Thursday, October 1, 2015

Another New Mexico Tea Company "Haul" with a little surprise from the staff there!

So I was stocking back up on some favorites from my last New Mexico tea company haul, as well as getting a couple of new things, one of which is an iteration of one of my favorite cold weather teas. (I must be the only girl who hates pumpkin spice, so I go with Scottish breakfast for cooler weather, sometimes spiked with ginger and cinnamon.)

If you know much about New Mexico Tea Co, you know you get one free sample per order per month (depending on how much you order). So why are there three sample pouches you ask?

That was my reaction!

I had only asked for a sample of the royal bengal tiger for my free sample.

Then I looked at my order slip- 

If you are having trouble reading the notes, they are as follows-

Next to the blood orange rooibos it says " * Great Iced Tea Too!

And below the whole order it says- 

"* Please enjoy these extra samples (on the house). Apologies for the darker orange blossom oolong; The online photo was taken years ago and was a different batch of tea than we are currently receiving.

     Stay Cool,
                 NM Tea Co Staff"

I thought it was really great that they took the time to read the blog post located here, and explained why the oolong is darker than the photo on the website.

NOTE: I rated it a 7/10, and I do really like it, as shown by the 4oz I ordered this past time.

They really took time and looked at my order history, which is awesome and caring of them, and chose two samples that they thought I would enjoy- Blood Orange Rooibos, and what I will be reviewing today, Plum Oolong. 

I have been glaring wantingly at that Plum Oolong for a while, and I have always debated on buying it.

I LOVE prunes, but plums and I don't always get along, sometimes they are just too mooshey for my liking (I like mooshey peaches but not mooshey plums, no clue why I have that distinction).

So this one was always a maybe later, and now, I get to try it!

They sent me a very generous sample of maybe 6-8 grams, and when you see how I am going to brew it, you will see why I call it generous.

I know. 2g? That's way less tea than you ever use, Kat!

YES. And for good reason. 

I read a blog post written by a colleague (I think that's the right word), who calls herself Marzipan Fairy, about the Libre Loose Leaf Tea Glass.

I have been looking for an easier way to grampa style my tea for about a year now, and I wasn't going to purchase something that didn't have a decent review by someone whose opinion I trust.

I trust Marzipan Fairy's opinion. She is a very smart lady, and very practical.

So Husband and I jumped and purchased one.

Husband picked the pattern and he picked the same one Marzipan Fairy picked.

Black Brush. which is much prettier in person than in any online photos I have seen.

I am not ready to review the tumbler yet.

I am still doing rigorous "product testing" (read as, playing with my new toy), and am trying to determine both best use and multiple other things.

I am however using it for this review.

Now, a LOT of Grampa style proponents I have read state to use BOILING water. I usually don't.

195°F is really as high as I will go, unless it is puerh.

Note, even with Grampa style, I am only going to the top of the little flame/leaf logo. 

This is after about 3 minutes, and the scent was so heady that I started drooling.

Honestly, I did.

I love twisty dark oolongs that have those natural plum notes (like plain Wuyi cliff teas).

This was a subtle enough flavoring to just enhance the flavor of the oolong without overpowering the minerally flavor of the oolong.

I am usually somewhat suspicious of flavored teas where I can't see fruit/spice/herb pieces, but the flavoring of this one is not an artificial flavoring, so I feel a bit better about it.

This is a fantastic tea, No wonder it's a customer favorite.

I give it a Rock Solid 8/10

And as for what I am listening to- it's Shinhwa, the South Korean "Man Band" (they aren't exactly teenagers, anymore), I am listening to the station I have based on them on Pandora. (Pandora doesn't give me anything for mentioning them, I just like it better than anything else.)

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Tea Addicts Journal: Part Two

I would like to remind everyone that this is fiction.

Part Two-

The Depressed Mask

I hate myself.

It is a stunning and painful realization to come to.

It's not even a "I wish I could do this better". 

It is a "I believe the whole world would be better off if I vanished."

I look at my ceramic teapot and sigh.

It has had the same tea and leaves in it for a week.

There is probably mold to no end.

I gag and take it to the sink.


And it smells like death.

I dump the contents down the dispose-all and turn it on.

Then I dump in a lemon, quartered, to kill the ungodly stench.

Then I fill the teapot with hot water and bleach.

Luckily the teapot is already white.

My whole tea nook is horridly messy.

My water boiler is empty and on its side on the hardwood floor.

I had knocked it over after emptying it, and I didn't even have the motivation to put it upright.

I just wanted to go to bed and pull the covers over my head.

