Tea Writings

A blog about tea from the desk of Cecilia Tan

Teas that “Taste Like “Tea”

March 23, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

I’ve written a lot about things like rose tea (with more to come), and I’m about to write about chocolate tea soon (still tasting), but today I thought I would turn my attention to the recent teas I’ve been brewing that “taste like tea.”

In the American sense, tea is black “orange pekoe”, usually Lipton. I had a horrifying (or perhaps edifying) experience last month. I was helping to run a conference at a fancy hotel, and in our staff room we had continuous catered coffee and tea service. The tea service was not terrific. This hotel, which used to serve a very fancy brand of tea (I can’t remember the name but the tea “bags” came as stand alone pyramids with little leaves at the top), had switched to Tazo for all their flavored teas and, yes, Lipton for their regular black tea & decaf. Yes, it’s the economy.
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Fun tea documentary

February 22, 2010 By: ctan Category: News & Notes

Back in the summer of 2009, I visited the Aroma Tea Shop in San Francisco, and Haymen da Luz the proprietor told me at the time he was making a video documentary about his visit to the tea plantations in Fujian. He showed us lots of photos and the trip looked really awesome.

The video is on the website main page and also on the Tie Kwan Yin sales page: http://www.aromateashop.com/store/index.php?act=viewCat&catId=61

Haymen is the only tea guy I know who would admit, in his own tea documentary, that he’s craving a stop at Starbucks. It’s funny and informative. Check it out.

Sales & Bargain Teas

February 21, 2010 By: ctan Category: News & Notes

Imperial Tea Court in San Francisco has revamped their website. To celebrate they are offering free UPS ground shipping until March 31st on any order over $25, using coupon code cf3prf0y. Visit http://www.imperialtea.com/ to see. I have bought from Imperial Tea before and have been very happy with what I’ve gotten. If only they sold the ginger black I just used up on their website! I didn’t find it, but I suppose I must go back to San Francisco soon.

Meanwhile, I figured as long as I am passing on the Imperial Tea sale code, I would look up other tea sales on some of my favorite tea sites.

Aroma Tea Shop, also in San Fran, sells through their web site (which is how I found them originally) and their sale page has some very fine teas at HALF PRICE. Check it out at http://www.aromateashop.com/store/index.php?act=viewCat&catId=saleItems.

Have you checked out Teavana’s “clearance” section? Rose garden rooibos is on sale for a mere $2.40. Here: http://www.teavana.com/Tea-Products/Sale-Clearance/
They are also offering discounts on all orders, 10% off any combination that equals a pound (16 ounces), 15% off 2lbs, 20% off 5lbs or more. I got suckered in by this, and ended up placing an order for 8 different 2 ounce samples, which ended up coming to more thatn $50, so I qualified for free shipping, too! Yes, I would love to pay more for tea, less for shipping.

The English Tea Store, which I have ordered from before and pretty much always has some unbelievably good prices to begin with, has a large section of clearance items. They also happen to be a great source online for British chocolate bars and candies not usually sold in the US except in speciality stores. Among the items that caught my eye on this visit, a plum colored ceramic three-cup teapot, normally $8.95, only $4.95. (Edit: Google is apparently penalizing English Tea Store for inorganic incoming links and apparently thinks my links are not genuine?? I’ve removed them so that English Tea Store can get out of Google jail. You can find their site easily enough, but how about this? Don’t use Google to do so, please. They’re at EnglishTeaStore Dot Com.)

If you want their clearance tea in particular, check their clearance page. I’m currently looking at their Guava Comoros Green Tea Loose Leaf – 4oz, four ounces of which is already less than half price of most things at Teavana at its regular price of $3.99, but is on sale for $2.99 for four ounces. Hmm.

