Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fall Into Oolong Teas

Cupping the underrated, overlooked or possibly misunderstood, fall harvests has been particularly tasty this year. While I am always partial to oolongs I have to say that I have found this season's selections to be really good.

Frequently asked "what's your favorite tea?" elicits a response that is somewhat generic “I can't choose just one." The truth is that so many factors play a part in what type of tea I am in the mood for; energy level, time of day, what I am doing, what I have or have not eaten, if I am cheerful, cranky, super busy and what lies ahead. Whatever the case may be I can most often select an oolong that will fit the bill.

So while I definitely do not have a "favorite" tea, oolongs would be my overall favorite varietal. The incredible nuances and subtleties of the category offer something delightful for every palate.

A good oolong has helped me demonstrate the special qualities that exist in premium loose leaf teas on more than one occasion. They perfectly illustrate the dramatic difference in what is commonly consumed in the US versus what is available. Unadulterated oolongs perfectly illustrate the incredible taste that exists in specialty teas with nothing but Mother Nature’s magic at work. They have the ability to peak a newcomer’s curiosity and help develop love for tea.

Mango Ceylon was my first introduction to premium teas followed by, 5 days later, Formosa oolong. Looking back I suppose I didn’t stand a chance of escaping destiny and frankly I am glad I didn’t.

With new suppliers and new selections I am excited about sharing these teas and hope that you enjoy them as much as I have.

Until next time, Beth

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tea Happenings

There has been so much happening at Teas Etc in the past few months, sometimes I forget to stop and smell the tea.

Its important, at least for me, to remember to pause, breathe and get back in touch with the journey. That's what this is about, enjoying the journey.

Although its easy to digress back into a "racing to the destination" mindset I prefer to avoid it. If I "arrive" there is no where else to go, right?

So as my travels have slowed down, somewhat. Annual inspections are complete. New team members have been hired. Customer proposals are in the works and I am looking forward to the arrival of some exceptional teas over the next 3-4 weeks. I have a lot to be grateful for and I am not sure but I dont think it gets any better than this.

Until next time, Beth

Monday, September 28, 2009

World Tea East

World Tea East was held in Boston this week located with Natural Products Expo East. World Tea Expo held tea classes on Wednesday and Thursday to quench the thirst of East Coast tea professionals. Sessions were held on a variety of topics like Nigel Melican’s talk on Tea & Sustainability, Lisa Richardson, of Lisa Knows Tea, presented another delicious Tea & Chocolate Pairing class and Elizabeth Knight infused attendees with her extensive experience with a Tea Purchasing class.

I was pleased to have been included as an educator presenting Holding a Successful Tasting and the session on the Value of Specialty Tea. Both presentations were well attended.

The show opened on Thursday to heavy traffic in the World Tea Pavilion. This section dedicated just to tea was created by World Tea Expo to highlight the importance of tea to the natural products industry.
Teas Etc was surrounded with great neighbors. Village Tea Company, the young hip new line of specialty tea, was bringing lots of energy to the floor with their cool new team and brand. Directly across the aisle was Rishi Tea and East Indies Tea Company was right behind us. We had lots of neighborhood tea gatherings and were definitely in good company.

The pavilion created a real sense of “community.” I had the chance to get to know some tea people that I was acquainted with but had never really had a chance to chat with. We all shared tea, food, supplies and lots of laughs.

I was equally as pleased to meet attendees like GongFu Girl, of tea blogging fame. She shared information on the newly formed Association of Tea Bloggers (ATB) developed to unify communication, information sharing & accuracy. They will foster dialog with the overall tea community and attempt to substantiate factual tea facts and dispel myths by incorporating the expertise and assistance of tea professionals. Look for guidelines at the organizations website.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Cynthia Gold, Tea Sommelier for The Boston Park Plaza Hotel where a tea tasting was held on Wednesday. Unfortunately due to my schedule I was unable to attend but heard from those who attended that it was a delightful event with some of Cynthia’s private tea stash.

