Monday, December 31, 2018

2015 Nuo Mi Pu-Erh from Harney & Sons

Pu-erh is a type of tea that is relatively new to me, but ancient in its origins. Wanting me to branch out in my tea explorations, my husband gave me a tin of the 2015 Nuo Mi Pu-Erh from Harney & Sons as one of my many tea-related Christmas gifts. I am drinking this pu-erh as I write and am enjoying the third infusion of this rich, earthy brew.  Take a look at the Harney & Sons website to see a range of tasting notes on this tea along with recommended brewing methods and times.

Pu-erh originated in the Yunnan province of China thousands of years ago. It has a history that is closely entwined with that of the tea trade between China and other nations. The story goes that this tea was originally compressed into bricks or other shapes for easier transport. At some points in its history the compressed tea "bricks" were used as a form of currency.

Today, we classify Pu-erh in the category of "dark" teas which are fermented and aged, as opposed to solely oxidized, teas. According to the Yunnan government's definition, pu-erh is tea that must be made with a certain large leaf variety of camellia sinensis grown within a certain geographic region.

The drinking of Pu-erh, like many other teas, is reputed to carry health benefits.  Take a look at this WebMD article for a brief overview of such health benefits which include weight loss and improved LDL cholesterol levels.

My take away from this experience with brewing and drinking pu-erh is that it is a tea as complex in flavor as it is in its history and production.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Exploring the Asheville Goods "High Tea" Gift Box

I wrote an earlier blog post about the Asheville Goods “High Tea” Gift Box to give you an idea of what makes up this carefully curated collection.  Now, I will open up the packages and tins, have a taste of these teas and goods, and share the experience with you.

The teas in this gift box collection are selected to carry you through the day. If you follow my way of doing things, you will begin your morning with the brisk black Rwandan tea from TimaTea.  You will drink Dobra Tea’s green tea as a gentle afternoon pick me up, and then wind up your day with the soothing tisane from Asheville Tea Company.

First let’s talk about how to brew these loose teas.  Using the cute infuser which is enclosed in this gift box (pictured above) you will want to follow the brewing instructions on each tea package as your starting point for knowing how much of the loose tea to use and how long to infuse it in order  to brew a cup of tea.   

I drink a great deal of tea, so I generally brew my tea by the pot rather than the cup.  For a pot of tea, you will want to calculate out how much dry loose tea to use depending upon the size (cup capacity) of your tea pot. I use a tea pot with a built in infuser basket.  If you do not have this type of tea pot, you could use paper infuser bags such as those pictured above.  They work great.

Now, I want assure you that you are always free to experiment with both the amount of loose tea and the brewing time used to find the combination which suits your taste.  The suggestions on the packages are just a starting point.  So experiment and really taste your tea.  Each of these teas is a high quality tea that you will no doubt enjoy.  So if the first cup is not to your liking, experiment!

If you enjoy a sweetener in your tea, try the delicious wildflower honey from Mikell’s Farm which is included in the gift box. And if you enjoy a sweet something to eat with your tea, you will certainly love the lavender shortbread cookies made by Asheville’s Ivory Road Café& Kitchen.  The cookies freeze beautifully, so if you do not plan to eat them within a few weeks of purchase, pop them in the freezer to maintain their delicious, lavender-enhanced buttery flavor.

I drink a pot of black tea every morning with my breakfast.  This morning I brewed the black tea from Tima Tea of 3 Mountains which worked for me as a great morning wake up! This medium-bodied brew is slightly astringent and carries a distinct flavor profile which Tima Tea describes as being the flavor of the Rwandan terroir.  I like a fairly strong brew in the morning, so I steeped this tea for 5 minutes rather than that recommended 3.5 minutes.  Even with my  slightly longer than recommended brew time the tea did not taste bitter to me.  I look forward to enjoying this tea again with my morning meal.

The Green tea from Dobra Tea hails from the Yunnan province in China.  I find green teas to be a little less forgiving when it comes to modifying brew time because they can become quite bitter if over brewed. So I would definitely start with the 1 minute brew time recommended for this tea.

