Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tea Review 73 - Sol Mate Energy Beverage

Sol Mate Sparkling Yerba Mate, Original
Sol Mate Sparkling Yerba Mate, Lemon Lime
Sol Mate Beverage Group Ltd.

Tea Guy has nothing against bottled teas and tea-based soda type drinks, at least not in theory. In practice, it seems that a lot of manufacturers pushing these beverages err on the side of over sweetening. But that could just be me, since I'm not really a sweetened beverage kind of guy.

I wrote about Sol Mate a few months ago, but recently I had a chance to sample both of their flavors. The company says the product is "the world’s first organic sparkling mate energy beverage." Which kind of makes it sound like an energy drink. In reality, at least in my ever so humble opinion, it's closer to a soda, albeit a rather lightly sweetened one.

Which is a good thing, if you ask me. Both flavors have a light taste with just a little bit of sweetness. If you're looking for a strong yerba mate taste, you're likely to be disappointed. The yerba mate content here is very understated. But that's probably a good thing if the company's planning to get their product to the largest numbers of consumers possible - and I'm assuming they are.

As I was drinking Sol Mate, I couldn't thinking of Steaz, who make a similar product that's based on green tea, instead of yerba mate. Both products are quite a bit lighter and less sweet than the average soda or bottled tea and both are quite nice. Another reference point would be Kombucha Wonder Drink, who do something along the same lines, but with kombucha as the base for the drink.

In any event, both flavors of Sol Mate get the thumbs up. Give 'em a shot.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 11

In the past, we've reviewed a number of Inko's bottled white teas. Some were quite good, as I recall, and some were a little sweet for my likes. Jaay, at A Nice Cuppa, did a brief article about them recently.

From CafeList Blog, here's info on some pretty nifty coffee and tea cups.

Continuing on the cups and mugs theme, here's a recent entry from the entertaining, but tricky to spell, MaD PoTs! site.

Mellow Monk offers up an attractive National Geographic photo of a tea plantation.

The other Tea Guy (or maybe I'm the other Tea Guy) gives a report on the Zojirushi Vacuum Electronically Controlled Water Heater this time around.

No silly teapot photo this week, but here's an article, by way of Teapots, Teapots, Teapots, about a couple who seem to have an inordinate fondness for teapots. At least it seems that way.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Tea Products

New tea-related products seem to pop up with astonishing frequency. Here are a few I've run across recently.

I'm not really sure how new Twisted Tea is, but I've never heard of it before. Thus it's new to me. It's said, by the manufacturer, to be "the original hard iced tea." I'm not sure if that means that there are numerous pretenders to the throne or if they're just staking out a claim. In any event, the product is available in original, peach, raspberry and lemonade flavors.

I've never heard of Solesbury Home before, but they appear to be a company that sells spice mills, bath and body products and whatnot. They also make various teas - their Tea page is here. They've begun making fresh brewed organic teas in eight flavors. Read what the gang at BevNET had to say about six of them here.

Speaking of bottled teas, Kalahari make a line of rooibos flavored ones, to complement their other rooibos products. It appears that there are a total of four flavors, with Capetown Cranberry Apple and Ladysmith Lemon Ginger most recently added to the list. See what BevNET has to say about this bunch here.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Bubble Tea, Killer Tea & More

Before we get to the tea, here's another one of my shameless plugs. My latest food article, The Strange and Wonderful World of Peanut Butter, is now posted at Epicurean Online. If you're looking for the lowdown on peanut butter steak, peanut butter beer, deep-fried peanut butter cups and more, have a look.

Now, the tea stuff.

If you haven't tried bubble tea yet, what are you waiting for? For those of you in Chicago or planning to visit, here's an article from the CBS 2 Web site on the local bubble tea scene.

Boing Boing mentioned the other day that a Japanese firm has built "a cafe inspired by the Mad Hatter's Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland." Imagine that.

What are The Rewards of a 'Drinkable Antique'? Find out here, in an article from the International Herald Tribune. The article is about pu'er tea (in case you didn't guess), which tends to get better as it gets older.

Speaking of pu'er tea, here's an article from the Good T Room site called The Secrets of Pu-er Uncovered? They've also got an interesting one about yellow tea and a page with seven links to articles about Tea Expeditions. Worth a look.

