Tuesday, April 01, 2014

J-Tea Sells to Overseas Company

We are happy to let you know that all of our hard work at J-TEA has really paid off. Recently, J-TEA has been acquired for an undisclosed sum. This acquisition comes in the recent phase of brand rich tea businesses being acquired by larger corporations. Reasons for this trend are the increased awareness of tea as an amazing beverage and an increased awareness of food and the importance of healthy eating. Let's face it...Tea is booming!

Due to confidentiality agreements, the company acquiring J-TEA cannot be named. The change of ownership will take place on May 1, 2014. We can tell you that this company, though based overseas, does plan on continuing with J-TEA's current mission statement of “dousing the nation with tea.”

When reached for comment, company spokesman said that several factors stood out to the investors of the company taking acquisition: “Our company’s majority share holders were very impressed with J-
Tea's general quality of tea. They loved that even their lower priced teas were so much better than the high priced teas sold elsewhere. The fact that J-Tea packages all of its tea with a vacuum sealer that allows for the least amount of oxygen possible to come in contact with the tea, this shows that J-Tea cares about preserving and maintaining a high level of quality.”

Another investor personally visited J-Tea to do some investigative research and was impressed by the personable and knowledgeable customer service. It’s rumored that the company president will be taking personal possession of J-Tea's aged oolong collection as well as J-Tea's Da Yu Ling Spring 2012. He is particular about the tea saying that brewing this tea with the yi xing teapot brings him the richest sense of harmony he has ever experienced.

Josh has been asked to stay on as a contributing writer to J-Tea's blog, The Oolong Tea Times. He likes writing for the blog and plans to continue making weekly contributions. The new company will not be able to directly acquire J-Tea's tea connections as these are relationships that have been cultivated over time, and are not directly transferable. So with regard to the future quality of tea, we can only wish you the best of luck. Josh plans on moving to Hawaii, the 50th state, where he will pursue his dream of becoming “the tea whisperer to the stars.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Year of the Horse is almost here!

Jayme Allen says that most of his time is spent waiting. He works with the raw earth. More specifically, he transforms Willamette Valley clay in process that involves several steps. Each of these steps demands time, hence the waiting. But Jayme fills his waiting time by moving the clay from one stage of the process to another. And because there is so much waiting, he has several batches processing at one time so that he can work on one thing while he is waiting for another. Ultimately this results in a workable piece of clay. This local clay is one of the things that made me scratch my head when I first met Jayme. His clothes were covered in mud and he looked exhausted. He had just returned from mining a batch of local clay. You know the stuff that makes it impossible to have any type of workable garden? Most local gardeners replace this stuff with compost blends and topsoil. But Jayme works with it to make a high-grade local clay. It’s hard work, but for Jayme, it’s also a source of inspiration.  Pictures of his process can be seen here: Firebug Pottery Facebook Page.

Jayme is fully involved with the pottery he makes. He digs the clay, processes it, wedges it, throws it, and when he is able to use a wood-fired kiln, he splits the wood for the fire then loads and unloads the kiln. He is involved in every part of the process and that’s the way he likes it. Ultimately, he is developing his kung fu through his work.

We invite you to come to our Year of the Horse Tea Sealing Celebration on February 1, 2014. We'll be sealing tea in clay vessels made by Jayme and Elkton-based potter and ceramic artist, Hiroshi Ogawa. This year’s seal was designed by local artist Dave Snider. More of his work can be found on his blog: Sniderland


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Revamping JteaInternational.com for improved results

For years or at least weeks now, I've been collecting information on how to best improve my web presence. I can't believe I just used “web presence” in a sentence. We've recently invested a lot of time, energy, and a bit of money in our website to improve its SEO, or search engine optimization. What is all of this talk of SEO? Pretend you are trying to date a hot person named Google (Goo). Well, if you want to have a chance with Goo, and since you can't really take Goo out and get Goo drunk to improve your chances, it's time to get to work to improving yourself. If you improve yourself, Goo notices. Goo wants a match that cares about how they present themselves, so you've got to improve some personal grooming habits, at the very least, make an effort to look good. Google will notice. Goo is fare, because everyone has a chance. Goo's likes and dislikes can be found online. And web designers can help you hook up with Goo, online of course.

First on our list was to get some products onto the home page. We achieved this goal and now have nine products perched ever-so-pleasantly there on J-Tea's homepage. They are nine products that are awesome: our top sellers. My only warning to you is that you will get hooked on the stuff. Then you might try something better, and you will want that, and eventually you become spoiled. Yes, I am your pusher, and no, the first one is never free.

