Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sex in the City is a Horrible Film

The title has nothing to do with the post, everyone, but I really just had to get that off my chest. It was almost as bad as that Heidi chick from The Hills releasing a "dance track" called "Fashion." Sweet Jesus what planet are we on?!

Ok, onto the tea. Today I think is a good day to write about one's own discovery of tea. I have already gotten my blog on about the importance of slowing down every now and then to enjoy a cup of tea. But what brings people to become tea lovers and connoisseurs? The answer, of course, is different for everyone.

I think my first real tea drinking experience was when I took a semester abroad in Barcelona, Spain. I was about 19; and of course I had had tea before, from various Celestial Seasonings and Twinings tea bags out of my mom's cupboard when I was young, but nothing truly memorable. In any case, I discovered té con leche (tea with milk) at various cafés throughout the city. Now mind you these 2-euro cups were still nothing more than black tea bags, but there is just something amazing about the milk in Europe, and this magical leche with a bit of sugar and I was hooked. I have the best memories of stopping at little places here and there in the city and enjoying this tasty beverage with friends whilst skipping class, studying for finals, or simply taking a load off. I was back (I lived in Barcy when I was younger) in this big, awe-inspiring city, speaking Spanglish with friends, and enjoying my new most favorite daytime drink. I say daytime because the nighttime drinks were plentiful, and alcoholic, which is an entirely different blog for a different website.

I have had fond experiences with tea ever since I discovered it. People stumble across tea for all different reasons, but it seems to be a discovery that people stick with and continue to enjoy and learn about. Unlike food trends such as Olestra or clear Pepsi, tea has been around for thousands of years, and for good reason. It upholds ancient traditions, makes room for new ones, and brings people together. I just read an article about a man who had his father's ashes mixed with clay to make a teapot, because he missed his daily chats over tea with his dad. Hell, the reason our company even exists is due to our founder's devotion and love for tea and its health benefits.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about tea are the stories that it creates in people's lives; how they start drinking it, and what happens as a result. Everyone has a different tale to tell, so feel free to tell us yours.

Now this has all the makings of a truly great story!
Image courtesy of

Thursday, June 19, 2008

H20 and Tea

Hi Chitlins!
Today's important lesson is about the importance of the water you use when making loose-leaf teas.

Since tea is 99.999999% water, it only makes sense that the water you use to make your tea is rather important. It can contain any number and combination of minerals and flavors that will affect the way your tea tastes. Now perhaps this is delving into the realm of "tea snobbery," but the truth of the matter is that ancient traditional tea ceremonies always call for high quality water, and anything ancient and traditional therefore cannot be deemed "snobbish." </sarcasm>.

In any case, I simply find that anything one can do to make an even more delicious cup of tea should certainly be taken into consideration.

Using very soft or distilled water can lead to a rather bland cup of tea. This is because these types of water lack certain minerals that can actually enhance your cuppa, so using fresh, local springwater is definitely your best option. I would recommend Eldorado spring water if you are in the Denver/Boulder area. But alack, we are not all in the same area and furthermore, we may not all have access to pristine springwater. Bottled water is another option, one that I would wholeheartedly support were I not anti-bottled water to begin with, since it creates excess pollution (via shipping) and waste (more plastic bottles in the trash/recycle can) when you most likely have perfectly drinkable tap water in your home...but that is another blog for another time.

If you want to be environmentally responsible yet enjoy great water at the same time, a small investment in a tap water filter is your best bet. These are relatively inexpensive these days, and easy to install. Hard water should be avoided when making tea (even if it's filtered), so you will have to make your own determination regarding the tap water you use. Hard water contains a lot of minerals, and you can tell if your water is hard by how much your soap or toothpaste froths...lots of lather action means your water is soft, and little-to-none means your water is hard.

Last but not least, always remember that water temperature is crucial to making the best cup of tea possible...never use boiling water on green or white teas! Take a look at one of my older blogs, I Know Why You Don't Like Green Tea, for more details on temperature.

The hardest water of all: bellyflops.
Image courtesy of

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Today's Match: Fresh Homemade Tea vs. Bottled Tea Drinks

Thanks to a blog posting on Steepology last week about the latest fad of green tea weight loss scams, I have decided to shed some light on another, less obvious "scam" going on in the tea world: bottled tea drinks.

Thanks to an increasing knowledge and awareness of the health issues going on in America (heart disease, obesity, diabetes, etc.), it is becoming common knowledge that fast food and sugary, carbonated drinks are some of the worst things you can possibly put into your body. While moderation is always the key, avoiding these foods high in calories and low in nutritional value is definitely the best strategy for a longer, healthier life.

But what about the huge selection of bottled tea and fruit juice drinks that aren't soda? Many of these beverages are touted as healthy alternatives to the evil empire of high fructose corn syrup-laden carbonated beverages. But are they really better for you?

