Where Do I Start?

December 8th, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

I have no idea how I have gone almost 5 years of peddling my teas and never written a blog post on where to start in the tea journey. I’m seriously slacking! I got the best email today from a gentleman named Josh who has tried a number of teas from a national retailer. He’s had some homeruns and some strikeouts and wanted to dive deeper into the overwhelming world of loose leaf teas. The problem: where to start? To summarize, he asked if he should start with whites, move to greens, explore oolongs, and then wrap it up with black teas. While this might seem like a logical approach to introducing your palette to the finer nuances of the tea leaves, I prefer a different route.

  • Many might disagree, but I would suggest not using blended or flavored teas. They’re great as an introduction, but the ingredients they are blended with (fruits, herbs, extracts, etc.) all detract from the actual taste of the tea leaves themselves. In fact, in many cases, blends are usually made with slightly lower quality tea leaves. Not bad tea, just not the same flavorful brew you would get from the top leaves of an unblended tea. If you think about it, it makes sense that if you’re going to mask the flavor anyway, why use really great tea?
  • Keep track of what you do/don’t like to try to avoid a distasteful cup. For example, there was an herbal blend Josh had tried that was tart and not his favorite. It had hibiscus in it, which typically adds a tart flavor. Note to self…don’t buy tea with hibiscus as an ingredient.
  • If you try a tea one time, and aren’t really a fan, you might still be able to salvage that tea. Steeping times and temps are a guideline for getting the perfect cup but aren’t always what suits your tastebuds. Try playing with the tea (steep longer/shorter, lower/raise the water temp, decrease/increase the amount of leaf used) and see if you can’t dial in a pleasant taste.

But still….where to start? I’m not really a fan of starting with white teas and working your way up. I think it makes determining your tea preferences tough. In my humble opinion, oolongs are a great place to start. The oxidation range in oolong teas traditionally can be anywhere from 30%-90%. Some are roasted. Some have been grown near orchid gardens. Some are allowed to have bugs eat the leaves. There’s so much variety in oolongs and how they are grown/processed. The flavor variations don’t just bounce around between different oolongs either. Did you know you can traditionally resteep the same oolong leaves (I’ve had oolongs I was able to resteep up to 7 times) and the flavors can drastically vary each time. Oolongs are just a great place to start learning what you like and don’t like. The lighter oxidized oolongs are sweeter, sometimes fruity or floral, and can help define what you might like in green and white teas. The darker oolongs or roasted oolongs, can help you determine what you might like in a black tea since the flavors run from nutty, to malty, to chocolatey…and everywhere in between.

I would also like to just throw in that Meetup.com  is a good place to look to for local tasting events in your area. I got hooked on one such tasting event in Chicago and it changed my whole mugs world!
Any suggestions for Josh, and other new tea drinkers, trying to expand their tea cabinets?

This Just In!

November 25th, 2014

Amba OP1 with tea flowers

by Naomi Rosen

We’ve been slowly swapping out teas that were being sourced through outside blenders and replacing them with teas that are being sourced directly from the growers. It has been an extremely educational process and I am continually learning through every encounter with a new tea garden. The hard work has paid off too! Introducing the newest members to our tea line-up:

Amba OP1 

This black tea from Sri Lanka is incredibly unique, just like the tea garden it is grown in. About a year ago, I came across Amba Estate and shared their wonderful story. I’d encourage you to read about the revoluntionary steps being taken to cross-train employees and their profit sharing initiatives! The tea itself is true to Ceylon – brisk, honey and apple notes with beautiful dried tea flowers to make it so very different from any other tea you’ve tried!

Pucker Up

Also from Amba Estate, this herbal creation is organically cultivated lemongrass that has been hand plucked and processed. The expected citrus notes are simple and refreshing, and this lemongrass serves double duty as it can easily be used for cooking or garnishing a favorite dish or soup!



Suprabhat, translated from Hindi, is “good morning”. This breakfast blend of Darjeeling and Assam teas, grown by the Prakash family, puts the “good” in “good morning”. If you are familiar with teas from either region, you know that each has a unique flavor profile and aroma. When I cupped these teas for the first time, I was ecstatic to find that you can still pick out those characteristics even though the teas have been blended. It takes cream/sugar very well…but I loved it on its own merits.



Black Pearl

I swear we didn’t name this tea after Johnny Depp, although, as I type, I’m jotting down my idea for a Johnny Depp inspired tea line. This black tea is our first single orthodox/unblended tea from Indonesia and it does not disappoint. The leaves have been rolled into a ball, similar to an oolong, and offer a honey-like sweetness that we fell in love with. Also similar to an oolong, these leaves take awhile to release all of their flavor so we were able to re-steep up to 4 times and were pleasantly surprised with each of those cups.


