Friday, December 21, 2007

A Delightful Stash of Tea

Hi all,

I hate to say it, but this looks like the last post of 2007! Happy New Year everyone! I hope you've all had, and still are having, a wonderful holiday season. Remember if you have not done so to request a $5 gift certificate on the right side of this blog. It's my gift to you.

Recently, I received a nice review package from Stash Teas. I am a long time fan of stash teas, and have always found them near the top of the list as far as quality is concerned.

For this review, I will start by listing the items included in the review package, discussing my reactions to the packaging, etc, saying something about each of them, and then explaining which item was my favorite and why I think that.

The first thing that impressed my upon examining the contents of the parcel was the packaging. Each of the teas is stored in a very durable foil-type sack. Each sack has a sturdy zipper seal on it to keep air out and hold the aroma in, helping to prevent your tea from becoming stale. Additionally, each bag features a nice description of the tea it contains, explains the proper brewing temperature, and provides intelligent brewing suggestions. The packaging is also very attractive in it's color scheme and design. Definate shelf appeal.

The first item is the very popular Silver Needle White Tea. I have tasted a lot of white teas since I have been a blogger, and found each of them to be slightly different than the others. Stash Tea's Silver Needle White is a delicious, very mild full-leaf white tea. As far as Whites go, this one is pretty good, but not the best. I noticed that the cup was very slightly cloudy. The flavor, however, is fantastic. As good as Adagio's whites, but not quite on par with some of the new organics I have tasted (more about that in a later review). Overall, I would say that this is a very fine white tea. It's well above the average, and it's apparent that Stash has put some considerable effort into ensuring high quality.

The second item is Fancy Golden Tippy Hao Ya. This is a specialty black tea with a unique smoky flavor. I found this tea overall to be higher quality than the white tea. This tea does not have any clouding at all, resulting in a clear and crisp cup of tea. I found myself really enjoying the smoked flavor of this tea. The tea also has a nice color - a nice golden color - which adds to the appeal. This tea's flavor profile is that of a mild black tea with the smoky notes. It's also slightly sweet, with less astringent than most blacks. It is a very fine tea, and I would recommend it to anyone.

The third is a Formosa Oolong Fancy Grade. As far as oolongs go, this is near the top of the charts. It has that delicious, mild nutty flavor common to oolongs, but also has some additional fruity notes that aren't so common. These are lovely features for an oolong to have, though. This tea also has no clouding, and a great color in the cup. A nice golden - not as deep as the Hao Ya, but a nice soft and mellow golden. This tea is also slightly sweet, needing no added sweetener at all.

The final tea is Gyokuro Asahi Pearl Dew. This tea is unique and interesting. This is a green tea, and is unique among greens. It has a subtle sweetness and a strong vegetal taste which I couldn't get enough of. It also has excellent cup color, but does cloud a bit. This is made up for, however, by the nice, whole uncrushed leaves and the unique blend of flavors. This is a very rich tea, with lots of flavor and punch. It's intensity lies in it's flavor blending, and it's underlying vegetal taste.

Overall, the Pearl Dew was my favorite of these, although it was hard to decide between that and Tippy Hao Ya. I adore the flavor blends in the Pearl Dew, really like the tint of the liquid, love the smell, and mostly love that it's high quality and good for me.

You can visit Stash, and order their free catalog at

Hope you've enjoyed the review. More to come early this January, so keep watch!

Over and out,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Intoxicating Aroma

Before I begin this post, allow me to first express my sincerest apologies to my readers and the tea companies that are in Que for review here at Insani-Tea. I am behind schedule here, and the dates I have given for reviews have come and gone. I have been frantic for the last couple of weeks, as I am also a student at a university, and the last part of the semester and finals week were taking their toll. Now, however, finals week has ended, so I have some extra time with which to manage the blog.

On that note, I'll move right into the content of today's review.

Some weeks ago, I was contacted by a representative of Aroma Tea Company in California. He offered to send me a sample of a couple of his most popular products, and of course, being a tea lover, and a lover of trying new things, I accepted the offer.

Aroma is apparently a popular tea shop in San Francisco that offers free tea tastings, and free tea learning with their Tea Master. This, I thought, was a fantastic idea. Unfortunately, finding myself some distance from California, I am unable to visit with Mr. Daluz (although the time may come, as I may go to graduate school in San Diego), however thanks to his samples, I did have a lovely opportunity to taste his teas, and I was quite impressed.

The thing that initially drew me in with his offer is that the two samples he offered to send were both ones that I had never heard of before. This made it more interesting, and ultimately a lot more fun and enjoyable for me. And trust me, there was nothing run-of-the-mill about these teas.

First, I will identify and explain each of the samples that Mr. Daluz sent, and then explain which one I prefer overall and why.

The first sample was of an interesting Oolong called Blue People. It's called Blue People because the loose tea looks like small blueish pebbles. When I first opened up the sample pack, I thought it looked remarkably like fish tank pebbles. The scent of the loose tea, however, was delightful. Very green and earthy smell. My first brew of the Blue People oolong was impressing also. It has an extremely unique and enjoyable taste, and has moved it's way to the top of my list of all-time favorite teas. Blue People is fermented with a mixture of liquorice root and mint, and while you can taste only a little of the mint flavour, the liquorice root comes through significantly more.

There's something inexplicably nice about the combination of premium oolong and liquorice flavour. This oolong is probably one of the finest specialty teas I have tasted. The tea is also naturally sweet, having a very pleasant flavour with nothing added. Quality is absolutely important to Aroma, and it's apparent in this product. Another nice thing about this particular tea (which is true of many oolongs) is that it can be brewed at least 3 or 4 times without
suffering quality.

The second sample was another oolong, called Milk Aroma Oolong. This is another one of their very popular teas, and another that I hadn't heard about until I was offered a sample. The Milk Aroma Oolong is also very delicious. It seems slightly sweeter and smoother than the blue people, and almost seems a small bit thicker. It could almost be described as "creamy." It gives of the aroma of sweet steamed milk, which is part of how it got it's name.

The tea originated in Taiwan, where the leaves steamed with milk, and then oxidized under open sunlight. This gives it a smooth texture and a unique, slightly sweet and creamy taste.

This is another tea that requires no sweetening unless you have a sweet tooth. It has enough natural sweetness that I might even go so far as to classify it as a dessert tea (perhaps the Blue People also.)

Both of these teas are very high quality, unique, and delicious on their own. My personal favorite, however, was the Blue People Oolong, because of it's earthy taste with the liquorice note, and because of it's unique character, and also because of that weird look people give
you on the bus when you explain to them that you are drinking blue people. :)

Overall, Mr. Daluz' teas come highly recommended, and of you are ever in the San Francisco area, I'd encourage you to stop by his tea shop and have a look around.

You can visit the website and place orders at:

Also, in celebration of their 2-year anniversary, Aroma is currently offering 20% off all teas and tea products!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Aroma Tea Shop for the ability to review their teas,

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Thursday, November 22, 2007

One For The Money, Two For The Show, Three for Adagio, and Here We Go!

Several weeks ago I was sent a very nice review package from Adagio Teas. I have long adored Adagio and looked up to them as a benchmark to test other tea companies against. Some of their blends have been long favorites of mine, so it will take some work to be non-biased for this review.

I'll mention what was sent in the package, initial impressions on each item, and then I'll list my favorite of the teas that they sent and why it is my favorite of the set.

Included were 4 sample tins of various teas, several samples of their excellent teabags, and a Jasmine Pearl. Also included was a box of extra-tall teabags made from recyclable fibers (including hemp fiber, which I'll certainly have to say something good about) to put loose blends in, and their excellent short book "A Guide to Tea."

The four sample tins were "Casa Blanca Twist," Almond Oolong, Vanilla Green, and White Peony. Each is delicious, and has it own separate merits from the others.

The White Peony was very good - A fine quality white tea with a very pleasant mellow flavor. I really like white teas, so I hold them to a high standard when I review them. Compared to other White Peony teas I have had, this one is on the higher end of the spectrum. Quality is a big deal with Adagio, and it reflects in their products. I have only had a couple of brews of this particular tea that were better, and those were also considerably for expensive. For the price, this is the best White Peony you'll probably find. Great economically-priced white tea for anyone to enjoy - although tea snobs might opt for more expensive versions.

