Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Agony of the Leaf to Shut Down

Ridgewood, NJ's own Agony of the Leaf MeetUp group is set to close down in 11 days (and counting). The group organizer has resigned and none of the 123 "Teaists" (myself included) have yet to put the kettle back on the burner (so to speak). I joined the group fairly recently and so have never attended one of their meetups though group member Larissa testifies that "[It is a] good bunch of people definitely."

According to the MeetUp group description:
Tea can be our breath during our busy lives...
Just a moment for the ritual of steeping fragrant leaves can be enough to exhale. And just another moment to inhale its intoxicating aroma.
Tea can steady us... bring our focus back to where it needs to be. In the moment.
Tea give us that breath to think and reflect on our path throughout the day.
We take Tea in the morning to awaken our senses to the world. During meals to enhance the flavors reminding us to taste each morsel. In the afternoon to remember to breathe. In the evening to relax before sleep takes us into the dream realm.
Tea IS liquid meditation. Please meditate responsibly. Drink good Tea.

Do you have what it takes to save the Agony of the Leaf?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Tea Auction November 19th

The auction will also be online here. (Thanks to Tea Tour NY for the heads up.)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

10 Questions with Jason Witt

If you have been reading and/or writing a tea blog lately odds are good you have come across Jason Witt. The author of two books on spirituality and a weekly e-newsletter, his latest book deals with the spirituality of tea. The following ten questions were conducted via e-mail.

1. For those who have never read your newsletter, could you describe it?

I call my email newsletter “Teaternity” and it’s about the spirituality of tea. But this is often in the context of health so a lot of attention is given to the healing properties of tea and why it’s better than coffee, etc.

2. What would you like the impact of your newsletter to be?

I just want to reach everyone who’s interested in the tea faith specifically. That could end up being a lot of people at least here in America.

3. Could you give us a brief day in the life of Jason Witt? How much tea does it involve?

I get up at 3:00 or 4:00 am. In the morning I do certain tasks that change with time. Lately I’ve been getting my book “Spirituality of Tea” ready in the mornings. In the afternoon I do commenting on the 200 tea blogs that I follow. Throughout the day I drink about 5 liters of Puerh. And I could even drink more on many days if I didn’t slow down deliberately.

4. How has having written two books about religion influenced your tea drinking experience?

Jesus gave of Himself in the form of food (bread and wine) and He encouraged the devoted to bring their own offering to the table. I want to give of myself as if I were tea.

5. You say on your website that you like “tea-themed music of all eras”, could you explain?

The 20th Century and modern times holds a lot of music that mentions tea or puts it totally in the spotlight. I’m collecting these songs with my ability on the Internet to search lyrics databases. Right now I’m in the processing of collecting songs about a “cup of tea” and there are many because they make good love songs. Everyone wants to meet the person who’s their cup of tea.

6. What’s it like being a tea drinker in Minnesota? Any favorite spots or shops?

There’s one hip tea shop, The Tea Garden, Inc that’s in some cool neighborhoods. But since I’m a Puerh Guy, I just can’t get that locally in any variety like I want it. I like bringing Puerh with me and just getting hot water in coffee shops.

7. A major topic in your newsletter is choosing tea over coffee, when did you last (if ever) drink coffee?

A few months ago I realized that I may never again touch coffee, even for the rest of my life. There have been times when I’ve drunk my share of coffee but it’s been rare in recent years. In Fall of 2008 I quit all caffeine (including tea) for a couple months. That only served to open up to me my devotion to tea when I started drinking it again.

8. If someone wanted to make the switch from coffee to tea, where should they begin?

I would say to sample different kinds of tea a lot to find out what you like. Find stores online that offer samples and find out the difference between Oolong, green, and black. Sometimes I say to switch right to Puerh also, especially if the person was particularly fond of coffee.

9. What do you envision for the future of tea drinking in America?

I see the growth of the tea industry continuing at least until the Baby Boomers are all mostly gone. That’s because they’re driving the current obsession with health of the body as they age. That’s made tea more and more appealing.

