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.
Attending a Slow Money event recently got me thinking about the Slow Food Movement and organization. I wondered about how tea fit into these two movements.
The Slow Food website answers the question of what Slow Food is as follows:
Slow Food is food that’s good for us, good for our environment and good for the people who grow, pick and prepare it. In other words, food that is good, clean and fair. In many ways, Slow Food is the opposite of fast food. Slow Food is fresh and healthy, free of pesticides and chemicals, and produced and accessed in a way that’s beneficial to all – from the farmer to the eater.
So is Tea a Slow Food? According to that definition it can be. And it’s not THAT slow unless you are enjoying one of the more formal and ornate tea ceremonies.
In my opinion, a lot of tea is NOT Slow Food for various reasons. Agribusiness and the world commodity markets have pushed a majority of tea production into the use of pesticides and chemicals. Large estates in less than ideal terroirs tend to need pesticides for pests and chemicals to keep up production. And the poor working conditions on many estates, especially larger ones, are well documented. The distribution chains, many set up during colonial times or in a monopolistic way, eat up a lot of the money people are willing to pay for tea, ensuring that the farmers get pennies on the dollar. Marketing, profit, and consumer demand have made “ready to drink” (RTD) tea a hot sector.
But there certainly are Slow Food teas out there that meet the definition above. It’s well documented through thousands of years of use that tea is healthy and good for us. It can be grown without detrimental effects to the environment, as can be seen from wild trees, gardens, and estates that have been in production for hundreds of years. And, when grown, picked, and prepared by small farmers and artisanal teamakers, it can be good for the people involved as well, assuming that a more equitable distribution model allows them to reap more of the value of what they produce. The less people between the farmer and the drinker, the more chance that the farmers can earn a living, eat, and send his kids to school while preserving their land for future generations. So it can fit the definition of a Slow Food.
Coming back to the “slow” in Slow Food, the beauty of Slow Tea is that it can be prepared in all its glory in seconds or minutes depending on how you brew. So that ready-to-drink beverage isn’t saving you all that much time for the difference in quality (Unlike my Bolognese sauce, for instance, which takes two days to make vs. opening and heating up a jar of prepared sauce). Preparing and drinking tea lends itself to quiet contemplation and relaxing activities as well conversation between friends. So the importance of Slow Food in fostering connections is also there. In ayurvedic health circles, one is encouraged to eat foods that are prepared with love and avoid those prepared with resentment. We consume not only the food but also the emotions of the cook and preparers of that food.
So in the end, there is room for tea in both the commoditized, fast food market segments and the specialized Slow Food market segments. Where you choose to sip within that spectrum is up to you, your schedule, and your dharma.
Introduction to Āyurveda Workshop
Hosted by YOGASMOGA
Join Arya, as we explore the beginning principles of āyurveda, the natural, holistic and medicinal system of yoga. You will be able to perceive your internal & external environments from an ayurvedic perspective and create the optimal space for well being.
Tuesday, March 15th
Sip tea, enjoy light bites, and shop while you learn the key traits of your specific dosha through essential oils that you can use in your everyday life.
All guests will receive aromatherpay blends to balance their predominant dosha.
20% off all YOGASMOGA apparel
RSVP to FashionIsland@yogasmoga.com
YOGASMOGA Fashion Island
1119 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
This tea is created from a high-altitude cultivar of mao feng grown in the Wu Liang mountains of Simao Prefecture. The pairing of cultivar with expert processing results in a black tea with a unique taste and aroma. Mr. Kin uses a special technique to briefly oxidize the leaves during the wilting phase before completing the rest of the black tea processing steps.
- Origin: Wayaotian, Wu Liang Mtns., Simao Prefecture, Yunnan, China
- Grower/Teamaster: Mr. Zhang Li Kun
- Elevation: 1800 meters
- Harvest Date: Autumn 2015
- Cultivar: Yun Kang #32 Mao Feng
- Plucking Standard: 1 leaf/1bud
- Processing Notes: picking, wilting, frying, rolling, wilting, drying in wok by hand
- Nickname: “Hong” is a word for red in Mandarin, thus hong cha for red tea. Red tea in China = Black tea in the West
- Floral and fruity aroma and taste with hints of caramelized sugar and dry wood, especially at a 4 minute initial infusion.
This beautiful teacup was made by Pomona CA artist Heidi Kreitchet. While she leans predominantly towards wood-fired cups, this is a beautiful example of one of her gas-fired pieces. I find the cup especially beautiful coupled with Larry White's handmade mahogany tray, as the indentation in the cup seems to flow from the indentation in the top of the tray. Note: the cup are purchased separately
- Capacity: 10oz/300ml
- Firing: Gas Fired in a Geil Kiln
- Glaze: Shino and copper red
- Artist's Mark: Signed with her pseudonym "Pomona Queen".
- Dishwasher and microwave safe (but I handwash mine!)
- African mahogany
- Artist's Mark
Look for more teaware from Heidi and other artists soon! (By the way, that is another of her beautiful cups in the Hong Mao Feng picture...)
Leaves of Cha at a YogaSmoga event in Newport Beach!
Find Your Inner Warrior
Find Your Inner Warrior Workshop
Hosted by YOGASMOGA
The warrior poses are the most challenging and iconic in yoga. Through our practice of warrior we learn strength, focus and courage. This workshop will lead you inwards to rediscovering your own inner warrior.
Tuesday, February 23rd from 5-8PM
Sip tea & shop while you learn the key traits of the warrior and how you can embody the ancient spirit in your everyday life!
All guests are entered to win a set of three sessions with life coach Orly Levy & a tea Sampler Six Pack with a Tea Infuser compliments of Leaves of Cha.
RSVP to FashionIsland@yogasmoga.com
YOGASMOGA Fashion Island
1119 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach, CA 92660
Hui Long Zhai is in the western part of Bao Shan Prefecture on the borders with Myanmar, so it is no surprise that the Assamica cultivar is grown there. Using it for green tea is a delicious and intriguing surprise. The region is mountainous and contains peaks up to 3000m. This tea comes from a garden at 2000m, and the relatively cool weather leads to a late first flush from the tea plants. The short but hot wok firing gives this tea a delightful aroma that combines well with the more astringent and stimulating mouth-feel of this Yunnan green tea.
- Origin: Hui Long Zhai Village, Teng Chong county, Bao Shan Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China
- Grower/Teamaster: Ji Dong Li
- Elevation: 2000 meters
- Harvest Date: Spring 2015
- Cultivar: Camellia Sinensis Assamica
- Cultivation: Natural (Organic, not certification)
- Plucking Standard: single leaf from first two leaves below buds, 15% bud
- Processing Notes: picking, frying, rolling, wilting briefly, drying in wok by hand, roasting in oven
- Nickname: Hui Long cha
- Stimulating and astringent mouth-feel with nutty and vegetal notes.