Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Copco’s ‘ Total Tea’ Solution at 2009 International Housewares Show

Although I didn't have much time to walk the floor to check out all the hot new products that were launched at the 2009 Housewares Show March 22-24 at McCormick Place in Chicago, (because I was at my booth launching our hot new products), I did get a chance to visit a few of my favorite housewares companies. I also got to see a few of my favorite Food Network starts like Tyler Florence, Paula Dean & Michael Symon, for more on that you can visit my foodie blog at teaspotchef.blogspot.com

The one tea product that really caught my eye but have yet to try is Copco's 'Total Tea' line, especially the Tea Thermals.
The Soft Grip Tea Thermal (photo above) is a 14 oz. to-go- double-wall mug with removable infuser, sip through lid and soft grip sides. Retailing for $19.99 sounds like a reasonable price when steeping tea on-the-go and keeping it hot & cold.
A similar product made of Stainless Steel, for those of you that want to stay away from plastic, is also available. The Stainless Steal Thermal (photo above) is a non-slip silicone grip stainless steel mug with a removable infuser cap allowing you to pour hot water directly over the loose leaf tea or teabag. The coolest part of the mug is its' twist-to-stop steeping feature that is incorporated in the sip-through lid.

Although I have yet to personally try either of these mugs, the concept and fun color stopped me in my tracks as I walked the aisles of the such an overwhelming show solely dedicated to housewares, kitchen gadgets, cookware, bakeware, gourmet food, cleaning supplies, Food Network Stars, cooking demonstrations, etc...

I am currently trying to buy the Stainless Steal Thermal but have been unsuccessful thus far. I searched all their national on-line retailers (i.e. Amazon, Target, Macy's, Bed, Bath & Beyond, JCPenny, Cooking.com). After much frustration, I decided to wait until morning to call Copco direct. I got somebody on the phone this morning and after taking 20 minutes to explain to him exactly what product I wanted to order, he took another 10 minutes to figure out that the product is exclusive to Kmart. As soon as I got off the phone with him, I went directly to Kmart.com and searched their website. Needless to say, I have not yet bought the mug because I have not figured out how...

Stayed tuned because I am not giving up on having a perfect a cup of tea on-the-go...I just hope that spending this much time, effort and energy in getting this product will actually yield a perfect cup of tea on-the-go at a reasonable price. 

Let me know if you know how to go about getting this cool little tea steeping mug or if you know of any other to-go tea thermals that has the capability to stop steeping tea...

Make Room for Russian Tea, Part 2

The major events in bringing tea to Russia discussed in the previous post were the evolution of the “Great Tea Road” and later, the building of the Trans-Siberian railway. These historical developments resulted in an important increase in the availability in tea at public occasions in Russia, and helped spread tea drinking to all the members of Russian society. The ballerina Tamara Karsavina even noted the welcome provision of tea on a cold day at a matinee performance by the students of the Maryinsky Theater School in Saint Petersburg in 1896. She says: “Huge samovars steamed outside the stage door… In the interval tea and refreshments were served in the foyers and the staff wore their gala red livery with the Imperial eagles.” Tea was served formally in the social ritual of afternoon tea, an adopted European custom. However, in Russia, sweeteners were never added to tea, but taken separately. These could be lumps of sugar, pieces of candied fruit, or preserves.

The most characteristic aspect of Russian tea culture is the samovar, literally “self-cooker”. This is a simple but highly effective piece of equipment that makes warm tea available throughout the day. The samovar is lovingly referenced in Russian literary works and often appears in paintings and historical photographs. It functions by heating a metal urn of water through a central tube heated by a charcoal or wood fire. A strong concentrate of the tea (“zavarka”) is kept warm by sitting on top of the metal urn, and is diluted as needed to make tea throughout the day. By the late eighteenth century, samovars were starting to be made in large numbers in the metalworking city of Tula, south of Moscow. Most samovars were made of brass, but some were crafted from silver or gold and were presented on special occasions as gifts to the court. The samovar was a purely Russian invention. While classical European teapots and cups were popular to serve tea in, the Imperial Russian Porcelain Factory (LFZ), founded in 1744 under the patronage of Empress Elizabetha Petrovna (r. 1741-62), is the longest continuously-running factory in Russia, and the only factories to continue working through the revolution and two world wars. They became famous for manufacturing elegant services of matching teapots, jugs, sugar bowls, cups, saucers and trays decorated in bright colors. Tea was drunk not only from porcelain cups but also from glasses set in decorative metal holders. This custom continues in Russia today.

