Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Recap: The NY Coffee & Tea Festival

It's been over two weeks since the NY Coffee & Tea festival, and I finally have time for a recap! There was much to see, many people to meet, and good friends to share the experience with. As a full fledged introvert, it's never an easy time to wade through crowds and chat with new people.  But it was a wonderful day. I now have many more teas and companies to write about in the coming weeks!

There were large and small tea companies to feature, but since it would take days to document everyone, here are a few favorites that stood out:

One of the first booths to greet patrons was Owl's Brew. They had a long line last year, and this year was no different. Everyone wanted a sample of their delicious boozy tea drinks. I tried the 'classic' which includes sweetened English breakfast tea and lemon peel. I have to admit I was surprised at just how delicious it was. I made a mental note to swing back and pick up a bottle, but by the time I did they were sold out! They are in lots of local markets though, so I'll still be able to have a delicious springtime tea cocktail.

I've been following The Meaning of Tea on twitter and facebook for awhile, and I was happy to have a sample of their teas. I discovered they grow herbs for their teas at their organic tea farm in Vermont. I love that! I took home their Golden Monkey and Golden Lion Masala Chai teas, and I have to admit they are both quite good. The Masala Chai is a gorgeous mix of tea, herbs, and spices.Both teas need their own blog post (coming soon). I was also given this book, which I can't wait to read! I truly appreciated their kindness and generosity.

I had a fun chat with the guys from Andrews & Dunham and picked up a Spring Keemun, their latest release. I love their passion for tea, and their design aesthetic.
I've tried a few of their teas over the years, and they are all fantastic. They have the best promo materials, too. Love the pins and tattoos they gave out. They sell 'damn fine tea', indeed.

I was excited to see a booth for Joseph Wesley Black Tea, a relative newcomer to the industry with quality black teas. Joe himself was there, and it was lovely to meet him. I admire his passion and dedication to artisanal teas. I've tried a few of their teas, and can't wait to order more. A proper review will be coming soon. I am definitely hooked on their black teas.

If there was an award for the most cheerful folks, I think it would go to Simply Good Tea. These guys were happy, friendly, and thrilled to chat about their tea subscription company. They are trying to bring quality tea with added convenience and affordability. Definitely a great idea. They are currently taking subscriptions via indiegogo if you are interested in checking them out. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

The most memorable experience from the day is the tea and chocolate pairing event I attended. Jo Johnson is one of the most elegant and passionate tea people I've met. She gave a fabulous and informative presentation. Doesn't drinking tea and nibbling on chocolate sound like an amazing way to spend the morning? Everyone sitting around me fully enjoyed the interactive presentation.

I was also able to quickly say hello to Niraj from Happy Earth Teas which was lovely, but too brief. Hopefully we'll have more time to chat when we visit family up in Rochester.I also met up with two old friends and we walked the booths together. It was great fun to hear about what samples they liked and didn't. We sampled, walked, and chatted the afternoon away.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Palais Des Thés- Pure Indulgence Cinnamon

To commemorate the first day of spring, I decided to feature the newest teas released by Palais des Thés. The brand has introduced two new teas to the Pure Indulgence line: lavender and cinnamon. I'll start with the lavender, because it is the epitome of springtime in a cup.

This lavender oolong tea is a breath of springtime air. The dry leaves have a strong lavender aroma that immediately relaxed me. I could feel the gentle springtime breeze and see the purple blossoms of Provence. After steeping, the tightly rolled leaves unfurl to reveal their deep green beauty. The lavender aroma is more subtle in the brewed tea along with a mellow vegetal note from the oolong. The tea's lavender flavor and mild vegetal notes are quite calming. It reminds me of being in a fancy spa, which is a 'pure indulgence'. This is a comforting, well balanced tea that would be refreshing iced.

While the lavender tea relaxed me, the cinnamon woke me right up. The dry leaves have a sweet and spicy cinnamon smell. I am so glad the flavors are all natural, since I have tried cinnamon teas in the past that contain artificial flavors. This tea also has the leathery aroma I associate with pu erh, something I have grown to love.

The brewed tea is smooth, and the cinnamon flavor is much more muted than I was expecting, but pleasantly so. The pu erh sings loudly in this brew with woodsy earthy and leathery notes. The cinnamon compliments the pu erh very well to create a smooth and satisfying brew. As with most pu erh teas, giving the leaves a quick rinse with boiling water before the first brew produces a smoother cup. Even though the cinnamon is subtle, the spicy hum lingers for a long time. It reminded me a little of eating Sichuan peppercorns. The only other flavored pu erh I've had recently is the ginger pu erh from Miansai Tea Bar which I also enjoyed. I may seek out other flavored pu erh in the future, to see how they stack up. If you enjoy the unique flavors in pu erh, I'd say this is a good choice to try.

Thank you to Palais Des Thés for providing these two luxurious blends to taste! They definitely enhance the happiness of springtime!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Steep Thoughts: Tea Visualizations

Do you ever notice flavors evoke images in your mind? We all know a nostalgic dish can send us right back to childhood, but what happens when you sip tea? When I focus on flavors in tea, I can picture an entire landscape associated with it. I feel as if I'm transported to a different place, and can hear, see, and taste it.

Sometimes I'll see a sunny field of wildflowers if the tea is bright and floral. I can smell the daffodils and feel the sunshine. Or I'll be walking through crunchy leaves on a fall day if the tea is woodsy and nutty. A smoky campfire crackles in the background.