I didn't want tea.

I didn't want food.

I hadn't had a bath in 4 days.

Hadn't changed my night gown in 5.

I probably smell just as bad as that teapot had.

I walk to the bathroom.

I start running the water.

I climb into the tub, immediatly tucking my knees to my chin.

The water was as hot as it would go.

I secretly hoped that it would burn me and leave blisters.

Pain was good.

It meant I hadn't killed myself.

Maybe I should make some tea after my bath.

I turn off the water.

I scrub until my skin was red and looked like I had been trying to scrape my skin off.

I washed my hair three times with shampoo.

I even used my conditioner.

I looked in the mirror as I dried off.

All I could see were flaws.

All I could think was how ugly what I saw there was.

I put on a clean cotton nightgown.

I pick my water boiler up off the floor and fill it.

I plug it in, turn it on, and wait.

Maybe a kid movie will cheer me up.

Maybe that one with the blue alien that nobody likes and the little girl with no friends.

That one has a happy ending, right?

I put the dvd in the player.

I turn on the tv.

I push play.

The water's boiling.

I pour water into the gravity steeper.

I put a little puck of cheap-ish raw puerh into it.

It sank, like it always does, and I watched the little girl put a voodoo doll into a pickle jar with a bunch of forks and shake it.

I understand her motivations.

Many people have good intentions.

But lots of times they just make things worse.

"Go for a walk! The sunshine will be good for your mood."

How could I go for a walk when it is a struggle to just drag myself from my bed?

I cried a lot during the movie, especially when the little girl got captured by the big alien and it looked like the blue alien wasn't going to save her.

When the dvd stopped, I pulled one of the couch blankets up to my chin, and turned to face the back of the couch.

I don't think I ever drank that tea.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tea2Go, a review on their customer service and sales practices

I have been to the Tea2Go that is about an hour away from the town I live in 3 or 4 times now, and I feel that I can now give an accurate representation of the typical customer experience you will receive if you go there.

First off, there is a HUGE sign when you walk in stating the "health benefits" they claim for all their tea types. ( I was unable to take a picture, because when I pulled out my phone to do so, they jumped all over me saying they didn't allow photos of their business to be taken, which was the first red flag.)

Not only is there no disclaimer about the fact that the claims are not proven through scientific testing, but they treat the sign as absolute gospel. This really annoys me, for the very reason that other than the fact that if you drink unsweetened tea you will probably lose weight, especially if you are switching from a sugary drink laden diet, there are NO health benefits to tea that have been proven via long-term scientific study.

This past visit is most vivid, so I will use it as my example-

As soon as I walked to the wall of loose tea (the teas were in clear plastic canisters, some of which were foggy with moisture, ugh. red flag number 2) I got rushed by an employee, who IMMEDIATELY started pushing the most expensive teas they had, the white teas, saying how they would improve my skin tone and help me lose weight.

I basically played the uninformed customer and took him up on the Madagascar Coconut white tea.

 When I asked him about the origin of the tea, he hemmed and hawed and fed me some vague statement about how their teas are sourced from "all over the world" and that he didn't know where the individual teas come from (red flag number 3).

When I was ordering, he pushed me into getting both the largest size of iced tea (a 44 oz monster of a cup) and an extra scoop of tea leaves "because white and green teas are just too delicate in flavor to really be tasted without the extra scoop" which doubled the price of the cup of iced tea from $3.99 to almost $8. (apparently he had never experienced a gong fu brewed yabao. This was red flag number 4).

He also pushed me to get MULTIPLE 2 tablespoon scoops of coconut sugar. I told him to stop at one and I watched him put two in AFTER I insisted I only needed one (he wouldn't listen when I had said that I normally take my tea unsweet.) Red flag # 5.

So my experience was pretty awful, and I witnessed two other underhanded sales tactics I had previously thought only Teavana used.

I watched an associate tell a pair of older ladies that they recommended buying loose leaf at least 4 oz at a time "so that they could have some room to figure out their favorite brewing parameters". Seeing as their CHEAPEST teas are being sold at around $4 an ounce, this was a ridiculous situation for me to see.

The other sales tactic was actually done to my husband and sister-in-law, who decided they wanted to buy one of their "level 2" teas in loose leaf. (it's called crisp apple strudel, and only includes fruit, almond slivers, and hibiscus). It costs $5 an ounce. The associate assisting them did not even mention they could put the tea in a foil backed heat sealed zip bag but insisted on selling them a tin for an extra $4.99. She filled the tin with FIVE ounces of tea and rung them up for the $30 purchase.

