Friday, September 29, 2006

September's Favorite Teas

Here are some of the better teas I've tried this month. They're all from Upton Tea Imports. I've tended to gravitate toward them lately because they have a wide selection ("420 varieties of loose tea") and offer much of what they sell in a sample size.

After all, it's kind of disappointing to spring for a large quantity of tea, only to find out, right from the first cup, that you don't like it. Yuk, I say.

If you've spent much time at this site, you're probably aware that I'm a tireless cheerleader for high-quality single-estate Assam varieties (no milk or sugar, please). I even dedicated the entire month of March 2006 to Assam teas. One variety that stood out among the many I sampled back then was Hattialli Estate GFBOP SPL, which I reviewed here. I recently finished off a 125-gram package and find myself longing for more.

With all my focus on Assam, I tend to sometimes forget that are other black teas in the world - like in China, for instance. I decided to try out a sample of Organic China Yunnan Shui Jiu a few weeks ago and I liked it so much that I ordered a larger quantity. I'm not generally a fan of smoky teas, but this one has just a faint hint of that and it comes across quite well.

I tend to favor black teas, but I'm certainly not averse to a good green now and then. Long-Jing (Lung-Ching) Green (Superfine) is what I would call a good green and one that's definitely worth looking into.

Image: Upton Tea Imports

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 15

Are pyramid tea bags the greatest thing since sliced bread? Rachel, at SBS Teas, doesn't think so. Find out why here and here. is relaunching. No, it's not a tea blog, but it's worth a mention all the same. If you don't know what they're all about, have a look.

What you should avoid when drinking tea? Imen has some suggestions here. And a review of high mountain kuding yen cha here.

Kate, at A Nice Cuppa, examines that spot where Earl Grey and chocolate intersect.

Mellow Monk comments on the tea bag baby stroller phenomenon here (with photo).

And, as always, some offbeat teapots - from Teapots Teapots Teapots - here and here.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fair Trade Month

People employed in tea-growing regions often get the short end of the stick. What can you do about it? Buying Fair Trade Certified products is probably a good start. As luck would have it, October is Fair Trade Month. For more information, look here.

Honest Tea is participating in Fair Trade Month by donating five cents of every bottle of its Fair Trade Certified tea sold during September and October. Honest Tea is also sponsoring a sweepstakes. Prizes include an HP computer, printer, and digital camera. More info at their site.

While we're on the subject of social responsibility and whatnot, let's mention Srina's organic green tea, which is hand-plucked, in Sri Lanka, by local women farmers and packaged using banana fibers and tea leaves.

As the makers of Srina say, "Consumers who buy Srina tea will effectively be supporting the Paradise Community Project in Sri Lanka and helping small-scale farmers. The Project is committed to eco-friendly farming and offers these farmers above-average wages, a clean and safe working environment and training towards sustainable development using local natural resources."

More on Srina here.

Image: Srina/MP Global Connect Inc.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Tea With A Kick & More

Here are a few miscellaneous items to get your Monday underway.

The New York Times writes about tea again - that's three substantial articles in about the last week. Tea With a Little Kick appeared Friday. It's a look at that place where tea and alcohol meet. I've written a few brief posts on this very same topic. Here's the most recent one.

Here's an article in the British press about a chain of tea shops set to open over in that part of the world. Ringtons is expected to open as many as 100 tea and coffee shops in the UK, apparently within the next ten years.

Speaking of tea and coffee shops, there's one called Starbucks - you may have heard of them. Perhaps you've also heard that they're raising the prices of their beverages. AP reports that "prices of its lattes, cappuccinos, drip coffee and other drinks" will go up by about a nickel.

Last up is a site I ran across the other day for Bouteaque, who bill themselves as a merchant of "tea-inspired bath & body products."

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Waiter, There's A Bat In My Tea

It's a sad fact of life that people find things in their tea that really don't belong there. Like razor blades, for example, which we mentioned here.

Now, from the Cream and Sugar, Please, and Hold the Bats Department comes what is, for my money, the most disgusting "stuff in tea that shouldn't be" story of them all. It concerns an Iowa woman who recently wrapped up a day of tea drinking only to discover a rather soggy - and lifeless - bat curled up in her mug.

All together now - "ewww, gross."


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Enviga - Drink Tea, Burn Calories?

