TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

November 13, 2013

Ramblings: Everybody starts their tea journey somewhere

Filed under: exotic tea,food,iced tea,tea,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 4:22 pm
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People often strike up conversations with me at the supermarket. Usually I enjoy these conversations, which generally fall into one of three categories. Some folks just want to chat, and I guess I look pretty harmless, so they figure it’s safe. Others must think that this is my first visit to a supermarket, because they give me all kinds of advice on what to buy.

iced-tea-glass-lemonThe third type of conversation, and naturally my favourite, is with folks who think I look smart, and actually ask for my advice. Often it’s a gentleman who can’t quite decipher his wife’s shopping list, so he asks me which is better, white or red grapefruit. (Red, fer sure.) Or the couple who needed a tie-breaker because one wanted to buy their usual brand-name stuffing and the other wanted to try a new brand because it’s less expensive. (I told them that for a difference of less than a dollar, I’d go with the known quantity because everybody notices the stuffing!)

A couple of days ago I was perusing the aisle with teas, as I often do just to see what the big tea companies are putting out and what local people are drinking. There was a lady standing there with two boxes of teabags, carefully reading labels and comparing one against the other. As I walked up, she turned to me and asked if I drink tea. Ha! “Yes I do, ma’am.” (I’ve been doing my best to get into the lovely Southern habit of addressing folks as sir or ma’am.)

Then she told me that she loves her tea but her doctor had just informed her that her blood sugar is too high and she needs to stop eating, and drinking, sweets. And that she doesn’t like any of the sugar substitutes so she was hoping to find a tea that she could drink on its own.

(Some of you probably don’t get the connection with tea and sugar, but here in the Southlands everyone and probably their dog drinks sweet tea — that is, iced tea sweetened to the point where it makes your teeth curl. Sweet tea is so popular in these parts that it’s often referred to as Southern table wine, tho’ most folks simply call it “tea” and everyone knows exactly what they’re talking about.)

supermarket-teaWell, this lady showed me the boxes she was holding and looked at the others on the shelf and asked me if I knew which one would taste good without sweetener — something with a nice flavour. So I looked at the boxes, and I looked at the shelf, and then I looked at her. “Ma’am,” I said, “do you use the Internet and the Web?” She answered sure, who doesn’t these days, and told me how much she loves chatting with her grandchildren in Canada over the ‘net.

I dug into my purse for a pen and a piece of paper while telling her that the teas on these shelves were okay but I didn’t really think any of them were particularly tasty, and that a lot of them were probably old and losing flavour before they even reached the shelf. Then I wrote down the web addresses of a couple of tea vendors, and handed it to her.

“These are two of my favourite long-time tea sellers, and I’ve always found their teas to be fresh and tasty — and they have a big variety of them, so you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Browse through their products — they have loose-leaf tea and good-quality teabags. If you don’t see something you like, or if you don’t want to wade through all the many teas they offer, give them a call, tell them what you want, and ask them to make recommendations. They’ll send you a print catalogue if you prefer, and will be happy to send you samples so you can try them before you buy a full-sized package. They’re all nice folks and have been in business for a long time, and they’re always happy to answer your questions.”

stk73391corShe looked at the note and said she recognized one of the companies because she had seen some of their teas on the shelf of a local gift shop she likes but had never thought about buying “fancy” teas. I explained to her that tea is pretty inexpensive compared to most other beverages, and that the enjoyment you get from drinking good tea is worth the few extra cents per glassful. Or cupful, if she ever wants to fix up some hot tea.

Then she asked me what kind of teas I drink, and I told her honestly that I generally prefer oolongs … but that she might want to start with a black or green tea — something that would be closer in taste to her usual Luzianne tea, tho’ with much better flavour.

She thanked me, said she’d look them up, and we went off in our separate directions. I sure hope she does look them up, and that I see her next time I’m out shopping, and that she remembers me so I can ask her which teas she decided to try. And I sure hope I’ve played a part in introducing another tea drinker to the enjoyment of better-quality teas. Because everybody starts their tea journey somewhere.

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All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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November 7, 2013

Ramblings: Shopping at home … for tea!

Filed under: food,men drinking tea,shopping,tea,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 2:22 pm
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This is not an article about online shopping … that’s coming up in a week or two with TeaGuide‘s suggestions for Christmas and Chanukah tea-gift-giving.

No, this is about shopping completely inside your home. Most of us have done this at some point. For example, you’re cleaning out a drawer and discover a shirt or scarf you completely forgot you owned. Maybe you got it as a gift, or you might have bought it yourself — and then tucked it away because you didn’t have anything to wear it with at the time. Fortunately you do now, and you’ve got a “new” shirt or scarf by “shopping” at home!

Unless you are far more organized than most people, you’ve occasionally come across a forgotten box of pasta in the pantry, a piece of jewelry inexplicably stuffed into your “stuff” drawer, a nifty pair of boots hidden at the back of the closet, or perhaps a pretty teacup obscured by several other pieces of china in your breakfront.

