See us in our new location. We are joining the tea party - no, not the political one - we're joining in the World tea party at "The World is a Tea Party" (our sister blog). This blog will still be here so you can see all our past posts, but the new posts will be on there. See you there soon!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

We're Joining the Tea Party!

See us in our new location. We are joining the tea party - no, not the political one - we're joining in the World tea party at "The World is a Tea Party" (our sister blog). This blog will still be here so you can see all our past posts, but the new posts will be on there. See you there soon!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tea Stories: Making the Grade with Anxi Tie Guan Yin Grades 2A and 3A from JAS-eTea


Oolong grading is a big puzzle. It seems to be pretty arbitrary with the tea processors calling the shots and proclaiming which grade is which, doing side-by-side comparisons. And sometimes the differences seem to be too subtle or outright non-existent. We received a sampler pack awhile ago from the good humans at JAS-eTea where the Tie Guan Yins were labeled with grade designations: 2A thru 7A plus a non-graded high-roasted Tie Guan Yin and three others (one, two, and three) from the Anxi province of China. We wanted to try the grades 2A thru 7A all together for a comparison, but it would have been a bit overwhelming. So we started with grades 2A and 3A. Seeing how they differed was rather tricky. Time to see how these teas make the grade. TOOOT!

Me surpervising “Tiny” Teapot and “Chuck” the Chahai steeping and serving up Grade 2A:


Me surpervising “Tiny” Teapot and “Chuck” the Chahai steeping and serving up Grade 3A:


Other than us all looking nice in the photos, they can’t really tell you much about how these grades compare. But we thought you’d enjoy them anyway.

Here are the dry leaves in their tight nuggets before infusing. #1 is Grade 2A and #2 is Grade 3A. The main difference seems to be size. The Grade 3A is a little larger overall. Both had a planty, nutty aroma, with Grade 3A being also slightly sweet.


“Tiny” infused each one three times. The water was heated to 209°F and the infusions were for 45 seconds, 1 minute, and 90 seconds. The liquid each time needed a little cooling (2-3 minutes) for the flavors to be fully appreciated. Each infusion saw the leaves opening more fully and expanding in size as they absorbed water to replace the moisture removed during processing. Overall, the flavors of both were pretty even, but #2 (Grade 3A) is a bit more floral and has a slight roasty/honey quality. (Both remind my humans of the moon cakes they used to buy from a large Asian market back in their previous hometown. Sadly, nothing like that around here.) So far, there doesn’t really seem to be much difference in the grades.

Here are the leaves after the infusions were done:


#1 (Grade 2A) is a little smaller and more tender than #2 (Grade 3A). Both had some reddish-purplish coloring to the leaves. The leaf sizes of both are varied, and there were no stem pieces other than a two-leaf set or two here and there. The Tea Gang, our human caretakers, and yours truly have to conclude that they are virtually identical, with Grade 3A being slightly better. We’ll see if this trend continues with the other samples, that is, will the higher grade number indicate a better or worse grade of Tie Guan Yin.

Our thanks to JAS-eTea for furnishing the full array in this sampler. Always so much fun to do more than just steep a tea and say “It tastes good or bad” like so many tea reviewers do. We are trying to give you more info than that. TOOOT!

Where to buy: JAS-eTea Anxi Oolongs.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Getting Intellectual with “Tea Wisdom” by Aaron Fisher

A short while ago a new tea book called Tea Wisdom arrived from the nice humans at Tuttle Publishing. Now, there are lots of tea books out there, but yours truly doesn’t have a lot of time to read them. This one was different. First, it drew the attention of my fellow members of the Tea Gang around it in a huddle, as shown in the article one of my humans wrote here. Second, it brought out my “ William F. Buckley ” side, the side that is more intellectual, and so I borrowed my “he” human’s eyeglasses and sat on the sofa to read. But alas, I have no hands and had to have one of my humans hold the book up for me.

Don’t I look intelligent?


This is a wonderful little book and, as you all know, being little myself, I like little things. So this little book was a welcome addition. But the contents are big – in fact, HUMONGOUS – in terms of wisdom about tea. There are quotes from as far back, almost, as tea drinking itself goes and as recent as when the book went to press. They are grouped into chapters based loosely on the aspect of tea drinking they address: Good Living, Good Health, Good Spirits, Good Company, Traditions, Reviving Yourself, and Reflection and Meditation.

There are also some gorgeous photographs. My little teapot eyes kinda bulged out when my human held the book open to this page for me to see - what a cutie teapot - HubbaTOOOT!


A favorite quote (p. 102) by John Blofeld: “Tea is best when enjoyed in pleasant surroundings, whether indoors or out, where the atmosphere is tranquil, the setting harmonious.” And thus do my Tea Gang members, my human caretakers, and I try to assure here, despite getting a bit raucous at times with our tea parties and playing games.

Check out this little treasure and let it be part of your tea time, giving you that harmonious, tranquil environment, and bringing you, in its little way, a bit closer with humans throughout time and around the globe, not to mention us teapots, who have and do enjoy tea. TOOOOOOT!

Where to buy: Tuttle Publishing web site.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Introducing the 3 MuskeTEArs!

A new member just joined the Tea Gang. His name is “Plummy” (obviously named after his color as I am). Since he is about the same size as me and also about the same as another member, Mr. Dragon, we decided to band together as the 3 MuskeTEArs (with due apologies to Alexandre Dumas, père, who penned that great novel which serves as our inspiration).



We bought “Plummy” at a local store called Cook’s Companion, but you can also order online at stores like this one. We expect him to be a long-term member of the Tea Gang, but more importantly of the 3 MuskeTEArs.

