Sunday, 23 December 2012

bah humbug...give me a white monkey

monkeys and tea? what's the deal, yo?
It's almost Christmas, which means I should probably be writing a holiday-themed blogpost, but that'll simply have to wait. This is NOT a holiday-themed blogpost

I'm irritable and frustrated and don't want much to do with either the holidays or humanity in general. So, how am I going to spend the next little while? 

With a bit of White Monkey tea that I got from Claus Kröger in Hamburg. Why?

Because I'm assuming that monkeys enjoy themselves even when the going gets rough. And I'm curious why there are so many monkey-related things when it comes to tea. 

Oolong-picking monkeys have already played a very central role on this blog when Lisa Galaviz went to the Galleria in hopes of setting the monkeys at the tea shop free. Here's Don't tell her it's not tea for your reading pleasure.

And here's Lisa's update on the topic in How can they still be out of monkeys?

Just rereading her gem of a blogpost and even a few moments of mine have put me in a bit better mood. Maybe this tea lark isn't so bad, after all.

Monday, 10 December 2012

drinking tea that I can reach

Maybe I'll live here for a while
Am living out of suitcases right now while I search for a new flat, which means the contents of my tea cupboard is in my rucksack and in various boxes that're either strewn about the hotel room I'm in or in my friend Wolfgang's extra room.

Under normal circumstances, I think a lot about what the ideal tea is for this or that situation. Lately, I've simply grabbed the nearest sack of tea and brewed up. Sometimes, it's been the dregs of a shipment of Assam Mangalam, which is one of my favourite teas to drink in the morning or other times it's been the Ambagastowa Ceylon, which I got from a new supplier in Reutlingen (Spezialitäten-Compagnie).

However, what I've been a bit surprised at is that I keep reaching for really excellent Darjeeling. I should blog about each of these teas in detail, but I don't have the time for that at the moment. As it is, I found in the past that when the weather was cold and snowy, I didn't avoid tea from Darjeeling, but I didn't gravitate toward it, either.

While I was in Hamburg a few months ago, I got a few really nice Darjeelings from both Teehaus Shila and the first tea shop I used when I got into drinking this stuff in earnest - Claus Kröger.

It's very unlikely that I'll do a traditional tea review of any of these teas (I've simply decided not to waste my time with that ridiculousness anymore), but I do hope one of my upcoming posts can go into more detail about these particular teas. If I'd like to get back into the habit of posting here on my teablog, I could do with a topic or two that I'm passionate about.

Darjeeling tea has never done me wrong on that front. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

tea in my hiking rucksack


This has not been the easiest of months. I've been very busy, and there's not much time for anything except for the most essential daily functions.

I go to work and I read the paper and I try to be relatively nice to the people around me, but it's not always easy. The last few weeks has included a lot of apologising for being a jerk. By me.

It's been me. I've been a jerk.

Although I could blame the stress in my life, I'm not going to. I'm going to take responsibility and simply say that I'm frazzled.

What helps in the middle of a particularly overwhelming moment?

Tea, of course.

Normally, when I'm living in a stable environment, I've got a tea cabinet. However these days I'm living out of suitcases, so presently I've got a tea rucksack. It's my hiking pack and the best use I had for it when I was packing was to cram in all the books and all the tea paraphernalia, as well as much of the tea that I've got, into the said hiking pack.

So, until further notice I've decided to make myself very mobile. On the run, if you will. Have no idea where I'll be living next year...much less next month.

I'll be ok. Don't want to cause you and concern. Really.

No need for a photo of said rucksack. You know what one looks like. Imagine mine brimming to the surface with tea and tea-related stuff. It's a rather practical way to transport one's tea.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Pot of Fresh Mint Tea at Le Pain Quotidien

Late in the evening in Notting Hill, some friends took me to Le Pain Quotidien for tea.
The waitress listed Earl Grey, English Breakfast and Rooibus as black tea, and I quickly decided on the Pot of Fresh Mint Tea.

It was delicious. And so late in the evening, it was nice to know that the natural lack of caffeine wouldn't interfere with my drifting off to sleep.

Actually, I'm doing that right now.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ostfriesischer Sonntagstee

What's that?

Ostfriesischer Sonntagstee?

Well, although Germany's primarily a coffee-drinking culture, there are pockets of the country that're are hotbeds of tea drinking. One of those places is the region in Germany on the northernmost part of the Dutch border called Ostfriesland.

I've talked about them before on this blog and I continue to find the tea that the people in Ostfriesland drink, as well as the way they drink it, to be fascinating. For example, there's an Ostfriesland Teezeremonie (tea ceremony) that really needs to be written about.

What a perfect opportunity for a teablogger such as yours truly. I'll write about that at some point in the future. Anyone interested in a German tea ceremony?

Ok, I'll get to that as soon as I'm able.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

tea with lemon and catching up with a good friend

First Annual International Tea Trade Convention summer 2011

Xavier and I haven't known one another for such a long time, but we're fast friends. Not sure where that term comes from, but I don't know of any faster friends.

We met last year in the summer when he came to Munich for the First Annual Tea Trade Convention, and I saw him at New Year's when he and Sabine came to Nice at the same time my wife and I were there.

I've documented all of this here on my teablog, but I thought I'd give you a quick synopsis of our backstory. Xavier and I have spent much of our time together either drinking or talking about tea. He's one of the many tea people I've found as a result of teablogging, and he quite possibly might be the most important.


He's just some French dude, right? Not exactly. He's one of the best teabloggers I know, because he does a niche thing that no-one does quite the way he does.

Xavier writes about tea and business. It's intriguing what he writes about. Every single time I read one of his posts, I learn something I'd never even considered before. Every. Single. Time.

If you don't know TeaConomics, you should.

What'd we drink when we met yesterday? Here:

I'll write about the tea another time, but I can tell you that it's going to be available soon. If you like the things that they do over at the Le Palais des Thés, you're going to love what I have to tell you soon. It's an entirely new line of tea blend. Four blends this year and then two more next year and two more the next. 

That means that by 2014, you can get one of eight exceptional tea blends from Le Palais des Thés. I'll review the four that're coming out this year as soon as they're available. 

Xavier and I had le Citron yesterday, and we both liked it quite a lot. More on that soon.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Hamburger Schietwetter

Upon arriving in Hamburg last week, it looked like it'd rain and rain for the entire trip. Luckily, the sun came out, but only for a little while.

One day the weather report said it'd be clear skies all day, so I didn't even bother taking any rain gear as I left the flat in the early morning sunlight. A decision for which I paid dearly when the skies opened up only half an hour later.

