Tea and Tweezers

A photo posted by Naomi Rosen (@joysteaspoon) on

by Naomi Rosen

World Tea Expo is the highlight of my professional year. It’s an opportunity for me to bask in tea education, share tea tales with my pals, sip and sample my way through hundreds of teas, and discover new tea gadgets and trends. This year, the Expo was held May 6th-8th in Long Beach, CA. I was asked to be a panelist at the Tea Bloggers Roundtable, I was to sit in on the US League of Tea Growers meet-up, I had my schedule for 2 days of tea education, and my notes on growers and blenders that I needed to meet with. My plan was to drive out the afternoon of May 6th and I was ready to leave the bright lights of Las Vegas and make my trek to Long Beach and the tea glory that awaited me. 

The lively drive from Vegas to...anywhere.
The lively drive from Vegas to…anywhere.

If you’ve never made the drive from Las Vegas to, anywhere really, then let me give you an idea of what it looks like. See that picture to the right? It’s flat and uneventful. It’s the type of drive where you set the cruise control, turn up the iPod, and just coast.

I’m 90 minutes into my drive when the car in front of me hits a scrap piece of blown tire into my lane. I can’t swerve or I’ll hit the car next to me. So, I have no choice but to run over it. It made a lovely sound as it hit the underside of my car, and about 5 seconds after, my car started rattling and making a horrendous noise. A few miles down, I pulled off I-15 to check out the damage. I took the Halloran Summit exit. There is nothing, and I repeat NO THING, on this exit. There is simply an on-ramp back onto the freeway. I take a gander at the under carriage and nothing is dripping. However, my scratch plate is dangling precariously.

To a seasoned mechanic, or car enthusiast, this might seem like nothing. A quick fix. To me, this is equivalent to a cracked head gasket. I know equally as much about both – which means “nada”. I get on the phone with my husband, who thankfully, is a car whiz. I explain what happened, he asks some questions, and it’s determined that I just need to remove the scratch plate. You know, just remove it. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I try using my keys, but they are just a smidge too wide. What I really need is a flathead screwdriver, or equivalent. I check my center console and glove box. I have a restaurants worth of napkins, nail polish, car registration and insurance cards, an old GPS, about $.86 in spare change, earbuds, a package of Big Red, and a map of San Diego. Chances of survival = not good. Then I recall that I have a pair of tweezers in my bathroom bag! YES! I grab those and go to work.

You know how sometimes things have to get worse before they get better? Picture me on all fours, balancing carefully on a floor mat I have removed from the car so that I don’t cut my knees on the desert rock and broken glass my car is parked on. I’m hunkered under the car with a pair of tweezers trying to remove these plastic clips holding that plate prisoner, and all of a sudden I hear, “Caw caw. Caw caw.” I glance up and there are 3 buzzards circling me and the car. I know, that they know, that I’m not a car fixing type. Did I mention it was dusk? And that my low battery indicator on my phone was starting to chirp at me? And that I am in the middle of NOWHERE. 2015-05-06 18.58.27I was not going to make my husband explain to my children that they were now motherless because some plastic clips and buzzards got the best of her.

Those clips didn’t stand a chance between me and those tweezers. I got the plate removed, all of the pieces loaded into my car, and all with very little damage. My hands were filthy and I had a small scrape, but I did it, dammit! With nothing but a pair of freaking tweezers! I am woman, hear me roar!

I hopped back in the car and made haste to Baker, CA. I won’t even bother describing Baker. I pulled into a fast food place, took pictures of my hands and posted to social media (because I fixed my freaking car with a freaking pair of tweezers), washed my hands, grabbed a bite to eat, and hit the road. I was flying high! Nothing could keep me from the tea that was awaiting me in Long Beach.

