What’s a Tisane?

August 16th, 2014

Guayusa blend

by Naomi Rosen

Not all “tea” is tea. It seems that if you can pour hot water on it, and drink it a few minutes later, it’s marketed as tea. In my opinion, this creates a lot of confusion for people new to tea drinking. Or, maybe I’m just a snob. Either way, I prefer to use the term “tea” when I am discussing the actual leaf from a camellia sinensis plant. Tea can be broken down further into classifications based on how it has been processed: white, green, yellow, oolong, black, puerh, blended, orthodox…you get the picture. But what about a mint or chamomile herbal blend? If I don’t call them “tea”, then what are they?

In the case of beverages that are the result of steeping something other than tea leaves, the preferred term is “tisanes”. Like tea, tisanes also have categories:

  • Herbal – Dried plants like chamomile, lavender, mint, hibiscus, etc.
  • Fruit and Nut Blends – Dried fruits such as apple, berries, almonds, citrus peels, etc.
  • Rooibos – Rooibos is a plant grown/harvested for the most part in South Africa with a naturally sweet flavor and many of the same antioxidant and health components of tea. The plant is naturally caffeine free and commonly blended with similar flavor profiles as tea (strawberry, peach, chai, etc.).
  • Yerba mate – That holly family has a lot of drinkable relatives and yerba mate is one of the most popular tisanes consumed in South America. You might have scene pictures of people drinking a beverage out of a hollowed out gourd and a metal straw. This would be yerba mate! Don’t be fooled by the holly though, this leaf packs a caffeinated punch.
  • Guayusa – A relative of the holly plant, this herb grows naturally in the Amazon and has been consumed for centuries by the locals in that region. It does have caffeine and is commonly blended with other herbals to give it a different flavor.
  • Yaupon – While this plant has thrived in North America for centuries, it’s more popular holly cousins (yerba mate and guayusa) have gained more notariety recently.

Tisane. Use it!


Tea Journaling

August 13th, 2014

By Naomi Rosen

I wouldn’t say that I’m the J.K. Rowling of tea journaling, but it has definitely become a healthy habit for me over the past couple of years. If you have a wicked tea habit, I highly suggest that you journal.

I get samples ALL. THE. TIME. Coupled with a terrible capacity to remember anything, there is no way I could keep track of every tea I’ve ever had. But I try to.

  • I use the notes to remind myself of characteristics of a tea when I’ve got only enough for a pot or so.
  • I use the notes to refer people to companies that carry something that I don’t.
  • I use the journal to keep track of teas that I want to offer on the Joy’s Teaspoon site.
  • I use the journal to compare tasting notes for teas that come from the same estates/regions.

But what to journal about? If you are using it to notate whether you liked a tea or not, it’s kind of pointless. You could just make a list for that. In order to get the most out of your journal, you need to provide so much more information. In my journal, I am attempting to jog my memory of the actual smell and taste of a particular tea. When journaling, I include the following information:

  • Name of tea
  • Name of Company, Garden, Blender
  • When it was harvested
  • Details about the tea provided by the grower/blender (rolled, withering/oxidation times, how it was dried, etc.)
  • Prep details (water temp, amount of tea, etc.)
  • What the dry leaf looks like? Smells like?
  • What the wet leaves look like? Smell like?
  • Liquor color, smell, flavors (minty, stone fruit, smoky, malty, etc.)
  • Do I like the tea? If yes, why? If no, why?

You get the idea! You don’t have to be as detailed as I am, but you definitely want to jot down your idea of the tea while it is fresh in your mind, to create that sense of having a cup in front of you, days or months after you’ve sipped that last drop!

Do you journal about tea? What am I missing that you include in your notes? How do you keep track? Is there an app for that?