Shopping-in-your-own-houseJust to be clear: I’m not talking about things you know you lost and have been looking for, like your keys or the coupon for 20% off at your favourite shop. This is about things you’ve forgotten about that become “new” again when you find them!

A couple of years ago I came across several sealed, never-opened packages of tea that a long-defunct tea company called Junglesque had sent to me years before. They were all China teas and as I no longer consume anything sourced from China I’m going to leave them where I found them for now, tho’ will probably give them away eventually.

Recently, and more serendipitously, I did some more “tea shopping” at home.

As I’ve mentioned, when we moved from the New York City area to the Southlands, we bought some land and had a house built on part of it. The layout of the house included a room that we designated as our library and tea room. We built bookshelves around the walls; decorations included a set of wooden storage boxes. Several shelves, and one of the boxes, are dedicated to storing tea, tea ware, and tea books. Whenever I buy tea, it is stored in a seagrass bin on one of the shelves, or in the wooden box.

Before we built the house we were living in apartments, and teas were stored in the drawers of a rolling kitchen cart. The cart now holds our bread-making machine. I thought I had removed all of the tea packages from the drawers, but apparently not. When I opened one of them the other day, I found several packages of tea that I had forgotten about.

tea in cup top viewWe used this cart for storing tea until we moved into our house in March of 2006, which means that the teas in it pre-date that date. I really wasn’t expecting any of the teas to still be drinkable given their age, and some of them weren’t. I tossed the “Russian Georgian” tea that I used to adore, along with a couple of others, all of which had been packaged in non-airtight sacks. A few other teas, however, were still sealed in their original airtight sacks, unopened.

Several of these teas were full-size or sample-size from Capital Tea in Toronto. Knowing that Capital’s teas are very fresh and of a consistently high quality, and that their packaging is strong and airtight, I opened a couple of them up. Sure enough, they were still good to drink! I was particularly impressed with the Pothotuwa Estate Ceylon tea that I had marked as being purchased in 2004. I cut the sack open and was rewarded with a very clear aroma of dried fruit — mostly plum with a hint of apricot. Amazing! So I fixed a pot of the tea; the aroma continued through the steeping, and produced an extremely flavourful cup of plummy-nectary delight. The husband and I have enjoyed several potsful — this tea is particularly nice with something rich and chocolate-y. And we have enough left for several more potsful until we need to re-order.

Yes indeed, it’s very nice to shop without leaving home — and you never know what goodies you will find!

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Contact us (by email or via the form below) about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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October 24, 2013

Ramblings: Ever wanted to own a tea room? Here’s your chance!

Filed under: food,tea,tea business,tea rooms,Tea sites — by teaguide @ 4:02 pm
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Some of you may know that before starting this blog I was the editor and publisher of TeaGuide Worldwide Tea Directory. What began as a few pages on my Cat-Tea Corner website (“Our cats, some tea, and recipes … and a photo-tour of Romania!”) for listing tea rooms and tea shops that I myself had visited evolved into the most comprehensive directory of venues around the world that served or sold (or both) good quality teas. TeaGuide went live online in June, 1997 and it served tea lovers around the world for fifteen years, until it was retired in July 2012. (Read the how and why here.)

Readers of TeaGuide were encouraged to review the tea rooms and shops they had visited. A small number of the businesses received repeated and consistent recommendations as being the best of the best. One of those tea rooms was Clipper Merchant Tea House in Limerick, Maine. Reviewers raved about the location, decor, and service, and of course the food and the tea. Most of this was due to the care with which the owner, Heather, took with every aspect of the business. (She is also a very nice lady who operates a dog rescue group.)

Clipper Merchant Tea HouseHeather is now selling the Clipper Merchant as she moves on to the next stage of her life. If you’ve ever considered owning a tea room, or if you’d like to relocate to beautiful Maine and are looking for a thriving, well-known business with room for growth, this may be your golden opportunity.

The details:

FOR SALE BY OWNER
Award-winning, nationally acclaimed  Clipper Merchant Tea House
58 Main Street, Limerick, Maine (click link for map)
Telephone: 207-615-3126

Clipper Merchant Tea HouseTwo-story restored historic 1800s home in southern Maine lakes area, with beautiful lawns and attached two-story barn. Tea room seats 45. Sale includes inventory, restaurant furnishings, china, reliable staff available, and everything you need to continue this successful tea house business. Sale also includes name, business, real estate, and goodwill.  Huge potential for increasing operational hours including dinner seatings and year ’round service.

Second floor of home has three large bedrooms with mountain views and full bath.

Priced at $425,000.00

As Heather says: “We’d like to see The Clipper Merchant Tea House continue on with all the love and attention to detail that we have invested in it.”

Heather is available to train new owner/s. Please contact her direct via telephone or email (heather@clippermerchant.com) for more information.

Follow TeaGuide on Twitter @TeaGuide1

Friend TeaGuide on Facebook

Contact us (by email or via the form below) about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

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You’re welcome to send an email message to the author via this form. If you’d like to leave a comment about this blog post for publication, please scroll down to the link that says “Leave a comment.” Many thanks.

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