Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Bloomin' Good Cup o' Tea.

Today's post is made possible by and done by the request of Mr. S. Kuperberg of

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Mr. Kuperberg which stated that he'd come across this blog, had recently launched a new specialty tea company, and would like to send me some of his products to review complimentary if I'd like.

If any of you know me very well (and I'm not sure that you do), you'd know that I very rarely turn down the opportunity to try something new, very rarely turn down something that doesn't cost me, and very rarely turn down the good-natured invitations of other people. Since Mr. Kuperberg's email offered all three of these, it was a no-brainer for me, and I told him that I be oh-so-happy to write a review of his products.

I promptly sent him my mailing information and awaited the arrival of what I thought perhaps two or three, but certainly no more than a half dozen samples of his products.

Several days later, the postlady knocked my door and handed me a rather large package with nice sticker on it that said "" I almost didn't know what to think. I certainly hadn't expected such a large box. Perhaps two or three samples, I had thought. However, when I opened the box, I found a nice card written in fancy emerald green handwriting stating the contents of the box and perhaps some of the cheeriest packaging I'd seen in a long time (see picture.) Also included was his full line of 12 blooming teas, a clear travel mug, and a beautiful glass teapot. I was thrilled. It was like Christmas come a

few days early!

I then set out, over the next few days, to sample some of these teas. In this review, you'll be hearing about the 14 ounce travel mug, although I assure you that a review covering the lovely class teapot will be up within the next couple of weeks. The very first bloom (which is called the friendship bloom) was utterly breathtaking - as if something magical were occurring right there in the mug. I set the water to boil, dropped the bloom in the travel mug, and when the water was boiling, poured it over the bloom.

It was absolutely beautiful. Scarlet flower petals uncurled and expanded, and as they did, they slowly released a stream of scarlet color into the water. As the pips on the flower head begun to stand up and get more color, they, too, released streams of scarlet into the water, slowly trickling down. The tea leaves themselves - silver needle white tea leaves - also began to expand outwards, appearing as if they were the base of this lovely flower which was blooming right before my eyes. Floral scent was wafting up from the mug, causing my mood to life. I allowed the tea to bloom for about 5 minutes before I drank it.

The tea itself was absolutely delicious. Perhaps some of the best tea I've ever had. This is, no doubt, because it is white tea, which is prized above all teas for it's rareness and delicate flavour.

The tea was almost as good after the second brewing (you can brew each bloom 2-3 times), but I opted not to chance it for a third.

After I had finished drinking the beverage, I took the bloom out of the mug, and was stumped at what to do next. The idea of throwing such a beautiful flower away was painful, but the idea of not being able to use the mug for the next time I wanted a bloom was even worse. I should have placed it in a clear glass and put it on display (yes, they really are that remarkable), but instead, I tenderly placed it in its final resting place.

So, to review the entire experience here, I'd have to say that the most common element here is theatre and show. Everything through the whole process is show. The shipping box, the product packaging, the brewing of the beverage, and even the drinking of the beverage are all very visual experiences, and necessarily have a certain theatrical element to them. Everything about this is carefully planned out. IN fact, even the packaging took months to decide on - They wanted packaging that would brighten your day. And they got it.

This is the most artful tea I've consumed – and I must say it's been the most artfully presented as well.

Now, that being said, I think that most people would not find this an everyday tea. This is the sort of beverage that one might drink when entertaining company, or when celebrating something, or perhaps to give as a gift. Each bloom retails for about $3 a piece, and for the commuter teacup pictured here, the cost is $12. Not a huge cost, but not something most people could afford everyday. It also may be a bit over-elegant for the everyday, unless you're like me, and live on elegance whenever possible. now has a special offer available, in which you can obtain a free sample for just the cost of shipping ($2.) The sample includes one tea bloom. You can find the link at the top of their home page.

Also, new to their website is a list of all locations that retail their teas. If you are fortunate enough to have one of these in your area, you can skirt the shipping charges on their products by purchasing them at a retail store.