1,2,3…No, This is Not a Britney Song

August 13th, 2014

Steeping/Infusing Your Tea Leaves More Than Once

by Naomi Rosen

I drank tea in high school.  What up Bigelow Constant Comment!  On occasion, I would get even lazier and attempt to pour boiling water over those same tea leaves a second time and always came up with a dreary, fairly tasteless hot cup of semi-brown water.  Thank goodness for Chicago showing me the error of my ways!

When I was introduced to loose leaf tea, I discovered that tea could be so much more flavorful! My only qualm was that loose leaf tea was a bit pricier than the bagged stuff, and I began drinking less tea so that I wouldn’t go through my stash so quickly.  One day, while catching up on the news (Insert: People.com), I saw a ticker ad that mentioned something about re-steeping your tea.  Intrigued, I googled “Can you resteep loose leaf tea?” and I was ecstatic to find that good tea could be re-steeped multiple times. Thus began my real steeping adventures.

  • White and green teas – two steepings
  • Flavored/Blended black teas – two steepings
  • Unflavored/Orthodox black teas – three steepings (In the case of Darjeelings, the second steeping is the best!)
  • Oolongs (“over-achievers”) – four or five steepings (with the second and third being the most flavorful)
  • Puerhs – I’ve had puerhs that were steeped up to 18 times! No joke. That’s 18, as in the legal voting age.

So next time you are thinking that that bagged tea in the grocery store costs a lot less…keep in mind that quality loose leaf teas are comparable in price, and sometimes cheaper, if you are oolong and puerh fans!

Are you a “re-steeper”? Which teas do you find are the most flavorful to re-steep?


JT’s Kitchen: Tasty Tea Popsicles

July 23rd, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

I live in Las Vegas. I believe when you translate that in Spanish, it’s loosely “So. Hot. Popsicle. Now.” During the months of June, July, and August, I will drink my weight in iced tea and still be thirsty. Since moving out here 5 years ago, I’ve learned all sorts of tricks that help deal with the heat. We have mini pools, water tables, wet towels, covered parks, water guns, and we only go outside before 9am and after sunset. Reaching deep into my bag of tricks, one of my favorite go-to’s for a warm summer day is popsicles! A girlfriend of mine gave me a Zoku popsicle maker our first summer here and that thing has seen some battle time!

You can keep it simple and freeze just the tea itself.  Or, you can get all complex and over-achieverish and create your own popsicle line.  One of my favorites is the Pina Colada…

  • 1 can of coconut Milk
  • 1 cup of frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup of your favorite tea (in this case I used a Sencha, but rooibos based teas are great for this too!)

I put it all in a blender, let that do it’s magic, and then pour the mix into the Zoku. I think it takes about 8 minutes to become a popsicle. I use that time to read some of my favorite tea blogs or keep my kids from destroying my house with a soccer ball. #ThanksWorldCup

Are you a popsicle fan? What’s your favorite tea popsicle recipe? I’m always looking for more ideas and you never know when a discount code might end up in your inbox as a thanks for keeping my recipe file full!

Virtual Tea Tasting – Dragonwell

April 13th, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

The second time around and we are getting the chance to be a part of history! Teaity is breaking ground again, on Wednesday April 30th, with the first ever-online guided tea tasting! If you’ve never experienced a tea tasting, it is similar to a wine tasting. This virtual event will help participants discover the unique nuances of Dragonwell (Lung Ching or Longjing) — a Chinese Green tea.

Participants will steep the selected tea immediately preceding the tasting with instructions shared by Teaity and the co-hosts, Stash Tea and Joy’s Teaspoon.

Together, with the guidance of our hosts, we will:

  • Evaluate the leaf quality (dry and steeped) by visual inspection and smell.
  • Assess the liquor for color and clarity of the steeped tea.
  • Sample the liquors’ mouthfeel, astringency, taste, and finish.

You can brew your perfect cup of Dragonwell, from Stash Tea, with the help of Teaity!

Be ready for the Virtual Tea Tasting by ordering Dragonwell from our Co-Host and Sponsor, Stash Tea!