Then we have Boulder Tea. Most of the stuff on their “clearance” page doesn’t look marked down all that much, but they are offering a canister with 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of genmaicha for $15. I haven’t ordered from them before, so can’t vouch for their service. Anyone who does, please let me know. They have some intriguing stuff. (http://www.bouldertea.com/clearance.html)

And how about Camille’s Tea of San Antonio, Texas? There’s a “dollar page.” All teas listed there are 50 grams for a dollar, 100 grams for two dollars. (And maybe it’s just me, but I can’t see something listed in grams without thinking about drugs. But, well, I suppose tea is that.) I haven’t ordered from her before, but with priced like those, I might have to try some! (http://www.camillestea.com/dollarsale.html)

Lychee Flower

February 18, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

In my seeming never-ending search for a tea I liked as much as the lychee green they brew and sell at the famous tea house in the lake in Shanghai, which I visited in April 2007, when I was in San Francisco last summer I picked up some “lychee blossom” at the Imperial Tea Court (Ferry Bldg. location).

Here’s Imperial Tea Court’s description: A new addition to our flower tea collection, this beauty features a red lychee flower waiting to blossom inside a surrounding flower of green tea. Subtly scented with jasmine and flavored with lychee fruit, this stunning tea will display beautifully in a glass teapot.

It took me a while to get around to brewing this tea because I didn’t have a glass pot and kept not getting around to buying one, and beautiful flowering teas are maximally enjoyed when one can see them. But then I received one for Christmas! The other thing is I usually like to brew a flowering tea when I have a friend over for tea so we can both enjoy the sight, but I’ve been so busy lately I finally decided to just try it for myself.

I’ve had flowering teas before of various kinds and so I decided this time to photograph the process. What follows are the photos of the tea opening:

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Chelsea (NYC) T Salon

January 27, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Shops

As I type this entry, I am sitting in a tea shop that gives the Samovar Tea Lounge a run for the money when it comes to hippest tea-sipping spot. I’m at the T-Salon in Chelsea Market.

First of all, this is Chelsea Market in New York City. In what was an old meatpacking building, there is now an incredibly hip foodie paradise. Similar to the Terminal Market in San Francisco, only bigger with even more shops and restaurants, Chelsea Market has fine cheese, fresh fish, farm-raised meat, and on and on with the gourmet shops and bakeries. This building also houses MLB.com and the Google NYC offices. Morimoto (the Iron Chef) has a restaurant here. Hip.

It’s so hip that the free wifi comes with the following terms of service:

I promise to refrain from any hanky panky
Or anything that would make anyone get cranky.
Anything I do with this connection that is lame,
I absolve Chelsea Market et al of any blame.

You click a button that says “All righty!” to agree.

But back to the T-Salon. Read the rest of this entry →


Coolest tea infuser ever…

January 24, 2010 By: ctan Category: News & Notes

Invented by a designer named Pablo Matteodo from Argentina, for the Design Boom competition theme “Beyond Silver,” this is the the SHARKY TEA INFUSER:


Shown here brewing red tea, of course.

Click for full image: Read the rest of this entry →

A Rose In Winter

January 23, 2010 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings, Tea Reviews

The time has come for me to either restock the Ten Ren black rose tea I’ve just run out of, or to replace it with something else.

Being an adventurous sort (not to mention a tea blogger…) I’m open to trying some other brands, flavors, and formulations of rose, but a quick look over just my favorite sites, much less the plethora of rose teas reviewed at Steepster (up to 532 from just 519 teas yesterday!!), reveals more choice than my currently overtaxed brain can handle.

So I solicit your suggestions, here, on Steepster, on Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else you may cross my path.

Ten Ren Black Rose Tea: So, the tea I am now out of is sold from huge canisters at the Ten Ren shops all around the world. I bought this batch at the shop in Chinatown NYC and had no idea it was going to become one of my “staple” teas — i.e. a tea I brew at least once a week. (I typically brew 2-3 varieties per day, every day.) As I mention in my tasting note on this tea on Steepster, “This is a reliably delicious tea that holds up to at least 4 steepings, still giving beautiful color and excellent flavor, though milder by the 3rd and 4th time through. It doesn’t hit you over the head with the rose too much, doesn’t muck it up with any other flavors.”

The first thing, of course, is that the black tea itself must be of good quality. Crummy tea hidden by a shot of rose oil is not what I’m looking for, obviously, but I am a big believer in the fact that the most expensive tea isn’t necessarily the best. Read the rest of this entry →

Strawberry for Christmas, Apparently

December 30, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Reviews

All of a sudden strawberry black tea has leapt into my life. They say things come in threes, and three different black teas with strawberry have all come along at once.