The Russians have become such devoted tea drinkers that as a nation they are the third largest consumers of tea in the world (behind China and India). Per capita Russians are second only to China as the biggest consumers of tea. Russia’s thirst for tea today is satisfied by Georgian production (which has now developed into the seventh-largest tea producing region in the world) as well as imports from China, Taiwan, India, and Sri Lanka. Favorite imported blends are sometimes slightly smoked, or flavored with Citrus fruits and bergamot, and include romantic names such as Russian Blend, Russian Caravan, and Czar Alexander.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Make Room for Russian Tea - Part 1

As a first-generation American, and daughter of Russian immigrants, I grew up steeped in Russian tea traditions. My first memories of tea are the sweet smell of strong black tea alongside fruits or black bread with jam, which we had every afternoon and evening. I have passed along many of these traditions to my daughters. And today, I’m writing about the tea traditions of my Russian ancestors.

Russia, land of the samovar, is a great consumer of what is traditionally called “Russian Tea”, even though no tea grows there. Russians drink mostly black tea. Tea in Russia is always served hot, either in hot weather or as a thirst–quencher. One cannot imagine Russian tea without the samovar, adopted in the 17th century and inspired by Mongol kettles used since the 13th century. The samovar is a combination bubbling hot water heater and teapot. In summer the samovar is placed on a table in the garden; in the winter, inside, with a long pipe for the smoke to escape directly into the chimney of the house.

Tea is said to have been introduced into Russia in 1616 when a Cossack by the name of Tyumenets returned from a diplomatic mission to Mongolia with samples of Chinese tea. The first exports of tea began from northern China into Mongolia as bricks and bales of compressed tea harnessed on the backs of camels and mules. The warm beverage brewed from the shavings of the tea bricks became crucial to the diets of the Mongolian nomads, as the tea substituted as a vegetable, and was consumed daily. The cost of tea was initially prohibitive and available only to wealthy Russians. In 1638, a gift of two hundred packets of tea were sent as a gift from the Mongol ruler to Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, to which he responded that he would have preferred sables.

By the time of Peter the Great, the price had dropped. Hearty, warm, and sustaining, tea was ideally suited to Russian life. Russia’s growth into a major tea-drinking nation owed much to the opening of the overland caravan route across Mongolia following the signing of the Nerchinsk treaty with China in 1689. Tea was brought from China to Russia by this "Great Tea Road". This was a part of the famous Silk Road. The journey was not easy, taking over sixteen months to complete 11,000 miles. The average caravan consisted of 200 to 300 camels. The tea brought along this route took the form of loose-leaf tea packed into chests.

From the 1860’s this was supplemented and indeed surpassed by brick tea made at Russian factories set up in Hankou, China, a major tea-trading region on the banks of the Yangtze River in Hubei Province. Subsequently, the Trans-Siberian railway, from the start of the twentieth century, brought an end to the camel caravan. Tea was now shipped from China to Vladivostok and then taken across Russia by rail. In addition, starting in 1892, plantations were established along the Black Sea coasts of Georgia, in the northern Caucasus, and in Azerbajan near the Caspian Sea.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simply Relaxing - 3 Great Ways to Relax When Stressed

In the past few months I think our entire country has been slightly if not incredibly more stressed than we have ever been. We're unsure of our job stability, how to pay bills, how to keep costs down and even worried about keeping a roof over our heads. In these times it may seem selfish to take out time for yourself, but no one is benefiting from you being so stressed that you can't do anything effectively.

Therefore I'm suggesting 3 ways in which to take time for yourself, within 10 -30 min that you can do, GUILT FREE, so that you can rejuvenate yourself.

1) Go for a walk.

Simple enough, possibly seems like a useless waste of time, but trust me it'll work. Leave your cell phone at home, maybe even leave the dog at home, bundle up if it's cold and go take a walk for 10 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour, whatever you prefer. During this time don't just think about all that you have to do, take time to enjoy the scenery, yourself and clearing your mind, GUILT FREE. If you're in the country, look at the sky, the gardening in a neighbor's yard, the snow on the ground. Inhale deeply, feel the air on your face, touch the trees as you pass by, really enjoy this with all of your senses. In the city? Take time to look at the architecture, watch how other people act and think about how their reality is different from your own, think about the simplicity of this act of just walking in a bustling metropolis. This walk will clear your mind and get you ready to take on whatever the day throws at you next.

