Holidays are stressful. Have a cup of tea
I hope everyone of my customers are taking time for themselves this holiday. Let's face it; they can be stressful for the simple reason that they are "supposed" to be happy. It's a little more complicated than that. So for me, I breath, I meditate, I make a cup of tea.
I hope you have some on hand so you don't even have to worry about purchasing some. But in case you don't, I have special pricing on some of my teas here. And don't worry that you have to do it now...while supplies last, I'll keep the sale going through for a week or so.
Thank you for all your support and for your love of tea. Peace.
Roasted Green Tea from Shizuoka Japan
Houjicha is a popular Japanese green tea. The dark color is due to the roasting process, which smooths out the bitterness and brings out beautiful aromatic, savory and smoky flavors.
Most houjicha is crafted from lower grade, autumn harvest leaves. However, this tea from the Kinezuka Family is crafted from Spring leaves, harvested in May. These young, tender leaves yield a stronger, more robust flavor and the tea lasts for many more infusions.
The roasting process is said to reduce the amount of caffeine to levels less than decaffeinated tea, but I’m not sure why that would be so I will reserve an opinion until I see some science behind the claim. That being said, the sweetness and lower caffeine content makes it popular for children and evening tea in Japan, so there might be something to it. It is also very easy to brew. The Japanese often drink it hot in the winter and cold in the summer.
This wonderful tea is from the small, completely organic Kinezuka farm in Shizuoka. Their natural growing practices are an anomaly in the midst of Japan’s typically heavy use of chemicals in their industrialized tea industry.
- Origin: Nakayama Village in Fujieda, Shizuoka, Japan
- Elevation: 350m (1150ft)
- Grower/Teamaster: Kinezuka Family
- Harvest Date: Spring 2015
- Roast Date: Autumn 2015
- Cultivar: Yabukita
- Cultivation: Natural (Organic, no cert.) Toshiaki Kinezuka started farming with all-natural methods back in 1976, so the farm has been grown with organic practices for 38 years.
- History/Pedigree: popular for children and evening tea in Japan; often served hot in the winter and cold in the summer
- warm, sweet flavors with savory undertones are reminiscent of salted caramel
Find it on the website here.
New functional Tea Ware
Just in time for holiday gifts for the tea lovers in your life or for your own tea enjoyment, I have added some beautiful functional tea ware to the store:
- Tea Press, 11.8oz - I love tea presses for easy, daily tea making. This smaller press supplements the 16oz tea press already on our website. This is the size I use the most for brewing for myself, as it is perfect to brew 4 to 8oz cups of tea through multiple infusions.
- Pour-Through Tea Maker, 17.7oz - Pour-through Tea Makers are an easy, simple way to make your tea. This tea steeper will allow you to brew your tea with little effort and no mess. Place your tea leaves in the top of the Tea Maker, let your tea steep, then simply place on top of your mug and push down. While pushing down, the tea will pour directly into your cup from the bottom of the Tea Maker! This Tea Maker may be the easiest, most convenient way to enjoy loose leaf tea in all it's aesthetic glory. The clear plastic allows you to see the tea open up as it brews, is perfect for multiple infusions, and is easily rinsed out with water.
- Glass Double-walled demitasse teacups, 90ml/3 fl.oz. - These hand-made shot-style glass teacups will make your tea stand out like never before! Not only does the double-walled design look great and add class to your tea, but it will keep the drink at its desired temperature for your enjoyment. These teacups are, without a doubt, unique and beautiful. The set includes 4 hand-made double-walled teacups.
Handcrafted Green Tea
Led by community leader Purna Mukhiya, Hariyali Cooperative is an independent grower seeking to make a name for Nepal on the international tea stage. Tea has been growing here for many decades, even before the establishment of the cooperative and its shared-use facilities.
As a result, many of the teamakers here are some of the most knowledgeable handcrafters in Nepal, having inherited the skills from their parents and grandparents. Sharad Subba, one of the most skilled crafters, is the son of one of the village's "Mothers of Tea", a group of women who have been making tea for decades. Hariyali's teamakers have learned to intuitively handle tea leaves, changing the crafting of various batches of tea to suit the personality of each tea field's harvest.
In the typical collaborative Nepalese spirit, some of the teamakers have gone on to share tea knowledge with many other cooperatives in Nepal.
The tea plants are grown at high altitude, with wonderfully fertile soil that seems alive with bugs, native plants, and wildflowers. The farmers of the cooperative grow with all-natural methods, using natural manures. The name "Hariyali" describes a beautiful, vivid green landscape.
