I gave in. It took 10 years, but I finally caved. Pearl Fine Teas now offers a Pumpkin Flavored Tea. Don’t get me wrong, I like pumpkins. I put a few on my front porch every year (I prefer the really ugly ones) and I love pumpkin seeds. I even like (on occasion) roasted pumpkin, but I have never taken to pumpkin flavored foods or drinks. Not my cup of tea so to speak.
So what happened? I blame Linus Van Pelt. His love and passion for that squash has stayed with me since the first time watching in as a kid. I love the name, hence the blend. And we now have a very limited quantity of our very own Great Pumpkin Tea Blend.
It’s technically a tisane (herbal) because the base in Rooibos. If you follow this blog regularly then you already know about Rooibos and its mega health benefits including but not limited to the fact that its 100% Caffeine Free. So its totally safe for kids and anyone else who needs to stay clear of caffeine. The blend combines a mixture of warming spices including cinnamon which adds a touch of sweetness to it naturally. We tested it out at our Sunday Farmers Market in Bethesda,and those to tasted a sample, love it!
If you are on the pumpkin train, love all things pumpkin and want to try a healthy, low calorie, no sugar drink: The Great Pumpkin is for you. You can have a look and purchase on our website under Seasonal + Specials. I’m offering a 10% off discount to anyone reading and subscribed to this blog. Just enter GP10 at checkout. There is a very limited supply and once it’s gone, we won’t be bringing out until… next year?
I think everyone should drink a cuppa Great Pumpkin Tea while watching the Great Pumpkin rise from the patch this year when it airs on TV.
How does one celebrate 10 years in the tea industry, peddling leaves every weekend through rain, sleet, snow, hail, hurricanes, blizzards, heat waves, humidity, wind storms, earthquakes, flying locusts, vampires and alien invasion? Well maybe not the last 3…
First: Let’s get this out of the way: I actually like selling tea at farmers markets on weekends. I love the sense of community, my fellow warriors/small business vendors, my tea obsessed customers, and the fact that I can now carry and open a 70 pound EZ UP tent all by myself and throw it in the TeaMobile with ease. Tea built muscles. Tea brought friends.
Second: The cliche is true when people say things like: “How did 10 years go by so fast?” Or “It feels just like yesterday when…” Both are true for me, especially with regard to making the decision to step into the tea industry. As Frank Sinatra says: I did it my way and chose a different path than most tea businesses. Right or wrong, July 18, 2017 marks the 10 Year Anniversary of Pearl Fine Teas!
Third: I’m often asked this question: “What made you want to start a tea business?” It’s taken me 10 years to truncate the story into a few sentences:
“It’s something that was always nagging at me and I decided that I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and think: I wish I’d tried to do something in tea. So I did it. I figured the worst thing that could happen was nothing, but at least I gave it a shot.”
The long version: It was sometime in late April early May 2007. A late night Google search for “TEA” brought me to a link for a Tea Expo happening in Atlanta. I saw there were classes offered in tea education and on that particular weekend there was Tea 101 and 102. You had to pass Day 1 in order to participate in Day 2. I booked my flight to Atlanta that night and a few weeks later there I was standing in line for Tea 101. As I stood there I actively easvesdropped on a woman I heard telling someone she had just bought an online tea company. My interest peaked, I butted in and asked her about it and then proceeded to sit next to her and grill for her 2 days about how and what she did. Those 2 days turned into over 4 years of tea training with my good friend Barb Tuscon the former own of SBS Teas. She and I took every class together from that day forward. I’m honored to call her my first official tea friend. Barb has since retired and travels the world with her husband Chuck, but I know shes still drinking really good tea!
I left that 2 day Expo, got home, fired up my computer and started Googling Online Tea Businesses for sale. There were two I had active interest in, with the first being well out of my price range with no financials to support the fee. The second one popped up out of nowhere one day. I had to do a double take, reload the page and make sure what I was seeing was correct: Pearl Fine Teas was for sale and it had the cutest logo ever. I contacted the owner and found it out it was located in Canada and the price happened to be just right. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of Pearl Fine Teas, USA. Boxes of tea were held up at the border control and I remember getting a call from an agent who asked me if what was coming across was illegal. I told him he was welcome to open the boxes and try to smoke anything in there but that the better option was to just steep it. He laughed and the boxes were on there way. Of course they showed up on a weekend when I was out of town and my next door neighbor Bill dragged everyone of them into his own house until I got back. There were many, many, many boxes.
