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! 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Interview: Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas

Photo Courtesy of Bruce Richardson

As a fan of tea history, I first came across Bruce Richardson's name as the co-author of a book I reach for often, A Social History of Tea. Since then I've noticed his name pop up on numerous books, lectures, tea history sites, and as the co-owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas with his wife Shelley and son Ben.

Last month I had the pleasure of speaking with Bruce face to face at the NY Coffee & Tea Festival, and knew he'd be a perfect person for a blog interview. As expected he's very knowledgeable about all things tea, but also fine art, music, and travel. Read below for our interview, including one of his most memorable tea adventures, and a special personal tea ritual.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Visit To The Charleston Tea Plantation

When my husband suggested we visit Charleston, SC with our kids for spring break, there one was thing that instantly popped into my mind. Not the immaculate architecture, the historic sites, or the southern cooking. Naturally, the first thing I thought of was 'We need to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation!!'.