Hariyali Cooperative is located near Mai Pokhari, a beautiful lake of great religious and natural significance. Purna Mukhiya's grandfather and grandmother were key to establishing the lake as a spiritual ground.
- Origin: Jasbirey Village - Ilam, Nepal
- Grower/Teamaster: Hariyali Cooperative/Sarad Subba
- Elevation: 1,600m (5,200ft)
- Harvest Date: October 2015 - Autumn Flush
- Cultivar: Camellia Sinensis Assamica
- Cultivation: Natural (Organic, but no certification)
- Plucking Standard: Buds and down to second leaf; after processing and steeping mostly unattached whole leaves
- History/Pedigree: Unusual teas are becoming common in Nepal, where tea makers, without much influence from other regions, have developed their own teas through trial and error. This Fall 2015 harvest is the first batch ever offered by Hariyali Cooperative. The tea has been in-development since Spring 2015, and was improved over time, thanks in part to feedback from the Tealet buyer network. Thank you for being a part of direct-trade tea!
- Moonshine has a soft, sweet-savory profile, somewhat similar to Chinese Bi Luo Chun. The liquor has a cream-of-corn character, with its smooth, slightly brothy texture and the mix of sweet, savory, and salty notes. The finish is clean, with a slight dryness.
Find it on the website here.
Get the last of this amazing Yame harvest: Gyokuro and SenchaI am down to less than a pound of both the Sencha and the Gyokuro from this amazing grower. And these teas from this great year still taste amazing. Here are some more facts about this grower:
- Gyokuro champions - The family specializes in gyokuro, and has won multiple national awards. Akio Kurihara, the younger son, also regularly competes in handmade tea championships.
- Yame, Japan - The family lives in Yame, an area ideal for tea. It is the tea growing region with the highest elevation in Japan. Because of the extremes of heat and cold, the plants produce compounds to protect themselves. As a result, Yame teas are more fragrant and flavorful.
- The Kurihara Family are third generation tea farmers - Their grandfather started the farm in their home village after World War 2, in the 1940s. Older brother Yuji helps maintain the farm and admin work, while younger brother Akio crafts the teas.
- Award-winning lot - the 2014 Yame Gyokuro Premium was the Japanese Tea Gold Medal Champion, as evaluated by a panel of expert tasters during NATC 2014 in Niagara Falls. The judges said that this tea blew all other entries out of the water - it was a clear and decisive favorite by miles.
Thanks for your patience and cooperation in allowing me to be of service at Not Back to School Camp!
I'm back in civilization, on the grid, and energized from staffing another amazing session at Not Back to School Camp in Myrtle Creek Oregon. Thanks to everyone that took advantage of the sale incentive to order before I left so I could take care of your tea needs before I left. And all order backlog from my absence was taken care of within a day of my return. Again, being of service to my community is so important to me and I appreciate the support you all give me to sustain Leaves of Cha in a way that allows me to realize my intention there.
It was another great session that also yielded some good tea-related pictures for my social media feeds. Hopefully you saw them. If not, I've included a couple of them here. One of the highlights of camp for me is the workshops I get to run. My tea workshops are always overfilled with appreciative and inquisitive teenagers who are generally interested in learning about tea and how to drink it in a socially conscious way. I love that I'm helping to spread tea culture to a new generation of tea lovers.
Look for some new tea announcements and news soon!
As mentioned in the previous post, I am off being of service as a staffer at the Not Back to School Camp Session 2. If you'd like to learn more about this wonderful camp targeted at un- and home-schooled teenagers (or those curios about alternative education models), check out the link here.
Thanks to all of you that took advantage of the sale to get your orders in before I left. I'm mostly off-grid while at camp. That means order fulfillment will be slower during the next couple of weeks but all orders will be on their way by September 9th at the latest, at which time I am back full-time. Thank you for your understanding and patience, for drinking my tea, and for allowing me to be of service.
P.S. The above picture was taken at Camp Myrtlewood last year. Look for more pictures of tea and camp here and on my other social media feeds.
12% Not Back to School Sale!
Your reward for me being of service: Discount Code NBTSC16
I believe in being of service. My dream service goal is to donate at least 10% of my time to things I believe in. That was not possible when I worked the corporate 2-, maybe 3-weeks of vacation a year gig. 10% is 5 weeks of service a year, and it would also be nice to vacation and take time with family and friends. It takes some juggling with having my own businesses. But I get to trade off that service goal against my financial goals in ways that I couldn't when I worked for someone.