If you do a Google search for Enviga, supposedly the name of Coca-Cola and Nestle's forthcoming green tea soda, you won't get too many hits. When I did, last night, I came up with less than 600. What's interesting is that a number of the top-ranked results mention that Enviga is allegedly a calorie-burning drink.

This report, from about a year ago, calls Enviga a "breakthrough diet drink [that] uses thermogenesis to burn 50 to 100 calories just by drinking a 12 oz. serving."

Why, it almost sounds too good to be true...

Coke's hometown paper has this to say about Enviga, but otherwise there aren't too many hard facts out there yet. Stay tuned.

Since we're already doing our credibility-stretching exercises, here's a link to the Web site for Jana Skinny Water. It's "a no-calorie water, enhanced with a unique combination of ingredients to help people lose and maintain their weight."

That's "no-calorie water," not to be confused with the kind that contains calories.

Lord, help us.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Rishi Tea Powder

When I hear the words "tea powder" the first thing I think of is that wretched, vaguely tea-like stuff in a jar that was the only tea I was exposed to when I was growing up.

My first reaction, upon discovering that Rishi Tea is offering a "tea powder" was an almost instinctive skepticism. But I'd like to think that I'm a reasonably open-minded sort and so I'll try to reserve judgment until I have something to actually judge.

Rishi calls this product Premium Tealeaf Powder and they're offering it in three varieties. There's Genmai Green, Green Oolong and Sencha Green. They're packaged 12 packets to a box and, if you buy from the manufacturer, you can get a break on the price ($8 per box) by trying all three ($20).

According to an article in, the powder is "100 percent pure, traditional tealeaves, rendering it naturally free from artificial colors, additives, sweeteners and flavors" and it's made by "a cold mill process -- an ancient tradition that uses large granite stones to grind the leaves into a powder -- to retain the tea's flavor and aroma in the powder."

Here's the article and here's Rishi's Web site.

Image: Rishi Tea

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Parking On Tea Cups & More

Every once in a while some tea news pops up that doesn't have much to do with actually drinking tea. Here are a few examples.

I'm still trying to figure out how you'd go about parking a car on tea cups (one under each wheel, apparently). I'm guessing it had something to do with a crane. As for the why, beats me. Check out the photo at AdRants - click it to get to the larger version.

Memo to pissed off people looking to make a statement - protests modeled after the Boston Tea Party have been done to death. The latest comes from Illinois, where the lieutenant governor is calling for residents to mail tea bags to the electric company to protest rate hikes. The USPS doesn't like it. More here.

Every once in a while an article turns up about a cup of tea used for self defense. Here's the latest, from the BBC News.

Here's an unhappy tale about the perils of drinking tea in Bangladesh. Though I reckon this sort of thing could happen just about anywhere.

Last up is some info that's not really about tea, but it was just too good not to pass along. It's about a Scottish bottled water company who are making some pretty lofty claims for their product, including some that have to do with cancer. As always, in these cases, be sure your you-know-what detector is fully armed.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 14

If you haven't checked out the Tea Blog List, be sure to get over there and have a look. It's getting larger all the time, including the two most recent additions - Tea. Uncomplicated and Cruising The Tea Scene With The Tea Lover Chic.

Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down was recently recognized for it's contribution to British culture. Read the Reuters article here.

Slashfood comments on Lipton's new line of premium teas. As you may recall, I took their black premium variety for a spin and wasn't exactly overwhelmed. Paper Street Teas weigh in on the topic here.

Phyll, at Adventures in Tea Cups & Wine Glasses, had a Wuyi Weekend recently (scroll down). He writes about that and some other tea and wine stuff here.

The gang at Cha Dao celebrated a milestone lately. Read about it here - and congratulations.

We close this issue of TBR with a question - what is the deal with teapots in the shape of cars? See here and here.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Green Tea, Black Coffee And Brains

If you've been living under a rock for the past few years then perhaps you can be excused for not knowing that green tea is supposed to be good for you. But only if it was a really big rock and you were down at least ten feet.

The green tea/health connection has just about beaten to death, so I try not to write about it too often. But recent articles in Time and Psychology Today weighed in on the topic, so I thought I'd share, in case you missed them.

Dr. Andrew Weil, writing in Time, says that green tea and black coffee are both good for you and cites the recently published Japanese study about the former. He also mentions that brown seaweed may promote weight loss, if you must know. Read all about it here.