No-one's complaining, mind you. This is one of the most beautiful places in all of Germany and the best part of a day in Hamburg?

Unlike other parts of this coffee drinking land, people really drink tea here. It's a passion even.

One of my closest friends who I met through Tea Trade is coming to town tomorrow. Xavier and I spent time together at New Year's and now we're going to explore the world of norddeutschen Tee.

I assure you - blogging about out adventures is imminent.

Hamburger Schietwetter? Well, this is Plattdeutsch, which is an old form of German (heavily influenced by Dutch and English, even) that the northerners used to speak.

Many associate Platt with the sailors, as well. My mother-in-law used to teach me phrases in Platt. Wish I could remember some of it.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

mixing green and black tea

I'm not a tea blender, so for me that entire art is a kind of alchemy. The people who do it well have my respect and I often wonder if it's something I'll eventually get into.

For the longest time, I've been particularly fascinated with the blending of green and black tea. Perhaps because I brew the two sorts of tea at different temperatures and perhaps just because they have such distinct tastes, but the vegetal sometimes grassy taste of a green seems to be in conflict with the malty character of a good Assam. Or the smoky taste of a Yunnan.

That being said, when I'm in a tea shop and I see a blend of green and black tea, I almost always get it. With varying results to be fair. Often the green tea might as well not even be in the blend. The black tea overpowers whatever character the green had. Watered down black tea isn't my idea of a good time, so I'm often less than pleased at my recent purchase.

Why is it so difficult to blend green and black tea?

If it is so daunting, why do people continue to do it?

My favourite green/black tea blends?

Buen Dia from La Tetería and Michel Strogoff from Le Palais des Thés. How about you?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Tea on the run

Any of you who've been reading this teablog for a while will remember my trusted orange flask. Displayed in many of my posts, it was a sad day when I had to retire that piece of tea gear.

The truth is that I've actually gone a bit off on carrying already-brewed tea around with me. If you know me, that'll surprise you. See, I've nearly always got a flask in my hand or buried deep within my rucksack.

Not anymore, though.

Many tea friends have asked me over the years, 'Why do you do that? You know the tea just tastes like the flask, right?'

Well, it's true. Not always, but often enough it's really easier to carry leaves with you and to arrange for hot water.

To be perfectly honest, that's much easier to lug around, anyway. Don't you think?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The people between the grass and the tea tree

Learned how to write 'tea' in Chinese today. It's actually rather easy. Maybe if I were better at technology, I'd show you my half-arsed attempts. Stay tuned. Maybe by the end of this post, I can make a screen shot of my scribbling.

Went back to Laifufu Teesalon today, when I was really quite fed up with everything. I knew I could go home and drink tea. I certainly have plenty in my cupboard. However, I wanted someone else to be tea mother, so I went to my favourite local.

You know about Laifufu, right? Here, I talked about them earlier this year when Ya Ya came to visit:

tea drunk at Laifufu

She had some interesting things to say, as she often does, and I met another tea drinker called Felix, who was quite nice and friendly. As tea drinkers often are, ya know?

Then she showed me how 'tea' in Chinese is a little story. That's the way to learn this language. As if every character is a narrative.

The story is, as she told it, 'First you have "grass" up above.

'Then the symbol for "men" and underneath that is the "tea plant" or "tea tree".'

So in Chinese, tea is 'The people between the grass and the tea tree'.

This made me smile. I'm smiling more and more often these days. Must be doing something right.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Bloom Tea

Any of you heard of this brand of tea?

Step 1 - ideal at breakfast

good for Metabolism

Step 2 - ideal for morning

good for De-Stressing

Step 3 - ideal at noon

good for Digestion

Step 4 - ideal for afternoon

good for Concentration

Step 5 - ideal for evening

good for Relaxation

I'm trying these teas now, and I'll soon let you know what I thought.

Meeting The Devotea

What an experience.

Twas an experience, I tell you.

Meeting Robert and his lovely wife. One of the high points of my visit, and I'm not even done yet.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Second Annual International Tea Trade Convention in London

London bound for the Convention

Last year we had the First Annual International Tea Trade Convention in Munich when the founders and administrators of the site visited me, while on a whirlwind tour through Germany. Xavier also met us, as well as his girlfriend who we met for the first time (and really liked).

So, although the founders can't be there, I'll be visiting Robert Godden in London next weekend, and we've decided to hold the 2nd Annual International Tea Trade Convention. Might sound like we're blowing a small gathering out of proportion and making it sound much more important than it really is.

Who? Us?

Like Robert and I'd ever do such a thing. I'm almost offended at the very thought.

Here's the thing, my little tea drinking friends: we need a venue. Like, desperately. Robert has some favourite tea salons in England's capital, and I know some quirky cafés that may or may not serve decent tea. Those aren't nearly good enough for such an event. Hardly.

We need a place with wifi, so we can have a bit of virtual tea drankin' with whomever shows the slightest interest in taking part in such an astoundingly important event. And it'd be nice if the place actually served tea.

However, now that I think about it I realise The Devotea and I probably carry around enough tea that we could have our convention anywhere that'd let us plug in our travel kettle and give us space enough to brew up. My taste buds are perking up at the very thought.

You're probably asking yourself, 'How might one take part in the virtual tea drankin' and more importantly will there be teablogging of the 2nd Annual International Tea Trade Convention?'

For the former, contact Robert or me on twitter or Feckbook. And the answer to the latter is, 'Most definitely yes! There will be teablogging.'

It has been decreed.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Tushita Teehaus in the morning

What a wonderful way to start the longest day of my week. Most people call it a day early on Friday, but not me. If anything, I find that if I want a lighter workday, it's best for me to schedule that earlier in the week.

The weekend is prime time for my new job. We're not only an online paper, but the goal is that we go back into print this month as a weekly newspaper serving not only Munich but all of the English-speaking community in Bavaria.

How stressful is that? Well, it's a marathon rather than a sprint. So starting out my busiest day at one of my favourite tea salons was really a stroke of genius.

Wish I could say it'd been mine, but that wouldn't be accurate. It was my client who came up with the idea.

Not that I spent much time arguing with her. Jumping at the opportunity, we met just as the Tushita Teehaus was opening their doors and setting tables out on the street.

I had a Sheng Pu-erh, and because my client had a bit of a cold, the friendly tea seller suggested an herbal tisane that'd soothe her throat. My tea was quite good. A great way to start the morning.

The cakes of Pu-erh pictured below made me very envious of people who drink this sort of thing all the time.

One day, eh? Well, I certainly hope so.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

drinking tea Gangnam style

'What does this have to do with tea drinking?' you ask.

Well, clearly you've never been teadrunk. Like I am now.