While many people are counting carbs or simply swearing them off for good, another major culprit that causes weight gain and a host of other health problems is refined sugar. Since I am not a scientist or doctor, I have borrowed this description of the impact sugar has on your health from the UK site,
Macrobiotic Guide:

"...Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes, only empty calories. What happens when you eat a refined carbohydrate like sugar? Your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize the incomplete food. Calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar. Many times, so much calcium is used to neutralize the effects of sugar that the bones become osteoporotic due to the withdrawn calcium. Refined sugar is void of all nutrients, consequently it causes the body to deplete its own stores of various vitamins, minerals and enzymes. If sugar consumption is continued, an over-acid condition results, and more minerals are needed from deep in the body to correct the imbalance. If the body is lacking the nutrients used to metabolize sugar, it will not be able to properly handle and rid itself of the poisonous residues. "

Yo fatty! Lay off the sugar! Image courtesy of

So, too much sugar creates an acidic environment inside your body. Too much acid in your tissues allows harmful toxins to build up, as well as harmful bacteria and fungi (such as the yeast, Candida). With that being said, I think it is important that everyone understand how to read labels on not only the beverages you drink, but the foods you eat! After a little bit of research, I was pretty shocked at how much sugar is contained in all the allegedly "healthy" bottled tea drinks you see on the shelves.

For example, the following drinks contain:

Arizona Green Tea: 8 ounces contains 17 grams of sugar, or 3 and 1/2 teaspoons.
Sobe Green Tea: a 20 ounce bottle contains 62.5 grams of sugar, or 12.5 teaspoons! That is 12.5 sugar cubes, people!
Snapple Green Tea: 1 17.5 ounce bottle contains 33 grams of sugar, or 6.6 teaspoons of sugar.

What's more, bottled tea drinks claim to be packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. While it's certainly true that tea contains them, a little known facts is that after about 24-48 hours, antioxidants disappear from tea. The heat in water is what releases a flood of these healthy chemicals, but time and temperature will cause them to dissipate. So a chilled, bottled tea drink that has been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long really is not going to be chock full of antioxidants at all.

The bottom line is that chances are when you make your own tea at home (preferably using one of our awesome Steepin' Mugs!), you either drink it as it is: fresh, full of antioxidants, and without added sweeteners. But if you must, add one or two teaspoons of sugar (Agave is best!); which is less than most bottled tea drinks you will find.

If you must reach for some pre-bottled beverage action, wrap your mitts around one of these brands that have lower levels of sugar: Honestea (about 10 grams of sugar per 16 oz bottle), or ItoEn unsweetened Teas' Tea.

Optimus Prime says stay away from too much sugar. Or else.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

World Tea Expo, in Vegas Baby!

Having just returned from the World Tea Expo in Vegas last weekend, I finally feel like I'm back in the groove of things again. It took a few days to recover from the work/learn all day & play all night mode of Vegas. There is so much to share, so I snagged personal commentaries from the whole TeaSpot team to share with everyone...

Maria Uspenski - Co-founder, Director of Product Development
In wandering the show floor of the World Tea Expo, I was struck with how unique our product line and concept are to the modern tea industry. To all of us at the TeaSpot, it seems the most natural thing to provide our customers with what Rob has dubbed the “total tea solution”: the freshest, tastiest and healthiest loose leaf teas paired with Steeping tools that extract the maximum flavor and health benefits from those leaves “with elegance and ease”. Yet, even with all the thousands of teas and tea accessories in the marketplace, ours differentiate themselves in their presentation, freshness and functionality.

Rob Cooke - Director of Customer Relations
This year’s World Tea Expo in Las Vegas showcased more science being implemented into the tea industry than ever before. Many of the studies presented at WTE 2008 are challenging and in some cases debunking myths that have been widely accepted in the tea industry for years. These scientific studies are starting to challenge topics such as the varying levels of caffeine in tea, antioxidant/ polyphenol content, and even the “30 second” decaffeinating technique. So what does all of this mean? Well, in my view it means that the tea industry is thriving and that there continues to be a growing interest in the functional health and wellness benefits associated with tea. I can only hope that this proliferation of science will bring concrete and factual information to the table while also bolstering the industry as a whole.

Jared Kochik- Director of Shipping & Operations
Attending the 2008 World Tea Expo proved what we all know to be true: the awareness of specialty, loose leaf tea is growing at an astonishing rate and the proliferation of fun, easy to use Steepware and accessories are helping to break down the barriers to reaching new demographics. It was also easy to notice the amount of amazing and dedicated people who work diligently to educate the masses to the wonderful benefits of whole leaf tea. The 2008 World Tea Expo was a great event not only for importers and vendors, but also for new and soon-to-be tea retailers around the globe.

Jessica Burtenshaw - Director of Tea Sourcing & E-Commerce
As my first time attending the World Tea Expo, I have no gauges to compare it to previous ones - but this one was phenomenal! It was great to be surrounded by other tea geeks and get to revel in tea & tea leaves all day. I met people from all ranges of the industry, from growers & importers, to other tea & steepware vendors, to people looking to open teahouses & retail stores in the coming year. I was lucky enough to try fresh roasted hojicha that was re-roasted on the spot, first flush Darjeelings from this spring, and an array of Japanese teas at a personal tasting with one of the most revered Japanese importers. Basically... I was in heaven. I also finally got to meet all of our tea importers in person, after having wonderful email & phone relationships with them throughout this past year. It's great to now have faces to go along with the people I already adored. I even discovered that our Taiwanese Oolong supplier also studied Marine Ecology in his previous career, like me. And at the end of the day, our whole TeaSpot team became like family sharing a single huge suite at the Luxor - kinda like summer camp for adults.