Monsoon Magic

The first loose leaf teas that I ever tried were Chinese (Dragonwell). The first loose leaf tea I ever tried that I became obsessed with was an Indian Assam. In my 4+ years in the tea biz, I have become acquainted with some amazingly passionate people trying to make a difference in the conditions, pay, and benefits for Indian tea workers. It is through these people that we came across Monsoon Magic and Heritage Teas. Having been plucked after the summer rains (thus monsoon), it is malty and brisk but lighter than the first and second flush Assams that would be close relatives.


Sencha Ikkyu

I’ve been on the lookout for some great Japanese green teas. This is the first Sencha we’ve carried from Japan (the others have all been Chinese). While both countries can produce beautiful Sencha’s, we fell in love with this one at World Tea EXPO. It’s sweet and the vegetal/grassy characteristics aren’t overwhelming. The steep time is 1 minute at the most and subsequent steepings literally just took a hot water pour over. We’re impressed with this tea and we think you will be too!



Genmaicha has been a part of our tea family since the first 32 teas were launched! We did the old switcheroo on this one and discontinued the old blend and replaced it with this tea from an organic green tea farmer in Japan. We know that there was a bit of a price increase once we switched to this blend, but we think it is worth the increase. The flavor is toasty, nutty, and the green tea base is fresh and the perfect compliment on this tea. Added Bonus: this blend is organic!


We offer both Cinco (5) and Ocho (8) sampler packs if you would like to try out the full line of new teas. And we want your feedback! How’d we do?


November 21st, 2014

by Naomi Rosen

In June, my family and I traveled to New Orleans for a much anticipated vacation. One of the highlights of said trip was our adventure 2 hours north to Brookhaven, MS, and the home of The Great Mississippi Tea Company (yes, I sang the song in my head to spell that right!). Jason and Timmy were unbelievable hosts and answered every question my little tea growing noob brain could think of. For proof that I broke a sweat, you can visit the album on our Facebook Page. Our project that day was to assist with the digging/installation of the posts creating the framework for their new tea plant nursery. It was muggy, dirty work and I was ecstatic!

Now, here we are 5 months later. I am so proud of these guys! They’ve put thousands of tea plants in the ground and launched an incredible “Adopt-A-Tea-Plant” program today…just in time for the holidays! This is, without a doubt, one of the coolest gift ideas for the tea drinker in your life!

*A note to the adopters: Once you’ve completed the PayPal process, be sure to click on the “Take me back to the GMSTC page” option and enter your email address! 

Stay tuned for a multi-part series about the work being done down at The Great Mississippi Tea Company. They’ll roll out over the next month or two.

AND…since Joy’s Teaspoon is a very proud sponsor/adoptee of the MS tea plants, we’ll be giving away a couple of adoptable plants over the next few weeks. Pick your poison (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and we’ll get the details up in the next few days!

Mo Off 2014

November 10th, 2014

DJ...Winner of the Great Mo Off of 2012

by Naomi Rosen

It’s that time again! MOVEMBER! I could have told you it was November without even looking at a calendar. First, it dipped under 90 here in Vegas. Second, all of the college aged men at my gym started looking a little “lumberjacky” around the 3rd.

A couple of years ago, we decided it would be fun to do a Mo Off. We’ve decided to do it again this year too! It’s simple…

  • Post a picture of you and your Mo, drinking your favorite tea, to our Facebook page.
  • Using your favorite social media networks (Twitter, FB, Instagram, Tsu, etc.) encourage your friends and family to “like” both the Joy’s Teaspoon FB page, and your picture. That’s it!

There will be two winners of $50.00 Joy’s Teaspoon gift certificates! 

  • Winner #1 will be awarded to the Mo with the Mostest…votes that is (“likes” only count if they have also “liked” the Joy’s Teaspoon FB page).
  • Winner #2 will be determined by the Joy’s Teaspoon staff and usually involves making us guffaw and snort.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy! So, get to posting!!  Winners will be announced on December 1st!

On a side note…a portion of our profits for the month of November 2014 will be donated to Movember.com. The Movember Foundation supports a multitude of men’s health groups and research and I encourage you to take a look at what they are doing to change the face of men’s health. Also, they’ve got all sorts of events planned for the entire month, including my personal fave, “The Running of the Mo’s”. 

Our 8 Favorite Fall Flavors

October 16th, 2014

Spicy Apple

by Naomi Rosen

Fall is in the air, even here in Vegas. When we dropped into the mid-60′s a few mornings ago, my boys asked me if it was going to be a snow day. Then there’s Trader Joe’s and their pumpkin butter! Since it is the season for some of my favorite flavors and aromas, I figured now was a great time to share 8 of my favorite Autumn teas and some suggested recipes to go with them!

Spicy Apple and Spicy Pear - These two have a lot in common. Both have black tea bases and that spicy cinnamon zing. And both are subtly sweet due to their fruity additions. I’m a fan of pairing these teas with sweets, namely Banana Bread. Mostly because it’s freaking banana bread!

