Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Champagne of Oolongs….


oolong2     I was going to save my fourth installment for the Magic of Tea series for Oolong, but yesterday I had the opportunity to taste the most luxurious Oolong I have enjoyed to date. Three years ago, I had never even heard of Oolong, and you might be asking yourself the same question.

I just started back to school and have so much homework to do this weekend, I really shouldn’t be taking the time to write this blog today, but along with my collegiate studies I am taking the second class of Core Tea courses through the World Tea Academy. This class focuses on Tea Enhancements and Grading Systems. The final week involves a comparison tasting and detailed write-up/review of each tea sent for the class. (How tough could that be? Right?) We tasted and compared; flavored and scented, blend and decaf, and baked and aged. The flavored and scented were somewhat like an herbal blend but purely tea leaves without the botanicals added to enhance the tea flavor. Though these were good and had delightful tastes of passion fruit and jasmine, the enhancements can and do sometimes overwhelm the natural tea aromas and flavors. The blends are a combination of different types of tea – either from different plants, different processing techniques, different years of harvest, or from different countries. The decaf is processed with Carbon Dioxide to extract the caffeine from the tea leaves. This was a process I was unfamiliar with and now that I know – I may rethink the decaf tea in my cupboard – but that is another story….

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The Baked and the Aged tea is what this story is about. You may be asking, “why would one BAKE a tea?” Baking is a process that enhances the drying of the leaf. It aids in removing any water that may be left in the leaf after processing and it is used to ‘tweak’ the flavor of the final product. The additional heat process can activate chemical properties in the leaf and continue to remove moisture which, concentrates the flavor properties of the tea. I will be adding this process to some of our own designer teas in the future. It deepens the quality of the final brew. But back to the Oolong….


The Aged Tea we had the pleasure of tasting was from ABC Tea – web address is . It’s origin was from Taiwan, the Wenshan District. The cultivar was called: Buddha’s Palm. This particular Oolong was originally harvested in Spring 2002. There were three baking procedures, one in 2002, the next in 2007, and the last in 2012. The tea is allowed to age, this particular one was aged 10 years before distribution. The brewed tea is a sunshine yellow in color. The dried, rolled leaves have an aroma of aged grass, dandelions, and a hint of clover. There was one scent that was familiar but I still cannot put my finger on it. It is one of those things that just comes to you when you least expect it and you find yourself saying, “oh yah….. that’s what that was…” As mellow as that sunshine brew looks, don’t let it fool you – it has a mild, but full-bodied flavor that has a lingering ‘perfumie’ flavor and aroma. That sounds kind of bad – but is actually a very pleasant experience.


Some teas, once brewed, quickly lose their aroma, but this one maintained throughout the cup. It reminded me of a fine wine or champagne. The boldness of this Oolong is obvious but not obnoxious. All of the flavor is up front when you take your first sip. None is wasted as it is going down. Some teas impact the front of your mouth, others, the mid palate, and some have most of their impact going down. Many of the darker teas do the last and there is little enjoyment when you first sip. This fine tea is all up front which allows you to enjoy the flavor immediately and then as you swallow. I bet you didn’t know there was so much experience to take in when tasting tea. The baking throughout the aging process produced a very fine tasting experience, and after all – that is what tea is about, the experience.

Well – back to the school work. and, until the next time, remember to: ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ Everyone tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames-Hardman, MHs.D

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas


Ajiri Tea is coming to 9 Lives Tea House!


kenyanmapLet me introduce you to Ajiri Black Tea from Kenya. I first met these wonderful folks when I attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, 2012. I  made a point of visiting their booth at the World Tea Expo, 2013. Their mission is more than admirable and I knew I had to include this tea and support this project once we launched 9 Lives Tea’s website.

Ajiri Tea comes to us from Kenya. Their mission is two-fold; to create employment for the women of western Kenya and to educate orphans by paying school fees, purchasing books, uniforms and the supplies they will need while attending school. Kenya has been hard hit by HIV/AIDS and many of the orphans are either under the care of single parents, grandparents, or other caregivers. The education is free, but families are still responsible or the students school supplies. Many of the secondary schools are boarding schools and along with their school supplies, students are required to bring their own mattresses, and basins for drinking water and to wash their clothes. The average fees range from $625-$800 per year.