Several months ago, I wanted to include Mr Rogers singing over a funky beat before it went viral. If you're on social media, you often see things when they're first big, and then the major news sources find out about them days if not weeks later.

If you really want this to be somehow tangentially related to tea, then I'll tell you what I'm drinking right now.

Are you ready?

I'm drinking tea.

Monday, 27 August 2012

tasting the Darjeeling and not yet ready for the Nepalese...

The three amigos of questionable tea

Did a tea tasting this weekend. With the lady who sleeps next to me.

She didn't like either tea, and I wasn't much more impressed. Oh well. Can't win them all, eh?

To be fair, these are not top-shelf Darjeelings. I knew that when the samples arrived.

Not going to do a tea review. Other than to say I wouldn't buy these. I suppose that's a review of sorts. I'll hold my tongue rather than go any further.

The Tumsong Darjeeling was the only one I'd drink again...under duress

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Reviewing tea on the dark side

What tea is this?

I don't read Chinese, so I can't tell you. One of my clients found out I was into tea, which is an understatement, and brought me this. It was ok, not great. However, now I really want to know what it was.

All I know is that it's a green tea and tastes weirdly burnt. Actually, if she hadn't told me it was green, I'd have never guessed it.

That means it might not be. She doesn't read Chinese either. Anyone have any idea what this package says?

I can make it larger if that helps.

Oh, big news over here at the Lahikmajoe Drinks Tea blog. Hasn't been big news here in ages. I've neglected my tea blog for long enough. All that's about to change.

Turns out one of my favourite tea companies is interested in doing something with me.

Exciting, eh?

I've been very careful with such things in the past. Several times, I've had companies approach me who wanted me to write glowing reviews in return for tea.

As Robert Godden says, if your review can be bought then your review isn't worth much. I realise this isn't the standard position on this by many/most tea bloggers. I know for a fact that some tea bloggers will write scathing reviews if a tea is bad.

Those reviewers are the only ones I trust. Really.

If you can find something positive to say about every tea, then you and I are on opposing sides. Think about it.

There are some teas that really are a crime against humanity. If your policy is to never say anything bad about a tea, then you're essentially working for the dark side.

An exaggeration?

I've been known to exaggerate.

So, about the tea company with whom I'm talking. Who could Lahikmajoe possibly be talking about? Hold your horses, bub.

There'll be time enough for that in a future post.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

tea for the revolution

Twas a bit cryptic over here for a few days, wasn't it?

Planned a blogpost about Revolution Tea, and quickly provided the link and thought I pressed 'save', so that I could write the post at a later time.

And here's what showed up instead:

Revolution Tea

That's it. A post with two words and if you clicked on it, it would've taken you to their website.

Pretty minimalist, don't you think?

I agree.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

wet leaves and drier leaves

in Hamburg looking through the windows at Messmer Momentum's Darjeeling boxes  

Why are most Monsoon tea flush Darjeelings not normally sold outside of their region? Aren't all flushes worth drinking. I've had something called Autumn Flush from at least one company, and it was tasty enough. Certainly not bad. Anything but bad.

Then while I was talking to Michael J. Coffey and Geoff Norman, we got to talking about wet leaves versus drier leaves. Michael was talking about about Taiwanese tea rather than Indian tea, but he made an interesting point.

Apparently, the wetter the leaf is when it's been picked, the lesser quality the resulting tea will be. Now, I'm not a grower. Clearly. Sitting here in my flat in Germany, anything I say about growing tea is based upon very limited information. I read and I listen to tea people more knowledgeable than I, but I'm passing this onto you the way I heard it. My retelling is hopefully accurate.

I found the next thing Michael said to be the most intriguing. Here's what it was:

'There’s a tension between the farmers and the pluckers.  Pluckers want to work early in the morning, because the dew is still on the leaves and they’re plumper. They’ll be paid more for the same amount of work. Farmers know that higher quality tea results from plucking late in the morning.
 Some farmers will make a compromise, and they’ll do both an early and late morning plucking. Afterwards, they’ll sell the two different batches separately; the late morning one being of lesser quality.'

Michael Coffey said that this was true of Taiwan in general, so this doesn't directly relate to Darjeeling tea. The reason I even mentioned my favourite tea growing region of India, is I've often wondered how the rainy season affects the tea grown at that time.

There you have it. Wet leaves = ok, but not necessarily the best. Waiting until later in the morning to pick the leaves makes the resulting tea even better. Well, that's great because I was hoping to sleep in anyway.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

a turtle and a strawberry

Welcome back to the new and improved Lahikmajoe Drinks Tea.

Have had a bit of a break due to my day job, but hopefully that's settling down so I can devote more time to teablogging. After all, that's what really matter, right?

Some have asked me if I'll ever blog again? Well, I suppose this is an answer to that.

Want to see a photo of a turtle and a strawberry?


What other teablog offers you something like this? None! None, I tell you.

As a matter of fact, this is the first I've ever seen such a photo on a teablog. What does it have to do with tea, you ask?

My answer?

What doesn't it have to do with tea? Strawberry tea. Turtle tea.

My friend Diana, when we were touring in Japan in the early nineties, compared the taste of green tea to turtle pee. After the obvious enquiry as to whether she had personal experience with drinking the urine of the testudo, we agreed that the tea we'd been served by our host actually smelled like turtle urine must someone who had actually tasted turtle pee, which we hadn't...not us.


Oh, you still want the photo, don't you?

Well, here it is:

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

tea kills (maybe)

This is the longest I've gone without blogging since I started this teablog a few years ago, and I have to apologise. Really, it wasn't intentional.

I could make up a lot of excuses, but the truth is you don't come here for my problems. You come here for teablogging goodness, and that's what I intend to give you. Is this the prettiest teablog you've ever seen? It is not. Am I an expert on the topic of tea? Nope. Far from it.

The whole point of this teablogging lark was to document my 'learning about tea' journey, as well as to display my writing. I already had made a few stabs at other blogs, and there was something missing. I read some things about bliss and passion, and then I wondered what mine were.

A while back, in the midst of one of the busiest times I've had in years, I saw an article that would shock and astound you. Well, it would if I could find it. It was in a German paper, which I set aside in order to use it for a future blogpost.

When I went hunting for it earlier today, it'd disappeared. Gone. What to do? Not sure.

It was a scientific article that made a dramatic and terrifying claim. For any of you men who drink a lot of tea, as well as for the people who love them, this was worrying stuff. But can I write about it if I don't have the source? If I only have a very vague idea of what the article even said?

Of course I can. I can do nearly anything I want here. This is all fun and games, right? Teablogging fun and games.

