Thursday, February 26, 2009

Step 5: Getting others to Support your Tea-habits

Unlike traditional 12 step programs that have the person try to reduce whatever sort of addiction they have, the Tea-Step system is designed to help the tea-addict gain a larger perspective of the tea world. In doing so they can truly see how far they still need to go before being called 'obsessed' :3

A good way to learn about new kinds of teas is to take the free samples that companies offer online. Usually you don't even have to enter in a credit card number, just sign up for their mailings, they send you some free samples, and if you like them you can order some more from them.

One company that is doing this is Tropical Tea Co. They are sending out samples of their tea every 2 weeks to the people that sign up. While i have not shopped with them before, i am not one to pass up free tea.

Another place that is doing this is Teasta. You do not need to put down any Credit card info, this is a one time deal, and you get to pick 2 teas to try.

Yogi Tea
also gives out a few free samples to new customers. It might take a bit longer, and it looks like it is bagged, but i'm goign to give it a shot :3 gotta try everything at least once!

There's also Zhong Guo Cha who is giving out one free sample, you get to choose from 12 choices. There hasn't been much about this place, so i dunno if they are actually still up and running or not, but i guess i shall find out :3

I'm still down with the strep, but have hacked up/blown out a large amount of what has been clogging my throat and nose the past few days. I hope to be back up to snuff after this weekend :3

In the meantime however why don't you check out a hilarious music video

Elemental - Cup Of Brown Joy from Moog on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sick Leave

So you might have been wondering about the lack of posts recently. I've been down with the Strep-Throat for the past few days. Since this interferes with my ability to taste anything i've decided not to do any tastings this week :<

I have yet to get any sort of response to my 'tea carnage' letters that i emailed to the company, customs, and DHL. but it's fine, since at least it made me feel better :3

There was a comment where some person said that they liked my keyboard i believe... :D i like it too! although it needs to be re-painted. I painted it almost 2 years ago i believe. I used the type of craft paint used on model cars and the like. First i sanded the keys lightly, then i applied 2 coats of paint before lettering and sealing it. bur i failed to get the best sealant and the keys that i used the most, letters, space, and ctrl. are very worn off. i also painted my mouse to match my keyboard :D

so instead of tea today you get to see my lovely keyboard in it's former glory :3 i took each key off and set it ona piece of paper labeled with it's original location so i wouldn't get the keys mixed up. So the Q key is still Q etc :3

I'd also like to celebrate that my blog has now had visitors from 20 other countries (not including the US) yay~!!

We've also had visitors from 25 of the 50 states!

I've been tracking these things on Google Analytics since late last month, but still find it interesting to see where people come from who view my site and how they get here! For example people searched for the history of the chinese new year and found out about some tea as well!

While this program is probably more detailed than i will ever use, i do find it useful for tracking my pageviews and such :3 it's also interesting to see where all ya'll are from!

anyways back to bed with me, and hopefully i'll get better soon so i can review some tea for ya'll :3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lament of the Leaves

I always look forward to packages arriving. I almost always get them with tracking so i can watch over them from my computer, urging them to arrive faster and somehow thinking that i have so effect on them.

I had seen that TeaCuppa had a promotion with $5 off an order if placed in Jan. so i placed an order with them, and excitedly awaited the arrival of some new Oolongs. After a rather intense myth exam i took a nap, and woke up to find that my tea had been delivered! there was much rejoicing. I skipped down to the mail room, attracting many looks of amusement. I received the package and hopped back to my to my room, and using my scissors carefully cut the large bubble envelope. peeking in i saw the first thing that set my alarm bells ringing.

there was tea on the inside envelope. i flipped the package over, "inspected by customs" tape. i took out the second envelope, finding it slashed open, revealing the padded envelope inside. there was loose tea falling out of the package. i was not a happy camper. i took out the third padded envelope to find my tea inside of this one. Two of my 50g packages had been slashed open, presumably when they opened it to make sure it wasn't some sort of drug delivery apparently. while i do not have a scale, over 2 tablespoons of rolled oolong was lost in this brutal attack upon my post. I was, and still am rather distraught over this.

While i will be writing letters to teacuppa, customs, and DHL to alert them to this destruction and loss of property that they have had a part in i felt the need to also express my grief over the loss of good oolong.