I also met tea educators Laurie Bell from DC & Verna Hamilton of NYC. A big shout out to Verna for her help with the comparative cupping’s held in our booth.

We cupped blacks, whites and oolongs and were excited to host all those who stopped in by for the tasting. It was fun reviewing the obvious and subtle differences in the teas. We will hold these events again at World Tea Expo, Las Vegas 2010.

World Tea East gave us an opportunity to connect with new and existing customers. We had fun visiting with David & Anne Walker and meeting Nigel. We had lots of laughs with Matt Papera who stopped by the show to say “hi.” We enjoyed our stay at the Omni and our lobster dinner at “No Name.”

Sunday rolled around with rain from the south which interfered with our plans to walk Boston’s Freedom Trail so I was forced to shop for comfortable shoes before packing and heading home.

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Anxi Iron Buddha Tea Ceremony

Day 3 at the fair has tea ceremonies throughout the day. We start our day with front row seats to the Anxi Iron Buddha Ceremony, a Ti Kuan Yin tea is brewed in a traditional ceremony.

It's a beautiful, artful ceremony. I have some pictures below and will have someone post video on the Teas Etc Facebook page asap.

Until next time, Beth

Day 2 Pictures

A First, Being Interviewed by a Chinese News Broadcast

Amy is translating my interview. I wonder if it will be my mouth moving and Amy's voice speaking Mandarin? :)

Enjoying Tea with our Organic White Tea Supplier

Old World Traditional Costume from Yunnan Province

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Tea - Day 2

Day 2 at the fair went according to plan. We tasted tea the entire day. We met with current suppliers and a couple of interesting new potential suppliers. I have come across some good teas, purchased some gifts to take home and had fun trying new varieties like purple puerh.

I had my first encounter with Guizhou teas, a Chinese province that is situated to the east of Yunnan, bordering Hunan to the east and Chongqing to the north. Not well known Guizhou produces high grown green teas and according to my sources these teas are not commonly exported. Multiple environmental conditions attribute to the teas quality and characteristics primarily the high mountain, moist growing conditions. Look for limited quantities of Guizhou teas in the future at Teas Etc.

By 3pm we are refusing anymore tea and decide to call it a day and get in some sight seeing. We forgo the scheduled tour and head out on our own. After some shopping in HK we jump in a taxi and go to Kowloon, directly across from HK and physically part of mainland China yet considered a territory, to view the "Symphony of Lights". The best view is from Kowloon looking back across Victoria Harbor to HK island. The HK skyline is impressive during the day and even more so at night. The light show is nice but its the skyline that makes this trip worthwhile. After the show we jump on the Star Ferry to cross the harbor back to the hotel.

Tomorrow is another busy day so we call it a night.
Pictures to follow in a seperate update.

Until next time, Beth

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hong Kong Tea Fair - Day 2

Uninterrupted sleep was not in the cards for me. While I feel the jet lag I am anticipating the day ahead and the combination does not equal sleep for me.

While Amy sleeps I head down to the lobby hoping to find something to eat, that's not in the cards either. So I found a confey chair, in the somewhat dark and deserted lobby, knitting and planning the day ahead.

Amy and I will spend the entire day meeting with suppliers, tasting and gathering teas to see if there is anything we want to add to our current inventory. Its rare that I dont find at least one new interesting tea that I have not had before. Once work is finished then we are off to act like tourist enjoying a boat ride in Victoria Harbor and then maybe we will hit one of the night markets, weather permitting.

Until next time, Beth

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hong Kong Tea Fair- Day 1 Pictures

The internet is cooperating so here are the promised pictures.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Puerh Teas

Puerh from ancient trees

Hong Kong Tea Fair - Day 1

Hong Kong Update

I am sitting in the VIP lounge at the International Tea Fair sipping a cup of oolong tea. There is a range of suppliers at the show. The show is set up by region so you can head to the “Yunnan” area knowing that you will be able to cup a variety of Puerh teas.

They have held tea ceremonies of all types

I watched the Japanese ceremony which was lovely.
(My attempt to upload pictures of the cermony and puerh teas has been unsuccessful. I will upload asap in a separate post)

I am really excited about the “Korean” tea section. I have already made some good connections and hope to offer some Korean tea in the near future.