From the Manila Standard, here's an article on killer tea. Well, not really. It's actually an article about the urban legends that have sprung up around plastic beverage bottles.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Tea Healthier Than Water & More

Here are a few more miscellaneous items.

First up, the BBC informs us that "Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers." Read all about it here.

Tea cultivation has been going on in Hawaii on a small scale for a while now. We last wrote about it here. Now, as Honolulu's Star Bulletin reports, it's about to get a boost, with a new tea plantation due to appear on the scene.

Some well-known sugar water purveyors have been taking heat in India due to the supposedly high levels of pesticides found in their products. Pepsi has apparently chosen to spin this one by suggesting that tea is even more tainted than soda pop. The tea industry, as you might have guessed, is not happy about this. More here.

From the Scotsman comes one that has nothing to do with tea, but I couldn't resist passing it along. It's about a maple syrup diet "championed by the singer BeyoncĂ© Knowles." The particular brand of maple syrup plugged in the article costs a mere "£39.99 a litre". I'm not sure what that means in dollars, but it sounds rather pricey. All of which goes to show, as I've said before, that you'll never go broke promoting harebrained weight loss schemes.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 10

Here's a newcomer to the roundup. Imen, at Tea Obsession, who reports on a tea made from the flowers of the tea tree. Which is almost as odd as kootee, or tea made from the leaves of the coffee tree.

This time around Phyll, at Adventures in Tea Cups & Wine Glasses, gives his thoughts on a 2006 Dong Ding Oolong, from Feng Huang Village, in Taiwan.

If you're looking for a site that's geared more to "serious" tea enthusiasts, you might want to try Cha Dao, which we've mentioned before. They've got a total of 17 contributors listed. This time around Mike Petro turns in a piece on identifying puerh.

Who's the real tea guy? I think there's room for more than one. Anyway, the other Tea Guy, the one at Paper Street Teas, writes about how he "pretty much stopped drinking tea altogether" (gasp!) and also asks, What type of tea drinker are you?

From the fine folks at Seven Cups, comes a clarification about the New York Times slideshow piece we mentioned the other day - the topic was Hangzhou teahouses.

We close, as always, with a silly teapot photo...and another.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tea Review 72 - Assam, Nahorhabi Estate

Nahorhabi Estate FTGFOP1 SPL CL
Upton Tea Imports

If you weren't hanging around these parts during March, 2006 then you missed Assam Month. This, as you might have guessed, was a month's worth of posts largely devoted to the unique joys of higher end Assam varieties, for which I've become something of a cheerleader.

I tasted some great teas during that month, as noted at the end of this piece. I also tasted some mediocre ones and even a few lousy ones - no need to name names. Oh, and I tasted a decaf Assam that was downright appalling, but that's generally been the case with any decafs I've sampled.

A while back I got the hankering for some more Assam, so I ordered a few sample packs from Upton, as I'm sometimes wont to do. One of the varieties that really impressed me was Nahorhabi Estate FTGFOP1 SPL CL. In fact, it impressed me so much that I did something I haven't really done before - I ordered a larger package (100 grams).

This was a switch. As I've said, on many occasions, I'm very much in favor of sampling as many varieties of tea as I can. With about 60 varieties of Assam in stock at any given time Upton makes that easy to do.

Nahorhabi Estate may not be the perfect Assam tea, but it's close. It's a very robust variety that brews up very dark in the cup but seems to resist going bitter no matter what. Then again, I didn't really experiment with longer brewing times since I didn't want to waste even one cup of this fine stuff.

Nahorhabi Estate has a surprisingly sweet taste, with perhaps the faintest hint of cinnamon or clove. It's a very smooth taste - with no tannins or bitterness apparent to my coarse tongue.

All in all, a great experience. Very highly recommended.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tea (& Yerba Mate) Time At The Times

The New York Times, that is.

Technically this first item isn't about tea, but here at TGS we've always gone with a broader definition of that term. It's a brief bit, from a few days ago, that claims that some athletes are seeing a performance boost from yerba mate.

Tea Guy always tends to be skeptical about lofty claims for tea, yerba mate and whatnot, but I'm hardly the definitive authority when it comes to these things. The article is located here and here's a link for a slideshow that goes with it.

Speaking of slideshows, here's one on China's teahouses that the New York Times ran a while back. I'm guessing there must be an article to go with it, but I wasn't able to locate it. Check out the slide show anyway. It's a good one.

