Tushita Teehaus in the morning

What a wonderful way to start the longest day of my week. Most people call it a day early on Friday, but not me. If anything, I find that if I want a lighter workday, it’s best for me to schedule that earlier in the week.

The weekend is prime time for my new job. We’re not only an online paper, but the goal is that we go back into print this month as a weekly newspaper serving not only Munich but all of the English-speaking community in Bavaria.

How stressful is that? Well, it’s a marathon rather than a sprint. So starting out my busiest day at one of my favourite tea salons was really a stroke of genius.

Wish I could say it’d been mine, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It was my client who came up with the idea.

Not that I spent much time arguing with her. Jumping at the opportunity, we met just as the Tushita Teehaus was opening their doors and setting tables out on the street.

I had a Sheng Pu-erh, and because my client had a bit of a cold, the friendly tea seller suggested an herbal tisane that’d soothe her throat. My tea was quite good. A great way to start the morning.

The cakes of Pu-erh pictured below made me very envious of people who drink this sort of thing all the time.

One day, eh? Well, I certainly hope so.

tasting the Darjeeling and not yet ready for the Nepalese…

Did a tea tasting this weekend. With the lady who sleeps next to me.

She didn’t like either tea, and I wasn’t much more impressed. Oh well. Can’t win them all, eh?

To be fair, these are not top-shelf Darjeelings. I knew that when the samples arrived.

Not going to do a tea review. Other than to say I wouldn’t buy these. I suppose that’s a review of sorts. I’ll hold my tongue rather than go any further.

Reviewing tea on the dark side

What tea is this?

I don’t read Chinese, so I can’t tell you. One of my clients found out I was into tea, which is an understatement, and brought me this. It was ok, not great. However, now I really want to know what it was.

All I know is that it’s a green tea and tastes weirdly burnt. Actually, if she hadn’t told me it was green, I’d have never guessed it.

That means it might not be. She doesn’t read Chinese either. Anyone have any idea what this package says?

I can make it larger if that helps.

Oh, big news over here at the Lahikmajoe Drinks Tea blog. Hasn’t been big news here in ages. I’ve neglected my tea blog for long enough. All that’s about to change.

Turns out one of my favourite tea companies is interested in doing something with me.

Exciting, eh?

I’ve been very careful with such things in the past. Several times, I’ve had companies approach me who wanted me to write glowing reviews in return for tea.

As Robert Godden says, if your review can be bought then your review isn’t worth much. I realise this isn’t the standard position on this by many/most tea bloggers. I know for a fact that some tea bloggers will write scathing reviews if a tea is bad.

Those reviewers are the only ones I trust. Really.

If you can find something positive to say about every tea, then you and I are on opposing sides. Think about it.

There are some teas that really are a crime against humanity. If your policy is to never say anything bad about a tea, then you’re essentially working for the dark side.

An exaggeration?

I’ve been known to exaggerate.

So, about the tea company with whom I’m talking. Who could Lahikmajoe possibly be talking about? Hold your horses, bub.

There’ll be time enough for that in a future post.

wet leaves and drier leaves

in Hamburg looking through the windows at Messmer Momentum’s Darjeeling boxes  

Why are most Monsoon tea flush Darjeelings not normally sold outside of their region? Aren’t all flushes worth drinking. I’ve had something called Autumn Flush from at least one company, and it was tasty enough. Certainly not bad. Anything but bad.

Then while I was talking to Michael J. Coffey and Geoff Norman, we got to talking about wet leaves versus drier leaves. Michael was talking about about Taiwanese tea rather than Indian tea, but he made an interesting point.

Apparently, the wetter the leaf is when it’s been picked, the lesser quality the resulting tea will be. Now, I’m not a grower. Clearly. Sitting here in my flat in Germany, anything I say about growing tea is based upon very limited information. I read and I listen to tea people more knowledgeable than I, but I’m passing this onto you the way I heard it. My retelling is hopefully accurate.