I brewed today’s afternoon green tea, called “Dian Lu Eshan” as directed.  I used the small pot and cup combination that had been given to me by a Chinese friend of my daughter. This small pot is perfect for brewing teas which call for multiple infusions with short brew times.  If you do not have your own small teapot, do not worry. The infuser included with this gift box will be perfect for brewing this tea one cup at a time.

Once brewed, this tea is light and fresh in body and flavor.  And because you can brew multiple infusions from the same leaves, which is to say that you can pour hot water over the same wet leaves time and time again, this tea will go a long way.

At the end of a long and busy day, the relaxing properties of the Lavender Chamomile tisane from Asheville TeaCompany are just what is called for.  This naturally caffeine-free blend, with its light body and slightly sweet flavor, is the perfect addition to your evening routine.

You can brew this herbal blend for as long as you like.  It does not get bitter with an extended brewing time. (This is a useful note for the forgetful ones among us.) I brew this blend for 5 minutes before drinking, but that is not mandatory.

So today I enjoyed the full range of items offered in the Asheville Goods “High Tea” gift box.  I recommend this collection as a gift for yourself or for any tea lover in your life.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Asheville Goods "High Tea" Gift Box

Asheville is a unique place - and Celia Naranjo of Asheville Goods has been around long enough to have an insiders’ knowledge of what makes the city special. Asheville’s artisanal food producers, organic farmers, hand crafters, and independent small businesses give the city its special character.  Celia includes products from each of these categories of makers in the creative gift boxes that she offers both online and in person at Asheville Goods.  From the Pritchard Park coffee and chocolate box to The Laurel body and bath box, her Asheville Goods gift boxes represent the city at its best.

So what about tea? You are asking. Asheville Goods now offers a tea-themed gift box called “High Tea” which includes products from each of Asheville’s tea-related independent businesses.  In this gift box you will find a tisane from the Asheville Tea Company, blended by owner, Jessie Dean, from locally grown botanicals. Next is a green tea from Dobra Tea’s Andrew Snavely who travels and sources his teas from throughout Asia.  Sara Stender’s Tima Tea loose leaf black tea from Rwanda rounds out this gift box’s tea offering.  As accessories to the three tea selections you will find a fun tea infuser with lavender shortbread cookies made by Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen. And to sweeten the mix even further you have Mikell’s Farm wildflower wild honey from hives that abut the Pisgah National Forest.

Each of these makers is a significant figure in the Asheville tea “scene.” So, in order to get an insider’s view and taste of tea in Asheville, you need to try the “High Tea” gift box from Asheville Goods. It is the perfect gift for yourself or the tea lover in your life.

Those of you in the Asheville area, will have the opportunity to meet some of these characters from the Asheville tea “scene” at a Saturday, October 27 pop up shop. Join me, Celia, Jessie Dean, and whoever else shows up from 2-7 p.m. at the Asheville Goods and Asheville Tea Company brick and mortar shop at 7 Brevard Road. This is located just off of Haywood Road in West Asheville.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Story of Robert Fortune in Tea and Books

Today, I have been sipping Upton Tea Imports’ black tea blend called Robert Fortune Blend 41.  Naming this blend after the Scottish adventurer, botanist, and plant hunter is apt as the blend contains both Chinese Yunnan and Indian Darjeeling tea. The life and exploits of Robert Fortune created a symbolic bridge between the worlds of China and India, and this unique tea blend does as well.

The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou and Robert Heiss describes Yunnan black teas as “lush, thirst-quenching treats.”  This same book describes spring Darjeeling teas as being characterized by “fresh exuberance” while later flushes of Darjeeling are described as “rich and smooth.”  In either case, Darjeeling, known as the “Queen of Indian teas,” adds a lighter note to the Chinese Yunnan and results here in a lovely, balanced black tea blend.

If you would like to read a lively account of the life and exploits of Robert Fortune, take a look at For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose.   The short version of the story goes something like this: Robert Fortune, as an “agent” of the East India Company, shipped/smuggled tea plants, seeds, and eight Chinese tea experts from China’s tea lands into India where they formed the foundation of what later became the Indian Tea Industry.

You can find bits and pieces of information about Robert Fortune in any of the books pictured here above. (Click on image to enlarge it.)  And if you are somewhat business oriented and interested in knowing more about the East India Company, you might want to look up a 2012 book called The Corporation that Changed the World: How the East India Company Shaped the Modern Multinational.