The pictures that follow might not be appropriate for tea lovers. The grusome scene that they hold are almost too much.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Step 4: Pursuit of Tea

For the past couple weeks I have been wanting to try Matcha on it's own. Perhaps it's been longer than that though, since it is one of the main things that i think of when i think about Japan. Regardless of the time frame however, i've been searching for Matcha Starter Kit. Why do you need a kit, you might ponder. Matcha is different from other loose leaf teas.

Matcha is actually a very finely ground powdered leaf. To prepare it you whisk the powdered tea with water. So you need a few specialty items in order to properly enjoy matcha.

1.- You must have the Tea.
2.- A chasen, or bamboo whisk
3.- A bowl, preferably a Chawan, or Tea-Bowl
4.- A Tea Scoop or Chasaku

Many places offer such packages, and so that others may avoid the amount of searching that i went through i shall recount the places as well as the items that they offer and their price before shipping.

Matcha Source---Basic Kit $54---With bowl $75
30g of Organic Matcha, 100 prong whisk, a chasaku, and a tea sifter-- if you choose to get a bowl you have a choice of two
----Seems a bit expensive and i'm not really into organic...

In Pursuit of Tea---Basic Kit $56--Deluxe Kit $95
20g of Thin Grade Matcha, a small whisk, a ceramic bowl--The deluxe kit includes a nicer bowl, better whisk, a whisk stand (to protect the tines) and a Chasaku.
----Still expensive

The Tea Smith
---Basic Kit $54.95
"premium grade" Matcha, 'Authentic' whisk, 'handmade' bowl and 'delicate' chasaku.
----Not enough detail in the description to make me want to even consider this as an option.

---Basic Kit $30
100 prong whisk, choice between 4 different bowls, and choice between two different chasaku. There is also a travel kit for the same price that gives you a transportable whisk and chasaku as well as a choice between two travel bowls. all of it comes in a nice little bag.
----Getting to choose my own tea would be nice.

---Basic Kit $41.50~abt (3,800 Yen)
20g of their matcha, Whisk, Chasaku, bowl, and teacloth.
----They are known for their green tea, but shipping would increase the price.

---Build a Kit $53.84-$175--You choose the items that you want and get 10% off
30g of tea (5 to choose from), whisk (2 to choose from), a Chasaku, a tea-bowl (8 to choose from), you can also choose an accesory (such as a whisk stand) and extra matcha and get 10% off on those items as well.
----I like being able to choose the bowl and tea, they are also known for their green tea, but still pricey

Hibiki-an--- Basic Kit $105-- Soheki Kit $174
40g of their superior grade matcha, whisk, chasaku, their most basic bowl, a whisk stand. The Soheki kit includes a nicer bowl, a higer grade matcha, and a matcha sifter
----expensive like whoa. But nice kit. Known for their green teas.

Koyama-en---Eco-set $63 (5,775 Yen)
20g of Yugen Matcha, Bowl, whisk, chasaku, towel.
----Pricey, and harder to order...

Maiko--- Matcha for Two $105 (9,450 Yen)
40g of Matcha, 2 bowls, whisk, chasaku.
----Known for their wide selection of green teas, but i don't need two bowls

Den's Tea---$50-$73
The Travel kit is the cheapest, it comes with small whisk and collapsible Chasaku, as well as a crystalline clear bowl and 20 g of matcha. all of it in a travel bag. the other sets include the same items only with different bowls, a full sized whisk, and full sized chasaku.
----I've ordered with them before, they're known for green teas, and shipping would be free.

From looking at these places i've narrowed the choices down to Yuuki-cha, Den's tea, Ippodo, and O-cha. I'm still weighing the options but i'll let ya'll know what i end up with :3

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Cup 8-- Houjicha Gold (Roasted Bancha)

There is a certain type of cereal of which i am fond of. It's Puffed Brown Rice. While many people do not like it because it's rather bland, i find it crunchy a good snack food. Houjicha Gold reminds me of Puffed Brown Rice.

The leaves have a slightly sweet, but definite rice smell. The leaves themselves are chopped pieces of leaf with stem. They produce a dark gold or amber liquor that is smooth and has a mild rice and nutty taste. It reminds me of sitting in the woods, with the sun filtering down thru the leaves and a good book in my lap. Very comforting.

