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Wanting a black tea that was smooth and not too strong, I bought some Golden Monkey. It smells slightly sweet, and tastes a little like chocolate and malt. The color is rich, the flavor subtle. Even the second and third steeping was mellow, with beautiful color. The taste lingers on the tongue long after the tea is consumed. 

As to the name, I always wonder where someone came up with Golden Monkey. Was Happy Hippo already taken? Makes no sense to me, even when I am told that the leaves resemble the feet of monkeys. Does the photograph look like monkey feet to you?

Most tea drinkers are aware that black tea is the most consumed tea in the world, and yet, there are vast taste differences in black tea. Teas coming from India and Sri Lanka (Assam and Earl Grey) are strong, sometimes harboring an astringent taste. This is where milk and maybe sugar help. 

Golden Monkey was a Chinese tribute tea, meaning, it was paid in tribute to China’s Emperor. And only the Emperor drank it. However, there is no longer any Emperor, so everyone drinks Golden Monkey. Lucky us.

Black tea goes through a process of withering, rolling, roll-breaking, sifting, oxidation, and grading to become the finished product.  That is a lot of steps, and opportunities, to get it either delightful or tedious. Which may explain why some teas are more expensive and complex than others. You can literally taste the difference. 

You have an opportunity to taste scads of tea Oct 4th and 5th at the NW Tea Festival, at Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center, in Seattle. Mark the date, enjoy the experience.

The past week has been surprising warm. Hot, even. These are the days that iced tea is most appealing, and I have been brewing batch after batch. I don’t like drinking plain water, so I make iced tea the old fashioned way, using cold water, a window sill, and time. This dispenses any bitterness, and insures that I drink the required amount of fluid each day. An adequate amount of fluid reduces the threat of wrinkles, or so I have been told. I don’t even care if it’s true or not. It could be. I am not taking any chances. 

The obvious teas that ice well are the black teas, and the herbals. So I am avoiding them. Instead, I am making iced green teas, and whites, with some refreshing and light flavors. 

Japanese green tea produces a tangy iced tea. I use Sen Cha, from Sugimoto Tea, which is sold at Uwajimaya, an Asian specialty supermarket in Seattle. The taste is refreshing, the same sort of feeling I get from something citrusy. It perks up the mouth, and your brain says, “hey, what’s this?” Doesn’t it?

Iced Sen Cha is very different from hot Sen Cha, like two entirely different teas. The other tea that surprises me, cold, is Chado Tea Room’s White Champagne Raspberry. Delicate when hot, it seems to pick up flavor when cold. It smells like summer, and a trip to the lake. 

Now we are having a cold, miserable, rainy day, and I am opting for Snow Lotus’s Honey Orchid Black tea. Dry, the huge, dark leaves smell like, well, honey, and brewed, it has a sweet and almost nutty taste. It’s a tea that can be steeped many times, and still retain a smooth taste and mouthfeel as I wait for the rest of summer.  

You can sample these teas at the NorthWest Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th, at Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center. Or anytime before, for that matter. 

Come, taste and experiment with teas you know, and some you don’t.

How tea spread to the world, from China, is an interesting story. Originally, tea was used to pay taxes (a tribute) to the Emperor. The last dynasties of the Chinese Empire: the Tang, Song, Qing, and Ming, choose the best of their products to offer to the Emperor, and to win his favor.

The Emperor, of course, liked some teas, and didn’t like others, leading to favorites of the Emperor, called tribute teas. Once the tea growers established which were the Emperor’s favorites (Yellow tea is an example), the competition began to produce the very best of his favorites. Production methods improved, and better teas for the Emperor were the result. 

As we know in all countries, dynasties, and empires, favorites of those in power have an easier life than those not so favored. It behooved the growers to curry the favor of the Emperor. China was a harsh environment. 