So, I'm going to pass on an unsubstantiated've been warned. Hold onto your hats, because you're not going to like this.

If you drink eight cups of tea, or more, per day and are of the male persuasion, there's a higher likelihood that you'll get prostate cancer. You heard me. All you people who tout the health benefits of tea can stick that where the sun don't shine.

That tea you love so much...the tea you swill from dawn to dusk...your tea is killing you. And I can't think of a better reason to break my teablogging silence. As one of the Beasts of Brewdom, I feel it's the very least I could do.

For the good everyone.

Be careful out there gentlemen. It's not easy being a tea drinker.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

we've no time to wash the things between whiles

`Yes, that's it,' said the Hatter with a sigh: `it's always tea-time, and we've no time to wash the things between whiles.

Howdy, lahikmajoe's teabloggians. Lahikmajoe has been kind enough to let me guest-blog today. This is always a treat because then I get to be goofy elsewhere, other than my home. I’ve been here before. You might remember me. I’m the one who knows very little about tea and is very willing to try it, but hasn’t found anything to make her want to drink it on a regular basis yet.

Today I went on a very grand adventure. This adventure was a few months in the making, so it’s exciting that it actually finally happened. Yes, it was a tea adventure. It would be a odd if I was here and it wasn’t a tea-related adventure, now wouldn’t it? Yes. Yes, it would.

A few months ago, I noticed a sign go up in a field that I drive past on my way to work. 

This is kind of what the sign looked like. ANYWAY, I was all, “Hey, lahikmajoe, I think we’re getting a tea place, or maybe a sewing shop, when it opens, I should check that out, yeah?

Then I kind of totally forgot about it completely because life got in the way. It happens.

Then a couple of weeks ago, the local paper reviewed the place I’d completely forgotten about, and I thought, oh, oh, crap, I totally forgot about that place. I guess it opened. Whoops!

So I went to the website and I brought up the tea menu and I asked lahikmajoe if it looked any good and if I should go there. He said there were plenty of decaf options for me (I’m not supposed to have caffeine, because one of my cadre of doctors - yep, I have a cadre of them, I’m a whole medical miracle - told me that caffeine was a migraine trigger, and it seems to be the case, because when I cut the caffeine out, my migraines mostly stopped, too) but here’s the thing - I didn’t want to go to a fancy tearoom and have decaf, because the decaf options were mostly herbal, and it seemed like going to a tea place for tea that doesn’t really have tea in it would be like going to an amusement park for the people watching. It seems like a waste. You’re THERE, you really need to participate in what’s going ON. 

Plus, I really, really, REALLY wanted to try Oolong. Lahikmajoe talks about it all the time and makes it sound wonderful. Even if I tried it and hated it, I wanted to see what it tasted like. And they had Wu Yi Oolong. Doesn’t that even SOUND fancy and like you’re going on an exotic vacation? It totally does.

So I decided, let’s try something with caffeine, and see what happens. It’s probably been 12 years since the “don’t have anymore caffeine” edict, and I’ve changed a lot since then, so who knows what will happen.

So this morning! I got up at 6:45am. ON A SUNDAY. I know. I’m very dedicated. Oh, last night, lahikmajoe gave me a tutorial on Oolong and oxidation and such, which was nice. It was like going to the tea place with prior knowledge. Like I was a secret agent.

I got to The Tailored Tea at a little after 8am. I had lahikmajoe on call. I think it’s important to have a tea expert on call for situations like this, don’t you? Sure it is, come on.

The Tailored Tea looks like this. I am stealing this photo from the Albany Times Union website, because the photo I took...well, here’s their photo:

inviting, eh? you'd go there for some tea, wouldn't you?

And here’s MINE, because I felt like a weirdo standing in the street to take a good photo, so I stood off to the side and it looks terrible.

incognito photography

I’ll never be mistaken for a professional photographer, that’s for sure. Also, there’s the Midas Brake Center and the Dunkin’ Donuts. Hi, chain establishments!

So I was the first person there. That’s a little worrisome. The staff pays a LOT of attention to you when you’re the first person there.

Now, most of you probably already read the review The Purrfect Cup did of the same place? She’s more knowledgeable than I am. So, if you didn’t, here. This is a much less scatterbrained review of the same place.

Lahikmajoe said I should ask the waitress if they do multiple infusions, and if they did, tell him, because that was the way to go. And that they would know what he was talking about. He’s the tea expert. I said I would.

I was seated at the TINIEST TABLE EVER. So, so tiny. I was immediately sure I was going to break something. I am a total bull in a china shop. Oh, also? There was a LOT of china. This had utter disaster written all over it. I immediately tucked in my elbows and prayed I would be coordinated, just for an hour or so.

The table settings were pretty. All classic linen and mismatched china.

doesn't the china look nervous?

The waitress was young and seemed very sweet. So I was kind of nervous asking her about the infusion thing. But lahikmajoe said to. So I did.

Um...infusions...I don’ you want to know how we brew our tea?” she asked.

I explained that no, I was pretty sure that wasn’t what it meant - it was more about how many times you used the leaves. (Sheesh, lahikmajoe, I hope that’s right. I didn’t know there would be a quiz.)

Oh. We steep the teabags for three minutes,” she said, very happy she knew the answer this weird person was wanting.

Teabags? Oh. Um. I don’t think a fancy tearoom is supposed to have teabags. That’s a worry. (And actually really confusing, because before I left, the owner came and talked to me, and you can buy any of the teas they sell there loose-leaf. So why do they have them in teabags? Do they put them in teabags themselves? Or was the waitress just ill-informed? She was utterly adorable. I don’t want to get her in trouble.)

So I told her whatever they did would be fine and got a half-pot of Oolong, which is supposed to be 2.5 cups. She asked if I wanted her to leave the teabag in or out. She said if she left it in, it would get very strong. “Out, out, please out,” I said. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like strong tea.

I also ordered a big old omelette because it had ham and cheese in it. Yum.

She brought out the tea. The teapot was bigger than I expected. She poured me a cup in my tiny, very delicate-looking teacup. Oh, please don’t let me break this, I thought. That’d be so embarrassing.

first cup of Oolong

I looked around the table. No cream. No Splenda. I’m sure they HAD such things, but I’d have to ask for them, and the poor waitress was busy by then. Three other parties had come in. And they were old, and they were demanding. (More on these shenanigans later.)

I wanted to try it without anything in it first anyway. It’s not fair to try something to see if you like it with a bunch of add-ons. That’s like salting a meal before you even taste it to see if it needs salt.