The Vanilla Green was also very good. I often am wary of green teas that aren't specifically categorized. There are so many types of green tea, and you don't know what you might get. Often, when buying a "green tea," you end up with something that tastes as generic as the name suggests. Adagio's flavored green teas are a notch above in regards to quality. The vanilla flavor was easy to pick up on even without sweetening, and a touch of honey brought it out perfectly. I might suggest that a little more vanilla flavor be present, though, as the vanilla flavor in this blend was a little outdone by the green tea flavor.

The Almond Oolong was simply delightful. I really like Oolong teas, and almond seems to be a great sidekick flavor to it. The amount of almond flavor was just right - it blended with the oolong perfectly, so neither overpowered the other. This tea is best with a little sweetener, as it really helps to bring out the almond flavor more.

The "Casa Blanca Twist" was my favorite of the lot. It has a very nice blend of flavors. A nice blend for whenever you want a nice and well-rounded mint tea. This was particularly pepperminty, which I appreciated. The amount of mint was well-conceived also. Not overpowering, but enough to wake up the senses and blend will with the high-quality green tea that undertones it. One thing I noticed about this tea is that the leaves were broken - even the tea leaves, which left me a bit disappointed. I tend to look at whole leaves or at least larger pieces of leaf as a trademark of quality. However, this only ended up as an aesthetic disappointment, as the finished brew was quite excellent anyway.

Next, I'd like to address the coffee table book, "A Guide to Tea." For the $5 that they charge for this, it is a good value, and well worth it. This is a very informative book for someone one new to the world of tea, and I myself even learned some interesting things from it. Well-printed and nicely bound, and very very easy to read. Nice display piece for when you have a guest over for tea. I'd also like to mention that they are giving these books away when you purchase one of their gift sets, which also come with free wrapping.

The paper filters that I received were impressive. I'll be keeping a bunch of these in my travel pack when I do my traveling with the Weber State Ethics Bowl team. Very portable, and very high quality. These are made from unbleached fibers - a fact which relieved me, since I often worry about what sorts of chemicals they use in my teabags to make them so white. These also won't leave your tea tasting like paper, since they're made from hemp and wood fibers, which don't impart flavor. I was thrilled that they used hemp fiber - It is a superior alternative to wood fibers in papers, since it is both more sustainable and stronger. I always get the warm fuzzies when I see a company supporting the use of hemp products - I've always been a big fan of this on both the conceptual and environmental levels. It's a high quality fiber, and the hemp plants grow far faster than trees, making hemp-fiber a more eco-concious choice.

Adagio's customer service is also fantastic - very fast response to questions, and you can often get live help from their tea master. They are definitely out there for more than just profits - I believe that they genuinely believe in giving people the best tea experience possible, while making it affordable for the common man.

All in all, I think Adagio is a fantastic company. They're teas are of excellent quality given the price that they charge, and they have enough varieties available to please not only the tea commoner, but also the connoisseur. Sometimes I wish they had a more premium line that they charged a little more for to appease the tea snobs, though.

If you're looking for a quality and affordable place to purchase tea, consider Adagio. Also, if you haven't yet done so, please feel free to request a $5 gift certificate from Adagio by using the box on the right of the blog at the top.

Over and out,

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Coffee Tea For Me?

How many times have you walked into a Starbucks or other coffee shop and seen posters of a coffee plant? I know I've seen it before. Those pictures of dark green glossy leaves and rich red berries that leave you wondering why you never actually see these parts of the plant? Well, I recently received some samples from Astral-Natural that shed some light on this.

The package I received contained a number of samples of a product called "CoffeeTea," and a nice ceramic mug emblazoned with the product's logo. As you might have guessed from the name, CoffeeTea is an herbal tisane made from the leaves of the Coffea Arabica plant. The idea seemed interesting to me, and seemed like the sort of thing I should support. It's essentially a way to cut down on waste by using more parts of a plant than would traditionally be used. This seems like a good plan, and triggers my underlying "liberal green-o-meter."

As an enjoyer of both coffee and tea, this idea also seemed an interesting way to bring those two worlds closer together, and to some extent it does. The research offered on their website is interesting, and seems to suggest that the health benefits of coffee leaf are at least as high as those of green tea, as well as having less caffeine. This I was dubious of. Being a skeptic, I generally try to avoid studies that are posted on a product's website, as such studies are certain to have bias and probably false context. The website also claims that CoffeeTea is not an acquired taste, and that people prefer it to green tea from the first cup. This I was also dubious of.

Upon doing some research of my own, I found that pure coffee leaf does indeed have a comparable ORAC (antioxidant) score to that of green tea, however has a much lower ORAC than white tea. Additionally, the antioxidant compounds found within coffee leaf are different than those found in green tea, so although it may be the case that comparable amounts of antioxidants are found (which is how the ORAC is calculated), it's not the case that they are antioxidant equivalents, as specific antioxidants behave differently than other antioxidants, and can achieve specific tasks. One example of this is EGCG, a green tea antioxidant, that has very specific functions towards heart function and neurotransmitter creation.

Regarding the claims that Astral-Natural makes about the taste preference of CoffeeTea, I would say that their test was taken in a bad way. The way their study worked was to have average people off the street sip each beverage (green tea and coffee leaf tea), and recorded their responses. They received a result such that 75% preferred coffee leaf over green tea. It occurs to me, however, that this shouldn't be the only factor. CoffeeTea and green tea are each consumed for different reasons, and taste differently. Green tea might taste better in one situation, and CoffeeTea in another type of situation. Additionally, there are many types of green tea, each of which taste different. Cultural variation might also come into play. I would love to see this test repeated in a larger number of locations (even international), with the assurance that it would be a blind test.

Now, with all this being said, I must say that I give this company an A for uniqueness. This is a product I had simply not seen or heard about before, but it does indeed seem intriguing. Their packaging is attractive and well done (despite the fact that it only comes in bagged form), and their website, aside from the research aspects which I have mentioned (which they are not alone in - most companies seem to do this in one way or another), is very well-designed and easy to

Now, you might be asking "Now, that's all well and good Relz, but how does it taste?!" Very pleasant. This beverage has a similar flavor to "drugstore green teas," meaning the sort of bagged teas you can buy at your neighborhood grocer (lipton, bigelow, etc.) I can see why some sorts of people would prefer it over green tea. It has a nice and mellow flavor with no astringent or bitterness. It has a nice cup color with no cloudiness, and it tastes good both iced and hot. I, however, am not one of those that prefer it over green tea, for several reasons, the primary being that it lacks variation. There are dozens of types of green tea, which each have distinct characteristics. CoffeeTea, however, lacks that diversity, which is not their fault, but which is a good reason why CoffeeTea will not be uprooting green tea from it's comfortable market position.

CoffeeTea is a delightful and unique beverage, and I very much like the flavor. It is very relaxing and very mellow, and I will probably drink it from time to time as I do other herbal tisanes. To suggest that it will be replacing the whole of green tea, however, is an unjustifiable comment.

The bottom line: CoffeeTea is delicious, and makes a great herbal tisane. It's a unique and very ecologically friendly product that encourages us to make more use of what we grow. It's more sustainable than other types of beverages, and it is packed very nicely. However, it won't be replacing green tea any time soon.

I would, however, encourage you to give it a try and see what you think - you might be surprised at just how good brewed coffee leaf can be.

If I could make suggestions to Astral-Natural for this products improvement, I would suggest that they use a larger and higher quality teabag. I would also suggest that they make the product available in loose-leaf format, and would further suggest that they adopt into their product line coffee leaf grown at different elevations, in different regions, etc, to give it more of the variability and versatility that green tea has. I'd also love to see a fair-trade certification displayed on the packaging somewhere.

Thanks, Astral-Natural, for allowing me to review your product, and thanks, readers, for reading my review!

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Aura About Them.


There's a new tea company on the block. I was contacted a short time ago by a representative of Aura Teas ( who offered some samples and asked if I would review them. Since on the one hand I never turn down an opportunity to try new teas and on the other hand I seldom turn down a review, I quickly accepted the offer.