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The beautiful packaging immediately catches your eye. I learned that each label was hand-made by the ladies in Kenya from dried banana tree bark. Each is a work of art. According to their brochure, Ajiri, which means ‘to employ’ in Swahili, currently has 5 women’s groups totaling 60 plus women creating the labels for Ajiri Tea Company. Each box contains 16 tea bags that are tied off dried banana bark twine and beads made from recycled magazine paper – all made by the ladies.

kenyancrafts-women     Ajiri Tea is grown by small-scale farmers in western Kenya. The farmers grow the tea on small, 1-2 acre farms in the Kisii Highlands. The leaves are hand-picked, placed in baskets, and then carried to the community tea-buying center. The tea is then brought to the factory and is processed through withering, cut, then oxidized, dried and sorted. All profits are returned to the communities to  be used for the children’s education expenses.  Ajiri black tea is bold with a rich-flavor and has the certification of the Rainforest Alliance.

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9 Lives Tea House is excited to add this tea to its selection and to support the work of the Ajiri Foundation. Please visit their site at for more information.


Judith A. Ames-Hardman

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

Opening soon!


After two years in search of a place to call home, 9 Lives Tea House has recently leased a small warehouse in Pilot Point, Texas. It’s simple but has everything we need at present – a reception area, an office, a packaging clean room for the teas, and a great big warehouse space to handle all of the ‘stuff’ we will be listing on the web site. Between the antiques and the teas we should have the place filled in no time. LOL!

We anticipate having special days for our customers to come in and try the latest teas we will be packaging and offering for sale. We are thinking – ” Free Tea Tasting Tuesdays,” but haven’t settled on it yet. We are looking forward to summer 2014 because we have a great selection of iced teas that will be available too. The first tea packaging run on the schedule is our ‘Wild Yeti’ from Nepal. This was by far my favorite Oolong at the World Tea Expo 2013. There are several gift items available in production and as soon as we have them assembled, I will post an announcement.

If you would like more information or would like to follow our progress, you can ‘like’ us on Facebook or follow our twitter account @9livestea

My next article will touch on the Oolong Teas – in the meantime, enjoy the brew!

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White Tea Wishes…. part 3 of The Magic of Tea


Don’t let that nearly clear brew fool you, depending on where your tea leaves come from and the processing technique, that elixir can pack a punch of flavor! The term ‘White Tea’ brings to mind – ‘light’, ‘mellow’, ‘smooth’, and little flavor. That couldn’t be further from the actual flavors and experience you will encounter when enjoying a white tea variety. So many things go into the development of quality tea. The cultivar (plant) used, the region where the tea is grown, the temperatures of that region, the season harvested, and the process the teas will go through before arriving to your teacup.

White Tea leaves are the least processed of all of the teas. There is some disagreement as to exactly what ‘qualifies’ as a white tea, in general terms, the process involves picking the leaves and allowing them to wither in the sun. Often, there is not enough sun to complete the job so the leaves are moved into carefully monitored drying rooms where the leaves are allowed to continue the withering process. Very little additional processing is done to the leaves.

One of the aspects of white tea that is frequently miss-understood is that the brew will have little flavor due to the minimal processing of the leaves. Quite to the contrary. Because there is little handling and manipulation of the tea leaves, they hold onto much of the components that make the flavor of the brew. I have found white teas to have a strong, grassy or hay aroma and a full body, slightly astringent flavor. Depending the variety being steeped, I have enjoyed the light floral flavor and aroma of calendula flowers, lavender, and citrus tones. Some varieties have a light smoky flavor. Additionally – white teas have a bold, lingering impression. They are different from the oolongs and the darker teas, but definitely deserve a place in your kitchen cabinet. Give a try and see what you may have been missing!

Until our next installment for The Magic of Tea: ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ Everyone tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames-Hardman

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas
White Tea Brew