Image: Pixie Mate

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Pu-erh Competition, Can Cleaner & More

Here are a few more of those miscellaneous type items.

Want to win some Pu-erh tea? is giving away a forty gram sample and a twenty gram sample. All you have to do is tell them how you came to be a fan of Pu-erh - and do it better than any of the other entrants, of course. More info here.

Not long after writing about green tea energy drinks I ran across another one. From the maker's of Who's Your Daddy energy drink, comes a green tea version, as well as several other flavors. Their Web site is located here.

If you're the kind of person who can't drink an energy drink or other canned beverage without worrying about bacteria and whatnot, you're in luck. Groovy Clean has come up with a little gadget to clean the top of those nasty old cans. More info and a video here.

Image: Groovy Clean LLC

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 9

Here we go with another installment of the tea blog roundup. Welcome.

This time around, Willow Jarosh, at A Nice Cuppa, reviews New York's Tea Spot.

Also at A Nice Cuppa, there's a piece called The Art of Tea, by Brenda. This one is pretty much an appreciation of tea type of piece.

Finally Good Tasting Decaf Tea is the title of a piece recently posted at Culinary Teas, which caught my eye. But, as it turns out, it's a brief report about the new stirring stick gadget that's supposed to leach caffeine out of caffeinated drinks. We wrote about that one here too, but I haven't tried it yet. Let's just say I'm skeptical until convinced otherwise.

Gongfu Girl contributes a review this time around, of the Brattle Street English Breakfast Blend, from Tealuxe. Sounds okay to me, but then again I'm a fan of Assam and other robust black teas.

Over at Paper Street Tea, they offer the secret to How to Increase Tea Sales in a Coffeeshop. Get educated here.

And there's always a somewhat silly teapot photo from Teapots Teapots Teapots.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tea Time In America

Stop the presses! The Los Angeles Times has decreed that "It's Tea Time in America" (as if you hadn't already noticed). This one is actually an opinion piece by Tom Standage, the author of an interesting book called A History of the World in Six Glasses. If you haven't read it, maybe you should give it a shot.

Anyway, the piece discusses America's complicated relationship with tea, especially with regard to a certain incident that took place a few hundred years ago (hint: it happened in Boston). Read all about it here.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

In Praise Of Assam

Perhaps it would be overstating the case to suggest that Assam is the Rodney Dangerfield of teas. But, the truth is, it doesn't seem to get much respect.

Assam, if I've got my story straight, is most often used as a component of the various breakfast teas - Irish, English and Scottish. It doesn't really have a reputation for being a high-quality tea - whether deserved or not - and the truth is that I've tasted my fair share of lousy varieties. But there's also plenty of Assam out there that's quite good.

Tea connoisseurs seem to gravitate to just about anything but Assam. Darjeeling, of course, is one of the best known and highly visible of the premium (for lack of a better word) teas. But there's also Pu-erh, which appears to be the favorite of the true tea snobs (you know who you are).

If your tastes lean toward green tea, maybe you'll go with a high quality sencha or even a gyokuro. Or maybe you'll even seek out a rare, delicate (and pricey) white tea. But an Assam?

Sure, why not? The truth is that there are some great single-estate Assam teas out there that, for my money, are the equal of any Darjeeling, Pu-erh, or sencha. Of course, that's assuming you like the eye-opening and very robust flavor that's typically the hallmark of Assam tea. These are black tea lover's teas, friends. No doubt about that. But maybe it's time you tried one.

Assam was our featured tea during the month of March, 2006. Here are reviews of some noteworthy varieties sampled during that month.

Tea Review 53 - Singlijan Estate TGFOP1

Tea Review 57 - Sessa & Sessa (Assam)

Tea Review 60 - Khagorijan & Bukhial

Tea Review 62 - Hattialli & Tippy Orthodox

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Self-stirring Mug & More

Here's another one of those collections of miscellaneous bits, the type of post that somehow seems suitable for a Sunday afternoon.

If stirring your tea - or other beverage of choice - is way too exhausting, or if you're just looking for a way to burn money, this self-stirring mug might do the trick. It has "a miniature battery-operated propeller at the bottom of the well that spins at 3,000 rpms at the touch of a button on the handle, automatically stirring your beverage and eliminating the need to dispose of stirrers or find a place to leave coffee-dampened spoons."