The Emperor kept the best teas, and his favorites, for himself (no big surprise there), and shared the not-so-stellar, and common teas, with visiting dignitaries, who grew to appreciate them. They didn’t know the difference. Ignorance really is bliss. The dignitaries, and some court officials as well, took them home and this is how tea spread across the globe: second rate tea sent out to the world to popularize it. That’s ok: in 1911, the Chinese Empire was toppled, and since then, we can all drink the Emperor’s tribute teas. So much for not sharing.   

The farmer’s market in San Francisco has the usual fruits and vegetables, and something extra: a tea vendor. The Loose Leaf Tea Company proclaims “tea with a purpose.” You can mix your own for your own ailment or taste, change any of the blends, or buy pre-made, which is what I did.  

I tried the Organic Earl Grey and the Ginger Rush. The Earl Grey was what you would expect, but the Ginger Rush was the interesting tea. Assam black tea and ginger. Two ingredients, that’s it. Easy peasy. Ginger is an acquired taste for most people, and apparently, I have acquired the taste. It’s fascinating what can be added to tea. Almost anything.

There’s an earthy taste to Ginger Rush, and all that ginger, which is helpful for digestion and cholesterol. Does that mean that this would be a good tea to drink with donuts? That’s a future experiment………..

Tea companies are springing up everywhere, which means, people are drinking enough tea to support all these companies. For awhile, anyway. 

It’s nice to see more support for the tea industry, and if you are in Seattle in the Fall, you can find local (to the West Coast) vendors at the Northwest Tea Festival, Oct 4th & 5th, at Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center.

Some fabulous tea tasting will be going on……….

One of the more colorful vendors at the NW Tea Festival last year was ZENZEU. They hail from Phoenix, Arizona, and came with bright packaging, fun labels, and tables of tea.  Looking for something new to taste, I bought two herbal blends. Yes, yes, I know that they are not technically tea; no camellia sinensis. They are tisanes, herbal blends. Didn’t I say that I was looking for something new to try? Move on!

Zenzeu sells white, green, oolong, yellow, and black teas, as well as chai (flavored tea), rooibos, mate, and herbal blends. The two I purchased were Peach Melba and Hawaiian Paradise. They both contain hibiscus, which moderates the ambrosial fruitiness of everything else. Otherwise, all that fruit can be chip-your-teeth sweet. 

First, both were sampled hot. The Peach Melba smelled sweet, containing real peach and apple, among other ingredients, and here is where the hibiscus was helpful. Hot, it was sweet with a little dryness. Rather nice for a fruit herbal tea. 

The second herbal tea, Hawaiian Paradise, was less sweet, and contained less hibiscus. It was well blended tropical fruits. Both teas were pleasant and enjoyable, hot.

We chilled both teas, and sampled again. For me, this is where they shine. They were both awesome, cold. As in, iced tea. Once again, the Peach Melba was a little sweeter than the Hawaiian Paradise. I added a little stevia to offset the astringency of the hibiscus, and they were even better. 

The NW Tea Festival is coming around again this year, Oct 4th & 5th. Come see vendors, and taste new teas. Expand your tea horizons.

A friend brought me two black teas from Tanzania. Wanting to compare them with other black teas, I suggested a tea soiree. Actually, almost any excuse will work for a tea party which involves snacketto’s, conversation, and friends. Think of it as High Tea without the hotel. 

We started with Glenburn Estate’s Autumn Oolong, a very light, mellow tea, resembling the subtle flavors and appearance of a white tea. Produced in small batches towards the end of the tea picking season, it makes a seasonal treat.

In between snacketto’s, we moved on to Snow Lotus: Darjeeling, First Flush. It was light, with a flowery aroma and taste. It exhibits a little more flavor, a light color, but still subtle, with a good mouth feel. 

We talked about flavored teas, and someone mentioned coconut flavoring in tea. You either like it or you don’t. I like coconut added to tea (or food or anything), and I had some on hand, purchased from The Tea Lady in Olympia, Wa, so we sampled it. The smell of the leaves of Golden Moon Coconut Pouchong reminds me of somewhere tropical. 

