Thursday, September 20, 2018

Interview: Jason McDonald, Co-Founder of The Great Mississippi Tea Company

Photo courtesy of Jason McDonald

I'm so pleased to present my interview with Jason McDonald, Founder of The Great Mississippi Tea Company. I've come to know Jason through attending his seminars at World Tea Expo, and he's a brilliant tea farmer and all-around super nice guy. He runs The Great Mississippi Tea Company with his partner, Co-founder Timmy Gipson. They have created a successful tea garden with incredibly innovative practices. Learn all about what they are doing in our interview below.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Teaware Review: Teaglass

I love collecting teaware, and always look out for unique pieces. I recently started seeing a company called Teaglass posting pictures of a strange looking drinking vessel on Instagram. The vessel was originally created for yerba mate, to mimic drinking from a mate gourd and bombilla (straw) but the creators realized you can use the vessel with loose leaf tea as well. They reached out to see if I'd like to review one of the vessels, and I was curious to give it a try. Here are my findings...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: Good Morning tea by Tea Plays

When I need a bit of a mood boost, tea always comes to the rescue. The experience of preparing a favorite tea and tasting it truly cheers the soul. This is the concept behind Tea Plays, a small tea company trying to bring a bit whimsy to our tea ritual. The Tea Plays teas are designed to be chosen based on your current mood and situation.The blends are aptly named Brainstorming, Sweet Home, Good Morning, and After Lunch.

The teas are referred to as 'bonbons' and they are compressed into a ball and packaged in colorful wrappers. The teas are in a translucent box, so you can see all of the cheerful bonbons inside. I decided to focus this review on the Good Morning tea, as I was sleepy when I opened the package. Tea Plays describes the Good Morning tea as, 'First fragrance of calendula, accompanied by honey-aromatic Dianhong black tea from Yunnan, China'. The full ingredient list is dianhong, calendula, and mint.

The dry compressed leaves smell like chocolate, with a sweet floral/herbacious aroma which I'm guessing is the calendula (I don't think I've ever had calendula before). The steeped tea has smooth honey and chocolate notes from the dianhong, but there is also the mint, which masks the full flavor of the black tea for me. Mint always seems to dominate my palate, no matter what else is in the ingredients (although it does blend well with chocolate). The calendula mellows the flavors out, making it a bit more balanced. It's pleasant, but the calendula makes this blend feel a bit soothing, which isn't what I prefer first thing in the morning. The addition of the mint may be for refreshment, but it's not a flavor I look for in my tea, especially in the morning.

Tea Plays tea ball in the filter

The bonbons are supposed to be prepared using disposable tea filters included in the package. I normally wouldn't use these, but I did so to make sure I tasted the tea the way the vendor intended. Per the instructions I put the tea in the filter, popped it in a cup, poured hot water in and let it sit for a few minutes (directions said to let it sit for 'roughly one minute', which barely produced any flavor).  I nudged the teabag around quite a bit during the steeping process and the tea ball unfurled a tiny bit. The tea was a bit weak, so I decided another bonbon in a small teapot with a large infuser basket. The teapot allowed the compressed tea ball to unfurl on the very first steep. The tea in the teapot was much more flavorful, and I based my tasting notes on this steep.

Tea ball hasn't really unfurled in the filter

A note on the filters: they appear to be made out of plastic, but I couldn't verify this. I sent a question to the Tea Plays team and will update this post once I find out. Whatever the materials are, I wouldn't recommend using the filters for this tea as they constrict the leaves too much.

The bonbons are very cute and playful, keeping with the company name. The colorful wrappers are enticing. I'd say keep these out of the line of sight for little ones, as both of my kids immediately thought they were candy!  The Good Morning bonbon wasn't for me, but if you enjoy mint and calendula with your tea, this is definitely one to try. Just make sure you give the tea room to expand. Try it with a small glass teapot or mug, as it's fun to watch the leaves unfurl.