10. Is there anything you would like to add?

If you’re interested in my book “Spirituality of Tea” then you can get a free copy of it in PDF by signing up for my newsletter. And so that it’s easier to read, I’ve priced the book at $12.95 so it doesn’t cost too much to grab a copy or two.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tea Tour NY: Haamonii Smooth Shochu & Tea Tasting

The Haamonii Smooth Shochu & Tea Tasting was my first Meet-Up. It was a plunge into that gray area where the internet and the real world collide. As more of us carry around the internet in our pockets it is a gray area that diminishes but never really goes away (at least in my opinion). There are always concerns. There could always be complications. Just because you have names and pictures and e-mail addresses does not mean you really know those people out there. Sure they have an avatar of their cat in sunglasses drinking a cola on a beach in Santa Barbara. You laughed about it. You commented. The cat’s name is Pickles you found out. But what else is going on there? Cats do not really need sunglasses and they sure as hell do not like going to the beach. Can you ever be really prepared for the in real life treatment? was introduced to me via this The Talk of the Town piece in The New Yorker. If you are unfamiliar with the site it works much as the name implies. The goal is to “meet up” with people who share similar interests. Someone starts a club, people join the club, the club has events, those people attend those events. Just like with any other social cyberspacing there is a copious amount of electronic messaging and digital picture trading but what sets MeetUp apart is that the end goal is always some kind of real world interaction. Unlike the Pandora’s Box that is The Facebook and its time annihilating brethren, the point of is always, at some point, to meet up.

Pre-event organization for the Shochu tasting consisted of an RSVP system that stressed the very limited amount of RSVPs. To show that there was no kidding around the very limited RSVPs filled up very shortly after the event was announced, a good month in advance. Were people really that interested in Shochu or were we assembling for a much darker purpose? Was this like a meeting where you show up early to demonstrate your enthusiasm or was it more like a party where you show up late to demonstrate your hip-and-with-it-ness? I did not know who to ask and the gridlock of the RSVP system seemed to rule out bringing a friend along. The last thing I wanted to do was commit a MeetUp faux pas.

I ended up arriving at the apartment high rise in Hell’s Kitchen about a half hour after the designated meet time. It seemed like a good compromise between punctual and absentee. Where I had expected a small apartment and a large crowd, I found quite the reverse to be true. About seven people or so hung around the Sochu table (pictured above) in a well kempt space quite possibly big enough to play basketball in. Some thirty stories below the Hudson chugged along, maintaining the necessary space between New York and New Jersey. The view was gorgeous and even wrapped around to include some of the surrounding neighborhood (including historically exciting New Yorker Hotel).

Canada, Australia, Maine, and Brooklyn were all represented in the crowd. We snacked. We chatted. We tried two different types of Sochu. Sometimes it came alone, sometimes with a combination of tea. I found the Shochu to be best when mixed. A particular standout was lemon flavored Shochu with ice cubes made of lapsang souchong. The smokiness of the lapsang glided nicely over the Shochu as the ice melted. Sanchang ice cubes in scotch were also recommended. I made a note to try it.

We talked more, sometimes about tea. Some people left, some new people arrived. Full RSVP capacity never seemed to be fully attained. We talked about places we had been. I made sure to tell people that I went to Iceland last year.

“It was beautiful,” I said. They nodded, having heard that Iceland is very beautiful. I told them about the truly excellent Russian Caravan blend I purchased there. We admired the view, watching the lights go on in New Jersey. Had anyone ever been to New Jersey?

“Just the airport,” someone said and some others nodded, most of them having only been to the airport. We drank more Shochu though some people came exclusively for the tea and, presumably, the conversation.

Afterwards I met up with some friends. One of them had been to a taco MeetUp recently.

“We ran around and got tacos” she said. “It was great.”
I told her about the Sochu tasting, the tea people, the view of the Hudson.

