Tag Archives: World Tea Expo

It’s off to the World Tea Expo we go……..

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It’s THAT time of year again! In February, I begin to receive the notices in my inbox that my time is running out! Early registration ends on February 29th (since this is leap year)! Anxiety sets in about the 14th. Can I really afford to attend this year? Having finished my latest degree in December 2015, I am thrilled to be back to my tea venture almost full-time. (There are other ‘clean up’ things I have been putting off for – oh, say, the last three years!)

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I develop great angst knowing that within the next two weeks, I have to decide what I will be doing in JUNE! Really? I have enough trouble deciding what I will be doing next week! Then, in the last week of pre-registration, I begin to receive emails daily! “Your time is running out!” “We will miss you if you don’t register soon!” Then, “Monday is the last day to reserve your spot!”  With each passing day, the pressure builds, until, the one email that really sends me into action – ” You can save $$$$ if you register by the end of today! Last chance!”

This email seems to spring me into action! Of course I want to go. I feel so out of the loop having missed last years Expo. I log into my account and proceed to fill out the registration. Then, wait, why can’t I sign up for my all time favorite Expo experience, The World Tea Tour. Nine whole hours of nothing but tea, tea, tea, then lunch! Then tea, tea, tea and more tea! It’s an absolutely glorious day – for the true addict! The tour experience includes all of the teas of the world, it’s the only time to connect with my all important suppliers! After all, I haven’t seen my friends in two years and certainly there are new varieties that I must add to my shop! After three attempts, I grow very frustrated and pick up the phone to call in my problem.

The folks that handle this Expo are always so nice – but, then again, that is part of the tea culture. She was unable to determine why the Tea Tour was not available on my forms. She tried on her computer and there it was! I tried switching from IE to Firefox and still no luck. Well, she says, then I will just register you from here. And with all of the patience in the world, she filled in all of the details for me. There is one question that asks if this is your first time attending. I said, “No, I have been three times before.” To which she replies, “Yes, I recognize your business name!” For a moment, I contemplate, “Is that a good thing? Or, a bad thing?” I chose to be positive and replied, ” Great! Yes, I have felt I missed so much last year since I was unable to attend”

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Since I was saving so much by pre-registering, I selected two or three additional lectures. I have never been disappointed, the speakers are superb. Upon finishing my registration, I hung up – quite pleased with myself at getting things done nearly at the absolute last-minute! Deciding not to procrastinate further,  I proceed to the airline and hotel sites and booked everything for my trip.

Shortly after, I begin to receive emails from my tea friends and tea suppliers, “Are you coming to the Expo this year?” To which I happily replied, “Absolutely!” It may not have been in the budget, but as my plans for the Tea Shop are expanding this year, I need to re-connect with my vendors and friends. It’s going to be a great adventure! And, this year the Expo falls on my birthday! I cannot think of a better way to celebrate than with my tea addict friends!

World Tea Expo: Las Vegas, Nevada – June 13th – 17th.

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What’s New at the Zoo?

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Well, well – back from the Tea Expo and back into an insanely rushed 5 week course at UNT. But, I had to get it done. I am a bit late with the news and review for the Expo, but here goes. It was marvelous – of course! The new venue in Long Beach was a nice change from the awful hot of Las Vegas. It was really nice that after three years, folks on the show floor actually recognized me from previous Expo’s. I took that as a good sign. I am always amazed at the new items and niche items the vendors bring for display. There was some outstanding packaging ideas – which I have been seeking, and some delicious products such as icing made from tea and herbals by The Modern Girl Tea group! Those girls were busy dishing out the samples. It took me three days to get to the booth, but it was well worth it. ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? There is always new tea maker products and this year the vendor with the crowd was Alpha Dominche with their Steampunk Tea Brewing System. I just might have to get me one of those….. Here is a YouTube link for the ‘Steampunk Machine’. This is demonstrated for coffee, but the system can be used for tea as well. Since tea  – good tea – requires brewing at the correct temperature and for the correct length of time to enjoy the tea at its best, this system is really cool.

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The educational courses offered this year were top-notch. I enjoyed a class with Scott Svihula, Tea-smith, China Mist Tea Company about problems that can happen in the process and handling of tea that seriously effect the taste. Scott’s courses are always outstanding and I learned much about identifying the processing errors. The Expo is never complete without taking a Legal Course for all of the new rules, regulations, and laws that affect the tea industry. This course was presented magnificently by Mr. Dan Dwyer of Partner, Kleinfeld, Kaplan and Becker. If this is the only class I can attend, it always has something new that affects the tea business and as a retailer, new regulations we must follow for advertising and labeling our products. I think though, I have to say my favorite course this year was the Pairing Cheese and Chocolate with Tea taught by Chef Robert Weischner. It was one of the most informative and educational for this year and for the future of our tea business. I will be incorporating these tastings in my product presentations going forward!

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For those of us who may find goat cheese a bit ‘strong’, paired with the right tea, that bite is lessened and a good goat or blue cheese is very enjoyable. Of course my mind was running faster than I could keep up with in ideas for doing Tea Parties using chocolates and cheeses. I will have to work on the format for that one. There is a new coffee-house opening in Pilot Point, Texas that may be interested in hosting these pairing parties – we shall have to look into that possibility.

