Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Giveaway: Win Tickets to the Southwest Tea Fest!

On February 27th tea vendors and enthusiasts from all over the South Western US will gather in Las Vegas for the Southwest Tea Festival. Taste teas, discover new tea pairings, and learn all about tea culture at this upcoming event. You can also attend various presentations to expand your tea knowledge. Visit the Southwest Tea Festival's website and Facebook page or more information on this great event!

Naomi Rosen of Joy's Teaspoon and Elyse Peterson of Tealet organized this event and graciously provided two tickets for me to give away to a lucky reader! The idea of meeting tea people in the warm Las Vegas sunshine sounds amazing. Good luck to everyone, I know you'll have a great time at the event.

Check out the rafflecopter details below to enter.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: Rosali Tea Box

I'm a born skeptic. My parents were both immigrants raised primarily in the Bronx and they rubbed their skepticism off on me. I question most things, especially those in business of selling. When I was first contacted to try a subscription box from Rosali Tea, I wasn't sure if this would be like so many other subscription boxes of generic teas without much information. But I started to doubt my skepticism once I saw the beautiful box with the three teas inside. Upon further inspection I knew this would be one of the exceptions to the norm.

Founder Rosa  has worked hard to source her teas and prides herself on the curated selection she sends to subscribers every month. There are three box options per month. For $14.95 you get 3 teas at 1oz each. That gets bumped up to 2 oz at $19.95 and 3 oz at $29.95. I like that you can choose your size. The teas come with disposable tea filters to make sure you have a way to brew your loose leaves. Each tea comes with a nice card with a description and brewing instructions.

The box is more of a drawer, with a lovely leaf design on the outside. I like it when vendors send reusable, useful packaging and this is definitely something I'll be reusing. But lovely packaging cannot tell you anything about the tea. So, here's what I tried:

Milk Oolong: I've had milk oolongs before with dubious origin. It's hard to know if the one you have is the real thing. I've been asking tea friends and doing some research and I've learned that if the scent is too overpowering, or you have a slight film on the top of your brew, you probably have a flavored oolong. The buttery flavor will dissipate after the first steep as well. It appears that the tea in this box is the real deal. This is Taiwanese oolong from the Jin Xuan cultivar, which is what you should look for if you want the good stuff. The dry leaves are buttery, creamy, and sweet. It reminded me of vanilla buttercream frosting, but with a slight greenness to it, if that makes any sense. My first two steeps were very buttery, and reminded me of movie popcorn, which isn't really a bad thing. I tasted a sweetness and mellow floral flavor as well but the buttery and cream notes dominated. By the 3rd infusion there was less buttery flavor and texture, but it was definitely still in the background. The sweetness and floral flavor was more present, getting more of a light oolong characteristic. I think I'm not a fan of the milky flavor in general, but I do appreciate the complexity of this tea. This week Rosali is selling it separately for anyone that is interested in purchasing just this tea.

Hibiscus Orange Nectar: I'm not too keen on rooibos in general, I'm just not a fan of the aftertaste I get from it. But the dry leaves smelled like an orange creamcicle, so I was a bit intrigued. I knew just who to share this tea with, The Littlest Tea Critic. Ingredients are rooibos, orange, hibiscus, rosehips, apple, rose, vanilla, and citrus flavor. The nostalgic creamcicle flavor was also quite strong in the brewed tea. I do think vanilla works well with the natural rooibos flavor, and the hibiscus and orange masked a bit of the aftertaste I don't usually care for. It really tasted like a creamcicle to me, mostly from the juicy orange and smooth vanilla. The Littlest Tea Critic and I both enjoyed our sips, but we agreed that this isn't a tea we'd drink every day. She's just like her mom, she's not a big fan of flavored teas. But if you grew up eating creamcicles, this is a fun treat to have! The flavors also taste clean, without any chemical aftertaste.

Sencha Matcha Bliss: Now this tea, is more my style. This beautifully vibrant, sunny green tea perked up my afternoon. The dry leaves are pure vegetal sweetness like sugar snap peas. The brew is delicate, grassy and sweet. I get a hint of savory umami as well, especially as it cools. This is a light and refreshing tea and even though it has a good amount of caffeine, I couldn't resist having a small cup in the late afternoon. I felt a burst of sunshine on my face even though it was an overcast day. A soul satisfying cup, for sure.

So in the growing space of tea subscription boxes, Rosali Tea is one to try. Thank you to Rosa for this beautiful box. I wish her all the best with her new subscription service! If each month has teas as interesting as these, she'll do quite well indeed.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Wintertime Tea Concoctions

I know that's a strange title for a blog post, but I was trying to decide if I should share a few of the blends I like to drink once the temperature starts to dip. This weekend we're supposed to get our first proper storm of the year, so I thought it would be a good excuse to post the brews I like to construct for chilly days and sore throats.

The first infusion I call my 'kitchen sink' brew, basically because I put whatever soothing ingredients I have around the house based on how I feel. When I'm chilled or a little run down and need some healing, I'll pick and choose from the following:

Ginger: Grate about a teaspoon or two and pour boiling water over it and add other ingredients, or simmer a knob of ginger for about 15 minutes, take off the boil and add other items. I often do ginger on its own, or with just lemon and honey for a relaxing after dinner drink. But it makes a good base for my 'kitchen sink' brew.