I said nothing, because my experience had already been so soured by their behavior toward me that I felt that if I had said something it would have come out as snappish and I would have been told by my husband and sister in law that I was being unreasonable.

OH and I forgot, red flags six and seven were as follows-

On the BOTTOM of the tin that was bought by my group members, they wrote the instructions for the tea. it read "Temperature: 203 - 222 F, brew time 10-15 minutes" See anything wrong with that?

When I asked what temperature they were brewing the teas at (because they only have one water "boiler" in the shop and I was wondering what it was set at), They said- "it doesn't matter because we are putting it over ice anyway"

As for how the tea tasted:  I couldn't finish it. It was too sickly sweet and had that bitter taste you get when you use water that is too hot on an inexpensive white tea.

I have made better iced tea using a Lipton tea bag.

I am really trying to be fair, but SEVEN red flags that tell me that they both don't know what they are doing and that they don't care about the customer experience as long as they make money, are too much.

My husband. his sister, and her husband all like it though, so maybe it is just me being too hard on a company meant to bring tea to people less educated on the subject.

As a business I give them a review of  0/10, my suggestions are as such:

They need to remove the health benefits sign and actually TRAIN their employees to do more than toss massive amounts of loose leaf tea with massive amounts of sugar into a gravity steeper, set a timer for the max time that they list, and then put the tea over massive amounts of ice to disguise the bitter taste from too hot of water and too long of a time in the hot water.

Their teas I give a 2/10, because I feel if they were actually prepared properly they may have actually been halfway palatable.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Tea-Addict's Journal PART ONE

This is that little booky thing I am writing, I will be posting a new installment every Friday.

It is fiction.

Part One-

The Apologetic Mask

The tea tasted off this morning. 

I don’t know if that was due to the work that had to be done today, or not. 

Cardamom and ginger-spiked Nilgiri black tea with fat-free evaporated milk, and for once, real sugar. 

I was preparing for a shipment that was to enter the US at any time now. 

I guess when they say “slow boat from China” they aren’t kidding. 

I was already itching to make another order, and I hadn’t even received the first one yet. 

But the spring teas were starting to be harvested, and any week now, I’d receive word that “Yes we do have that Darjeeling from Namring estate in.” and “Yes, the new sheng pu’erhs for this year will be ready to ship any day now.” “Yes, you can pre-order the Jin Xuan oolong for this season, would you prefer scented, or unscented?”

For most people, this might be an easy choice. 

My problem is that I like them all

The mellow smoothness of Darjeeling, the bite of a young sheng pu’erh, the creamy milky-ness of a true Jin Xuan. 

There was also so much more to my habit than this. 

Beyond the drink itself was what it was presented, prepared, proffered, and eventually drunk in.

 Pots, Gaiwan, cups, bowls, mugs, and the occasional saucer were scattered around my little nook of a tea room. 

The only pity was, there was only one chair. 

Because of that, the tea room felt very lonely and isolated despite being less than two steps away from the living room, where my husband entertains any friends who come over. 

I wished it was a room I could close off. 

A room I could have poufs and bean bags strewn around, comfortable chairs everywhere, yet still with a focus on tea. 

Because despite all of my beloved husband’s efforts, I was lonely. 

Sad isn’t it, I had most everything I could ever want, but I was lonely. 

Lonely and afraid. 

Afraid to reach out, afraid to try. 

I had been burned by people so often that I had completely given up on making friends.

It's hard, being different. 

Ever since I was a young girl I have been ostracized for being "weird". 

It was everything from a bully "accidently dropping my textbook in the chem lab sink full of formaldehyde, to them slamming a locker door in my face. 

I was lucky if I didn't have to replace my glasses every six months. 

You get jaded in that kind of situation.

 I got to the point where I only didn't have my guard up around maybe three people.

 Only three people I felt I could trust enough to where I wouldn't have to wear that mask.

Everyone has one, a mask, I mean. 

Some people have several. The mask you wear when the boss tells you to come in on a Saturday. The mask you wear when your mother starts talking about your weight.

My mask is very simple. A fake, hollow smile that doesn't reach to my cheeks, let alone my eyes. One corner higher than the other, almost a smirk.

I have a pretty tough outer shell. I hold in emotions until the little bottle I keep them in bursts under pressure. I make sure not to burst around others. 

You wouldn't like me when I explode.

I say things I don't mean.

Things that are purposefully built to hurt feelings.

Things that would make even Lisa Lampanelli say "That crossed the line, WAAY back there".