I am curious as to whether or not the US market will pay the price for Korean teas and if they will enjoy them? They are brewed much lighter than Chinese greens and have obvious differences in processing and subsequently taste.
If you have tried Korean green tea post a comment on your thoughts?

Day 1 It’s a Wrap

Being categorized as a VIP definitely has its advantages. It has helped get decent accommodations, as opposed to the first hotel I stayed in last night. I was able to attend the evening networking reception where tea was abundant.

One thing that struck me funny however is the VIP lounge where coffee is the predominant beverage? You have to search for a teabag to brew and the staff immediately assumes you want coffee…strange for a tea fair I thought.

Amy’s plane was late so we ended up meeting at the hotel around 7. We enjoyed a light snack and caught up on some of the happenings. I am feeling tired so I am heading to bed, hopeful that I will be able to sleep through the night.

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Recent Blog Interviews

I want to take this opportunity to say "thank you" to Jamie at Tea on Tap and Jason at Walker Tea Review for their recent interview opportunities!

Check out their respective tea blogs and other tea interviewees. Tea on Tap and Walker Tea Review.

I am preparing to head overseas for a trip to meet with suppliers and seek out some new tea preparation goodies.

I will also be attending a tea fair with growers from several countries we are seeking sources for tea.

Another highlight of my trip is a visit to a traditional Chinese medicine trade show.

Will be blogging about my travels, tea finds and the latest tea wares. What do you think the US tea market needs in accessories?

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Online Tea Tastings

Teas Etc is pleased to be participating in a unique online tea tasting program that kicks off August 11th!

Our congratulations go out to Jason Walker of Walker Tea Review who developed this unique program in an effort to further advance the understanding of tea to enthusiasts everywhere.

Jason's love for tea began while living and working in China. His travels to various regions afforded him the chance to taste alot of tea while learning from a diverse group of experts. Developing his palate and his knowledge he returned to the US with a passion for tea that was destined to be shared. He began Walker Tea Review with written tea reviews eventually moving into video reviews. The videos feature Jason discussing, brewing and tasting a wide range of teas.

The popularity of the reviews prompted Jason to consider how to reach this vast internet audience with an interactive, educational tea tasting experience of their own. His newly developed concept is unique. Participants will order teas in advance, watch his video to see preparation ideas and tasting tips and then have a chance to interact with other participants, sharing notes and ideas on the teas.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jason at this year's World Tea Expo and have gotten to know him over the past several months. His passion for tea is easily recognized. His soft spoken demeanor and obvious tea knowledge create a comfortable atmosphere for novice and hard core enthusiasts to learn more without feeling intimidated.

Jason with Lisa Richardson of Lisa Knows Tea (right)and Lynayn Mielke East-West Tea Emporium (left), at World Tea Championship, May 2009.

We commend Jason for his forward thinking love of tea and wish him tremendous success. Check out Walker Tea Review and the new Tasting Program by clicking here.

Until next time, Beth

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Amy is Getting Married

Love is obviously in the air, or at least across e-mail at Teas Etc! I am happy to share with the tea community that Amy Zhang, who has managed our China office for the past 3 years, is getting married this August 1st.

While I am extremely disappointed that my schedule did not allow me to attend the wedding we could not be happier for Amy!

A traditional ceremony will take place this Saturday in Nanjing, my all time favorite city in China. With an abundance of family and friends in attendence the happy couple will commit to spend the rest of their lives together.

Wishing the adorable, happy couple a life time of prosperity, good health and joy together.

We love you Amy!!

Pictures to follow as soon as I have them to share.

Until next time, Beth

Friday, July 10, 2009

Atlanta AmericasMart July 2009 Show

I was excited to set off for the July show even if I had to arrive several days early to complete the expansion of the showroom. Thank goodness Ward Sener was in Atlanta, I could not have gotten it done without him!