About 15 minutes outside of Baker, I hit the biggest dust storm I’ve had to drive in, ever. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I yelled as I shook my fist. Thankfully, the storm was only a few miles wide and I was back to cruising speed in no time. I made it to Long Beach well past my intended arrival time and walked into the House of Tealet where I was greeted with a cup of tea and hugs from my pals who were readying the troops for my desert rescue. So, thank you to my would be rescuers: Elyse, Michael, and Rie, Jason and Timmy, Phil, Rajiv, Nicole, Nicole, Natasha, Chris, Rachel, Katrina, Jo, and Geoff

My two days at World Tea Expo were informative and tasty and I was sad to leave at the crack of dawn on Saturday to head back to Vegas. But I made sure those tweezers were in the cup holder, right next to George Michael, my new tea plant, and my Smores Frappe. Thank goodness that next years Expo is in Las Vegas!  

A photo posted by Naomi Rosen (@joysteaspoon) on

When Sick, Herbal Tea is Acceptable…Maybe.

Tea_bagsby Audrea Fink (@earlsteeper)

I have a confession to make. I have been drinking herbal tea lately, bagged no less. I realize I’ve been pretty anti-herbal in the past and it’s still not my favorite drink, but the past few days, it’s really been helpful.

I should also admit this all began because I got the flu. I had an upset stomach, fever and body aches. I wanted something comforting, but mellow.

I happened to have some fresh ginger in the house and decided to steep it in hot water for about 10 minutes. (Let’s be honest, I was sick so I made my boyfriend do the heavy ginger lifting.) I was surprised how helpful it was. It was warm and soothing and it mellowed out my stomach.

I stepped up my herbal game by adding some fresh squeezed lemon to the ginger concoction. Fresh ginger and lemon acted as the gateway drug to herbal tea. Lock up your kids and your wives. Fresh ginger will turn anyone!

Once I was back at the office, a coworker gave me a bag of ginger tea. It was a lot easier than cutting up ginger (obviously this is a sign of my laziness now that I was short a man servant) and it was pretty effective. The ginger tea wasn’t as tasty as the fresh ginger though so I added a bag of lemon mint tea. All together, I could handle that flavor and I’ve been drinking it all week. It was warm and soothing, but no caffeine to whack out my already confused body.

Now that I’m over the last of the flu I’m definitely back to my old ways – loose leaf, oolong, earl grey, etc. I never tire of a good cuppa. It warms you up on a cold, rainy day. It picks you up in the afternoon after lunch.

Overall, Cup of Brown Joy still encompasses how I feel about about tea in my life. However, it was nice to get a couple of tisanes I can stand to drink for when I need more comfort and less caffeine.

Because if you’re tired of tea, then you’re tired of life!

 

It’s Joy’s Teaspoon’s 5th Anniversary!

JT is 5 Memeby Naomi Rosen

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since we launched joysteaspoon.com. My family and I had just moved to Las Vegas, my oldest son was 2, my youngest hadn’t even been born yet, and I had no idea what I was doing. To say that is has been an interesting 5 years would be an understatement. My Top 5 memories, in no particular order:

  • Telling the teas story. It’s quite possibly my favorite part of what I do. I love finding great new teas and being able to share where it came from, tidbits about the region/culture/people that make that tea, and providing access to that leaf.
  • Visiting my very first tea farm, The Great Mississippi Tea Company, when we visited the region in June 2014. GMTC Logo
  • Being a part of the Las Vegas Tea Fest in 2012 and gearing up for the 2015 Las Vegas Tea and Coffee Fest.
  • Interesting customer conversations. I have customers I am friends with on Facebook now. I have customers that have thanked me for helping them relax while dealing with family issues, cancer treatments, and PTSD. I have customers that email me funny stories about tea prep disasters, or ask me to help them with a friends baby shower or wedding favors. I have some of the most gracious customers and I am so very grateful!
  • USLTG1sBeing present at the very first meeting of the US League of Tea Growers. That very first meeting was pretty special. It’s not everyday that you get to watch the birth of a tea growing region and that meeting was a real eye opener for me.

To celebrate our 5 glorious years in business, I would like to do 5 things to say THANK YOU for all of the support and love that we’ve received! 