At Psychology Today, Anne Becker theorizes that the polyphenols and tannins in green tea help make your brain work better. Find out why here.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Iced Tea's Last Hurrah

It might be premature to put iced tea drinking to bed for 2006. But autumn is nearly here and, where I currently hang my hat (northeastern United States), that means that it won't be too long before temperatures drop below iced tea drinking levels - at least for me.

With that in mind, here are some iced tea related articles and resources I've run across lately.

Chicago's ABC 7 does kind of a general interest "iced tea is real popular these days" article, with some information about a recent Consumer Reports taste test.

From the appropriately named Brewton Standard, here's an article about iced tea, complete with several recipes.

Is bottled iced tea the greatest thing since sliced bread? You might think so after reading this article from New York's Journal News.

From The Nibble, here's Irresistible Iced Teas, an article which covers bottled teas from Adagio, Honest Tea, Inko's, Ito En and Republic of Tea.

Here's the Web site for Magnolia Spice Teas, which brings us the "delicious tradition of all natural, slow-brewed Southern style tea" in five flavors.

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Tea Ranked With Power Foods

Tea is a power food, if a recent piece - 10 Foods for Better Health - posted at the Food Network's Web site is to be believed.

What's a power food? Don't feel bad. I didn't know either and the article doesn't give a hard and fast definition. But the top nine power foods, in addition to tea, are berries, citrus, vegetables, whole grains, salmon, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean proteins, and olive oil.


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Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Videos & More Coffee, Tea Or Blank

Updates to the Tea Videos & Commercials page today. New content includes a NASA video of tea drinking in space (sort of) and a link to some Lipton commercials.

Only days after I whined about headlines that use some variation of "coffee, tea or me," here comes another one. This one actually has something to do with coffee and tea, though the former gets most of the press.

The piece is called Coffee, Tea or Liquid Explosive? and it's by Garrison Keillor. It's good for a few laughs, which you can enjoy even while cringing at the foolishness of the situation.

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Friday, September 15, 2006

(More) Green Tea and Health

The green tea/health connection has been all over the news lately (again), thanks to a study that came out of Japan recently. The verdict - green tea might benefit your health in some ways and is probably no great shakes in others.

Pardon me for being so concise, but I'm growing a little weary of the green tea/health thing. Of course, that goes for wonder foods and miracle foods in general, not just tea.

If you want to read about the study in a little more depth here's just one of the zillions of articles that appeared recently.

Here's an interesting take on the topic from BevNET.

Now drink your tea and stop worrying so much about your health. It's bad for you.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 13

Tea blog roundup time has come around again, as it so often does.

This time around, at A Nice Cuppa, Kate Zilahy does a brief piece on Mighty Leaf Tea. While Stephanie Clarke gives her take on New York's Saint’s Alp Teahouse and bubble tea.

Imen, at Tea Obsession, writes (with photos) about using an alcohol-fueled, open flame burner to heat tea water. There's also an interesting post there about re-roasting tea, in this case Lung Jing.

Gongfu Girl has returned from Burning Man and writes about her experiences at the Mate Lounge, located (temporarily, I'd assume) in the Black Rock Desert.

It's not technically a tea blog, but the new issue of Adagio Tea's TeaMuse came out today. It features an interesting article called Tea Leaf Experiments, by Amanda Schwarz.

Samovar Tea wants your tea reviews. More here.

And we close with a somewhat silly teapot photo.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Times Does Kung Fu, Gong Fu & Tea Bags

All the tea news that's fit to print?

It's apparently Tea Day at the New York Times. Two rather substantial articles on the topic appeared in today's edition.

Harris Salat's From a Long Tradition, Small Sips Quickly Brewed, is a fairly in-depth piece about the kung fu, or gong fu, style of tea drinking. Here's a line that jumped out at me:

"No matter how rarefied the leaf, it’s at the mercy of the person preparing it."

Also on board in today's edition is Florence Fabricant's Tea’s Got a Brand New Bag. This one takes a look at those "gourmet" or "pyramid" style tea bags that are becoming all the rage nowadays (okay, maybe not quite). At the time that I accessed it, the article was at the top of the 10 Most E-mailed List of NYT articles.