(Disclaimer: The tea discussed here was provided to me by Upton Tea Imports.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Peach Black Tea from Upton Tea Imports

It may be the season for everything pumpkin flavored and scented in stores, but my mind goes back to thoughts of the peaches of this past summer. When given the opportunity to taste and review some teas from Upton Tea Imports, I chose to sample the “Naturally Flavored Peach Black Tea with Fruit Pieces” as one of my choices.  Why? I chose to sample peach tea because I grew up in the upstate of South Carolina which might otherwise be known as “peach country.” I have tasted many a peach in my life.  So I thought I would be a good judge of the authenticity of the peach flavor in this black tea blend.  And I have not been disappointed.

Upton Tea Imports’ “Naturally Flavored Peach Black Tea with Fruit Pieces” is delicious. The brew is rich and smooth and carries an authentic and natural peach flavor.  For a cup or pot of hot tea, I used boiling water on this tea blend and found that the steep time that worked best for me was 4 minutes.  I also tried a cold brew of this tea. For the cold brew tea I placed 1 tablespoon of tea in a pint of water.  I left this mix in the refrigerator to steep for 24 hours.  The result was a delicious, light bodied iced tea with a hint of peach flavor.

Whether you are looking for a hot or cold tea blend, the "Naturally Flavored Peach Black Tea with Fruit Pieces" from Upton Tea Imports is a great choice.

(Disclaimer: The tea discussed here was provided to me by Upton Tea Imports.)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tea Woodblock Prints by Artist Ron Bower

I am excited to share this set of tea-themed images by artist Ron Bower.  Ron and his wife Sylvia (also an artist) currently make their home in Kentucky where they are friends of Bruce and Shelley Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.   The four of them often share tea together - accompanied by lively conversations about art and life.  Ron particularly enjoys a dark, bold, tea such as one of the single estate Assams carried by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.

In his decision to create woodcuts, Ron was inspired by the woodcuts of Kentucky artist, Harlan Hubbard.  

Ron, like the Richardsons, is inspired by the Japanese aesthetic and tea ceremony.  So when he decided to create a set of tea-themed images, it was natural for him to depict implements from the Japanese tea ceremony.


tea whisk

teacup & scoop

These images are available as note cards or as original prints in the Danville, Kentucky retail shop of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.  You can reach the shop by phone at 859-236-6641 or by email at 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Tea 101 MasterClass by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas: Day 3

Day 3 of the Tea 101 MasterClass consisted largely of very helpful lectures about starting and running a tea business.  The day ended with a meditation given by Shelley Richardson and a graduation ceremony.

meditation by Shelley Richardson
(photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson)

class photo
(photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson)

Receiving my certificate of graduation
(photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson)

gift from Shelley Richardson

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tea 101 MasterClass by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas: Day 2

Day 2 of this Tea 101 MasterClass included a number of tea tastings.  We sampled black teas, herbals and infusions, and finally oolongs.  I came away from the tastings with a much greater appreciation for the flavors and aromas of fine teas.

black tea tasting notes

pu erh cake

herbals, infusions, and blends

Bruce Richardson leading the Gung Fu ceremonial tasting of oolongs

The tasting of the oolongs was done in the Gung Fu style ceremony.  It was fascinating and the teas were delicious.  I have a new-found appreciation for oolong teas.

At the end of Day 2 we visited the retail shop of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.  We had great fun and all came away from the trip with much lighter wallets.

Lynn at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas

Shelley Richardson at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas

Our group at the Elmwood Inn Fine Teas retail shop 
(photo courtesy of Bruce Richardson)

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Tea 101 MasterClass by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas: Day 1

Arriving at the Tea  101 MasterClass by Elmwood Inn Fine Teas I was greeted by the open door of a historic Shaker building where the class was to be held.  The classroom space was pleasant, comfortable, and well organized.

Day 1 consisted of a combination of lectures and tastings.  The lectures on "Tea as a Lifestyle" and "Understanding Specialty Teas" were followed by tastings of white and green teas.

The lectures were presented by the famous and knowledgeable Bruce Richardson of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas.  The tasting was a joint effort of Bruce & Shelley Richardson with Joanna Kirby, their friend and Director of Education.  After tasting these white and green teas I can say with all assurance that Elmwood Inn Fine Teas is my new "go to" source for fine teas.