2) Take a bath.

Now this one is hard for me because it doesn't always make sense to take a bath, but time alone in a bath will sooth your body, your mind, and give you time for reflection. When you are setting up the bath, look around your cupboard. See if you have any herbs or teas that you can add for aromatherapy. A great tea that I'll use in a bath is a cup of Meditative Mind. It is a blend of white tea, jasmine pearls and rosebuds, the combination of which creates a soothing and calming aromatherapy best used when stressed, under anxiety or depression. With this in place, you'll be able to tune out the world for a while, GUILT FREE. Focus on your breathing, be aware of your body and reflect on the things you do have in life, be it your family, your health, a smile someone sent your way, an old friend you haven't contacted. Think about what is truly important and you'll be able to clear away the clutter of everything that isn't.

3) Make your favorite meal, drink or dessert.

Oftentimes we eat on the run, when it's convenient, or are making meals to satisfy other peoples needs and wants. This time, I want you to take the time to make something for yourself, GUILT FREE. If your favorite dish is brownies, go ahead and make some. If you've been craving a steak, go ahead and put together a fantastic rub, use tea leaves if you have some, and then enjoy it alone or with whatever sides you prefer. If you'd love to have a smoothie or a milkshake, have it! In our society we've become so afraid of food, calories, what is in our meals that food, in it of itself is stressful. Go back to the mindset of when you were a kid and didn't care about food. What did you LOVE to eat? Take some time to put love back into the meal that you choose and savor every bite. This way, instead of falling into the vicious cycle of eating because you're stressed and stressed because you're eating, you'll actually feel more productive because YOU made something, you made something YOU wanted to, and YOU were able to take the time to enjoy it.

Images taken from: http://www.llethrydbarns.co.uk/images/Llethrydcwm.jpg

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The "Greening" of our Tea Habit

It seems like our culture is really starting to promote all the "little" things we do on a daily basis to be more ecological and "green". The idea is that even the seemingly small things add up to significant amounts when we all contribute to them frequently. This concept is really driven home lately with the reusable bag, especially promoted for grocery shopping to *reduce* the amount of paper & plastic bags used. Even the last shopping bag I got from the shoe store Steve Madden was a huge reusable cloth bag, and the small bag I got from the yoga apparel store Lululemon is a plastic-coated cloth bag that I now use to bring my lunch to work everyday.

In this light, we are looking at the "greening" of our tea habit.

Loose leaves are more ecological than tea bags, because:
  1. there is no tea bag to go into landfill.
  2. the leaves can go right into your garden compost or your city's Compost & Green Waste recycling bin.
  3. the leaves of high quality loose tea are often hand-picked and processed rather than machine processed as many tea bag leaves are (using the CTC process - Cut, Tear, Curl or Cut, Tear, Crushed). These CTC machines are powered by fossil fuels.

In addition to the tea leaf processing & steeping, it's important to look at their packaging too. Our tea tins are fully recyclable. But since it's even better to *reuse* than *recycle*, it's most ecological to buy in larger quantities (1 lb bulk bags), and refill your tin as you go, or just use the large resealable bulk bag on a daily basis. (You can find all bulk options for sale in the drop-down menu on the right side of each individual tea page. See screenshot image below.) Buying in larger bulk quantities also gets you the best deal on a per ounce, and per cup, basis. The stats for per serving costs are listed in the Features section of each tea page - listed for both buying by the tin and by larger bulk quantities. This makes it both ecological & economical!

You can also *re-use* your current
collection of tea tins for things around the home and office, such as:
  • a holder/organizer for pencils, pens, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.
  • a planter for small plants and herbs (poke holes in the bottom for drainage if needed)
  • a container for home-made candles (use the lid to make it a great travel candle, shown in image to the right, made by one of our customers - so cool!)
  • a container for holding herbs & spices bought in bulk

Please post comments with your ideas for used tins...
I'd love to compile a huge list for our website.

