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My Tea and Sweets Cafe’



Good things come to those who wait! All in good time….. Sayings that I have ingrained into my existence. I knew when I started my ‘TEA’ experience, there would be hills to climb, obstacles to surpass, and trials and tribulations – so goes life! After all, I was embarking on the adventure of tea –  a tonic that has been around since the Shang Dynasty as a medicinal drink, dating to the 3rd century AD. Drinking tea became popular in Britain during the 17th century. To enter the Tea World – one must pay respect and some dues.


When I completed my degree from UNT, I was elated, mostly because now, finally – now, I could dedicate my time to my new tea venture – 9 Lives Tea House. The website had been designed and a preliminary launch was accomplished in 2014. E-commerce has been a rough learning curve. The technology expands and adjusts at a lightening pace. I have been ‘technically’ challenged, or technically hesitant, however you wish to look at it. My website – although secure and sound for today’s mobile market, already needs a major upgrade and revision. One I am about to undertake….. all in good time.. lol

My ultimate dream in the tea world was to take 9 Lives to a physical presence – a brick and mortar, where I can offer the tea experience to my clients and share what I have learned about this delightful indulgence. I have tried many times to secure the perfect location to open my tea shop. Every time, there was something in the way; the timing was not right, someone else won the bid, the owner of the ‘perfect’ building decided to sell it instead of lease. I met with frustration at every turn. But, I am not one to give up easily, after all – there was the ‘all in good time’ part of my mantra.


Well – last week, my opportunity finally came! A building I had been looking at and wishing to acquire for 10 years – became available for lease. An 1800’s building in Old Pilot Point Square, formerly an antique store, will now become my first Tea House. In addition, I am in the process of acquiring a well-established candy business – another long-time dream from my childhood. Words cannot describe how excited, hopeful, and blessed I feel about the opportunity before me.

Though it will take me a bit to get it all set up, I hope to open my new tea and sweets shop early 2018. If I can at all make it happen – perhaps by Christmas Season 2017, but it has taken me this long to get to this point, a few months is not too much longer to wait.

And – with that – my third and fourth mantras:

Patience is a virtue!

and then,

On to the next!


Watch for my formal announcement and in the meantime, ‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ – everyone, tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames

9 Lives Tea House and Candy Shoppe


In Praise of Pu-erh – part 2 of the Magic of Tea


Pu-erh Tea CakesPu-erh tea is the Champaign of Teas. Pu-erh? What the heck is Pu-erh? I said the same thing when I first saw the tea listed in a tasting class. Let’s first talk about how to pronounce it. Once we get that out-of-the-way we can go on to the wonders of the variety. Most people can get the first half correct – ‘Pu’ is pronounced ‘Pooh’, like Winnie the Pooh. The ‘erh’ seems to trip most people up and for the last two years I have enjoyed watching the tea class students and many tea store owners struggle with the name. I don’t enjoy it to make fun, I smile in ‘solidarity’ as I was in their shoes a couple of years ago. I tried to explain this tea to friends and family and just couldn’t get the name right. How can you sell tea if your can’t even say the name properly? The ‘erh’ part is simply ‘air’ like the air we breath. The name is pronounced as two syllables, first ‘pooh’ – ‘air’.

Why do I call Pu-erh the Champaign of teas? It is because of all of the tea varieties, this is a classic black tea, not black tea as we call black tea here in the United States, which is actually called red tea in China – Pu-erh is a ‘true’ black tea. It comes from China, from the province of Yunnan. Of all of the varieties of tea, Pu-erh is the most processed. It under goes an aging process which includes oxidation and fermentation before brewing. Like other teas, Pu-erh starts out as a simple green tea. It is allowed to air dry to remove as much moisture as possible before undergoing pan-frying in large woks. This stops oxidation and halts the enzyme activity within the leaf. The leaves are then rolled and pressed into small groupings and allowed to further air dry.

Once dry, the tea is then formed into a variety of shapes known as: cakes, bricks, squares, and melons. Then comes the best part – you wait. And wait, and wait……. Well – that isn’t exactly the last step. Pu-erh undergoes a process of ‘aging’ by stacking and wetting the tea blocks and maintaining them in a humid environment to encourage the bacteria and fungus to ferment the blocks. Yuck! you may be thinking – right? But it is this process that develops the unique flavors and intense aromas found in Pu-erh tea. It is like developing a fine wine or a premium beer. The cakes are aged anywhere from 6 months to a year.

To enjoy your Pu-erh tea, you simply place the tea cake into your favorite tea-pot or break off a piece of the tea cake to brew. The key to enjoying your Pu-erh is proper steeping temperatures and times. Pu-erh is steeped at a lower temperature than most green, oolong, and black teas and is allowed to steep from 12 – 30 seconds. One of the easiest mistakes to make is using water that is too hot and steeping for too long. This will give you a bitter flavor which could ruin the entire tea experience. One benefit is that this tea can be infused several times from one cake.

I was not terribly excited to taste this tea the first time. I was worried about the liquor being bitter and I was afraid there would be a strong astringent taste to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised and Pu-erh rose to my favorite tea quickly. At our tasting this year at the World Tea Expo, I was privileged to try Snow Mountain Sheng Puer. It was a beautiful light amber color with a roasted aroma. I like the Pu-erh because they have a smokey flavor – very unique from your standard green and black teas. The flavor is rich and vibrant. Pu-erh is an excellent after dinner tea.

Pu-erh is a little pricier than other teas because it is more refined. But, when you factor in the number of infusions possible from one cake, it all works out. Just for reference, one of the most expensive Pu-erh sold was in 2007 for approximately $38,000. The cake was reportedly 60 years old. See – things do get  better with age!  Anyway, if you are serious about your tea experience, you should not discount a good Pu-erh. This tea is not for everyone, but is an enjoyable variety to include for that special tea time and one to grow into for the true tea connoisseur.

We will be listing a pleasant Pu-erh from Art of Tea in the store soon. As I come across special selections, I will add them to our selections. I am glad to be back after a 5 week side trip through college summer courses. (Remind me not to do that ever again….)

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