Friday, 27 January 2012

teascapades of a tea newbie



a note from your regularly scheduled teablogger: this post is written by Jim. You will immediately be able to tell that Jim is not a tea drinker. Why on earth would I turn the reigns of a teablog over to the likes of this guy? Why indeed. 


Well, I write this blog partially with the tea newcomer in mind, and he's curious about tea. He writes some very funny non-tea-related blogs, and I knew he'd do something entertaining with it. And that he certainly did. 


One important thing to remember: this is just the beginning with Jim and tea. He's already agreed to be a recurring character on the teablog. Without further ado, I bring you our guest teablogger:

I like to try new things, and while tea isn’t “new” to me, having access to someone who might know a bit about tea is. In the past, I tried tea as a substitute for coffee, specifically, Lipton tea. Everyone knows that Lipton is the name in mass produced tea. Right? Right?

So I tried it, and honestly it made me sick to my stomach. Not initially, but after a couple cups. I found it was a little harsh on an empty stomach (much like coffee can be) and eventually I gave it up as a bad job.

Nearly a decade later, enter Twitter, toss in a mildly humorous and nearly contentious miscommunication spawned from incorrectly linking to people’s blogs. . . and I found Ken. And in finding Ken, found someone to ask all my annoying questions about the mysterious world of tea.

I tapped that resource for the first time in the middle of a grocery trip this past weekend. Without copy and pasting the exchange, essentially it amounted to this: Assuming Ken was more or less waiting by his phone/pc for my tweet, I said, “quick, I’m at the store, what tea should a newbie try?” and he, apparently actually sitting by his phone/pc waiting for my tweet began to guide me to the best of his abilities to my best choice.

Yeah. . . so there are a lot of options. And I tried tweeting this picture to Ken, but I was in a wifi-less store, and it kept timing out. So after Ken had asked a couple questions about what sorts of tastes I preferred, he offered me four or five options. And believe it or not, the store only had one of them. I mean, are you looking at that shelf? That’s just the Stash choices I could fit in the picture. . . Anyway, we settled on Stash English Breakfast.






Ken wanted me to get filters, but I couldn’t find tea filters to save my life, so that apparently put loose-leaf tea out of the equation. But fear not, regardless, of whether this tastes like ass, I will totally try loose-leaf tea because it’s different, and I like trying different things. Not ass. That was probably misleading how I wrote that in there. But different things.
 So I had the tea. Now I drink coffee in the mornings ordinarily, and I won’t lie, sometimes when I finish my gigantic travel mug full o’ joe, I feel a little bit like I’m going to throw up. That doesn’t stop me from doing the same thing the following day, mind you, cause my mama didn’t raise no quitters, but I knew I wouldn’t try tea on a day that I was already queasy from caffeine overdose. Today was that day!!






The very first thing I did was find my finest heirloom porcelain tea cup. Because tea evokes all sorts of images in my head of cultured snobby people drinking tea out of fine
china with their pinkies in the air.

Mission accomplished. I filled it with the finest tap water money can buy and prepared my tea kettle microwave.

Ken had told me to heat the cup, and essentially what I did was. . . heated the cup and water in the microwave until it boiled. Once it boiled, I removed it from the microwave and plopped the tea bag in it.







Ken (and the packaging) said to steep it for three minutes. I set my duck timer (the duck timer is win/win/win. 1) “When Timer Ends Duck.” That’s funny. I can see people actually ducking when the timer goes off (as instructed), 2) ducks are funny, 3) when I use it with my kids I can blame the duck for why they have to finish doing whatever it is they’re doing, “sorry kids, the duck quacked.”)















So I steeped. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t trust Brownian motion to disperse my tea evenly throughout my hot water, so I. . . in the absence of Ken’s learned guidance. . . bobbed the tea bag up and down in the water a couple times. I didn’t continually do it, because Ken’s instructions hadn’t explicitly spelled out how I was to steep, but he hadn’t mentioned bobbing, so I felt certain I was going outside the framework of accepted tealore, but I fucking did it anyway, because sometimes, in the absence of instructions to the contrary, you just go with your gut. Plus I’m American, and if history has taught me one thing, it’s that when Americans get a hold of tea, they do unexpected things with it.