American Chai - This chai is heavy on the cinnamon and to compliment that flavor, it pairs really well with this Beef Chili with Cinnamon and Chocolate. It will help bring out the subtle chili and chocolate additions and, let’s face it, it’s the ultimate fall meal!

Tie Guan Yin - This oolong tea is unique because the leaves have been roasted to add a natural nutty flavor to the cup. Now, I know Thai noodles don’t seem very “Fall-ish”, but in my house, we eat them all year round. One of my favorite recipes is this Chicken Thai Noodle with Peanut Sauce recipe. If you are looking for a meat free option, this recipe is great with tofu as well.

Lapsang Souchong - If you’ve never tried lapsang souchong before, you are in for quite a treat. It’s a black tea that has been smoked over pine and because of that smokiness, it’s one of my favorite things to pair with salmon! In particular, this super simple Almond Salmon. You can even use some of the dried tea in the pesto to give the fish a subtle smoky flavor. Bonus Suggestion: Lapsang souchong paired with an aged cheddar cheese is quite possibly the tastiest thing you will ever put in your mouth.

Apple Cider - The only green tea to make this list, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this green tea will be mild in flavor. Normally I would pair green teas with chicken and fish, but this flavor is strong enough to hold its own against just about any dish. I’m pairing it with an Apple and Onion Pork Chop recipe that is simple and one of my families hands down favorites!

Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland - Let’s go with the idea, for just a moment, that the perfect accoutrement (said in a my horrid French accent) to a delicious cup of tea is a scone. These Orange and Cranberry Scones are just the ticket! Winter Wonderland has star anise, oranges and cinnamon doing most of the talking and the sweet jab of orange and cranberry in the scone is refreshing without duking it out with those strong flavors.

Masala Chai - Traditionally, masala chai’s are made by steeping the leaves and spices in milk (vs. steeping in water and adding milk). Because of this, chai’s always make me think of sitting in a bakery. They’re rich and creamy and heavenly…and then you add something sugary and floury! Some of my favorite recipes to go with this fall staple include: Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes, Caramel Apple Cheesecakes, and Krispy Kreme’s Original Glaze doughnuts. Stop judging me! I’m sure I could make doughnuts to pair with it, but they would never beat KK!

Now I want to hear from you! What are some of your favorite fall teas and their BFF recipes? Have a better recipe idea to pair with on these teas? Let’s hear it!




Tea Certifications Demystified

October 14th, 2014

Our friends over at Teaity have written a really handy guide to help you sort through most of the certifications and logos that you might find on tea packaging. As mentioned in previous write-ups, Joy’s Teaspoon chooses to support tea growers that are supporting their employees via social  services and that take into account the impact of their growing on the planet. Many of our growers are not able to afford the certifications mentioned in this article and I’m not 100% sold that the programs are as effective as we might think. I also strongly believe that a better educated tea drinker is invaluable and it’s important to understand what all of the certifications mean!

Happy reading and thanks Teaity!

October’s #TeaityChat

October 13th, 2014

Join us (we’re sponsoring!) for #TEAityChat on October 29, 2014! This month, we’re talking Tea Blends – A Burst of Flavor!

While Fanciest Formosa Oolong or a sweet Japanese Green like Sencha may be your “go-to” on a chilly day, there’s nothing like a flavorful tea blend! Whether blended with aromatic flowers or tasty fruits, our senses go berserk imagining a cuppa!  From Japanese Rose Garden to Genmaicha to Sakura Allure the options are limitless!

Join us for the chance to win great prizes from our sponsor The Devotea! Plus follow the hashtag #TEAityChat and our special co-host(s) @joysteaspoon and @amazonv, while we “steep” about:

  1. The different types of tea blends;
  2. Differences between scented teas, tea blends and flavored teas;
  3. Tips to blend your own teas; and
  4. Blends we love the most.

Mark your calendars for the next #TEAityChat on October 29, 2014 at 8:00 PM EST!  Be sure to follow co-hosts @Teaity, @joysteaspoon and @amazonv, plus our prize sponsor @The_Devotea_USA on Twitter!

And, don’t forget to RSVP for a chance to be entered to win one of our great prize packs from The Devotea and Teaity!

What blend will be in your cup during the October 29th #TEAityChat?


What’s a Tisane?

August 16th, 2014

Guayusa blend

by Naomi Rosen

Not all “tea” is tea. It seems that if you can pour hot water on it, and drink it a few minutes later, it’s marketed as tea. In my opinion, this creates a lot of confusion for people new to tea drinking. Or, maybe I’m just a snob. Either way, I prefer to use the term “tea” when I am discussing the actual leaf from a camellia sinensis plant. Tea can be broken down further into classifications based on how it has been processed: white, green, yellow, oolong, black, puerh, blended, orthodox…you get the picture. But what about a mint or chamomile herbal blend? If I don’t call them “tea”, then what are they?