I don't mean to.

But sometimes, that's the only way to get the hurt out.

Maybe that makes me the biggest bully of them all.

If I still believed in a god, I would probably ask "why don't you fix me?"

But that doesn't fix anything.

So I have been trying to fix things.

With tea.

With meditation.

With therapy.

With medications that more often than not make me feel ill.

But that's better than just letting it sit where it is, right?

Back to the tea.

I figure I should dump it and start over.

Maybe that blend with the lavender and jasmine.

So, I brew that.

It still doesn't feel right.

I set the mug on my tea table and start doing what maybe I should have been doing all along.

Writing apologies that I will never show anyone, and never send.


                 I am sorry I was such an insufferable person last night. I should not have argued about taking my medications on time. I was wrong. I hope you can forgive my rudeness and impudence. Please don't hate me.

             I am sorry I did not get the dishes done. I have no excuse, but I hope you can forgive me for not taking care of my responsibilities in a timely manner.


I did that for about an hour.

They were not all grave offenses, and I had already verbally apologized for most of them.

It made me realize my mistakes, I guess, to write them down.

I can't stop smiling right now- here's why!

A couple of weeks ago I lost my previous therapist because of reasons I both do not know and can not discuss.

That Monday, when I found out I wasn't going to have therapy for a while, I was rather upset and mentioned it in the general discussion forum of Reddit's /r/tea.

Several very sweet Redditors took it upon themselves to check on me, and I was even offered tea by more than one person as sort of a "gee that sucks have comfort in knowing we care" package.

I ended up talking to another Redditor in a similar situation that Friday, and I would have felt fine just knowing I had helped someone else.

That's what's the most important.


Since then I have gotten several packages from those people I spoke to that week, and it's so nice to see that people care, even if it is just an "are you ok? PM me if you wish to talk. I am here for you." That's what means the most to me. The offer of a listening ear/ reading eye. The "if I lived closer I would have you come over so we could chat and have tea."

The knowledge that people care enough about ME, a person who is still struggling with self-worth and anxiety, who can't help but say "sorry" even when it isn't their fault, the person who was so bullied throughout school that they never recovered the "I'm worth it" mentality, is so surprising that at first it made me cry, and not in a sad way. It was the first time I cried because I was happy.

I just want ALL OF YOU to know- Thank you.

I am sorry (ouch, not supposed to use that word anymore) for the lack of posts as of late. life's been crazy. I WILL write more.

And I am going to do weekly posts that aren't exactly about tea, but are little stories, like a book in installments.

I hope you all like that.

This Wednesday I met my new therapist, Ms. S. She is so good natured and kind. She reminds me of my aunt that I was named after. (much younger though)

Today we went for a walk. We walked TWO WHOLE MILES while drinking some chestnut royal milk tea I had made for us. We also talked a lot about my in-laws having a baby on the way, and how was I doing with that. (I am both super nervous, and super excited)

When I got home, two packages were on the front porch for me.

I won't say who they are from, I don't want to put any sort of pressure on them to reply to this, but the care they took in picking what they sent to me was very evident in what I got.

I am drinking a very lovely cup of a Wuyi yancha right now and waiting for my Zojirushi water boiler to heat back up.

The plum notes are so evident, and the fragrance so heady, it almost makes me giddy.

The fact that people care is so important.

So I am going to make a request of all of you.

If you see someone who looks down, or sad, or like they are just having a rough day-

Tell/ask them-

~ I hope your day turns out better than you could ever hope.

~ Have a wonderful day.

~ You look so great in that sweater, where did you get it?

~ I love your nails. who did them?

~ Do you need a hug?

~ Do you want to talk about it?

~ Can I do anything for you to make your day better?

You may just save a life.

Oh, and I am listening to ZZ Top right now. I love "Cheap Sunglasses", it is just a fun song.

Monday, June 15, 2015

An insight into my personal psyche AKA- I miss my dog

Normally, I'm not one to cry and mope about things I can't help, but right now, I really miss my dog, Bonnie.

No, she's not dead.
NO I did not give her away when I moved.

She is safe and sound with my mother in law.

Being that she is a 9 year old chihuahua with a terrible time with anxiety, we thought it would be best if she stayed with my mother in law.

We were terrified that if we brought her with us, she might die from the stress.

And take into the fact that because of her bad eyesight, she has trouble with aggression, and my sister in law already has her Big Bonnie ( a pharoh hound mix ) and we were pretty sure that those two would not mix. And it would not be Big Bonnie's fault. It would be my dog's fault (if I had brought her) if they got into it.