“Free booze in a beautiful apartment? Who wouldn’t like that?” she said.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Goodybe, Gourmet

In the latest issue of Gourmet there is a story about $1,000 eating spree in New York City entitled “Having a Grand Time, New York City”. If editor Ruth Reichel had $1,000 to spend on dining out in New York, the article dares to ask, how would she spend it? The idea seems a tantalizing romp through the city for some though a sign of a disconnected media for others. As web a commenter calling themselves Fruitbats wants to know, “Have you lost your touch, Gourmet?” Did Fruitbats know perhaps that soon enough Gourmet would lose its magazine as well?

If you are reading a food related blog, odds are good you already know that after a 68 year long run Gourmet has gone the way of Life and Stuff, which is to say, to that big magazine rack in the sky. Odds are good you also have an opinion on the matter. Did she jump or was she pushed? Reading through articles and editorials regarding the passing, most people tend to fall into two camps, neither of which seem to be all too shocked. There are the Glad It’s Gone/They Got What They Deserve (that magazine was always too snobby, their recipes were too hard to make, Reichel ran it into the ground) and the Not Glad/They Don’t Deserve This (their taste was refined, the recipes were fascinating, Reichel was taking it in the right direction).

Regardless of your personal feelings about the magazine and whether or not they got what was coming to them, we have lost a professional magazine devoted to quality food writing. If you can find another publication that would let a David Foster Wallace riff on the ethics of lobster festivals (extensive foot notes and all), I would like to see it. Gourmet certainly had faults but not being another magazine devoted to celebrity chefs and/or supermarket moms who "chop and drop" (to use Michael Pollan's phrase) was not one of them. Though I was never a subscriber, I personally found their travel writing entertaining, their photography excellent (though one user called it “pornographic”), and their branching out to non-culinary writers like Wallace (and their non-traditional culinary views) refreshing. That being said, I think it is safe to say that we can now move on.

As a friend pointed out to me recently, it seems that everyone with a mouth and a computer has a blog devoted to cheeseburgers (or in some cases tea). Joe Hamburger is dutifully informing the internet about every burger stand he can get his grease spattered paws on. After all, people have always had opinions on what they eat, now it is just a whole lot easier to share them with everybody else (though if anyone else actually reads them is a whole other story). Whether this is a good or bad thing is really a non-issue. Like the proliferation of text messaging and the lasting popularity of reality TV, it’s just something that is. It’s how things are now but most likely not how they will be forever.

Now, assuming you didn’t crash your Rolls-Royce or faint into your Faberge egg collection when you heard the news about Gourmet, you are probably OK. I am sure Ms. Reichel and her staff will survive without too much devastation. Even if they have to resort to pillaging the Bon Appetite offices and picking their teeth with their adversaries’ bones, I am sure they will be able to stay warm this winter. What I find to be more important now is the new role of Joe Hamburger pushing those grease spattered paws over the keyboard. Can he and you and me fill this ever widening void of good culinary critique? Should we give up on taste just because Conde Nast canceled one of the more legitimate outlets of food writing? Are we all going to roll over and take whatever sort of wretch the culinary world wants to jam down our (literal) throats?

In short, no.

We may have lost a well edited (and decent paying) source of criticism but that does not mean good criticism has to fall by the wayside. The challenge for those who want to tell the world about their adventures in cheeseburgers or tea or whatever else has merely been increased. Keep in mind Elegant Bride was also canceled but you have not heard of anyone changing their wedding plans or mourning the loss of good weddings. For those who care about these sorts of things we are now living in a post-Gourmet world, one in which we must type more accurately, and (in a way) more bravely.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Product: Eight Cranes Perfect Steeper

Full disclosure: I do not own this nor have I tested it, but I honestly like the modern, almost Bauhaus design. There are no reviews posted yet on where it is going for $39.99. What follows is the official press release:

As the second-most consumed beverage in the world, tea has garnered an image of civility and natural simplicity. Steeping loose tea provides a healthy alternative in comparison to the fructose, dyes and other manufactured additives that dominate popular drinks throughout the US. Eight Cranes’ Perfect Steeper™ gives the everyday consumer an opportunity to indulge in the taste and fragrances of loose tea and experience its innovation on-the-go.

