Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

TeaVivre: Five teas

September 11, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I received five tea samples some months ago from TeaVivre with intention to review them all. Fortunately they sent enough quantity that I was able to taste and take notes when they first arrived, though I was too busy to write up the reviews, and then also brew fresh samples now that I do have the time.

TeaVivre is a relatively new company selling Chinese tea online into the US, Canada, and France. The principal founders appear to all be in China, with offices in Hong Kong and Fujian. I’ve written about Fujian before. It’s not one of the touristy areas of China, mostly agricultural, which means lots of tea plantations. It’s on the mainland at the same latitude as Taiwan, and has similar climate, so you find many similar teas grown in both areas. (For those using the archaic nomenclatures, Taiwan=Formosa, Fujian=Fukien.)

Today I’ll write about all fives teas I received. There were some winners and some losers.

*White Peony (Bai MuDan)
*Jasmine “Dragon Pearls”
*Taiwan Jin Xuan Milk Oolong
*Tie Guan Yin “Iron Goddess”
*Yun Nan Dian Hong Read the rest of this entry →

Heaven Scent

September 09, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

Delicious, delicious tea.

I sit here this evening, after the thunderstorms have passed, as the sudden coolness of the night reminds us that summer proper is over and that fall is knocking on New England’s door. A pot of warm (but not too hot) tea is perfect.

With cold weather coming, I’m doing my annual restock of my tea inventory. I just placed orders with Imperial Tea Court and the Aroma Tea Shop in San Francisco, with a few others to do in the coming weeks.

Aroma sent me some samples and I’m sipping one of those right now: Heavenly Fragrance Iron Goddess. Haymen, my favorite tea pusher, wrote on the package “Call to order. Not online.” Read the rest of this entry →

Afternoon Tea at Royalton Suites

August 24, 2012 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

Tried a new “afternoon tea” in Boston this past week, at the Royalton Suites, thanks to a GroupOn that a friend had bought. The Groupon was $35 for a (regularly) $70 Tea for Two.

The Royalton Suites is a ten-room boutique hotel inside a Newbury Street brownstone, right in the heart of the snazziness that is Newbury Street. So I think they’re trying to project an upscale atmosphere. And what does that better than afternoon tea?

Well, as “upscale atmosphere” goes, this tea was not it. Read the rest of this entry →

Tea (and coffee) Shops of Reyjavik, Iceland

August 16, 2011 By: ctan Category: Tea Shops

So, I went to Iceland.

My intention on going to Iceland wasn’t to see a lot of tea shops, but when I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy nose on the morning I had been planning on a whale watching boat trip, I decided I’d be much happier spending the day in warm places drinking warm things. I’m good at making decisions that make me happy. So I created myself a tour of places to drink warm things (and write) in Reykjavik. Read the rest of this entry →

Tea Creations (Desserts and Cocktails) Tasting

February 25, 2011 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Reviews

If not for the wonders of social networking, I would have completely missed that Cynthia (Cindy) Gold and Lise Stern were doing a “tea tasting” at Finale last night.

For those unfamiliar with Finale, it’s the all dessert restaurant, and actually they have three locations now. (And amusingly enough, they’ve added non-dessert small plates to their menu which are also quite yummy.) Yes, it’s upscale gourmet food done to a luxurious extreme… I mean, come on, DESSERT RESTAURANT. So of course we love it.

I often feel I need an excuse to be decadent enough to eat there, though, so usually it’s that someone has come to visit from some heathen place where they don’t have dessert restaurants, or it’s a snowstorm and they often offer Internet blizzard specials, like half price on the flights of hot chocolates with purchase of any other dessert. Since corwin and I live walking distance from their Harvard Square location, more than once we have put on our snow boots and bundled up and walked the frozen tundra to indulge.

But about tea. Gold & Stern have recently come out with a book, CULINARY TEA: More Than 100 Recipes Steeped In Tradition from Around The World. The book includes recipes of all sorts, but at Finale they featured five tea-based desserts and four paired cocktails. Ahh, nothing like working all day only to go directly into a meal that will leave you sugar-high and drunk! Read the rest of this entry →

Tea Review: Canton Tea Co “Tie Guan Yin”

January 07, 2011 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I’m drinking a pot of “Tie Guan Yin (Iron Buddha)” from the Canton Tea Co right now, and despite the company’s somewhat unique ideas on spelling and nomenclature, and possibly questionable cultural understanding, the tea itself is damn good.

