TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

June 7, 2013

Ramblings: Recent travels with tea

It’s been a while since this blog has seen a new post, and yes, I missed keeping up with it. There was a good reason, tho’: I’ve been traveling without a dedicated computer.

I didn’t start out computerless. When I first arrived in Bucuresti, Romania for my annual visit, I had my trusty netbook with me. Unfortunately, while browsing the web at a neighbourhood restaurant with wifi, my Vipre security software failed me. When I got back to our apartment and turned on the netbook to recharge the battery I discovered that the operating system was fried, most of my files were corrupted, and I was getting some really scary error messages. That must have been some big bad nasty that attacked my poor little ‘puter. And from that point on I had only intermittent ‘net access at friends’ homes.

Now here I am back home in the USA, very annoyed that we’ve been paying for the Vipre software and and it failed me when I really needed it. Oh well. Maybe it’s time to get a new netbook — or upgrade to some other ‘net appliance.

Other than that, the trip started out well … and not so well. The good news? I met up with a friend for tea my first full day there — tho’ sort of half asleep from jet lag. And then the bad news: I discovered that I had forgotten my camera. So I don’t have any photos of the first tea room I visited in Bucuresti. Bummer, but I still enjoyed going there — and I do have a couple of shots taken by my friend.

la-un-ceai1

At La un ceai in Bucuresti, Romania. Photo courtesy of Andreea Heroiu.

La un ceai — To a Tea — like many other tea rooms in Bucuresti is housed in a former villa.  I met my friend at beautiful Gradina Cismigiu, and then it was a short walk through winding side streets of old apartments and houses to get to the tea room. There we found several charming, peaceful rooms, along with an outdoor terrace, and chose a table in the main salon.

The tea menu was pretty much what it is in most Romanian tea rooms: lots of flavoured teas and tisanes with a few unadulterated teas sprinkled in. Romanians definitely prefer teas with added flavours, so it’s really no surprise. I did find a tea that I don’t see very often, a Darjeeling from the Gielle garden. I’m guessing it was a second flush. It certainly had that distinctive muscat taste and aroma, just not as fresh as I would have liked it. Still it was quite pleasant.

I should explain that Romanian tea rooms generally serve their teas in tea-for-one pots, with the loose leaves tucked into a disposable tea sac. The pot part of the T-F-O is already filled with hot water when it arrives at the table, so I’ve learned to order green or white tea as the water isn’t hot enough to properly infuse an oolong much less a black tea. I thought I’d at least try the Darjeeling, which normally requires lower-temperature water than most black teas. It was a relatively successful choice given the options — ‘tho I would have preferred the water to be hotter.

Tea was served with small gingery cookies. The room was comfortable and cool on this warm day. The company was delightful. And then … We had each ordered a glass of citronada to complement the tea. This is a beverage I very much like when I’m in Romania: it’s a combination of lemonade and orange juice, tho’ occasionally some lime juice or grapefruit juice is mixed in. It’s a terrific thirst quencher. But apparently somebody forgot the sweetener … and when I took my first sip, it was so tart that I nearly choked. Seriously. I think I scared my poor friend with my red-faced coughing fit. Fortunately it finally passed, although I could barely speak for several minutes. Well, maybe that’s a good thing ;-).

Oh, and it led me to discover that the bathroom is nice and clean :-).

Altogether La un ceai is a pleasant place to spend time with a friend, which is a large part of what going out for tea is all about. So I will very likely visit them again during my next year’s trip to Bucuresti. I’ll just be sure not to order the citronada …

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April 10, 2013

Ramblings: A tea quandary

Filed under: exotic tea,friends,tea,tea review,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 2:22 pm
Tags: ,

Dictionary.com defines quandary as “a state of perplexity or uncertainty, especially as to what to do; dilemma.”

If the word can be expanded to define a specific place, well … it’s where I am right now.

teapotI like to sample new teas, and I like to review them, and I think I do a reasonably good job reviewing teas as a consumer — a tea drinker, not a tea taster. Apparently a few tea vendors think so too, and have offered me samples in exchange for reviews. Seems like a fair enough bargain when the teas are good and the reviews are honest.

But what about when the teas aren’t so good?

Well, that’s what’s happened: A new — or at least new to me — tea vendor offered me a few teas to sample and review. While I love the familiar folks I do most of my tea business with, it’s very exciting to find a new source. So I said “Sure,” described my picky preferences, and happily waited for the tea to be delivered.