Time frame: From initial thought to actually owning an online tea business took exactly: 2 months. I made sure to sign papers and transfer funds on July 18, 2007 which according to all my calculations was a very good birthday for Pearl Fine Teas.
What came next: Nothing. I had no idea what the heck to do. Friends and family supported me by going to the site and making purchases at Christmas time. I was thrilled! I had made my first $600! The site just sat there, the boxes of tea were piled up in my house and I was still continuing my tea training. By Spring of 2008, my bookkeeper had said that I should consider selling tea at the farmers market where he volunteered in Del Ray, VA. I didn’t think that would be my cup of tea, but he insisted I should try. I brought a small table, a regular umbrella, about 8 teas and started going to market on Saturdays. This was the early days before the DC Metro Farmers Market boom and I believe I was one of the only people selling tea at markets aside from another girl who sold at Eastern Market. (Del Ray Market will always hold a special place in my heart since that was the official kick off of selling teas at markets.) From that point on I just kept moving forward.
Here are some highlights over the past years:
• Speaker on Tea at the Metro Cooking year for 3 years.
• Traveled to Taiwan twice, Japan, and Sri Lanka to make and purchase tea.
• Got to meet Venerable Geshe Tenzin Dhargye at the 2011 Kalachakra in DC who took my gift of tea (Hawaiian Zen) to the Dalai Lama. It was a great honor.
Tea changed my life. In ways I could have never expected. It helped me be a better Creative Director to my existing clients, it helped me understand products, product marketing, consumers, buying trends, and what people see/don’t see while shopping. It expanded my circle and brought people into my life I would have otherwise never met. It has helped me connect with humanity, increased my compassion and it’s brought me fulfillment knowing that I have helped change peoples lives. That’s a legacy I can live with.
So, here I am – 10 years in. Still. Selling. Tea. And still loving tea.
Whats next? We’re celebrating making it 10 years in the tea industry, (in Washington DC) by introducing a new line of teas called: DISTRICT BLENDS!6 tea blends that focus on 6 diverse neighborhoods in the Nations Capital. A new blend will release each month leading up to Christmas. Here is the first:
Who doesn’t love Georgetown? Old historic buildings, small shops, waterfront, jazz clubs, cobblestone streets, the canal and always so many flowers. When I need to feel like I’m in a Europe-like setting, I find my way to Georgetown. To honor its classic charm and loveliness our first blend combines a gorgeous Indian Darjeeling black tea with Italian Oil of Bergamot and is blended together with delicate flowers of pink rose petals, blue cornflowers and yellow calendula. If this neighborhood were a cup of tea it would be Georgetown Grey. You can purchase here.
You’ll have to check back next month to find out what neighborhood blend debuts for August!
A big thank you to everyone who was supportive, helpful, kind, encouraging, and loyal these last 10 years – especially my customers. I’ve gotten to live out one of my dreams: To travel the world for tea. Without all of you, I’d just be drinking tea at home and annoying my friends and family with talk of one day owning a tea company.
I’m excited to see what unfolds over the years to come as Pearl Fine Teas continues to spread TeaLove around the world.
• Did you know that iced tea was first “officially discovered” in 1904 at the World’s Fair, St. Louis? • Or that prohibition and home refrigeration in the 1920s and 1930s helped increase the popularity of tea? • And that approximately 84% of the tea consumed in America is iced?
Welcome to National Iced Tea Month!
The most popular story goes something like this: In 1904 at the World’s Fair, Richard Blechynden, a tea plantation owner was planning to give away free samples of hot tea to visitors. It was so hot in St. Louis that year and no one was interested in hot tea – so he dumped cubes of ice into the drink. The rest is tea history. That said, there is also some information and a story about a Mrs. Tyree and her recipe for iced tea that was published in 1877 (well before the World’s Fair) in Housekeeping in Old Virginia – which is pretty darn cool. (Pun intended.)