Further to my discussion of Brownian motion...when the timer was done, and the duck quacked and I had ‘ducked’ and then chuckled at how funny I think I am. . . I threw the bag away and I stirred the tea. Because it seemed to me at the time that if I didn’t trust Brownian motion to disperse my tea evenly through the water, I may as well help the process of mixing and get a good uniform dispersion. Ken had told me not to squeeze the bag out so I didn’t.





Finally, I was ready to drink my tea. But, as I was about to take my first sip two things
occurred to me. 1) It was so hot I was going to burn the shit out of myself, and 2) pinkies
up, yo!

Something they don’t teach you at tea academy is that if you’re using a big giant Bugs Bunny coffee mug as your fine china, it’s really heavy and you should be careful not to be too cavalier with your pinky erection lest you spill hot tea all over yourself when the mug slips from your grasp.

pinkies up, yo!



pinkies in the air...like you just don't care
Okay, I don’t know what the tea pros say, but when tea is so scalding hot you can barely tolerate it in your mouth? It’s also too hot to taste. So I waited a while longer. Because to quote Ralph Wiggums, “It tastes like burning.”

It, okay and don’t hate on me here, tasted like Lipton.

Now Ken suggested that if I drank coffee with cream and sugar, I might enjoy tea the same way. I suspect so, and for whatever reason it never even occurred to me to add cream to tea. But my next attempt will be to add a little and see if I like it better. The short answer to the question of is English Breakfast a better choice than crappy ol’ Lipton may, unfortunately, have to be “no”. At least at this early tea age, I’m not really tasting any difference.

Jim pretending to enjoy his tea goodness






Thursday, 26 January 2012

Teai Boynoy? Huh?

Teai Boynoy? What's that?
First of all, it's been just a bit hectic here. There was a time when I posted something on the teablog everyday because I read somewhere that if you want to build readership, you should consistently have new content. Although I enjoyed doing it, the result was that I wrote a lot about tea, but I incorporated things going on in my life and how they (often tangentially) related to tea. If at all.

Then there was a time when I posted every second or third day, and that's actually more my goal. The last post about predicting someone's taste in tea based upon their other tastes is going to be a recurring theme. It's something that interesting to a lot of people and that hopefully will create a bit of dialogue.

After writing it, I realised that tea sellers must do this sort of thing all the time. Someone wanders into the shop, says that he's curious about tea, and the tea seller has to decide what might be the best option for this stranger. What does one do in that situation?

So because I write quite a bit about luring people over to the leaf-side here, and because I talk with quite a few non-tea people over on twitter, I get a lot of questions. For example, at the weekend there was an urgent message from a blogger I know called Jim. It read, 'quick! At the store...Name a couple of good commercially available teas for a tea virgin to try.'

I asked him my questions about how he took his coffee and whether he liked spicy food, and he responded with, 'coffee bold/rich cream and a bit of sugar, food spicy'. Now we were getting somewhere. He gave me a list of what was available, and I told him the brand I knew best.

But in the process I mentioned it on twitter, and of course there were people who responded to my query with pleas that Jim not go the way of teabags. That he wouldn't get the full experience and that it'd turn him off of tea entirely.

But there was Jim, standing in the aisle, not knowing where the tea filters were, or if there even were any, and not much more time to bother with hunting for tea. I'd gone to the website of the brand I knew best, and recommended the nicest loose-leaf teas I could imagine from their selection, but ultimately it was just too much. A package of English Breakfast blend was chosen, and I think it was the right choice.

My position on all of this is that the less fussy we are at the outset, the more an individual can develop his own tastes. I've suggested Jim try a sip or two of the tea before he adds any cream or sugar, but I actually think that drinking his English Breakfast blend with a bit of cream and sugar will slowly get him used to the taste of tea.

Why do I think that? Well, that's how I got into tea. I didn't start out by walking into a specialty tea shop and walk straight over to the High Mountain Oolong. Not sure how I would've responded to all that in the early days, anyway.

So the photo up above is something I've written about briefly in you needn't climb a mountain. It's not Teai Boynoy in English...that's actually Greek Mountain Tea. I'm rarely ever ill, but I've had a light cold and held onto this package for just such a situation. Unlike Geoff Norman (@lazy_literatus), who drinks his with proper Greek honey, I've had to settle for good old German honey. With a bit of Vitamin C powder for good measure.

Here's the package turned round to display the script you can likely more easily read:



Thursday, 19 January 2012

queries of a tea-drinker profiler

Why blog about tea? Why indeed?