That being said-

I really miss my dog.

I miss her wagging her tail so hard that her front paws even wag.
I miss her licking my leg as I go to sleep at night.
I miss waking up with her head on my pillow.
I miss her sitting in my chair with me as i drink tea.
I even miss her silly little wail that she does when she hears the word "outside". 
I especially miss, when I am feeling down like I am today, her crawling up into my lap and licking my face until I can't help but to laugh.

I heard from my mother in law that unless it's time to eat or sleep, she pretty much has been staying in her crate. (we always leave the door open so she can come and go as she pleases, and we keep pillows and blankets in there so it's comfy.)

So she knows I'm not there, and she misses me, which somehow doesn't make me feel better at all. It only makes me more sad.

This is my Bonnie-

I normally don't whine like this. Please understand.

If you have an animal you love dearly, remember, they love you just as much, if not more.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

An explanation for my absence, as well as an in depth review of YunnanSourcing's Spring 2014 "drunk on red" mini black tea cake

I feel bad about not posting, but I have a good reason. When my husband and I left on our "vacation" we had no real knowledge if we were going to move permanently or not. So, we decided to not bring our heavy, bulky desktop computers to Texas, and as it turns out, with my husband finding a new job, we are moving back to Texas, and as such, except for the rare chance when I feel like I can beg/borrow a laptop from my husbands family, I have no real way to write blog posts. (And I am completely sure they would let me borrow their laptops more often, but I'm pretty shy about asking.)

So please forgive my sporadic posts until my computer is returned to me later this month (my mom-in-law is bringing it and my husband's down from Arkansas with a little help. I hope you all can understand my predicament.

Now, ON to the review of Yunnan Sourcing's spring 2014 "drunk on red" mini cake, (this is the one without snow chrysanthemum, I have that one as well, but that will be a separate review.

 The way this tea is packaged is almost exactly like a cake of pu'erh, I have not seen many black tea cakes, but this line seems to have been quite a hit for YS, so I thought I would break down and buy myself a couple (one with and one without snow chrysanthemum), at just over 4 USD a cake, it isn't too big of a risk.

According to YS the tea is "The tea is picked, wilted, fried, bruised by rolling, wet withered under the sun and then finally sun-dried completely." To me, that is a lot of trouble to go through for something being sold by the cake for a lot less than a lot of people spend daily at cafes and coffee shops.

 The cake is a very pretty mottled brown/black with hints of gold tips sprinkled throughout.

 I am still learning how to break into tea cakes, so forgive the large amount of dust, I am sure much of it is due to user error.

 10.8 grams went into my 120 ml gaiwan, which comes out to just under a tenth of a gram per ml.

195ยบ F water, trust me on this, any hotter and to me black teas turn astringent and foul far to quickly, even when brewing gong fu.

And, I am being lazy with my gong fu today, I am not using a tray, which is kinda scary as just below my Zojirushi sits all of the tea I have with me. a spill could spell disaster. That's me, crazy and living on the edge.

 15 seconds of steeping, and into the pitcher. I really need to work with the lighting in this kitchen, as this photo doesn't nearly to the light maple-y color of the tea justice.
 First steep was astoundingly fruity, as if I had taken a big bite of a honeycrisp apple. Sweet and bright. with no hint of astringency's awful bite. ( I do love it in sheng pu'erh and green tea, just not in black, oolong, white, or shou, there is a difference in the feeling between astringency in a green and that in a black, just sayin'.)

2nd Steep- this time for 25 seconds.

Lookit how pretty the tea is in the cup. It is still very fruity, but now with a slightly acidic undertone, more pear than apple perhaps?
I have a feeling that this would snack well with a small fruit and cheese plate. Extra sharp Irish cheddar, and maybe some good swiss with a green pear and maybe a nice Braeburn apple, prehaps with melba toast if making it a meal.

Third steep: 35 seconds

This steep disappointed me a little bit. I was so hoping that it wouldn't turn astringent on me, and I was very careful to try and keep it from happening, but it did. Not horribly, mouth puckering, dry throat astringency either. Just enough to let me know that the tea was turning from fruity and bright, to bitter melancholy. I might just start brewing this one western style from now on, because, bang for buck wise, I would get more out of doing this in a big mug with quite a bit less tea. Of course that's not to say it wouldn't go bitter that way too, but that's no reason not to try.

I give this a 5/10, and at $4.20 a cake, that's not a bad deal.

I can't stop listening to that song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy recently. I don't know why, it's not as good as many of their other songs, I'll chalk that up to hype.