My take on tastes like flowers. And it doesn’t taste as tea-like as the other types of tea lahikmajoe has encouraged me to try. He wanted to know if it tasted like anything else. My answer is? Probably, but I’m not the person to ask. I don’t have a fancy palate. My favorite meal is honestly chicken fingers. All I tasted (and smelled) was flowers.

And I drank an entire half-pot (without cream or Splenda) all by myself. Without even a grimace. I actually liked it quite a lot. It was smooth, it didn’t have that weird aftertaste, and it made me feel like a fancy lady to be drinking it out of a nice teacup at a table with a tablecloth on it.

And and AND, it’s been a couple of hours, and no migraine. Not even a headache. It could still be coming, I suppose, but the only after-effects I’ve experienced so far are I’m hyped up like a crazy person (listen, YOU try not having any caffeine for 12 years and then having a half-pot of tea, which was supposed to be 2.5 cups but was really 3.5 cups!) and all the peeing. ALL THE PEEING.

Oh, the other people in the teashop? Ok, so there were three other tables of people.
Table one: crotchety demanding couple. They complained about everything to one another. “I don’t LIKE bacon. Why don’t they have TURKEY bacon.” Blah blah blah. (Also, turkey bacon is an abomination of nature, lady. Get with the program.) When the waitress cleared their table, they waited for about .0005 seconds, then the wife went LOOKING for her, out by the KITCHEN, for the check. I could hear her haranguing the staff, “We’re ready for our BILL now!” (Granted, the wait for my bill was interminable, too, but I was nicer about it. I had my phone to entertain me.)

Table two and table three: Old people who knew each other from a billion years ago. Table two said to table three, "Hey, is that you, Mary Alice? We used to volunteer at the church together!" And they were off, reminiscing about old times. The best thing though? The best thing? Table two was telling table three about a diner she liked to go to, and table three said - actually said - “Are there HIPPIES there?” And table two said, “Um. Hippies?” And table three said, “Every time I drive by, there are ALL THE HIPPIES hanging around outside.” Table two laughed uncomfortably and said, “We go very early, so there are there. Then. No.” I was trying VERY HARD not to laugh out loud. THOSE DAMN DIRTY DINER-RUINING HIPPIES.

(I promise I wasn’t being openly eavesdroppy. The people didn’t know I was listening to them. I can listen and look like I’m not. I’m very good at it.)

Also, and I just kept thinking, “This would make lahikmajoe so sad,” because all three tables, the MINUTE they sat down, said a variant of “You DO have coffee here, RIGHT?” I think a couple of the ladies might have gotten tea, but mostly the men they were with were all TEA IS BAD NEWS WE DISTRUST THIS TEA NONSENSE. One guy actually said, “I’ll have coffee. And KEEP IT COMIN’.” OK, Hopalong Cassidy.

When I was done, the owner came and checked in with me about how I liked my food and my beverages (I did! Very much!) and then I went home. Oh, this is their backyard:

the backyard, which is really the airport

The backyard is the airport. Some people really dig watching planes lift off and land. I’m not as charmed. They’re just planes. 

So. The Tailored Tea in Latham, New York. I’m all-systems-go on this place. It’s cute and it’s fancy (so tuck in those elbows, people as clumsy as me) and the food is good and priced reasonably. You will probably be the youngest person in the room by about 40 years if you are my age.

And...Oolong. Well, so far I have tried black tea (in chai), Rooibos (NOT REAL TEA!), green tea, and a weird licorice herbal thing. Oolong wins hands-down.

What’s next, lahikmajoe?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

and you thought Bubble Tea couldn't get any worse

You probably already know that I don't have good things to say about Bubble Tea. Despite people assuring me that there are versions that aren't obscenely packed with sugar, I haven't found one. And the ridiculous price that one pays for a huge cup of sugar water makes it all that much easier to walk right past any Bubble Tea establishment.

However, there's been a bit of a Bubble Tea renaissance here in Germany, and in Munich in particular. So much so that McDonald's is getting in on the act. Take a look for yourself:

Chan McTi, eh? Mc TEA, get it?

That's not at all racist, is it? He's supposedly Chinese, but he screams out 'Bubblezaiiiii...', which is a play on the Japanese Banzai Charge. So not only are McDonald's being insensitive, but they can't keep their inane stereotypes straight.


I know it's easy to get self-righteous about this organisation. The Golden Arches really do make themselves an easy target. If I ever do find a tolerable example of Bubble Tea, it won't be at McDonald's. I know they have plenty of customers, but I'm most certainly not one of them.

Friday, 8 June 2012

trashing the tea competition

left a withered, rotten taste in my mouth
Was in the midst of my whirlwind tour through Texas, when I sat down to write a blogpost about a certain tea that I'd picked up during my travels. I'd never heard of this tea before, so I did a quick internet search to see if there were any curious stories about the tea plantation or the tea growing region. Instead I found a tea forum that ridiculed this specific tea and anyone who might have ever enjoyed it.

The ugliness of the language in this tea forum so appalled me that the little time since then that I've had thinking about tea blogging was spent wondering how I was going to handle this.

First of all, I hate to admit it, but my first response was to question my taste. Maybe me being this candid about my self-consciousness will be seen as a weakness by some, but so be it. Immediately, I thought, 'Wait, this tea tastes like crap and I liked this tea. Ergo, my taste is crap.'

Luckily, I have enough confidence in both my taste in tea and my knowledge of decent tea that I didn't  entertain that prospect for very long. This tea blogging lark isn't a contest to see who can be snobbiest about this delicious, mostly brown liquid. Well, it certainly isn't for me.

However, the whole experience with this site was off putting. And oddly a bit of a culture shock. See, I've been in Germany long enough that negative comparative selling now rubs me the wrong way. When my German friends visit the United States, they can't believe that it's acceptable to promote your product by trashing the competition.

From what I understand, it's even illegal here to do that. But even if it weren't, it's considered bad form. I've asked quite a few people I know, and they insist that they'd avoid something that was marketed in such an agressive manner.

Let me be clear: writing something negative about a tea on a tea forum is not the same thing as a company trashing its competitor. Sometimes you don't like a tea, and you say it directly. That's something I completely understand and support. Tea reviews lose any meaning if they're all glowing and positive.

But if your tea company has a tea forum where other companies' tea is shamelessly trashed, I begin to wonder about your class (or lack thereof). Is that really how you want to play this game? Good luck to you on that one.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

a teapot and friendly tea talk

why not a Disney teapot?
Visiting family is often a pleasure, and even more so if members of your family are tea drinkers. I wrote about my tea party with Amelia last year about this time. Although we've enjoyed some prodigious tea drinking hereabouts, the home I'm visiting was sorely lacking a proper teapot. Well, until today that is.