I could easily drink tea and share it with my friends. When travelling, I could visit tea shops/tea rooms and write about them on a travel blog or just keep it to myself. 

Several years ago, I was talking to a friend about social media and blogging. The prevailing wisdom that we were talking about was: blog about your passion. Although I studied music and literature and am quite passionate about both, I couldn't fathom having a blog about one or the other. Or not exclusively about either. 

What was I knowledgeable about? What sort of thing did I feel I had to offer? For a long time I kept telling myself, 'As much as tea intrigues you, you simply don't know enough about it to be a successful teablogger.' I'd read others' work on tea and look at their beautiful photos, and thought I simply didn't have the expertise necessary to add anything. But then my friend made an off-hand remark that in a moment changed everything. 

She said, 'You could make your discovery of tea the focus of the blog. You know, to document learning about tea.' That was the angle I needed. That was my focus. Early on, that and my enjoyment for the tea I'd been drinking was what propelled me. The longer I've done it, the more I settled on my own personal voice. 

When I travel, I search out tea-related things and blog about them. In my daily life, I introduce friends and clients to tea. I joke about luring people over to the leaf-side, but the times I've done so have been truly joyful. Either people who already drank tea but didn't have experience with loose-leaf tea, or even people who had never considered drinking the beverage.

In the process of doing this, I often think of the Lasse Hallström film Chocolat. In it Juliet Binoche's character Vianne Rocher looks at a person and divines what sort of chocolate they'd most like. I have no illusions that I'd be able to do anything of the sort when it comes to pinpointing the perfect tea for a person.

Here's the trailer for the film (you can see Judi Dench go into a moment of revelry around :43-48):






However, I've toyed with the idea for years that I could ask someone a few questions about his or her food/drink preferences and then be able to predict what sort of tea they'd like. I've written about it on this blog a bit, as well as discussed it with tea drinkers in a variety of forums.

Here are some of the questions I like to ask:

How do you take your coffee? little milk/cream or a lot? Sugar/honey? Or black?
Do you like spicy foods? If so, what sort do you like most?
Any vegetables/spices you really adore? That you crave? Or the opposite: any that you loathe? That you avoid?

Isn't that an interesting topic? Can you think of any other questions that might illustrate any more taste preferences?

As my friend Cevie has said, I'm trying to be a profiler of a kind. Not a serial killer profiler, but a tea-drinker profiler. That doesn't sound so bad. I can live with that.





Sunday, 15 January 2012

fasting tea - herbs that clean you from within


the green balloon is a symbol - what'll happen to the green ballon?

Let me start out with two very weighty disclaimers. I'm writing about products that market themselves as tea, but have absolutely nothing to do with the Camellia sinensis plant. They call it 'fasting tea' and although I'm aware that plenty of you will take issue with the terminology, I'm just not prepared to go through the entire post and keep writing 'fasting tisane'.

The other thing is that I have no personal experience with any of these products. I don't drink tea to enhance my fasting. You'd immediately be able to tell from my less-than-svelte appearance that I haven't fasted in years (if ever).

Why am I writing about it then? I saw something about fasting tea in a complimentary magazine called Schrott&Korn, which you find in many health food stores in Germany. Typically when I see something tea-related in my daily life, I make some sort of attempt to incorporate it here. Before I go on about it, here's the original article:



Here's another disclaimer. 'Jeez, there are a lot of those so early into this,' you say? Actually, I think this is important enough to make quite a bit of it. The health benefits that are claimed tea drinking will bring you are often laughable and sometimes even downright deceptive. So much so, that I spend half of any post I write on this subject stating and restating that I'm neither a medical doctor nor scientifically versed enough to verify any of the things upon which I'm reporting. You've been warned.

The first point the article makes is that the fasting tea is only going to be as good as its ingredients, which is nearly too obvious for me to repeat. Yet the point that's made is that when you're fasting, your body is particularly vulnerable to products that might've either been grown with pesticides or handled in some other improper way. Apparently, the herbs shouldn't be fumigated or irradiated either. 

As a rule Germans take this sort of thing rather seriously. Not sure wherever you are in the world that you'd even know if they'd been doing these things to products, but here...here, this sort of thing is checked quite carefully.

What's the result of herbs in tea?