And *that* my friends is the greening of our tea habit, from the tea leaf processing, to the steeping & composting, to the packaging. All questions, comments, and feedback welcomed... let the conversation continue....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Haute Couture of Tea (part deux)

The previous post reminds me of some serious tea couture - the Red Dress created a few years ago by designer Brett Cooper. After being commissioned by Celestial Seasonings to make a red gown from their tea packaging, Cooper transformed nearly 700 packets of tea into this red gown and matching hat, purse, and heels. Celestial Seasonings donated a portion of sales of this brilliant Red Dress to WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. Kudos to our Boulder neighbors for fundraising in such a fun & whimsical way! Their goal was to also help raise awareness that black tea may actually help lower cholesterol, a major factor of heart disease. The link between black tea and heart health has been supported by numerous scientific studies. You can find our current list of black teas here: Organic Blue Mountain Nilgiri (the one I'm happily sipping currently), Organic New Moon Darjeeling, Bolder Breakfast, Earl of Grey, Creme Caramel, and Mango Tango.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Haute Couture of Tea Fashion

I have spent no less than 60 minutes immersed in the world of Google images and web searching, collecting an assortment of fun tea-related fashion. And by fashion I really mean funny t-shirts.

This is by no means the most enlightening of blogs, but I simple wanted to share some of the sweet t's I was able to find.

Simple, yet effective.

No way! I'm a little teapot, too!

I wholeheartedly agree.

"Shiroi Neko, Drink Tea"
A tea drinking pirate, courtesy of someone on Ebay!
I think this might be my #1!

"tea, mother*&@%er"
In your face, Miss Manners!

Who is Teapot Tim? I don't know. But he is
on a t-shirt, and that is rad. So that makes
him my homeboy, too.

There appears to be some sort of city in this teacup.

An ode to Turkish hospitality, nice!

Oh, Tea Boy! Can I please have some
more Lung Ching with my dim sum?!

You can get one of these for yourself at Zazzle.com

And this concludes the tea shirt tour. Do you have a great tea shirt that we need to see? 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Simply Sweet - Kick your sweet tooth craving with a cup of tea!

Sweets are my vice. I like pretty much most things sweet: ice cream, chocolate, cookies, strawberries, and if it's not sweet, I make it so: sugar in coffee, honey in tea, vanilla soy with my cereal, sugar on grapefruit, kettle corn popcorn... you get the idea. So since my sweet tooth is around pretty much 24/7 and I can't always be eating the sugar that I want.

A perfect way to stave off that sweet tooth is by having a cup of tea! Not only is tea used as a medicinal appetite suppressant but many blended teas, or tisanes to be exact, are already naturally sweet and have practically zero calories, unless you use your own sweetener. Therefore tea works as a perfect calorie free substitute.

Some of my favorites include Boulder Blues, which is a fantastic blend of two green teas with a strawberry rhubarb flavoring and is great brewed hot or cold. The first time I had this tea I was floored. I had always thought of green tea as something to choke down because I knew it was good for me. Having Boulder Blues was my first entree into the blended tea world. Since Boulder Blues is a green tea blend it is very high in anti-oxidants and so I'm not only getting my sweet fix but drinking something that is 100x healthier than soda, a coffee latte, or even juice.

Another one of my favorite teas to satisfy my sweet tooth is Creme Caramel. Creme Caramel is a black tea blended with caramel bits. If you're in the mood for a foamy coffee drink, instead, make a concentrate of this amazing black tea and add your own steamed milk and all that you're giving up of the calories are what's in the milk!

Lastly I think every single person in this country should own a tin of Red Rocks. Red Rocks is made with the Rooibos herb, which is from a South African bush, and is blended with vanilla and almond to give it a sweet kick right from the start. Rooibos is incredibly healthy for you and if you're in the mood for a late night snack but don't want to sacrifice the calories, substitute a cup of Red Rocks with a bit of honey and you're in for a treat! (pun intended)

(chocolate cake photo from http://knol.google.com)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

mmmmm..... Ice Cream!

Jennifer Armentrout, contributor with Fine Cooking, is testing tea ice creams. So I have decided to post my favorite ice cream you scream we all scream for tea cream...Even Obama!!!

Red Rocks Tea Cream

This is a creamy, rich and delicious red tea ice cream.

Serving Size: 10

• 1 quart milk
• 6 TBS RED ROCKS loose leaves, pulverized to powder consistency
• 15 egg yolks
• 1 pound sugar
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 cup half & half

1. Bring milk to a boil. Remove from heat and add powdered tea leaves. Mix well.
2. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar together until they form a ribbon.
3. Combine egg mixture and milk, then strain into a saucepan.
4. Cook over medium–high heat until just before the mixture reaches a boil.
5. Remove from heat and cool completely over ice water.
6. Beat heavy cream and half & half until frothy.
7. Pour into egg mixture and mix well.
8. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.
9. Optional Sundae: Serve with chocolate chips, almond slivers, hot fudge & whip cream.