Coconut Pouchong, from Taiwan, is an Oolong; however, the oxidation level is so low that it borders between a green tea and an Oolong.

It has smell, taste, nice color, and memories. Whatever it is, it’s delightful. 


The stars of the tea soiree were two black teas from Tanzania: Tanzania Tea Kilimanjaro, and African Pride Tea. Don’t you just love that name: African Pride Tea. It is my understanding that both teas are grown in Tanzania, and come from either the Lupembe Tea Estates, or the Mponde Tea Estates. Both teas have a similar taste, although the Kilimanjaro is a bit more astringent. The teas are bold, full bodied with a beautiful reddish color, and different as night and day from the three teas already sampled. 

They are cut and blended teas, unlike the loose leaf, single origin of the previous teas. Cutting and blending means that the quality isn’t the same, nor is the price. It isn’t unpleasant tea; it’s just different. 

As a tea to drink all day, I wouldn’t drink either of these teas. However, as a morning tea, the two Tanzanian teas are perfect with which to start the morning. 

And, I am fascinated that Africa is producing tea. 

It really is an international commodity.

Rupa Gadre has owned an appealing and well-stocked tea establishment in Kirkland, Wa for about a year and a half. Kirkland is across the water from Seattle, and Savrika Tea does well on the East Side. Downtown Kirkland has upgraded over the past 10-15 years, and Savrika Tea, located in the heart of downtown, blends right in. Like it was always there, waiting for your visit.

Tea is served in 16oz cups or 24 oz pots, and a small piece of chocolate accompanies each cup.  Who doesn’t like chocolate? Groups of people meet at Savrika for weekly get-togethers, and the tea shop has just the large table to accommodate them, in addition to several smaller, intimate tables.  

Rupa’s background is business, and it is her business to invite you in to Savrika Tea, and make you feel relaxed and rested. In this, she is wildly successful. The shop is open, bright, inviting. Tea is everywhere for the smelling. Savrika stocks over 200 different teas, many of them blends, while also maintaining the traditional straight teas. People who work there are knowledgable and helpful. They want you to experience tea, try new things, take your time. 

Lately, I have been drinking Oolong teas, and Savrika Tea’s Orange Essense Oolong was a wisp of orange smell and a taste of Florida oranges. Orange is a nice addition to Oolong. 

Rupa and Savrika Tea introduced me to a tea latte that smelled of strawberry cream, and was sweet enough to pass as a dessert.

True to form, I came home with a couple of familiar teas, and two teas with which I was unfamiliar, but smelled like I needed to try them. Who am I to argue with tea? 

I met Lavina Rao at the NW Tea Festival a couple of years ago, just after she started her online tea business, Snow Lotus fine Teas, here in the Northwest. This past November, she again had a booth at the Festival. An engaging woman, the name of her tea company rolls off the tongue, comfortable. The snow lotus is a flower of adversity, from the Himalayas. The flower struggles to grow, but is beautiful in bloom. Just like life. 

Snow Lotus teas are pure leaf teas, no additives. Smooth, they possess good mouthfeel and beautiful color, and are grown in high altitude and clean, crisp air. Though the selection is smaller rather than bigger, it is cohesive and complete. Lavina’s passion with her company is to bring quality tea to mainstream America. It’s an educational process.

Opportunity knocked, and I was able to share some time, as well as tea, with Lavina. She takes her time to brew Golden Monkey, a legendary black tea from Fujian Province, China. Originating during the Song Dynasty, with golden-tipped black leaves, Golden Monkey (don’t you love tea names?) is ultra smooth, able to be steeped several times, and low in tannins. An astringent black tea, it will mellow with age, like fine wine. 

We shared another tea: Tibetan Mushroom Pu-erh, which is a raw pu-erh, shaped in the form of, guess what, a mushroom. The oxidization process is stopped early; hence the tea is considered raw. 