The Perfect Steeper’s design and manufacturing provide casual tea drinkers and connoisseurs easy functionality and carefree consumption. The exterior includes double-walled chambers with high tempered glass and polycarbonate allowing accidental drops and boiling water to be handled with ease.

The removable polycarbonate brewer, located at the top of the product, can steep loose tea up to 15 times without the mess or waste of traditional teapots. The brewing system of the Steeper keeps the loose tea separate from the water chamber until the user is ready to create the perfect brew.

A full demonstration of the product can be found at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

from Fort Lee, NJ

I brought my camera along to a Korean BBQ place in Fort Lee, NJ. I thought that maybe they would have some kind of tea on the menu I'd never seen before. Well, there wasn't any tea but I did get these two silly pictures. Note menu item E-12 in the first photo.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Review: FUZE Green Tea

547mL (Stop & Shop, $1.34)

Part of the fun of writing a tea blog is that it gives you license to try anything even remotely related to tea. Products that would otherwise be deemed as reckless spending are just new things to write about. Someone needs to keep the tea drinking (and reading) community informed. Who knows what sort of tea related diamonds lurk in the vast roughage of our global marketplace? That being said, it’s hard to call any company owned by soft drink king Coca-Cola as “roughage” but for the purposes of this review the phrase will suffice.

Started in 2001 by “health enthusiast” Lance Collins (see video above) FUZE was created, according to the FUZE website, to be “a breakthrough beverage that not only pleased taste buds alike, but incorporated real health benefits too!” In 2003 the company branched out from light, fruit flavored beverages to include tea flavored drinks. Currently endorsed by twangy country seductress Julie Roberts (not to be confused with the actress of a similar name) and easily found in most any corner store, supermarket, or big box mega-market (at least in my area), FUZE seems to have done well for itself over the past eight years. Not to mention of course, being purchased by Coca-Cola in 2007 for a reported $250 million.

The bottle of FUZE Green Tea does a lot of boasting about the health benefits of tea. Polyphenols, Folic Acid, and Antioxidants are all given mention ensuring the consumer that the contents of this bottle rival the health benefits of fresh vegetables. It all sounds like a good way to kick back with your health conscious friends after a rousing match of yoga right up until you get up to the taste.

Both tasting and smelling something like watered down Herbal Essence Shampoo with a dash of sweetener, Green Tea FUZE is not only unpleasant, it bears absolutely no resemblance to any type of green tea I have ever had. “Green Tea from Tea Leaves” is listed ninth on the ingredient list (behind essentials such as Green Tea Extract and Natural Flavor), but nowhere is it made clear what type of green tea is involved.

Opinions on the internet about FUZE drinks in general seem to be pretty split. Rumors circulate that FUZE products are in fact harmful to your health while supporters maintain that not only are they good for you, the $1.50 or so price range is a steal. Either way, I am unlikely to try any other FUZE products, nor am I likely to try and listen to any more music by Julie Roberts. I tried to make it through “Men & Mascara” for this article but I found the YouTube comments much more interesting. Consider the unfortunate case of commenter darrenmcoy65:

yes it is very true it is a two sided road! i was with someone that i thought was a lady ! im goin to b 25 in octber an i have only bein with two ladys in my life time! an all i ever wanted out of either one was there trust an heart! one just walked a way! an the other well was to much in to cheatin an drugs! sex is fun yes! but i could live with just a ladys heart an trust! so it really is two sided roads!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tea 101

About 1/3 general tea promo and 2/3 catalog, this pdf file from The Tea Spot will leave you wondering why you would ever drink anything else. Interspersed with images of healthy looking young people, it has some useful information for the tea newcomer (such as correct brewing times) as well as some suggested purchases from the Tea Spot catalog. No scientific data is presented to back up quite a few scientific claims such as the statement on page 5 that “Puerh [tea] can lower the alcohol level in the bloodstream” though on a whole Tea 101 is a worthwhile read for gems like the one on page 3 “It takes no more effort to produce an extraordinary cup of tea than it does a mediocre one!”