Perhaps it's how Houjicha is made. Houjicha is made by roasting Bancha over high heat. Bancha, also known as 'common tea', is made from the thick bottom part of the tea leaf of the second flush, the leaves come from the same tea trees that are used to produce Sencha. Because it is made of wide, second flush leaves, Bancha is considered lower quality and as such, is less expensive.

'Second Flush' simply means that it was in the second season for picking. The first flush, or first picking season, typically happens in March. The second season usually begins in May or June. Usually for higher grade teas only the bud and the two leaves below the bud are picked. However for Bancha the older leaves are picked.

Houjicha is reportedly low in caffeine since it is made of green tea, and then roasted. This is in addidtion to the other reported helath benefits of tea, such as reducing cavities, enhancing memory, preventing sickness of many kinds etc. It has a taste that would go well with any type of food. In Japan it is commonly drunk after dinner and is popular among the elderly and children. I will confess that it's easily becoming one of my favorites.

Kind-Green Tea
Brew Time-Less than a minute
Water Temp-170* or there abouts
Color- Dark gold or amber
Fragrance- roasty toasty rice and nuts
Taste-a bit sweet and toasty
Best during-meals and after dinner (before bed?)
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $2.00
Place bought- Den's Tea
Overall- will buy more as soon as it's in stock :3

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cup 7-- Genmaicha Extra Green

Forgive the blurry picture i can't seem to get the color of this right and have a stable image :/

but in any case, strap in to your seat ladies and gents because today we're going into the realm of Japanese Greens.

Japan is known for their green tea. In Japanese language the word for tea "cha" or "o-cha" refers to green tea, not to black. If you want a different kind of tea other than green you have to specify which kind, or else you'll get green tea. For centuries their samurai have created and performed the art of the tea ceremony, "chado". It developed alongside Noh theater and the Bunraku (puppet plays).

The art of the tea ceremony was to help Samurai appreciate the beauty in simple and imperfect things as well as to train their minds and bodies into a particular pattern of activities. While today the tea ceremony is mostly thought of as an art for females, it originated as a male-dominated activity. The Samurai learned about tea from Buddhist monks who used the powdered matcha in their religious ceremonies. As the Samurai started to study Buddhism they also learned about tea and made it into a warrior's art.

Matcha is powdered green tea. The leaves are very finely ground and then mixed with water and whisked to a frothy neon-green beverage. But what does matcha have to do with this Genmaicha?

Genmaicha is green tea with brown roasted rice. Many kinds of genmaicha have matcha added to it to improve it's taste and color. This Genmaicha Extra Green has matcha added to make it have a very bright color and a stronger flavor.

Genmaicha was originally a drink for the poor, since the rice that was mixed with the tea made it cheaper. However, now a days it is drunk by all.

This tea has the smell of freshly made rice when brewed. The taste too is influenced by the rice and is kind of starchy. While this tea is very green in color it also tastes pretty green. It's sweet but yet at the same time it tastes like i've been eating vegetables and nuts.

While this tea really only brings the bang of the matcha in taste and color on the first brew, the following few brews still have a good genmaicha flavor and smell. makes me want to eat some toast, yum.

This Tea is one of the ones that i got in my Den's Tea Sampler pack. The Sampler Pack, which can be found HERE, gives you four different kind of loose teas to try, as well as two of their bagged teas. It also comes with a wide variety of literature on green teas and the health benefits of green tea. For 3 bucks it's not a bad deal, and it gets refunded on your next order over $15. Although i personally didn't much care for 2/4 loose teas (too vegetal) on the first time around, it was a really good way to try several varieties and to gain a greater understanding of the world of green teas.

Don't be too hasty to go right now and order up a lot of preme-o japanese greens though. The picking season for greens will be here soon ( March and April usually) and you'll be able to snap up some fresh green deliciousness!

Kind-Green Tea
Brew Time-Less than a minute
Water Temp-170* or there abouts
Color- Neon green
Fragrance- nutty and ricey
Taste-slightly bitter yet sweet and starchy
Best during-early afternoon
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $2.12
Place bought- Den's Tea
Overall- yum~

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Step3: Turning yourself over to the Tea

The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second cup breaks my loneliness.
The third cup searches my barren entrail but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration - all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified.
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.
The seventh cup - ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.
Where is Elysium? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.
~Lu Tung, "Tea-Drinking"

As i take my first sips of tea this morning while watching the sun rise, i wonder about many things. While many of these have to do with school and other such things, I also wonder about how all these different kinds of teas can come from one plant.