Unfortunately, once the tea arrived things went downhill rather quickly. The individual packages of tea were not airtight — they were barely sealed. Glassine envelopes with the top folded over twice and then stapled shut does not cut it when it comes to tea. Not only does it not keep the tea fresh nor protect it from damage (what if the shipping package were caught in the rain or dropped in a puddle?), this type of semi-permeable paper does nothing to prevent cross-contamination between the different types of teas. This is a particular problem when at least one of the teas is strongly flavoured — scented with flowers, smoked, or with added flavouring — as was one of the teas in the sampler pack. Even tho’ I had made it very clear that I neither drink nor review these types of teas.

As you might imagine, there were no discrete aromas discernible when I opened the individual envelopes of dry leaf. In fact, there was precious little aroma at all. And needless to say — tho’ I’ll say it anyway — this lack of distinction carried into the cups. Yes, against my better judgment at this point, I steeped up each sample tea (except the flavoured). With all the crazy nasty stuff finding its way into edibles these days it took some effort to ignore the poor packaging and forge ahead with tasting the teas.

The results were predictible: Little aroma, little taste. That’s how it works.

I sent an email note to the vendor, describing effective tea packaging, explaining that under the circumstances I would not review the teas, and offering to review more carefully-packed samples. That was last week, and I still haven’t heard back.

blog-please-no-garbage

I like to sample new teas, but …

Some of you probably want to know who the vendor is so you can avoid doing business with them. I’m not going to tell you because I don’t think it’s fair to the vendor not to give them a heads-up and a second chance. Some of you will argue that before opening a tea business the vendor should have researched proper packaging methods and materials. And you’re right: it’s not like this information is a big ol’ secret. You’ll further argue that I’m not being fair to consumers — you tea drinkers — if I don’t identify the “culprit.”

Maybe that’s true. And that’s my quandary. And I hope you’ll forgive me but I’m still not going to reveal their identity.

I’d like to say this to all tea vendors and potential tea vendors: We who love tea very much want to sample your products, like them, and write glowing reviews so you can grow your business and keep producing wonderful teas.

And this to both tea vendors and tea consumers: If you notice that I haven’t reviewed a particular tea, it could be for many reasons. Perhaps I haven’t sampled it or haven’t gotten around to reviewing it. Maybe the tea didn’t suit my taste. Maybe I have no reason. Or perhaps the tea, or the packaging, or the service, or all of these were simply bad, and I just don’t want to write a negative review because it may affect somebody’s business.

I think I’ve solved my quandary by leaning towards discretion, and hope you agree with that decision. For me, at least, it was the right one.

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April 3, 2013

Tea crafts: Fold an origami teapot!

Filed under: friends,tea,tea gifts,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 10:15 am
Tags: , , ,
origami teapot

The finished model, folded with stained-glass origami paper:

Looking for a little creativi-tea? Feeling craf-tea? Here’s a fun project! Fold with foil or other light paper — six-inch square seems to work best, but use whatever size is easiest for you. (You can always fold more!)

Makes a charming bookmark, greeting card decoration, or doll’s teapot.

Or fold several in different colours, then glue a string on the back of each one, loop through a hook, and hang as a decoration on your Christmas tree or anywhere.

Some experience with folding will be helpful. This model starts with a bird base and requires knowlege of the technique of sinking. Once you’ve got those techniques down, the rest of it is easy … follow the images below the instructions. Be sure to have a good cuppa nearby to sustain you while you’re folding.

Model: Teapot
Created by: N. Montero, Spain
Variation by: Janis Badarau (a.k.a. TeaGuide)

Begin with the bird base. (Click here for instructional video of folding a bird base.)

1. Sink the blunt end. (Click here for instructional video of performing a sink fold.)

2. Valley fold the front flap downwards. (Click here for instructional video of valley fold and mountain fold.)

3. Reverse fold the two points as shown. (Click here for instructional video of reverse folding.)

4. Valley fold the top flap of the spout on the left. Mountain fold the handle on the right inwards.

5. Open out the top of the teapot and tuck the point into itself.

6. Valley fold the edges of the spout inwards, then valley fold the bottomflap upwards. At the top you see the point tucked in. Reverse fold the handle again. Spout and handle are finished. Valley fold the bottom flap and tuck the arrowed point into the pocket, following the arrow, to complete the teapot.

You now have a teapot with a flat top. I don’t really care for that, so I created a variation that looked more like a real teapot with a “knob” on the lid.

My variation:

Before tucking the top point into itself (Step 5), valley fold the point about one-third of the way up so the tip stands above the top of the teapot. Flatten the point, refold the original fold that was opened out, and tuck as above to complete the model.

origami teapot

From bird base to the almost-finished teapot.

Here’s how a friend designed a charming greeting card with a teapot folded from a textured silver metallic paper :

teapot-note-card

Happy folding!

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