The representative was very informative about exactly which teas she'd be sending, and even linked me to pictures and other information on the teas. I learned something aside from getting to try the new offerings of a new company, which is always a plus for someone like me.

I'll start the review by explaining which teas I received, and then posting an evaluation of them one-by-one. I'll then address some other issues which merit a mention.

The first and perhaps most interesting of the teas is a "Formosa Natural Wuhe Honey Black Tea." The tea has a very pleasant flavour, with a lovely subtle sweetness to it. It's probably got one of the nicer flavors I've tasted in a black. I was very pleased. It produces a great colour in the cup, with no clouding, and retains it's unique flavor both hot and cold. It's also very easy to brew, with no real specific instruction required. The tin contains nice whole, non-broken dried leaves with a nice colour, texture and odour.

What is most interesting about this tea is how it is created. It is grown in Wuhe, Hualien, Taiwan (which, by the way, is a beautiful city) without pesticides or other harsh chemicals. It's probably the closest to organic that a traditionally grown tea gets these days. The reason that it is grown without pesticides is very important - the sweetness of the tea actually comes from the leaves being bitten by a certain insect that favors the tea plant. Before harvest (which always occurs in the summer for this type, as the tea bugs only come in the summer), the leaves are left in the garden until the tea bugs do what tea bugs do best. After this, they are then fermented into what we know as a black tea.

I would recommend this tea, it being both unique and of a particularly high quality.

The second of the teas is "Formosa Pinglin Baihao Oolong Choice Grade." This tea is of a similar quality to the black I've just mentioned, and shares many of the same characteristics. This tea is also (and perhaps more commonly) known as "Oriental Beauty" or Formosa Imperial. This tea also has a subtle sweetness to it, which is imparted in the same way as in the case of the Honey Black - via Tea Bug! I sometimes have strange thoughts along these lines, but I tend to support safe natural product production, and shun pesticides when possible. This type of insect can't harm the tea - it only adds that subtle sweet honey-type flavor.

Being an oolong, it has a less tannic flavor than the black, and also seems to be more complex and contain more flavor elements. The natural sweetness comes out in this one somewhat more than in the Honey Black. This tea also has a very nice color in the cup with no cloudiness. The flavor, however, changes slightly when it is cool versus when it is hot, in the sense that the cooled version seemed to have a slightly more prominent nutty note.

The third and final sample I was sent is called Formosa Alishan Jinxuan Oolong. It is also popularly known as Golden Lilly Oolong. This is a newer tea, having been developed in the 1990's. This is one of the half-ball oolong teas, and should be brewed at just under boiling. This tea is very different from the first two, and is somewhat more expensive. Processed in the Dongding Oolong style, it is a very lightly fermented oolong, and has some very intense characteristics. The tea starts with a somewhat floral aroma, and is very smooth throughout the entire cup. It finishes smoothly with a creamy flavor. The color of the brewed tea is much lighter, and has a significantly different flavor than the first two, although it still maintains Aura's high quality standards.

All of these teas are very excellent and highly recommended. Another point of mention for Aura Teas is the packaging - The tea comes packaged in nice aesthetically pleasing round tins, which clearly detail the time and temperature of brewing, some interesting information about the tea, and the specific amount of tea recommended for each cup. The tin labels are also very aesthetically pleasing, containing a very nice blend of colors and good designs.

The company is also VERY supportive. Great to answer questions and concerns very quickly and professionally, and in a friendly manner. I'd recommend this company strongly, and I hope you'll all at least consider giving them a visit - they really are a very nice new company.

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Friday, October 26, 2007

Travette and Tea.

Hey all,

I hope you're all enjoying having more than one or two posts a month. Considering the amount of product reviews that I have in the works, this should last easily until the end of November! Remember - product reviews and reader suggestions are what most posts are made of!

Recently, Steve of Timolino sent me their Travette Tea Pot to see what I thought. The first thing that hit me when I removed it from it's shipping box was the product packaging! The box itself is definately pleasing, and looks very nice all by itself. The box, however, is certainly not the best feature of the Timolino.

When I took it out of the box, I was actually surprised at just how nice it looked on my table. It definately has appeal. But often I receive a pretty product that does nothing besides look pretty - not what you want in a Tea product! The Timolino, however, is as functional as it is aesthetic.
If you look at this picture of it, you can see the elegance that I am referring to. The teapot consists of several components. First is the base with the black handle. The base of the Travette is very durable, and has some rubber on the bottom for traction. Inside, it contains polished stainless steel with what appears to be a safety coating (which is why it is a slightly different color than the brushed steel on the outside) - a good move!

The second component is the filter-lid, which contains two parts: The filter cup and the lid. The lid sits on the pot very well, with no twisting required. A gentle push sets it firmly on the base and a gentle pull removes it. The effort required to take the lid on and off is also very important to the overall quality of this product!

With non-twisting lids, you often have a lid that either takes too much effort to remove, which can result in a mess if you're dealing with liquids (especially hot tea!), or a lid that doesn't affix firmly enough, making it somewhat difficult to handle the product without removing the lid. The Travette represents a fantastic balance between the two. It's seems to require just the right amount of pressure to install and remove the lid. I couldn't imagine it working any better.

The filter mesh is also impressive. It's quite large (probably the largest I've seen on a portable product like this), and able to handle any herb or tea you might place in it, while allowing plenty of room for the leaf to expand. The filter mesh is easily removed from the lid for filling, and slides back into the lid just as easily, with no clicking or pushing required. A great feature of the lid is the cover that closes over the filter mesh. You can lift the cover to watch your beverage brew, or you can tightly close the cover to avoid any spillage. One particularly good side effect of this is that you can add to the filter mesh while the beverage is brewing! I found this to be especially useful.

The third component is an optional one. When ordering the tea pot, you can add $2 to have it included. That third component is a drinking lid. This has definite implications regarding convenience - you can brew and drink your tea from the same pot easily, however if all you use the pot for is basic brewing, and prefer to pour your tea into smaller teacups, then you'd not have need for this. I feel that making it optional was a very appropriate move.

Now, considering some of the very positive advantages of this teapot (including it's ease-of-use, aesthetics, etc), I must consider disadvantages. One thing I might note here is that the filter mesh is made of nylon rather than the higher quality stainless steel that many other pots use. The advantages of stainless steel over nylon are durability, and less residue (nylon sometimes can leech chemicals). Nylon is, however, slightly cheaper, and some might find that it is easier to clean.

The Travette is one of the best designed products I have reviewed to date. It is simply done very, very well. It's convenient, it's easy to use, it's aesthetically pleasing, and it does everything it claims to do - and does so quite well.

I'd recommend this product for anyone looking for a small and portable one to two person teapot.

Thanks again to Steve from Timolino for making this product review possible!

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sparkling Beverages - Oh, the (Insani) Tea!

Greetings Readers!

First and foremost, I’d like to announce the design change on the blog! Yay! It’s more aesthetically pleasing now, and a lot more useful to me. If you’ll take notice of the new features on the right side, I’ve added a $5 gift certificate generator from Adagio Teas. With the help of Adagio, this is my way to show a portion of my appreciation to me readers. You’ll also notice that there is a contact box. If you have an idea or suggestion for me, or if you’d like a product reviewed (the product will need to be provided), feel free to drop me a line!

With that being said, I’ll now jump right into today’s post:

A few years ago I got the idea to design a new soda. I experimented with lots of different flavor options, which I added with sugar to tap water to stem the flavor. I spent a significant deal of time getting people’s opinions on flavors and trying new combos. One day, I attempted to make this soda at home. The idea ultimately flopped – I attempted to add granulated sugar to a bottle of club soda. What a mess! So I didn’t pursue the idea further.

Recently, however, I received, graciously provided by the manufacturer, a new device called the Edition 1 from Soda-Club USA – A home carbonator! You can imagine the memories this device brought back. But at least I wouldn’t have to run to the store for club soda! The device is also very aesthetically pleasing and looks good in my kitchen.