We completed the floor, moved shelves, arranged furniture, mounted images and created storage. I got all the displays set up and office stuff organized. The place looks great and we are ready to go to work.

I want to give Matt a big shout out for making the long round trip drive to get everything up to showroom, THANKS.

Our World Tea Championship awards are displayed. The vibrant, fun, Get Real, Get Loose line is front and center also showcased with the recently awarded "Best New Packaging" award.

Lori Saitz joined us in the showroom with the perfect companion product Gratitude Cookies. Lori developed these exceptional tea cookies from a recipe handed down from her grandmother and has packaged them with a "gratitude" theme creatively expressed in the packaging and the card inside that is a brief reminder of what we have to be grateful for with a place to make our own gratitude list on the flip side.

Lori has also created a new, healthy, "crunch" snack called Zen Crunch, I ate entirely too much of it while working the 8 days! This yummy snack was was recently featured on the Rachel Ray show, go Lori.

Spent time talking to lot's of tea "newbies". With other tea vendors on the floor and in temps we needed to set Teas Etc apart. As a direct trade tea source who also manufactures our entire accessory line we have the ability to supply large buyers with the capability to do FOB overseas, supply test product samples and do custom packaging and product designs. That sets us apart.

I happily spent a lot of time writing orders and recording product and private packaging requests.

Thanks to all who stopped by the showroom. 90% of all the orders placed at the show are already shipped. We are waiting on several private label logos to come thru and those orders will ship out quickly once the artwork is complete.

We will be back in Atlanta in September for the short show, which yields less traffic but good last minute holiday orders.

Until next time,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chinese Teas at Trader Joe's ?

I am wondering if anyone else remembers Trader Joe's announcing that they were no longer going to carry Chinese teas? It may have been a global "product" statement but I am not sure so I am not quoting here. I know it was around the same time that the spot light was on Chinese product "contamination". I remember thinking it was a bold statement, and in my opinion short sighted and ill informed, particularly when it comes to tea.

Having never been in a Trader Joe's I was unfamilar with the store other than the raves I had heard from family memebers. So when I was visiting Maryland a few weeks ago I jumped at the chance to visit the Annapolis location.

Of course my first stop was the tea aisle, that's always my first stop. As I am perusing the selection's I notice a "jasmine pearl" green tea which strikes me as odd, right? I know that jasmine green tea is produced in China.

The image on the package looks like a typical Chinese pearl tea but states that it is a product of Canada? Yes Canada.

O.K. so we all know that tea is not grown/produced in Canada. Packaged in Canada certainly but a "product of" that is somewhat mis-leading.

So what's up Trader Joe's? Are you aware that you are in fact, even if circumvented, selling Chinese tea? Or was the swearing off of "chinese" form over substance?

More importantly, what is required for packaged products that are imported into the US? How does that serve US consumers? Especially those who want to know where the product, inside the tea bag that is inside the box, comes from? Is the origin listed on the package a "choice"? And if so should it be?

Feedback and thoughts are welcome.

Until next time, Beth

Monday, June 01, 2009

World Tea Expo Blog Photos

So I started this post as soon as I got home from the 2009 World Tea Expo 3 weeks ago. My schedule definately delayed the release along with my difficulty in lining up the pictures in "blogger." The original post is below. I have tons of pictures so keep scrolling to see the faces and fun at this years expo!

Original Post
We are all still recovering from the unbelievable energy from the World Tea Expo show! It is an amazing experience to be surrounded, literally, by like minded tea enthusiasts and professionals.

Our trip to Vegas began with a day of relaxation and presentation tweaking at "TheHotel" where we bunked this year, instead of Mandalay Bay. We definitely made the right choice for us.

The Teas Etc guys, Matt, Rafael and Newman spent the majority of Thursday putting together our show giveaway bags in the New Business Boot Camp Office, thanks Stacie.