Some of you might view a Snow White teapot with a bit of suspicion. 'Is that really a proper teapot?' you're asking yourself. Well, of course it is. And all the more appealing to the little girls new to tea. Hence the design. I've actually made pot after pot of tea in it today. This teapot has been christened and then some.

Oh, there was a relatively small article in the New York Times yesterday entitled Flying as a Time for Sleep, Or Friendly Tea Talk about David DeCandia, who's a master blender for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It was an article near to my heart, because it's ostensibly about tea, but deals with periphery topics and draws them in.

In case you can't (or don't want to) get behind the Times pay wall, I'll include my favourite part of it. He's talking about travelling in general and in tea growing regions in particular. Here's what he says:
'A great seatmate is anyone who lets me sleep. That doesn't mean I don't talk to people, on occasion. I'm a friendly guy, and it's always fun to talk to people about tea...I drink about 20 to 25 cups a day. People are very well informed about tea, and aren't opposed to trying new types. So if someone asks me for a recommendation, I'm happy to give them some suggestions. 
Then there are those seat-mates I wish I never spoke with. 
I sat next to one gentleman recently who would not shut up. He was older, and I wanted to be polite...'
Really love this. As a rule I'm polite but curt with people sitting next to me on the plane (or the train, but that's somehow different). But flying from Germany recently, I had a fantastic experience where my seat-mate and I talked nearly the whole flight. It wasn't planned or anything. We simply had a lot of common interests, and one thing led to another and there we were at our destination.

Goes to show: you really don't know what's going to happen next. I could've been a jerk, and said, 'I really want to read my book,' and missed out on a fantastic connection.

Am really glad I didn't do that.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

my Nana could feel us down here thinking of her

Shanghai tea house in Hamburg
While planning my trip to the US, I considered bringing enough tea from home. I have enough, and really don't need any new tea. But such is the quandary of a tea obsessive. I don't need any, but...I desperately want to try new tea. Although I write about tea shops in Germany and around Europe, I have several American tea sources I like. I use these trips while visiting family to take advantage of the places I like the most.

Here I was going through Upton Tea's website ordering one from Java and another tea from India...(a black one I'd never even heard of) and I'm sure I'll get around to talking about here. At some point, I intend to incorporate all the tea I'm drinking on my trip, but as you know I like to write about non tea-related things here, as well.

While I was wrapping up my order, Upton Tea suggested a sample of a tea that they were nearly out of. As I read about it, I thought, 'Oh, my. This is eerily appropriate for the purpose of my visit.' My maternal grandmother passed away recently, and the family is scattered all over. We arranged to meet this weekend. Despite what sounds like it could be a sad and depressing situation, we really had a good time celebrating her life rather then mourning anything.

'What does any of this have to do with tea?' you're wondering. I'm glad you asked. So the tea I read about was called China Pre-Chingming Golden Pekoe. But that'd mean nothing without what I'm going to tell you next. Here's the direct link to the description of the tea that was provided.

As it says:
The festival of Chingming (Qingming) is a 2500 year-old tradition in which people visit the burial sites of their ancestors to pay respect. It is significant in Chinese tea culture because it serves as a demarcation between a distinct pre-Chingming plucking period and the subsequent plucking period occurring after the festival date (usually around April 5). Pre-Chingming teas are prized for their delicacy and subtle, fresh nuances.
So, it's a tea for the ancestors. Honouring one's ancestors specifically. How ideal is this? Like I was almost led to it just in time for my trip. Then I read more about the holiday Ching Ming, which actually takes place every year on 5 April (Here's more about that in Ching Ming). We're weren't willing to wait till next year for 5 April to come rolling round again. We had ancestor-honouring to take care of.

I mentioned my Aunt Elise when I wrote getting into tea in Tucson, and I knew she and her daughter (my cousin Alyssa) enjoyed drinking tea and would appreciate the symbolism of doing so in my grandmother's honour. My mother really likes tea, so it was a foregone conclusion that she'd be game for just such an endeavour.

If there was ever a perfect scenario for throwing out the first infusion, this was it. I'd read years ago that many Taiwanese, as well as Mainland Chinese I assume, discard the first infusion as some sort of symbol to the ancestors. Something like you're giving tea to the spirit of those that came before you. Yet, I had no intention of doing it. I don't like throwing tea away.

But the funny/spooky thing that happened? I unwittingly spilled the first infusion. All of it. If that's how the ancestors want to get their first infusion from us, that's the least we could do for them. Then the actual next infusion was poured and enjoyed by me and these ladies (my mom and aunt) who've meant so much in my life.

The tea was a tad bitter the fist few sips, but that settled down quite nicely. A nice caramel taste in the cup, I definitely drank this in my grandmother's honour. She might not have understood what on earth we were doing with a Gaiwan and those little cups, but I'm hopeful my Nana could feel us down here thinking of her.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

tea for horses

tea horse (photo from

Song dynasty: the Chinese were vulnerable because they had inferior horsemanship leaving them vulnerable to nomads and conquerors from multiple directions. The solution: tea. The Tibetans in particular fell prey to the power of the leaf. By giving them a taste of the brew, the Chinese of the Song dynasty actually got their adversaries hooked on the stuff.

'...With the burgeoning tea trade, however, China discovered a new weapon (for caffeine addiction is a subtle but powerful, persistent force) in its Sisyphean attempts to appease and bridle the nomads. This was the beginning of the fabled tea and horse trade, which turned the Tibetans into the most copious tea-guzzlers on the planet, opened up some of the world's most daunting trade routes, and remained a cornerstone of China's foreign policy until the end of the Qing dynasty.'

(source: The True History of Tea p.70 by Victor H Mair & Erling Hoh)

This is a fantastic development. You may be wondering why I'm so fascinated with this. Well, it just so happens that I'm visiting family in Texas over the next few weeks and I've just come up with a brilliant idea.

tea for horses

I wonder how much really excellent Long Jing I'd have to part with to get a halfway decent mare. The book keeps mentioning a measurement of tea that I'd never heard of. A 12 3/4 hand horse in China would have set me back 132 catties. How much tea was there in a catty? Could it have been that much?

Now, I'm trying to imagine the conversation I might have in cattle country with a horse trader.

Me: Howdy there, fine sir.

Horse trader: *eyes me with skepticism* *grunts*

Me: I was hoping to do some business with you today...although I must admit it's a bit unorthodox. Might you be interested in a creative transaction involving your livestock?

Horse trader: *raises his eyebrow*

Me: You see, I was reading in a book about the Chinese and their inability to procure acceptable horses. It was the Song dynasty, and it was causing the Chinese rulers a lot of trouble. They were being attacked repeatedly by their neighbours, who were superior horsemen. It turns out the only thing the Chinese had that was worth trading was tea. 

