TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

October 8, 2014

Review: A new tea book

I recently received a copy of Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverage, the new book by Lisa Boalt Richardson, who is best known in the cyberworld as Lisa Knows Tea. As I had gotten out of the habit of blogging for some time it seemed like the perfect opportunity — or perhaps inspiration? — to resume my ruminations on tea and all things related to tea by reviewing this charming little book.

Modern Tea: A fresh look at an ancient beverageYou might think that with all the books about tea already on the market there is nothing new to say on the subject. Well, you would be mistaken. While Modern Tea is chock-full of the usual introductory tea topics — tea origins, types of teas,  how to purchase, steeping and storing recommendations — it also goes well beyond the basics.

For those who are beginning their journey into fine tea — or who you might want to lure into the world of tea! — Modern Tea provides everything they’ll need to know within its 164 pages. Lisa’s breezy writing style draws the reader in, as do the lush photos (by Jenifer Altman). Don’t be fooled by its slimness and casual demeanor, however; there’s good, in-depth content here.

And for those readers who are too cool for school, who know all the basic stuff, there are lots of details about the art of tea tasting, pairing tea with foods, and cooking with tea; on the other end of the process there’s a section on dark teas and tea processing in general, along with historical tidbits.

For me, the highlights of this book are the many personal reminiscences the author shares with us about her travels to tea-origin countries and her experiences in the tea fields and tea factories and tea houses. I’ve pretty much come to accept that it is unlikely that I will ever travel to the tea lands of Taiwan, India, Japan, and Sri Lanka, so these vicarious experiences are about as close as I’m ever going to get — and Lisa’s descriptions are so clearly painted that it really is almost like being there with her.

Whether you’re a tea newby, an old pro, or somewhere in between, you’re sure to find something new and interesting in Modern Tea. Drink up!

Follow TeaGuide on Twitter @TeaGuide1

Friend TeaGuide on Facebook

Contact us by email about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

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.”

All content Copyright 2014 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

# # # #

October 3, 2013

Tea for the birds: DIY teacup bird feeder

Autumn is here, and that means it’s time to start putting out food for our beautiful feathered friends. If you don’t have a bird feeder, or you’d like a prettier feeder (or two or more), or you’re looking for a useful do-it-yourself gift project, guest contributor Samantha Joyce shows you how to invite the birds to share tea with you.

bird feederWith a few odds and ends from a home improvement store you can make a mini platform bird feeder out of a cute cup and saucer. The teacup holds the bird feed while the saucer acts as a shield to prevent Mr. Squirrel from taking over the smorgasbord. Teacups are better suited than mugs since the cup and saucers are thin enough to drill through with a bit designed for porcelain.

Materials list:

  • teacup and saucer – from a thrift store or garage sale; the birds don’t mind mismatched or chipped!
  • wooden table leg – from a home improvement store, painted in the color of your choice
  • cordless drill – with Phillips head bit
  • spear point bit – with Tungsten carbide tip or similar
  • wood drill bit – smaller diameter than the wood screw
  • three (3) – plastic or rubber washers as cushions
  • one (1) – wood screw 1.5 inch to hold it together

Bird Feeder CollageFirst, find a stable surface. I have holes in my dining room table after one craft project that involved turning teapots into flowerpots. Do yourself a favor and use a magazine or phone book to prevent this kind of damage. Drill the bottom of the teacup slowly with a bit designed for porcelain, ceramic, and glass. I like to drill the teacup as it sits upside down for easier access. The hole should be centered but it does not need to be even. Be careful not to apply too much downward pressure. Let the drill do the work for you. Repeat this step with the saucer. Set aside.

bird feeder finishedA wooden table leg comes with a long pre-threaded section to attach it to various table surfaces. In this case we turn things upside down: the threaded end becomes a very sturdy spike to plant the bird feeder into the ground. Use the wood drill bit to pre-drill a starter hole for the wood screw on what used to be the bottom of the table leg. It does not have to be as large as your wood screw and only as deep as the wood screw. This is now the top of the bird feeder post.

The three rubber washers are used to insure that the teacup and saucer do not fracture under stress when you snug things up with the cordless drill and Phillips head bit. Have a friend hold the table leg, with the spike end down and the starter hole up. Balance a washer, then the saucer, an additional washer, the teacup, and the final washer. Carefully center the wood screw and use the cordless drill with Phillips head bit to slowly unite the layers at once.

Voilà! This is a quick and easy project once you get the hang of it. You can do it yourself, but it is always nice to have an extra set of hands. And a cup of tea! These make excellent homemade gifts and look charming in multiples around the yard. If you do not have a yard, they also look terrific set into a large potted plant.

For notes on selecting the right kind of bird feed, bird feeder placement and other common bird feeding questions see The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Samantha Joyce is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. She has made many, many teacup bird feeders — and you can too!

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.

# # # #

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.

Follow TeaGuide on Twitter @TeaGuide1

Friend TeaGuide on Facebook

Contact us about reviewing your tea or tea-related product, or to be interviewed.

All content Copyright 2013 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

# # # #

« Previous PageNext Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.