Take Tea 101 here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Take a Moment to Enjoy

As user Rickydude writes
"Next to Citizen Kane,this must be the best movie ever made.What a wonderful film."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Bees make the honey and cocaine certainly helps.

Shouts & Murmurs: Buzzed:

Shared via AddThis

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: Alvita Catnip Tea

30 tea bags (, $3.06)

Present in all fifty American states but Florida and Hawaii, the plant nepeta cataria (also known as catnip, catmint, catsword, and field balm) is attributed with a variety of health benefits. A quick search on the internet reveals that it may help to suppress and/or treat cough, headache, sore throat, insomnia, colic, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, and miscarriage. Whether or not this member of the mint family can do some or all of that has yet to be confirmed by anyone official. Of course in that same internet search you are likely to come across devotees. (For instance this site offers advice on using catnip to treat colic however I could not find any testaments to catnip’s prevention of miscarriage.)

I decided to try catnip tea as a sleep aid (“a cup of hot catnip tea taken at bedtime insures a good night’s sleep” one website advertises). Whether or not I slept any better than I usually do after drinking I can’t really say. What I can report with certainty is that this stuff tastes terrible.

From experimenting with different teas (and their herbal counterparts) I have to say that whenever the term “earthy” is thrown around, a red flag should go up. In this case, as in others, the term “earthy” actually means “awful”. Best compared to trying to drink old clothing that doesn’t fit, if you really want to use catnip for medicinal purposes, by all means, find a different way to do it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The General's Tea

Grow tea, not guns? Check out this story from Gourmet about growing tea in Thailand.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sanctuary T

Sanctuary T
337B West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
(212) 941-7832

Despite being described by the New York Observer as catering to a “more disheveled crowd” (more disheveled than the average Four Seasons customer presumably), a recent visit to Sanctuary T revealed very little dishevelment. Tending more towards tucked in shirts and square glasses, the crowd lacked the clouds of dirt and patchwork clothing of a good dishevelment. The patrons blend in so well with the blonde wood and wicker chairs in fact that it is not uncommon to mistake the place for one of the many similar looking dimly lit SOHO apartments nearby.

As the name suggests, tea is the name of the game at 337B West Broadway. The menu includes a wide selection of tea blends and tea infused cocktails alongside short explanations to dispel any confusion. The Midnight Flower, for instance, is “A string of Jasmine flowers with a lily blossom wrapped in black tea” ($5) while the Rise and Shine cocktail is a mixture of “pear, green tea, vodka, lemon” ($12). Each table features a color coordinated cube with sand timers (available for $18) to ensure proper brewing (an explanation of which can be found on the wall opposite the bathroom). Hot tea is served with a stick of rock candy and at least one hot water refill per cup can be expected.

I went with the Pineapple Sencha cup ($4) which proved light and pleasant however without as much pineapple flavor as I expected. The Cava de Cama ($12) which combines elderflower, chamomile tea, and cava in a wine glass was sweet though hardly distinguishable from any other fruity, bubbly concoction on the market. A dining companion who was feeling under the weather asked our waiter for a recommendation. His advice was the Dragon Well ($4) for its promotion of “general well being”. Did he know what he was talking about, or did he just suggest it because it had Well in the name?

