Tea, Part Three

The online component of Grist Magazine recently (yesterday) featured an article on fair trade and the Indian tea industry. For a small selection of other fair trade-related articles and resources see my previous postings on the subject here and here.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Desert Island Tea 2 - Michael Cramer (Adagio Teas)

Good day, tea fans, and thanks for tuning in for the second installment of Desert Island Tea. If you missed the first one be sure to check it out here.

Our strandee this time around is Michael Cramer, the eminently helpful co-founder and marketing manager of Adagio Teas. Though they're based in New Jersey, Adagio go about the fine and honorable business of selling great teas and related whatnots from a parcel of Internet real estate located right here.

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?

Michael Cramer's Answer:
Yunnan Gold Tea - The world's oldest tea and the reigning champion with my taste buds.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More On Burmese Tea Salad

In one of several postings on tea cuisine I mentioned a tea salad that's popular in Burma, a country now known as Myanmar. Here's an article from CuisineNet about Burmese cuisine. It offers more information about this particular dish, including a recipe that substitutes ginger for tea. Probably safe to say that you could ditch the ginger and put the tea back in, though the author suggests that Burmese tea is a key component.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Tea with George and His Aardvarks

I ran across an odd Web site the other day and decided that it was sufficiently odd that I should share it with you, dear readers.

Tea with George and His Aardvarks is...well...umm. Let me quote from George's description of himself, by way of giving you some idea what to expect - "George is a Tea drinking Aardvark lover who dearly wants to be Clint Eastwood, but is instead a delicate little englishman with bad glasses. He dreams of going horseriding on the plains of Arizona but always ends up taking the number 73 bus to one of London's superb Curry Houses, and having a right royal blowout."

So there you have it. If you're really hard pressed for entertainment, be sure to check out the four-second movie of someone - we'll assume it's George and not one of the aardvarks - pouring tea. Absolutely riveting.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Tea Month, Hangover Cures & Peanut Butter

As I mentioned previously, today marks the beginning of National Hot Tea Month. Celebrate hard. Celebrate often.

Today is probably as good a day as any to refer back to the alleged (!) tea-related hangover cure that I mentioned a while back. Scroll down to the last paragraph of text on this page and knock yourself out.

Finally, here's a plug for yours truly, who in real life is a freelance journalist. Be sure to check out one of my most recent articles - about unusual and innovative peanut butter sandwiches. Yeah, I know it's got nothing whatsoever to do with tea. So sue me.