Turmeric: If I have fresh turmeric, I treat it the same way as ginger. If dried, I'll add after the water has been heated. Turmeric is very earthy and can get a bit bitter, so adding at least a bit of lemon or honey will help even out your sips.

Apple Cider Vinegar: I know, this seems weird, but it really is great in a tea infusion! I'll add a tablespoon (give or take) to the warm water after boiling/steeping other ingredients. If you're adding ACV, you should definitely do honey as well. It takes away a bit of the astringent/stinging feeling you can get from it. But trust me, it really helps a sore throat! If you like the taste of kombucha, you won't mind ACV, but it is definitely something that can take getting used to, especially warm. I didn't love it at first, but now I even drink it diluted in a glass of water without any sweetener. I really like the sour fermented taste.

Garlic:When  I really want something healing and if I'm congested enough not to taste very well, I'll add a clove a garlic to the mix. I know, it's definitely not tasty, but it does make me feel a bit better. I'll simmer the garlic with the ginger/turmeric. I'll even make myself eat the clove after, but that's when I'm really in need of help.

Tea (of course): When I need a bit of a caffeine kick, I'll add some black tea to the crazy combination of ingredients. I find it gives everything a nice depth of flavor and roundness. But if I'm brewing this in the evening I usually leave the tea out. I suppose you could add a bit of rooibos for some added flavor without caffeine, but I've just never been a big fan of it.

Spices: If I'm adding ACV, I don't usually play around with spices since that pungent stuff will mask most flavors. But if I'm just doing ginger or turmeric, I'll sometimes add cinnamon, cloves, cardamom or even peppercorns to make things interesting. But I often go without spices altogether, especially if I'm not feeling great.

When I'm not in the mood for a 'kitchen sink' brew, I'll often make:

Hot Toddy- for times that I'm looking for a dash of booze in my brew, I'll make a hot toddy. We recently made a few for our Office Tea Club (if you follow me on instagram you'll know a bit about the club). A hot toddy doesn't really need to have tea added, but why wouldn't you want some warming tea with your booze and spices? I usually choose the alcohol first (I've tried whiskey, rum, and scotch before, all with great results), and then pick some spices (cinnamon or cloves are always good), add some honey and lemon or orange (juice and/or zest) to taste.

Holy Ginger- I love this blend of tulsi and dried ginger from Happy Earth Tea. I often add a squeeze of lemon and dash of honey for a perfectly comforting blend. The Littlest Tea Critic is also a big fan. We'll have it on chilly evenings before bed, or when one of us isn't feeling well.

This weekend as we cozy up at home baking cookies and simmering stews I'll also be sipping on a few of my concoctions. I'm always looking for more ingredients to add to my winter tea brews. If you have any suggestions, definitely let me know! Stay warm and enjoy the snow if you get some!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sharing Tea With Children

When you think of children and tea, does your mind immediately go to a tea party with tiny cups and a frilly teapot? While I'm a fan of adorable tea sets and could endlessly play tea party with my kids, I've enjoyed introducing them to what tea drinking actually is. When we share tea together we not only talk about the type of tea, the flavors we taste, but also where the tea originated, and how it was made.

Caffeine should be kept to a minimum with kids, it can have side effects and of course cause them to be a bit too hyperactive. But I have been known to let my children steal sips of my tea (sometimes rather large gulps). I think it's important to share my tea with them. There are a few reasons why:

--Tea allows children to get comfortable with interesting flavors, which will inspire them to keep trying new ones. My daughter now enjoys smelling and tasting new teas, and describing the flavors to me. It's a fun activity and it develops her palate. She's an adventurous eater and tea drinker. There isn't anything she won't try. The encouragement to try new flavors has opened her mind up to new things.

--Tea nurtures mindfulness: when we drink we observe the tea, consider how it tastes, and think about where it came from. This in turn helps children become more aware as they sip. I  hope this type of observation and mindfulness will slowly start to permeate other parts of their day.

--Tea promotes patience: Waiting for the water to boil and watching the tea as it steeps helps little ones realize everything takes time, and cannot be rushed. The water also must cool a bit before they can drink it.

--Tea expands the little tea drinker's knowledge of different areas and cultures of the world, where tea is grown, what cultures drink tea. We can look at a map together, see different parts of the world and understand how far away they are. How different cultures drink tea in different ways.

--Tea is an alternative to sugary drinks- rooibos and fruit/herb blends are good choices for kids. They are interesting, have no sugar, and can stimulate conversation. As they get older they can move onto pure teas, and hopefully have less interest in soda and other sugary beverages.

--Tea promotes and understanding of crop to cup- Children can learn how tea is picked, processed, and sent to a store. All of the people that may be involved in the process and how much effort went into one little cup.

--Tea carves out one-on-one time for the caregiver and child. A few moments to enjoy time being spent together.