According to the article if you're intention is to purify and detoxify your system, then it's your liver, gall bladder and kidneys that need the most attention. What ingredients do the most for those organs? The usual suspects that are in many fasting teas are: stinging nettle, birch leaves, and juniper berries

Now, remember: Am I a doctor? No. Am I recommending that you go stock up on stinging nettle, birch leaves, and juniper berries? I most certainly am not. Just telling you what I've read.

Dandelion is a diuretic and Milk Thistle is helpful in liver regeneration (it's the Flavonol Silymarin that does it, but I assure you there'll be no test). Who didn't know all that? (I didn't)

Elder berries take away the inflammation and decreases sweating, while (pepper)mint will calm your upset stomach and make your digestion more regular (actually, I knew that last one).

In the rhythm of a day; typical fasting herbs

From my understanding, you should be avoiding coffee or true tea (you know, anything coming from the above-mentioned Camellia sinensis plant) if you're doing a proper fast. For some reason, that's why so many fasting teas have Mate in them.

There's both caffeine and Theobromine in the Mate, and I'm only just now realising that Mate needs it's own post. There are plenty of people out there in the tea world talking about Mate, and I'm sure none of you can forget Lisa Galaviz's trip to Teavana in How NOT to go to a Tea Shop, where she came back with Mate and I insisted you Don't tell her it's not tea.

But the real point of this whole post was to come round to talking about stinging nettle

If you didn't bother clicking over to that Wikipedia link, there's a very humourous bit about Competitive Eating in which they describe:
In the UK, an annual Stinging Nettle Eating Championship draws thousands of people to Dorset, where competitors attempt to eat as much of the raw plant as possible. Competitors are given 60 cm (20 in) stalks of the plant, from which they strip the leaves and eat them. Whoever strips and eats the most stinging nettle leaves in a fixed time is the winner. The competition dates back to 1986, when two neighbouring farmers attempted to settle a dispute about which had the worst infestation of nettles.


Doesn't that sound like a lot of fun?

So stinging nettle is a very curious plant to me. Again, thanks to Wikipedia I know that it's a dioecious herbaceous perennial. Really? A perennial? How lovely. 

There're few things I'd rather avoid when I'm out in nature in the summer than stinging nettle, but I've often heard that it's not just nutritious when cooked, but used in many alternative health remedies. Specifically in a fasting tea'Oh, are we back to that?' you ask. 

Well, yes. That was the original point of all this, wasn't it? 

The article itself made quite a bit of noise about a brand of fasting tea that you probably can't even find anyway, unless you're in Germany. Purportedly, the five different sorts they offer are created for either the specific time of day or a unique aspect of fasting. To my eyes, it looks like clever marketing, but I'm not going to advertise the brand here. You can go to the link if you're really curious.

Would I recommend you use either this or any other product to aid whatever fast you might endeavour to take part in? I would NOT. I'm only passing on the information as I found it. 

Do I think you should have a Competitive Eating contest in which you consume stinging nettle? Now that is something I can stand behind whole-heartedly. 

remember the green balloon? that's all the bad stuff you get rid of when fasting




Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Nice's La Route du Thé

outside looking in
The other day, I mentioned that I was particularly thrilled about a tea shop I found in Nice. Decided that including La Route du Thé in a post with the others was not giving it the attention it deserved. I'll actually go back and link to this post in the earlier one just to make sure no-one overlooks this place. That's how convinced I am.


A tea shop is a tea shop, right? They're all offer pretty much the same thing. Why make such a fuss about this one or that one? Well, once you've seen enough different establishments, there are some that just stand out. Sure the quality of the tea and tea ware they offer is paramount, but there's something intangible that draws you to certain places. 


This place has that intangible thing for me. If I lived in Nice, this would definitely become one of my regular haunts.


plenty of selection
For one thing, the tea seller himself (Alain Bantwell) is clearly passionate about tea in general. But when he talked about his tea, his eyes lit up. You'd expect that always, wouldn't you? And let's face it: if you've dedicated yourself to having your own tea shop, you're most likely quite convinced about tea. Once again, this guy had that and more. 




He spoke enough English and I spoke enough French that we were able to get our basic thoughts across to one another, but when he started showing off his tea...well, did I mention the 'eyes lighting up' thing? Pretty sure I did. 


Then, he let his lovely assistant, who spoke English quite well (and insisted that I not include her name) tell me about the shop. She spoke highly of a Salon du Thé in the beautiful Cimiez neighbourhood of Nice called L'Altro Cose Cosi. I really must check that out next time I'm in town.