I found the next thing Michael said to be the most intriguing. Here’s what it was:

‘There’s a tension between the farmers and the pluckers.  Pluckers want to work early in the morning, because the dew is still on the leaves and they’re plumper. They’ll be paid more for the same amount of work. Farmers know that higher quality tea results from plucking late in the morning.
 Some farmers will make a compromise, and they’ll do both an early and late morning plucking. Afterwards, they’ll sell the two different batches separately; the late morning one being of lesser quality.’

Michael Coffey said that this was true of Taiwan in general, so this doesn’t directly relate to Darjeeling tea. The reason I even mentioned my favourite tea growing region of India, is I’ve often wondered how the rainy season affects the tea grown at that time.

There you have it. Wet leaves = ok, but not necessarily the best. Waiting until later in the morning to pick the leaves makes the resulting tea even better. Well, that’s great because I was hoping to sleep in anyway.

tea kills (maybe)

This is the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I started this teablog a few years ago, and I have to apologise. Really, it wasn’t intentional.

I could make up a lot of excuses, but the truth is you don’t come here for my problems. You come here for teablogging goodness, and that’s what I intend to give you. Is this the prettiest teablog you’ve ever seen? It is not. Am I an expert on the topic of tea? Nope. Far from it.

The whole point of this teablogging lark was to document my ‘learning about tea’ journey, as well as to display my writing. I already had made a few stabs at other blogs, and there was something missing. I read some things about bliss and passion, and then I wondered what mine were.

A while back, in the midst of one of the busiest times I’ve had in years, I saw an article that would shock and astound you. Well, it would if I could find it. It was in a German paper, which I set aside in order to use it for a future blogpost.

When I went hunting for it earlier today, it’d disappeared. Gone. What to do? Not sure.

It was a scientific article that made a dramatic and terrifying claim. For any of you men who drink a lot of tea, as well as for the people who love them, this was worrying stuff. But can I write about it if I don’t have the source? If I only have a very vague idea of what the article even said?

Of course I can. I can do nearly anything I want here. This is all fun and games, right? Teablogging fun and games.

So, I’m going to pass on an unsubstantiated story…you’ve been warned. Hold onto your hats, because you’re not going to like this.

If you drink eight cups of tea, or more, per day and are of the male persuasion, there’s a higher likelihood that you’ll get prostate cancer. You heard me. All you people who tout the health benefits of tea can stick that where the sun don’t shine.

That tea you love so much…the tea you swill from dawn to dusk…your tea is killing you. And I can’t think of a better reason to break my teablogging silence. As one of the Beasts of Brewdom, I feel it’s the very least I could do.

For the good everyone.

Be careful out there gentlemen. It’s not easy being a tea drinker.