  1. First, we are going to have not 1, but 5, Teas of the Month for April: Tie Guan Yin, Japanese Cherry, Wellness, Emperor’s 7 Treasures, and Earl Grey. All of these teas will be 20% off the entire month of April!
  2. We are offering 5% off the entire website for the month of April. This checkout code will be good on everything including teas being cleared out to make room for the new teas being added to the line-up this summer. Checkout Code: JTIS5
  3. Charity Water5% of all profits for the month of April will be donated to Charity: Water in the name of my customers. Their mission is to provide clean drinking water to developing countries and if you haven’t heard of them, they are most definitely worth checking out.
  4. For the first 5 customers to place an order in the month of April, I have something special set aside for you! I will adopt a US grown tea plant in your name from The Great Mississippi Tea Company! You will receive a certificate, be added to their monthly newsletter keeping you up-to-date on the farm, and you will receive a lifetime pass to visit the farm (located in Brookhaven, MS).
  5. Last, but not least, all shipping will be a flat $5 for the month of April (Regularly $5.95). You don’t have to do anything…it happens like magic!

Words cannot express how wonderful these past 5 years have been. It’s not always rainbows and sunshine when you own a small business. That said, I wouldn’t trade a minute of the time I’ve spent trying to make Joy’s Teaspoon a economically, socially, and environmentally supplier of teas that I’m proud to share. Thank you for making it easy for me to make the decision to continue on this journey!

US League of Tea Growers Round-up 2015

round-upby Naomi Rosen

Maybe I was in the right place at the right time, or maybe it’s because I’m willing to work for nothing, but I am the very proud Social Media Coordinator for the US League of Tea Growers. I love this passionate group of people and am excited to see where US grown tea goes over the next decade or two.

In another fantastic first for the league, February 19th-22nd marked the first US Tea Growers Round-up and included visits with tea growers in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The crowd was eclectic and included growers, educators, retailers, and enthusiasts. If you, like me, are fascinated by the birth of a tea growing region, you can catch a summary all of the happenings on the USLTG blog or catch a photo recap on their Facebook page. The first leg of the trip, Texas, is already detailed on the blog, and there are three more installments to come!

I will continue to keep updating you on US Tea as more and more growers join the ranks! Have you tried US grown tea yet? Where was it from and how did you like it?

Fine Words Butter No Parsnips – Ummm, What?

Fine Wordsby Naomi Rosen

I’m a sucker for a good tea blog. Well, I’m a sucker for anything tea related really, but I’ve had the pleasure of forming friendships with a pack of motley tea bloggers. The motliest of us all, Lord Devotea, sent out the Bat Signal via Facebook this week in the form of a status update challenging our group to use the title, “Fine Words Butter No Parsnips”, in a blog post this week. Challenge accepted dear sir!

But seriously, what the hell does that even mean? Turns out, it’s an old English saying that translates to “Nothing is achieved by empty words or flattery”. There’s a really great breakdown of how it came to be at The Phrase Finder. But how does that tie into tea?

I’m not going to point fingers and name names, but there is an awful lot of snake oil being sold with the label “tea” attached to it. And it grates on my every last nerve. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Misleading tea marketing (ie. direct from grower when it’s not, low quality tea being passed off as the good stuff, bogus fair trade and organic claims, etc.).
  • Beverages marketed as tea when they don’t have actual tea in them.
  • Dangerous and irresponsible health claims. (Seriously, one more “skinny tea” claim on my Instagram feed and my head is going to explode!)
  • A lack of transparency in the supply chain.

You know what does butter parsnips? Education. Grab all the information you can get your hands on and educate yourself on tea. Or whatever you are passionate about. Don’t just take one sources word on a subject. Be well rounded. Read all the books. Join the chat boards. Attend the local meetups and presentations. Steep hundreds of cups. Share the passion with your friends and family and steep hundreds of cups for them. Immerse yourself in the culture and you won’t have to worry about the butter or the parsnips anymore.

If you want to read what some of the my fabulous blogger friends wrote on the topic of Fine Words Butter No Parsnips, click on the links below. You won’t regret it, I promise. And browse through their past posts. You will likely find a new favorite blogger!

 

 

Kombucha: is it tea? Is it safe? Is it going to kill me in my sleep?

New batch of #kombucha is just about ready.

