Friday, December 19, 2014

A Moment with Black Tiger

We all experience it, I think. December moseys on in after Thanksgiving, all nice and casual. "There's plenty of time!" you think. Christmas is 3-whole-weeks away. No problemo.

And then it's December 19th and you find yourself frantically searching to find the perfect gift for everyone, grateful that you're an Amazon Prime member and that everything will arrive in 2 days or so. And by "you," I mean "me," of course.

This last week before Christmas has been back-to-back appointments, meetings, parties and commitments. Everything is traveling at break-neck speed (more so than usual), and there was one point when the Man o' the House looked at me and said, "You look exhausted."

I looked back at him and said, "You know what? I Am Exhausted. I think I'll sit down and watch Top Chef." And have a cup of tea.

Tea has been consumed by the gallons in my house - 99% of it by me. Old standbys and new arrivals. It's funny how out of dozens of new teas that arrive regularly in my house, there will often be one that grabs my attention and I become obsessed with it for days, even weeks, on end. This week, it was a Black Tiger that saw me through the mayhem. Hailing from Boulder, Colorado's Pekoe Sip House, Black Tiger is an organic black tea from the Blue Mountains of southwestern India (where tigers run wild, so they say).

Bold, wild, hearty, this tea does not mess around.

Exactly what I need.

I have no time to mess around. There are cookies and trees to be decorated. Cards to be addressed. Kids to play checkers with. Oh yeah - and work.

And what is that in the background? The slightest hint of fermentation, almost leaning into puerh territory.


Just a few days left. Enough time for the postal service and UPS to act as my personal fleet of reindeer.

I think Black Tiger may be my pet throughout the entire holiday. I'm going to need it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Christmas Chai Moment

The squeals of excitement every time a different ornament was unwrapped. The exclamations of "Decorations!" by my 2-year-old every time she was struck by the reality of what we were doing. The laughter and joy of completing such a task together. This was my first Christmas where I was able to share my love of Christmas tree decorating with both my daughters and see them fall in love with it, too.

My oldest taking such care with the fragile ones, my youngest piling 5 or more ornaments on a single branch.

After tucking them into bed, I steeped a cup of tea and admired our handiwork (and maybe moved an ornament or two). And what a perfect cup of tea for such a moment. Ginger Chai from Steeped Tea. The ginger, cloves and cardamom enveloped me like a comfortable quilt.

Silent Night, Holy Night...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Joseph Wesley Tea Showcase Moment

If you don't yet know about Joseph Wesley Tea, that must change immediately. Many of you know I've harbored dreams of having my own tea company, but when I first learned of this Joseph Wesley Tea, it was almost a relief - someone else had created what I would have loved to do: curate single estate black teas. Only Joe Uhl, founder, did it better than I could have ever imagined! And you and I and the rest of the world can reap the benefit!

Joe Uhl is the newest addition to my collection of Tea Mentors, and although we haven't met in person, he has introduced such a beautiful and modern approach to tea than I ever knew to be possible.

My first blog post about his tea company is by far the most read, shared, liked article I have ever written. While I'd like to think it has something to do with my writing skill, I know it's because of the story itself, the person and the brand that provides a very unique and strong perspective rising from the ashes of Detroit, Michigan.

A Detroit Moment - In which I discover the wonderful story of Joseph Wesley Tea and fall in love with the most perfect Lapsang Souchong.

So, it was rather serendipitous that out of the blue, a package arrived yesterday from Joseph Wesley Tea. Joe couldn't have known that I was planning to showcase him and his company today.

Detroit Freedom House-inspired tea house

In addition to a beautiful new tea (Classic Chinese) that I am currently sipping and will be writing about at a future date, there was this little house. An unglazed ceramic tea house, created by Canadian Potter, Dayna Wagner, is a nod to a nine-hundred year old Chinese tea tradition of dousing an unglazed ceramic tea pet with tea in the hopes of acquiring attributes of that pet. 

But this is more than a sweet spirited trinket. This is a movement to support the Detroit Freedom House, which is a temporary home for survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum  in the U.S. and Canada. While I first thought, "Oh, what a nice service," my mind began reeling when I read more about what Detroit Freedom House provides at no charge:
- shelter and clothing (of course)
- language classes (nice)
- legal aid (very good)
- mental health care (oh. yes, I can see the need)
- medical care for injuries due to torture (whoa.)


The reality and enormity of what this sanctuary provides has stopped me in my tracks. And to learn that of the 98,000 refugees who seek asylum in North America, about 45% of them are under 18-years old.

I'm a mom now. I feel sick to my stomach if one of my daughters takes a rough tumble off the edge of their bed at night. Imagine being a mother to young ones who have seen or even experienced physical deprivation, torture and worse. 

So this tea house, you see, is one company's way of helping shelter a community in great need. Extremely great need. Joseph Wesley Tea Company is donating the net proceeds from the sale of these Tea Houses to Detroit Freedom House.  

I wrote this last night when I had opened the Joseph Wesley package and absorbed the contents. 

Thank you, Joe Uhl, for creating Joseph Wesley Tea. Thank you for sharing the beauty of some of the most exciting single estate black teas I've ever encountered. And thank you being a part of the rebuilding of Detroit and the rebuilding of lives who seek shelter from unimaginable storms. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Naivetea Showcase Moment

In my first couple of years of blogging, there were a handful of Tea Mentors that stepped forward and helped widen my horizons on what "Tea" could be. One of those individuals is Lawrence Lai of Naivetea. 

