Wednesday, July 13, 2011

World Tea Expo 2

Saturday kicked off with my presentation "Holding a Successful Tea Tasting" which was well attended, 102 people and the second highest attendance this year. We spent 1 1/2 hours talking about the power and particulars of successful tastings. All in all a good class despite the missing interactive elements.

Off to the show floor for another fabulous day talking tea, conducting in booth tastings and samplings, and the ever popular winners circle. WTE created a venue for the North American Tea Championship winners to showcase teas with attendee's contributing by selecting the people's choice awards.

Chris conducts tastings. His passion for tea is captivating.

Attendees enjoy our Friday black tea tasting with me. Thanks to all who attended over the 3 days at expo.

Chris conducts all our sessions in the Winner's Circle.

Until next time,

Location:Las Vegas

Monday, July 04, 2011

World Tea Expo

World Tea Expo was awesome once once again this year! Thanks to the Jage's, Kim & George, for providing specialty tea with a platform to meet, share, learn and sell tea.

I started the expo with New Business Boot Camp, teaching alongside some of my favorite people in the industry, Jane Pettigrew, Charles Cain, and Kristine Snider among others. 100 enthusiastic, curious attendees filled my Marketing class for a couple of hours of interactive learning. I love what groups come up with.

Set up was the next adventure. We weren't as prepared for this aspect of the show this year. With a 10 X 30 booth we needed to reconfigure things and got it all done with enough time to hit the buffet at the Cosmopolitian.

We have a new cupping table that warrants a separate post, coming soon.

Friday morning rock'd! Teas Etc was once again hosting the Core Conference Tea Break and once again we were serving loose leaf quality it should be after all it is World "Tea" Expo. Attendees responded as anticipated, happy to be drinking great tea while taking part in awesome tea education. Most returned multiple times to try a different varieties; chocolate covered strawberry pu'erh, coconut almond green, oriental beauty oolong, golden monkey organic and more. We even ran out of the pre-Qing Ming Dragon Well.

Friday morning's energy set the positive tone for the rest of the day,and the rest of the show.

The next stop was our vendor presentation in the special events pavillion. I was overwhelmed with pride to see the new company video produced by Taylor Rabow, on the big screen. Great job T! We handed out tea, gave away tee shirts and answered questions on a variety of Teas Etc topics. The event was definitely a success. We appreciate everyones participation.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the booth to taste tea, participate in cupping's, and visit with all of us.

Pictures to follow in a separate post, cause I'm learning to use drop box.

Until next time, Beth

Location:Las Vegas

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Chinese New Year

To learn more about what really goes on in China, then and now, I decided to talk with Amy Zhang who runs our Nanjing office. Amy was kind enough to share with me her personal memories and experiences about the New Year and her candid sentiments on how this special tradition has changed.

Amy Reflects

The Spring Festival, the popular modern day term used for the holiday, is the most important festival for the Chinese people and the time when all family members get together, just like Christmas in the West. Everyone travels home for the holiday making this the busiest time for travel, overloading airports, rail stations and buses for close to half of a month.

The Spring Festival falls on the 1st day of the 1st lunar month and it's believed to have originated in the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC- 1100 BC) from the peoples' sacrifice to gods and ancestors at the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. While the festival last fifteen days, the most important of these is New Year's Eve and the three days following. The country has a national holiday that lasts seven days and there is a mandatory closing of businesses and government during this time.

Many of the customs that accompany this holiday are still followed but others have weakened. Placing red decorations on doors and windows and lighting firecrackers originated as a way to scare off monsters. Today hanging red scrolls and red paper cut outs send messages of good luck, harmony, prosperity and peace for the year ahead. Firecrackers, the custom most often tied to the celebration, was banned sometime ago as officials took security, pollution and noise into consideration. They have been replaced by soundtracks, balloons being popped or most often hanging decorations that look like fireworks.

Prior to the festival, many families make laba porridge, a delicious porridge made with glutinous rice, millet, seeds of Job's tears, jujube berries, lotus seeds, beans, logan and gingko. There are eight ingredients in the porridge signifying family togetherness, safety, wealth and happiness.

Preliminary Eve, on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, families make delicious food to enjoy, but this used to be the time when the sacrifice to the kitchen god took place. This was when my grandmother would make a special cake called "hearth cake" and she would use a special sugar made of maltose and gingeli named "hearth sugar," this cake and sugar was used to symbolize feeding the god of hearth assuring more food for the family in the coming year.

"Seeing in the New Year" begins after that. This is a time when stores are bustling and everybody is out purchasing necessities for the upcoming celebration. They buy rice, flour, chicken, duck, fish, meat and fruits, candies and various nuts. They are also buying decorations for the house, shoes and clothing for the children, as well as gifts for friends, relatives and the elderly. In China red means "new" and "lucky" and many of the clothing and decorations purchased will be red.