Since receiving this device, I’ve been using it quite a bit. Besides making very passable sodas without gushing all over the place (so far I have tried the Root Beer, the Cola, the Orange Mango, and several of the diet flavors, all of which are very good), it’s also good for several other things, including making seltzer to add to other beverages, or even making carbonated teas (fruit flavors work best.)I’ve even developed a new appreciation for seltzer.

One of the very nice things about this device is that you can control the carbonation level. You can make things very, very fizzy (even far more fizzy than you can get in the store), or just add light carbonation to make it sparkle.

I was a bit dubious about making carbonated teas, (bad memories of trying Nestle Enviga (The horror! The fear! The false health claims!) came to mind) but I gave it a try. I tried one of the nice fruity Revolution Tea flavors, and it actually came out very well. Just like a lightly flavored sparkling herbal tea. I don’t recommend sparking your tea too often, as it can take away from the health benefits, but it is quite nice every once in a while.

If you decide to make sparking teas or tea seltzers at home, I would recommend a very light carbonation, as having too much takes away from the tea flavor)

The carbonator is also environmentally friendly. It uses no electricity, as it is powered by a proprietary CO2 tank under license from Soda-Club. It also comes with reusable carbonating containers so you aren’t constantly throwing away club soda bottles.

Now that I’ve covered the good points of this product, I need to provide a bit of critique. While this product is nice, and very convenient, it is slightly expensive. You’d have to drink quite a bit of seltzer or soda to make this profitable. If your family consumes a significant amount, however, it actually ends up being a good deal and saving you money. You can read about this at this page on their website for seltzer, and at this page on the website for soda

Also, the actual carbonating tank is proprietary, and can only be refilled by Soda-Club. If you trade a couple of new tanks for a couple of fresh tanks, it’ll run you about $40, which isn’t that bad, but isn’t exactly a value either. It’s also technically the property of Soda-Club. You don’t actually own it, and have to return it every three years (or when you need a refill.) This, however, is relatively minor, and makes sense to me. It’s a good money-generator for them, and only a minor insignificance to the consumer.

So, in short, this is a great device. And carbonated herbal teas are somewhat more delicious than I figured them for. If you use a lot of carbonated soda, I’d highly recommend this machine.

The link to their website, in full, is:

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Losing Your Mind? Drink Tea!

Greetings readers!

I was chatting with Jinx recently, and she passed some information along to me that I thought you might enjoy. I has to do with a couple of alleged (although I tend to find it credible upon considering the research) benefits of green tea, and one which seems pretty interesting.

According to The Canadian Press (, new scientific research has demonstrated it to be the case that green tea can have a rejuvenating effect on injured brain cells and lower an individual's risk of developing dementia and other diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. The research was presented recently at Fourth International Scientific Symposium on Tea and Human Health in Washington, D.C.

According to Carol Greenwood, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, it's likely the drinking green tea daily has direct impact on on brain health by assisting in cell function and cell repair.

Most of these effects are linked to the main antioxidant in green tea called EGCG.

So there you have it - one more reason to enjoy green tea daily. As an aside, I'd mention that white teas all have the same benefit, if not greater benefits on this as green teas, although it might not be the case that black teas are as effective.

This seems really interesting, but I'm sure that I have not addressed it adequately, as I am not well-endowed with medical knowledge, so you should really have a look at the original article, found here.

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for several new product reviews, as well as some interesting and unique ideas that might stem from those products.

Until then,
Relnuk Zero Relznuk

P.S.: Thanks to Jinx for the material!

Friday, October 5, 2007

New Loose Teas From Revolution.

Greetings Readers.

Recently, I was sent some samples of some new loose teas to be released from Joe of Revolution Tea. As most of you know, loose tea is by far my preference, followed by large pyramid-shaped teabags (which mostly are filled with full leaf tea anyway). Small, scrunchy paper teabags, however, are never my friend, for a number of reasons.

It therefore delighted me to hear of this company, who previously only offered teabags (although they were the high-quality sort that gives plenty of room), venturing into the world of loose teas. Although these are not for sale to the public yet, they will be something to watch for.

The blends come in a number of varieties. They have herbal blends as well as blends made from white and black teas. One variety that I particularly like is Swiss Herbal. It's a delicious fruity blend with a great color in the cup, and a nice mellow, subtle flavor. I served some iced to some guests I had over recently, and they seemed to really enjoy it. They're not typical tea drinkers, but they did admit to quite liking this herbal blend.

Another especially impressive variety is their White Himalayan blend. It seems to have just the right blend of accompanying herbs to really bring out the delicate floral notes of the fine silver-needle white tea. And it is indeed some of the finer quality white tea I have consumed.

The scent of all of these teas is absolutely amazing. When I first opened up the packing envelope, I nearly drove myself mad. So many enticing aromas. They must have but great effort into creating such well-blended aromas for each of their teas. No one scent in any of the blends is particularly overpowering. They all seem to blend quite nicely.

Now, while these teas do definitely demonstrate a step forward, in order to provide a fair critique I must note some areas which need improvement.

One such area is in the packaging. The teas come packaged in nice zip-seal bags. The zip-seal on top is quite secure, however the pressure seal along the bottom of the bags is not. The seal is not secure enough, and when the bags arrived, the bottoms of two out of five of them had opened up. Upon my handling them, the bottom of a third one opened up. While this is a minor flaw, it is certainly something that needs to be resolved, if it has not been resolved already.

Another point I might make is that although the bags do provide the name of the tea, they do not provide an explanation of the herbs that went into that particular tea. Unless you are familiar with a wide variety of herbs, in both appearance and taste, you might never know what is in a given blend.

Now, I realize that the samples I was sent were something of a "prototype," but the purpose of prototypes and evaluatory samples is indeed to help find and correct flaws before the product is released to the public.

All in all, I would rate the actual quality of the tea itself as an 8 out of ten. It is very good tea, and meets some serious quality standards. It is not the best tea I have had however. That mark would go to some imported Darjeeling Rungmook Estate tea that I received from India.

The tea provided by this company, Revolution, is of high enough quality that the average tea purchaser on a reasonable budget would be hard-pressed to find much better.

The packaging for this tea, in it's current state, I would give a 6 out of ten. Some serious improvement could take place there. Even so, the packaging they used is a good idea, and if it can be made to work correctly (and give more information) then it will perform it's task with excellence.

I would recommend these teas when they are released on the market, rumored for sometime next year, to the general tea-drinking crowd. Most people should be extremely pleased with the quality and flavor of these blends. I'll post an update when the final product is released.

I hope you'll all try these when they are released, and form your own opinions. I'd love to hear about it if you do!

Thanks again for the samples, Joe!

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Note: I have received a response from Revolution to the effect that the weak packaging problem has been resolved and will certainly not represent the final product.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

James Norwood Pratt on The Perfect Cup of Tea.

Greetings posters,

My apologies for having so few entries, but being a full-time student can be very time consuming!

This time around, I'd like to let you know about a great resource which was shared with me by

James Norwood Pratt, a prominent tea connoisseur much like myself, has put forth some effort into producing a very excellent series of video clips, in which he discusses many tea-related products, including water quality, tea bags, and even Starbucks! He is a very knowledgeable and charismatic in his approach. In his view (and I would tend to agree), tea is not merely a beverage, but "a work of art."

All in all, this is probably the most comprehensive series of video clips on the subject I have seen. I hope you will take the time to have a look at this and hear the opinions of a self-made expert on tea.

The clips can be found at:

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Put Your Summer on Ice.

Hello all.

As some of you know, I live in Utah, USA. This time of year, Utah is hot. Really, really hot. You just wouldn't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly hot it is. That being said, I sometimes have to think twice before brewing myself a hot beverage like tea. Iced teas are an alternative, but sometimes you want something a little different.

One way that you can do this is to create custom ice cubes, using different juices or different brewed teas. This can lead to some especially interesting beverage creations.

Instead of drinking straight iced tea, you could blend it with juice cubes, or add some delicious white tea to some apple juice or another mild fruit juice.

Another interesting thing you can do with this concept is to enjoy your favorite teas in a true summer fashion - by making teasicles! This can be especially fun when there are other people around to share your creation with. When I create a teasicle, I usually sweeten the tea alot more. I also tend to choose a more flavorful or spiced tea, such as blood orange, or chai.