So I'm off to staff a session Not Back to School Camp for two-and-a-half weeks starting August 20th. This is one of several annual volunteer gigs I have, so expect to see more "service" sales in the future. And since I'm essentially a one-man business and I'm off the grid most of the time, that means orders placed during that time will most probably have up to a two week shipping delay. I will strive to still get them out but you can expect some delays. They will all go out within a couple days of me returning on September 9th.
However, I want to take care of your tea needs so you don't run out while I'm off adventuring. To encourage you to put in your orders before I go, I'm offering 12% off orders placed between August 1st and 14th, all of which will ship as normal before I leave.
New White Tea: Zomba Pearls!
In the nearly 100 years that Satemwa has been cultivating tea plants, they have made it a priority to improve the standard of living for their employees and their families. From their unique terroir, Satemwa is able to produce some unique orthodox white, green, oolong, black and dark teas. Experimenting with different local cultivars and playing around with some traditional and new processing techniques, with trial and error and loads of tasting, they have produced great and unusual teas. The special cultivars, the unique climate and the specialized processing techniques make these teas exceptional.
Zomba Pearls is an example of what a white tea can become in the hands of skilled and passionate tea makers. The hand shaped pearls (or crickets!) are beautiful before, during, and after infusion. As the rolled tea opens up, it reveals the beautiful leaves used to create this tea. I am pleased that we are seeing teas from other places in the world made with the same care and love that we see in China’s specialty teas.
- Origin: Satemwa Tea Estate, Thyolo Mountain, Shire Highlands - Thyolo District, Malawi
- Grower/Teamaster: Alexander Catchart Kay
- Elevation: 1,000m (3,280ft)
- Harvest Date: Rainy Season (Spring) 2014
- Cultivar: Zomba
- Cultivation: Conventional - Herbicides only, no pesticides. Satewa are also Fair Trade Certified, UTZ+ and Rain Forest Alliance Certified.
- Plucking Standard: Hand plucked by skilled tea workers
- Processing Notes: Picked and then hand rolled by skilled tea workers.
- Nickname: Cricket Tea
- History/Pedigree: Established in 1923, Satemwa’s own third generation tea maker, Alexander Kay has been crafting and cultivating their teas with love and passion for his artisanal tea.
- The dry leaf smells rich and tart. The liquor is rich and buttery smooth, with notes of freshly steamed vegetables, roasted squash/pumpkin, and a tangy lemon tail note.
Single Origin Matcha!
This unique single-origin matcha is produced by Yoshiaki Hattori on his small tea garden, where he grows all seven cultivars he uses for his matcha blend. Matcha production is very labor, time, and equipment-intensive and is typically done in large-scale production facilities that procure leaf material, or tencha, from multiple sources. These sources are usually growing their leaves with conventional agri-business techniques and inputs.
Hattori-san’s matcha’s single-origin allows him to closely control the quality, taste, and blend to achieve the desired flavor profile. He combines old time-honored techniques with modern efficiency and ingenuity. Part of the traditional shading for the tea plants comes from solar panels installed to help power his tea factory. He uses modern steaming techniques to prepare the tencha and modern refrigeration to age the leaves. Then employs traditional granite millstones to grind the leaves but powers them with the solar panels instead of elbow grease. This grinding method is slow (40-50g per hour per grinder) but produces a very fine (~5 micron) consistent particle size that results in a smoother, creamier cup of matcha.
I had the honor of meeting Hattori-san and his business partner Kunikazu Mochitani at the 2016 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. They were grinding their tencha by hand on the show floor, allowing the rare opportunity to taste fresh ground matcha served in the traditional ceremony by Hattori-san himself. Even better, I was lucky enough to sit with them at a Tea Pairing dinner at the Tealet-sponsored Nui Gu restaurant. Delightful to hear first hand the care and love that goes into the production of this unique single-origin matcha.
This is truly a magical matcha. Hattori grinds to order so I procure small amounts at a time to keep it fresh. If you have the misfortune of seeing an “out of stock” notice when ordering, know that I probably already have more on the way. But feel free to send me a note that your wanting to order.
- Origin: Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
- Grower/Teamaster: Yoshiaki Hattori & Kunikazu Mochitani
- Elevation: 100m
- Harvest Date: Spring 2015
- Grind Date: March 2016
- Cultivar: Okumidori base with blend of Sayamakaori, Yabukita, Meiryoku, Kanayamidori, Saemidori, and Gokou.
- Cultivation: All natural (no certification yet but working on it)
- Processing Notes: Unique small batch process; all cultivars grown in Hattori-san’s tea garden; processed Tencha held at 41˚F for at least 4 months; traditional stone-mill ground
- History/Pedigree: Rare single-origin blend; all cultivars grown by Hattori-san
It is Iced Tea Season!