Another line that really leaped off the page (umm, screen):

"The tea bag, a clever enough idea at first, went terribly awry somewhere along the way, at least in the view of people who love to savor their tea."

As for the "tea bags containing long leaf teas" Lipton is supposed to start selling next month, one variety is called Black Pearl and it's already turned up in my local grocery store. I wasn't exactly blown away, but you can read my thoughts here.

As coincidence would have it, yours truly recently wrote an article about the humble tea bag for the Australian science magazine, Cosmos. As far as I'm aware, it has not yet seen print.

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Coffee, Tea or Blank

Memo to newspaper copy editors - variations on "coffee, tea or me" as a headline for articles about air travel are a tired idea. Please cease and desist.

Being a tea guy, I run across more than my fair share of these. Here are some recent ones:

In search of coffee, tea or triacetone triperoxide (Chicago Tribune)
Coffee, Tea or Me? (Sydney Morning Herald)
Coffee, tea or the new `real thing?' (Toronto Star)
Coffee, tea or your choice of 20 movies? (Miami Herald)
Coffee, tea or ... a punch on the nose? (Hamilton Spectator)
Coffee, tea or CHAOS (Marketplace)
Coffee, tea or strike? Question for Northwest Airline (Waterbury Republican American)

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Razor Blades & Barley Tea

Oh, great. Halloween's not that far off and now we have one more thing to worry about. It's not bad enough that you can't safely eat your Halloween treats without fear, but now you have to worry about your iced tea.

Here's an article from the Eagle-Tribune (MA) about a woman who claims to have found a razor blade in a package of iced tea mix - wild raspberry Lipton iced tea mix, to be exact.

An article that's been making the rounds lately about a South Dakota man who's hoping that barley tea will be the next big thing. Can't say that I've tried it myself and maybe it will and maybe it won't. I guess we'll see. I, for one, am always open to new experiences in the field of tea-related things.

Here's a version of the story that appeared at Yahoo News.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Taiwan Festival & Tea TV

The Taipei Times reports that the 2006 Tea Arts Festival will be held for the next two weekends at the Tea Industry Museum in Pinglin. It's part of the Taipei Tea Culture Expo aimed at promoting tea culture. Pinglin, as the article notes, is known for growing and producing baozhong tea.

Here's a page with information on the museum.

Britain's Yorkshire Tea factory will be featured on National Geographic Channel's I Didn't Know That on Thursday, September 14. Looks like this one may only be airing in the UK. More info on the series here.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Green Tea Tasting Notes & Tea Cookery

Here's a piece from the Times (London), in which a British chef offers his thoughts on some green teas. He is Nicholas Watt, head chef of Roka. He gives the thumbs up to Waitrose Organic Green Tea, Twinings Jasmine Green Tea, and Sainsbury’s Pure Green Tea. Not so spiffy were Clipper Pure Green Tea, Jacksons of Piccadilly Pure Chinese Sencha Green Tea, and Tetley Minty Green Tea Magic.

If you're itching to do some cooking with tea, check out this article from, with recipes for Chocolate Tea Cake and Red Dress Vanilla Rose Pound Cake.

From China Daily, here's an article about a shrimp dish made with tea leaves.

And from The Essence of Emeril, via the Food Network site, here's a recipe for Tea Smoked Quail with Chilled Noodle Salad and Kicked-Up Hoisin Sauce. We might have mentioned this one before, but here it is again.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Tea Blog Roundup 12

Yes, Virginia, there are other tea blogs. Here's what some of them had to say this week.

Imen, at Tea Obsession, offers thoughts on water here and here. Yes, that's right, friends - water. Try drinking your tea without it and see how far you get.

Speaking of tea obsessions, Phyll Sheng writes about his (including green tea cereal) at his Adventures in Tea Cups & Wine Glasses.

Hyssop tea is not technically a "tea", but let's not quibble. Glenna Marie writes about it at A Nice Cuppa.

Here's an entry from Samovar Tea, which offers excerpts from their interview with a Dutch travel magazine.

Speaking of press, teapot man Andy Titcomb also made the papers this week. More here and then there's the requisite silly teapot photo.

Last up is a piece from the Houston Chronicle that has nothing to do with tea, but was too good to pass up. The topic - Fried Coke.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Malaysian Space Tea

Okay, that's a slightly misleading headline. To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as Malaysian space tea.