In fact, many Americans were already familiar with and drinking iced tea in alcohol based punches as far back as the Colonial days. There is reference to the Philadelphia Fish House Punch from the early 1700s which was diluted with tea. David Wondrich, a liquor historian wrote that the recipe for Regent’s Punch (1815) “…also packed quite the potent wallop: Not only did it call for green tea and arrack, a rum-like liquor from South Asia, it also threw in citrus juice, sugar, champagne, brandy and rum.” That’s a significant difference from how we drink iced tea today.
When Prohibition rolled around and took effect in 1920, nonalcoholic iced teas took off. In 1921, The Spice Mill (a book on coffee and tea industry) wrote: “Since Prohibition has gone into effect, tea has been drunk in places not heretofore thought of.” In order for social clubs, hotels and bars to survive, they looked for substitutes for (hard) liquor sales. Enter the birth of virgin fruit punches and strongly brewed iced teas – both packed with flavor and perfectly legal. The real tipping point arrived with the availability of home refrigeration and freezers which meant that people didn’t have to leave their homes to attend a social club for an iced cold drink.
This brings us to America and its 84%. We stand almost entirely alone (American, Canada, Thailand) in terms of tea culture worldwide in that we are prefer our tea over ice – while the rest of the tea drinking world drinks its tea hot. In countries like China, India, Sri Lanka and Japan, tea is almost always served hot regardless of the season.
Is it because of our early access to ice? Or that Americans were “forced” to drink a strong nonalcoholic beverages during Prohibition? Perhaps! Regardless of the answer, iced tea isn’t going anywhere.
One of the best ways to enjoy real iced tea is to brew it yourself using loose-leaf tea. The quality and taste are far superior than anything you will make from packaged teabags. What I find most interesting and also surprising is how many people ask me HOW to make iced tea. I get this question almost weekly at markets. It’s really quite easy and takes little effort.
There are 2 ways to make iced tea: traditional hot brew method and cold brew. I’ve made both. My personal preference is to hot brew black teas and cold brew green teas.
For Hot Brew: The proportion I use is roughly 1 oz of loose-leaf tea to 1 gallon of water. I use boiling water for black teas, herbal and rooibos. With any herbal infusion or rooibos you can brew the leaves as long as you like without risking bitterness because there is no Camellia Sinensis (tea) in herbal infusions. You could walk away from rooibos (or herbals) for hours and return to perfectly brewed tea. It’s not the same for black teas. Time matters or you end up with a very strong, sometimes bitter brew. Most iced teas in restaurants are often brewed too long, and I believe it’s why so many people resort to sugar in their tea. Quality tea made correctly requires no sugar!
For Cold Brew: As mentioned I like greens (and oolongs) brewed cold. The ratio is slightly different in that you need more leaf to water. My preference is 1.5 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of ice/water placed in the fridge over night. When you wake up: Iced Tea! Depending on the tea, I might even use 2 oz of tea leaves to 1 gallon of water. What’s great about this method particularly for green tea, is that there is little to no astringency or bitterness. Some research even suggests that the caffeine level is lower and the anti-oxidants are higher with this method.
Our summer iced tea menu at our local farmer’s markets rotates between these 6 flavors:
For those of you that follow Pearl Fine Teas around the DC Metro area, or are one of our online customers, I’m offering 15% OFF these 6 teas for the rest of June during National Iced Tea Month.Enter code: ICE15at checkout to receive your discount!
Only blog readers will have access to this code which expires at midnight on June 30th! Grab some leaves and brew over ice!
Last fall one of our beloved tea customers (a scientist from NINDS National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, NIH) who specializes in researching brain health and Alzheimer’s Disease) asked me if I had a turmeric tea. I didn’t. Though I’m very familiar with the benefits of this spice, her weekly discussions and generosity with sharing her research opened the door to the idea of a new tea blend.
I’ve worked in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association in the past, creating 3 blends for their Woman’s Initiative luncheon so this really peaked my interest – along with the fact that my kooky, one-of-a-kind grandmother Evelyn (Evie) was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease and one of the influences behindPearl Fine Teas.