Piping hot beverages being propelled in a mug at 3,000 rpm? Put me down for one. More info here.

If you just can't get enough energy drinks, try Cheetah Energy Drink, which is made with damiana, guarana, yerba mate, ginseng, and horny goat weed, among other things. Here's an article about the drink and its makers and here's their Web site.

If you're looking to get into the fine art of tea bag folding, here's a resource to get you started and here's another. Who knew?

Image: Hammacher Schlemmer

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Tea Bag & Tea Tin Collectors

For those of you who might considering collecting various types of tea-related ephemera, here's some inspiration.

Stanislav Breja lives in Bratislava, Slovakia and has amassed a rather impressive collection of tea tins. He estimates that he has 1,000 tins in the collection, with 116 manufacturers and 25 countries represented. It's a pretty impressive assortment and you can see it here, though most of the site is in Slovak

If tea bag wrappers are more your speed, check out this collection from The Netherlands. If I'm reading the site right, it's the work of Con & Gon Slokkers and is also a very impressive effort (23,500 tea bag wrappers in all).

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Green Tea Energy Drinks

Tea Guy has never really had much to do with energy drinks. I could be wrong, but it seems that they're mostly about caffeine. Since I have enough trouble with the caffeine in tea, I figure it's probably not a good idea to go messing around with beverages that contain even more of it.

But if you're keen to try an energy drink made with green tea, here are a few options.

Those AriZona people have come up with a green tea version they call Green Tea Energy. Not much time spent sitting around the boardroom dreaming up that name. They also have a diet version, which they call...Diet Green Tea Energy. More info here or read some reviews at the BevNET site here.

Texas-based Tempest Tea (if you'll pardon my alliteration) has also come out with a green tea energy drink that we've mentioned here before. It's called Green U. You can read about it here and see what BevNET thinks here.

Image: AriZona Beverages

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 8

Welcome to the latest edition of the roundup, with quite a few reviews this time around.

Linda, from Tea Hub, offers her thoughts on a 2001 Young Green Ancient Tea Tree Small Pu-erh Brick.

Over at A Nice Cuppa, Glenna Muse does a fairly extensive review/article about Dragon Pearls, specifically a variety offered by David Rio Teas. For my take on Adagio's version of Dragon Pearls, check out this review from the archives.

Gongfu Girl takes a look at Grand Green this week, from Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. It's a blend of green tea, mint and stevia and is apparently worth a try.

What is quality tea? Hmmm...well, I guess I'll know it when I taste it. But if you're looking for a definition of the term, head over to the Samovar Tea blog and check out what Jesse Jacobs has to say.

At Mandarin's Tea, Toki offers up his/her thoughts on some Wuyi Rock Oolong, complete with eye-catching photos.

And here's a silly teapot photo from Teapots, Teapots, Teapots.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

World's Most Expensive Tea Set

Well, I'm going to assume it's the world's most expensive tea set. At $69,500 it's hard to imagine one more expensive. But then again, maybe I just have an inadequate imagination.

You can see this wondrous object (better be, at that price) at the Unica site, right here. It's called alessi limited edition tea & coffee towers (when is this lowercase fad going to pass?) and the artist/craftsman/whatever is Gary Chang. Great work if you can get it, I suppose.

Needless to say, this beauty is a little rich for my blood. But if you're planning to pick one up, act now. The edition is limited to 99 copies.

Thanks to the person over at Adagio's Tea Chat forum who posted this one.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Counterfeit Tea

While most of us probably connect the term "counterfeit" with money, the fact is that just about any valuable product can be knocked off. If you thought pricey teas were the exception to the rule, guess again.

Darjeeling tea is often the target of tea counterfeiters, which is not surprising, given the fact that it typically sells for a premium. As Amelia C. Levy notes, in her quite excellent article, Magical, Mystical Darjeeling: Taking Tea in the Clouds, "every prized gem has its counterfeiters, and a good deal of tea over the years from other areas has been sold under the Darjeeling name."

Levy's article was published in the Tea & Coffee Trade Journal a few years back and you can find it here. Worth a look, even though it doesn't cover tea counterfeiting to any great extent.