we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles

`Yes, that’s it,‘ said the Hatter with a sigh: `it’s always tea-time, and we’ve no time to wash the things between whiles.‘ 
Howdy, lahikmajoe’s teabloggians. Lahikmajoe has been kind enough to let me guest-blog today. This is always a treat because then I get to be goofy elsewhere, other than my home. I’ve been here before. You might remember me. I’m the one who knows very little about tea and is very willing to try it, but hasn’t found anything to make her want to drink it on a regular basis yet.
Today I went on a very grand adventure. This adventure was a few months in the making, so it’s exciting that it actually finally happened. Yes, it was a tea adventure. It would be a odd if I was here and it wasn’t a tea-related adventure, now wouldn’t it? Yes. Yes, it would.
A few months ago, I noticed a sign go up in a field that I drive past on my way to work. 
This is kind of what the sign looked like. ANYWAY, I was all, “Hey, lahikmajoe, I think we’re getting a tea place, or maybe a sewing shop, when it opens, I should check that out, yeah?
Then I kind of totally forgot about it completely because life got in the way. It happens.
Then a couple of weeks ago, the local paper reviewed the place I’d completely forgotten about, and I thought, oh, oh, crap, I totally forgot about that place. I guess it opened. Whoops!
So I went to the website and I brought up the tea menu and I asked lahikmajoe if it looked any good and if I should go there. He said there were plenty of decaf options for me (I’m not supposed to have caffeine, because one of my cadre of doctors – yep, I have a cadre of them, I’m a whole medical miracle – told me that caffeine was a migraine trigger, and it seems to be the case, because when I cut the caffeine out, my migraines mostly stopped, too) but here’s the thing – I didn’t want to go to a fancy tearoom and have decaf, because the decaf options were mostly herbal, and it seemed like going to a tea place for tea that doesn’t really have tea in it would be like going to an amusement park for the people watching. It seems like a waste. You’re THERE, you really need to participate in what’s going ON. 
Plus, I really, really, REALLY wanted to try Oolong. Lahikmajoe talks about it all the time and makes it sound wonderful. Even if I tried it and hated it, I wanted to see what it tasted like. And they had Wu Yi Oolong. Doesn’t that even SOUND fancy and like you’re going on an exotic vacation? It totally does.
So I decided, let’s try something with caffeine, and see what happens. It’s probably been 12 years since the “don’t have anymore caffeine” edict, and I’ve changed a lot since then, so who knows what will happen.
So this morning! I got up at 6:45am. ON A SUNDAY. I know. I’m very dedicated. Oh, last night, lahikmajoe gave me a tutorial on Oolong and oxidation and such, which was nice. It was like going to the tea place with prior knowledge. Like I was a secret agent.
I got to The Tailored Tea at a little after 8am. I had lahikmajoe on call. I think it’s important to have a tea expert on call for situations like this, don’t you? Sure it is, come on.
The Tailored Tea looks like this. I am stealing this photo from the Albany Times Union website, because the photo I took…well, here’s their photo:
inviting, eh? you’d go there for some tea, wouldn’t you?
And here’s MINE, because I felt like a weirdo standing in the street to take a good photo, so I stood off to the side and it looks terrible.
incognito photography
I’ll never be mistaken for a professional photographer, that’s for sure. Also, there’s the Midas Brake Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts. Hi, chain establishments!
So I was the first person there. That’s a little worrisome. The staff pays a LOT of attention to you when you’re the first person there.
Now, most of you probably already read the review The Purrfect Cup did of the same place? She’s more knowledgeable than I am. So, if you didn’t, here. This is a much less scatterbrained review of the same place.
Lahikmajoe said I should ask the waitress if they do multiple infusions, and if they did, tell him, because that was the way to go. And that they would know what he was talking about. He’s the tea expert. I said I would.
I was seated at the TINIEST TABLE EVER. So, so tiny. I was immediately sure I was going to break something. I am a total bull in a china shop. Oh, also? There was a LOT of china. This had utter disaster written all over it. I immediately tucked in my elbows and prayed I would be coordinated, just for an hour or so.
The table settings were pretty. All classic linen and mismatched china.
doesn’t the china look nervous?
The waitress was young and seemed very sweet. So I was kind of nervous asking her about the infusion thing. But lahikmajoe said to. So I did.
Um…infusions…I don’t…do you want to know how we brew our tea?” she asked.
I explained that no, I was pretty sure that wasn’t what it meant – it was more about how many times you used the leaves. (Sheesh, lahikmajoe, I hope that’s right. I didn’t know there would be a quiz.)
Oh. We steep the teabags for three minutes,” she said, very happy she knew the answer this weird person was wanting.
