News & Announcements

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.

It is called Honey Orchid Black, and the smell alone of the long dry tea leaves is intoxicating. There is a sweet smell like Summer going into Fall. I imagine that the sweetness is the honey, except that there is no flavor added to the tea leaves. These are pure teas, unadulterated, unadorned with berries, flavors, or anything that would add to the taste. Good tea can stand on it’s own, without masking or adding to the original product. Not that I don’t like flavored teas. I love Jasmine green teas and Coconut Oolongs, and several herbal teas. I just appreciate that this tea stays the same from leaf to pot. It’s that good.

Once brewed, the tea takes on a rich, caramel color, and that honey smell pervades. The taste matches the smell, with sweetness and a background taste of nuttiness, to counter the sweet. 

Who knew that black tea could be so subtle?

Honey Orchid Black comes from the Hunan Province in China, in the south-central section of the country. The province has been producing tea for centuries, and is one of the largest areas in China to produce tea.

You can buy it and other fine teas online at Snow Lotus Teas, a local to Seattle tea purveyor, and participant of the annual NW Tea Festival.

Sometimes tea, like everything else, is purchased because of the packaging. In this case, I wasn’t sure of a “tonic herbal”, but the packaging of Wild Sage Organic Tonic Herbals was creative, so I tried two herbal/tea blends. From the ingredients, it didn’t look like it was going to be too tonic-y, which a lot of healthy teas seem to be. I don’t mind healing teas if the taste is palatable. Otherwise, I am not so inclined. 

In this case, both of the teas I tried were enjoyable. The first tea, TAI CHI, contains peppermint, spearmint, and licorice, mixed among the medicinal herbals. Mint blends nicely with nettles (the herbal), which by itself, is an acquired taste. I have not yet acquired any taste for nettles, healthy as it is. The wet leaves are a beautiful bright green, and the smell is minty with a little earthiness. Probably the nettles. TAI CHI is a rejuvenating tea, a pick-me-up for clarity of thinking. I liked the taste.

The other herbal tea, CELEBRITEA, contains spearmint, lavender, lemongrass, lemon balm, and medicinal herbals. Not so much mint, a little lemon, lavender, and healthy herbals. The taste was a little more medicinal, not quite so minty, but still very drinkable. 

Wild Sage has found a way to blend healthy medicinal herbals with pleasing, aromatic, non-caffeinated herbal teas. If you are looking for teas to address a specific health issue, these teas are just the ticket, and the information on their website is comprehensive. If you are searching for delightful tasting herbal teas incorporating health benefits beyond traditional teas, these teas are perfect. Smelling fragrant both dry and wet, they appeal on a wet, winter day.   

Wild Sage Tea resides in Port Townsend, WA, but you can experience them for yourself at the Kuan Yin Teahouse and the East West Bookshop, both in Seattle. More sites are listed on their website.

Discover new teas. They probably will not hurt you and, in this case, they will definitely help you.

photo courtesy of Wild Sage

At the NW Tea Festival last year, a woman named Shalini Prakash Agarwal arrived representing the Glenburn Tea Estate, which is located in India, local office in Irvine, Ca. Shalini is part of a family of five generations of tea growers who plant tea from the Himalayas in Darjeeling to the plains of Assam. They are one of 87 tea planters that can label tea Darjeeling, having been grown in the Darjeeling region of India. Besides the tea, Glenburn Estate owns a boutique hotel named The Glenburn, in case you are in a mood to visit India and experience for yourself tea plantations. The scenery is spectacular, the backdrop is the Himalayas. Nice place for a cup of tea. Maybe a little pricey!

In the meantime, you can try the tea without going to India. The Glenburn Estate has best growing seasons for tea: Spring, Summer, Monsoon, and Autumn. I decided on something from the Autumn collection, Autumn Oolong, which I purchased from Phoenix Tea, in Burien. Upon opening the package, the tea had a light, floral, glorious smell.

The whole leaf is used in brewing tea, and it stays intact through infusion. This particular tea is made in small batches toward the end of the tea plucking season, making it less available throughout the year. I had not thought about drinking tea in harmony with the seasons of the year, and yet, some teas are like some foods; in-season tea tastes different than out-of-season tea. Strawberries in June and July taste better than strawberries in January or February. Unless you live in Argentina. Which I don’t. 

Following tea seasons can invite a whole host of new teas to try, and another way to increase your tea awareness, plus one-upping your snooty Aunt Angela who thinks that she knows everything there is to know about tea. 

Now for the tea: Autumn Oolong is full flavored with a smooth light taste, like fine wine. Tea in the cup color is a reddish caramel, and there is that wonderful floral bouquet that accompanies the tea. It is easily sipped all day.

Really? Why didn’t I think of this? Tea has infused itself into everything else, why not candy?

…and now it has. 

If you like iced Sweet Tea, from The South, you will love these candies. Sweet Tea, in case you are unfamiliar, is so sweet that it can give you diabetes and add six pounds of fat to your frame as you are swallowing the candy. I believe that there is more sugar than tea in Sweet Tea. But no more, perhaps, than Coca Cola, if you are inclined that way. 

It’s a little too sweet for me, except for going to the theater, where I am prone to coughing during performances. In that case, the small candies are perfect for coughing attacks, keeping my discomfort to a minimum. I am throwing these little snacketto’s in the bottom of my purse, for future theater soirees.

Even though it’s “all natural”, and contains anti-oxidants (according to the packaging), it’s still candy, and loaded with sugar. Not that there is anything wrong with candy……….

But I will take my tea in another form, thanks.