The Tibetan Mushroom Pu-erh comes from one factory in Dali, Yunnan Province, China. The province is wild, and sits between the borders of Vietnam and China, in a tropical area. Pu-erh’s were how tea was transported for centuries. No one is going to drag huge bags of tea thousands of miles, but they will carry compacted tea leaves in the saddlebags of animals. 

Lavina brews her tea at 190 degrees, instead of the usual 212 degrees. I notice how flavorful her teas taste, and when I return home, I try tea at both temperatures. Sure enough, there is a noticeable difference in taste, and with the lower temperature, my tongue isn’t it’s usual scalded, and the tea has more flavor.

The pu-erh was fine for the first steeping, but the following steepings began to pick up astringency, and became too bitter for me. 

You can find Snow Lotus fine Teas at the NW Tea Festival, later this year, or check out her website and order online.

The color is gorgeous, a beautiful caramel color. Still, it’s a pu-erh, and not usually my favorite. Most smell like dirt; this one does not. At least, not with the first steeping. By the second steeping, it was taking on a decidedly earth smell, with an astringency that I didn’t care for. 

I decided to try this particular pu-erh because I was told that it was a good tea for those making the transition from coffee. I was interested from the tea point of view how that transition would look. 

It didn’t look bad. 

Purple Tip Pu-erh has a lot of body and punch to it. No bitterness, no from the earth tea. 

It’s very pleasant, and not at all like other black teas. 

Pu-erh’s apparently can vary from batch to batch. I tried a white pu-erh recently, which I really enjoyed. 

It’s like anything else; you have to experiment and find what you like. And what you don’t like. 

I don’t have to like everything. But I try most things at least once. 

Life is a grand experiment. So is tea.

This is a good tea for Super Bowl Sunday.

Go Seahawks!

A friend wanted to share some tea that she was given. I said I would host a tea party. In our house, any excuse will work for a tea party. I invited some friends over. They brought snacks: cucumber sandwiches, lemon bars, scones and clotted cream. We never decline snacketto’s. 

In attendance to this soiree was a certified Tea Master, Nicole Armstrong. If you don’t know Nicole, you should. She knows tea, and loves to share that knowledge. We were enchanted by her enthusiastic manner and knowledge of these particular teas.

In Pursuit of Tea is a tea business out of Watertown, MA, with pure, full leaf and organic teas, when possible. I love the way that rolls off the tongue……Watertown. I think there’s a Frank Sinatra song by that name as well. Even Frank liked the sound of Watertown. 

Nothing is needed to brew In Pursuit of Tea, therefore, nothing is added. No flavorings, no inferior quality lots of tea mixed in. We first sampled White Peony, or Bai Mudan, from Fujian, China. It’s a white tea: delicate, subtle, with a nice mouthfeel. The aroma of the initial steeping was sweet, like honey and melon. The taste matched. I love White Peony, which by the way, has nothing to do with the flower. The Chinese just like the sound of peony in a tea name. Maybe they like how it rolls off their tongue. We steeped this tea four times, and each time, the flavor was subtly stronger, and still eminently drinkable. 

Second tea brewed was Tieguanyin 16-Year Aged, also from Fujian, China. Ok, I love Oolongs as well, and this tea had a wonderful roasty smell that was an indication of the taste to come. No disappointment there, but by the third steeping, I was beginning to taste the tannin in the tea. 

Third tea was a Darjeeling First Flush, from the Steinthal Estate, in West Bengal, India. A black tea, it has floral overtones, and the passionfruit taste slurps around in your mouth. Darjeelings are a wonderful introduction to black teas. It spoils you right away.

Experimenting with loose teas is a different adventure than bagged tea, not that there’s anything wrong with bagged tea. I grab a bag of tea when I am running out the door, or in a hurry, or want a particular blend (and there are several that I like) but if I have more time than usual, I choose loose leaf. It’s a signal to my brain to slow down, put my feet up, and take some time to relax.