To be entered to win one of our 4 prize packs, RSVP and follow @teaity@stashtea and @joysteaspoon.

#TEAityChat: A Virtual Tea Tasting 
Hashtag: #TEAityChat
Date: April 30, 2014
Time: 8 PM – 9 PM ET
Prizes: 4 Prize Packs
Co-Hosts: @teaity, @stashtea, @joysteaspoon
RSVP Link: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/teaitychat-a-virtual-tea-tasting-tickets-11204293343

We look forward to tweeting with all of you that night! Prepare yourselves for green tea frivolity!

Who Knew It Could Happen Twice?

April 11th, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

When I first launched JoysTeaspoon.com, I made a Tea Business Bucket List (Crytpic name, I know). It looked like this:

  1. Offer great tea.
  2. Educate tea drinkers on palate and nuances.
  3. Educate tea drinkers of environmental and social impacts of tea.
  4. Meet Leonardo DiCaprio. (What?)
  5. Be a part of the educational offerings presented by World Tea EXPO.

I do offer great tea, I do educate, and last yeath-r I was a part of a World Tea EXPO panel session discussing blogging within your business. Damn you security guards for thwarting my 100% completion on that list!

That said, World Tea EXPO has asked me to come back. And not just for one session…but two! Firstly, I will be moderating the Bloggers Tea Roundtable (5/30). I admire every single one of the bloggers on this panel and am super excited to hear what is said! The line-up includes:

For my next trick…I was also asked to represent small tea businesses as a panelist in the “New Face of Retail” panel discussion being offered on Saturday (5/31) morning. It’s being moderated by Elyse Peterson of Tealet, who happens to be one of my favorite tea people! Here’s a snippet of the description for this class:

“Join some of the brightest up and coming stars of tea retail in the United States as they come together to discuss the current and upcoming trends in tea retail. This panel will include experts in the area of tea education, in-store blending, popup retail, bitcoin payments, and true tea sales. You do not want to miss this session!”

They called me “brightest”! That almost never happens.

As you can clearly see, between these two sessions, the countless cups of tea I will be ingesting, the US League of Tea Growers meeting I will be attending, and the reconnecting with tea friends, it is shaping up to be an epic three days for me!

I always have a “Lookout List” with me of products, teas, and items I am trying to track down. Is there something you think we should start carrying? Shoot a note over to naomi@joysteaspoon.com and fire off your suggestions!

#Teaity Twitter Party

February 24th, 2014

Teaity, a free online tea steeping resource, was created to help tea drinkers experience their best cup of tea. With a database that is continuously growing, it’s sure to be a helpful tool for any type of tea you are craving. But, whether you consider yourself a novice or a guru on the subject, The Tea Experience Twitter Party is for you.

We’ve assembled a team of tea experts and lovers for “The Tea Experience” chat. We’ll talk steep times, favorite teas, lots of Q&A with new and old tea drinkers…and all from the comfort of your couch, or bed, or favorite coffee shop chair.



Twitter Party: The Tea Experience

Hashtag: #TEAityChat
Date: February 25th, 2014
Time: 8 PM – 9 PM ET
Prizes: 5 Prize Packs
Co-Hosts: @teaity@joysteaspoon@teaformeplease
RSVP Link: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/teaitychat-tickets-10456029265

I am super excited that Joy’s Teaspoon is a co-host for this event and I look forward to tweeting with each of you until my fingers fall off!

Change Our Steep Times?

January 24th, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

I love getting feedback from customers.  Especially when the comment or question prompts me to want to write about it.  In this case, I received an email from a regular customer recommending that I change the steep time on one of our teas as he had found that our suggested steep time was a little too strong.  I love it!  A customer that took the time to give me some insight into his experience!  A customer that is experimenting with his tea! So keep the feedback coming.  I enjoy it all…the good, the bitter, and the totally not tea-related!  (Note: The thoughts below are specific to Joy’s Teaspoons teas and may not represent every tea on the market!)