The Camellia Sinensis is the plant responsible for every version of tea that we now drink. Well, there are the tisanes, the non-tea teas. Tisanes are Herbal teas and teas such as Rooibos. But every other tea, White to Black, are made from one, singular plant. Isn't that amazing? That the possibilities for one plant can be so numerous. It's quite a thing to think about.

When you also take into account that the different teas have such a range of taste and flavor. Their shapes and sizes are consistent, yet different and original. The Camellia Sinensis is grown in a wide variety of places, and each place produces teas that are the same but have their own unique qualities.

The bushes are grown in different shapes and areas, in different types of soils and by different plants as well. But also the way that us human's process the tea leaves adds a whole other element to the tea leaves and tea that is drunk around the world by billions of people everyday.

It brings to mind an idea that is used in Taoism (i believe, it's been awhile since i took my eastern religions class). Heaven, Earth, Human. While they attribute this saying to reincarnation and karma, i believe that it works well for tea too. The heaven element is the rain and sun that helps the plant to grow. If there is a drought then the tea too will be affected. The earth element is the earth in which the plant is grown. It lends it's nutrients and provides a place for the tea to live and perhaps thrive. The Human element is the processing of the tea, the refining of the raw material. All of these things work together to create a Superior Beverage of Choice.

A lot to think about when you sit down to enjoy a nice brew.

While i don't think that i'll be wafting away to
Elysium anytime soon, i do think that i shall have another cup of tea before turning again to my studies.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cup 6-- Precious White Peach White Tea

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. But today i have a White Tea for ya'll.

Precious White Peach White Tea from Teavana. This white tea has bits of dried white peach mixed in to add it an extra burst of sweet peach taste. Teavana presents this tea as a "An incredibly smooth blend of delicious peach pieces and downy white tea buds". We'll get back to this later.

The first thing that i noticed about this tea was the smell as i poured the hot water over the leaves. It was incredibly fruity, giving the dry leaves a sniff as well there was a slight peachy smell as well. The second thing that i noticed while serving the tea up was that this tea has a lot of particles in it. Most of them seem to be from the dried peach pieces and while not large enough to be gross or bothersome, it was an interesting sight to see. The fine white hairs that cover the leaf buds can also be seen floating about the glass, which is a good indicator that, yes, this is actual white tea.

Regardless of the originally fruity smell this tea does not seem to taste as fruity as it smelled. It is quite smooth, and there is a slightly fruit taste but i was expecting more from the smell of the leaves. and speaking of the leaves...

Those 'downy white buds' well, there are buds in the leaves, but poking thru the brewed leaves i see about a half and half mix of what looks like chopped leaf pieces/stems and clusters of a bud with two leaves. Not exceedingly upsetting, but i expected this to have more buds from the description that Teavana gave. With further reading up about different grades of white tea, this seems to be fourth grade, rather than first, which would explain the mix of leaves. When you look at any Silver Needle tea (@ Teavana $9.00/oz @ Adagio $4.00/sample) which is actually a real all bud, first grade, white tea, i can't help but be a bit disappointed by this tea.

It's not a bad tea, but it's not a tea that i would get very excited about.

The sun makes the tea that i brewed look rather dark, but the real color is a pale yellow or a yellowed beige.

White Tea is the lightest variation of teas. It is un-oxidized, unlike oolongs and black teas. White tea is picked when the buds are still covered in fine white hairs, which accounts for the name of the tea. While some people have made claims that white tea contains less caffeine than any other type of teas, that seems to be a rather bogus claim since it depends on many different factors. Other health benefits of tea have been claimed, such as it's higher levels of Catechin, a chemical that has been proven to reduce aging effects and carcinogenesis. However i highly doubt that white tea is the fountain of youth or the cure-all to cancers.

Kind-White Tea
Brew Time-5 minutes, give or take
Water Temp-180*
Color- pale yellow
Fragrance- fruity
Taste-slightly fruity, smooth
Best during-before bed or with a snack
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $7.50
Place bought- Teavana
Overall- unremarkable

Monday, February 2, 2009

Cup 5-- Leo

What's your sign?... Now more than a cheesy pick-up line, and more than an astrological sign, Leo is a blended tea available over at Adagio. Leo is a blend of Rooibos Orange, Vanilla Oolong, and Chamomile.

