Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Category: Tea Features (Page 1 of 21)

A Tea Pairing from One Wuyi Artisan

For those that have tuned in to my li’l corner of “the In-Tea-Net”, folks can tell I have an affinity for talking about where the tea comes from. I have focused a lot of text-space to estates, gardens, factories, and the farmers that supply their wares to them. Less frequent, though, are my forays into focusing on the ways-‘n-means of the artisans.

Image owned by Seven Cups.

Mainly because . . . the opportunity hasn’t arisen.

Until Austin Hodge of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas contacted me.

Austin Hodge; Image owned by Seven Cups.

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The “Heritage” of Assam

I’ve covered Assam before, and the many tea gardens that lie within the Indian state. To date, though, I don’t think I’ve focused on tea factories in the region. So, this post will be something a little bit different. But let’s start at the beginning.

World Tea Expo, 2014: it was my second such tradeshow. And the wholesale outfit that had the biggest booth there was Tealet.

Image owned by Tealet.

My first day on the tradeshow floor, I recall making multiple loop-arounds to their booth. On one such boomerang, they were serving up a very unique tea from Assam. A green tea that was smoked over oakwood.

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White Teas from Vietnam

In the fall of 2015, I found myself reading a tea blog (instead of writing one). Fellow tea geek Amanda Freeman used to keep one of the more prolific tea blogs in the community, and—at times—I suffered from a bit of professional jealousy. Often, she’d run into weird and strange teas before I did. And on this particular day, she wrote about this:

Photo by Amanda Freeman. Used with permission.

A white tea from Vietnam.

My jaw dropped and I salivated. So much so, that I contacted the vendor—What-Cha Tea—and begged for a sample myself. In typical fashion, I didn’t “punctually” drink it until . . . February. I remember it being a beautiful looking white made from exquisitely cultivated tea leaf buds, and the taste resembled nothing I had tried before; white or otherwise.

So, why haven’t I talked about it until now?

Good question.

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A Tea Leaf on the Wind

In the hierarchy of tea businesses, monthly tea subscription services are like man-buns.

Unless you have a really good reason for starting one—or your name is Toshiro Mifune—it is usually best not to. Since 2014, there has been a veritable surge of tea start-ups, and the route they’ve all chosen? You guessed it, the monthly subscription model. When I attended World Tea Expo that year, every new vendor present was either (a) trying to start one, or (b) “thinking” of starting one. And from a business perspective, it makes sense.

All a potential “monthly” vendor had to do was acquire enough wholesale product at cost in order to meet the demand of their current subscriber base. They could easily keep a tally of how much to purchase and when—i.e. once a month. This strategy kept costs low and overhead even. No gambling.

The problem?

With a glut of so many subscription services out there, and a dearth of people interested in tea, it’s hard to stand-out. A vendor would need to have a very unique angle to the strategy in order to stick out in the rough. And, no, custom blending doesn’t count. At least, not anymore.

So, when I was approached by Tea Runners in June of this year, one can understand why I went into the conversation skeptical. I was approached by Charlie Ritchie, and—just from the initial email—I already liked the guy. His tone was conversational, jovial, and it didn’t come across as a normal cut-‘n-paste e-mail job. Even it if was, I couldn’t tell, so . . . go him! That and his replies to my queries were prompt and polite.

Tea Vendor Etiquette Level: Wizard.

After the initial message, I did a little research. I, at least, wanted to give this li’l start-up the benefit of the doubt before I turned my nose up. I went to their bio and saw . . .

Left to Right: Charlie Ritchie and Jewel Staite. Image owned by Tea Runners.

Wait a minute . . .

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A Mabian, Sichuan Tea Flight

This may come as a surprise (to no one), but I’m a bit of a lurker in the tea community.

Various social media groups exist celebrating our beloved beverage and the many facets therein. On Facebook alone, I keep a keen eye out for interesting posts by some members of these groups. Particularly if someone runs into something new or weird—y’know, my basic tea blog mission statement.  And on one such day, several months back, I ran into a photograph posted by West China Tea/Guan Yin Tea House’s purveyor, So Han Fan.

Image owned by So Han Fan.

A white tea grown and processed in Sichuan province, China.

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A Series of Single Origin Tea Sonnets

In the Spring of 2017, I met this eccentric chap.

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Tea, Coffee, and the Arakai Estate Terroir

The family Collins, purveyors of the Arakai Estate, have had a busy year.

Image owned by the Arakai Estate.

Which is a bit of an understatement.

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Tea Grown in Peru

Spoiler alert: there’s tea growing in Peru.

Photo by Arafat Espinoza

I know, that’s not a surprise to anyone. After all, the country is considered the 28th largest tea producer in the world. However, until last year, it was completely new news to me. But let’s begin with where I began in my pursuit for Peruvian tea.

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A Wild Darjeeling

This is an awkward statement to make right now . . . but . . . I’ve been on a bit of a Darjeeling kick, lately.

Photo by Nathalia Leter. Used with permission.

Especially given recent (at the time of this writing) news reports. And I’m not going to delve into any of that. This is a tea blog; I tell tea stories. And this is—for once—a happy tea story about Darjeeling. A “wild” one.

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A Kazuo Kit of Sencha from the Land of Bears

Let’s get right to the point, I’ve been a fan of the sencha brand, Mellow Monk, for years.

Image owned by Mellow Monk.

Pretty much since the early days of my tea blogging career. The only one who seemed unaware of this, however . . . was Mellow Monk.

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