The World Tea Tour – with tastings involving 25+ teas from 7 countries, is always a delightful way of starting the program. I can never hear enough from folks like: Jane Pettigrew, Rona Tison, and Thomas Shu and his lovely wife.

My stay on The Queen Mary was great – except for the fire drill about 5:00pm on Saturday – that was a bit strange. But, the ship does have her own stories of ‘odd happenings’.

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Well – back to work! 9 Lives Tea House is making a huge leap! We are in the process of developing our own label of teas. We will let you know when they are ready to ship. It has been a long-time coming, but we are finally ready to take the leap.

In the meantime – ‘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

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Be a Tea Fashionista!

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???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Tea is trendy! Tea is hip! Tea is cool! Tea is replacing coffee as the go to ‘it’ drink. And why not? One doesn’t have to follow the crowd. One can ‘try on’ many different styles, colors, and flavors. Tea is an elegant drink; the drink of kings and queens, emperors, and lords and ladies. Tea is a casual drink – it’s the perfect ‘take a break’ drink, afternoon drink, and a great compliment to an evening dessert. Tea can sooth a sore throat and settle an upset stomach. And best of all – who can resist a tall, cool, refreshing glass of iced tea in the hot summer. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? Tea is one of those beverages that can lift you away to different countries and cultures. With each sip, you can experience China, Sri Lanka, or Nepal. Even though the tea leaves come from the same plant, each region and climate create unique and individual flavors and tastes. Even the processing technique used makes for many flavor variations.

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Some people are tea purists – preferring the least amount of processing possible, brewing mildly processed tea leaves. Others prefer blends – combining different regions or adding an organic botanical to the tea leaves such as lavender, mint, or cinnamon. Then there are some people who choose to forgo tea leaves all together and simply brew herbal combinations. What ever your choice – enjoy with pride! It is your unique you! Your unique style!

Tea allows a person to be adventurous. With each variety, new flavors dance off your taste buds. You will experience grassy, floral, and smoky flavors. Some varieties inspire memories of  fresh-cut grass, aged hay, fields of wild flowers, and the woods after a spring rain. The liquors’ range in colors is just as wide as its flavors; from pale green to sunny yellow, burnt orange and bold, rich, browns. Tea can transport you to any country or beloved area of your memory in just one cup. Wear your Tea choice with pride! It defines your style!

With tea – you will never be out of style! And just think – as the seasons – and the fashions, change, you can move along to try on the newest designer blend to see if it fits your unique style and personality. So, Drink Up! – the 2014 season is just starting!

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‘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

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The DANGERS of being a Tea Proprietor

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Tea – it sounds benign and all, but little do you all know that once you have been bitten by the tea bug, it holds you under its spell. I thought coffee was addicting and it is – that caffeine rush in the morning to wake you up and get you started on your day. The thing I do not like so much is the coffee jitters from that caffeine. And though there are various roasts – coffee pretty much tastes the same, like – coffee!

Now tea, it has caffeine also, but you can find decaffeinated and herbal blends that are caffeine free. The dangers with tea is that it comes in so many glorious flavors. There are thousands of blends and combinations one can create with just a little ingenuity. There are floral, fruity, and spicy; white teas, green teas, and black teas; Christmas blends, dessert blends, and morning blends, and heck – they even have blooming flower teas! There are more combinations than any one person can count. And all one needs is a little imagination and the will to be creative.

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And there in lies the danger of being a tea proprietor. You place your order with the tea distributor with all good intentions of receiving the tea or blend and selling this wonderful product to your devoted and loyal customers. You order one pound, then 5 pounds, then on to the 10 pound bags of your favorite teas. With each shipment comes “Quality Control”. To be a proper business – one must open, inspect, smell, and then ‘taste’ or sample each order – just to be sure it meets your standards. Quality Assurance requires that you select samples of your bulk order and retain them for future testing if the need arises. I am familiar with all of these rules from my days as a QA/QC manager in a product development lab, so I select, catalog, label, and then place in storage a sample of every tea that comes through our door.

Even though I know the rules, I find that those samples call to me. And lets face it – they make a great ‘personal’ stash of your favorite teas. Before you know it – the samples have disappeared and more samples are needed.  This continues until you find that you have confiscated the entire bag – 1 lb., 5 lb., and even 10 pounds for your own use. You justify your addiction with phases like – “I’m going to use this for my free samples” , and “This will last me the entire year!”.  Before you know it, you are calling your supplier and ordering more, knowing deep down that with the new arrival, the process starts all over again!

Being in the tea business is hard! And from one who enjoys the product so much – expensive!

Oh well – I guess there could be worse indulgences. I could be addicted to chocolate – which in my personal opinion would be much worse. And – besides, I can always find a chocolate tea for that addiction if I needed to!

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To all of my fellow Tea Addicts – it’s OK – we can start a support group – order our favorite teas and just brew away! After all – it’s Winter! and all of the new varieties and new blends are just coming available! Until then…..

‘Find Your Zen and Do The Brew’ Everyone tip those tea cups!

Judith A. Ames

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

 

The Champagne of Oolongs….

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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….

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The Aged Tea we had the pleasure of tasting was from ABC Tea – web address is www.abctea.com . 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.

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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

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Ajiri Tea is coming to 9 Lives Tea House!

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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 www.ajirifoundation.org for more information.

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Judith A. Ames-Hardman

9 Lives Tea House

The Great State of Texas

Opening soon!

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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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