The idea is that the nine featured teas can rotate. The nine products currently listed on J-TEA's homepage are Charcoal Dawn (a green oolong roasted over charcoal of the Dragon Eye fruit tree), Cooked Beauty Puer, Eugene Breakfast (Yunnan Dian Hong), Green Oolong (four seasons like spring varietal of oolong), Roast Pear (Fall Harvest from “Li Shan” = Pear Mountain), Rou Gui (an amazing variation on the wu yi classic cinnabar varietal), Tai He Sun, Top Bao Zhong, and Yunnan Gold Tips. This group is a strong representation of what J-Tea has to offer. Something strange, something solid, something exciting, something enticing, and something smooth.

Another innovation on the site, and what I consider to be a huge step forward, was the creation of individual product pages. So now you can see each product in its product category page as shown here: Green Oolong Tea. When hovering over the photo on the card there is a rollover effect and the photo will switch to a picture of that tea’s extraction. We have used the translation of the Chinese term used to describe the liquid tea, “tea soup.” And a note about the tea soup pictures: the tea soup picture tends to be a bit light. It's okay because it makes some of the darker teas a little bit translucent, but generally the tea is brewed slightly lighter than how I'm used to seeing it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

As Horse Sayings Go!

When we seal tea, we are making history. Looking forward, we are creating aged tea. The tea, as it ages, becomes something else. This is not unlike our own experience as so often the beginning, middle, and end of one’s life are three connected, yet separate adventures.

This year's seal features some made up Chinese word play. Because Chinese can be read left to right and right to left, we've intentionally created a saying that has meaning when read either way. It's safe to say, that this saying cannot be understood by either native speakers of English and Chinese. So as one customer put it, I'm two for two.
“Ma3 Shang4 Cha2 Lao3”
From this can be inferred, 馬上茶變老 “Ma3 Shang4 Cha2 Bian4 Lao3”
Tea immediately becomes old.
For Year of the Horse, we chose the word “immediately” because pictographically translated from Chinese into English it means “by way of horse, or horse driven,” which is so fast that it might as well be immediate. It’s another way of saying time goes by so fast, with the blink of an eye. The act of sealing tea is most enjoyable when there is some special purpose of commemoration. Sealing tea at such a time confers the sense that the ever-changing future is at hand, and our hope is that we will be here to enjoy this tea in 20 years. In this way, we create antiquity at the moment the seal is adhered. Thus, tea immediately becomes old.

“Lao3 Cha2 Shang4 Ma3”
Aged tea is placed upon the horse.
Many people are still not aware that J-TEA is a great place for aged tea. Currently, we still have great aged tea available, though the availability of old tea is never certain. Aged tea placed upon the horse indicates that tea is on a journey. This tea travels over oceans, across continents, and around the world – and as soon as you order aged tea from J-TEA, we send it via horse directly to you. Actually, we send it with the next best thing, the U.S. Postal Service. In other words, when you order aged tea from us, it will be arriving shortly.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pumpkin House, Tea House

Before J-TEA occupied this house on Friendly Street, it was the Pumpkin House, owned by Cindy and Ron Rutledge. The Pumpkin House was a kind of neighborhood gathering with a large following. The Rutledges would provide hundreds of pumpkins and the tools to carve them with, and ask the entire neighborhood over to their house for carving.
From their stories recounting the events from years past, they evidently had to carve a lot of the pumpkins themselves and it was always a push for them to get it done. Apparently, and I'm name dropping here, but Toshi from Toshi's Ramen was an integral part of the carving team.
The carvers, armed with knives and spoons, surrounded themselves with pumpkins and had to carve themselves out as if escaping from a scene in the Walking Dead, but pumpkin guts flying instead of brains.
The pumpkins needed scaffolding to hold their growing numbers and cars would come full of curious onlookers to see the impressive collection of jack 'o lanterns.

We tried for a bit to resurrect the pumpkin tradition, until a couple years ago when I had the chance to ask Cindy how they did it. Essentially, she said, it was a whole lot of work. Unfortunately I've already signed myself up for too much of that so I let that one go. But what we did do is offer some great Halloween themed teas and we will be serving them again this year. Mummy's Dust Puer, B+ Hibiscus for Vampires, and Ghost's Cry Wooooo-long. Rumour has it, we will have French style hot chocolate infused with tea rather than water...a Dia de los Muertos Chocolate Fest.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A party, a TEA party, a tea BEER party

From left to right: Top Earl, Eugene Breakfast, Chai, Charcoal Dawn, Hairy Monkey White Tea lined up for a tea beer pairing at Viking Braggot Company
Disclaimer: in no way does J-TEA condone drinking in excess. When drinking beer or tea, know when you've had enough.