But back to the tea shop. That's what you're here for, right? 


tea ware and gift packages


I'd not heard of the brand of tea La Route du Thé, but it's a relatively small company with five shops in Paris. You know I'm going to visit at least one of those when I'm next in the French capital. 


This is the only shop carrying their tea outside of Paris. Although he'd left me in very capable hands, Mr Bantwell came rushing out from the back of the shop because he clearly wanted to tell me something else that was important. 


It seems that all of the flavoured tea is made with all natural ingredients. He insisted that as a small company, they refused to use chemicals in any of their flavourings. Again, that this was important to him-that he made such a point of it, made me appreciate this shop all the more. He also knew I was based in Germany, where artificial flavourings are frowned upon. Most certainly.


I asked him about his selection of Darjeelings, and he showed me a Darjeeling Puttabong whose leaves were so fragrant that I almost fainted. When I enquired what reliable tea was that he'd 'go to' nearly everyday, he opened a canister of golden-tipped Yunnan 'Celeste' that almost made me want to swear off any other Yunnan. Almost, but not quite.


lovely teapot with a box of the house tea brand
Oh, before I forget about those flavoured teas: he showed off some Réglisse Thé (licorice tea) that almost made me forget I'm not very keen on flavoured tea. The Amandes Thé (almond tea) also smelled divine, as did the several sorts of Earl Grey that he had. Not my sort of thing, but the leaves and Bergamot oil were very fragrant.




If you're in Nice, or anywhere nearby for that matter, I'd highly recommend taking a look at La Route du Thé (9 bis rue de Rivoli 06000 Nice Tel : 04 93 16 94 33). You'll be glad you did. 

Saturday, 7 January 2012

a bit of Nice tea shopping

So a year ago, I wrote A few Nice places for tea and that piece dealt with places to drink tea in Nice, France. Try as I might've this time around, I don't have much to add in that regard. And the few new places I do have to recommend each deserve their own individual blogposts. 


But let's say you do roll into Nice (or fly in, whichever the case may be) and you realise you didn't pack enough loose-leaf tea at the beginning of your trip. Are you really going to be forced to go to Galeries Lafayette and buy a box of tea leaves from a major French tea brand? Well, you certainly can do that. Am not entirely sure how long the tea's been sitting on the shelves, but it'll certainly do in a pinch.


a wall of Mariage Frères 

Kusmi Tea and Dammann Frères
They have Mariage Frères, which is quite good. Then there's Dammann Frères, which I don't know well, but I see there boxes all over. Finally, there's also Kusmi Tea


Xavier's done some research on Kusmi, and here's his post on a radio interview that he transcribed and translated (An interview with Kusmi).Their tea (that I've seen) is flavoured and a tad pricey , so I've not taken the plunge and tried them. Nevertheless, I've heard good things about this company, and I'm sure one day I'll give it a go (Xavier assured me that they have unflavoured tea. I've not actually seen it).




The next place you might try is Bjeteman & Barton (11, rue Maréchal Joffre 06000 Nice +33 1 (0)4 93 92 70 22), which is apparently a high-end Parisian tea brand. Their shop in Nice is centrally-located and they have quite a good selection of both loose-leaf and bagged tea, as well as plenty of attractive tea gear. It's not an Asian specialty shop, but for nice Wester-style teapots, cups and saucers, this is definitely an excellent destination. Again, this is an upscale establishment. I certainly didn't say you'd be able to leave without lessening the weight of your wallet.


Here's a photo of their front window:


Bjeteman & Barton




The place I was most impressed with last year and even more so now that I've gotten my hands on a copy of the book The Tea Drinker's Handbook, which was written by Francois-Xavier Delmas the founder of Le Palais des Thés (3, rue de la Liberté 06000 Nice +33 4 93 81 56 16). Beautiful book (also written by Mathias Minet and Christine Barbasteand beautiful shop. 
This place knows what they're doing. I'd say this was the French answer to Teavana, but it's likely the other way around. I suppose that the American chain could've modelled itself on this French one rather than vice versa. 






Here's a photo of their storefront:

Le Palais des Thés
tea ware at Le Thé
Around the corner and several hundred metres away in rue Pastorelli is yet another tea shop. This one's called Le Thé (39 Rue Pastorelli 06300 Nice +33 04 93 80 45 79), which is clearly more Eastern in appearance. They have an impressive selection of tea from around the world, but the tea ware (exquisite clay teacups and teapots) is clearly of the Asian variety.