A photo posted by @audrea11 on

Recently, I have been making Kombucha; a fermented tea drink. I was told by my naturopath that I should increase my consumption of matcha, herbal tea and kombucha. So, like every other average American, I’m only following through on 1 of the 3 recommendations. As I’ve said before, I think herbal tea & matcha are for the birds, yo.

I don’t know why I thought that if I didn’t like matcha or herbal tea, that I would like fermented tea. I do like the idea of fermentation and adding probiotics to my diet and I am a big fan of other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, salami, and wine. I am also a huge fan of tea. What could possibly go wrong?!?!

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is essentially a scoby (mother or mushroom), made up of bacteria and yeast, tea and sugar all hanging out together. You leave them to ferment for about 10-14 days (depending on how long you forget about it). The scoby is pretty gross looking. It’s something that your little brother would’ve loved to rub in your face while holding you down after you tattled on him. Yeah. Tasty.

It consists of an initial fermentation period that can then be followed up with an optional second fermentation period where you add juice or fruit to sweeten it up.

How to Make Kombucha

If you’re looking for a How-To for making this, go look it up on the internet. I purchased a kit and followed instructions from GetKombucha.com. In fact, they have a 7 day introduction to kombucha email session that I highly recommend if you’re interested.

I managed to kill a couple of mothers, or scoby’s, or mushrooms, or whatever you want to call them. I also managed to make a concoction so sour that vinegar seemed sweet. Turns out, forgetting about it is NOT tasty. Set a reminder folks. :)

I haven’t been very adventurous with trying types of tea because I’m still trying to figure out how to make it taste as good as what I can buy at Whole Foods. I would just give up but it’s $4+ at the store and under $.50 if I make it at home.

What I’ve Done So Far

Below are the teas I used and the outcome is listed in order of preference.

  1. Oolong – I used Four Seasons which is one of my very favorite oolongs.
    It was great because it was light but still had some bite. I added some raspberries as the second fermentation and it was AMAZING! Seriously, do this. Try this. Then give it to me. I will take all your raspberry oolong kombucha.
  2. Green – I used a Sencha, which is one of the only green teas I like. I’m not a green tea fan but I liked how mild this one came out.
  3. Black – I used Hu Hong. I used it because most recipes call for black tea and this is my current favorite for black. Black tea makes for the most robust flavor and according to some random folks online, a strong bacterial profile. So if you like your profiles weak or less flavorful, try another type of tea. I went through a lot of black tea trying to get my brew just right. I would recommend using nicer teas after you’ve figured out what you like. You can start with Lipton while you’re figuring out how to get it right. It was sad to throw out a sour gallon of Hu Hong.

Up Next

  • Dark Rose – One of the tips you’ll read is that you should start with an unflavored tea. Flavorings can kill the scoby. However, I’m going to throw caution to the wind and try it with this tea next. I’m such a “buch” rebel.  <—- That’s me using the lingo. Dark rose is a black tea with only rose petals for a little extra flavor so I think it’ll be alright.

If you’ve been thinking about trying kombucha, I highly recommend it. It’s considerably cheaper to brew it yourself and it’s pretty good for you. Plus, even if you forget about it, it can’t outgrow it’s container and kill you in your sleep. You’re safe!

Do you like kombucha? Have you tried making it? Any ‘buch horror stories?

Welcome to Joy’s Teaspoon

That's me. Plucking fake tea. My family is super impressed!

by Naomi Rosen

I’ve been blogging for about 5 years now. Specifically, as the voice of Joy’s Teaspoon; a small, family-run tea company based in Las Vegas. I am always looking for motivation and information about blogging and I decided to start a Blogging 101 series by The Daily Post that began on February 1st. Homework assignment #1: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post. So, I went looking through my blog archives. Certainly, after posting for 5 years, I had something that fell into that category. After reviewing every blog post I’ve ever written, I realized I hadn’t even come close. So here you go, my homework assignment from Day 1, 2 days late.