Taking tea with my children is a way to bring tea happiness, and share something I love with my family.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2016 Tea-Themed New Year's Resolution

This year is coming to a close, and everyone is talking about their resolutions for 2016. I'm not a big fan of making lists of resolutions, they're usually just a cause for guilt and stress after a few months of not achieving them. But, there is one resolution that I'm going to make, one that I think is important. Of course, it happens to involve tea.

In 2016 I resolve to take better care of myself on a daily basis. Parenting, marriage, family, work, home-owning, and trying to be a good friend takes up a good deal of time. All of these things are important but I've come to realize I won't be happy and successful in life unless I take care of myself first. If I'm stressed and upset it negatively impacts everything I do.

There are big and small gestures of kindness we can do for ourselves. I'm going to start small. The tea-themed resolution isn't to learn more, try more teas, or seek out more tea experiences. I know all of those things will happen this year, and I want them to happen naturally. I'm starting with taking small moments to enjoy my tea in a more mindful way.

Mindful tea doesn't necessary need elaborate tea sessions with a proper chaxi. I've been preparing a nice quiet cup to sip and contemplate, even if it's for 5 minutes during a busy day.

It's a quick but meaningful process. I like to take in the whole experience- listening to the water as it heats, knowing just when it's boiling by the change in sound. Pouring the water on the tea, feeling the steam and aroma start to climb through the air. Enjoying the fragrance the leaves bestow upon the atmosphere. Taking note of how the the tea steeps and the color changes. Observing the first sip, and how it sets off a series of positive changes throughout my body. I also try to send a thought of thanks to the land that created the leaves, and the individuals that worked hard to create the tea sitting in my cup. Just a few thoughts. On many days I may not be feeling quite this observant. But just taking the time for myself, to think about everything and nothing for a few minutes makes a big difference.

Taking the time for tea with my family is also a way to aid positive personal change. It shows my family that I'm willing to take care of myself, and share with them something that has such an impact on my well-being. It's a benefit for all of us, a moment for us to take care of each other.

Even in the office, a taste of tea with co-workers has become a weekly event. I look forward to sharing different flavors with everyone, as we sit together for 30 minutes and forget about office life for a few minutes. We connect and interact in a way that can't happen during a regular workday.

So for 2016, my goal is to take care of myself first, using small gestures of tea and kindness. This self-care will have an impact on everyone in my life. This is something I know I can achieve, and definitely stick with.

I hope in the coming year to share more personal tea experiences with all of you. Have a happy, healthy new year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Interview: Linda Gaylard, The Tea Stylist

Photo courtesy of Linda Gaylard

I'm very pleased to present this week's interview with Linda Gaylard. Many of you may recognize her from her work as The Tea Stylist. Linda is a certified Tea Sommelier, and has written The Tea Book, which was definitely one of my favorite tea reads this year. It's a comprehensive book about tea with recipes, history, terroir, and processing of tea. I love the layout and of course the style of the book! In her beautifully expressed interview you'll learn about everything from childhood walks in the woods, to tea travels on a Korean mountainside.

Friday, December 18, 2015

How To Drink Tea Like a Jedi

My vintage Star Wars toys were trying to help with the tea. 
It's no secret that the newest Star Wars movie is now in theaters, and all my fellow geeks are freaking out. I haven't bought my tickets yet but I am a dedicated fan, I promise! I thought I'd try to prove it with my handy guide on how to drink tea like a Jedi.

I recently saw this picture posted online, and it inspired me to create tips that are a bit more realistic. Aren't you only supposed to use The Force when it's absolutely necessary? I don't think you need it to enjoy your cup of tea like a Jedi!

How To Drink Tea Like a Jedi:

Use patience: Take your time, and enjoy the tea. Experience the aroma, flavor, and texture. Visualize the flavors and how they work together. If while you are drinking your tea, your thoughts drift towards The Dark Side, do not give in to those feelings of anger! Let those feelings go and focus on the cup in front of you.

Resist fear: Go outside of your comfort zone and try a tea you're a bit hesitant about. Does that ripe puerh smell too much like a forest floor for your liking? Give it a try anyway. Expand your horizons and you'll be surprised at how many new teas you'll enjoy.

Focus on the Present: Clear your mind and enjoy your tea moment. Don't worry about the battles from long ago or the ones waiting around the corner. Mindfully prepare and drink your tea instead.

Do not form attachments to any one tea: Jedi aren't supposed to form bonds to any life forms, and the same goes for tea. Enjoy a wide variety of tea and don't get stuck drinking the same one day after day.

Feel The Force within the tea: Similar to focusing on the present, pay attention to how the tea affects your body as you sip.  Do you feel differently? Does your mood change? A Jedi must be tapped in to every sensation and feeling.

Fight for the Weak: Jedi believe all lives are precious and must be defended. Do your part by purchasing teas from companies that are working to help out those in need. Companies such as Ajiri TeaEco Cha, JusTea, and Young Mountain Tea are just a few to look into. Also, fight against weak tea!

Don't fall to the Dark Side: Ok, I like the idea of this one but I can't really use it, since darker teas are super delicious. Maybe just don't fall to the actual Dark Side.

I can see Yoda sipping his tea in this fashion, can't you?  Thanks for reading, and may The Force be with you!