Sunday, December 08, 2013

Three new reviews of Kuma Green 1228

Three thorough and thoughtful tea lovers were kind enough to review our Kuma Green 1228 tea: Dani Pigeon at Sage & Spice (who wrote, "It makes me think of a springtime afternoon just as winter lets go ...timid greens and flowers springing up once the snow melts"), Nicole Martin at Tea for Me Please ("If you could bottle the smell of spring this tea is what it would smell like"), and Kate at Sagaci-tea ("Complex and refreshing").



Kuma Green 1228 brewed by Dani in a lovely frosted-glass cup.



A potful of Kuma Green 1228 brewed by Nicole.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, December 06, 2013

Mellow Monk tea artisan featured on Aso City website

Koji Nagata, the grower-artisan behind the award-winning Top Leaf, Yuzu Dream, and other teas of ours, is one of the local artisans featured [PDF] at Aso Zen, where Aso City showcases the dedicated, hardworking people behind the many agricultural products for which the area is famous.


The text in the photo says, "Crafting a flavor that is consistent year after year — that is what I devote myself to."


You don't have to see Koji and his family hard at work in the fields or their tea workshop to see this devotion; you can taste it in every sip of their tea.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Water, temperature, and the personal journey

Tea is personal — there is no objectively correct way to prepare it. Rather, the goal is to find the magic combination of water temperature, steeping time, and leaf-to-water ratio that produces the infusion that tastes best to you.

When we give a recommended water temperature, that is what the grower-artisan believes will bring out the flavor, aroma, and color that he or she has striven for.

In other words, over the years, when a grower fine-tunes the many variables of tea crafting — harvest time, steaming time, and the intricacies of shaping and drying, for instance — he has done so according to how the tea tastes when brewed with water at that temperature.

But most growers also understand that tea is a personal journey. No two artisans will brew the same tea in exactly the same way, and tea aficionados endlessly debate such matters, too. But can anyone tell you that you are brewing a tea incorrectly, if you like it better that way than when brewed according to that person's rules? Feel free to experiment!

However, to have a baseline for that experimentation, I recommend first trying the tea as brewed according to the artisan's guidelines.

Then, let the journey begin. The treasure at the end will be worth it.


A natural spring in Aso, Japan.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

JusTea's top-notch tea—and noble mission

I ordered some Kenyan farmer-direct black tea from JusTea Indiegogo campaign, and it is absolutely delicious: a spicy, smoky aroma; rich red color; and full-spectrum, pleasantly tangy flavor, without being bitter. It is the best black tea I've had in a long time.

This wonderful tea is the result of JusTea's dedicated efforts to put more profit in the farmer's pockets. They work directly with the growers, for instance setting up "cooperative kitchens" where they can craft their leaves into tea themselves, instead of simply selling the leaf to tea giants at low prices. Tea blogger Nicole Martin interviewed JusTea's Grayson and Paul Bane about this mission.

Their delicious tea is undeniable proof that when dedicated growers connect directly with dedicated tea drinkers, magical things can happen.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

5 more Kiva loans

Mellow Monk just expanded its Kiva portfolio: We made five new loans today! The collage below shows the hard-working, well-deserving lenders. Everyone at Mellow Monk is rooting for you all!





—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Review of 3 Tea Horse teas

I recently had the privilege of trying three teas from London-based Tea Horse. The first, shown in its glory below, is Panyong Golden Needle.




The tea was light and refreshing, with smoky, nutty notes. I brewed it on the strong side — as I like most of my teas — but doing so did not make the infusion harsh at all. Instead, the cocoa and caramel notes were brought to the fore. Here are the dry leaves just out of the packet:




Here are a couple of shots of Tea Horse's Korean Green.





Korean Green was also light and mild, a very unassuming tea, not overly earthy at all. Unlike the Japanese greens to which I am accustomed, however, this tea has a hint of a fermented flavor profile, similar to a Chinese green or a lightly infused oolong.


Last but not least is Tea Horse's genmaicha. Here it is in my cup and right out of the packet.






Tea Horse's genmaicha was also mild yet flavorful, a very accessible tea with a nice combination of nutty genmai notes blending well with the green tea's melony sweetness and a hint of savoriness.


All in all, I had a wonderfully pleasing afternoon with Tea Horse's teas.


—Mellow Monk



 

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Sunday, June 09, 2013

New trophy photo

As promised, here is a photo of the trophy we received for the first-place award won by Lightly Roasted Iced Green Tea in this year's North American Green Tea Championship.

Our acceptance speech is short and simple: Thank you to all of our customers for your support, without which we would not be here.




—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, June 06, 2013

Podcast interview at My Japanese Green Tea

I did a podcast interview with Ricardo Caicedo, a green tea blogger who is incredibly passionate about tea.


Ricardo is also a very patient man, because I talked too much, and I'm sure editing the podcast was quite a challenge.


Still, it was great fun chatting with you, Ricardo. I hope to do so again in the near future.


Readers, please give the interview a listen. This is serious tea talk.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lightly Roasted Iced Green places 1st again at the NATC

Our Lightly Roasted Iced Green Tea has won 1st place once again at the North American Tea Championship, making two consecutive years that our iced green has received the judges' highest score in its class there.

We will post photos of the award or plaque once it arrives. In the meantime, we would like to thank all of you for your ongoing support, without which there would be no Mellow Monk.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Friday, May 24, 2013

Tea for the gods

From a wonderful book, a wonderful passage about a fisherman family living on the shores of Lake Kasumigaura in the 1920s:

We always got up in the dark, and the first thing we did was make tea. When it was ready, my father would say, "Now let's give the gods their tea." First came the gods, then the humans. He'd set a cup of hot tea in the prow.