Horse trader: *looks surprised*

Me: You know the phrase 'All the tea in China'? Well, these Chinese had a lot of tea to trade. So my proposition here is that we recreate this manner of trade and I give you a certain number of pounds of tea for one of your better horses. 

Horse trader: Ah don't drink tea. 

Me: Yet! You don't drink tea yet. I was actually prepared for that eventuality. And the truth is that it doesn't matter that you don't drink tea. The Tibetans didn't drink it either when the Chinese first arrived.  But they learned. Eventually, they made up for lost time. Tell me, my good man, do you drink coffee? Enjoy a daily cup of Joe?

Horse trader: Yeah, I drink coffee. What of it?

Me: Do you ever have a cup or two of coffee and feel your heart start to race and your mouth go dry? 

Horse trader: Uh, well actually...yes. I like the taste of coffee, but it doesn't always seem to agree with me. 

Me: Well, that doesn't happen with tea. Not at all. The caffeine doesn't hit you all at once. It eases into your system and makes you both alert and calm at the same time. Here - I just happen to have a flask of hot, delicious tea right here...

And...scene...can you just imagine? Not only am I going to get a horse, but I'll be simultaneously luring someone over to the leaf-side. This is going to be great.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

té & té in the heart of Seville

I'd done a very brief internet search for tea in Seville and found nothing so interesting. Oh well. 'It wasn't to be,' I told myself. Only a few hours before boarding the train out of town, I turned to my friend Marla who drinks tea and lives in Seville and asked, 'Is there a teashop here?'

She chuckled at me and answered, 'Of course there is. Follow me.' A few twists and turns through streets I'd have never found myself wandering down, and there it was.

It turns out té & té has two locations, but this one was at Calle Castelar 2 (phone: 954 222 452). There's another teashop nearby at Pasaje de los Azahares 44 (phone: 954 220 755). You know how you can tell immediately if a shop is serious about tea? This place is one of those. In what I thought was coffee-drinking Spain. This trip has been much better for teablogging than I ever expected.

gorgeous tea gear

Beautiful canisters and tea cups and teapots, as well as a really nice selection of tea. The guy behind the counter introduced himself as Alfonso, and I'm almost certain he's the one responsible for all of this tea drinking goodness.

He offered a cup of what was a delicious black tea grown in South Africa (now I wish I'd asked him more about this tea - it was curiously tasty). Oh, and on the topic of teablogging, I just found that té & té has a Spanish teablog called pasión por el té. Take a look - you'll recognise the layout.

Marla mentioned that many establishments here offer something called 'Pakistani' tea, which Alfonso quickly showed us examples of this: what you'd think of as chai (black tea with clove and other musky spices). Although I was intrigued, I was much more curious about his single estate tea. He had plenty of that on offer, as well.

While standing there chatting about tea in both English and Spanish, another passionate tea drinker overheard us, and introduced herself as a Californian who'd lived in Seville on and off for decades. How I could think there was no decent teashop in Seville is now beyond me. té & té was a pleasant surprise.

a very contented teablogger

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Price of Tea in India

Last week, I got a bit hot and bothered about the price of tea in why does tea cost so much? Well, although there's been some interesting discussion on Tea Trade and twitter even about the topic (I actually agree with yaya that sometimes tea isn't too expensive - that the amount of tea you get from just a bit of leaf is rather impressive). However, it did bring a bit of joking at my expense from an Indian twitter friend

Here's what she said exactly:
Well, although I don't understand '0 Rs/$' (that sounds like free tea to me...I'm not ready for free tea), I think she was exaggerating a bit. I thanked her for her dastardly taunting. She then offered to write a bit of a rant along the same line as my blogpost. Well, you know I love a good guest blogpost, so I present to you Radhika (@levis517) and her unabashed ridicule of us - those of us paying far too much for our tea. Even if you don't agree with all of what she says, I think you'll appreciate her enthusiasm. Oh, and her taunting. That's priceless, as it were.

Without further ado, here's Radhika:

'It was only a couple of days ago that Lahikmajoe posted something on his teablog that I absolutely HAD to reply to. Actually, the post was itself inspired by a comment made by someone else on the outrageous price of tea in their part of the world. Of my 25 years on the planet, 21 have been spent in India, and 4 in Australia – a subset of ‘that part of the world’. Based on my experience, I can say this: yes, you are being duped.

As a good little Indian girl, I am a tea drinker. I made friends with some great people on twitter that were initially based around this drink. However, owing to the fact that I am the only one from a major tea-producing nation I find that, oddly enough, a lot of the time I can’t relate to the others’ tea escapades. There are only two occasions where I must respond.

The first is my endless quest to teach the Anglophone world the difference between chai and tea which is simply this: there is none. I won’t dwell on the topic much because I harp on about it enough both on and offline, and also it’ll detract from the point on hand.

The other thing I can’t resist commenting on is the price of tea abroad.  – i.e. where most of you are. In the case of Lahikmajoe’s post, the response was smug and self-satisfied. But that is because I’m back in the land of accessible tea. Were I still in Australia, the response would probably have been a tearful, heart wrenching ‘It’s not FAIR!

Now I understand there are a number of economic forces that interact to determine the price of a commodity within a given market, but I’m not here to gripe about economics. Why should I? It has no bearing on me if I’m not in said market. And in any case, I don’t feel I have enough expertise in the area to comment on it with any authority. No, the reason I get so upset about the disparity in the price of tea in India and abroad is not based on how much I have to spend to drink it (though I did switch to coffee for a year and a half because I find the tea in Australia intolerable as well as expensive). The reason it is an issue at all, in fact, is a matter of principle. (regular teablogger's note: changing to coffee is most definitely not recommended)

Tea is not meant to be expensive.

Lahikmajoe points out quite rightly in his post that tea is marketed in foreign lands as a luxury product. Can I just say I cannot think of a bigger insult to the drink than to call it a luxury product.

Australia was/is an absolute disgrace to the little leaf. The place is full of ‘tea houses’ and ‘teashops’ where you spend 4-5 dollars (200 – 250 rupees) on tepid, flavoured water with absolutely no personality or charm or purpose. They have this appalling institution called T2 which has made a business out of denigrating the innocent little tea leaf by engaging in a vile and I daresay mostly fictitious form of tea snobbery that tramples all over what I regard as the true purpose of tea. Tea brings people together – in a country of so many different languages, faiths and  facial features, it unifies an entire population. In Australia, and I imagine most of the developed world, it is marketed to serve the opposite purpose. You show off your tea, your wide and varied knowledge, the many different kinds you can identify, what flush, which leaves, how long should they be steeped and, most importantly, how much each is worth – the same way you do with wine and gadgets. But maybe that’s why I can’t take part in any other tea-discussions on Twitter. 