The Naivetea US corporate team.  As Lawrence introduced them, the two little ones, Chloe and Egan, are the supreme executives, Ann is  the lovely spokesperson, and Lawrence himself is proud to have been named Employee of the Month 8 times in a row!
I had never thought much about Oolong Tea until Lawrence sent me a package containing a few different Oolongs, which he sources solely from Taiwan. They didn't have the robust boldness of my usual black tea blends. These were something different, something special. For the next several months I spent a lot of time steeping and tasting Oolongs.

The very first one I tasted was their Award-Winning Lychee Oolong. Having little experience with either Lychee or Oolong, I didn't know what to expect, but it definitely inspired one of my longer blog posts:

A Good Housekeeping Moment

One of the things I enjoy most about Naivetea's approach is their sense of humor and ability to make tea approachable. During one of my conversations with Lawrence, he talked about how Infused Oolongs is a good way to introduce people to Oolong because they're so friendly and can be served hot or cold. - A friendly tea. I love that!

I Long, You Long, We All Long for Oolong

Naivetea's Oolongs have always brought out my inner royalty, whether feeling like a Princess myself or comparing teas to royalty, there is just something elevating about these teas.

An Imperial Beauty Moment

An All-the-Oolong-Day Moment

So, thank you, Lawrence and family, for introducing me to an entire world of teas that I had never previously explored. They are now a part of my go-to-teas (especially if you bring back the Rose Violet Calendula Oolong!!!)

And, by the way, their packaging is as beautiful as their teas. If there's a tea lover in your life, Naivetea Teas are a special gift they'll adore!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A TeaSource Showcase Moment

I suppose I shouldn't be, but I'm always amazed at the generosity of time and spirit of the people I've met in the tea community. At the top of the generosity charts is Bill Waddington, founder of TeaSource. When I was first starting to write about tea, I had the good fortune of travelling to the Minneapolis area, and I reached out to Bill to see if I could stop in, look around the tea room and chat for a few minutes. He graciously spent over an hour with me, answering my million questions about how he got started, how he sources his teas, what he enjoys most about the industry, what was his current favorite, what was the biggest challenge in running a tea room, etc.

Bill Waddington of TeaSource introducing me to
Dark Green Needle

Over the years, there have more more tea room visits when I've been in town, and I never miss an educational session when he's speaking at the World Tea Expo. I remember one year he taught a seminar that outlined every aspect of opening a tea room, including check lists, timelines, equipment lists, whether or not to use commercial realtors or certain types of contractors, everything. It was amazing!

His willingness to share everything he has learned has inspired Tea Meditation Moments like this one:

Day 4: Tea Meditation Moment

Bill has also been an amazing mentor when it came to my exploration of Green Teas. One of my favorites was the introduction of Dark Green Needle. Highlight moment:

A Wintry Tea Moment

He also introduced me to a variety of black teas that I had shied away from. One tea in particular was quite a surprising discovery: Keemun.

A Quasi-Sophisticated Moment

For all of the tea chats, education and inspiration, I want to thank Bill Waddington of TeaSource. I wish you and your team a happy and successful 2015!

TeaSource Holiday Special

During the month of December, spend $75 at TeaSource (in-store or online) and receive a FREE $10 gift card - a perfect gift for a loved one or for yourself!
Enter coupon code DECGC14 at checkout.
Offer expires December 31, 2014.

Monday, December 1, 2014

An American Tea Room Showcase Moment

During this season of gratitude and giving back, I'd like to take a few days to say "Thank You" to some of my greatest tea mentors - ones who opened my mind and palate to the endless spectrum of teas. At the top of my list is American Tea Room.

I'm often asked what my favorite tea is, and though that changes on a weekly basis, there are a few staple teas that I always have in my Tea Cupboard that come from this wonderful tea oasis.

American Tea Room Owner, David Barenholz, and me
One of the first teas I fell in love with was Romanoff Blood Orange Organic Tea. This is a bold black tea blend with subtle undertones of blood orange. I'm typically not one to go for fruit-influenced teas, but this is one that is done right. No sweet aftertaste. Just a lilting hint of orange on in a wave of hearty breakfast-level black tea. When I'm in the mood to get things done and hold no prisoners, this is my go-to tea. I've probably written about this tea more than any other. Here are some highlights:

A Romanoff Moment - Where it all began!

A Russian TEA*Vent Moment

A Russian Reflection Moment

Another long and enduring love of mine is Brioche Organic Tea. This is a black tea blend that makes you feel like you've wandered into a French bakery. Voted An International Tea Moment's Best Black Tea Blend of 2010, I always have this one on hand when I need a little decadence in my day. Some highlights of my Brioche affair:

A Decadent Brioche Moment

A Downton Abbey Marathon Moment

One of the first teas I discovered at American Tea Room was Maharajah, a Single Estate Assam (of course!). And, I could be wrong, but I believe this is the blog post that sealed my friendship with David Barenholz, founder of American Tea Room. A bold, black blend, This is a tea that is my equivalent of comfort food. Rich and luxurious, but familiar and cozy, it has everything I need in my morning cup of tea. A highlight:

A Moment of New Beginnings - The arrival of Baby #2 and my re-introduction to tea

Now, David is a lover of Green Teas in particular, and he was a great influencer when it came to my foray into greens. One of my favorites is Immortal Green, which can be served hot or iced. Warning: this is a gateway tea. Once you try this one, you'll want to explore more green teas. Highlights:

An Immortal Moment

A Green Tea Expedition Moment

I could go on and on, but At least it's a good starting point for tea exploration or holiday gift ideas. To David and all the wonderful tea experts at American Tea Room, Happy Holidays and Thank You for all you have shared with me over the years!

For all my Tea Friends, today's a great day to take advantage of the Cyber Monday special at American Tea Room:

 American Tea Room Cyper Monday