  • Steep times listed on on our packaging come from one of two sources…the grower or the blender.  It is my assumption that every grower/blender is going to provide me with information that will maximize the flavor of their particular tea(s).  I taste the teas at multiple stages: as a sample, upon receipt of shipment, and anytime I re-order or there is a new flush.  In most cases, I use the steeping specifications that are provided to me.  I will, on occasion, change the times if I really feel that it is off.  Case in point, I have a Kenyan tea that was so strong it made my mouth pucker when I followed the specifications that were sent my way.  So I readjusted those specs when placing the tea on the site to fit what I felt was a more enjoyable flavor profile.
  • It is my firm belief that those steep times are simply a jumping off point for negotiations!  All of us have to start tea drinking somewhere and my goal is to give newer tea drinkers a comfortable place to start from.  Suggestions regarding temperature, time, tea quantity, etc., are simply to make the process as simple as possible at the start so that new tea drinkers can enjoy their first few experiences.  That said, once you’ve got a few cups under your pot, I fully expect each of you to take the liberty of brewing these teas to fit whatever makes your taste buds the happiest!

So do a little experimenting with those teas and tell me about it!

We Got Tagged!

January 24th, 2014

Audrea (left) and Naomi (right)

By Naomi and Audrea

Before the craziness of the holidays, I was trolling through some of my favorite bloggers and catching up on 2 weeks worth of reading that I had missed.  It’s a busy time of year and I lag with the blogging in November and December.  I noticed that a few of my friends had been “tagged” and I was green with envy.  And then I got a notice on Facebook that Audrea and I had been tagged by Geoff of Steep Stories and I jumped for joy!  I eat this stuff up!  So here goes…Audrea and I are going to try our best to behave and answer the questions about our tea experiences!  We’ve opted to answer them separately, kind of like The Newlywed Game minus the word whoopee every 5 seconds.  And we are going to try to behave.

(Speak for yourself Naomi. I ain’t promising no one to behave!! – A)

(1) First, let’s start with how you were introduced and fell in love with the wonderful beverage of tea.

N: Sarah (sister) and Audrea (cousin) moved to Chicago a few years back and introduced me to loose leaf tea via a cute tea shop in Forest Park, IL. Sarah and I attended a green tea tasting and I was a goner after that! (I appreciate that you kept the dates vague. I want to be young forever. – A)

A: I was introduced to Chamomile tea by my mother & initially I hated it. My grandma used to make her spiked Chamomile when she was sick but my mom never gave me the “good stuff.” Overtime though, I got into drinking iced tea. My dad used to make huge pitchers of (bagged – gosh so embarrassing) Lipton iced tea & I thought he hung the moon so I copied him. Thankfully, Chicago had a local tea shop that introduced me to the good stuff & it’s been all uphill from there.  (Thank God for Chicago! -N)

(2) What was the very first tea blend you ever tried?

N: Bagged – Bigelow’s Constant Comment.  Loose – Lung Ching

A: Genmaicha. I don’t remember much about it except it was when I was in Chicago, at a local tea shop & I thought adding toasted rice into a green tea was brilliant. Like rocket science brilliant, but then again, what do I know about rocket science?

(3) When did you start your tea blog and what was your hope for creating it?

N: The blog was started in April of 2010 along with the online shop.  I originally launched it to help boost my SEO, but absolutely loved writing about tea so it turned into more of a place to share and interact with fellow tea lovers.  I’m actually really terrible at using the blog for SEO.  And I like it that way.

A: Luckily for me, Naomi did all the work here. I just get on & make an idiot of myself. It’s a full time job guys.  (She speaks the truth. -N)

(4) List one thing most rewarding about your blog and one thing most discouraging.