I'm currently drinking a pu erh which tastes leathery and ever so slightly smoky. I'm travelling on the back of a motorcycle in a wooded area of France with a leather jacket clad rider. I can hear the motor and smell the exhaust. Occasionally we'll pass a small stone house or animal.

For me, the visualizations associated with the tea I'm drinking is part of the meditation. My mind can go somewhere else, away from where I'm sitting.  This transformation will happen anywhere that I'm sipping. Sometimes I just need to clear the thoughts from my mind, but I do enjoy this creative escape.

Have you experienced this transformation? Do certain flavors bring you to specific places?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Get Festive: NY Coffee & Tea Festival

With the frigid NY weather we've had this winter, I am daydreaming of springtime adventures. A pre-spring event to take note of is the 9th annual NY Coffee & Tea Festival is March 22nd and 23rd. If you are considering taking the trip, I urge you to do so. It's a great opportunity to meet and chat with vendors, and learn a few things. There are free and paid events to check out to further enhance your experience as well. There are always lots of freebies and samples at the event which is an added plus!

If you haven't bought tickets yet, Sunday is still available. If you're new to the event, check out my post from last year to get an idea of the festivities.

We're trying to set up a blogger meet up during the event. If you are going, let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Steep Thoughts- Do You Enjoy Coffee?

This morning a coworker made too much coffee and offered me a cup. I don't normally drink the gasoline that comes out of the office drip pot, but this person grinds his own beans, uses an electric kettle, and brews in a Chemex pot. My mug was empty so I figured I'd give it a try. I usually add milk to my coffee and I have to admit this cup was super smooth and flavorful without a drop of anything extra. I started to happily sip the coffee, enjoying the flavor and even thought to myself 'gee, maybe I should drink coffee more often' when I was reminded why I stopped in the first place. After a few minutes I started to feel nervous. I felt an unpleasant quivery feeling in my core. This is not the same quiver I get when I hug my children or look into my husband's smiling eyes. It is more of an 'um, my body is telling me this is not good' sort of feeling. Even though I drink endless cups of tea during the day, a large cup of coffee still gives me the jitters.

So as much as I love the idea of preparing coffee and enjoying the diversity of flavors, it's just not for me. But I can absolutely understand why you'd want to drink both. I also admit I've been seen drinking coffee on an occasional weekend morning in a small restaurant cup. I do much better with a small serving and not the mammoth 'small' size most cafes use for to-go cups. Sometimes the smell is just too tempting to resist.

I found it interesting that my co-worker's brewing process reminds me a bit of my own tea ritual. The joyful attention to detail is an important part of the process. Hand grinding beans and watching the water brew through the glass pot can be a meditative experience. Chemex pots are gorgeous enough to tempt me to brew coffee, but I have to remember the after effects. Has anyone tried to brew tea in a small Chemex? I'd love to know the results.

Do you drink coffee? Does it make you feel any differently than tea?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Visit: tea drunk

Last year I was fortunate to attend a wonderful tea tasting with passionate expert Shunan at the NY Coffee & Tea festival. Shunan mentioned she was hoping to open a tea house named tea drunk.and I have had it on my list to visit ever since it opened a few months ago.

Recently my husband and I had a rare day to ourselves, so we had a delicious lunch at Momofuku Ssam bar and waddled over to tea drunk. This tea house is a place for serious teas with an authentic experience. The teas are hand selected directly from the farms in China, and you can see Shunan's passion through the list of carefully curated teas. To get a better sense of what the tea house is about, check out the 'about us' page. It expresses just how much love and expertise is put into each tea they carry.

After perusing the tempting menu of Chinese teas, we settled on the raw puerh 'song'. We wanted something bitter and strong enough to help our full bellies digest. After ordering you can pick out a tea pet that will cheerfully sit on your tea tray and take an active role in your tea preparation.

Sit back and focus on your tea being prepared in a gaiwan. The vessel is filled with leaves and the tea is steeped quickly, which allows for many infusions. We sat and enjoyed several cups of tea, and each infusion led to a deeper, more complex flavor. The tea was pleasantly bitter and earthy, with a an herbaceous taste that brings an ancient magical forest to mind. The flavor of the tea lingered long after we left, a gratifying reminder of our experience.

tea drunk also hosts classes, check out their events page for the schedule. I hope to try one soon. This is a true NYC gem, a place you can't find anywhere else in the city. Go sit at the tea bar, chat with with expert staff, and enjoy a beautiful tea. We will definitely be back as soon as possible!

tea drunk: 123 E. 7th St NY, NY Highly Recommended 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Collections- Tea Steepers

Last week I showed off some of my favorite tea cups. This week, I am sharing a few of my favorite tea steepers. I don't really use these, because they typically don't allow enough room for the tea leaves to open up and exude their happiness. But I've been gifted a few over the years, and now they've become a fun collection. Each one has a little story either about where I found it, or who gave it to me. Sometimes the memories of an object are far more significant than their use.

I've had this teapot steeper since I was in college. I remember wandering around a grocery store one night, and finding it hidden among the bagged teas. I was just getting into loose tea at that point, and this little teapot inspired me to drink even more of it.

I picked up the robot at Pylones a few years ago. I was shopping for a friend and I just couldn't pass him up. He usually sits on my desk and cheers me on while I work. He always brings me a smile.

I actually won the orange leaf steeper from a contest through Miss Tea. I love the quirky orange color which looks quite cheerful sitting on my bookshelf.

The Manatea is one of my most favorite steepers, gifted by dear friends. It is a happy little creature and a popular conversation piece. I haven't used it to brew tea, but I imagine he'll look adorable hanging on the edge of a mug!

Do you have any tea steepers? I'd love to see some of your favorites!