Before the arrival of the New Year people clean their homes from top to bottom, inside and out. Once spotless, the decorating begins creating an atmosphere of rejoicing and festivity. All the door panels will be adorned with Spring Festival red scrolls with Chinese calligraphy expressing the home owners' wishes for a bright future and good luck for the New Year. Pictures of the god of wealth will also go up on front doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome peace and abundance.

The Chinese character "fu", meaning blessing or happiness, is a must. The character is displayed right side up or upside down. Upside down fu or reversed fu means "fu comes" so either way good wishes are articulated. Two big red lanterns are raised on both sides of the front door and red paper cuttings and bright colored New Year paintings with auspicious meanings are hung in windows and on walls.

People attach great importance to the Spring Festival Eve and families will eat a more luxurious than usual dinner together. Dishes with chicken (ji), fish (yu) and bean curd (doufu) must not be excluded from the meal because for the Chinese these mean auspiciousness, abundance and richness. In my family, the gatherings were held by my grandmother. My father would hang the pictures of the gods on the eve of the New Year while my grandmother baked flour cakes shaped like different animals.

Under my grandmother's direction, both my mother and father would prepare chicken, fish, fruit, dumplings and candy as an offering to the gods and my ancestors as a way of honoring them. The entire family would pray together humbling ourselves before pictures of both gods and ancestors where we had offered up the food. After praying, we began our celebratory meal together and when finished we would sit together chatting, drinking tea and watching TV.

More recently the Spring Festival Party is broadcasted on China Central Television (CCTV) and is essential entertainment for Chinese people both at home and abroad. Customarily each family will stay up to see the start of the New Year.

When I woke up on the day of the New Year I got dressed up in my new clothes and my first greeting of the day was to my parents. We always ate dumplings that day and all the children received gifts from parents and grandparents wrapped in red paper. Sometimes we would receive money in red envelopes. The eating and celebration continued with many great dinners that include regional dishes that were meaningful and delicious. These few days are spent having fun with relatives, friends, colleagues and classmates and we exchange the gifts that we have selected and chat leisurely.

The lively atmosphere not only fills every household, but permeates to streets and lanes. A series of activities such as lion dancing, dragon lantern dancing, lantern festivals and temple fairs are held. The Spring Festival then comes to an end when the Lantern Festival is finished.

My grandmother passed away many years ago and with her passing many of the rituals that I knew as a child also left us. Praying to our ancestors and the gods is not done in my family anymore as many of the younger generation do not remember how to celebrate the gods as it was once done.

The New Year celebration in China has become much less about the old ways and is more about consuming the days with shopping at the malls to buy different kinds of gifts and clothes. It's a pity that the important holiday traditions have become weak but I will always have wonderful memories of the past celebrations with my grandmother which someday I hope to pass on to my own family.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Raspberry Rose Petal Tea Cocktails

We weathered the delays caused by the recent snow storm in Atlanta and made our way to the Teas Etc showroom for the January Gift Show at AmericasMart. Not sure what to expect we have been pleasantly surprised to see good traffic and many of the buyers we had meetings with.

Excited to introduce some new teas we sampled the Honeybell Blossom white, Pear Spice white, Fig Formosa and the brand new Citrus Pu’erh, just to name a few, all were well received.

We agreed to participate in an 8th floor promotional event taking place on Friday and Saturday evenings, the 2 days when permanent showrooms are open until 8pm. The weather threw us a bit of a curve ball with supply shipments arriving late so we did the best we could with what we had.

We served Raspberry Rose Petal Tea Cocktails, (Raspberry Rose Petal won 2nd Place in the Flavored Herbal Category, 2010 North American Tea Championship.) This cocktail is different than a marTEAni, a martini created with a tea base & vodka, it is more of a punch style cocktail.

The drinks were a big hit so I thought I would share the recipe here. Please note that this recipe is a modified version of one I saw in a magazine sometime ago.


6 cups Raspberry Rose Petal

12 cups boiling water

4 cups sugar

2 cup vodka

6 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice

2 cup cold water

Lemon/lime wedges for garnish

Squeeze lemons and limes and chill juice. Chill vodka.

Combine boiling water, Raspberry Rose Petal and sugar together and stir until sugar dissolves. Allow this to steep for 30 minutes. After steeping strain the brewed tea, bring to room temperature and then chill.

After chilled combine the brewed tea mixture with lemon and lime juice, vodka and additional water. Serve over ice with garnish.