Tea cubes and juice cubes can also make excellent additions to other beverages, like sodas. Lemonade cubes in particular make a great addition to lots of beverages, including most teas. I can imagine that adding a healthy dose of frozen chai to some almond milk might also be especially delicious...

Anyways - I hope some of you living in hot places get some mileage out of these ideas. I know I sure do.

Cheers, and have great summers,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Tips on iced green tea

Summer is here, and one way to beat the summer heat is with a nice, tall glass of iced green tea. There are many ways to prepare iced green tea, and many ways to enjoy it, too. Here are a few hints on my own blog. For instance, here is a recipe for a green tea Arnold Palmer.

Also, this summer Mellow Monk has introduced a one-of-a-kind tea, one you'll not find anywhere else on the Web—cold-brewed iced green tea bags. That's right—no boiling necessary. Simply place one of the pre-portioned nylon tea bags into a pitcher of room temperature water, stir, then place in the refrigerator for 2 hours. That's all there is to it. Read more about this new tea here.

Thanks again for the opportunity to post here, Relznuk!

—Mellow Monk

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Zarafina Tea Maker Suite.

To my fellow tea drinkers:

May I present the most amazing of machines;
The Zarafina Tea Maker Suite.

We at Insani-Tea have recently acquired this magical machine (courtesy of Zarafina) and would like to share the joy with each of you.

I don't want to sound like a commercial or anything but if I could I would seriously buy one of these for all of my friends and family.
Even if you're not an avid tea drinker, this is such a lovely machine to have.

I love love love love love tea and this tea maker makes it so much easier to enjoy it.
It's really easy to use and aesthetically pleasing. It even comes with a jive little tea pot and two cups. The day I got it, I actually made about five pots of tea in one evening. :)

One of the nicest things about it is that it automatically dispenses the tea into the pot so if you have to run to do something it doesn't over steep and make the tea bitter or too strong. It's also perfect for iced tea drinkers. It has a setting for the intensity of the tea you want. strong, medium or mild. So when you want iced tea, just set it to strong, and if your tea is already spicy you can put it to mild...or whatever you feel like at the time.

Recently, my little seven year old brother, one of the pickiest kids on earth, has started drinking tea a lot, and he loves it so much, mostly because its way cool, but also because its not too strong and he gets to make it himself. The machine works with both loose and bagged tea, so when he wants tea he can just stick a few bags in it and push start.

Another brilliant feature about this tea maker is how you can basically "customize" your pot of tea. You simply set each feature according to what you want, ie: whether its black, green, white, oolong or herbal, it knows exactly how long is needed for steeping, whether its loose or in a bag, and the intensity.

I know that tea is supposed to calm you down and that it's nice that it takes a while to make so you aren't in such a rush...but sometimes its nice to wake up in the morning and have tea without having to get up fifteen minutes early! :)

Well, I could go on and on about this amazing thing, but I'm pretty sure you get the picture.
and if any of you want to have a tea party, let me know and I will show you this lovely tea maker as well, hooray!

If you would like more information on the Zarafina Tea Maker Suite, just go HERE.

Have a brilliant day!
- Katelyn

P.S.: A big thanks to Zarafina for allowing us to evaluate and review this machine.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Camp Loll Organic

As some of you know, I am currently a summer staff member at a scout camp in the high mountains of Wyoming, sandwiched between Yellowstone and the Tetons. I initially had a number of anxieties about doing this for another summer, as many of my beliefs are very incompatible with the Boy Scout philosophies. The experience has proved very interesting though, as there are a number of people working here that are very accepting, and a couple who are like-minded unto myself.

We have formed a small tea society of 4-5 people, and it started out being the case that we take turns buying tea - but then we got to thinking. Why should we buy tea when we are in the middle of a goddamn forest?! Instead, we have been harvesting local herbs and drying them in ther kitchen cupboard. We have most recently been making a kickass horsemint tea. We also have been going for wild strawberry and raspberry leaves, as well as many other native herbs.

The forest up here is truly amazing, and there are tons of good outlook points of the location. One need only climb one of the neighboring Tetons to see some of the magnificense of this area, and the two Yellowstone waterfalls within walking distance of camp are pretty impressive as well.

We call the finished product Camp Loll Organic, and drink it usually once a day or more, made in a large tea kettle with my swiss gold infuser. It is jive.

I am glad to see a post or two on here since I have left. It pleases me greatly. Thanks, Nikhil!!!

I am currently in an internet cafe in Jackson Hole typing this posting. Jackson hole doesn't have a whole lot going on, but enough to break up a little of the monotony of week after week of teacking the same old things.

The staff up here at the camp is amazing as always, and I find that I can be far more expressive of my personality than I thought I could reasonable be. People just don't seem to care so much what I think and believe up here, which is kinda counter-intuitive considering the ultra-conservative Boy Scout environment.

Anyhow - Fresh herbal teas are delicious, and I will certainly post more information on this when I return home.

Cheers for now,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bewitch'd With Indian Poyson

Relznuk asked me a while ago to contribute a guest post here. I was only too happy to oblige, but things got really busy. So now, after much procrastination and numerous delays, I am pleased to finally contribute the first (of what I hope will be several) guest posts. The following is cross-posted on Tea. Uncomplicated, a blog by The Simple Leaf.

It's safe to say that not everyone was thrilled with the increasing popularity of tea during most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In Britain, a slew of commentators were pointing out the evils of this newly discovered beverage.

This particularly poignant passage bemoans the effect of tea on the British national psyche. It appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine in 1737, under the title Observations on the effects of tea.

Observations of the Effects of Tea
[read the full archived version]

Tea is utterly improper for food hitherto useless in physick, and therefore to be arranged among the poysonous vegetables. Were it entirely wholesome as balm or mint, it were yet mischief enough to have our whole populace used to sip warm water in a mincing and effeminate manner once or twice a day. . . In this manner the bold and brave become dastardly, the strong become weak, the women become barren; or if they breed, their blood is made so poor that they have not the strength to suckle, and if they do, the child dies of the gripes. The poor people's children which are bred with it, as they really are in the cities and towns, are only fit for footmen and chambermaids. . .I leave any one to judge what soldiers we are like to have. The Spaniards very likely had felt the force of English beer within the last 20 years, if the use of it had not been exchanged for warm water bewitch'd with Indian poyson.

For further exploration into the history of tea, I would urge you to check out Roy Moxham, Tea: Addiction, Exploitation and Empire (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2003). I'm halfway through this book — every page has nuggets of fascinating trivia interspersed with tea's rich history. Well worth checking out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tea-time with God.

When I was younger than I am now, I always thought it would make a nice afternoon to have Tea with God. A sort of tea-time to beat all tea-times. A light-hearted tea-time of the soul. This tea-time would be paired with a game of Chess. I pondered that it should be a very odd experience to play a game of Chess with someone who, by definition, would have to win.

If God did not win, then there would be at least one thing that God attempted but did not succeed at. If there is something that God did not succeed at, then God is not all powerful. Additionally, if such a game were to be proposed with the unbendable rule that God should win, then the game would be remarkable unfair, and God is a perfectly fair God, and a perfectly just God, so this too would make it the case that the chess game is unplayable.

If God cannot play a game of Chess with a human, then there is at least one thing that God cannot do without violating his own rules, which he also cannot do. This could serve as a rationale to why God is not all-powerful.

It might be the case, however, that God did not intend to win the Chess game. Perhaps it was the intention of God to allow his tea-partner to have the experience of winning a game of Chess. That would certainly seem to fulfill his requirement of being all-good. However, it seems almost definitionally incompatible with God to allow a lesser being to triumph over him, no matter how small the stakes were. A human having completed such a task would have quite the boasting rights, and would probably form at least one religion in his/her own honour.

I wondered what sort of tea would be served, and at what temperature. It seems to me that a truly courteous host would want to serve a beverage at the most comfortable possible temperature for his guest. However, if that host is God, then he would also want to serve the beverage at the most comfortable possible temperature for himself, since Gods settle for no less than perfection.

