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I don’t know why I thought that Harney & Sons Fine Teas were British, but I did. And I am wrong. John Harney started the company 30 years ago in Salisbury, Connecticut, making the company very American. 

No matter.

The company is now based in Millerton, New York, part of the Hudson Valley. They are a family owned business which sources, blends, and packages over 300 teas.

Thinking that I would try a few, I arbitrarily picked several, and went home to a tea tasting afternoon on a snowy day in Seattle.  

In no particular order, I began with Hot Cinnamon Sunset. The smell was wonderful, the taste familiar. In Seattle we have a local tea similar to this, and it reminded me of that, with it’s cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. It’s hard to go wrong with this tea, or any tea with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel, especially in cold weather.

Next I tried a decaf tea. Every so often, I try a decaf, just to make sure that I don’t really care for it. I don’t get what the fuss is about decaf teas when there are so many really nice herbal teas, but I tried once again a decaf: Harney’s Vanilla Comoro. I liked the name and the idea of vanilla in the tea to offset the decaf flavor. However, it leaves a bitter aftertaste that the vanilla doesn’t cover, so once again, I do not like decaf teas. 

That’s just me.

On to Tower of London Blend, which I liked very much. It had a little bergamot and honey added, which made it quite nice. The tea itself was smooth and smelled like something I would want to drink on a snowy afternoon, which is what it was. 

I followed with African Autumn, a rooibos with cranberry and orange, followed by Pumpkin Spice, which smells like the Fall, and both were welcome treats. It’s like dessert without the sugar. 

I finished with the Organic Darjeeling, which was sublime. This was a perfect tea with which to finish my afternoon of tasting. It was light, almost smelling of summer peaches, and tasting clean, light and comforting. 

Snow is starting to melt, and tea time is over.

At the NW Tea Festival which, if you did not attend you missed, I bought several kinds of teas from several different vendors. That is the point, is it not?

This year I tried the Yellow Mudan and the Haiku Peach, from the Jasmine Pearl Tea Company. They venture up from Portland, Oregon, if you need a cup of tea in Portland.  I had experience with yellow tea at the Phoenix Tea Shop, here in Burien, just south of Seattle. On Saturday mornings, the Phoenix does tea tastings, and one Saturday, we tasted some yellow tea. I really liked it, so when I came across it at the NW Tea Festival, I scarfed some to take home. 

Yellow tea is subtle, somewhere between a white tea and a green. It’s almost buttery on the tongue, and is a good sipping tea for all day. Unlike several green teas, it doesn’t taste like grass, an acquired taste. Do I look like a cow, looking for a nice, green, grassy snack? Still, I know, some people love that taste. I prefer the acquired taste of Scotch. 

It’s hard to go wrong with white peach tea, and the Haiku Peach is no exception. It might be my new favorite all-day sipping tea.

While in Portland recently, I visited the Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants. Situated near the Rose Quarter, the parking was easy, the store was bright and easy to navigate, the tea people were helpful, and the tea was fabulous. It was an enjoyable and relaxing afternoon.

A train trip to Portland and an afternoon of tea tasting is rest for the brain.

On a trip to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, my friends stopped for High Tea in the Oak Bay neighborhood at the White Heather Tea Room. I love tea rooms; they seduce you from the street with promises of relaxation and pampering. The tea served was from Special Teas, another Victoria tea room that blends and flavors it’s own teas.

My good fortune in all of this was receiving three black teas to sample, from my friends, the High Tea people. I began with Lemon Spice, which was not at all like orange spice. Lemon is more astringent, and this was so. It smelled spicy with lemon overtones, and had a delicate taste with no bitter aftertaste. 

Next I tried Canadian Breakfast: an unusual black tea blended with Earl Grey and Jasmine. Nice mix. Earl Grey’s like to dominate all other flavors, but this stayed light. The taste was definitely there, and as the tea cooled, the Jasmine appeared while the Earl Grey receded. 

Last to taste, the Vietnam OP (Orange Pekoe) organic. Straight black tea from Vietnam. No flavors, nothing added. We don’t see much tea from Vietnam, so I was interested in how this would fare with better known black teas. Possessing a nice caramel color, it had a nice, clean smell and taste. It wasn’t vastly different from other good quality black teas I tasted. 

