Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: When I say 'Assam,' you say 'Lovely!'

I tend to shy away from the homemade comedy songs about tea — and there are tons of them out there, mostly dreadful — but this one, "Cup of Brown Joy," is just spot-on, if only for the rap cliche: "When I say 'Earl Grey,' you say, 'Yes, please!'" ...

This same bunch of oddballs also produced this ditty about their favorite tea cup.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ethiopian spice tea with dinner

Tea at an Ethiopian restaurant the other night — wonderfully light and naturally sweet.

Ethiopian tea is a spice infusion, usually a chai-like mixture with citrus peels, rose hips, cloves, sometimes herbs like chamomile, and this was strong with cinnamon. No actual black tea, just the spices. There's no sugar in the Ethiopian diet, though this being a restaurant in middle America the tea was served with the large bowl of white sugar in the foreground, which my friend and I wisely avoided.

It's really refreshing with food. Here's a recipe, which can be monkeyed with/amended, and I think I'll try some at home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: Shoulda stayed in bed

Slackstring's "Tea." Morning breakup over tea. Bummer, dude.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tea harvest calendar

What day is it on the tea calendar? Check out this interesting schedule of tea production and harvest, according to the 24 solar terms used for marking time. Today, for instance, is "Grain Full," (Xiao Man), time for "spring harvest on Da Yu Ling High Mountain Oolong is between now and Mang Zhong. Many official spring-season competitions of Taiwan oolong are held around this time." Nice to know what's going on and when, anyway.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The tea app we've been waiting for

I've written a few times about various tea-related mobile apps (here, here, and here), and I still use a couple of them on rare occasions. Most come with too-cute names and one or two main functions, a timer, a blender, what have you. But the latest app getting real press is simply called Tea, and it's elegant, simple and useful.

Tea for iPhone comes pre-loaded with 12 tea types and more than 200 teas. Select what you're making, and the app suggests brewing time and temperature. Enter how much of the tea you possess, the Tea app then stores this information and tracks your inventory, provided you enter the data each time you brew (very helpful for those of us who don't think to buy tea until the canister is empty). You can also file away your own tasting and brewing notes.

It's funny how most tea lovers seem to have that moment when we realize that to really enjoy this special beverage, there's a wee bit of work to be done. Guesstimates produce the occasional crap cup of tea. You have to measure, you have to be fairly strict about time and temperature. "I know it makes a difference, but it’s such a bother. I don’t have the patience," writes an L.A. Times blogger before realizing the Tea app could help. Even the app's creator, Samuel Iglesias, says — in this extensive and tech-savvy interview — the idea came to him as he crossed a similar threshold.

"I came up with the concept after being frustrated by my scattershot, do-whatever approach to making tea," Iglesias says. "Sometimes it would taste great, other times not so much, and I would never be exact about how long I steeped it, just sort of let it sit there until my intuition told me it was ready. After learning that good tea methods can’t be guessed at in any reasonable amount of time without systematically logging notes, I decided that something had to change. What I really needed was a smart note taking tool tailored for the different variables that go into brewing tea: water amount, tea amount, time, temperature, and some measure of how tasty it is."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oprah's tea house is not a pee house

Chicago has been more Oprah-obsessed this week than usual. The daytime talk queen taped her final show yesterday at the United Center arena, featuring a motley cast of guests — Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld, Josh Groban, Patti Labelle, Madonna, John Legend, Maria Shriver and more. The Sun-Times reported the whole affair, and tweeted it, even the star-studded after-party.

For our purposes here, one of Oprah's proteges, Nate Berkus, interviewed Ms. Winfrey for an episode of his own home-life-whatever show earlier this month. He did so at Oprah's palatial California estate, which includes an opulent tea house.

In this video segment inside the tea house, Oprah explains her design input for the space. "I wanted it to feel intimate," she says, adding, "like a hug." She also points out that there's no restroom — perhaps a glaring omission for a place where one serves a diuretic. They talk a lot about this, in fact ...

A matcha moment

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: It's iced tea weather!

Well, it was here last week, anyway. Then the bottom dropped out. But I'm holding to it, and here's Shelby Lynne singing "Iced Tea," a moody metaphor — "You’re the cornbread and iced tea of life"...