Additionally, a truly courteous host would allow his guest to select the beverage being served. Although, if the host were God, the again the host would not settle for anything less than his personal favorite, having the high standards for beverages that only a God would have. So unless it were the case that both God's guest and God himself had the exact same beverage preferences, including temperature, God would be unable to pour the tea, or to accept the tea if his guest poured it (which is just poor etiquette anyway.)

One way around this would be for two pots of water to be boiled, and two separate types of tea to be infused in that water. However, to be truly proper, which it is assumed that a perfect God would be, he would not be so presumptuous as to drink a separate beverage than that which he offered his guest.

So the scenario we are left with is that of a tea-party where no tea can be served, and a chess-game where no chess can be played. Or at least that is what I penned in my journal as a young teenager.

If you are wondering exactly what explaining this journal entry has to do with tea, the answer lies within Tea Etiquette, and Tea Custom. Following proper tea custom is what makes serving the tea impossible for God.

Proper tea custom would dictate that the guest should be the most important consideration when brewing a beverage for such an invited guest. Proper tea custom would also dictate that the host should not drink a separate beverage from his guest, and also that a host would not be permitted to abstain from beverage while offering it to his guest. Additionally, the beverage must be poured for both members only in the presence of the guest being served.

There are many reasons why such customs came about. One of these is the fear of poison. If a host refuses to drink the same beverage offered to his guest, then it is a reasonable suspicion for that guest to assume that there might possibly be something wrong with the beverage. However, if the host does sip the same beverage as his guest, it provides a certain level of comfort and reassurance that there is, indeed, nothing wrong with the beverage at all.

There are a number of reasons why is a poor rationale (such as if the host had built himself up an immunity to a certain poison, or if a poisoner planned to kill both his guest and himself,) however most social customs have an equally poor rationale, such as the wearing of modern ties, which, in their origin were worn in medieval times at feasts, where they were used to wipe ones face and hands.

The reason for wearing ties has now vanished, and today's modern ties would be very inadequate to perform this job, not to mention it would be very socially unacceptable. However, because it was established as a social custom, it persists. Likewise, someone following proper tea etiquette in today's society almost certainly does not have in mind the assurance of their guest that they are not being poisoned.

So, the moral you should take away from this posting, which is probably the most random and bizarre, yet still tea-related posting I have ever done, is three-fold.

1: If you are a believer in the traditional God, you should on no account allow such God to invite you to tea, or to play chess or some other game of skill.

2: If you are a guest who has been invited by someone for tea, it is much less likely that you will be poisoned if your host follows proper tea etiquette, therefor you should always insist that your host does so.

3: Wearing ties is ridiculous.

Now you are three ideas wiser than you were before reading this post. You should be very pleased.

Over and out,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Saturday, June 9, 2007

It's a Revolution!!!

Hello again readers.

Today, I'd like to tell you about a brand of tea that I discovered (actually, interestingly enough, it discovered me!)

The brand is Revolution Tea (, and they produce something that astounded even myself - Quality tea... IN TEABAGS! Now, if any of you have spent very much time on this blog, you'll know that my attitude towards teabags is less than positive. The reason for this is that most teabags contain poor quality tea that is broken into too small of bits, resulting in a weak, bitter, nasty tasting cup with bits of particulate in it. GROSS! With these teabags, however, this is very much not the case.

Revolution has abandoned the idea of paper teabags in favor of expanding nylon ones. The teabags are also extra-large, and are not overfilled (another thing that most commercial teabags have a problem with. Using the teabags that they supplied me with (one each of every flavor they sell), I was actually able to get complete water circulation around the tea (which, by the way, remains in whole leaf format.)

Another thing I found particularly interesting and useful about this tea is the packaging. It is extremely convenient. In the sampler that they sent me for evaluation, each teabag was contained in a single-serve T-box. Five of these t-boxes were placed inside a carrying tube, which listed all the flavors from left to right that were included in the box.

As for the tea itself, I found it to have very good flavor and low bitterness. Additionally, they seem to have a knack at blending herbs to create unique and pleasing flavor profiles. The first sample that I drank, called Dragon Eye Oolong, combined a mixture of safflower, peach, and apricot along with a base of high-quality Chinese Oolong leaves. The resulting beverage was mild and slightly sweet, with a very comfortable lingering aftertaste.

The beverage also had very nice color - something which can be difficult to achieve without the use of artificial coloring agents (none of which are present in any of their teas.) Using only herbs, they managed to create a blend that was both aesthetically pleasing, as well as orally pleasing.

Now, I hope I don't sound like I've been paid to do an advertisement here. This is not the case. I have remained objective in my review of this product, and have maintained my editorial integrity - But when something truly is an outstanding product, I feel that my readers should know about it.

I did mention that they used an extra-large nylon teabag to house their concoctions in, and it seems to work well... But I couldn't help thinking that it would do even better if they gave that some dimension, perhaps by embracing a pyramid design or something.

All in all, though, this new company manages to produce a quality tea that is both portable and convenient.

Thanks for reading my tea review, and have a splendid day.

R 0 R

P.S.: Due to spam at my blog posting robot's email (which ended up on the blog with me having to delete it), I have been forced to change said email address. If you would like the new address, please send me an email.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Put Your Tea on Ice!

Guess what folks?!? June is national iced tea month, so I thought it would most appropriate to offer a blog entry to that affect. I will share with you some history on iced tea, as well as providing you some brewing methods and some recipes.

While it would be unfair to say that iced tea was created in 1904 (there is significant evidence that this is not the case), it's very much the case that Iced Tea was, in popularized in 1904, the circumstances of which are as follows:

It was a particularly warm summer day in Saint Louis, Missouri. This was were the World's Fair was being held that particular year. An Englishman named Richard Blechynden was manning a concession stand selling tea. Not surprisingly, hot tea was not a big hit with the crowd, who were too busy wiping the sweat from their eyes to notice him. Not wanting to put up with poor sales all day, Mr. Blechynden turned on his English ingenuity, and began pouring the tea over a cup of ice. The beverage was a big hit, and the world quickly caught on and followed suit, hence the popularization of iced tea in the US.

I could tell you a great deal about the history of iced tea prior to this event, but since this is national iced tea month, and the nation I am in happens to be the US of A, I seems fitting only to emphasize the American portions of this tale.

Quite nearly any tea can be turned into in iced tea by being brewed a tad stronger and poured over ice. Some times with certain teas this process will cause the beverage to cloud, causing no difference in flavor, but perhaps making it a bit less aesthetically pleasing. A couple suggestions that sometimes work is to add a small amount of lemon juice or boiling water. Another suggestion if your going to use a tea prone to temperature clouding, is to simply allow the tea to cool slowly instead of pouring it over ice. This will take some time, but will be worth it if you aim to eliminate cloudiness.

One very popular way to create iced tea is to place a large, specially made tea bag into a massive pitcher of cold water and allowing it to sit overnight. Those of you that are aware of my thoughts on tea bags can predict what I will say next - that this is not a proper way to make any sort of tea, even iced tea. The tea used in any teabag is almost always broken into too small of bits, and is generally of much lower quality.

A second popular way is to use instant or powdered iced tea. This is an abomination to the world of tea, and does tea tradition a huge disfavor. Using this method, you have zero control over flavor blending, and zero control over quality - you're simply stuck with whatever they happened to put in that mix (generally ungodly things like processed sugars or corn syrup.)

I maintain my position that loose leaf is still the best way to go, even for iced beverages.

And now, I would offer you some links to delicious iced tea recipes. I hope you will enjoy them, but what I hope even more is that you'll experiment and create your own delicious concoctions.

The links are as follows:

Saigon Iced Tea

A few recipes and some great suggestions and ideas (although with this one take care to avoit the teabag recipes.)

A great from-scratch Thai Iced Tea recipe (although I recommend you leave out the food coloring).

Cheers, and enjoy the tea!


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

No Stamp Act!

In American History there is a tendency to place messages upon teapots. Generally these messages are about political thinking of the time. From "No Stamp Act" to the ever so charming "Votes for Women"

It is possible to get reproductions of these items, and recently I have come into owning a "Votes for Women" one. I purchased this while in Rochester, New York, at the Susan B. Anthony house. It is quite lovely and now adorns my teapot collection.