Thank you to Tea Plays for providing this sample for review! To learn more about the tea you can visit their website, and to purchase you can find them on Amazon.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Interview: Brandon Friedman of Rakkasan Tea Company

Brandon Friedman (photo courtesy of Rakkasan Tea Company)

I'm pleased to present an interview with Brandon Friedman, co-founder of Rakkasan Tea Company, a vendor trying to make a difference in the industry. Rakkasan works with small farmers in post-conflict tea-growing areas such as Vietnam, Laos, and Rwanda to help the economy of the area and bring their teas to US customers. Learn more about their mission, why this goal is so important to the founders, the challenges they face as a new tea company, and more, below.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Teaware Review: Pi Travel Cup by Zens Lifestyle

I'm always looking out for fun and interesting new teaware, especially for use in the office. Before I left for World Tea Expo this year I received two travel sets by Zens Lifestyle to review. I didn't have a chance to try them out before I left for Expo, but it turned out that they had a booth there, and I was able to see them up close. I have to admit, I fell in love with many of their teaware sets- they are beautifully made with a sleek, minimal design. Today I will be reviewing the Pi Travel Cup. I've been using it in the office for a few weeks now, and I've gotten to know it very well. Read on for a full rundown of the pros and cons, and a discount code if you decide you'd like one for yourself.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Tips For Taking Your Tea To The Beach!

I love having tea on the beach. Feeling the warm sun, listening to the crashing waves, looking for technicolor shells, all while sipping tea to enhance the experience. It's the middle of summer, and there is still plenty of time to head to the beach! I recently posted my tips for taking your tea outside, but I thought it would be helpful to have a new post specifically for the beach. Some of the tips I gave in the original post are relevant, but you certainly can't lug a huge tea kit to the beach. So read on, and get ready for your next beach tea session!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Tasting: Golden Tips Tea Spring 2018 Teas

Spring Sonata

I am on a Darjeeling kick after my last review, so I figured I'd keep the momentum going. Golden Tips Tea Company provided a large package of their first flush 2018 teas, and I thought I'd focus on two in particular for this review. The names suggest they pair nicely together, just like musical notes on a page. During my workday I usually listen to a NYC classical music station, so it's fitting that I was able to sample Spring Sonata and Spring Harmony to elevate my workday.

Spring Sonata leaves

Spring Sonata, is an organic first flush 2018 Darjeeling black tea. The Golden Tips website mentions this tea is grown at mid-altitude. The leaves are long and twisted, cloaked in various shades of brown and khaki. There are a few fuzzy buds throughout. When I sniffed the dry leaves, the initial thing I thought of was nut butter. I found this thought surprising, but there is a rich nuttiness, along with the aroma of dried grass and a slight sweet fruitiness. A tempting fragrance that made me crave almond butter with grape jelly.

Spring Sonata wet leaves

The flavor of the brewed tea tells a different story from the dry leaves. It's fruity and floral, with muted notes of honey sweetness. The nuttiness is every so slightly there, in the background. It makes me think of delicate spring flowers and fuzzy white peaches. When I think about first flush Darjeeling teas, I imagine delicate flavors such as these.

Spring Harmony

On to Spring Harmony, also an organic first flush 2018 Darjeeling tea. The website says this is a low to medium altitude tea. The leaves are very different from the Sonata. These are much smaller, but with a similar array of colors to its musical partner. There are quite a few fuzzy buds present as well. The dry leaves smell green to me, not very sweet, with stronger notes of dried grass. The brew tastes fruity and thick, with hints of green. This tea is a bit stronger than the Sonata, which makes sense since the leaves are smaller. It brews up quicker, with more heft. The flavor lingers for a very long time.

Spring Harmony

Since the Harmony has a bit more of a punch to it, I'd pick it as a morning tea. The Sonata is more delicate and smooth, a melodic way to spend an afternoon. The two teas are very different, but both have the slight green and fruity characteristics of Darjeeling. Drink them both in succession, and you'll have a symphonic performance worthy of uplifting a dull workday.

Spring Harmony wet leaves

Thank you to Golden Tips Tea Company for providing the samples. I look forward to trying the others included in the first flush package. To learn more about these teas you can visit their website.