But I didn't just make this one up. There is actually such a thing as a Malaysian astronaut, if you can imagine that. He will go into space next year aboard a Russian rocket and will attempt to make teh tarik, described as "the nation's favourite hot drink."

As a recent Reuters article has it, "Making teh tarik (pulled tea) can be tricky and dangerous, even with the help of gravity. Malaysians pour boiling-hot milky tea swiftly and repeatedly from one vessel held high in one hand into another held low, producing a distinctive layer of froth."

Sounds like a pretty interesting piece of business, given the behavior of hot liquids in a zero gravity environment. I think I'd want to have my suit on while this feat's being carried out.

Here's the link to the Reuters article.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about teh tarik.

Here's a piece we did in early July on tea in space.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Tea Review 74 - Lipton Black Pearl

Black Pearl Pure Long-Leaf Black Tea

I was really wishing that this would be the one. I crossed my fingers and hoped that Lipton's Black Pearl would be that rare tea that you could pick up at your local grocery, at about $3 for a pack of 20 pyramid tea bags ($2.89 in my neck of the woods), a black tea that would taste so good that you wouldn't need to bother with mail order.

But I kind of knew better and, in the end, I was right. Black Pearl is not that tea. But, as $3 20-packs of "big name" tea go, I guess it's not all that bad either. It's just not really what I'm looking for.

We should give Lipton credit for trying to do some things right, starting with the surprisingly attractive packaging. Then there are those pyramid tea bags. For those who haven't encountered these before, they're just that - a pyramid-shaped bag that allows the tea to expand and the water to circulate better among the leaves than with the standard issue bag.

Then there's the matter of tea leaves. Examine your average bag of Lipton black tea and you're not likely to find any actual tea leaves in the mix. This is the kind of tea that typically uses the smaller "fannings" and "dust." So a thumbs-up to Lipton for going with a "long-leaf." Though I have to quibble on this point and say that the leaves are a lot smaller than the name led me to believe.

In the end, it all comes down to taste - or at least it does for me. Black Pearl is a Ceylon tea, the name still given to tea grown on the island of Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon. I don't have a wide range of experience with Ceylons, but I've never been overwhelmed with the ones I've sampled.

Including this one. Lipton recommends a three-minute brew, which sounded much too long to me. The first cup I brewed was for one minute. I admit to having mixed feelings about sampling it so I let it sit until it was almost cold. If the truth be told, the flavor was not all that bad. There was little bitterness, but then again, there wasn't much taste to it either. Kind of flat for my likes.

To be fair, I went ahead and brewed a cup for three minutes. This one I found way too astringent and completely undrinkable. The one I brewed for ninety seconds was in the same ballpark as the first, but by that time I was tired of the whole exercise.

I'm not really a cream, sweetener or lemon kind of guy when it comes to black tea - or any other kind, for that matter. But I suspect that if this is how you like yours you might not find Black Pearl to be all that bad. In fact, you might even find it to be worth the modest additional investment.

As for me, I'm going to move this one into my hand-me-down pile and start putting together another mail order.

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Buy Lipton Black Pearl at Amazon

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Thoughts On Tea

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea?—how did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea.
(Sydney Smith)

We take along a carrot
As refreshment for the parrot,
And a little can of jungleberry tea.
(Charles Edward Carryl)

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

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Friday, September 01, 2006

Bathtub Tea

The notion of consuming a bathtub full of tea leaves me with mixed feelings. There are certainly varieties of tea that I could stand to drink in those quantities. But, let's face it, ruminating on the combination of tea and bathtubs is enough to leave you feeling a little queasy.

These thoughts just didn't occur to me out of the blue, as you might have guessed. About a week or two ago the British press was all aflutter over the news that the average "tradesman" there drank the equivalent of a bathtub full of tea over the course of a year.

British plumbers, locksmiths and electricians drink 3.83 cups of tea every day while on the job, or so we're told. That's 900 cups a year, or about 70 gallons. Which is enough to fill up the tub 1.3 times.

The story was all over the British press. It's a quickie, but you can read it in the Edinburgh Evening News here or the Daily Record here.

Speaking of Britain, here's a story from the (London) Times about how the merchant Fortnum & Mason ("the Queen's grocery store") supplied some tea-starved British troops serving in Iraq.

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