N: As far as rewards go, I have met some of the most wonderful tea folks from around the world via tea blogging.  People that I now consider more than just “tea nerds” but actual friends that I have met in person, shared tea and meals with, etc.  Tea is unifying in that aspect.  As for discouraging, I find that I blog in spurts which is rough.  I am always thinking about things to write, but finding the time is something totally different. (If it would help, I could threaten to take away your CAH time. I bet that would motivate you. Am I right Geoff & Chris?!?! – A)

A: I think the most discouraging is how many blog authors there are for Joy’s Jabberings & what blog slackers we all are… But I think the most encouraging thing is how no one (including us) seems to mind. This blog is fun & hopefully informative without being too snobby. We get to chat about stuff we love & things that make us laugh. (Like cats, dressed as sharks, riding on a Roomba. -N It’s awesome!! – A)

(5) What type of tea are you most likely to be caught sipping on?

N: I think I’m the politician of tea drinkers because I flip flop around…a lot!  At the moment, I’m on a Ceylon kick.  But just last month I was chugging oolongs (specifically LiShan and Blue Beauty) like my life depended on it.  Sencha is another one that I am constantly coming back to.

A: Anything from Joy’s Teaspoon is the easy answer because I make Naomi give me tea a lot. But if I’m being specific, I love me a good sultry Chinese black tea or a respectable Earl Grey (I even like disrespectable earls but that’s another matter).  (Is disrespectable a word? -N Technically, no but I could care less. I’m like Sarah. I am an academic. I can make words up as I need to. – A)

(6) Favorite tea latte to indulge in?

N: I’m not a tea latte fan.  I am a coffee latte fan.  It helps mask the taste of coffee which I am not overly fond of.  Thus the reason, I don’t do it with teas.

A: Admittedly, I’ve only ever had an Earl Grey latte from Starbucks & it was gross. I do LOVE adding heavy cream or full fat coconut milk to my chai tea though. Does it count as a latte if I don’t overpay for foamy milk?

(7) Favorite treat to pair with your tea?

N: If I’m drinking it for fun, and not sampling for buying reasons, a handful of nuts or a couple of pieces of cheese will do.  We’re working on a healthy lifestyle up in this house and if I had a sweet treat with every cup of tea I drank I’d be in trouble.

A: A good book & my couch. This might not seem like the world’s best treat but I don’t get to enjoy it as frequently as I’d like to. I’ve also been known to double fist a good oolong & a glass of red wine from time to time.

(8) If there was one place in the world that you could explore tea culture at, where would it be and why?

N: Sri Lanka.  Not to say I wouldn’t love to travel to India, China, Japan, etc. and really dive into the tea cultures there, but there is something about Sri Lanka that I find utterly captivating.  Tea is a huge part of their GDP, and there are some social movements happening there within the tea growing communities that I wish to see firsthand. (Me too! What she said. – A)

A: Is it weird that my first thought is Russia? Or possibly the Ukraine? I think Iran would be cool too. I don’t really have a good reason for my choices. They are places I find fascinating & have tea cultures we don’t discuss as frequently. Does it make me a hipster to be listing places that are a little obscure for tea?  (No. What makes you a hipster is your comment about “overpaying for foamy milk” above.  You hipster… -N)

(9) Any tea time ritual you have that you’d like to share?

N: It’s not necessarily a ritual, but I love sharing tea with my friends and family.  Not in a snooty “you must try this blah blah blah tea that I found while scaling the Alps” kind of way (insert snooty accent here).  More like “let’s sit down, have some tea, catch up, laugh and possibly make fun of some people” kind of way. (Every time you lie about being snooty, an angel loses a bell? Wait, how does that go again? – A)

A: My favorite is probably not *technically* a ritual. One of my favorite tea times is at Naomi’s place. I only get to make it into the office at Joy’s Teaspoon one or two times a year & it’s always awesome. We stay up late giggling, sniffing & sipping all the new teas, playing with the new teaware, brewing pots of our favorites. While in Vegas I get to relax into a world surrounded by tea & laughter. It’s almost as good as Christmas but without the stress of the holidays. Sharing tea with “JT Herself” is my favorite tea ritual regardless of whether we’re bothering with ritual (which chances are we aren’t & we’ve over-steeped everything).  (And she does mean…everything. -N)

(10) Time of day you enjoy drinking tea the most: Morning, Noon, Night or Anytime?