Well, to be honest, it's always iced tea season in my house. Just like it is always a good time for hot tea. But as the weather turns hot, I definitely drink more iced tea. If feel like I can savor it longer over a good view or a good book. Although I've been know to drink almost any of my teas iced, I definitely tend towards the blacks first and then the greens. I always have a carafe of it for my big dinners as an alternative to alcohol and for those who prefer it to the hot tea I'm almost always brewing gong fu at the table. And one of my best friends always knows there will be green tea iced for her.
My two favorite black teas to ice are the Kanoka Orthodox Assam and the Hong Mao Feng. I've had really positive feedback for both of them when I have them out at tea events. I exclusively cold brew now, as it is simple and almost impossible to mess up. Depending on how much I need, I either use a tea press or an Iced Tea Jug. Since I don't tend to use ice and just drink it cool from the refrigerator, I use the same dosing as I would for hot tea. For me, that is 0.5g tea per fluid oz of water. If you are going to ice it, you can make it a little stronger to hold up longer to the melting ice. Then I just fill with cold water and refrigerate 6 to 24 hours.
I've found this method to be delicious and foolproof. Just brew the night before for your tea needs the next day! Enjoy!
New Green Tea made from a purple tea cultivar!
I’ve been to Kenya twice on photo safari but never saw any tea plantations. In honor of the beauty of Kenya, its magnificent (and fragile) wildlife, and the amazing people I met there, I wanted a Swahili name for this tea. Uchawi Zambarau means Magic Purple. The magic comes from the rarity of finding purple cultivars outside of the Yunnan area in China. I love the unique flavors and characteristics of purple tea cultivars but primarily find them processed to black or pu-erh tea. This is only the second purple leaf cultivar I’ve found processed to a green tea and the first outside of Yunnan.
The purple characteristic in the leaf and sometimes in the liquor is a result of the plant producing anthocyanin flavonoids, as a natural reaction to the high UV light at higher altitudes or due to genetic mutation. Anthocyanins are the color pigments that are found in red-purple plants like grapes (wine) and blueberries. These anthocyanins are considered super-antioxidants. So as you might expect, there are studies out there that claim that purple tea leaves contain a higher antioxidant count than other teas but I’ll reserve judgment on that until more research is done. However, there is no denying that tea is good for you, so focus on the beautiful taste of this tea knowing that your health will be the better for it. Oh, and for a bit more magic, add a bit squeeze of lemon (or similar acidic food) to turn the tea liquor bright pink/purple!
- Origin: Nandi Hills, Nandi County, Kenya Africa
- Grower/Teamaster: Jacob & Boaz Katah
- Elevation: 6,700ft
- Harvest Date: Spring 2016
- Cultivar: TRFK 306, a clone derived from a natural genetic mutation to camellia sinensis assamica
- Cultivation: NPK fertilizer twice yearly, no pesticides
- Plucking Standard: Hand-plucked, 2 leaves & a bud
- Processing Notes: Steamed-fired green tea processing
- Nickname: Magic Purple Tea, Kenyan Purple Leaf Tea
- History/Pedigree: Cross-bred and grafted from different cuttings of purple tea bushes over 25 years, TRFK306 was released to farmers in 2011
World Tea Expo in Las Vegas
World Tea Expo is an annual tea industry trade show that I have attended primarily for the educational opportunity that the associated seminars, workshops, and tastings provide. On the tradeshow floor, there are lots of suppliers of tea, teaware, and other tea-related equipment and services. Since tea is a commodity, much of the tea suppliers and tea there is commodity tea; something I’m definitely not interested in for Leaves of Cha. There are a few high-end specialty tea suppliers there, and sometimes the commodity tea vendors will have a little bit of specialty tea. But I don’t really expect to find much for my tea chest. When I do, it’s a nice surprise.
The highlights of the show for me were:
- Tasting a Tea of the United States (TOTUS) award winning tea from the U.S.! The Great Mississippi Tea Company won first place for non-commercial black tea. I got to taste the last of it at the Tealet After-Party with the owner and producer of the tea.
- Will There be Tea in 2050? This talk by tea scientist Nigel Melican was a sobering reminder of the pressure that populations and shifting demographics and climate patterns will put on arable land. The short answer is “yes, there will be tea.” But it will have to change with the times and compete with more important foodstuffs for use of land, which will affect availability and of course cost.