We've got to hand it to our friends at 16 Tons for creating this unique and exciting event, the Tea Beer Fest. Kudos to 16 Tons founder and visionary, Mike Coplin.
I wonder if Mike knew that he'd soon be opening a cafe, or if it was just a prophetic move created as the 2011 first anniversary beer for the opening of 16 Tons tap house, the synergistic movement that came to be known as “Fredric's Lost Arm,” aka “The Lost Arm,” and known affectionately by me as “The Tea Beer,” a Belgian style Farmhouse Saison infused with Four Seasons Green Oolong tea from Ming Jian, Taiwan.
For those of you who were lucky enough to try "The Lost Arm,” a collaboration between 16 Tons, Oakshire, and J-TEA, I don't need to tell you that it was the ultimate tea infused beer. That stuff was great.

I like beer, so I was super excited to hear that Oakshire was doing the teabeer again... One of the best beers of all time, I think this one will go fast. I am looking forward to reuniting with this beer. It is like my long lost best friend and for that reason, I like the name “The Lost Arm.”

One of the reasons this teabeer is awesome is because they are using an awesome oolong tea. As many already know, using high quality ingredients improves the quality of your food. Oakshire decided on the Green Spring/Green Oolong tea, the same green tea that is featured in many of Eugene's best restaurants and cafés.

How did Mike put it? “When this beer came out, Josh lost his mind for about 24 hours.” And that was pretty much the truth of it. When it came out, I sipped on that beer for what seemed to be about 36 hours straight. The euphoric l-theanine/alcohol ethereal bliss went on and on, which ultimately in retrospect didn't feel healthy and that's what hangovers are for.

This event promises to be amazing. Great guests, caffeine, L-theanine, beer, food writers, bloggers, tea-heads, beer geeks, U of O professors, UO students and alumni, Oregonians and those from out of state, food scientists, drink enthusiasts, fans of punk music, members of the Monkey Wrench Gang. A party, a Tea Party of Epic Proportions.

So, if you are reading this, and if you can get a ticket to Eugene, Oregon, come to 16 Tons on Wednesday the 23rd from 5-10 PM to try out a combination of two worlds, the Tea Beer.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dong Ding

We climb through a patch of camphor laurel at early dawn. It grows chilly as we go; the tea pickers are out gathering the day's harvest. The cold bites at our fingers and toes. Ascending from the west we climb steep passes following the ravine of deer valley. Up and up we travel, inland and away from the sea to Lugu ("Deer Valley"), the special township saddling this mountainous region. The mineral rich soil here was once an ocean crust. Now we stand in the only landlocked county of Taiwan. Nantou County maintains its connection to the ocean through its soil. Dong Ding is a mountain within a range of mountains. Here, amid the consistently thick fog and spider-managed insect systems grows "Frozen Peak Tea."  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Journal Entry: April 8, 2013

Ah Li! For a couple of days now, we've been checking the weather and there is a break in the rain that will prove we can buy some good tea. Tea isn't picked in the rain; it wouldn't pass inspection. So we are waiting for this break in the weather. The smart phone, with a great app, is showing a gap in the rain that should last two to three days.

Rounding the traffic circle, setting out for the mountains, some rays of sunshine broke through, and I realized, I was about to begin a vacation within the vacation. If ever there was a time to relax, it would be now. I stretched out in the passenger seat and started riffling through the glove box. I pulled out all of the CDs, three, and one looked like some music, so I put it on. My friend observed from the driver’s side, impressed with my new sense of comfort. I'd just gotten over the bad cold, and energy levels were still a bit low. We pulled over in Taizhong to look at a roadside sale of junk, mostly: incense holders, ugly tea gear, ugly carved buddhas. At this point, we still hadn't decided which way we were going, because from here we could either go to Dong Ding or Tai He. I've been to Lugu and Dong Ding several times, and Mt. Ah Li is safer for driving when there might be rain. We settled on Tai He, which is located in the interior of the Ah Li mountain range. But it was already late and we had to make haste if we were going to make our way up the mountain before the farmers go to bed. We turned to get into the mountains as fast as we can, and in our rush, we failed to eat dinner. We bought fruit at the outset, but it looked like dinner was not in our near future. I think it was at this point that I fell asleep.

Waking as we stop for gas, I realize that we have gained quite a bit of elevation. The air felt different, colder. “Food?” I ask, and the gas station attendant offers to make instant noodles. I politely decline. We come upon some buildings, twinkling in the inky night, and the wheels whine in a different tone as we cross the bridge to pull over to a parking lot. We cross the road just in time to see all of the food vendors closing up for the night.

Starving, we double back over the bridge to the first buildings we passed. We head inside, again to find that the food service is over. Finally, the bridge is crossed a third time, as we continue up the mountain. Several physical states were traversed to achieve the current mental state. This bridge we crossed three times to find a meal, yet none was found. Hungrily, we continue on in search of tea.

Journal Entry 4/8/13 Continued: Ah Li Oolong

Eventually, up in the mountains, we found some food and I bought a Mt. Ah Li post card at the 7-11. We were warmed by the meal, but chilled by the night when the restaurant owner learned that I sell tea in the States. He was excited and really wanted to sell me some tea. He made us some tea, and we were onto the farm. We tried his tea, because you never know what you might find, but we were on our way to the source. It was strange, because we could smell tea only for a bit. We drove with the windows down trying to smell the tea. Wafts of high mountain fog assaulted us as we rounded corners. I stuck my nose out the window trying to smell the tea .“We've had it. It doesn't smell like tea here. They aren't making tea.” That was a bad sign. It wasn't raining, but there was no tea smell. “If they were making tea here now, this whole place would smell like tea. No smell of tea means that the tea hasn't been picked yet, so even if it is picked tomorrow, it won't be ready until we are back home.”

So it really seemed like we might not have any luck. Dark, cold, steep, sharp—these are the backroad conditions. And I just wanted to smell the tea. But all that I could get was the damp, fluffy mountain air—that in its darkness, hid everything—even the smell.  

Tea! Mt. Ah Li - The Journey Continues

We were pushing it for sure. Early in the season, trying to catch an in-between-the-rain harvest, and on the heals of a drought that lasted most of the season. Off the beaten path, on the small mountain roads, and we are lost. As long as everyone has their cell phones, this isn't usually a big deal in Taiwan. We call the guy, a local tea maker, and he comes out to meet us. He is on a scooter and we follow behind him in the four door economy car. It turns out we were close. After following for just a short stretch we are turning down a steep paved driveway. When I see the tea processing center, a large building with a steel frame and corrugated steel walls, I jump to grab my bag. I wanted to document any and all tea making in progress for my own tea education. We are invited through a sliding door into a room that has a brew station with a few modest chairs and a small fish tank with one fish. This place was not fancy, but it was professional. We drink some high mountain green oolong tea and then are invited through another set of sliding doors into a huge tea processing room filled with tea. This was the indoor withering phase of oolong production. The entire room is filled with racks upon racks of tea in the withering stage of production. I am ecstatic. Filled with joy. I am so happy, I feel like I could spit.

The tea leaf as it oxidizes in the withering stage of processing

The racks upon racks of leaf, oxidizing in the temperature and humidity controlled environment
Everyone working in this tea factory wear matching uniforms of army camouflage clothing. Pants and jackets. It gets cold up here at night. These digs seem to be all the rage amongst tea processing teams. The tea processors' movements seem like a choreographed dance against the backdrop of tea drying in round racks, with the tea stacked level after level, well over head. This is Tai He First Stop. A huge AC, and I mean huge, like the kind that is used for an entire shopping mall, is built into the wall. The ceiling was a series of slat style vents that delivered the dry cool air that the leaves reportedly love. “Today's tea likes to feel the cool air, so we turn on the AC.” This is common practice nowadays, but I'm not sure about the origin or history of this use, other than I know I've seen it since at least 2004. The effect of AC on the leaf is more even oxidation throughout the entire leaf vs. segmented off to the edges.

The farmer, Mr. Jian, showing us the tea leaf

The tea leaf is transferred to the tumbler. The tumbler bruises the leaf, resulting in consistent and even oxidation.  

This part of the tumbler keeps track of how many rotations the tumble completes.  It also has a timer, and can be set for a specific amount of time.
We checked out the tea, but nothing was finished yet. It would be another day or so until the Tai He First Stop would be ready. Tai He First Stop reported that Ah Li Shan Golden Lily tea picking started 10 days ago, and the Mt. Ah Li Green Heart Oolong started today. We are in luck!

It is midnight by now. Luckily this guy knew a place where we could sleep. It was late and we were so road worn by this point that I don't really remember much, just that the rooms were large. The windows were huge as well, making up nearly an entire wall that overlooked the magnificent tea growing landscape. I think we meant to get up early, but after the late bed time, 8 AM was about the best we could do. After asking about breakfast we are shown to the kitchen, and then we ask about tea. The man said he had some, to which we asked Jin Xuan or oolong. Oolong, we have oolong, he replied. He showed us around the kitchen and left us to eat.  

This Mt. Ah Li First Stop Tea is available on our website here: Mt. Ah Li First Stop link.