Friday began early kicking off my 2009 expo experience with a day of teaching at New Business Boot Camp. Giving the NBBC's Marketing Segment is a lot of fun for me. This years group were extremely engaged and enthusiastic about their "tea" future. Thanks to all who so energtically participated with lots of questions, ideas and great marketing pieces from the "shameless self promotion"

My Image

I had the luxury of not having to worry about the show floor execution because of our great team in Las Vegas. That team was headed by Rafael our warehouse manager, who works under the direction of Ward Sener, Head of Operations. Thanks Rafael and all for a job well done!

Our booth looked amazing!

Teas Etc World Tea Expo 2009 BoothTeas Etc World Tea Expo 2009 Booth

The expo is the one opportunity during the year that we have to reconnect and renew with friends, some whom we have not seen in years! It's great to put a face with a name to those individuals we have spoken with but not formally met.

This year we added a fun new cupping event which took place in our booth twice daily. Each session focused on a specific tea category; black, green, white and oolong and was conducted as professionally as possible. Participants had a chance to sign up to take part prior to the show.

We extended some special invitations for the cuppings and were excited to have Lindsey Goodwin and Jason Walker at a couple. Thanks to all for taking part and giving us your time and evaluations.

Tea Cupping at Teas Etc booth, 2009 World Tea ExpoTea Cupping at Teas Etc booth, 2009 World Tea Expo

Beth Johnston of Teas Etc and Nathan Black at Teas Etc Tea Cupping, 2009 World Tea ExpoBeth Johnston of Teas Etc at Tea Cupping, 2009 World Tea Expo

The highlight of the show was most definately the World Tea Championship! We asked individuals in a variety of different industry genres to sit at the "Teas" table which made for an interesting, fun evening. We had bloggers, media, authors, buyers, 4 different tea companies (Village Tea, Teakoe, The Teahouse, Tea Willikers, East West Tea Emporium) and some other exhibitors (Village Tea, Quality Certification Services). We developed new friendships and renewed others.

When the first award of the evening was announced, Signature Famous Teas - Assam Category, I was completely caught off guard, which was obvious by my response when they announced the winner "Teas Etc" .... OH S_ _ T! I was totally suprised! I did not expect to win that particular category. I know we have great tea. I knew we entered teas that we sell and that we feel confident and proud of. I also knew that we were in competition with companies that have dominated the black tea categories in the past.

We followed up that win with the next, Signature Famous Teas - Ceylon Category and then our Organic Golden Monkey took 2nd place in the Signature Famous Teas - Yunnan Category! We did not have any wins in the General Teas Categories which is where I thought we would have the strongest showing. This competition gives us an opporunity to see what others in the industry are doing. To discover more about what to look for in the cup by learning from the esteemed judges. Most important it gives buyers and consumers a true evaluation of quality tea at its best. I feel strongly that this will elevate our industry "specialty tea" and the teas being sold as such.

It was an amazing night! I am personally honored to have the opportunity to participate on this level with some of the finest companies and teas from around the globe. It is a particularly proud moment for me, once agian being the only female owned company with winner's in the World Tea Championship, Hot Tea Category.

Beth Johnston of Teas Etc accepting First Place, Signature Famous Teas - Assam, 2009 World Tea Championship Beth Johnston of Teas Etc and Kim Jage of World Tea Expo, 2009 World Tea Championship, Assam Catagory Winner

Kim Jage of World Tea Expo at the 2009 World Tea Championships,Matt of Teas Etc and Martin of Village Tea Company at 2009 World Tea Championship

After the energy and excitment of Saturday night it was difficult to get out of bed on Sunday morning for my Organic presentation with Ram from QCS, Quality Certification Services. This intimate presentation was specifically developed for those companies interested in becoming USDA organic certified and was a road map to getting it done simple and effeciently.

Sunday afternoon brought about the Teas Etc vendor presentation which was a success with an interactive disscussion between myself and the audience, just the way I like it. The day wrapped up with a World Tea News video interview by Lindsey Goodwin, thanks Lindsey!

While many folks left on Sunday the show floor was still non stop for us on Monday! The energy in our booth never seemed to diminish and we all stayed busy non stop.