—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ManaTea infuser

Personally, I prefer infusers made of steel or ceramic, but I have to admit the ManaTea is an exceedingly clever idea. And the little guy does look so mellow.





—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, April 07, 2013

Surprise snow on Mt. Aso



I just received this photo of a suddenly snow-covered Mt. Aso that greeted a surprised populace Saturday morning. It's so unusual to get snow after the cherry blossoms have bloomed, the sender commented.

Aso's tea plants are due to be harvested in another month and a half, roughly, and I hope the unseasonal weather doesn't adversely affect them. Only time and taste will tell.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Monk tries DAVIDsTEA High-Mountain Organic Oolong

I recently stopped in at the DAVIDsTEA store in San Francisco's Westfield Center, where I had a fun, tea-centric chat with the knowledgeable and enthusiastic manager Jodet and walked out with a couple of great oolongs.

One was Organic High-Mountain Oolong. Now, I profess no oolong expertise, but I do have a longstanding, well-known fondness for the teas, and this oolong did not disappoint. Even while still steeping, the tea delighted me with its aroma, so wonderfully earthy in that oolong way. The taste delivered on the aroma's promise in a well-balanced manner — not harsh like some oolongs, yet not fleeting like others, either. Even after finishing a potful, the complex fermented taste stayed around leisurely pleasing my palate.

I highly recommend this to fellow oolong fans out there. If you're ever in DAVIDsTEA, be sure to at least give it a whiff. And say hi to Jodet for me.



All ready to brew and review.


But first a close look and the lovely, tightly rolled leaves.


After the first steeping, the unrolled leaves still have plenty of deliciousness inside them.


The brew — rich, tasty, wonderfully aromatic.


—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

About freshness



A customer today asked why our tea doesn't come stamped with expiration dates. This is a completely understandable question, so I wanted to share my answer, as follows:

All of our tea is packaged by the artisans themselves, and they do not add expiration dates. In fact, I've never come across a tea packet from such small-farm artisans with an expiration date, at least in that part of Japan.

I suppose they are behind the times in this regard, but on the other hand, the communities where their tea is primarily enjoyed have never pressed them for "best by" dates. These super-demanding tea consumers just assume that if the artisan is still doing things the old-fashioned way (which they often verify by visiting the farms to pick up their tea in person), then all must be well.

[In my original reply, I mentioned another tea company whose tea I had by coincidence just bought when I received this customer's inquiry and which did not come with expiration dates on it. Here, however, I would rather ask readers to comment themselves in general terms about the use of best-by dates by tea purveyors, especially those specializing, as we do, in tea from smallholder estates. — MM]

Stamping best-by dates is just not something that's widely done among smallholder growers, for better or worse. Rest assured, however, that our growers -- whose operations we also verify in person -- are modern in how they store their tea in special refrigeration units right up until they ship it to us. For our part, we have the tea sent to us small batches to assure freshness, too.

And of course we stand by our tea 100%, so if you're ever less than satisfied in its freshness, just send it back for a refund or replacement.

Feel free to ask any follow-up questions in the comments section.

Happy sipping,

—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, March 03, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

French "tea palace" christens U.S. flagship

Here are a few photos from the recent grand opening, in New York City, of the U.S. flagship store of Le Palais des Thés, founded by tea explorer extraordinaire François-Xavier Delmas.

He graciously invited me to the opening, but I was unable to attend. I still wanted to post these pics he sent, however.

The shop is located in SoHo, at 156 Prince Street. If you drop in, please tell them Mellow Monk says hi!



Le Palais des Thés founder François-Xavier Delmas (right) with U.S. General Manager Aurelie Bessiere outside the SoHo flagship store.



Inside the busy store.



A staff member interacts with a customer.



A customer explores the self-service tea testers.



Aurelie with fellow U.S. General Manager Cyrille Bessière.



François-Xavier with store manager Emery Cooke.



François-Xavier chatting with bloggers Nicole Martin and Mario Nicholas.



Training the next generation of tea lovers.


—Mellow Monk



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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dani Pigeon reviews Frosty Garden™

Over at Sage and Spice, multitalented Danielle Pigeon has reviewed Frosty Garden™, Mellow Monk's shiraore*.

This comes on the heels of her most thoughtful review of Monk's Choice™, so we are profusely grateful to Dani for helping to get the word out about our grower–artisans and their wonderful (even if we do say so ourselves) green tea.

Thank you, Dani. Many happy steepings to you.

*A shiraore is a green tea made with some leaf stems. Although sometimes confused with kukicha ("stem tea"), shiraore contains primarily green tea leaf, with only a few stem pieces blended in to soften the flavor.



As I said previously in a tweet, I think this is one of the most beautiful photographs anyone has ever taken of our tea (yours truly included).


—Mellow Monk

 

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Sunday, February 03, 2013

Dani Pigeon reviews Monk's Choice

Tea drinker, photographer, and belly dancer Dani Pigeon has written a review of our Monk's Choice green tea — a review thoughtful and thorough as befitting a person so renaissancical [pretty sure that's a word].





—Mellow Monk

 

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Just made four more Kiva loans

Mellow Monk just added another four loans to our ever-growing Kiva portfolio!


The hard-working recipients, who will use the funds for things like buying seed and fertilizer and building greenhouses, are Bilal (Lebanon), Bidii Group (Kenya), Bahrom (Tajikistan), and Chai Hun (Cambodia).


By the way, you can join our Kiva lending team to help us support family-based agriculture all over the world.



Chai Hun, a rice farmer in Cambodia, will use her loan to buy rice seed and fertilizer.


—Mellow Monk

 

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