This cocktail would be perfect served at an afternoon wedding, brunch, summer tea party, garden, book & woman’s club, wedding or baby shower or any type of event were you want to serve a cocktail that is not strong and overpowering. The recipe could be modified to be stronger and still taste good, by adding an additional cup of chilled vodka.

Try the recipe and let us know what you think!

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oriental Beauty Oolong in TaoYuan

There are three areas in Taiwan where Oriental Beauty is grown and harvested.  MiaoLi, HsinChu and TaoYuan.  Today I'm in TaoYuan visiting Tea Master Lin.

This meeting clearly illustrates the importance of "visiting and knowing your source."  Mr Lin, a third generation tea farmer and producer, grows his teas "organically" avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticide.  Instead he uses nature, such as ground cover that boarders the garden and keeps weeds at bay, to manage his tea gardens.  Based on his current annual production it is doubtful that Mr. Lin's tea gardens will be organic certified in the near future.
Mr. Lin has won many local and regional competitions for his Oriental Beauty. Just this year, his Oriental Beauty took 1st and 2nd place in the tea competition.

First stop was Mr. Lin's tea factory where I experienced a new and delicious cold brew technique.  Mr. Lin started our cupping session with a Taiwan black tea that he produces, added cold water and "steeped" it about one minute.  The taste was incredible - light with sweet honey notes that lingered in the mouth long after the tea had been swallowed.  I was told that this tea can be infused this way about 12 times.  Be interesting to experiment when I get back to the States.

Next up is a Green tea made from the same cultivar that Mr. Lin uses for Oriental Beauty.  This delivered a very smooth green tea taste with very light cream notes and not a hint of astringency.  This was followed by several grades of Mr Lin's Oriental Beauty.

The "greener" tea bushes will be ready for harvesting in about two weeks.  Mr Lin believes that what ends up in your cup is based on;
  • 30% on the tea plant
  • 40% on the processing
  • 30% on the brewing of the leaf
Mr. Lin had to set up at a local expo for local products grown in the TaoYuan area.  We headed out for lunch and plans to meet at the expo.

The expo was great, think green market meets rock concert all interspersed with fireworks and screaming vendors.  Yes, it was loud, however it was great to see 6 or 7 tea vendors, produce vendors and the like. We plopped down at Mr Lin's booth and continued cupping teas and expanded our discussion about tea and our individual involvement in the world of tea.

All and all a great day in the TaoYuan region of Taiwan.  I'm looking forward to offering Mr. Lin's teas to.

More to follow

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bao Zhong Oolong Tea and Wen-Shan Tea District

Rain, rain and more rain accompanies my travel in the mountainous area around Pin Lin in Wen-Shan where we source our Baozhong oolong tea - which we are out of.  As my hosts and I wander up the mountain road, we come across Mr Cheng tending to his tea garden, actually hand weeding among the tea bushes

He stops his labor and invites us to join him in his house/factory for tea.  The walls of his "cupping room" are filled with certificates and awards from local tea competitions.

Good to be out of the rain, we are joined by Mrs. Cheng who starts brewing gongfu style.  (I'll add a video clip later, seems I'm having trouble with the upload)

Mr Cheng harvests 3-4 times a year and produces approximately 600kg of Baozhong Oolong per harvest.  He is "old school" in that he does not have a retail store to support the sale of his tea, rather he sells it to wholesalers.  He will start the November harvest in the next couple weeks which should be ready for sale in late November.

Next stop was the tea museum in Pin-Lin.  Aside from the history of tea and tea making equipment, the main attraction was the restaurant.  All dishes were prepared with tea oil or had tea leaves as part of the recipe.  My favorite was a simple dish of tofu cooked with tea leaves, sesame seed, salt and scallions.  Cooking with tea is very popular in the states, but this was the fist time I had seen raw tea leaves as an ingredient.

The afternoon took us to Yi-Lan on the Eastern coast of Taiwan.  Here we visited with Tea Master Lung.  He produces a rolled oolong, but not in the style of a Tung Ting or Ali-Shan,  It is a loosely rolled oolong tea.  He uses a Jin Xuan cultivar for this teas. During our visit, he was kind enough to prepare an aged oolong that was out of this world - I'm not sure if he knew how old it was.  We also were treated to jello made with tea..

All and all an exciting day experiencnig tea in several ways that were new to me.  Today I'm off to TaoYuan to visit a tea garden that produces Oriental Beauty oolong and is undergoing organic certification, a tea exhibition in the area (NW Taiwan) and possibably a factory that produces tea oil.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oriental Beauty Oolong Tea

My travels yesterday took me to Miao Li and Hsin Chu County where Oriental Beauty oolong teas are grown and produced.