Do you have a favorite tea cream?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Green your Beer with Tea in Honor of St. Pat!

According to Irish legend, on the day of Judgement, while Christ judges all other nations, St Patrick will be the judge of the Irish. So we always see St. Pat in luxurious green robes, presumably in sympathy with Irish independence. Having grown up in New York, summers in New Haven, CT, and gone to school in Boston, I’m well-trained in my annual anticipation of this holiday, a wonderfully festive and warming celebration at the start of often chilly Springtimes… I’ve always felt that St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day were the patron holidays of New York/New England cities.

You can be served green beer in most Eastern bars on this holiday, generally colored with green food coloring. After having started our tea business, I decided to try a matcha green beer one St. Patty’s Day, and it was a hit! Whisk in just a quarter teaspoon of powdered Japanese green tea (or you can grind up our Boulder Blues green tea, which will work too!). The Japanese green tea holds its own with a more flavorful light beer, such as an ale, whereas the Boulder Blues will taste nicer in a lager. And if you’re willing to indulge underage drinkers in a green “beer”, the non-alcoholic version made with ginger ale and green tea is delicious!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mushrooms & Green Tea May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Breaking news....

Mushrooms and green tea might significantly help in preventing breast cancer. According to a behavioral study of 2,000 Chinese women, the more fresh and dried mushrooms they ate, the lower their risk of developing breast cancer. The rates were even lower for women who drank green tea on a daily basis.

Lab research has shown mushroom extracts to have anti-tumor characteristics that stimulate the immune system's cancer defenses, and green tea contains important antioxidant compounds. The study is published in March's "International Journal of Cancer."

news found on msnbc & arkansasmatters.com
mushroom photo from
green tea photo from Green Twisted Spears

For more details, the study's abstract follows:

Dietary intakes of mushrooms and green tea combine to reduce the risk of breast cancer in Chinese women
Min Zhang 1 *, Jian Huang 2, Xing Xie 3, C. D'Arcy J. Holman 1
1School of Population Health, The University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Perth, WA 6009, Australia
2Department of Oncology, Cancer Institute, Second Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, People's Republic of China
3Women's Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, People's Republic of China

To investigate effects of dietary mushrooms and joint effects of mushrooms and green tea on breast cancer, a case-control study was conducted in southeast China in 2004-2005. The incident cases were 1,009 female patients aged 20-87 years with histologically confirmed breast cancer. The 1,009 age-matched controls were healthy women randomly recruited from outpatient breast clinics. Information on frequency and quantity of dietary intake of mushrooms and tea consumption, usual diet, and lifestyle were collected by face-to-face interview using a validated and reliable questionnaire. Compared with nonconsumers, the Odds ratios (Ors) were 0.36 (95% CI = 0.25-0.51) and 0.53 (0.38-0.73) for daily intake of 10 g fresh mushrooms and 4 g dried mushrooms, based on multivariate logistic regression analysis adjusting for established and potential confounders. There were dose-response relationships with significant tests for trend (p < src="http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/giflibrary/12/ge.gif" border="0">1.05 g dried green tea leaves per day. The corresponding linear trends were statistically significant for joint effect (p <>

Friday, March 13, 2009

Psych study shows that tea really DOES taste better in your favorite mug or cup!

I loved yesterday’s article in the UK Telegraph that reported on a recent study by Sheffield University psychologist Dr. Tom Stafford concluding that tea really does taste better from your favorite cup! So many times I recall hiding my favorite teacup in the back of the cabinet, so that my Grandma (who also had the same favorite cup!) would be less likely to choose it for her after-dinner tea. Ironically enough, that cup is now my ex-husband’s, and at his house… and still a family favorite. May it live a very long life and continue to be a coveted object for my daughters and their future grandchildren! I went off and designed my own Steeping Cups and Mugs, and now drink from those with my colleagues all the day long – and have a new favorite (but am keeping that choice confidential, lest any of my fellow Tea Spot comedians pull the same trick on me as I used to with my beloved Grandma…)

The Telegraph quoted Dr. Stafford as saying that a person's brain is trained to believe the daily ritual of making coffee or tea should be done in a certain way in order to derive maximum enjoyment. He said: "Drinking tea and coffee is very ritualistic and people become very addictive to the way they want their brew made. Caffeine is very much a drug of reward and like any addict, people develop passions on how the drug is delivered. Wherever there is drug use then rituals will always develop. The long association with the delivery of a morning cup of coffee or tea people genuinely think it tastes better out of a particular cup. It might be irrational or arbitrary but it's absolutely true. Your daily brew tastes better from your favourite mug.”
The Telegraph concluded the article by citing the statistic that 65 percent of Brits have a favorite cup or mug they use for their morning cuppa.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

T-Man: a cool loose tea steeping gadget!