Just to be fair, I tried it again in the morning. After all, I sampled it with two flavored teas, and maybe that influenced my view of the tea.


Vietnam OP is a nice, clean, straight black tea, a tea to drink first thing in the morning. It’s a welcome-to-the-new-day tea, which is when I will drink it. 

Should you be spending time in Victoria, BC, Canada, take some time to enjoy either tea room, or explore and find another. Tea is a journey of tastings.

What the heck, we were already here for a class. So after class, we trotted over to the Steven Smith Tea Shop, in the northwest part of Portland, Oregon. Small and intimate, it was a welcoming stop after spending two hours and three million dollars at Powell’s Bookstore, the greatest bookstore in the world for book lovers.  This, of course, is only my opinion, but it is my blog…

We sat at the tea bar, and smelled several teas before deciding on the four that we sampled in a tasting session called “A Flight of Teas”. The four that we chose were  White Petal, Jasmine Pearl, Yunnan, and Big Hibiscus: white, green, black, and an herbal tea. From the subtle and delicate white tea to the big flavor of herbal hibiscus, it was quite the treat. White Petal was soft, whispery, and sweet while the Jasmine Pearl (green) was drier, with a little more astringency. I can drink either all day. The Yunnan (black) seemed uninteresting to me, and the Big Hibiscus was overflowing with flavor. Anything with hibiscus and ginger has my vote. We tasted one more: Bungalow, a first and second flush organic Darjeeling black tea. It was smooth and almost buttery with a nice aftertaste. It’s not your grandmother’s tea.

I appreciated the idea of tasting four teas at once, and the price was right: $8. It was enough tea for the both of us. Steven Smith has a brilliant idea in four-tea tasting, and this is a great way to sample various teas without having to commit to buying quantities of tea you may not like once you get them home. Sometimes tea smells wonderful, and the taste doesn’t match. It’s somehow less; too astringent, cloyingly sweet, overly smoky. 

Other tea establishments might consider a small sampling to educate the public about tea, and encourage novelty in tea tasting. Do you really need to buy the same tea time after time, day in and day out? It’s monotonous, just so you know.

If you are passing through Portland, or have some reason to be there, stop by Steven Smith Tea Shop. It isn’t far from the Pearl District, and there’s parking. I love that. 

Steven Smith Tea, 1626 NW Thurman St, Portland, Oregon, 1-800-624-9531.

It you are in Seattle, you can find Steven Smith Teas at the Perennial Tea Room, 1910 Post Alley, Seattle, Wa, 1-206-448-4054.

Be adventuresome. Life is too short to be boring!

The NW Tea Festival arrived last weekend, with beautiful, blue sky weather. Both days of the Festival were late summer weather. Seattle Center was brimming with people out sunning themselves, playing in the fountain, and attending the Festival. Tea was poured, snacks were eaten, conversation flowed, talks were given, and pottery was fired outdoors. No one froze out there, either. 

It was glorious. I love festivals. 

I drank gallons of tea, one tasting cup at a time. It took me all day. I like to chat up the vendors and fellow tea tasters. I sampled everything. I bought 8 new teas, to go with the 67 tins of tea that I already have at home. 

What is it about tea shops that we want to smell, taste, and take home new teas when we have quite enough already? Ok, I also have enough screwdrivers and flashlights, but I keep seeming to buy more of those as well. If you need a flashlight, a screwdriver, or a cup of tea……………see me.

And maybe I will see you next year at the NW Tea Festival, 2014. It’s never too early to plan for a festival!

It’s the annual NW Tea Festival. 

Saturday (tomorrow), 10am-6pm……………..Sunday, 10am-4pm

Fischer Pavillon in Seattle Center.

Bring the kids. Introduce them to the wonders of tea.

See you there.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…..waiting.

Saturday and Sunday…..happening.

The NW Tea Festival.


Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center.

Come and enjoy.

Keep warm, drink tea, chat.

If you look closely at these photos (you might need a magnifying glass), you will see that it isn’t English written on the packaging. It’s Russian. Yes, yes, as in, from Russia. Hello.