I would like to express special thanks to the following people for there support, friendship, insight and willingness to help; Lisa Richardson, Richard Guzakaus, Maria Seemer, Martin & Village Tea Team, Dan Robertson, Skip and the folks from Cirqua, Ken Rudee, Scott Shivula, Benjamin Harrison, Planet Can It, David Walker, Ram & QCS, Jason Walker, Lindsey Goodwin, Nicki Means and Sungarden just to name a few.

I would also like to express how nice it is to work with the group of professionals at World Tea Expo and World Tea News. A special thanks for all you do to help exhibitors succeed, Kim and George Jage, Stacie Woods, Kim, Vanessa, Nate, Tim, Kari and Heidi.

Until next time, Beth

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tweens Tea Essay Contest

Teas Etc is excited to co-sponsor with Laura Schaefer author of The Tea Shop Girls a Tweens Tea Essay Contest!

A link to the press release is here for anyone who wants to share. I have also included most of the details below. We are hoping to have a lot of participation and are really encouraging young people to express their own creativity and have fun while discovering specialty tea as a healthy beverage alternative.

Here is an overview of the contest details;
The contest will be judge in two separate age groups 7-10 and 11-14. Stories will be judged on creativity, writing style, voice and grammar.

Everyone that registers receives complimentary samples of tea from Teas Etc as inspiration for writing their story.

To register for the contest fill out the form by following this link

Essays must be;
400 words and submitted between June 1st-30th, 12 midnight EST.
Submit your essay on The Tea Shop Girls website - - click here

Most important you must have fun and use your imagination. Don't let the tea topic intimidate you. Stories can be fairy tales, science fiction whatever you dream up.

We've Got Prizes
Prizes will include a free copy of the book The Tea Shop Girls signed by the author Laura Schaefer personally to the winner in each age group. Also included will be a Flowering Tea Gift Set complete with a Ceremony Side Handle glass teapot and 8 handcrafted flowering teas that bloom as they brew.

Winners and their essays will also be featured in the World Tea News, a weekly online publication dedicated to providing the latest and greatest happenings in the tea world to subscribers across the globe. People in China may read your essay, how cool!

So express yourself, receive free tea samples and maybe even win some great prizes Register Today click here

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Tea Wedding

With the World Tea Expo behind me, at least temporarily, the wedding is at the top of the agenda and the long anticipated day was quickly approaching. We had the resort reservation, the low down on the weekend plans and our bags were packed.

We left Friday and headed across alligator alley from Florida's east coast to the Bonita Springs on the west coast. Never having been in on the alley I really enjoyed the natural landscape.

Nicole picked Chris up from the airport,our son, who flew in for the big event. Sneaking away from finals for a couple of days Nathan and Chris are like brothers and he would not have missed it.

The Hyatt at Coconut Pointe is fabulous and there is a lot to do. Surrounded by the natural habitat the property is beautiful and is "green" certified resort, we like that. We plan a Saturday morning boat ride and I plop into the jacuzzi for a soak. The spa like atmosphere is still very family friendly but large enough to find quiet, serene spots.

Chris found his happy place!

The 6:30 pm wedding and reception was being held outside and the weather was nice. There was a beautiful breeze blowing and the elegantly simple ceremony included vows that the couple had written for each other, readings from Lao Tzo, I Ching and Tao Te Ching.

Another intricate part of the celebration was a tea ceremony preformed by both the bride and groom for each others parents as a symbol of respect and reverance. Then the couple each added tea to one cup, each drinking from the single cup as a sign of the joining of two to become one.

It began with Nathan preparing the special tea the couple had created with meaningful ingredients intended to bring peace, longevity, prosperity, romance, love and life to the marriage.

Qian He Cha, 1000 Cranes Blend

With the parents served the couple then drank from one cup symbolizing their unity.

Adding to the romance and atmosphere, as the couple finished their vows a light rain began to fall, perfect.

The reception was delicious with lots of food, tea, dancing and celebration. The wedding toast was done with champagne and the award winning sparkling white tea by Golden Star.

We adore Nathan & Nicole and wish them many years of health, happiness and laughter together.

Until next time, Beth