Tea Break: Tea Rap

Cup of Brown by Professor Elemental

Today’s tea: Viennese Blend

It’s number 996 in the TeaGschwendner Book of Tea. 20110714-025054.jpgIt describes it as

An Austrian specialty steeped in the tradition of Vienna’s famous baked delicacies, most notably the “sacher torte”. Selected teas from Darjeeling and Ceylon are treated to a hint of bergamot and jasmine. Ingredients: black teas from Darjeeling and Ceylon, jasmine blossoms and natural flavor.

It’s a nice golden orange color after brewing it the recommended 2 minutes. There’s just a hint of bergamot and doesn’t overwhelm the palate as some Earl Greys can. And there’s more than a hint of jasmine, which I love. The stronger jasmine flavor/aroma could be due to the fact that the use full blossoms, not pieces as can be seen in other brands. It is slightly on the bitter side.

Who’s the best of the best in North American tea?

Oh my I haven’t posted here in a year – but I had a good excuse. I got pregnant and had a baby girl! And no we didn’t name her Tea, although it did cross my mind. But what better way to get back into blogging than talking about the best of the best teas in North America. The North American Tea Championship named 19 first-place winners in its annual Hot Tea Class / Fall Tea evaluation, which took place Feb. 22 – 23 in Las Vegas. Rishi Tea shone in the competition by winning a total of four 1st place spots.

It wasn’t just the well established brands that succeeded. Five newbies to the competition came out on top in each of their categories: Ajiri Tea Company, Globex America dba Cavallini Coffee & Tea, Rare Tea Cellar Inc., Tao Tea Leaf; and Yogic Chai.

Overall, competitors showcased an assortment of premium fall teas in 19 different categories – from Assam to Yunnan – and the renowned judges evaluated nearly 200 teas. (Imaging being lucky enough to drink all that tea!) The teas were evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel, and brewed harmony.  An overall rating on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic above. You can see the full list of winners, their ratings, prices (prepare for sticker shock for some) and links to the winners’ sites on the North American Tea Champion site.

First place “Signature Famous Teas” winners include:

  • Assam – TeaGschwendner, Assam SFTGFOP Marangi Second Flush
  • Bai Hao/Oriental Beauty – Barnes & Watson Fine Teas, Bai Hao – Exquisite
  • Breakfast Blend – The Republic of Tea, Lucky Irish Breakfast Full-Leaf Loose Tea
  • Chai – Yogic Chai, Original Masala Chai
  • Darjeeling – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Darjeeling Estate Select
  • Earl Grey – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Earl Grey
  • Jasmine – The Republic of Tea, Imperial Republic Jasmine Pearls
  • Keemun – Tao Tea Leaf Ltd., Keemun Kong Fu
  • Yunnan – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Golden Needle

First place “General Category Teas” winners include:

  • Aged/Baked Oolong Tea – Naivetea, Dong Ding Oolong
  • Black Tea – Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Winter Frost
  • Black Tea CTC (crush, tear, curl) – Ajiri Tea Company, Ajiri Tea
  • Blended Black Tea – China Mist Brands, Organic Berry Black
  • Blended Oolong Tea – Teas Etc., Ginseng Oolong
  • Dark Oolong Tea – Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Red Robe Oolong
  • Flavored Oolong Tea – Globex America dba Cavallini Coffee & Tea, Plum, Mango Sake
  • Flavored Rooibos Blends – Rare Tea Cellar Inc., Gingerbread Dream Rooibos
  • Green Oolong Tea – Rishi Tea, Bao Zhong
  • Flavored Black Tea – The Republic of Tea, Fair Trade Cranberry Blood Orange Full-Leaf Loose Tea

A Winners’ Tasting Circle will be held at 2011 World Tea Expo June 24 -26 for all attendees. Oh I wish I was going!

Next up for North American Tea Championships is an Iced Tea competition in May – just in time for summer! And then the Spring Hot Tea competition will be held in July in Las Vegas.

According to the organizers, the championship is the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America. Each year, the competition identifies the highest quality and best tasting teas that are commercially available in the marketplace.

Will Hugh Jackman convince you to drink Lipton iced tea?

Hugh Jackman seems to be able to do it all: Play the super hero, dance, sing and melt your heart – all at the same time. And now he’s adding ad man to his resume with the new Lipton Iced Tea commercials. Mass made iced tea choices come down to two things for me most times – is it actually brewed tea and is it in a glass bottle? I can’t stand the ones that taste like they’re from a mix and, even worse, if they’re in a can they taste like metal. I haven’t had the Lipton tea in a glass bottle for a while now, so I can’t remember if it tastes like it’s actually brewed. But who am I to argue with Hugh?

“Tokyo Dancing Hotel”

“Hard Day’s Work” On a beach

A tea house heated by compost

If you’ve been wanting to build your very own private tea house in your backyard, but the cost of heating it has been stopping you…well a Japanese design  firm, BAKOKO,  has just the thing for you.

Bakoko Comploo Composting Teahouse

This circular pod-shaped teahouse  harnesses the heat generated by compost –  temperatures in excess of 120°F. According to  Inhabitat:

To feed the composter, garden waste, food scraps or other compost materials can be dropped in through a door at the top of each bin.

