Thursday, June 7, 2018

Interview: Kevin Gascoyne

Kevin Gascoyne (photo courtesy of Kevin Gascoyne)

When I started diving deeper into learning about tea, Kevin Gascoyne's name popped up regularly. I pored over the book he co-wrote, Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties which basically became my 'tea bible', and read numerous articles he's written over the years. I knew the tea house Camellia Sinensis he co-owns was one I needed to add to my list of places to visit. I've had the pleasure of meeting Kevin briefly at various tea events, and at this year's NY Coffee & Tea festival I realized I needed to ask him to schedule an interview. I was nervous speaking with someone who has done so much, and knew so much. But talk with Kevin and you'll instantly realize he's the guy you want to hang out with; drinking endless cups of tea and chatting about all manner of things. We recently had an hour-long phone conversation where Kevin's passion for tea came through in everything we talked about. We discussed his new collaboration on the Tea Studio project, his favorite tea memory, his opinion on tea education, and so much more. Highlights from our interview are posted below.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Tea Pairing 101: Black Tea and Tea Sandwiches

That's me, steeping our first tea, capture by Jee

I'm pleased to finally present the next Tea Pairing 101 installment. You may remember this is the series that fellow tea bloggers Jee, Georgia, and I have been working on. We take three variations of one type of tea, and pair them with a specific type of food. It's always a fun and delicious afternoon.

This time we focused on black tea. Black tea can be paired with a range of different things from savory to sweet. I almost always pick a black tea when I'm enjoying an afternoon tea spread (unless an oolong steals my heart), because it will usually pair well with a range of sweet and savory items. We decided to run with this idea and pair black teas with savory tea sandwiches, the type that you'd typically serve for afternoon tea.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tea History 101: What Is Smouch?

Dong Ding Oolong leaves- the real thing, not sloe!

Steeping tea during its infancy in Europe and the American colonies was akin to living in the Wild West- no rules. Tea wasn't checked for quality, no one had a reference for proper preparation, and you couldn't be sure what was really in your tea blend. To add to the disarray, tea was in high-demand, and counterfeits were widely created.

In the 18th and 19th centuries tea was bulked up with sneaky additives and used leaves were dried and resold. I hadn't given this too much thought until I came across a book during a family trip to Charleston. I leafed through Civil War Recipes: Receipts from the Pages of Godey's Lady's Book while waiting for my kids to pillage the gift shop in a historic fort. My eyes rested on a small section called "Economy of the Tea Table [1863]" where I read:


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Tips For Taking Your Tea Outside


It's the time of year when the incessant rain leads to vivid springtime blooms. The trees are finally lush, and the grass is long and cool. The ocean starts to beckon. It's time to take those tea sessions outside, but how to package up that cherished teaware for an outdoor adventure?

If you're like me, you've taken the time to carefully choose and purchase your favorite pieces of teaware, but they end up staying in the house where they're less likely to break. In this post I'll explain a few easy ways to take your favorite teaware outdoors. There are some amazing travel sets out there, but this post is about using what you've got, whether you are taking out your gongfu set just for yourself, or need an afternoon tea picnic for a crowd.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Teaware Review: Primula Glass Teapots


I love a good glass teapot. It allows you to observe your leaves dancing around as they steep, and are simple enough in design that your tea takes center stage. I have a collection of vintage Bauhaus glass teapots that I tend not to use very often, only because I can be a bit of a klutz. So I'm always on the hunt for simple glass pots for daily use. I was excited when Primula reached out to see if I'd like to review their glass teapots, and also do a giveaway! Have a look at my review of their useful pots below, and make sure you pay attention for the giveaway details!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tea Review: 3-Finger Black by Smith Teamaker

Tea reviews are fun to write, and give me the opportunity to share my tea tasting adventures with you. They can be helpful if you are mulling over what teas to buy, or looking for a particular brand or variety. Keep in mind that taste is subjective, and depending on how you prepare the tea and the water you use, you may have different results. I usually prepare the tea as instructed by the vendor, unless otherwise noted. If at first you're not happy with a tea, try adjusting your water temp, steep time, and amount of leaf. Keep experimenting and tasting!