  • My name is Naomi Rosen and I am the owner of Joy’s Teaspoon; an on-line tea retailer.
  • I am an avid tea drinker and enthusiast who takes down 3-4 cups of tea a day.
  • I am a self-educated tea educator. I have spoken at the college level, as a presenter at World Tea EXPO, as a presenter at the Las Vegas Tea Fest, and as an instructor with the Las Vegas Tea Series. I’ve done special presentations for church groups, retirement homes, and even a veterinarian’s conference.
  • I have a passion for social justice within the tea industry and have been moving my company for a couple of years now towards a fair and just model of sustainability.
  • This blog is a tool with which I teach, question, and start conversations. Mostly about tea. Occasionally about the Spice Girls, Justin Timberlake, and Lady Gaga.

I look forward to continuing on this tea journey with a few new friends!

Tea Bloggers Roundtable 2015

by Naomi Rosen

For those of you that have followed Joy’s Teaspoon and myself for a few years now, you know that late Spring/early Summer is super exciting for me. World Tea Expo comes around and I’m like a kid on Christmas. This year is no exception.

World Tea Expo gives me the opportunity to accomplish an insane amount of work in about 3 days. I make new friends, catch up with the old ones, drink tea, order tea, attend educational seminars and presentations, talk tea, drink tea, brainstorm blog postings, meet with US tea growers…and did I mention I drink tea? As I have in years past, I will be a part of the Tea Bloggers Roundtable panel and I am excited to have an opportunity to speak with fellow tea bloggers. We discuss anything from blogging schedules, to creating topics, to traffic analysis, to partnering with other businesses and bloggers. It’s a fine collection of professionals and I wish that something like this had been around when I first started.

It’s an exciting time to be in the tea industry. Americans are falling in love with the leaf all over again, tea is being grown in the US, tea culture is spreading rapidly, and I have great tea in my cup daily. I’m excited about this years panel and need your help! I would love to bring a list of topics that you, the tea drinker, are interested in reading about! Shoot me a note. Reply to this post. We want to know!

Where Do I Start?

by Naomi Rosen

I have no idea how I have gone almost 5 years of peddling my teas and never written a blog post on where to start in the tea journey. I’m seriously slacking! I got the best email today from a gentleman named Josh who has tried a number of teas from a national retailer. He’s had some homeruns and some strikeouts and wanted to dive deeper into the overwhelming world of loose leaf teas. The problem: where to start? To summarize, he asked if he should start with whites, move to greens, explore oolongs, and then wrap it up with black teas. While this might seem like a logical approach to introducing your palette to the finer nuances of the tea leaves, I prefer a different route.

  • Many might disagree, but I would suggest not using blended or flavored teas. They’re great as an introduction, but the ingredients they are blended with (fruits, herbs, extracts, etc.) all detract from the actual taste of the tea leaves themselves. In fact, in many cases, blends are usually made with slightly lower quality tea leaves. Not bad tea, just not the same flavorful brew you would get from the top leaves of an unblended tea. If you think about it, it makes sense that if you’re going to mask the flavor anyway, why use really great tea?
  • Keep track of what you do/don’t like to try to avoid a distasteful cup. For example, there was an herbal blend Josh had tried that was tart and not his favorite. It had hibiscus in it, which typically adds a tart flavor. Note to self…don’t buy tea with hibiscus as an ingredient.
  • If you try a tea one time, and aren’t really a fan, you might still be able to salvage that tea. Steeping times and temps are a guideline for getting the perfect cup but aren’t always what suits your tastebuds. Try playing with the tea (steep longer/shorter, lower/raise the water temp, decrease/increase the amount of leaf used) and see if you can’t dial in a pleasant taste.

But still….where to start? I’m not really a fan of starting with white teas and working your way up. I think it makes determining your tea preferences tough. In my humble opinion, oolongs are a great place to start. The oxidation range in oolong teas traditionally can be anywhere from 30%-90%. Some are roasted. Some have been grown near orchid gardens. Some are allowed to have bugs eat the leaves. There’s so much variety in oolongs and how they are grown/processed. The flavor variations don’t just bounce around between different oolongs either. Did you know you can traditionally resteep the same oolong leaves (I’ve had oolongs I was able to resteep up to 7 times) and the flavors can drastically vary each time. Oolongs are just a great place to start learning what you like and don’t like. The lighter oxidized oolongs are sweeter, sometimes fruity or floral, and can help define what you might like in green and white teas. The darker oolongs or roasted oolongs, can help you determine what you might like in a black tea since the flavors run from nutty, to malty, to chocolatey…and everywhere in between.