In the case of beverages that are the result of steeping something other than tea leaves, the preferred term is “tisanes”. Like tea, tisanes also have categories:

  • Herbal – Dried plants like chamomile, lavender, mint, hibiscus, etc.
  • Fruit and Nut Blends – Dried fruits such as apple, berries, almonds, citrus peels, etc.
  • Rooibos – Rooibos is a plant grown/harvested for the most part in South Africa with a naturally sweet flavor and many of the same antioxidant and health components of tea. The plant is naturally caffeine free and commonly blended with similar flavor profiles as tea (strawberry, peach, chai, etc.).
  • Yerba mate – That holly family has a lot of drinkable relatives and yerba mate is one of the most popular tisanes consumed in South America. You might have scene pictures of people drinking a beverage out of a hollowed out gourd and a metal straw. This would be yerba mate! Don’t be fooled by the holly though, this leaf packs a caffeinated punch.
  • Guayusa – A relative of the holly plant, this herb grows naturally in the Amazon and has been consumed for centuries by the locals in that region. It does have caffeine and is commonly blended with other herbals to give it a different flavor.
  • Yaupon – While this plant has thrived in North America for centuries, it’s more popular holly cousins (yerba mate and guayusa) have gained more notariety recently.

Tisane. Use it!


Tea Journaling

August 13th, 2014

By Naomi Rosen

I wouldn’t say that I’m the J.K. Rowling of tea journaling, but it has definitely become a healthy habit for me over the past couple of years. If you have a wicked tea habit, I highly suggest that you journal.

I get samples ALL. THE. TIME. Coupled with a terrible capacity to remember anything, there is no way I could keep track of every tea I’ve ever had. But I try to.

  • I use the notes to remind myself of characteristics of a tea when I’ve got only enough for a pot or so.
  • I use the notes to refer people to companies that carry something that I don’t.
  • I use the journal to keep track of teas that I want to offer on the Joy’s Teaspoon site.
  • I use the journal to compare tasting notes for teas that come from the same estates/regions.

But what to journal about? If you are using it to notate whether you liked a tea or not, it’s kind of pointless. You could just make a list for that. In order to get the most out of your journal, you need to provide so much more information. In my journal, I am attempting to jog my memory of the actual smell and taste of a particular tea. When journaling, I include the following information:

  • Name of tea
  • Name of Company, Garden, Blender
  • When it was harvested
  • Details about the tea provided by the grower/blender (rolled, withering/oxidation times, how it was dried, etc.)
  • Prep details (water temp, amount of tea, etc.)
  • What the dry leaf looks like? Smells like?
  • What the wet leaves look like? Smell like?
  • Liquor color, smell, flavors (minty, stone fruit, smoky, malty, etc.)
  • Do I like the tea? If yes, why? If no, why?

You get the idea! You don’t have to be as detailed as I am, but you definitely want to jot down your idea of the tea while it is fresh in your mind, to create that sense of having a cup in front of you, days or months after you’ve sipped that last drop!

Do you journal about tea? What am I missing that you include in your notes? How do you keep track? Is there an app for that?

1,2,3…No, This is Not a Britney Song

August 13th, 2014

Steeping/Infusing Your Tea Leaves More Than Once

by Naomi Rosen

I drank tea in high school.  What up Bigelow Constant Comment!  On occasion, I would get even lazier and attempt to pour boiling water over those same tea leaves a second time and always came up with a dreary, fairly tasteless hot cup of semi-brown water.  Thank goodness for Chicago showing me the error of my ways!

When I was introduced to loose leaf tea, I discovered that tea could be so much more flavorful! My only qualm was that loose leaf tea was a bit pricier than the bagged stuff, and I began drinking less tea so that I wouldn’t go through my stash so quickly.  One day, while catching up on the news (Insert: People.com), I saw a ticker ad that mentioned something about re-steeping your tea.  Intrigued, I googled “Can you resteep loose leaf tea?” and I was ecstatic to find that good tea could be re-steeped multiple times. Thus began my real steeping adventures.

  • White and green teas – two steepings
  • Flavored/Blended black teas – two steepings
  • Unflavored/Orthodox black teas – three steepings (In the case of Darjeelings, the second steeping is the best!)
  • Oolongs (“over-achievers”) – four or five steepings (with the second and third being the most flavorful)
  • Puerhs – I’ve had puerhs that were steeped up to 18 times! No joke. That’s 18, as in the legal voting age.

So next time you are thinking that that bagged tea in the grocery store costs a lot less…keep in mind that quality loose leaf teas are comparable in price, and sometimes cheaper, if you are oolong and puerh fans!

Are you a “re-steeper”? Which teas do you find are the most flavorful to re-steep?