While reproductions are nice, there are times when you can see one of the originals. There are three of these known. One in the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Mass., one in Williams burg, Virginia, and now, recently collected, The National Museum of American History Smithsonian.

To find out more about this, historic teapot perhaps even get the chance to see it when the Museum re-opens in Summer of '08, click on 'No Stamp Act'


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

School is out. Tea-time is in.

Hi again folks.

This article will be mostly about using tea as a tool for introspection and reflection, and about how much better tea tastes when the semester has finally ended!

I recently watched in a mixture of pleasure and discomfort as several of my comrades and associates in college marched across the stage, and received a college diploma. I didn't know whether to be sad that they were leaving, or happy that they were being successful and productive members of society. I resolved to feel a little bit of both.

Jasmine tea has a long-lived reputation of promoting introspection and reflective moments. So when I returned home from the commencement ceremony, I sat down in front of my french press, and prepared an infusion of Jasmine, Silver Needle (A mild form of white tea, so as not to take away from the Jasmine), and a bit of rose hip. I went through the usual routine of watching the water boil (I always do this, even though superstitious folk will tell you a watched pot will never boil), pouring into the press, and watching the herbs swirl around as they impart of their flavour and colour to the water around them.

I poured myself a particularly large serving (16 ounces, where I usually drink 6-8), and sat down to ponder. I pondered about how next term would be different with some of my favorite friends missing. I pondered about how potential new friends would likely come into my life, not to replace the old ones, but to make life for fun and interesting in their absence. I pondered about what sorts of grades I would be receiving, hoping for the best. And then I had a realization: I realized that no matter how much I pondered, wondered, or hypothesized about the situation at hand, it would largely be the case that nothing would change on the basis of that alone.

As I sat in introspection, I began to think that, while it is appropriate to miss friends who have moved on, it is perhaps more appropriate to live not in the past, but in the current moment, realizing that each moment I spend not making the most of whatever situation is at hand is a moment poorly spent. Rationality over emotion. While I won't discount the value of introspection and emotional adaptation, I definitely further promote the value of rationality over these things, and attempt to proport the most logical and reasonable alternative.

As the sweet aroma of the Jasmine teased my senses, I resolved to pursue the rational alternative that is to live my life as if I were to see my missed friends tomorrow. As if they hadn't actually left at all. And while there might be some semantic differences, it would largely be the case that life would continue as it had before.

Tea tastes so much better when you don't have schoolwork to do - When you don't have these lingering nags that you really should be doing something other than drinking tea. Like writing an essay, or studying for a test, or preparing a poster. Instead, the opportunity arises to sip your tea, and simply enjoy it. To revel in the moment, and allow yourself to relax and unfold completely, without any lingering worries about forgotten duties. What sweet joy.

Sorry of this post is more of a personal one than a topic-focused one, but I think you'll enjoy it anyway.

Cheers, and enjoy the tea,
Relznuk Zero Relznuk

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


'Sup tea peoples?

Since the time of the last posting, It has been brought to my attention on numerous occasions that I might, in fact, be hoity-toity. I find this topic so important that I feel it necessary to write a full posting on my hoity-toitiness, discussing just what it might mean to be a hoity-toid, and why that just might be a thing of importance for a tea connoisseur such as myself.

In the various discussions that were had about hoity-toitiness, the definition that seems to have been settled on involves declaring that there are varying quality levels that exist in things, and that the hoitey-toid simply recognizes these differences in quality, and actually heeds them to such an extent that he/she feels compelled to seek only the highest quality things.

This is in contrast to the popular definition of hoity-toitiness, which refers to someone who is pompous and does certain things (like using large words) only to flaunt ones status or intellectual merits. I suppose this distinction is, effectively, between an "utility hoitey-toid," and a "synthetic hoity-toid," where the utility hoity-toid uses hoity-toiteyness to achieve a purpose, or serve some specific cause, such as finding the highest quality chocolate, or gaining the ability to detect subtle flavor characteristics in fine chocolates, and the synthetic hoity-toid is a hoity-toid only in the sense that they want to appear overly important, intelligent, or sophisticated.

Largely, the people that actually *are* more sophisticated, intelligent, and important in society are those who have learned how to use utility-based hoity-toiteyness in their favor (although this may not always be the case, as there are certainly plenty of examples of people who are smart and important but fail to be hoity-toids.)

The importance of this sort of utility-based hoity-toideyness to the subject of fine tea is apparent. Without this awareness of the varying quality levels and various, often subtle characteristics that make a certain tea what it is, one could hardly make any sorts of claims regarding actual wisdom or knowledge regarding tea. It seems necessary to be aware of and to be able to make distinctions between these subtle characteristics in order to properly describe a tea, in order to properly rate a tea for quality, and in order to not be conned like mad when purchasing high-quality teas.

In one sense, the utility-based tea hoity-toid is in a better position than most tea drinkers and purchasers, in that the hoity-toid will be able to make better, more informed decisions on the matter, and will ultimately end up with the superior cup of tea at the most reasonable price.

Additionally, it seems preposterous to me to suggest that someone could bring themselves to a point where they could be aware of these varying quality levels and subtle characteristics without admitting to some form of hoity-toitiness. Doing so would require that they simply didn't apply the skills that they have at their disposal, and would result in them being largely ignorant (in the sense that they are simply neglecting known quality concerns) of actual tea-quality.

A similar situation would be for someone to become aware of all of the things that make a football player a good or bad member of the team, and then go to the games, disregard this awareness, and simply cheer for the player who's last name they like the best.

So, that's it for my rant on hoity-toitiness. This probably wasn't your favorite post, but I'm OK with that.

Over and out,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cool Tea Topic: Tracing Tea

Greetings, readers.

It seems there have been an unusually high number of entries to this in the past month or so. I hope this makes up for the long periods of inactivity that this blog has sometimes seen. :) You might also notice that the contributor list of this blog is growing. There is a specific purpose for this. More on that later.

First of all, I must make a note to thank the Mellow Monk for his very enlightening entry about green tea and caffeine. It was great to have him write for us here, and he was oh-so-willing and eager to do that for us, so thanks to him for that.

I now have a fascinating topic to tell you about, which I was quite thrilled to learn about, and which I feel deserves a great mention here. People sometimes wonder about the legacies or history behind the things they enjoy. Very few people, however, go to such great lengths to unearth this history as the group of seven students who have launched an international project called "Tracing Tea."

Tracing Tea ( is a large-scale project involving a 15,000 km journey in small open vehicles known as "Tuk Tuks" or "autorickshaws." The journey traces many of the old trading routes, and also tracing the history of tea in a semi-academic fashion from Calcutta, India to London, England and everywhere in between.

The end product of this massive journey by seven ambitious college students will be a book detailing their research findings and travel adventures, which promises to be a very fascinating reading experience.

The primary motivation for this journey of discover is nothing more than a deep and lasting love of tea - one which inspires them to do great and marvelous things. To paraphrase a comment from their website, they really love a good cup of tea, and find it appropriate to travel thousands of miles to get one.

So, I encourage you to take a look at the website, and follow the team's progress. I also encourage you to take a look at the finished book once it is published. I am sure you will find this a very interesting tangent from your everyday dealings.

Have a Marvelous Monday,
R 0 R

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Mellow Monk Talks About Green Tea and Caffeine.


First of all, I’d like to thank Relznuk for the opportunity to post here. This is a great venue to talk about green tea—and put in a plug for my own tea, which of course is the finest in the land. (Who says monks have to be modest?)

One topic I’m asked about a lot is green tea and caffeine. Java junkies are worried it doesn’t have enough, and caffeine-sensitive folks are worried it has too much. But the fact is that green tea, magical drink that it is, is in the Goldilocks Zone when it comes to caffeine: not too much, and not too little, but just the right amount. Not only that, but you can adjust the amount of caffeine to suit your own personal tastes—to feed your need for speed, or to let you sleep soundly at night.