Our motto:


A little info on “Plummy”: Some of you may have recognized him as a Teaz design teapot. He’s the 2-cupper model, which my humans find to be the coolest due to the way they worked the spout out from the pot body. The Teaz brand is from Omni Housewares Inc. The name of the color on their site is aubergine, which means “eggplant,” but the store clerk called it plum, and my humans liked that better. So do I and so does “Plummy.” So that’s what we’re staying with. He comes with a little infuser basket, but no way would any member teapot in the Tea Gang allow any infuser or teabag in them. It’s our creed. So that infuser basket has been set aside for other duties where needed.


We 3 MuskeTEArs will be steeping up enough tea to float us all across the English Channel (making it easier for d’Artagnan to get a message to the Duke of Buckingham to return the present given him by the Queen of France with whom he was secretly in love). We will definitely not be engaging in any sword play as that could lead to the dreaded spout chipping or even outright breakage. Besides, we believe in making tea, not war. TOOOOT!

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tea Stories: A Big Tea Surprise (from a local coffee shop called “Drip”)

My humans, ever on the hunt for teas available from the local stores, saw a notice on Facebook about a tea from the Himalayas now available at a local coffee shop called “Drip” (the water drips through the ground coffee beans into a container to make the coffee).

Their first thought was, “Yeah, right, a decent tea from a coffee shop. No way.” Of course, they had in mind Starbucks and that chain’s recent acquisition of Teavana. But, on the other hand, having recently tried several teas from a tea garden in Nepal called Jun Chiyabari (which was not originally specified in the announcement), they rethought things and at the first opportunity paid the coffee shop a visit (I was not invited along… rather miffing… TOOOT!). The tea had come to them from Rishi, a fairly well-known tea brand, who had gotten the tea from Jun Chiyabari (which at this time does not sell directly to the public). It was part of some project that is meant to help women in Nepal start small businesses. The tea garden itself has done much to bolster the local economy in addition to producing some fine teas that as yet are not fully appreciated out in the market. Hopefully, places like “Drip” and bloggers like my humans (in cooperation with yours truly and my Tea Gang) will be changing a lot of that. Raising awareness is a much better way of helping such people than any act of charity. My humans hope to be teaming with that coffee shop on future tea offerings to help their customers take advantage of this opportunity in their community.

Here’s the sample the shop owner was so generous to provide (I was feeling a bit giddy at the prospect of trying this tea and couldn’t resist crowning myself with their cup sleeve):


Time to get serious. First, my humans reported that, despite strong (and luscious) coffee aromas in the shop, they were able to get a good whiff of this one there and could tell right away that it was that very Darjeeling-like Muscatel aroma. When they came home with the sample, I could tell they were excited. Fortunately, they managed to contain their drooling, though! TOOOOT! And right away several members of the Tea Gang gathered around to oooh and aahhhh. I managed to keep the peace and finally selected Li’l Steeper Cup (on the left) to do the honors here, although a gaiwan is ideal for this tea. Fall is in the air, so even though this is a Summer Flush tea, we thought it was quite appropriate to the season. My humans also find this type of tea goes well with nuts (the kind in the shell that you crack open to get at – quite popular this time of year).


The dry leaves are always the starting point. Taking a moment to look at them and give them a whiff is a proper beginning to trying any new tea. And even though I and my humans technically aren’t new to this tea, having tried a number of samples from Jun Chiyabari recently (in fact, we were quite startled at the coincidence of seeing it now available at a local shop). Here’s a close-up of those dry leaves, which had a nutty, Muscatel aroma (very Darjeeling-like):

How we steeped:
about half of the sample (which weighed about 5 grams) in about 5 ounces of water heated to 200°F, 1st infusion 40 seconds, 2nd infusion 50 seconds, 3rd infusion 1 minute, 4th infusion 2 minutes.

How each tasted:
  1. Honey/amber color, Muscatel aroma with slight corn quality (reminiscent of a recent sample we tried from Makaibari Tea Garden). The flavor was smooth, Muscatel, and retained that slight corn character, which was not appealing to my humans but not strong enough to be any real problem. There was no bitterness or astringency.
  2. Darker amber color, stronger Muscatel aroma and flavor, and not a trace of the corn character, thankfully. The wonderful tangy aftertaste lingered.
  3. Amber color, Muscatel aroma, a lighter flavor but still very pleasant with no bitterness.
  4. A little lighter than #3 but still great.
Time to admire the tea leaves after infusing was done:


Not all of the leaves were unbroken like these, but most were. That shows skilled and careful processing, something Jun Chiyabari has built up a reputation for among vendors. (Sadly, most tea drinkers aren’t yet aware of them.) Note the coppery color of the leaves, the small size (about a half inch to 3/4 inch in length). They are tender young leaves from the stem tips. The finest pluckings carefully sorted by hand to assure only the best are included in the batch. A tea not to be missed.

Anyone reading this who is lucky enough to live near “Drip” needs to stop in and try it while their supply lasts. The only drawback is the coffee aromas interfering with the tea aromas and flavors. But it’s worth a try, and they will be sure to do four infusions for you. Enjoy the first, the second, the third, and linger over the fourth. (Tip: let each infusion cool slightly before sipping so you avoid scalding your tongue and assure that you enjoy the flavors; it will also enhance your perception of those flavors – they seem stronger as the tea cools.)

My humans have renewed hope for their new hometown, having found a local establishment making such teas as this available to the public here.

Where to buy: Drip.

Disclaimer: This tea was provided by the company named. However, any opinions concerning this tea and the company are always strictly objective. Information on where to buy is presented as a courtesy only.

© 2014 A.C. Cargill photos and text – All rights reserved. No copying, posting on other sites, or other uses allowed without written permission of the copyright holder.

Trust the Teapot

Tea vendors: We give your teas a fair review always!
Tea drinkers: No pulling punches here. You see the good and the bad!