Xavier noticed something before I did: many of the distinctive flavoured tea from Le Palais des Thés were identical here at Le Thé. To be clear, it's most definitely not a franchise. Le Thé is selling tea under their own name, but the exact same names indicate the same source for their more auspicious blends.

To be candid, the few teas that we compared at both locations were a tad more economically priced at Le Thé, but it definitely wasn't substantial. Not sure it's worth going out of your way for the minuscule difference, but it is worth noting.

you can find the shop easily under the bright green sign
And now I have a bit of a cliffhanger for you gentle readers. The whole time I've been here, I've walked by one last  teashop, but always at the wrong hour. The shop is open often enough. It's just that I was there too early or too late. Even today on my last day, I arrived right in the middle of their midday break. Here's the thing, though. I was so impressed with La Route du The that I've resolved to write an individual blogpost for this shop. It was that extraordinary. 


So, even though I've given you a rather thorough review of some of the teashops in Nice, you'll have to wait just a bit longer for my review of the one I enjoyed the most. You can barely contain your anticipation, can you? I know you all pretty well. 

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

searching for tea in choclate-y places


deceptively tea-related 

Last year when I was in Nice, I wrote a post called A few Nice places for tea, where I mentioned some of the possibilities for drinking tea here in the South of France. Earlier today, I walked by the Café Indien that I wrote about then and it appears business is still thriving. There are actually a few new tea shops as well as a Salon de thé or two that I've seen and I plan to talk about some of them in the coming days. You can hardly wait, right?

Today was the first day that some tea shops finally reopened after the Sylvestre (New Year's) holiday, and Xavier and I were on a mission to find good tea-related things to report on. I'd circled the block looking for a place a year ago, and I was persistent in my desire to locate it this time around. With Xavier's help, we got much closer. But it still eluded us, and I'm hoping it's a more enthralling story than that the place simply went out of business. 

Then we scouted out a few more places, but either they weren't open till afternoon or they were obviously inappropriate. Here's the thing: just because a place is called a Salon de thé in France, that doesn't necessarily mean that it has anything to do with decent tea. It might, but it's definitely not guaranteed. 

From what I can tell, Salon de thé only means 'an indoor place to sit and have something to drink and possibly eat'. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I wish they wouldn't include tea in the name. It's not only confusing-it's also a bit disconcerting.

A place I avoided the first time I scouted out good locations was Seizième De Soupir, which to my eyes looked like the sort of place a socialite might go to take a break in the midst of her shopping. But we were starting to get desperate as the other places on the list seemed less and less suitable. Or less and less open.

So here we were:

Looks more like a chocolate shop than anything tea-related, doesn't it? Well, there was definitely some other-worldly looking chocolate creations, and when I become a chocolate blogger, I'll definitely be returning to this place.

But I can assure you...this was quite a good find to get a cup of tea, as well. You want to read more on that, don't you? This is a teablog, after all.




The tea on offer was from a company called Mighty Leaf Monte-Carlo, and I have no idea if they're connected to the Mighty Leaf Tea in the United States. Will try to find that out. The choices were: a 'Himalayan Peak' Darjeeling, an Earl Grey, a very good Hojicha, something called 'Green Tea Passion' (something to do with green tea and tropical fruit), another green tea called 'Jasmine Mist', as well as a 'Marrakesh Green Tea' (gunpowder mixed with peppermint), and finally a very radical thing called 'Coco Chai' (Rooibus with coconut, red pepper and other spices). 

What would you guess we went for? Well, we both wanted to try the Hojicha. And a good portion of our afternoon was spent talking about this tea in particular and Hojicha in general. To anyone but a tea obsessive, that sounds like a dull afternoon. For us, it was anything but boring.

Again with my translation of the French (aided massively by Xavier): 

'This green tea is quite popular in Japan. It's rather tasty due to the manner in which it is roasted. Woody with an aftertaste of hazelnut.'
Here's how the leaves looked (I thought they looked more like a highly-oxidised Oolong than a typical green tea):

The first infusion tasted nothing like a green tea, which is a common reaction to Hojicha. Only in the second infusion were we able to detect the hazelnut aftertaste.

But the whole experience? The tea, the location, the beautiful sunny day in the South of France. Would we recommend it? We definitely would. Right Xavier?






Here's how it looked under the chandelier: