Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Spring Tea

Low elevation spring tea is already in. It looks like I will be arriving just as the higher elevation tea harvest begins. I will arrive in Taoyuan on the 15th and then I have about three weeks time to travel the island looking for tea. The weather has been relatively warm this season, so the tea is a bit earlier than expected. Currently, some cold weather has come in. Hopefully this will have a positive impact on the high mountain tea. With the excessively warm temps, it is hard to say how much great tea there will be. There is one good bit of news and that is that the rain has not yet begun. I remember now that rain is more likely in the spring and this is one factor that can really have a negative influence on the tea. Well, I am glad to hear that the rains have not yet begun. This promises to be an interesting trip and I look forward to sharing my adventures with all everyone that has interest.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Newsletter Excerpt

Kanye West is back in the news and is singing about herbal chai. He likes it. We have it. 2009 was a great year for J-TEA and it is all due to your support. Our new packaging has been well received. More and more people are getting into oolong and puer. It seems like the interest in tea culture continues to grow.
Tea tip: Did you know that one way to judge for tea quality is to compare the weight of a tea by volume. For example, if you have two separate one pound packages of oolong tea, the smaller package will typically be of higher quality. Right now, our heavy tea is Tender Leaf aka Shan Lin Xi Early Winter.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Phone cards from Taiwan

This is one of the coolest phone cards that I've ever seen. Taiwan is a wonderful place, not only for tea, but also for telecommunications. These phone cards can be purchased at any easy to find Seven Eleven. Although the card has 210 NT dollars worth of credit, for some reason it only costs 200 NT dollars. This is about six dollars US. This is the IC card which can be used for calling internationally as well as island wide. I'm pretty sure that this type of card will allow a person to speak to someone in the US for about 20 minutes, but I could be wrong. If you are calling a landline in Taiwan this card will last for several hours. There is another type of phone card that costs 100 NT dollars, but that card seems less popular and I don't remember that card can be used to call internationally. Calling cell phones in Taiwan will use up your minutes much faster. Regardless, using the public phone that requires these types of calling cards is a much more economical way to go than calling from your own cell phone, if you have one. Typically the calling cards will have various photos of famous sites, locations or things that Taiwan is famous for. I have collected many of these types of cards over the course of my time spent in Taiwan. This is the first time I found one of these cards with a picture of a tea pot. Was I thrilled! From the looks of this pot, it must be made by some famous potter, but I do not know who made it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

J-TEA’s adventures in social media

I have been researching social media and making some additions to the ways that I reach out and share the latest J-TEA news. This has been a learning process and I would like to share some of the things learned.
Currently, there are four ways to follow our latest tea information.
1) This blog dubbed J-TEA’s Oolong Tea Times
2) Twitter @JTEA
3) J-TEA’s Facebook business page www.facebook.com/JTEAINTERNATIONAL
4) J-TEA’s informative tea newsletter. You can sign up here: www.jteainternational.com on the lower right hand side of the page.

The first option is the tea blog. This is where I will pour my heart and soul into trying to share some of the amazing experiences that I have had via tea.

Next, Twitter. This is a place where I will say somewhat witty and somewhat meaningless comments I find amusing or interesting that can be expressed in 140 characters or less. Examples of recent tweets include: “What does Spider-man call himself? Well, I am the Friendly Neighborhood #tea man” and “Horizon Herbs Catalog arrived. 20 pack of #Tea plant seeds for $9.95 / seedlings $10 each, grow tea”

Facebook is where I can post many pictures and develop a J-TEA following whom I can inform of cool J-TEA happenings at the drop of a hat. I’ve been researching how to best use the Facebook business page here: http://bit.ly/zURSL. Become a fan now by going here or by clicking on the Facebook link on the right of this page.

Finally, there is the informative tea newsletter. As the name implies, this newsletter is informative. I share tea tidbits and tea stories and general information about tea as well as happenings at J-TEA. The goal is to send one newsletter per month so as not to inundate your inbox with excessive email. The service is meant to be value adding and we hope that you will enjoy it. If you have not already signed up, be sure and do so. If you have signed up and are not receiving the newsletter, you might want another email address. Some addresses are bounced for what reason I do not know.
I look forward to learning more and more about social media and the most fun and interesting ways to use it in the near future. Please feel free to share the ways that you have used social media to help your business. If you have any suggestions for J-TEA’s adventures in social media we would love to hear from you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

$5 for flights of tea

Now when visiting the tea house, you have the option of doing a flight of teas. There are a wide variety of teas to choose from. There is enough tea for as many people as can fit around the small tea bar. Sitting, there is room for four tasters, but if people stand, I am sure that more could fit. People are really enjoying this service and it seems to have caught on with little or no promotion on my part. This is a great way to learn about different teas as well as discovering which tea or teas you like best. It is also great because you can try before you buy.
Some people will select three teas in the same genre. I have seen this referred to as a vertical tasting. It would be similar to tasting three of the same types of wines. For example, if a person tasted three Syrah wines. Alternatively, some people will try a broad variety of tea such as a green oolong, a puer and a black tea. This was referred to as a horizontal tasting. This is like tasting a cab, a merlot and a pinot noir.
I make the teas in clear glass tea ware so that people can see the tea as it unfurls. I then hand them the glass tea ware with the brewed leaves and invite them to examine the leaves and smell the aroma. Of course, they can then drink the tea. This is usually their favorite part. Some people have commented that this is a wonderful experience and some have even gone so far as to say that it is much more enjoyable than wine tasting.
Of course it is also possible to try some of the highest end tea. In this case the tasting will cost more. The $5 fee covers teas that are $5 to $10 per ounce. For tea that ranges from $11 to $20 per ounce, the fee is $11 and for tea that ranges from $21 to $30 per ounce, the fee is $16 and so on.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Excerpt From "Conversations Over Tea: The Psychology of Tea"

Conversations Over Tea: The Psychology of Tea
By Josh Chamberlain
We were sitting in my teashop, a small shop in which people had shared so many details of their lives. It is this shop that is ever evolving and that seems to have a soul that we chose to have that my mother and I sat down to have tea and talk about some of teas amazing characteristics. As we waited for the water to boil, I proposed this question to my mother: “Do you believe that tea has the power to positively influence family relationships?”
I’ve often wondered if drinking tea could influence behavior. A few years ago I was living overseas in Taiwan when I was introduced to the world of tea. It was my experience with the timeless tea tradition, the focal point for social interaction in many households in Taiwan , which inspired me to start my own tea importing business. Since my introduction, tea has become so many different things to me: It is a plant, a friend, a social lubricant, a commodity, a means from which I earn my living, a beverage, a tonic, an elixir of life, a pick-me-up, a digestive aid, a health enhancer and a conduit to meditation. But is it also a great cultivator of relationships?
In Taiwan, families are typically multi-generational, often with three generations living together in the same household. Yet in America, it is not uncommon for family members to reside hundreds of miles apart. Take my family, for example. I have grandparents in Chicago and grandparents in Florida while my mother and father live in Oregon, near my home.
America, in direct contrast to Taiwan, is characterized by migration. Rather than remain in one central location with our family members near by, we seem to prefer to be “free” and we emphasize this sense of freedom by traveling the country in search of a place where we feel most at home- a place where we fit.
I’ve often wondered what role tea played in the Taiwanese family dynamic and if the same benefits could be enjoyed by our own movement-obsessed culture, which is how I found myself sitting with my mother, discussing the psychology of tea.

The Top Five Reasons to Go Loose Leaf

The Top Five Reasons to Go Loose Leaf
1. The value vs. quality ratio: you will get a higher grade of leaf for about the same price per serving. It is no secret that tea bags contain mostly dust. When the norm is dust, the leaf, in its full glory, is a refreshing surprise. Also the taste and the mouth feel are far superior. Loose leaf tea is good for multiple infusions (sometimes 6 to 10 infusions), whereas a tea bag is good for two or maybe three cups.

2. The purity: loose Leaf is pure. There is no tea bag flavor, no glue holding the string to the tea bag, no string. Nothing but tea.

3. The variety: as you walk down the tea isle of your local natural product supermarket, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of choices available from a wide range of countries. But how distinct are they really? The tea in the tea bags has been selected for you and they are labeled in many market driven (and sometimes random) ways. When you go to loose leaf you are selecting the tea for yourself. The selection is wider and you can see and understand more precisely what you are getting.

4. The process: the act of brewing loose leaf tea and observing the leaves as they unfurl to reveal the aroma is very rewarding. The act of brewing tea is an interaction with the tea plant. For me and several of my tea friends, brewing tea has a calming effect. By taking the time to go through several steps of the brew process the mind is cleansed and I am ready to face the challenges that life has to offer.

5. The tea ware: cool and beautiful tea ware is not a must when brewing loose leaf tea but it is fun and further contributes to a relaxing and satisfying experience. I sometimes brew loose leaf by simply adding leaf to the bottom of a mug, adding hot water, waiting for the leaf to settle to the bottom and then drinking tea off the top. I have even brewed loose leaf tea at a gas station out of a Styrofoam cup with the scalding hot water that was in the coffee machine (not recommended). For a while, one of my favorite ways to make eastern beauty is to put 3 to 5g (one spoonful) of loose leaf tea in the bottom of a pint glass, add water that is about 180 degrees Fahrenheit (bring water to a boil and then wait 5 minutes), wait three to five minutes and then strain with a fork into another pint glass. Although this minimalist approach to tea brewing is convenient, brewing tea with tea ware that compliments the teas specific characteristics, not only makes the experience more sublime, but the tea actually tastes better. Visually, tea ware has an impact. It can be arranged to be esthetically pleasing, and create a feeling of serenity and harmony.