Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Tschanara, Germany’s First Tea Garden

Growing tea in Germany . . . of all places . . .

Image mooched from Wikipedia. Creative Commons, foo!

Image mooched from Wikipedia. Creative Commons, foo!

Blame Wikipedia for putting that fantasy in my head. I remember reading up on tea customs in European countries, and there was a sub-section on East Frisia. It was one of the few regions in Germany that even had a tea culture to speak of.

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On the Back Roads of Vegas with Bootleg Botanicals

In mid-June, I made a trip to Las Vegas for World Tea Expo, 2016. (As you, fair reader, already know.) It fueled at least six blogs that took me all summer to write about. (They can all be found on my tea blog.) But there was one tale I forgot to tell. It only . . . “kinda” has to do with tea.

I had one more day in Vegas after that whirlwind convention week. For some reason, I scheduled a flight for two days after the Expo. I figured I needed a day to decompress, and—as luck had it—I had friends in the area. Team Bootleg Botanicals—Ryan and Melanie Belshee—agreed to put me up for the night.

Who are Bootleg Botanicals?

Image owned by Bootleg Botanicals.

Image owned by Bootleg Botanicals.

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Agarwood Puerh, and the Tale of Two J(G)e(o)ffreys

At the 2012 Northwest Tea Festival, I met this guy.

Jeffrey McIntosh

The man in my crappy photo is Jeffrey McIntosh. Granted, his version of spelling “Geoffrey” is not the original—as mine is—but no one is perfect. However, he does hold the distinct honor of being one of the first people (younger than me) to blow my mind. During a talk he gave at the festival, he mentioned that puerh teas all came from different cultivars from one tea tree variety—the Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

Okay, for the very well-educated tea geek, that’s not exactly earth-shattering news. But four years ago, that changed my whole worldview, man. I thought that variety only grew in Assam, India because of the name.

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Kuding Cha

About a year ago, I was called upon by a tea vendor to write about tisanes made from holly species. Various caffeinated infusions have been made from holly plants—guayusa, yaupon, and the granddaddy of ‘em all, yerba mate. But in my research, I ran across a beverage made from a holly plant . . . in China.

The species of holly? Ilex kudingcha (sometimes referred to as Ilex kashue). The beverage? Kuding Cha. The name translated roughly to “bitter nail tea”. As the name implies, it had a very bitter taste if over-brewed. And, like its Western cousins, it was also (quite possibly) caffeinated.

After learning of that interesting bit of information, I didn’t pay it any mind. I knew no one who carried it. But then I saw a striking picture by one of my vendor acquaintances on Instagram—Nomad Tea Merchant. They carried Kuding Cha.

Nomad's Kuding Cha jpg

Image owned by Nomad Tea Merchants.

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Aged Oolong from Thailand

In all my years of writing about tea, there’s one subject I don’t think I’ve touched upon in great detail. That being: Aged oolong.

Thai Aged Oolong loose

 

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Cups, Crossroads, and the Way of World Tea Expo

It was the last day of World Tea Expo, and I seemed to have lost my “Way”.

That’s how I felt that morning—kinda lost. Rousting out of bed was difficult, as per usual. But today was particularly hard. Last days of anything usually are. To kick the tiredness to the curb, I went from zero-to-“wake-the-hell-up” with a yaupon RTD.

Asi Muscadine

It did the trick.

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A Tea Pairing in the Sky

Let me tell you a little about my “Tea Uncle”, Austin Hodge.

Austin and me

Austin Hodge and I. Photo by Nicole Schwartz.

Why is he wearing a Zhong Shan Zhuang, and how did someone convince me to wear a suit? I’ll get to that.

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The Power of the Pitch at World Tea Expo

World Tea Expo, 2016, Day 2 . . . started early.

Really early. Okay, maybe not that early, but it felt early. Sleep was a rare commodity that week, thus far. I immediately hit the Teas Etc. booth and grabbed an oolong to refuel.

Early Morning Oolong at World Tea Expo

If I was going to spend the morning attending core panels, I was gonna need it. My attention span was rocky at best, already. Add lack of sleep to that, and I was useless to the world.

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Niu-Gu, FaceTubes, and Matcha Wrestling

A month ago, during a tea-‘n-matcha-fueled dinner pairing, a university educator asked me this:

“What do you do?”

“I’m just a tea blogger,” I replied.

She sort of tilted her head, confusedly—like a Saint Bernard.

saint bernard

Then asked, “Why?”

The follow-up question caught me off-guard. I was both hurt and offended by it. Not because she meant it as a slight (it wasn’t and she didn’t), but more because . . . I had no clue how to answer that question.

But I’m getting ahead of myself . . . let’s get back to that tea pairing I mentioned at the beginning.

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The Return of the Fellowship to World Tea Expo

Returning to World Tea Expo this year felt like a scene right out of Return of the King.

Returning to World Tea Expo be like

You know the one—where all four battle-weary Hobbits came back. Everything was the same . . . but they weren’t. That’s how the first day of Expo felt to me. This was the first one to be held in Las Vegas since 2013, and it looked like 2013 all over again. However, a lot had happened to me in the ensuing three-to-four years.

I was not the same tea drunk Hobbit. Still tea drunk, sure, but more . . . I dunno . . . worldly? No, that’s not the right word. Perhaps I’ll come up with a better descriptor as I write on.

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