April 16, 2015

Favorite Tea Ware - Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness

As a tea drinker, and I am sure this is true for you, I adore teaware, from bombillas to matcha whisks. Everyone has their favorites. This series showcases the favorite teaware of folks in the tea blogging community. Today's faves are from Sara Shacket of Tea Happiness.

My Zojirushi tea tumbler is an essential part of my tea routine. I will often brew a pot of tea first thing in the morning, and take the remains with me for my subway commute. It makes the train ride so much better. I barely notice the crush of people or loud noises around me when I have good tea to sip. I use the tumbler on the weekends as well, when we need to leave the house early. The Littest Tea Critic also likes to steal sips from it, as you can see from her little hand in the picture!

Another teaware essential I cannot live without is my little beehouse teapot. It's the perfect size for a mug and a half of tea in the office. I use it multiple times during my workday to brew strong black teas to get me through long meetings. It is a familiar sight around my office.

My travel gaiwan and tea tray are also essential for office tea enjoyment. I use this daily for more delicate and special teas. It gives me a reason to slow down and have a mini tea meditation in the middle of a hectic work day.

I have a weakness for collecting things, and I love vintage tea cups. Drinking tea from a dainty cup makes every sip special. I also like the idea of a more formal tea time. I've been collecting vintage cups for many years, and art deco style cups are my favorite. They also make lovely display pieces.

My final favorite isn't actually something I use. It's an old beat up sugar canister my grandparents had on their table during my childhood. They drank tea with sugar cubes nestled between back teeth for a sweet sip every time. I would steal sugar cubes when no one was looking for a crunchy, sweet secret. I am flooded with happy memories of spending time with my grandparents every time I look at it.

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Two of my favorite things about Sara's blog are the industry interviews and the Littlest Tea Critic tastings.

I appreciate your sharing of your favorite teaware and their stories with us, Sara! All photos and stories courtesy of Sara Shacket.

April 09, 2015

Matcha Meditation Workshop at the Shinnyo Center

What a restorative and seemingly effortless hour was the Matcha Meditation Workshop at the Shinnyo Center! Thank you to Nicholas Ramsey for the invitation for me and a guest.

The workshop started with a Japanese matcha tea ceremony. The tea ceremony was followed by a guided meditation with Qalvy Grainzvolt. Participants were served a traditional Japanese sweet and matcha during the meditation.

The tea ceremony was performed by three women from the Urasenke Tea Ceremony Society. There were so many fascinating aspects of the tea ceremony! The Urasenke Tea Ceremony Society offers tea ceremony demonstration and classes. Wikipedia provides an overview of the sequence of events in a Japanese tea ceremony. There is a nice 30 minute video of a urasenke style tea ceremony on Youtube here.

P.S. My guest was Jee. Also at the meditation were Nicole and Jo J. Read Nicole's review of her experience of the meditation.

April 07, 2015

Tea Review: Joseph Wesley Black Tea Bai Lin Congfu

Finally I purchased a Joseph Wesley Black Tea. It's Tea No. 06, the Bai Lin Congfu. The company was serving this tea at the 2015 Coffee &Tea Festival. I liked it immediately. Another good thing -- I met Joe Uhl, and he's as gracious as his writing voice.

If you don't already know, Joseph Wesley Black Tea only sells black tea. View the complete tea collection. Each tea is single origin, grown on an estate, and is directly sourced. Read about this approach to tea procurement. The Bai Lin Congfu is a Chinese black tea made from the Da-Bai tea cultivar.

The leaves are beautiful, aren't they? Long twists of gold and black. On the nose, the dried leaves are dark chocolate and bread dough.

The smell of the liquor as it steeps is like warm butter and sugar in a pastry. When I pour the liquid into my drinking cup, the wet leaves in the tasting cup smell like a really good milk chocolate malt. Whenever I drink this tea I wonder what it would taste like as/in a chocolate bar. There's underlying dried fruit cake flavors. When my Aunt Elizabeth first tried this tea she described it as tasting of being on a cloud. The tea coats your whole mouth lingering in the cheeks especially on the second steep.

I prepare this tea in my tasting cup set using 1-2 teaspoons and an estimated water temperature of 185-190 degrees F. My first steep is usually 2-2.5 minutes as recommended. I haven't gone beyond three steepings.

I will definitely save this tea tin. I really like the design - the diamond graphic on the front and the black and white photo of the drummer, and steeping/tasting notes on the back. (Sara asked about the company's aesthetic in her interview with Joe.)

Have you tried any of the Joseph Wesley Black Teas? I'd like to hear about your experience.

P.S. Bai Lin Congfu pairs really well with creamy, funky cheeses. I recently drank the tea with Ardrahan and Quadrello di Bufala cheeses.

April 06, 2015

Palais des Thés Tea Pairings

The Palais des Thés tea pairing event ends tomorrow, April 7. As I noted on Instagram, I've tried two tea and pastry pairings but not any of the tea and cheese pairings. I remember my first tea and cheese pairing -- it was hosted at the now closed In Pursuit of Tea pop-up four years ago.

The pairings on offer when I visited the SoHo Palais des Thés boutique were (1) Montagne Bleue Black Tea + a cannele and (2) Pure Indulgence Pear Green Tea + a DKA and. The pastries were courtesy of the Dominique Ansel Bakery on Spring Street.

My favorite pairing was the pear tea and DKA. The butter and caramel flavors of the croissant-like pastry worked well with the sweet pear flavor.

Have you ever tried tea pairings? Let me know in the comments.

P.S. A bit of the behind-the-scenes of the pairing composition. For  the cannele pairing, the Palais team tried four to five teas before deciding on the Montagne Bleue Black. The Pure Indulgence Pear Green Tea was recommended to pair with the DKA so only two teas were tried before an unanimous decision was made in favor of the pear-green tea blend.

April 03, 2015

Coffee & Tea Festival 2015

This year's Coffee & Tea Festival was held at the Brooklyn Expo in Greenpoint. My subway trip to the festival was a comedy of errors but my entrance couldn't have been easier thanks to a press pass from Starfish Junction. I was unprepared for the crowd. Actually that's not accurate. I expected a lot of people but I did not expect the tightness of the space. I was initially overwhelmed by the sheer press of people but then realized that this was a great boon for the vendors showcasing their teas and coffees and related products. I got to practice patience - waiting my turn to taste teas and to speak with company founders. I visited all the tea booths on my list -- Silver Needle, Damn Fine, Joseph Wesley - with the exception of Numi. Sorry! I also sampled matcha at teapigs. I came across two new-to-me companies. I tasted (and purchased) an Icho sencha from Cha Do Raku and talked briefly with one of the founders of the Brooklyn Tea Company.

This was my first time at the Coffee & Tea Festival. I have a better sense of what to expect next year, especially if the festival is held at the Expo. There were so many booths I did not visit so looking forward to next year. Also hoping the companies I did visit this year will return in 2016.

I bought canisters of tea from Damn Fine Tea (Red Tailed Hawk) and Joseph Wesley (Bai Lin Congfu). So glad I got to meet Joe Uhl! I will review both black tea purchases in the near future so watch this space.

Thanks again to Starfish Junction for the press pass.