If you're a radio person, you might soon be hearing an advertisement for this company come over the air. These will be valentine-related advertisements. Tea blooms, much like roses, can be used to incite wonderful feelings on a special occasion, and can be used to let someone know that you love them and are thinking about them. Since these blooms have flowers as an integral part of them, what more appropriate gift might one give for valentine's day? "A flower to warm them from the inside out."

Well, that's a wrap for this entry. That's it for the year, and I look forward to having you all read my entries next year as well. I wish you a happy and prosperous 2007, and bid you adieu.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A Bit of Warmth for the Holidays.

Hello again, readers. It has been almost two months since my last entry to this blog, and I feel a bit bad about that. I felt that I must at least make some sort of post for the holiday season, as this is a special and important time of year for so many people. The traditions of the holiday season carry treasured memories, and many of those memories lie within the tastes and smells that fill kitchens and cups (and the efforts that went into producing those tastes and smells of course!)

Psychologically, smell, more properly referred to as olfaction, is the strongest form of memory. And since taste is so strongly linked to smell, it is not difficult to see why our holiday memories involving food and drink are some of the last to ever be forgotten, if ever they are at all.

I would like to share a couple of ideas for making your teas a little more reminiscent of the holiday season, so that perhaps you might weave some long-lasting memories and traditions of your own.

One of these suggestions involves brewing your tea in fruit juice. I normally would not suggest this, as the very best way to create tea is from pure filtered water, and brewing it in juice could affect the way that flavors and nutrients are extracted from the tea (and result in less tea flavor), but since this has a nice festive sort of flavor, I'll go ahead and throw it out there.

For this recipe, heat some cranberry juice to near-boiling. If you reach boiling, you're a tad too hot, and will need to let your water cool for 30 seconds or so. While the cranberry juice is heating, assemble your tea. This recipe will work best with a black tea, or a green tea if you brew it a little stronger. To your usual tea (of which you ought to have about 1 heaping teaspoon per 6-8 ounces of water, depending on how strong you like it), add some freshly grated orange zest (about half as much orange zest as you have tea, or a bit less. You'll not want to overpower your beverage with orange). This will add a very nice flavor note which I think you will surely appreciate. Also add a bit of whole clove (not ground, or you'll never be able to filter it all out), and some cinnamon bark (but not ground cinnamon... you'll regret it. *shudders at memories of gritty tea*).

Once your cranberry juice is at the proper temperature, pour it over your assembled tea. Brew for 2-3 minutes (no more) in your preferred brewing device (once again, I prefer the french press), and then remove the solid tea from the teapot (or in the case of a french press, press down the plunge lever) and enjoy your finished tea. Most people tend to enjoy this tea with a bit of sugar, even if your generally not the sugar-and-tea sort.

The second holiday tea recipe introduces chestnuts to your tea making arsenal. Chestnuts have a delicious, mildly sweet flavor that makes a wonderful compliment to any tea.

For this tea, you'll need some freshly grated or coarsely ground ginger (anything but powdered), some chestnuts chopped semi-fine (Use either roasted or raw. I prefer roasted.), some cinnamon bark, some cloves, a small amount of orange zest, and of course, the black tea. With this recipe, a 1:1 substitution with green tea would work great as well.

For each cup (6-8 ounces) of tea, assembly 1 heaping teaspoon of tea, a collective teaspoon of equal proportions of ginger and orange zest, one or two cloves (three if you particularly like them), a small piece of cinnamon bark, and about 1/2 teaspoon of chestnuts. If you are making 32 ounces or more, using an entire cinnamon stick broken into smaller peices would be permissable.

Add some water just before the boiling point, and steep for 3-4 minutes. Remove solid tea from teapot (or in the case of a french press, press down the plunge lever), and enjoy the tea.

For those of you interested, here's a link to a poem called "A Cup of Christmas Tea."

I hope that you enjoy these festive tea recipes, and hope that you have a wonderful holiday season, and a happy and prosperous new year. May all of your celebrations be a damn lot of fun.

Cheers (of the holiday sort),

P.S.: I hope you find some consolation in the fact that writing to this blog more often is one of my New Year's Resolutions.