Teabags? Oh. Um. I don’t think a fancy tearoom is supposed to have teabags. That’s a worry. (And actually really confusing, because before I left, the owner came and talked to me, and you can buy any of the teas they sell there loose-leaf. So why do they have them in teabags? Do they put them in teabags themselves? Or was the waitress just ill-informed? She was utterly adorable. I don’t want to get her in trouble.)
So I told her whatever they did would be fine and got a half-pot of Oolong, which is supposed to be 2.5 cups. She asked if I wanted her to leave the teabag in or out. She said if she left it in, it would get very strong. “Out, out, please out,” I said. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like strong tea.
I also ordered a big old omelette because it had ham and cheese in it. Yum.
She brought out the tea. The teapot was bigger than I expected. She poured me a cup in my tiny, very delicate-looking teacup. Oh, please don’t let me break this, I thought. That’d be so embarrassing.
first cup of Oolong
I looked around the table. No cream. No Splenda. I’m sure they HAD such things, but I’d have to ask for them, and the poor waitress was busy by then. Three other parties had come in. And they were old, and they were demanding. (More on these shenanigans later.)
I wanted to try it without anything in it first anyway. It’s not fair to try something to see if you like it with a bunch of add-ons. That’s like salting a meal before you even taste it to see if it needs salt.
My take on Oolongit tastes like flowers. And it doesn’t taste as tea-like as the other types of tea lahikmajoe has encouraged me to try. He wanted to know if it tasted like anything else. My answer is? Probably, but I’m not the person to ask. I don’t have a fancy palate. My favorite meal is honestly chicken fingers. All I tasted (and smelled) was flowers.
And I drank an entire half-pot (without cream or Splenda) all by myself. Without even a grimace. I actually liked it quite a lot. It was smooth, it didn’t have that weird aftertaste, and it made me feel like a fancy lady to be drinking it out of a nice teacup at a table with a tablecloth on it.
And and AND, it’s been a couple of hours, and no migraine. Not even a headache. It could still be coming, I suppose, but the only after-effects I’ve experienced so far are I’m hyped up like a crazy person (listen, YOU try not having any caffeine for 12 years and then having a half-pot of tea, which was supposed to be 2.5 cups but was really 3.5 cups!) and all the peeing. ALL THE PEEING.
Oh, the other people in the teashop? Ok, so there were three other tables of people.
Table one: crotchety demanding couple. They complained about everything to one another. “I don’t LIKE bacon. Why don’t they have TURKEY bacon.” Blah blah blah. (Also, turkey bacon is an abomination of nature, lady. Get with the program.) When the waitress cleared their table, they waited for about .0005 seconds, then the wife went LOOKING for her, out by the KITCHEN, for the check. I could hear her haranguing the staff, “We’re ready for our BILL now!” (Granted, the wait for my bill was interminable, too, but I was nicer about it. I had my phone to entertain me.)
Table two and table three: Old people who knew each other from a billion years ago. Table two said to table three, “Hey, is that you, Mary Alice? We used to volunteer at the church together!” And they were off, reminiscing about old times. The best thing though? The best thing? Table two was telling table three about a diner she liked to go to, and table three said – actually said – “Are there HIPPIES there?” And table two said, “Um. Hippies?” And table three said, “Every time I drive by, there are ALL THE HIPPIES hanging around outside.” Table two laughed uncomfortably and said, “We go very early, so there are no…um…hippies there. Then. No.” I was trying VERY HARD not to laugh out loud. THOSE DAMN DIRTY DINER-RUINING HIPPIES.
(I promise I wasn’t being openly eavesdroppy. The people didn’t know I was listening to them. I can listen and look like I’m not. I’m very good at it.)
Also, and I just kept thinking, “This would make lahikmajoe so sad,” because all three tables, the MINUTE they sat down, said a variant of “You DO have coffee here, RIGHT?” I think a couple of the ladies might have gotten tea, but mostly the men they were with were all TEA IS BAD NEWS WE DISTRUST THIS TEA NONSENSE. One guy actually said, “I’ll have coffee. And KEEP IT COMIN’.” OK, Hopalong Cassidy.
When I was done, the owner came and checked in with me about how I liked my food and my beverages (I did! Very much!) and then I went home. Oh, this is their backyard:
the backyard, which is really the airport
The backyard is the airport. Some people really dig watching planes lift off and land. I’m not as charmed. They’re just planes. 
So. The Tailored Tea in Latham, New York. I’m all-systems-go on this place. It’s cute and it’s fancy (so tuck in those elbows, people as clumsy as me) and the food is good and priced reasonably. You will probably be the youngest person in the room by about 40 years if you are my age.
And…Oolong. Well, so far I have tried black tea (in chai), Rooibos (NOT REAL TEA!), green tea, and a weird licorice herbal thing. Oolong wins hands-down.
What’s next, lahikmajoe?