First stop was a delightful restaurant in Hsin Chu. The restaurant was part of a tea garden, tea factory and tea retail shop. Many of the smaller tea growers (3000 - 5000kg or less) produce their own teas then sell them through their own retail stores.  The local tea competitions have been an important factor in driving awareness and business to these small growers, but this is a topic that deserves its own blog entry.

After lunch, my host and I were treated to a sampling of the gardens award winning teas.  The tea was prepared gonfu style by Mr Ku, who at 21 is a third generation tea producer.  Their garden produces approximately 1,500kg of oriental beauty per year.  It is all sold via their retail tea shop.

Next stop was in Miao Li county to meet with Tea Master Deng.  He grows and produces the Plum Blossom oolong that we are crazy about. 
Master Deng has won 18 Oriental Beauty tea competitions during his career. He generously prepared a 1st place and 3rd place Oriental Beauty for us. Once again gongfu style. The taste of ripe fruit, honey and a slight wood note (considered smoky by my host) coupled with an exceptional mouth feel were amazing and were prominent through the 8th infusion. I lost count after that. I've posted a little unedited video clip shot with my iPhone.
Master Deng produces approximately 1000kg of Oriental Beauty per year.  Most of this tea is purchased locally due to his reputation based on his competitive successes.

Last stop of the day was in Hsin Chu to visit Tea Master Hsu.  He produces the Oriental Beauty that we offer at Teas Etc.  Like most of the small grower/producers, he supports his tea sales with a retail outlet.  I had the privilege to cup several outstanding Oriental Beauties.  Now comes the hard part, which one to source and offer our customers.
Tomorrow I'm off to Pin-Lin in the Wen-Shan area in search of  Bao Zhong and then on to Yi-Lan to visit and cup high mountain oolongs.
More to follow

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taiwan, Tea and Travel

I love travel, especially the alertness of the senses upon landing at a new destination - which in my case happens to be Taiwan. The high humidity (think Florida, so no big deal for me), the smell of spices and food from small shops, the lovely sing-song sound of the local dialect, even the buzz of the motor bikes. However, it is tea that I really look forward to.

If I had to proclaim a tea category that was a favorite at Teas Etc, it would be oolongs.

For the next two weeks, I'll be based out of Taipei City visiting with existing growers that produce our Plum Blossom Oolong, Oriental Beauty, Fanciest Formosa, Tung Ting and Baozhong oolongs, and meeting a new growers.

Next week I'll meet up with the Taiwan Oolong Study Tour sponsored by the Taiwan Tea Manafactures' Association. This is an intensive 6 day immersion into the growing, harvesting and producing oolong teas including the history of tea in Taiwan. One thing I've learned for certain in the tea business - there is always more to learn - and I'm psyched to participate in this in depth study.

Must run, I'm off to Miao Li and Hsin Chu.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

Bohea Black Tea, Part of Americana

There's a story behind every tea...

Bohea Black Tea made a big splash in American history when it was symbolically tossed overboard at the Boston Tea Party.

342 chests of tea were thrown into the harbor by revolutionaries, including Paul Revere.

Bohea, the original Lapsong Souchong, embodies a smoky aroma, fired oak notes and a sweet layered finish.

Celebrate your independence – try Bohea Organic Black Tea for a cup of Americana.


Friday, July 02, 2010

World Tea Expo

The 2010 World Tea Expo was super exciting!

I love expo for a number of reasons. Obviously there is the business benefits. Expo also provides an opportunity to connect with so many awesome tea people. It's a chance to see firsthand new products, see who is new in the tea world and to socialize with so many tea folks in way you cant online or over the phone.

Among those awesome tea people is Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review. I had the pleasure of meeting Jason, thanks to my husband Newman, a couple of years ago via telephone and finally in person at the 2009 expo.

Jason's obvious devotion to the leaf is inspriring. Having lived and worked for a period of time in China Jason was introduced to quality teas at the source. Upon his return to the US he began sharing his tea thoughts with others through Walker Tea Review. Jason has a serene, thoughtful approach to tea and posses a geniune openess to learn and share his insight with others.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jason at World Tea Expo to taste and talk about the Bolivian teas.

Here is the video link

On a somewhat related note -
Several months ago some controversy surfaced regarding the relationship of online tea reviewers/bloggers with the companies that provided them samples for review, and what impact that may have on the review results.

You could not meet anyone with higher integrity, honesty and dedication to accurately sharing his opinion, whether I agree with him or not, about the teas he reviews.

Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review, Chris (in the black) & Nathan (in the blue) of Teas Etc, serving and talking tea at the Teas Etc booth at WTE - is this the future of tea?

Until next time, Beth