Designer Jeewon Jung has made a new loose leaf tea steeper with a sense of humor. I first saw it on two design sites Yanko Design and Gadgets World then looked up the rest of this designer's creations on his own site. I'm a new fan! Take a glimpse at T-Man....

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Show us your pearly whites!

Researchers have found that regular consumption of green tea helps to promote healthy teeth and gums. The findings were recently published in the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP). The study was based on the analysis of the periodontal health of 940 men, and found that those who regularly drank green tea had superior periodontal health than subjects that consumed less green tea. "It has been long speculated that green tea possesses a host of health benefits," said study author Dr. Yoshihiro Shimazaki of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. "And since many of us enjoy green tea on a regular basis, my colleagues and I were eager to investigate the impact of green tea consumption on periodontal health, especially considering the escalating emphasis on the connection between periodontal health and overall health." The research study found that for every one cup of green tea consumed per day, there was a significant decrease in the instance of periodontal disease.

Green tea's ability to help reduce symptoms of periodontal disease may be due to the presence of the antioxidant catechin. Previous research has demonstrated antioxidants' ability to reduce inflammation in the body, and the indicators of periodontal disease measured in this study suggest the existence of an inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria in the mouth. By interfering with the body's inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria, green tea may actually help promote periodontal health, and ward off further disease.

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth, and has been associated with the progression of other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. "Periodontists believe that maintaining healthy gums is absolutely critical to maintaining a healthy body," says Dr. David Cochran, DDS, PhD, President of the AAP and Chair of the Department of Periodontics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "That is why it is so important to find simple ways to boost periodontal health, such as regularly drinking green tea - something already known to possess certain health-related benefits."

(photos from fashiontrendsinindia.wordpress.com & noodlecup.com, respectively)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

What is Fair Trade & why buy Fair Trade Certified™ products?

In short, “Fair Trade guarantees livable wages for farmers and their families, improving their opportunities for better healthcare, housing and education. By choosing this Fair Trade Certified™ tea, you are directly contributing to the livelihood of tea growing communities.” www.fairtradecertified.org

We are excited to now offer a selection of Fair Trade Certified™ teas, which are also 100% Organic:
Green Twisted Spears
New Moon Darjeeling
Blue Mountain Nilgiri
Monkey-Picked White

Look for this label to the right in our loose leaf tea selection...
The Fair Trade Certified™ label allows you to know that these products were produced under socially, economically and environmentally sustainable conditions.

How it works
Farms apply to be certified as Fair Trade suppliers through a third party certifier. To qualify, they are required to pay their workers living wages, provide a safe and healthy working environment, prohibit forced child labor, and offer transparency in their books which are reviewed in annual audits. Tea vendors, such as ourselves, can then choose to buy their tea at a fair price which includes an additional fixed "social premium". The "social premium" goes back to the farming community to be invested in the social, environmental, or economic programs created to benefit the specific needs of that community. An additional fixed "administrative premium" gets paid to the 3rd party certifier, such as TransFair USA, to cover their costs of certifying and monitoring the tea farms & vendors to ensure that their standards are met.

Here is an example of how the Fair Trade program has benefited the community of the Seeyok Tea Estate, located in the Mirik Valley of Darjeeling... our New Moon Darjeeling tea. The Fair Trade price has enabled the workers at Seeyok Tea Estate, numbering over 480, to establish various social and productive programs.

Credit Program:
Seeyok Estate runs credit programs for members to fund expenses such as weddings and death ceremonies. Additionally, members began a cow loan and floriculture program, enabling additional household income.
Members have access to midwives and a pharmacist who provide care on the estate. Ambulance service to an off-site government hospital is also in place, and a program to distribute vaccines to children was enacted.
Home Improvements:
With Fair Trade revenue, gas connections, ovens, and pressure cookers were made available to households.

We're really looking forward to contributing to these types of social development projects enabled through the Fair Trade programs. Stay tuned to hear more...