trashing the tea competition

left a withered, rotten taste in my mouth

Was in the midst of my whirlwind tour through Texas, when I sat down to write a blogpost about a certain tea that I’d picked up during my travels. I’d never heard of this tea before, so I did a quick internet search to see if there were any curious stories about the tea plantation or the tea growing region. Instead I found a tea forum that ridiculed this specific tea and anyone who might have ever enjoyed it.

The ugliness of the language in this tea forum so appalled me that the little time since then that I’ve had thinking about tea blogging was spent wondering how I was going to handle this.

First of all, I hate to admit it, but my first response was to question my taste. Maybe me being this candid about my self-consciousness will be seen as a weakness by some, but so be it. Immediately, I thought, ‘Wait, this tea tastes like crap and I liked this tea. Ergo, my taste is crap.’

Luckily, I have enough confidence in both my taste in tea and my knowledge of decent tea that I didn’t  entertain that prospect for very long. This tea blogging lark isn’t a contest to see who can be snobbiest about this delicious, mostly brown liquid. Well, it certainly isn’t for me.

However, the whole experience with this site was off putting. And oddly a bit of a culture shock. See, I’ve been in Germany long enough that negative comparative selling now rubs me the wrong way. When my German friends visit the United States, they can’t believe that it’s acceptable to promote your product by trashing the competition.

From what I understand, it’s even illegal here to do that. But even if it weren’t, it’s considered bad form. I’ve asked quite a few people I know, and they insist that they’d avoid something that was marketed in such an agressive manner.

Let me be clear: writing something negative about a tea on a tea forum is not the same thing as a company trashing its competitor. Sometimes you don’t like a tea, and you say it directly. That’s something I completely understand and support. Tea reviews lose any meaning if they’re all glowing and positive.

But if your tea company has a tea forum where other companies’ tea is shamelessly trashed, I begin to wonder about your class (or lack thereof). Is that really how you want to play this game? Good luck to you on that one.

a teapot and friendly tea talk

why not a Disney teapot?

Visiting family is often a pleasure, and even more so if members of your family are tea drinkers. I wrote about my tea party with Amelia last year about this time. Although we’ve enjoyed some prodigious tea drinking hereabouts, the home I’m visiting was sorely lacking a proper teapot. Well, until today that is.

Some of you might view a Snow White teapot with a bit of suspicion. ‘Is that really a proper teapot?‘ you’re asking yourself. Well, of course it is. And all the more appealing to the little girls new to tea. Hence the design. I’ve actually made pot after pot of tea in it today. This teapot has been christened and then some.

Oh, there was a relatively small article in the New York Times yesterday entitled Flying as a Time for Sleep, Or Friendly Tea Talk about David DeCandia, who’s a master blender for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It was an article near to my heart, because it’s ostensibly about tea, but deals with periphery topics and draws them in.

In case you can’t (or don’t want to) get behind the Times pay wall, I’ll include my favourite part of it. He’s talking about travelling in general and in tea growing regions in particular. Here’s what he says:

‘A great seatmate is anyone who lets me sleep. That doesn’t mean I don’t talk to people, on occasion. I’m a friendly guy, and it’s always fun to talk to people about tea…I drink about 20 to 25 cups a day. People are very well informed about tea, and aren’t opposed to trying new types. So if someone asks me for a recommendation, I’m happy to give them some suggestions. 
Then there are those seat-mates I wish I never spoke with. 
I sat next to one gentleman recently who would not shut up. He was older, and I wanted to be polite…’

Really love this. As a rule I’m polite but curt with people sitting next to me on the plane (or the train, but that’s somehow different). But flying from Germany recently, I had a fantastic experience where my seat-mate and I talked nearly the whole flight. It wasn’t planned or anything. We simply had a lot of common interests, and one thing led to another and there we were at our destination.