I had to really think about this and adding a new infusion to the tea menu. Especially since, we don’t grow up with turmericas regular spice in our meals in the US. For many people, the taste seems bitter, strong and off-putting. We’re familiar with it from eating delicious curries and delights at Indian restaurants, but it’s not typically an everyday enhancement for Americans.
So, with all her info in hand, I started by deciding to take a 30 day turmeric “challenge” and at her urging used ground turmeric instead of the pills in the store – which are expensive. Each day I increased the scoop a little more (using as much as a full rounded teaspoon or more) and mixed it into a very small amount of organic apple juice (about 1/2 a shot glass). She emphasized that the benefits of apples each day were important for long term health – especially for the brain. (You can read about it here.)
I was worried about too much sugar, so I kept the amount of apple juice low. In my family on my mother’s side, arthritis is present and shows up in our hands. I have had issues with my left hand since I was a kid. Strangely it’s only localized in my middle finger. I can hear the giggles. Even though I’m from New York originally, I can assure you it’s not from overuse of that finger. <smile>
30 days pass and during this time I can say with certainty that the use of my left hand improved by at least 50%. Even I was shocked. I’m a believer in many things and a skeptic at the same time which is why I have to test things out on myself first.
Next came field research and trying/cupping many existing blends to see about taste and ingredients. What I noticed was that many turmeric blends had licorice added to help sweeten it. American’s like sweet. The other thing I noticed was that many were missing a very critical ingredient: Black Pepper.Turmeric’s power comes from curcumin and that needs a receptor to get absorbed into the body. That’s where black pepper comes in because its enhances bioavailability.
With all this turmeric floating around in my system, I have come to actually love the taste of it, but the challenge was/is how to get others to want to drink it and like the taste. Enter the magic of Cinnamon! The natural sweetness from cinnamon is truly a gift from Mother Nature. Not only does it deliver sweet, it lowers blood sugar. (How did she do that?!) The blend also contains elderberry and added orange peel which along with the cinnamon leaves a nice natural sweet finish.
I’ve had this at our Farmers Markets the last 2 weeks and have sold out each time. Clearly there is a lot of inflammation out there and a lot of people wanting to balance their systems, increase wellness and just plain feel better. Here is a breakdown of all the health benefits you may receive from a daily cuppa of our new Anti-Inflammatory Blendand you’ll understand why I almost named it the Anti-Everything Tonic:
Turmeric: Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Oxidant, Improves Liver Function for Detoxing, Hearth Health, Menstrual Issues, Cancer Prevention, Improved Brain Function, May help with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Ginger: Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Fungal, Boots Immunity, Digestive Aid, Relief from Nausea, May Help fight Cancer, Ulcer Healing, May Lower Blood Sugar, Improves Heart Disease Risk Factors, May lower Cholesterol, May help with Alzheimer’s Disease. Considered a “Superfood.”
Cinnamon: Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Bacterial, Anti-Fungal, High in anti-oxidants, Protects Heart Health, Fights Diabetes, Improves Sensitivity to Hormone Insulin, Helps with Cognitive Decline and Brain Function, May lower risk of Cancer, Helps fight infections/viruses, Prevents Candida, Benefits Skin, May help fight HIV Virus, Naturally Sweet.
Rooibos: Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Viral, Anti-Mutagenic, Anti-Spasmodic. Relieves Stress, Nervous Tension. Aids Bone and Cardiovascular Health. Contains Asphalathin which balances Blood Sugar and improves insulin resistance. Great for Skin. Contains Quercitin and Bioflavanoids. Rivals Green Tea in its level of Anti-Oxidants. Caffeine Free
Elderberry: Cold and Flu Relief, Lowers Blood Sugar, Natural Diuretic/Laxative, Cardiovascular Protection, Respiratory Health, Boosts Immunity, Aids Diabetes, Bone Health and Inflammation, Skin Health.
Cacao: High in Anti-Oxidants, Plant-Based Iron, Magnesium, Calcium. Contains 300 Phytochemicals, Balances Hormonal Swings, Protects Heart, Prevents Cardiovascular Disease, Blood Thinner, May prevent Premature Aging, Natural Mood Elevator/Anti-Depressant.
