Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Shanghai Teahouse Must Change Name

About a week ago I came across and interesting story on a teahouse in Shanghai, China. The name of the teahouse, roughly translated, is "Frog Keeps a Mistress", which according to a Shanghai newspaper, is brewing up some controversy, pardon the pun.
The shop, according to the paper, was said to be violating Chinese advertising law and the name goes against common ethics and social morality. Officials have asked the tea house to change the name to "purify the city's markets".
Curious, I asked Amy, in our Shanghai office,to visit the teahouse and tell us what it was like.
She had never heard of the teahouse but located it and while there enjoyed some bubble tea, "the tea with pearl and milk there is good". She also took a couple of pictures of the now infamous teahouse and I thought I would share them with you. Until next time, Beth

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ceylon Tea Prices May Rise

Over the past couple of months the tea idustry in Sri Lanka has been plaugued by striking workers, bad weather and upheaval among tea board officials.
The reduction in overall tea production caused by the recent round of bad weather may have the biggest effect of all, not only on price but also on quality, almost certain to impact our cups in the US.
Ceylon teas are delicious hot or iced and are moderately priced making them a great tea choice.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Flowering Teas are Everywhere

Last Tuesday, January 9th, I was engaging in mindless relaxation with my husband watching Law & Order SVU, it was a pretty good episode so I made it to the end.

I was thrilled when in the final scene both detectives where sitting on a stoop drinking what I would have guessed to be coffee when Elliott said "is that a flower in your cup?" and Olivia replied, "no it's tea."

To me this is a big indicator on specialty teas growing popularity in the US. Personally I still see a lot of resistance to loose tea; its too hard, it takes too much time, I am too busy, which leads me to wonder sometimes if the speculated industry growth is really substantiated.

But I have renewed hope after seeing this on SVU. While this is certainly not my first "tea sighting" during prime time most others have been the quick shot of a cast iron or glass teapot or someone requesting tea in a restaurant. This reference made it clear to me that specialty tea is poised to continue growing at a strong pace in the years to come and I am excited to be a part of this whole leaf revolution!

What about you, have you had any tea sightings during prime time or anytime? If so share them. What about flowering teas, has anyone had anything blooming in their cup? If so why not share your experience here. For anyone who is not farmilar with flowering teas I have a picture below.

Monday, January 08, 2007

White Tea One Way to Improve Your Life in 2007

This past Saturdays green market, the first of 2007, was dry, the only one this season I have attended that it hasn't rained! The unseasonably warm, wet weather has put a damper on this seasons market, for vendors and shoppers alike. But the start of 2007 combined with good weather brought out the crowds Saturday and the market was brimming with activity.

We had a higher than usual number of requests for white tea so when I was catching up on some reading later that day I was not surprised to find "Drink Some Cups of White Tea" listed in the U.S. News & World Reports December 25th issue article titled "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2007".

The article cited an animal study and linked the results to potentially positive benefits for humans as well as pointing out the differences between white tea and other teas like green and black.

More importantly however the article talked about the difference in benefits between bottled ready to drink (RTD) white teas and the freshly brewed variety.

Hats off to the author Adam Voiland for taking the time to look a little deeper into not only white tea research but the differences in how it is packaged and consumed, important for anyone wishing to obtain the potential healthy benefits. Voiland writes "But listen carefully: White tea is not a cure-all. The studies are still preliminary, and the ready-to-drink, bottled white teas actually seem to eliminate some of the health benefits."

RTD's do not have the same potential health benefits as a freshly brewed cup of tea whether its white, green, black or oolong tea and definitive research has shown that freshly brewed teas deliver the highest levels of benefits. If the buyer is trying to get the most benefits out of their tea drinking this piece of information is important in allowing them to do so. Voiland closes the article by writing "So, if you do drink white tea, brew your own.".

As someone who is in the industry I am constantly reading the latest tea research and various news articles on the benefits of tea. It is very frustrating when high profile articles are presented in a way that provides only part of the facts and is void of the details necessary for consumers to make a fully educated choice when it comes to tea, and I would venture to guess other things as well. Half information is sometimes worse than no information at all, intentional or not.

My contribution to overcoming the sea of misinformation about tea, the way you make/drink your tea is only one of many, is educating whoever I can, whenever I can. Every time I speak to a group, teach a tea class, hold a workshop or tea tasting and even talking to people one on one I cant resist pointing out the differences in what we buy, what we hear and read, what we think and what is really true when it comes to tea and its potentially healthy benefits.

Brew fresh, drink and enjoy all the benefits tea has in store for you from antioxidants to the relaxing qulaities brought about by doing something nice for yourself. Beth

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Holiday Update

I can't believe that it is over! It seems as though every year the holidays go by faster than the last. We had a great holiday both personally and professionally. The web site kept us busy right up until the 22nd, wrapping, making bows and shipping lots of holiday cheer. We even fit in the green market on the 23rd, another rainy one, before leaving for a little r & r with family on the eastern shore of Maryland. We visited, enjoyed the cool weather, bowled duck pins, shot skeet and just relaxed, something that we have vowed to do more of in 2007.

Not so different from everyone else we ate and ate and then ate some more! Thank goodness we had plenty of tea to wash it all down. No coincidence we drank mostly oolongs, keeping high metabolism and flushing fats is critical to that kind of over indulgence. Every time we start drinking a lot of one particular tea category I always develop a favorite or two, my new oolong favs are the Shui Xian dark Chinese oolong and the new Fanciest Formosa Bai Hao Dong also a dark oolong but Taiwanese.

O.K. since I am mentioning tea I have to tell you about the incredible Golden Dragon Aged oolong from Taiwan! Not previously familiar with this type of oolong this was an awesome new discovery. The tea has a amber hue in the cup, large leaves and twigs and a finish that I can only describe as golden raisins, wow.

One of the highlights of our trip was an evening in Baltimore for dinner and the theatre. We discovered a wonderful Afghan restaurant "Helmand" where we ate some more. They served a black tea with cardamom which my sister-in-law enjoyed, a little late for me to be drinking caffeine so I had to trust her palate, delicious traditional foods and a scrumptious vanilla ice cream with cardamom, what a treat.

I started reading a great book while away Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. It is an insightful, easy to read book about Victoria's culinary experiences during her year long stay in Kyoto studying tea kaiseki, the traditional meal served prior to the tea ceremony. I am really enjoying the way Riccardi gives a glimpse of the history and richness of tea and food cultural in Japan and intertwines details of preparation and tastes.

I am going to share some of the things I found interesting in the book via the blog and may even do some cooking, because Riccardi shares recipes in the book I may try my hand at some. I am definitely going to need a second copy for myself and am sure that this will be a gift for friends in 2007.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous 2007! Beth