TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

November 13, 2013

Ramblings: Everybody starts their tea journey somewhere

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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July 2, 2012

Blue tea vs. grey tea

Filed under: food,friends,history,tea — by JanisB @ 3:25 pm
Tags: , , ,

When we moved from the New York City area to semi-rural South Carolina a few years ago, it was an adjustment to say the least. I had to get used to “y’all” instead of “you guys.” Instead of Italian restaurants and all-night diners on every corner there was something called a “meat-and-three,” which is just what it sounds like, and where macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable.

Read the entire post at English Tea Store blog.


July 15, 2008

Product review: How sweet it is

Filed under: food,tea,Tea sites — by JanisB @ 1:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sugars by Sharon
Wholesale only (List of retailers available at website)
Photos courtesy of Sugars by Sharon

Let me admit straight away that I generally do not sweeten my tea. Frankly speaking, I think it should be a felony to add anything — milk, lemon, or sweeteners — to good teas.

Like most people, I make the occasional exception to my own rule.

Some teas simply are better with additions. Strong breakfast-type blends, for example, especially those based on CTC-processed teas, almost beg for milk and/or sugar. Candy-flavoured teas — chocolate, vanilla, truffle, coconut, that type of tea — serve as wonderful low-fat desserts when enhanced with a touch of sweetener. And sometimes I just want a taste of lemon or sweetness in my iced tea.

But I’m very discriminating about the types of additions I permit in my teas. I never use dairy products, and soy milk tends to curdle in hot liquids. So if I want to “lighten” my tea I add a bit of rice milk or almond milk, or for extra richness I’ll use a soy creamer, which is specifically formulated for use in hot drinks. Lemon juice (and maybe a few drops of whiskey) works wonders to perk you up when you have a cold. And I often mix iced tea with lemonade, pineapple juice, or occasionally with chocolate soy milk. Yum!

When it comes to sweeteners, I’m really picky. Regular granulated sugars and sugar cubes are fine for hot teas, but they don’t dissolve and blend properly in iced teas. Simple syrup works great in iced tea, but who’s organized enough to cook up a batch every few days? Other syrups or honey blend into hot tea, but can introduce odd flavours. And they don’t work very well in iced teas either. (And what’s the deal with those fancy decorated sugar cubes? What the heck is in that stuff, and why would I want it in my teacup?)

Sugars by Sharon - bulk

Sugars by Sharon - bulk

So what’s a tea lover with a sweet tooth to do? Sugars by Sharon has the sweet answer.

Charming little hand-moulded sugars are formed into dozens of shapes and colours, from teacups to flowers, wedding bells to baby buggies, Easter bunnies to Christmas holly. And they’re available in a rainbow of colours — pastels, brights, and wedding off-whites.

Each sugar equals approximately one teaspoonful. If you like a tad more sweetener per cup, most of the shapes lend themselves to be broken in half. (One-and-a-half was just the right amount for mugs and tall glasses.)

And not only do the sugars dissolve rapidly in hot tea, but they’re equally perfect for cold drinks. I let a couple of butterfly sugars flutter to the bottom of my tall glass of iced Wissotsky tea, and within about a minute they had completely dissolved. A couple of back-and-forth stirs with iced tea spoon or straw and the butterflies disappeared completely into my tea. And stayed there: no “sugar sludge” at the bottom of the glass.

Sharon (yes, there is most certainly a real Sharon!) uses superfine sugar and blends her own colours. There are no added flavours, so your tea’s taste is enhanced, not altered.

A lot of reviewers for TeaGuide make a point of noting their unhappiness when a tea room serves loose sugar from a bowl or — horror of horrors! — in sugar packets, rather than proper sugar cubes. I’m betting that a pretty butterfly, rose, or seashell sugar will be most welcomed by these discriminating sippers. And they’re certainly pretty enough to add an elegant touch to your tea table.

Sugars by Sharon - retail package

Sugars by Sharon - retail package

The sugars are available in bulk for tea service, as well as in a variety of packages for resale — including specially-labeled packages suitable for wedding or shower favours.

Tea room/tea shop owners can buy wholesale direct from the Sugars by Sharon website, while consumers will find at the website a comprehensive listing of online and walk-in shops for retail purchase.

Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at supper time … and now Sugars by Sharon. Sweet!

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