I asked her afterward if she was feeling any better. She said while her condition had not changed immediately, she was confident things were improving.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The FM3 Buddha Machine

If you haven't already experienced the FM3 Buddha Machine this review from sums it up:

The Buddha Machine, then, is a little plastic box that plays music. Specifically, FM3 constructed nine drones, varying from two seconds to 42 seconds, which repeat endlessly in the listener's ear until the "track" is switched to the next drone (or the two AA batteries run out). The machine has its own built-in speaker, in case one would like to fill a room with the drones, but there is also a headphone jack for more personal meditative experiences. There's a switch on the side that allows for traversal of the tracks, and a DC jack (though an adapter is not included) for those who would like the Buddha Machine experience be truly endless. In a way, it's like the cheapest pre-loaded IPod you'll ever be able to buy. It even comes in a number of different colors, for the fashion-conscious experimental music aficionado.

If you're like me and this sounds awesome but you're unlikely to actually buy it, check out the Zendesk Buddha Machine Wall. I turn this thing on at work whenever public radio starts talking about musicals and serenity soon follows. It's great with tea.

There's also an iphone app.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

New Barbies for tea?

I came across this ad on the NYC Craigslist:



It really raises more questions than it answers. Where did they get all that tea? Why do they want new barbies?

See the original here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

No Time for Tea

National Public Radio's Studio 360 checks out the state of the Japanese tea ceremony in modern Japan. Is there even time for tea in Japan, what with cell-phone novels and such?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Review: McNulty's Elderberry Blend

McNulty's Tea and Coffee Co. ($5.50, 1/4 lb.)

Assuming you can make it past the raunchy sex shops and equally raunchy NYU students that populate the area around McNulty’s, you can get to a really great tea shop (a full review of which is coming soon). McNulty’s not only has a lot of teas, they have a lot of teas available for seeing and smelling (I’ve never asked about tasting). Based purely on the merits of sight and smell I decided to give their Elderberry Blend a try.

If looking at this stuff doesn’t make you want to drink it maybe you should stick to rain water or gasoline or whatever it is that has ruined your good sense. There is no hiding the enticement of those dried elderberries and hibiscus flowers. They look more like additions to a high level granola mix than the beginnings of a relaxing drink. If you can bring yourself to pour hot water over these delectable elements, things get even better.

Brewing to a highly fragrant, deep purplish-red this blend is not fooling around. Deep on berry flavor, the smell makes you feel as though you might be head first in a sambucus nigra bush and the taste that follows only emphasizes the notion.

Simply put, the berry flavor is strong. With a slightly bitter twinge at the end this, as far as I can tell, is a real elderberry experience. One often comes across teas in this world that smell great only to find their flavor a muted disappointment. This is not one of them.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thusly Tea Joins All Your Recipes

Thusly Tea has been added to a "blog roll for a delicious world". The site features an assortment of international food related sites.

Highlights include featuring recipes and pictures of Italian delicacies and The Foodie List with vital information about food throughout the UK.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Best NYC Tea Spots

The New York Observer recently published a top ten list of places for tea in New York City. Geared towards the hip-and-with-it crowd, it features some enticing venues such as Sanctuary T which appeals to a "more disheveled customer".

For the more sophisto crowd, there is this article from The New York Times published last March.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Creating the Perfect Cup of Tea

If you happen to live in the greater Rochester, NY area check out this class at the Pittsford Wegmans on January 28th. According to the Wegmans website:

If you’ve avoided trying loose leaf tea because it seemed too complicated, relax. Simplicity is the key! We have learned so much about tea, we’re excited to share our methods and techniques for making a great cup! Our tea experts will help you understand the vocabulary of teas, how to properly prepare it, what tools you need, and will answer many frequently asked questions about tea. You’ll also enjoy a light dinner along with a variety of our new whole loose leaf teas from around the world to complete this unique learning experience.

More information can be found here.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Plucker's Pick Tea Critic's Club

The online retailer Plucker's Pick is offering an interesting deal. For $5 you can join their Tea Critic's Club. This involves receiving a 1 ounce sample of their tea plus four samples from competitors such as Bigelow and Tetley. After drinking you can post your review on their website. The response so far seems to be small but positive. I intend on joining soon.

Sign up here.