A system of sealed ducts runs through each of the bins, and as the air circulates within the walls, the decaying compost warms it. This heated air is in turn emitted through a central vent that releases into the structure’s interior. Occupants can comfortably sit along a circular bench surrounding the heat source, and enjoy the ambient natural light permeating through the transparent dome roof above.

It’s not clear if this is just concept at this point or if you can order it. I’m sure if you contacted BAKOKO they’d work with you to create it.

(via Boing Boing, Inhabitat)

The Victoria Tea Festival 2010

Victoria Tea FestivalThis weekend the Victoria Tea Festival celebrates its 4th year on February 13 and 14 at the Crystal Garden in Victoria, BC. Weekend passes are $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.

It promises to be an energy-filled weekend with over 3,000 attendees.And the festival is expanding to provide more opportunities this year for festival goers to experience, learn, sample, touch, smell and inquire about all things tea and to engage in an exclusive, interactive and educational tea experience. Exquisite tea wares are available to buy. For the first time, a limited edition souvenir tea-tasting cup—designed and generously donated by Artfarm—will be available for purchase to help raise funds for Camosun College’s Child Care Services.

Festival attendees can steep themselves in tea lore by taking in a complimentary presentation by tea experts who will share their knowledge on the presentation stage.

Saturday, February 13

  • 1 pm – The Ache’s Pride: How Yerba Mate is Saving a Rainforest and Her People (Robert McCauley, Cebador – Northernites Syndicate/Guayaki)
  • 2 pm – Chinese Tea Ceremony (Daniela Cubelic, Owner – Silk Road)
  • 3 pm – Cooking with Tea (Heidi Fink, Chef & food writer)
  • 4 pm – English Tea Traditions and Blends (Susan Livingston, Director of Product Development – Murchies)

Sunday, February 14

  • 11 am – Rooibos and Honeybush Teas (Irene Drmla, owner – Special Teas Inc.)
  • 12 pm – Taking the Chill off of Iced Teas (Bob Krul, CTC Brewt Corp. & Brendan Waye, The Tea Guy)
  • 1 pm – Ceylon, The Island of Tea (Jennifer Petersen, Master Tea Blender & Tea Business Trainer)
  • 2 pm – Refreshment of the Spirit: Oriental Tea & Wine Drinking Vessels (Barry Till, Curator of Asian Art – Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
  • 3 pm – Commentaries on Modern Life~Selected Teatime Readings (Earlene Grey, Author)

For a complete list of ticket outlets, event details and presentation descriptions, visit  the Victoria Tea Festival website.

The Great One supports great green tea from Bigelow

Wayne Gretsky Bigelow TeaWayne Gretzky, aka the Great One, will be promoting the healthy benefits of green tea, in particular Bigelow green teas.  Soon you’ll be hearing Gretsky talk about the merits of four new Bigelow “Gretzky Green” green teas:

  • Green Tea with Pomegranate: a masterful blend of flavorful pomegranate with delicate green tea.
  • Green Tea with Lemon: The refreshing, light lemony taste adds a zesty note to the delicate flavor of green tea.
  • Green Tea: for green tea purists, a fragrant, light, and mellow brew reputed to have many healthy properties.
  • Decaffeinated Green Tea: The same delicious flavour of regular Bigelow Green Tea in a naturally decaffeinated form.

You can get more information on Gretsky’s support of Bigelow teas at the Bigelow Tea blog.

And if you’re a Gretsky fan, rumor has it that tonight you might get to see him tonight carrying the torch in the opening ceremonies in Vancouver.

Best places for sit-down tea in Vancouver

Tea at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Tea at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

We took a look at the best places for on-the-go tea in Vancouver last time.  So now you’re probably asking – where are the places to have a relaxing sit-down tea. While I haven’t exhausted all the options for a nice tea in Vancouver, here’s a list of places that are either my favorites or are on my list of places to go (in no particular order):

