Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lung Ching

I'm sure I've posted about this one before, but it's worth covering again. Lung Ching, also known as "dragonwell," is a super-popular type of Chinese green tea. Sort of like Sencha is to the Japanese, Lung Ching is what I think of when I think of your everyday Chinese green tea. And I do that quite often. Like just about everything it comes in a variety of grades, and like everything it is worth your while to get your hands on one of the better grades. The one I've got here is great -- the leaves are dried flat and average about 3/4" in length. I'm going to have to go check out some other Lung Ching teas to see if this is unique to this batch, but these leaves smell like dark chocolate. It's unmistakable and I don't remember ever noticing that before. Of course tea and chocolate are both loaded with alkaloids (I think -- me: not a scientist) so maybe that explains it.

Anyway, it should be noted that you can't really judge tea by looking at dry leaves, no matter how pretty they are or how much they smell like Mars bars. When brewed (for about 2 minutes in 170-180 degree water) the tea is a very pale green, almost yellow, not at all like those Japanese teas. Also unlike the Japanese teas the brew is very buttery and mellow without a grassy taste. I've never seen a chemical analysis but my experience has been that Lung Ching is very stimulating, which I presume is those alkaloids hard at work.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Everyone knows that Japan is awesome, so it should be no surprise that Japanese tea is also awesome. It is. Awesomeness abounds. As far as I know, most of the low-end, mass-produced tea they drink (and they drink a lot) is imported from elsewhere, but the higher-grade orthodox teas grown in Japan are always really great. If ever there was a positive stereotype it's that the Japanese have a knack for making great stuff, be it little toy robots or green tea. Oh, and the girls are all pretty, but that's another post. Anyway, on the surface you won't find a whole lot of variety in their teas -- they're all green and there are only about 5 common types -- but there is a lot of room for subtlety and I challenge you to find a bad one.

Today I'm drinking Gyokuro, which loosely translates to "$$$$" in English. It's the top of the line, and well worth the outlay. If the only green tea you've ever had came from Starbucks then you will be surprised by this. It is so damn green it looks artificial, and it smells kind of like peas & corn, but also like freshly cut grass. Early in the morning, while there's still a little mist in the air. If you do it right, and I will tell you how, there is no bitterness at all.

Boil your water and pour it into your cup or teapot. Leave the lid off, and let it sit there for at least two minutes. Once it has cooled some, add your tea leaves -- I like it pretty strong so I usually use at least a heaping teaspoon per cup, maybe a tiny bit more. Let it steep for 90 seconds, remove the leaves and enjoy. You'll get at least three good brews out of it, maybe more, and you can steep it longer each time.

Lastly, here is a crummy photo I took of this tea. It's made even worse by my half-assed attempt to capture the bounty of tea spilling forth from the bag all cornucopia style. Well, I prefer posts with photos so here it is:

Thursday, June 05, 2008


There are so many intangible benefits we receive from attending the Tea Expo (at least that's what we tell the wives) but there are some very tangible benefits as well, namely samples. Tons of them. At times it feels like Halloween. Some vendors give out tote bags, others tea, it's a winning combination. Mind you it costs plenty to register for the show, fly out to Vegas, stay in a 'spensive hotel and maintain the Andrews & Dunham lifestyle but it doesn't stop me from feeling like we got something for nothing when I gaze upon our haul.

Most of the samples we picked up this year are teas that we will seriously consider for our roster. It will be a roster of fineness. Owing to our aforementioned but still mysterious bizness plan we are looking at a relatively narrow price range and tried to grab a bunch of teas that will fit the bill. Nevertheless, that didn't stop us from graciously accepting some very high grade offerings which I will consume on your behalf and possibly tell you about. Erik made the mistake of trusting me with the lot, so I'm going to tear through this fancy stuff as fast as can until he realizes his error.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tea Expo!

I took this picture while I was attending the 2008 World Tea Expo. No, it wasn't held in Paris, France. That stunning replica of the Eiffel Tower you see there is in beautiful Las Vegas, U.S.A. Oh the stories I could tell. Well, I can't really tell any of them, Vegas and all, but I can tell you all about the Tea Expo and perhaps offer a few travel tips while I'm at it.

The Expo itself was a blast. Each year it gets a little bigger, and each year Erik and I have a bit more of a clue about what the hell we are doing. Now that we actually have a strategy for our business (more on that later) we had fun trying to explain it to people, and since we're taking a different approach than most fledgling tea enterprises we were greeted with a mixture of encouraging enthusiasm and polite skepticism. I was pretty heavily caffeinated after a few hours on the show floor so I mostly relished bantering with the skeptics.

Anyway, I'll go into more detail in the ensuing posts but I will offer these two Las Vegas travel tips in the meantime: If you can avoid it, do not stay at the Luxor. Also, if you happen to be a dude and you buy one of those yard-long daiquiri cups you are almost guaranteed to have an argument with your girlfriend. We saw that story play itself out too many times not to mention it, so please, keep that in mind.