- I attended a wonderful Tea & Cheese Pairing Workshop with chef Robert Wemischner. Yes, tea pairs with cheese in the same way as wine and other foods can. His pairing highlights were Kukicha green with Capriole Sofia cheese, Ti Quan Yin oolong with Cypress Grove Midnight Moon cheese, and a Ceylon Kenilworth black with Jasper Hill Cellars Alpha Tolman cheese. You can find his great food and tea articles on the T Ching blog.
- Tasting and sourcing the Purple Tea mentioned above was a nice surprise
- A tea pairing dinner at Nie Gu restaurant hosted by Tealet, where I got to sit with the producer of the matcha that I will be featuring on Leaves of Cha. This is a rare small-farm, small-batch matcha produced entirely on one farm. Tasting fresh ground matcha from a hand grinder was certainly a treat. Look for matcha soon in the Tea Chest on the Leaves of Cha website.
Tribute Tea for Prince!
This purple tea is from one of the three unique purple cultivars. Called variously “Purple Tea”, “Purple Bud”, or “Zi Cha”, it is a naturally occurring mutation of Camellia Sinensis Assamica. It grows all over the Yunnan Province but accounts for less than 1% of the cultivated Assamica produced there. The purple (or russet in my translation of Lü Yu) color is a result of the tea plants producing anthocyanin to combat the humid summers and high levels of ultraviolet light at the higher elevations.
This Zi Cha is a delicious tea and is another example of the wide variety of black teas from Yunnan. I simple can’t get enough of purple tea.
Named in honor of Prince, who tragically passed away at 57. The rarity of this cultivar reflects the rarity of musicians like him. And, of course, there is the whole purple thing. Have a sip and reflect on the artistry of the tea and the musician. Better yet, listen to some Purple Rain or 1999 or whatever Prince musical incarnation suits your fancy while sipping this tea.
So far 2016 has not been kind to my favorite musicians, having lost Bowie earlier in the year (hence the Golden Years Yunnan Black Tea I carry).
- Origin: Mangjing Village, Jing Mai Mtn., Lancang county, Simao, Yunnan
- Grower/Teamaster: Mangjing Village Coop
- Elevation: 1600-1700 meters
- Harvest Date: Autumn 2015
- Cultivar: Purple Varietal of Camellia Yunnan pu-erh tea, aka Zi Cha
- Plucking Standard: 1 leaf 1 bud
- Processing Notes: Fresh purple leaves processed into a flat needle style
- Nickname: Purple Needle, Zi Cha. The “Purple Rain” nickname is a tribute to Prince, who crossed over on 4/21/2016.
- History/Pedigree: Lü Yu, in his “Classic of Tea” says “Tea that grows wild is superior; garden tea takes second place. Whether grown on sunny slopes or in shady groves, the best leaves are russet.”
New Teas coming soon!
The Leaves of Cha Tea Chest is expanding
As I restock the teas already in the LoC Tea Chest, I am constantly sampling new teas and looking for others that fit into my philosophy of carefully curated teas made with love and care by people. Look for new announcements coming soon, including exciting new black, green (matcha, yes!!!), and white teas.
I've added another local ceramicist to the Leaves of Cha website. Kim Hau is a Los Angeles based artist whose teaware are beautiful expressions of the classic eastern aesthetic. I'll have more of her work in the future as we collaborate on future designs. In the meantime check out her Sheep Mountain teacups (pictured above) here and the blue teacups (pictured below) here.
Kim attended Metropolitan State College of Denver where she received her BFA in communications design in 2002. There was where she discovered her love for making functional ware while taking ceramics as one of her craft course requirements. She loved everything about it, the studio life, the chemistry of glazes, and the whole process of forming mud into a finished pot for use in your day to day life. After graduating, she enrolled in many ceramic classes/studios wherever she lived to continue practicing and playing with clay while working as a graphic designer, English instructor in Japan, and substitute teacher. She learned from great potters in Colorado, California, and Japan. As her passion for making pots kept growing stronger and stronger over the years, she finally decided to make the leap to pursue pottery full time in 2013 when she moved to Los Angeles, CA. Her constant curiosity and inquisitive nature helps drive her to passionately improve her skill and design in clay.
The Tea Monger believes in community service!
National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic
For the fifth year straight, I'll be volunteering at the Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Colorado. The Clinic is from 3/29/16-4/10/16. NDV brings in a few hundred veterans and about a hundred adaptive ski instructor like myself take them up on the mountain to ski, snowboard, and ski-bike.
It makes me immensely proud to serve my country's veterans in this way and give back a little bit for their service. This is part of my goal of providing 10% of my time to community service, or at least 5 weeks a year.
There may be a slight delay in shipments while I'm away but I'm sure you will understand that it is for a good cause.