Monday, May 16, 2011

Teaku No. 12

Reliable? Yes,
God, yes — more than some humans
My old red betty.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


There is a word in Buddhism that means "wishlessness" or "aimlessness." The idea is that you do not put something in front of you and run after it, because everything is already here, in yourself. While we practice walking meditation, we do not try to arrive anywhere. We only make peaceful, happy steps. If we keep thinking of the future, of what we want to realize, we will lose our steps. The same is true with sitting meditation. We sit just to enjoy our sitting; we do not sit in order to attain any goal. This is quite important. Each moment of sitting meditation brings us back to life, and we should sit in a way that we enjoy our sitting for the entire time we do it. Whether we are eating a tangerine, drinking a cup of tea, or walking in meditation, we should do it in a way that is "aimless."
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: The Monks of Doom

God bless the Interwebs. Somehow, I can find just about everything I love and need out there. Here's one of my favorite instrumental songs — "Lappish Tea Song" by the Monks of Doom, an offshoot of ’80s college-rock band (and now once again a going concern) Camper Van Beethoven — a track I thought I'd never be able to share here because it was too rare. But, nope, someone's uploaded the audio to YouTube. So beautiful ...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Creative tea mug designs

Following up yesterday's Mr. T pot, this link goes to a list of 50 unique coffee and tea mug designs.

Some of them are suspect to me, but some are pretty cool. I love plucky design that's also useful, like this mug that has a strategic slot to store whatever cookies/biscuits you're going to dunk ...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mr. T tea pot for one

Sometimes, I get weary of the Mr. T puns — but, c'mon, this pot-for-one set is pretty cool:

Available here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The first taste of pu-erh

I had to look up something in an old journal recently, from about five years ago. In it, I also found a description of the first time I tasted pu-erh. Pre-blog, I wrote my responses directly into the journal, and I find it amusing to read now:

My God, it smells exactly like fish in the pot. It's as black as coffee, and kind of thick in the cup. It really smells like fish ... It moves in the cup like a light oil, but without clinging. First taste — not as strong as I was expecting, nothing to match the scent — same in the mouth as it appeared in the cup: thicker than water somehow, almost astringent, and the much-ballyhooed "earthiness" is remarkably subtle. No strange flavor at all. Humble, wise, nourishing! It really is like wine, and looks like it — beautiful in the cup, in this sunlight, an Indian red, like a pinot, complete with sediment.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tuesday tea tunes: High tea, high culture

A while back during Tea Chat on the Facebook tea page, blogger Steven Knoerr reminded us of the opera "Tea" that debuted nearly a decade ago. Enjoy this beautiful scene from the 2002 Tokyo premiere, with its tea ceremony imagery, haunting music and — brilliant! — the sound of water droplets incorporated into the score...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Support these budding tea book authors

Speaking of cool tea projects seeking funding through Kickstarter, check this out ...

Mallory Breon and Kyle Kasinec want to travel the country and visit tea shops — don't we all — in order to talk with tea people and shoot photographs for "a comprehensive book displaying the people and places that embody this culture as well as drawing conclusions about its impact on American society as a whole." Here's a quick video about the project:

They've already made it to a few, but there are so many more. (Come to Chicago!)

Throw them a few bucks (I did!) and read more about the project here. They're way short of their funding goal at this point, and the clock runs out this weekend. Plus, booksellers need more tea books on their shelves, dernit!

Gadgets to keep tea warm: USB can and Joulies

Need some gadgets to keep your tea warm, or cool? Here are some a couple of nifty new options.

First, for you computer geeks, how about a USB-powered mini-fridge? This gizmo is shaped like a soda can and perfectly fits a soda can (or, perhaps, a can of Pokka tea). It plugs into a laptop's USB port for power, and depending on which way you throw the switch it'll keep your beverage warm or cool. Hmmmm.

I guess it beats those sad little plug-in hot plates I remember in offices in the ’80s and ’90s, which never really worked and somehow seemed like fire dangers.

Secondly, here's something I've read about before. They're called Coffee Joulies, though they work in tea or anything. A "special material" encased in stainless steel beans, the Joulies absorb heat in a cup of coffee or tea and bring the temperature down to 140 F — then they release the heat slowly, keeping the liquid at that temperature for a long time.

So say the inventors, anyway, two guys who sought funding for the manufacture of their creation through Kickstarter. The funding solicitation ends today, actually. They asked for donations to raise $9,500 — nearly $250,000 has been pledged. Here's to good ol' American innovation. Now let's see these things take off!

The creators explain the Joulies ...