I believe that one user commented that drinking this was like sipping sunshine, or something to that effect. The Orange Rooibos makes this tea have a really nice citrus smell and taste, the vanilla oolong adds to the pleasant aroma and blends the flavors together while the chamomile does it's thing and calms the drinker down to a state of zen.

The color that i usually brew mine to is a glorious amber, comparable to the orange-red color that fire-opals take on. This tea smells a bit sweet, but has a slightly bitter taste of citrus before the vanilla smooths the taste over.

Each sip is relaxing, but it urges you in a way to have another drink. Then before you know it you've run out of tea and have to make more! While i haven't had Rooibos on it's own and don't know how it's own taste adds to this mix, i do know that i like Rooibos in this. (but we'll leave the lesson about Rooibos for another post :3)

The Astrological Sign Leo is the fifth sign in the zodiac. Ruled by the Sun and Fire, Leo is considered to be a masculine extrovert. People born between July 23- August 22 are Leo's, although now-a-days Leo does not come out in the sky until late summer.

Leo is supposed to be the Nemian Lion that Heracles (Hercules) Slew. The story goes that after the beast was slain, Zeus decided to throw the beast into the heavens to honor his son. Lions are also traditionally signs of the sun, and therefore have close ties to Apollo, Ra, Helios,Sunna, etc.

Typical characteristics attributed to Leo's are, Creative, Enthusiastic, Faithful, Loving, Broad-minded, expansive, dramatic, vain, impulsive, generous, warm-hearted, pompous, patronizing, bossy, interfering, Dogmatic, and intolerant.

Ideal Careers for Leo's are apparently,Politics/Governmental work, Business, Lawyer, Photographer, Entertainer, Music/Arts, and Director.

Leo's supposedly like, the spotlight, speculative ventures, luxurious living, drama, adornment, fashion, grandeur

Leo's supposedly dislike, doing things safely, small minded people, penny pinching, being compared to others, and loneliness.

Leo's are of course linked to, the colors red and orange, the sunflower and marigold, and to cats. Leo's apparently also like France, Italy, Peru, and Romania.

While I won't start to get into how I stack up to these parameters (i'll leave that up to the people that know me haha~) I will wave away the cabana boy as i relax outside in the sun, sipping my tea and continuing my illusions of grandeur, while in reality, it continues to snow outside and the wind whips past my window making it feel like a chilly 20*.

Kind-Blended Rooibos/Oolong/Herb
Brew Time-4 minutes, give or take
Water Temp-195*
Fragrance- Spicy citrus and sweet
Taste-slightly cirtus/bitter, smoothing with vanilla
Best during- mid-afternoon stretch
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $2.25 (although right now you can get a free sample if you spend over $25 i believe)
Place bought- Adagio
Overall- relaxing

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Celebration 2--Super Bowl!

Super Bowl 43! Arizona Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers! who will win?! But wait... what does the Super Bowl have to do with tea?

While asking others about their super bowl plans i stumbled upon a curious party beverage of choice. Arizona Iced Tea to help root for Arizona! While researching Arizona iced tea and the super bowl i also found out that some people are having Anti-Super Bowl Tea Parties and that other people with children are serving tea instead of alcohol.

Arizona Iced Tea started in Brooklyn, NY in 1992 with two guys who had originally been selling beer. They packaged their iced tea in the 24oz can, instead of glass bottles, or smaller cans. in 1994 they expanded their line to include iced tea with ginseng and packaged it in a eye catching blue bottle. in 1996 they expanded their line to include green teas, and then the next year they packaged tea into a sports bottle as an alternative to water or Gatorade.

in 2001 they stepped into the realm of plastic bottles, which were considered extremely difficult due to the fact that their products were bottled while still hot. Since then they've released many different new products, including flavored waters, sodas, instant tea mix, and energy drinks. They produce my favorite tea on the go, the Arnold Palmer, it's a half tea, half lemonade mix of deliciousness. in a 23.5oz can, it's a good drink to have while driving.

While they are now owned by Coca-Cola, and thus not the same small company that they once were, i do not think of this as a negative since i like coke products :)

in any case, Let us sit back, have a sip or two of tea and enjoy the Super Bowl!