First of all, a cup of brewed green tea contains roughly one-third the caffeine as the same amount of brewed coffee. Some people say they’ve heard that green tea contains more caffeine than coffee does, but that’s true only if you’re talking about dried tea leaves versus coffee beans. By weight, dried green tea contains more caffeine than coffee, but tea goes a lot longer than coffee does: A pound of dried green tea leaves would brew enough liquid tea to fill a hot tub, whereas a pound of coffee wouldn’t come close. In other words, you use a lot less green tea by weight to brew a cup of tea, which is why an infusion of green tea ends up containing roughly a third of the caffeine.

If you really need a caffeine fix, you can always brew your tea on the strong side. Simply use more tea leaves—say, two teaspoons per 8-ounce mug instead of one. One of the many nice things about green tea is that it’s not acidic like coffee is, so a strong infusion won’t upset your stomach the way coffee can.

Green tea, mellow beverage that it is, is also a gentler way to get your caffeine fix. That’s because green tea’s oh-so-healthy polyphenols regulate the body’s uptake of caffeine. Consequently, the caffeine load is spread out more evenly and over a longer period. That means no jump-out-of-your-chair jolt, but it also means no crash-and-burn, either. Like a gentle lover, green tea lets you down easy.

But let’s say you’ve been restless lately and are worried about getting a good night’s sleep for a big interview tomorrow. What you can do is decaffeinate your green tea yourself. That’s right: There’s no need to buy industrially decaffeinated green tea, which can contain trace amounts of ethyl acetate, and who wants any of that in their body?

All you need to do is let your green tea steep for about 30 seconds, throw out that infusion, and then re-steep the tea as you normally would. Since caffeine seeps out into hot water much more quickly than the tea's "good stuff," the second infusion will contain 80 percent less caffeine than normal. Since green tea already contains about 66 percent less caffeine than coffee, that comes out to less than 7 percent the caffeine in a cup of coffee, if my math is correct.

(And if you let that first infusion steep for a full minute, you will have removed essentially all of the caffeine from the tea leaves.)

Also, instead of throwing away that caffeine-rich first infusion, you could save it to drink later, or water your houseplants with it, or even store up a pitcher full in the refrigerator and then give it to someone whose body runs on caffeine (we all know a couple of those).

If your tolerance for caffeine is very low, you could also try hojicha, which is simply green tea that has been roasted briefly. The roasting not only imparts a smoky aroma but also eliminates a lot of the caffeine. Oh, and Mellow Monk happens to sell some, too.

Well, I think I’ve written enough, so I’d like to wrap this up by thanking Relznuk again for time in his forum, and by inviting you all to try our authentic Japanese green tea. Mellow Monk buys directly from small, family-owned and -operated tea farms located in the foothills of Mt. Aso—an ideal tea-growing environment, with its volcanic soil, clean air, and natural spring water. Our growers are also certified environmentally responsible under the local “Eco Farmer” program, and they vacuum-seal their tea on site for freshness. For more info, please visit us online at

Mellow Monk

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea

The following is a guest post written by Veralicious, a new contributor to the blog who lists the steps required to make a perfect cup of tea. I find this to be quite informative. As you'll note, it supports my long-held notion that loose-leaf is the way to brew the best possible cup of tea. So, a big thanks to Veralicious for this fantastic entry, and on that note, please enjoy the entry.

- Relznuk

Brewing the Perfect Pot of Tea

  • begin with your favorite loose tea.
  • add cold water to your kettle and bring to a boil.
  • fill your teapot with hot tap water to warm it.
  • before pouring in the boiling water empty the hot tap water from the pre warmed teapot.
  • add 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves to your infuser, for every eight ounces of hot water
  • pour the boiling water directly onto the leaves and steep the tea according to the directions below.

note - quality tea can be steeped more than once, save the leaves and re-steep, adding one minute for each additional brew.

black tea and herbals:
- bring your water to a full boil and remove from heat.
- allow tea to steep approximately 3-5 minutes and strain.

green teas:
- bring your water to a pre boil.
- when little bubbles start to form on the bottom of the kettle, remove from heat.
- allow tea to steep 1 1/2 - 3 minutes and strain.

oolongs and white teas:
- bring your water to a pre boil.
- when little bubbles are coming to the surface (a bit hotter then you would need for green tea) remove from heat.
- allow to steep 4-6 minutes and strain.

* when using a tea ball, fill only half way to allow the leaves room to expand *

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Origins of Mr. T(ea).

Most of you have probably noticed that I have not posted in a while. I could give you excuses, but I think that you're probably ultimately not interested in excuses, and besides, they aren't even all exciting. So, I pretty much blew that new years resolution all to hell, didn't I? Oh well. Those are just creative ways to lie to yourself anyway. But, for all your waiting, you're going to get something interesting at worthwhile to read. At least I think so. And if you don't, feel free to print it off and use it as toilet paper or cat box liner or something. Whatever you wish. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to my latest article, "The Origins of Mr. T(ea).

Tea. What is it? Where does it come from? And how the hell did it get such a funny name? Today I will try to answer those questions, using a mixture of things which I am absolutely not qualified to talk about, including mythology, tradition, linguistics, and some other stuff that may or may not be really cool. By the way, if you think my title is terrible, you'll just have to deal with it. I'm just that way.

Question one. What is tea?

Tea is defined as the usable portion of the plant Camilla Sinensis, and the liquid made from those portions. As a beverage, it is aromatic and slightly bitter, and highly entrenched in Asian and English customs and lifestyle. As a plant, it is a short shrub with medium sized leaves that differ in appearance at different levels of maturity. As a dried herb (leaves), it takes a needle-like shape and has a fragile and brittle texture. Goddamn. I really hate defining things. I never do it justice.

Question two. Where does it come from?

Well, you see, first you get a seed, which is a whole bunch of genetic information in a tiny little package, and then you plant it, and then providing that it gets an adequate amount of nutrition, water, and sunlight, and remains within the proper temperature range, it will eventually develop into a mature plant. If you have the right type of seed, it would form into a tea plant, and if you picked the leaves of at just the right amount of time, dried them, and brewed them in water, then you would have some tea. That's where tea comes from.


What you want to see here is how tea was discovered as a beverage, and that is exactly what I am going to attempt to give you. That's how nice I am.

The discovery is supposed to have occurred in ancient China more than five thousand years ago. As the story goes, Emperor Shen Nung, an early emperor, creative scientist, and appreciator of the arts, had many ideas that were ahead of his time, one of those being the requirement that all drinking water be boiled for antiseptic and hygienic purposes. One day while visiting a distant part of his domain, he and his court stopped for a rest. He ordered some servants to boil some water for the court to drink. As the water was boiling, some dried leaves from a neighboring bush fell into the water, and a brown liquid resulted. Being a scientist, the emperor found the liquid interesting, drank a bit of it, and found that it had a very refreshing and pleasant flavor. So, according to legend, tea was created.

To this day, this myth remains so practical and reasonable of an explanation that a good number of mythologists believe that it might be very close to the way the events actually took place, which events are now long lost in the vortex of the past.

Question three. How the hell did it get such a funny name?

The actual word "tea" has it's origins in China, in the Minnan dialect, which was spoken by the people living in the area around the port of Amoy in southern China. Around AD 350, both the plant and the beverage were called "tu." This was adopted and altered a bit to become "tea" or "te" by such languages as Danish, French, German, Spanish, Polish, and others.

Another very popular word for it is "cha," which appears in languages such as Japanese, Portugese, Korean, Thai, Swahili, Hindi, and others. This originates in China as well, but mainly in the southern and the norther regions where Mandarin and Cantonese dialects are spoken. It is thought by some that "cha" was coined around 780 AD in the T'ang Dynasty, when Lu Yu published the book Cha Ching regarding the beverage. "Cha" is also sometimes used in English as a slang term.

So there you have it. Now you know what tea is, where it came from, and how the hell it got it's funny name. I could have written a great deal more regarding the history of tea, but then what the hell would I write about later?

So, I hope you enjoy this bit of information. I know I enjoyed writing it. And if you didn't enjoy it, please don't complain. The world already has too many complainers.

Over and Out,
Relznuk 0 Relznuk