Here's an entry from Tea News from Darjeeling Area about the problem of "unscrupulous dealers selling Nepal tea in the name of the premium brand." That's Darjeeling, in case you're wondering. Check out the full article here.

From Pakistan's Daily Times, here's an article that discusses the dramatic rise in tea smuggling. You can access it here, but be aware that you'll have to register at the site (for free) first.

On an unrelated note, but also from India, comes this article that posits that "tea is the new coffee" and gives the lowdown on algae tea, among other things. Yum.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Ice Ice Baby

We've done our fair share of coverage about iced tea, but it's been a while now. So here we go again.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel declares that "the days of settling for generic, watered-down iced tea are over" and discusses a variety of options from (the locally based) Rishi Tea, Teavana, Numi and others.

Farther south, in New Orleans, the Times-Picayune does a substantial piece on the iced tea at Jazzfest, also known as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Also included, a few iced tea recipes.

Martha Stewart's syndicated Ask Martha feature turns up in a variety of papers, and recently gave the lowdown on the "sweet tea" favored in the South. Here's the column as it appeared in the Indianapolis Star.

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Saturday, August 05, 2006

Traveling Pu-er Tea

From the Chinese press, here are a pair of stories about Pu-er tea on the move.

First up, from China View, is an article about a ton of Pu-er that recently set out on a journey on an 18th Century merchant ship. Read all the details here.

Here are some photos and a short bit of text about a tea caravan that recently completed a 12,000-kilometer journey from Yunnan Province to Guangzhou, a trip that required 99 horses and took four months.

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Friday, August 04, 2006

More Assorted Tea Goodness

Here are a few more miscellaneous items:

From, an article about potential uses for tea waste. Here's what appears to be an unrelated article on the same topic from the Chinese news source People's Daily Online.

If you thought the hotel you recently stayed at smelled a bit odd, this article might help you to make sense of it all. It's about how hotels are piping in various scents, among them bergamot (the "active" ingredient in Earl Grey tea), green tea and white tea with geranium and freesia. Read about in this UPI article.

For another offbeat use for tea and coffee, try the Crazy Rumors Web site. They make two varieties of flavored lip balm - Perk Lip Latte and Brew Tea Balm. Read all about it here.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Assorted Tea Goodness

Here are a few bits I've been meaning to pass along, none of which really merit an entire post to themselves.

At New World Tea, they've compiled Tasting Tea Like A Pro - a guide for those of you who'd like to do professional level tea tasting in the privacy of your own domicile.

Starbucks Gossip might seem to be a site geared more toward coffee fans, and I guess it probably is. But let's not forget that Starbucks sells tea and they also own the Tazo line. The tag line for the site is "monitoring America's favorite drug dealer", so you can make of that what you will.

Some time back we wrote about the ReadyWhenUR kettle, which can be activated remotely by text message. If you missed that article, you might want to check out this one, from CNET News.

And for those of you who have been agonizing about what tea goes with what food, here's an article - Tea & Food - from Planet Tea. I'm not too picky about this sort of thing, but your mileage may vary.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 7

From Tea News from Darjeeling Area, here's a post about Darjeeling Designer Teas, sometimes known as display teas.

Geraldo, at Cha Dao, has a fairly in-depth piece on oxidation in aging pu'er. Not one that's really geared to the casual tea drinker, but interesting all the same.

Danny, at Dandateemann, does a brief post - with pictures - on a sample of Anji Baicha he recently tried.

Speaking of display teas, this time around Gongfu Girl discusses a variety from Numi called Starlight Rose.

Over at MaD PoTs!, Madam Potts offers up a profile of New York City's Casablanca Tea Room.

From my former home town (Tucson, where they have a tea shop I never got around to trying) the gang at Seven Cups have put together an article on contaminants in tea.

And, as always, we'll pass on some silly photos of teapots from...where else - Teapots, Teapots, Teapots. There's one here and one here.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Green Tea Beer

For some fanciers of liquid refreshment, it would be the best of both worlds - beer and green tea. It's a topic that we've written about before, though I don't know if iKi Bier - from the Netherlands - is made with green tea or black and I don't know how readily available it is in this part of the world.

Something that should be more readily available hereabouts is BluCreek Brewing's Zen IPA beer, which takes an India Pale Ale and flavors it with green tea. It debuts some time in August, according to a recent piece at

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