I find tea has a sensory experience akin to listening to music. Both conjure up strong emotions and mindfulness. In fact, I wrote a little post about this maaannny years ago. I think they both also stimulate creativity and meditative thinking. Music and tea are deeply related, and it makes perfect sense that Smith Teamaker has partnered with 'banjo badass' (their phrase, but quite appropriate) Béla Fleck for the newest release in their Maker's Series, 3-Finger Black. You should definitely check out the story of the partnership on the Smith Tea website, as it gives entertaining information on how the blend came to be.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Review: Rooibos Rocks Sampler Tin

Tea reviews are fun to write, and give me the opportunity to share my tea tasting adventures with you. They can be helpful if you are mulling over what teas to buy, or looking for a particular brand or variety. Keep in mind that taste is subjective, and depending on how you prepare the tea and the water you use, you may have different results. I usually prepare the tea as instructed by the vendor, unless otherwise noted. If at first you're not happy with a tea, try adjusting your water temp, steep time, and amount of leaf. Keep experimenting and tasting!


If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you'll know that I don't particularly care for rooibos. I know countless people that swear by it, but it just doesn't usually grab me. So, when Rooibos Rocks reached out to send a sampler, I was hesitant. But then I decided I've been keeping an open mind lately, and it has led me to try some interesting things. So, I decided to agree to accept the sampler tin. I'm glad I did, as I learned there are a couple of tisanes I didn't know I liked.

First off, rooibos is not tea. It doesn't come from the camellia sinensis plant. Rooibos (pronounced roy-boss) is an evergreen shrub found in the Cederberg region of South Africa. To create the tisane, the needle-shaped leaves are picked and allowed to oxidize. Green rooibos (which is included in this sampler pack) is not allowed to oxidize so the flavor profile is a little different. 

The sampler contains four types of tisanes: natural rooibos, chai rooibos, honey bush, and green rooibos. Here are my thoughts on all four types...

Green Rooibos

Green Rooibos: Even though natural rooibos isn't my favorite thing, I enjoyed the green rooibos. It still has a faint flavor that I associate with rooibos, but it's very mild. It's sweet and a little bit earthy. It also has hints of dried grass. I can definitely see myself reaching for this gentle tea in the evening.

Honey Bush: I was pleasantly surprised by this tea. It has a strong honey note, of course. It's smooth, mild and very sweet, reminding me of the honey notes I get when I sip chamomile, if that makes any sense (but not necessarily the floral notes). I don't care for chamomile, but I liked honey bush quite a bit! It would be a nice way to unwind after a stressful day.

Natural Rooibos: Since I'm not the biggest fan of rooibos, it makes sense that I'm not in love with this tisane. The strong after taste just isn't for me. It reminds me of the way I feel about cilantro (not in taste, just in idea)- I can taste it even in a small amount in any dish, and it it just isn't for me. It's slightly sweet and earthy and has a vanilla note, but there is something I just can't describe that lingers for ages on my palate. Almost tobacco-like, but not exactly. It's consistent with every rooibos I've tried.

Chai Rooibos: Since it has the natural rooibos, I wasn't the biggest fan. The blend is mildly spiced with chai flavors. The ingredients cite cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, pepper, and ginger. I mostly detected ginger and cardamom. But it could also be that my brain had a hard time tasting anything but the rooibos (again, a trait that's similar to cilantro for me).


I am a sucker for good packaging, and the sampler tin is adorable. It's colorful, sweet, and would make a great gift for the rooibos-lover in your life. Thank you to Rooibos Rocks for sending this sampler tin. If I hadn't given it a try I never would have learned that I enjoy honey bush and green rooibos. The tea is sold on Amazon, and you can visit the Rooibos Rocks website for more information. I'll be passing the natural rooibos and the chai on to a few people, but I'll be keeping the honey bush and green rooibos for myself!