  • Murchies825 W. Pender St (North side between Hornby & Howe) – Not only can you get tea to go here, but you can get a quick lunch (a menu that changes but usually offers sandwiches and shepherd’s pie) and delicious scones. Their tea is great and their scones (with cream and jam) are so good that my friend and I have trouble resisting them.
  • Urban Tea Merchant1070 West Georgia St. @ Thurlow (also on the North Shore in the West Vancouver Mall Village) – This downtown location just opened this year and they did a great job in separating the store from the tea room. The elegant, quiet room is the perfect respite from busy downtown. They have an excellent selection of a la carte dishes as well as your traditional high tea selections. The West Coast Tea for two is not to missed if you enjoy salmon. And if you’re not up for full high tea, the petite tea hits the spot. Plus you can choose from an enormous selection Theodor tea to pair with your meal. Reservations recommended.
  • Muzi Tea Bar –  870 west cordova street (by Canada Place) – This very sleek tea bar has some seating, but makes lovely traditional japanese teas as well as those with a modern twist. A good spot down by Canada Place for a rest. There’s a lovely milk/rose tea latte.
  • Pekoe Tea Lounge (formerly Steeps) – 895 W Broadway –  What’s great about this place is it’s homey atmosphere and the fact there’s a tea sniffing station from which you can choose your tea. You may find the Shitty Weather Tea apropos. If you’re with a group you can snag the couches in the back. Or if it’s just the two of you, the armchairs against the large windows in the front are a good spot for people watching. They have a small selection of cakes and sweets as well as some savories, such as samosas.
  • T1568 West Broadway – This is the tea that the Fairmont uses for their high teas, as do several other high-end hotels and restaurants around the world. It’s austere atmosphere looks like it’s only a shop, but you can order tea to stay or go. And you can also sniff the teas at your leisure before ordering. My fav here is the Mad Hatter tea.
  • The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver High Tea900 W Georgia Street – Dubbed Tea at the Castle, its held every day from 2 – 4:30pm. Traditional Afternoon Tea includes exclusively blended Fairmont teas (from T), finger sandwiches, tasty pastries, and scones and fresh strawberries with Devonshire cream. To make your tea extra special, order the Champagne tea by adding a glass of Moët & Chandon. For the kids, there’s the Children’s Bubblegum Tea that includes finger sandwiches (PB&J, you can always order something else if you’re anti-PB), fresh strawberries and cream, a giant chocolate chip cookie and a seasonal fruit tartlet. Reservations – strongly recommended.
  • Wedgewood Hotel Baccus Afternoon Tea845 Hornby Street – Weekends 2-4pm – (Not open during Olympics) This intimate setting in one of Vancouver’s best award-winning restaurants, plus the hotel is consistently on Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure lists. This afternoon tea offers a lovely selection of teas with finger sandwiches, a selection of tarts and pastries, and, of course, scones with Devonshire cream and jam. And for adults, you can add an extra special twist with a Kir Royal (cassis and champagne). Reservations recommended.
  • Secret Garden Tea Company5559 West Boulevard – Located in the posh Kerrisdale neighborhood, this tea room feels like you’re in a quaint English cottage.   It’s one of Vancouver’s favorites for special occasions and mother-daughter/son teas. For high tea, they have seatings at 12, 2, and 4pm. Reservations are a must. Choose from 40 different teas paried with a three-tiered tray of miniature pastries, sweets, scones, Devonshire cream, raspberry jam, and sandwiches.
  • Adonia Tea House2057 West 41st Avenue – Located in the same neighborhood as Secret Garden, this cozy (and less formal) tea room offers an slight fusion of your traditional English tea with Asian touches.In additional to the traditional English afternoon and mini-afternoon teas, you can order slushies, a shaved ice platter, iced tea and iced coffee. Adonia also offers a la carte soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. And in the evening there’s also a section of pasta dishes.
  • Shaktea3702 Main St – Located in Vancouver’s hip Main St neighborhood, Shaktea brings the calm of yoga to tea. Your tea is served in individual tea pots that sit atop candle warmers to make sure it doesn’t cool as you relax and chat away the afternoon. There’s always a tea awaiting for you to sample prior to ordering and a lovely selection of gourmet pastries and cakes. 

  • Finch’s Tea & Coffee House353 West Pender – I have to say that while they serve good quality loose-leaf tea, it’s their sandwiches that I come here for. The brie and pear and the tomato and bocconcini baguettes are the best! Get their early before the lunch rush to get a seat.
  • Starbucks – one on nearly every corner – Vancouver embraced Starbucks as if it were a long lost child. And you can’t go 2 blocks in this city without coming across one. Their tea mistos (don’t call them lattes) are pretty good. And if you just want to get off your feet, it fits the bill.

To tea or not to tea – workplaces cutting perks

At Work - Business Day

Brits are famed for their love of a good brew and yet just 57% of British workers get to enjoy a free cup of tea or coffee at work, according to new research from uSwitchforbusiness.com. In fact, a quarter of workers have seen companies cut back on refreshments over the last year – leaving a bitter taste in the mouth for many:

  • Less than a third of British employees (32%) think that the company they work for is generous to staff with four in ten (43%) describing staff perks as poor
  • Two in five workers (38%) expect an employer to at least provide tea and coffee – just one in ten (13%) don’t see why companies should be expected to pay for them
  • One in ten (10%) say that cutbacks on refreshments have changed the atmosphere for the worse at work while 19% say it has left workers feeling jittery about the future
  • 32% say that small perks like free tea and coffee boost morale – just 6% of workers don’t value such perks

The press release goes on to talk about how not having the perk of complimentary tea and coffee hurts morale and the ability to attract employees, but it doesn’t complete the thought and discuss how that could hurt productivity. If employees have to purchase it off premise or bring it from home and then heat it up, that’s time away from work. Also, there are productive conversations that naturally occur around the tea kettle between employees who work in different departments – conversations that lead to good ideas that otherwise wouldn’t happen (or at least not in an as-speedy timeframe).

So how would you feel if your tea perk was taken away? Would it hurt your productivity?

Cheeky Yorkshire Tea commercial from the UK

So would you interrupt a good snog for a cuppa?