Some friends went to St Petersburg (yes, Russia) and Moscow. There’s no “cow” in the pronunciation of Moscow, and I know that you wanted to know that. As a treat for me, they brought some tea from Russia, and we had a tea party. One of the teas was a green tea with tropical and floral overtones, and the other was a black tea. Both were quite nice, although the black tea had a nice tart tang to it that seems to be lacking in other black teas that I have recently tried. Whatever it was, I liked it. 

The Russians are tea drinkers. They brew wonderful teas. The same cannot be said for their coffee. So their history of producing tea goes back a long way, just as the history of tea goes back to ancient times. 

You would know information like this if you attended the NW Tea Festival, Oct 5 & 6, at the Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center. 

It’s an opportunity to learn about, and taste, teas with which you may not be familiar. I am not guaranteeing that there will be Russian tea there, but there will be familiar and not-so-familiar tea to taste, vendors to meet, information to learn, and a good time to be had by all.

Maybe you will meet some Russians.

The NW Tea Festival, Oct 5&6, Fischer Pavilion at the Seattle Center.

There’s a reason that, when drinking coffee, you feel more jittery than when drinking tea. Coffee has no polyphenols, which join with caffeine in tea to reduce the impact on your body. In addition, according to Jeffrey Blumberg (researcher at Tufts University), the two properties together may actually enhance focus, leading to better attention. So all those late night coffee drinking study groups in college might have been better served drinking tea.  

As for tea, some kinds contain less caffeine than others. Green tea has less than black tea, we know that. But white tea is debatable. Because most white tea uses the first leaf and leaf tips, it is thought to contain more caffeine. This is because new growth on tea plants contains the most caffeine, probably due to the spurt of new growth. The down on the buds also add to the amount of caffeine. Still, unless you are uber sensitive to caffeine, you may not notice the difference between white and green tea the way you notice the effects of drinking coffee on your body. 

In an effort to reduce caffeine, consider this: there are two major plants from which tea is produced. Tea grown in India, Sri Lanka, and Africa generally uses the Camellia sinensis assamica plant, while tea grown in China uses predominantly the Camellia sinensis sinensis  (what’s up with repeating words?) plant.  The assamica plant can produce up to 33% more caffeine. Also, leaves that grow in the heat of summer produce more caffeine than leaves that grow in the spring. Water temp and length of steeping can also make a difference. 212 degree tea tastes very different than 175 degree tea, and with a shorter steep time, contains less caffeine.  

If you are  concerned about reducing all caffeine (because even decaffeinated tea has some caffeine), drink herbal teas containing rooibos or fruits, herbs and flowers. But then, those are not actually tea, with the Camellia sinensis leaf.  

We have true teas and herbals at the NW Tea Festival, Oct 5 & 6, at the Fischer Pavilion at Seattle Center. 

It’s tea time in Seattle. Come celebrate with us.

Arriving in five weeks is the annual NW Tea Festival at Fischer Pavilion at the Seattle Center, an ambitious project while still a crazy busy and fun event. 

A new tasting this year involves Theo’s Chocolates, an organic and local Seattle chocolatier, paired with Keiko’s Kagoshima Organic Matcha Tea, and led by Nicole Armstrong, who is beginning to make a name for herself in the tea world. It should be a fascinating and different pairing for those who like something novel. 

There will be tea tastings galore, and lectures to broaden your horizons. Maybe learn a few new things as well. 

For a $10 admission, you receive a take-home tasting cup, allowing you to attend the event both days, if you are inclined. It’s a weekend of tea exploration and glory.

Volunteering is another way to experience the Festival. For giving of your time 4-5 hours one day, you receive free admission for both days and a bag for shopping, a tea tasting cup, and a fabulous NW Tea Festival shirt. And eternal gratitude from the organizers of this year’s event. The more you volunteer, the more gratuity gifts you receive. Maybe someone will kiss your ring finger if you volunteer both days.

Then again, maybe not……..

Still, camaraderie and enjoying yourself produce endorphins in your body, the feel good hormone, making you feel even better. 

Even at $10, that’s a deal.