I drink a lot of ti kuan yin (my preferred transliteration). I was first introduced to this tea by name through, believe it or not, The Republic of Tea, who used to sell an Iron Goddess of Mercy like fifteen years ago. Theirs wasn’t particularly good in those days, and they don’t carry it any more, but the name “Iron Goddess of Mercy” stuck with me until I started researching tea a bit more.
Read the rest of this entry →

The Best of Chocolate Tea

December 14, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

For a lot of people the winter holiday season means chocolate. Hanukah gelt, Christmas stocking candy, chocolatey gifts, etc. So this seems a fitting time to finally put down some words about chocolate tea. I’ve been on a three-year quest now for the best chocolatey tea, and I can finally give you my results! Yes, I finally found some teas that not only taste somewhat of chocolate, they also go well while eating chocolate.
Read the rest of this entry →

In Search of the Best Soy Milk Green Tea “Latte”

August 27, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

My obsession with soy milk green tea lattes started early this summer. On Sundays when my S.O. was off at jujitsu and errands and such, if I didn’t have to go somewhere else myself, I would often go to our local, independently owned coffee shop to get some writing done.

The shop is called Simon’s, and as I understand it has become one of the respected coffee shrines in the area for those who worship the trade of the barista. (The baristas have been in competitions and such.) They also have a light menu of soups and muffins, and of course they offer tea of various excellent kinds, served in the pot.

Of course, when it’s hot outside, a hot pot of tea might not be what I’m looking for. But I still want my hit of tea. And all too often iced tea, if not done right, is a waste of good tea anyway. So one afternoon I was staring at their chalkboard menu and it dawned on me, oh, green tea latte. That sounds kind of good.

But with summer come my seasonal allergies, and milk or dairy products pumps up my mucous production. So I asked. Can the green tea latte be made… with soy milk? Of course! replied the cheerful barista. And… can it be iced! Surely!

And a new obsession was born.
Read the rest of this entry →

Idleness and Industry

June 05, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Musings

It’s one of life’s inherent paradoxes–isn’t it?–that we associate sipping a cup of tea with slowing down and taking a moment to relax, and yet the tea trade is one of the most labor intensive of all industries. I have now had the pleasure of reading Sarah Rose’s For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History and so can say that this has been true for over a century.

The tea industry would never again be the same in the wake of the massive global changes brought about by British Empire-building. The shift of the English taste from green to black tea and the fate of India and the East India Company (the world’s first multinational corporation) hinged on the clandestine expeditions of botanist Robert Fortune. He traveled into remote areas of China where no white man had ever gone in order to unlock the secrets of Chinese tea production, so that the British colonies in India could seed massive plantations to break the Chinese monopoly.

The book and the historical tale it recounts is fascinating, but I only had the leisure to read it thanks to an unexpected afternoon free while visiting the city of New Orleans. Read the rest of this entry →

The Temptation of Tea Books

April 08, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Books

So, it’s my birthday today, and I thought maybe I should buy a book for myself. So I went websurfing, because at least two of the books that have caught my eye lately are about tea.

I recently heard writer Sarah Rose on NPR about her recent book For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History. The book sounds fascinating, and could be another brick in the wall I am building that encompasses the intertwined histories of my grandparents’ nations of origin: China and the UK. (I’m Chinese-filipino/Irish/Welsh. Have I mentioned how much I loved Hong Kong? But I digress.)

For All The Tea In China tells the story of how a man named Robert Fortune (no, I am not making that up), botanist and adventurer, stole the secret of tea cultivation from a Chinese plantation, including seeds, samples, and the methods of horticulture, so that British-owned plantations in India could be started. (This also partly explains why the Yunnan Gold Rings tea I am drinking right at this very moment tastes a lot like Assam Gold Rain.)

Anyway, I do rail against Amazon’s arrogance and hegemony in the digital book industry, but couldn’t help but notice that the book is on sale for 55% off. WOW. That’s as cheap as a wholesaler gets it. In other words, I could order several copies of it, and resell them, and make what a bookstore would make on doing so. This is a $26 hardcover, and they are selling it for $11.69. And it looks like a really good book. I might have to buy it. (No, I’m not actually going to re-sell it. I’ve lost enough money in the book business already, thank you.)

If you decide to buy it too, click this link to buy it and I’ll get a kickback from the Amazon hegemony: For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History

The other book I am interested in is Roy Fong’s Great Teas of China. Interestingly, Amazon doesn’t actually sell the book, just lists it, and the Imperial Tea Court is the seller. So I went over to the Imperial Tea Court website to see it there. Roy Fong, for those not familiar with him, runs the Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco, where he teaches amazing tea tasting classes, runs tea tours of China, and most recently bought a tea farm of his own. And wrote a book recently, hence this.

Turns out there are a bunch of tea books for sale at Imperial Tea Court. Frank Murphy’s The Spirit of Tea caught my eye also.

Ah indecision! In the end I have not yet bought any of these books, because although I have one day a year to treat myself to an indulgent book purchase… I have no day when just reading that book is the rule. Perhaps that’s what I should do for my birthday next year. Set aside at least one day just to read. And sip tea.