Lynn with Bruce Richardson

Monday, September 10, 2018

Tea 101 MasterClass: The Arrival

I arrived this morning at LEX, Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky, ready to begin this tea adventure.  The rental car pick up area is right beside baggage claim, so I got my car and hit the road.  The drive from the airport to Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill is a quick and easy one.

I saw fields of beautiful fences like these above along the route to Shaker Village.  Closer to the village, beautiful stone walls like these below lined the landscape.

Upon arrival, beautiful scenes greeted me.  The village is dotted with lovely vistas across fields, fences, and stone walls.  Inside the restaurant I found this curving Shaker staircase.

I am excited to begin the Tea 101 MasterClass organized by Elmwood Inn.  In the meanwhile I am relishing this venue, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Carmen Cay Art and Teabags as an Art Material

Artist Carmen Joyce in Action

I recently had the opportunity to ask artist Carmen Joyce of Carmen Cay Art about her work with tea bags as an art medium.  

Lynn: I would love to hear whatever you can tell me about how you started using tea bags as an art material.

Carmen: When I was in high school I would save my tea bags and use them for dyeing paper. I'd use a lighter to burn the edges of the paper, write poems on them and give them to friends. I've collected tea bags for the past 6 years or so. I didn't know what I wanted to do with them but I knew something would come to me!  About a year ago I started exploring the texture of the teabags wondering how I could use them in my artwork. That's when I started drawing on them. As I learned more about the teabags through handling them I realized they are fairly durable. I then started using glue to make bowls from the bags and I recently started to burn them to add a darker color. 

Lynn: Do you drink tea?  If so, does tea have any special meaning for you?

Carmen: I grew up in the South so I definitely drink tea! I used to drink sweet iced tea but now I stick with unsweetened. My morning ritual also involves a cup of hot tea. I like black teas, Earl Grey and jasmine teas. I love sitting on a porch with tea in hand as a welcome to the morning. 

Lynn: Do teabags represent anything in particular to you?
Carmen: Tea makes me think of community. Tea is peaceful, promotes calm and well-being and it brings people together. I love the traditions in other cultures regarding tea ceremonies. The color of tea and teabags have a sense of nostalgia for me. It makes me think of the past and reminds me of my ancestors from the United Kingdom. I wonder what tea they drank and what the meaning was for them. 

Lynn: Tell me whatever comes to mind about using teabags as an art material.

Carmen: Teabags are tough and pretty versatile. I really love burning them with a heat gun and finding ways to incorporate them into everything I create. They smell like burnt popcorn when they are burned. I've grown to consider teabags as just "paper" when it comes to an art media. When I think of them as paper it opens the door to further ideas, rather than limiting myself to it only being a "teabag". 

For more information about Carmen and her art making, see her website at

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Tea 101 MasterClass, September 2018

botanical illustration of the camelia sinensis plant

I am signed up to attend the Tea 101 MasterClass that is coming up next month in Lexington, Kentucky.  This will be such a valuable experience!  The course, organized by the team at Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, is for anyone who wants to be "immersed in tea culture."  Well, that's me!  As they state, tea is not just a beverage, it is a lifestyle. So, check back in September as I post about this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tea Tasting from Tea Time Magazine

Today, Jessie Dean of the Asheville Tea Company, Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Cafe and Kitchen, and I got together to taste five teas that we had recently read about in Tea Time magazine.  In the July/ August 2018 issue of this magazine, you will find an article entitled "15 Teas Every Tea Lover Should Taste."  We gathered to taste five of the black teas recommended in this article.

The five teas we tasted, pictured here below from left to right, are:
1) Darjeeling Wonder Tea from
2) Himalayan Golden Black Tea from
3) China Cangyuan Yunnan Organic Black Tea from
4) Keemun Mao Feng Imperial Black Tea from
5) Nilgiri 6892 from

Jessie and I found the Keemun from global tea mart to be our favorite tea of the five.  The tea had a slightly roasted or smoky flavor that paired beautifully with the pistachio nuts that we had on the table.  Jill preferred the Yunnan black tea from Simpson & Vail.  All five of the teas were smooth and refined.
© my tea diary
Maira Gall