You can take a look at all of our loose leaf teas here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Organic Blue Mountain Nilgiri

This Saturday was definitely tea party material. It was a lovely week; the sun was out, and it reached nearly 60 degrees on Friday--a spring boon in frigid Boston. And, of course, two days later, as the steady supply of dirty snowpack melted almost completely, the snow falls yet again--a fresh 8 to 12-inch supply on the way.

I suppose I shouldn't moan too much, I certainly have my fair share of tasks to undertake, and a snowy day only makes it easier to sit still in front of a laptop computer and whisk up journalistic moments of ingenuity as well as masterfully crafted graphic design projects, courtesy of Adobe's Creative Suite 3. However, I'm definitely going to need some caffeine to make the magic happen.

Enter TeaSpot's organic, fair trade Blue Mountain Nilgiri. These deep black-brown leaves hail from the Nilgiri Mountains of India. The dry leaves have aromatic overtones of apricots and berries.

I steep my Blue Mountain goodness with boiling water for three minutes--I'm a wimpy black tea drinker, and any hints of bitterness (which usually come with a longer steep time) leave me nonplussed. The leaves, after being steeped, smell not unlike a freshly kicked-over pile of wet fall foliage. Earthy, subtle, releasing memories of fall days in fleece jackets, riding on the leaf sweeper.

The tea tastes steamy, if that's even possible. A light sweetness lingers on the front of the tongue, which is also reminiscent of its scent--apricots and berries. It's very smooth, and only lightly tannic. I am fairly positive that this tea will be the bridge builder between me and the black tea world that I have always been too timid to jump into. I'm an oolong girl, through and through. But Blue Mountain Nilgiri, I raise my cup to your subtle deliciousness. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

These teapots have legs!

As Steepware designer for The Tea Spot, I have the opportunity to create unique and exciting tea steeping vessels of beauty and function. I wake every morning excited about the challenges of the day. We take our mission to make loose leaf tea an everyday luxury very much to heart. On this cloudless, beautiful Colorado morning, I steeped up some calming Snowflakes white tea - delicate, downy fresh tea leaves (yesterday was a rough day, so I need no extra caffeine this morning!) in my favorite blue Steeping Cup. Thinking forward to our next Steepware innovations, I look to traditional tea vessels for inspiration, and work on how to integrate function and modern materials into their concepts.

Teapots with legs have always fascinated me! Is it because they are more people or animal-like...? In the Shanghai Museum, there are a few very cool legged tea vessels - and these are some of my "muses" for future Steepware designs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Daily Rituals

Everybody seems to have some kind of daily ritual. Whether it is working out, eating dinner with the family, kissing a loved one goodnight or taking a bath; a daily ritual is something you do everyday that is a part of you. I know I have few daily rituals and when I don’t do them I feel incomplete that day. My favorite daily ritual is more of luxury then a routine and I do it every morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-afternoon and night. A luxury done at least 5 times a day everyday, your probably asking yourself how could I afford to that, especially in these economical times…Well, on my journey for a healthy living I began to incorporate tea in my daily lifestyle. After awhile I began to recognize how taking time to enjoy a simple and flavorful cup of tea is not only not only healthy but affordable.

Every morning I wake up and steep a big cup of Bolder Breakfast. It has a generous amount of caffeine, about 1/3 the amount of a cup of coffee without the mood swings, jitters and stomach cramps. After teaching an aerobics class, another one of my daily routines, I drink an oolong tea because it helps to increase the metabolic rate and has a little let caffeine then black tea. After lunch I usually make myself a cup of the Green Roasted Mint because the peppermint helps with digestion and the green tea has a little less caffeine then oolong and is a good source of anti-oxidants. My happy hour tea is usually the Meditative Mind, a white with jasmine pearls and rosebuds, this tea not only helps me to unwind but also gives me just a little boost caffeine to help me get through the rest of day. My sleepy-time tea is usually the Red Rocks, a herbal tea blended with vanilla and almonds, this tea not only helps hydrate by body but also quenches my sweet tooth, especially if I add a little soy milk and a touch of agave.

Needless to say, although I drink tea all day long I usually only drink about 120 milligrams of caffeine, which is the equivalent to 1-8oz cup of coffee. And more importantly, I feel so much better. Are you trying to replace your daily cup of coffee with a daily cup of tea? If so, I would like to hear about it and help you with your transition…