I would also like to just throw in that Meetup.com  is a good place to look to for local tasting events in your area. I got hooked on one such tasting event in Chicago and it changed my whole mugs world!
Any suggestions for Josh, and other new tea drinkers, trying to expand their tea cabinets?

This Just In!

Amba OP1 with tea flowers

by Naomi Rosen

We’ve been slowly swapping out teas that were being sourced through outside blenders and replacing them with teas that are being sourced directly from the growers. It has been an extremely educational process and I am continually learning through every encounter with a new tea garden. The hard work has paid off too! Introducing the newest members to our tea line-up:

Amba OP1 

This black tea from Sri Lanka is incredibly unique, just like the tea garden it is grown in. About a year ago, I came across Amba Estate and shared their wonderful story. I’d encourage you to read about the revoluntionary steps being taken to cross-train employees and their profit sharing initiatives! The tea itself is true to Ceylon – brisk, honey and apple notes with beautiful dried tea flowers to make it so very different from any other tea you’ve tried!

Pucker Up

Also from Amba Estate, this herbal creation is organically cultivated lemongrass that has been hand plucked and processed. The expected citrus notes are simple and refreshing, and this lemongrass serves double duty as it can easily be used for cooking or garnishing a favorite dish or soup!

 

Suprabhat

Suprabhat, translated from Hindi, is “good morning”. This breakfast blend of Darjeeling and Assam teas, grown by the Prakash family, puts the “good” in “good morning”. If you are familiar with teas from either region, you know that each has a unique flavor profile and aroma. When I cupped these teas for the first time, I was ecstatic to find that you can still pick out those characteristics even though the teas have been blended. It takes cream/sugar very well…but I loved it on its own merits.

 

 

Black Pearl

I swear we didn’t name this tea after Johnny Depp, although, as I type, I’m jotting down my idea for a Johnny Depp inspired tea line. This black tea is our first single orthodox/unblended tea from Indonesia and it does not disappoint. The leaves have been rolled into a ball, similar to an oolong, and offer a honey-like sweetness that we fell in love with. Also similar to an oolong, these leaves take awhile to release all of their flavor so we were able to re-steep up to 4 times and were pleasantly surprised with each of those cups.

 

Monsoon Magic

The first loose leaf teas that I ever tried were Chinese (Dragonwell). The first loose leaf tea I ever tried that I became obsessed with was an Indian Assam. In my 4+ years in the tea biz, I have become acquainted with some amazingly passionate people trying to make a difference in the conditions, pay, and benefits for Indian tea workers. It is through these people that we came across Monsoon Magic and Heritage Teas. Having been plucked after the summer rains (thus monsoon), it is malty and brisk but lighter than the first and second flush Assams that would be close relatives.

 

Sencha Ikkyu

I’ve been on the lookout for some great Japanese green teas. This is the first Sencha we’ve carried from Japan (the others have all been Chinese). While both countries can produce beautiful Sencha’s, we fell in love with this one at World Tea EXPO. It’s sweet and the vegetal/grassy characteristics aren’t overwhelming. The steep time is 1 minute at the most and subsequent steepings literally just took a hot water pour over. We’re impressed with this tea and we think you will be too!

 

Genmaicha

Genmaicha has been a part of our tea family since the first 32 teas were launched! We did the old switcheroo on this one and discontinued the old blend and replaced it with this tea from an organic green tea farmer in Japan. We know that there was a bit of a price increase once we switched to this blend, but we think it is worth the increase. The flavor is toasty, nutty, and the green tea base is fresh and the perfect compliment on this tea. Added Bonus: this blend is organic!

 

We offer both Cinco (5) and Ocho (8) sampler packs if you would like to try out the full line of new teas. And we want your feedback! How’d we do?