You see, In my part of the world, tea is comfort, warmth, and hospitality. In its classic, romantic avatar, it’s a boy and a girl at a railway station on a monsoon evening, with a glass of chai, sharing a packet of Parle-G biscuits. That’s from an ad for Parle-G based on millions of real life scenarios that take place across the country. I had my own on a train back from Lucknow when I was 17 and the man next to me asked if I’d like a cup of tea from the chaiwalla doing the rounds of the carriages. Please, don’t get any unsavoury ideas. Like I said, it is a literal and figurative token of warmth. The gent himself was Muslim and they often tend to be hospitable. We spoke a little over our chai and chips. He managed to soothe my edgy teenage nerves, this being my first solo train trip and all. I think he got off at Nizammudin, while I debarked at Delhi. Natch, we never saw each other again. 

Our tailor offers us a cup of chai whenever we visit to pick up our clothes. It’s his way of stalling us while his minions start and finish the job they were meant to have done the week before. The tea is from one of the shopowners in the market who’s known us for the past two decades. It’s sweet, milky and is sharpened with ginger. Absolutely beautiful. We don’t even mind the tailor’s slacking off. We wouldn’t go to anyone else.

I have a job now and I am delighted everyday by the cup of chai that apparates on my desk moments after I arrive. Without our chaiwalla, the office would fall apart. It’s why his name is the second one on the website’s staff page – just under the head honcho’s. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said it’s what makes me get up in the morning. The stuff is so potent, the aroma comes wafting through the rooms from the kitchen.

One of my best friends and I have taken it upon ourselves to spend more time together now that we know how much we miss each other when I’m away. We go to a handicrafts market near her house – it includes food stalls representing each state in the nation. We sit down over a cup of kawha or kulhar chai and talk about a list of topics that somehow hasn’t run dry after 17 years.

We have a shawlwalla who visits us in winter – for obvious reasons, selling shawls. I happened to mention how much I wanted to try to make kahwa yet how I was constantly thwarted by the absence of the right kind of tea. A week later, he dropped by bearing a bag of the stuff as a gift. 

My favourite memories of my undergrad involved me and my three closest friends sitting around 4 cups of tea (maybe one or two of coffee) on the college lawns on a sunny but nippy winter day, working on assignments due or just tossing ideas about our favourite theorists back and forth. The tea was the oversweet teabag variety, and I still get served it now and then. By tea snob standards it’s not worth the calories you burn drinking it, but for me the taste is a constant throwback to three of the best years I ever had.

I make tea as well. Some years ago, my father made a work visit to the North East. It must have been Assam because he returned bearing a bag of tea that weighed a kilo. I was admiring it in his house, he asked if I wanted it and I thought that was a great way to nick it. It’s the best tea I have ever had. It’s not high brow, not the top leaves, not full leaf, either, but it’s strong and sweet and powerful enough to hold its own against any spices I might add without losing any of its flavour. It’s my favourite tea to make – a silent kitchen, a pot, some water on the boil – add your ingredients and inhale. It’s one of the most therapeutic activities I can recommend.

There’s no room for snobbery in a tea culture. There’s also no room for economics. We don’t discuss price or quality of tea. We might spare a sentence to how we like our chai if we do. But, like I said, tea is an expression of fondness. A kind of catalyst that brings people together. Most of the tea you drink in India will cost you little or nothing. You’ll pay something between 3 and 10 rupees for a paper cup of nectar. Mostly, it’ll come to you. It’s a part of life, you know? It’s not something you think about. It’s just always there. It’s like a friend and friends aren’t luxuries.'

Thursday, 3 May 2012

La Tetería in Málaga draws you in

pull up a chair
You've been in Málaga's cathedral, as well as several other churches, and not only the Museo Picasso Málaga but the Casa Natal de Pablo Picasso, too. Up on the hill is the Alcazaba (castle) and below it the Puerto (port). If only there was a decent tea salon mixed in with all these tapas bars.

Well, I'm here to tell you there is. It's called La Tetería and it's a dream. Some tea shops make a half-hearted attempt at proper tea, but this place is definitely not one of them.

Chairs and tables are set outside in the shadow of both the Iglesia San Agustín and the above-mentioned Picasso museum, and everything about the place draws you inside. The decor, the music, the friendliness of the staff - all of it indicates that good things are going on here.

'What about the tea?' you ask. As good as the rest of it is, it's the tea that really matters. For a tea salon in a very busy tourist-saturated area, their selection is extraordinary.

such a selection
Plenty of flavoured green tea:

One called a 'moroccan' (green tea, mint and sugar), one with the name 'viento sur' (hibiscus, orange, mint, and 10 vitamins), and another called curiously 'fata morgana' (rose petals, cornflowers, and sunflowers). Yet I was most interested in the 'buen día' (Darjeeling, Japanese green, Ceylon with fresh strawberries and vanilla). I got a small canister of that last one and can tell you about it later.

Many flavoured black blends:

A 'suenos de buda' (black and green tea, ginger, and clove), and a concoction called 'canemón' (Earl Grey cinnamon and lemon). The creatively named 'crema irlandesa' (whiskey cream and cacao) in addition to their 'jengibre melange' (ginger, mint, and guava).

For white tea, there was a Pai Mu Tan and then several flavoured blends. A stawberry/vanilla, a cherry/jasmine, and a mango/lime.

I rarely get excited about flavoured tea, though. 'Do they offer any  single estate tea?' I hear you asking. Actually, yes. As if you had to ask.

There were two sorts of Assam: a Bazaloni G.F.B.O.P and a Rembeg T.G.F.O.P. (I had the former and it was delicious), at least three sort of Darjeeling: a Tukdah F.T.G.F.O.P. first flush, a Darjeeling de Otono F.T.G.F.O.P.1 (Margaret's Hope), even a green Darjeeling from Selim Hill F.T.G.F.O.P.1 and finally a Sikkim 'Temi' F.T.G.F.O.P.1.

I'm not going to list all their tea here. You can find quite a lot on the website La Tetería. There's also plenty of Rooibus and tisanes. There was also a section called 'Preventative and Curative Infusions' that I really hope I don't need for a long, long while. My plan is to stay as healthy as possible in the meantime.

La Tetería was much more than I expected. My assumption was that there wouldn't be much in the way of tea drinking in southern Spain. Gladly, I was mistaken. I can definitely recommend this place. If you find yourself in Málaga, you should definitely let yourself be drawn in.