Goes to show: you really don’t know what’s going to happen next. I could’ve been a jerk, and said, ‘I really want to read my book,‘ and missed out on a fantastic connection.

Am really glad I didn’t do that.

my Nana could feel us down here thinking of her

Shanghai tea house in Hamburg

While planning my trip to the US, I considered bringing enough tea from home. I have enough, and really don’t need any new tea. But such is the quandary of a tea obsessive. I don’t need any, but…I desperately want to try new tea. Although I write about tea shops in Germany and around Europe, I have several American tea sources I like. I use these trips while visiting family to take advantage of the places I like the most.

Here I was going through Upton Tea‘s website ordering one from Java and another tea from India…(a black one I’d never even heard of) and I’m sure I’ll get around to talking about here. At some point, I intend to incorporate all the tea I’m drinking on my trip, but as you know I like to write about non tea-related things here, as well.

While I was wrapping up my order, Upton Tea suggested a sample of a tea that they were nearly out of. As I read about it, I thought, ‘Oh, my. This is eerily appropriate for the purpose of my visit.‘ My maternal grandmother passed away recently, and the family is scattered all over. We arranged to meet this weekend. Despite what sounds like it could be a sad and depressing situation, we really had a good time celebrating her life rather then mourning anything.

‘What does any of this have to do with tea?’ you’re wondering. I’m glad you asked. So the tea I read about was called China Pre-Chingming Golden Pekoe. But that’d mean nothing without what I’m going to tell you next. Here’s the direct link to the description of the tea that was provided.

As it says:

The festival of Chingming (Qingming) is a 2500 year-old tradition in which people visit the burial sites of their ancestors to pay respect. It is significant in Chinese tea culture because it serves as a demarcation between a distinct pre-Chingming plucking period and the subsequent plucking period occurring after the festival date (usually around April 5). Pre-Chingming teas are prized for their delicacy and subtle, fresh nuances.

So, it’s a tea for the ancestors. Honouring one’s ancestors specifically. How ideal is this? Like I was almost led to it just in time for my trip. Then I read more about the holiday Ching Ming, which actually takes place every year on 5 April (Here’s more about that in Ching Ming). We’re weren’t willing to wait till next year for 5 April to come rolling round again. We had ancestor-honouring to take care of.

I mentioned my Aunt Elise when I wrote getting into tea in Tucson, and I knew she and her daughter (my cousin Alyssa) enjoyed drinking tea and would appreciate the symbolism of doing so in my grandmother’s honour. My mother really likes tea, so it was a foregone conclusion that she’d be game for just such an endeavour.

If there was ever a perfect scenario for throwing out the first infusion, this was it. I’d read years ago that many Taiwanese, as well as Mainland Chinese I assume, discard the first infusion as some sort of symbol to the ancestors. Something like you’re giving tea to the spirit of those that came before you. Yet, I had no intention of doing it. I don’t like throwing tea away.

But the funny/spooky thing that happened? I unwittingly spilled the first infusion. All of it. If that’s how the ancestors want to get their first infusion from us, that’s the least we could do for them. Then the actual next infusion was poured and enjoyed by me and these ladies (my mom and aunt) who’ve meant so much in my life.

The tea was a tad bitter the fist few sips, but that settled down quite nicely. A nice caramel taste in the cup, I definitely drank this in my grandmother’s honour. She might not have understood what on earth we were doing with a Gaiwan and those little cups, but I’m hopeful my Nana could feel us down here thinking of her.