N: I’m more of a late morning, early afternoon tea drinker.  Caffeine keeps me up so I have to cut it off around 5ish and I’m not a huge herbal drinker.

A: Anytime is a good time for tea. I do tend to change what I’m drinking depending on the time of day though. I’m so cliche. I drink darker oolongs & black tea in the mornings. I switch to lighter oolongs or green blends in the afternoon & I drink red wine at night because herbals are for pansies! (I feel like I should apologize here to anyone who likes herbal teas, but it would be half-hearted because red wine is awesome.)

(11) What’s one thing you wish for tea in the future?

N: There are two things that I am hopeful will be successful for tea in the future (I can’t choose just one!).  The first is that I would love to see more and more tea companies and tea consumers become educated about the impact they can have on the lives of the tea growers, pickers and processors.  Simple questions can ensure that tea is purchased from environmentally and socially responsible sources. The second wish is that US grown tea will become a viable and successful crop here in the US.

A: I’d love to see the future of tea be a clean, safe and sustainable source of income for the farmers & all the workers. I’d like to see more people get into tea in a way that actually helps promote the land, the culture, the people producing the tea rather than just see tea be a hip thing. I’d like to see more small shops selling small quantities of quality tea over a boom taking place with the larger retailers. I’d love to see tea as a movement for positive change in the nations it’s grown in & in the nations it’s purchased in. Lastly, I’d like to see Naomi send me more samples… but large sized samples, maybe extra large.

Technically, we were supposed to tag some additional tea bloggers but most of my friends were tagged.  So, if you’d like me to tag you, shoot me a note and I will do so publicly!!  -Naomi

Well Hello There 2014

January 23rd, 2014

Thanks to Wikipedia for the Silkie shot!

by Naomi Rosen

It seems like I always start the year with the best of blogging intentions, and then October hits and it’s all downhill from there.  One would think I might try to work in advance, but that’s just crazy talk!  So, standing with tradition, I will strongly start this year blogging!

Over the last few weeks, in an attempt to break a lame habit, I’ve been trying to do some brainstorming and planning for the year and have found that I have so many other topics that I enjoy writing about and never put to “keyboard”.  Executive decision time…I will start blogging about all sorts of topics, both tea and non-tea related!  Topic #1…

Why I Would Make An Excellent Chicken Farmer…

  1. I’ve seen Chicken Run like 20 times.  I know to separate the chickens with glasses from the rest of the gaggle (I should probably look up what a group of chickens is called). I won’t leave the parts for an airplane laying around either.  Lastly, I have mean British accent.
  2. I like rubber boots.
  3. There are no chicken farms here in Las Vegas.  Well, at least none that I know of yet.  If there are, pass on the info!  There are hobbyists, and a few that do it for the eggs, but none that sell pasture raised chicken meat.
  4. I think they are super cute.  Especially the ones with the super furry feet and feathers that look like hats!  (See Silkie pic above.)
  5. We have a ton of bugs in our backyard because my family and I are attempting to become Master Desert Gardeners.  I think the chickens would think it was a like Strip buffet out there!
  6. I’m really good with pets.  We have a dog and a Beta.  How much more work could chickens be?

The only problem I see with this plan is that I don’t really want to be the one that slaughters.  It’s messy and stinks.  So, I’m thinking I’ll find someone that I can bring on that doesn’t mind the messy, stinky parts.  If I can’t fill the time with chickens, they can always supplement hours by babysitting my boys.  They’re messy and stinky so it’s kind of the same thing.

That’s it.  I can’t think of a single thing that could go wrong.  I’m off to start building a coop!