Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Tag: black tea (Page 1 of 6)

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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Rethinking Tea Categories

Editor’s Note: This is merely a thought exercise by the author. The opinions reflected in the below narrative do not reflect the opinions of the teaware on staff . . . or this editor, for that matter.

Seriously, I just work here, guys.

A thought occurred to me over the years. No one has come to a clear consensus as to what the proper tea categories are. The general consensus is that there are six: Heicha (Dark Tea), Hong Cha (Black/Red Tea), Wulong, Green Tea, Yellow Tea, and White Tea. However, some say that yellow tea isn’t its own category (even though it clearly is). Others champion the stance that dark tea shouldn’t include sheng (raw) puerh. Others still believe puerh should be its own category. Hell, even some international trade laws only recognize two tea categories.

So, this got me thinking . . .

If I were the end-all/say-all authority on tea lexicography, how would I divvy up the different tea types? What would my breakdown look like? Well, in order to answer that question, I must breakdown (and in some cases, outright destroy) existing trends. This might over-complicate the issue, and over-simplify other things. But this is my write-up . . . and I’ll do what I want. So, here we go:

*dons helmet*

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A Wild Mountain Tea Mystery

Editor’s Note: The following article is inspired by real events. I say “inspired” because . . . well . . . obviously a lot of it is totally made up. It should be pretty obvious which bits are pure B.S. Anyway, enjoy. (This took weeks to put together.)

**************************************************************************

Chances are, you’ve probably never heard of me.

Photo by Robert Norman.

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A Single Origin Georgian Tea Flight

To date, I’ve had three or four experiences with Georgian teas. As in, teas grown in the country of Georgia; not the U.S. state. However, there was one type of tasting session I had yet to do. That being, to try all the wares from one farmer/producer, in order to enjoy their individual quirks and artistry.

And then I read THIS.

You should read it, too. I’ll wait.

The folks behind Tea in the City (a UK-based online tea operation) made a sourcing trip across the entire expanse of the Caucasus range—from Azerbaijan, to Sochi, Russia, and then on down to Georgia. They visited many large producers in the country, and on their final leg of the journey, they ended up in the region of Guria. Specifically, they found a farmer in the small town of Ozurgeti, just outside of the larger resort town of Batumi.

The farmer in question? A guy named Davit.

Image owned by Tea in the City.

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Bros, Bug Shit, and Black Tea

I don’t get out much.

Of course, with how “well” these brew-based blogs turn out, that goes without saying. In the last couple of months, I tried to make a concerted effort to step out of my comfort zone (i.e. my basement) and—maybe—explore new teashops. Well, that didn’t happen. I mean, there are places I need to check out, but they aren’t appearing here . . . yet. However, I thought I’d highlight two separate tea sessions—locally, as in, Portland-centric—I had with two tea-bros recently, instead.

What’s a tea-bro?

It’s a bro you have tea with. Duh.

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Going Back to Bitaco . . . with Video

About a year and a half ago (from the time of this writing), I wrote about Bitaco Tea—an outfit based near La Cumbre, Colombia.

Their specialty? You guessed it. Colombian grown tea. I encountered their booth at World Tea Expo in the summer of 2015, and they passed on several samples of their wares. Several months later, I finally featured their green and black tea on this here blog. Needless to say, I liked what I sampled.

Imagine my surprise when I encountered them again at the 2016 World Tea Expo. This time, however, they passed on several different grades of their green tea and black tea. Also, a little something special.

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I “Heart” Doke

I “heart” the Doke tea estate.

Photo by Rajiv Lochan.

No, I’m not ashamed to use the word “heart” instead of “love”. Especially today. Okay, I winced a tiny bit at the grammatical incorrectness of it (and the cutesiness of it) . . . but the sentiment still stands. And, given when this blog is going up, the cutesy incorrectness is fitting.

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