The first was on Christmas day, at the house of some friends, where we do the annual gift-exchanging and stocking unstuffing. One member of the household there has a truly prodigious variety of teas, probably 100-200 if I had to guess just from looking at the shelves that are visible. (There may well be more stashed away out of sight.) I picked a tea more or less at random and ended up with a black tea from South America that had strawberry in it. I had never had a tea from South America, so was curious about that, but most of what I tasted was the strawberry. Given that we were eating Christmas candy and the like, a sweet-tasting tea blended with it perfectly well. I didn’t write down the name or the seller of the tea, unfortunately. Little did I know that two more strawberry teas were about to land in my lap within the next few days.

Then I traveled on the 26th to Florida to see my parents for the holidays. This meant a layover of a few hours at the new JetBlue terminal at JFK airport in New York, which has espresso bars in the gate waiting areas. At one point I was feeling chilly and inquired whether they served tea. The young barista showed me their selection, which was of a brand name I didn’t recognize (Dammann) but which I gathered was the tea brand carried by Illy coffee affiliates. There were a few of the usual suspects (earl grey, chai, etc…) but she urged me to try the “strawberry tea Read the rest of this entry →


December 19, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Musings

When I was eleven years old, my family took a month-long trip to the Philippines to visit our many relatives there on my father’s side of the family. One of the revelations of that trip was how incredibly good the fruit was there. At the Silahis Hotel in Manila my father ordered a half of a papaya for breakfast one day, and it was easily the size of a large watermelon, longer than his forearm! (For my part, I discovered the hot rice, ginger, and chicken porridge known as arroz caldo, traditionally served for breakfast, and insisted on having it every day.)

Better even than the papaya was the mango. After spending some time in Manila, we traveled to Cebu City (on the island of Cebu) and in ‘the provinces’ could buy perfectly ripe, huge yellow mangoes every day in the market. We ate them every day for breakfast or for ‘siesta’–the light afternoon meal or snack that came right before naptime. My mother loved them so much that after we came home, one day we were walking down the street in midtown Manhattan when we were stopped by a TV news crew polling people about what they thought the sexiest food was. Nearly everyone else said pizza, but my mother immediately said the mango. They aired her comment and we were all thrilled to see her on TV!

By now you are wondering what this has to do with tea, since this is a tea blog. I’m getting to that. Let it steep. I promise I’ll eventually make some point about food and drink being a cultural connection between people and their families and society at large. Or something. Read the rest of this entry →

Tea Witness

December 15, 2009 By: ctan Category: Tea Books, Tea Musings

You meet all sorts of people on the Internet. Having a tea blog is a little like running an online tea shop. People stop by from all over, and sometimes you get into interesting conversations with them.

One recent visitor to TeaWritings was Jason Witt, the author of the recently published book Spirituality of Tea. Right now the Kindle edition of the book is only a dollar, so I bought it. Jason is something of a tea monk. He eats a low-calorie diet, doesn’t drink or do drugs, doesn’t own a car or house and tries not to clutter up his life with possessions, and finds his ecstatic pleasure in tea and communing with God daily through tea. He doesn’t live on a mountaintop in Tibet, though, but in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Jason’s book reminded me in some ways of the books of Earl Grollman, who although he is a rabbi, focuses his books on a wider audience through the belief that all human beings, not just those of a particular religious sect, could benefit from his message. Grollman’s subject is grief and bereavement, and he writes in a very direct and almost simplified manner, soothingly repeating the messages distraught survivors need to hear. Jason’s subject is overcoming the stresses of modern life and the get-ahead mentality that distances us from our true needs, both physical and spiritual. Like Grollman, he invokes God and Heaven without specifying a specific church or doctrine and sends a powerful, direct message about the peace and happiness one can find.

Despite rampant commercialism and battles over its meaning, the holiday season still means something spiritual to me, making now a good time to talk with Jason about God, tea, religion, and other such subjects. I chatted with Jason, of course, through the Internet.

CT: The basic message of your book is that people can find God within themselves through drinking tea. Can I ask which one you came to first, God or tea? Read the rest of this entry →