Orange Peel: Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Allergic, High in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Trace Minerals, Enzymes, Fiber, Pectin. Relieves Respiratory Problems, Prevents Digestive Complications, Improves Heart Health, Improves Skin Appearance.
Black Pepper: Anti-Oxidant, Anti-Bacterial, Respiratory Relief, Enhances Bioavailability, Aids Respiratory Conditions, Cognitive/Neurological Health.
I hope you’ll give this new 100% Caffeine Free infusion a try and let us know if and how it benefited your health. You can find it in the NEW ARRIVALSsection of the website.
If you haven’t made your way to Washington DC during Cherry Blossom Season, put it on your bucket list. It’s such a beautiful time of the year here and often the weather is pleasant: not too hot – not too cold. This year was unusual in that we had a very warm Jan/Feb and then it dropped to freezing in early March. The Cherry Blossom bloom time was moved up and then moved again. It’s a reminder that Mother Nature is always in control. The National Cherry Blossom Festival lasts for 2 weeks and there are activities and events almost every day. Not only is it a fun time, the entire city is glowing with pink and white blossoms!
We have Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo City to thank for giving Washington DC its first cherry trees on March 27, 1912 as a gift of friendship to the people of the United States. These flowering cherry trees are called “Sakura,” and is a symbol of the “evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.” You can read a bit more about this here.
To celebrate this time of year, (which happens to be my favorite), I source a very small amount of Sakura Sencha. It’s a very refined blend of premium Sencha green tea and cherry blossoms, but this years blend has added Matcha and a few rose petals for added visual appeal. This is one of my all time favorite teas and what makes it so special is that you have to wait a whole year before you can enjoy it again!
Here are some tasting notes on this delightful healthy, flavorful green tea. You can purchase 2oz of this tea on our website – and it comes in a lovely cherry blossom tea storage tin! I hope you will give it a try.
• Overview: Yabukita Species Green Tea from Shizuoka, Japan • Dry Leaf: Smallish, long and slightly flat • Liquor (liquid): Gorgeous bright green • Aroma: Fresh, green, cherry fruit • Flavor notes: Subtle notes of cherry show up at the finish. The matcha powder added is not overpowering, but compliments the blend nicely. A very easy green tea to drink. • Brewing recommendation: 170° Fº / 1 minute / At least 2-3 infusions • Caffeine: Yes
Yesterday was spent cupping new teas for our curated tea selection at Pearl Fine Teas. 38 teas were included and only 1 made the cut this week: Drum Mountain White Tea. It will be joining the 2017 tea family in the weeks to come, so keep an eye out for it or sign up on the websiteto be notified when its available.
For those of you that don’t know what “cupping” is, it’s a way that tea professionals assess tea leaves for both quality and defects. There is a standard used so that everything is on equal ground. Typically teas are cupped at 5 minutes for this kind of assessment. Having done this now for 10 years (a drop in the tea bucket compared to others), I remember the early days when I was learning about tea and was introduced to cupping for the very first time. One instance stands out because it had an actual physical effect on me. I was cupping teas at an STIclass that lasted for a whole day. I lost count at how many teas were sampled, but by mid-way through, I had to stop because I was over caffeinated. That’s an experience you don’t want to have. I was so wrapped up in tasting the plethora of teas, that I forgot to spit them out after each taste (like wine tasting) and it caught up to me. Not fun.
Learning how to cup teas correctly was necessary and invaluable, but I don’t always follow the international standard. Sometimes, I’ll cup a tea twice: the first time for evaluation and the second, at a time that I feel works best for my customers in real life. If some teas are just downright awful, they don’t make it to the second round. It’s disheartening when I come across these, which sadly, is far too often. I know what goes into producing these leaves: from planting to plucking to processing, and the immense amount of work that goes into delivering you that delightful cup of tea. Each leaf deserves respect–even the less then tasty unlovable ones.
One way I reconcile this is to make sure all tea leaves have an honorable ending. So whether I’m cupping samples, or just having my daily cups of tea, the used tea leaves get put back into the earth via compost. I keep a plastic tupperware container on my kitchen counter just for used tea leaves. When it’s filled I bring it to my rose garden and work the leaves into the soil. I did a post on this a few years back about tea and roses that you can read here.
When I’m cupping large amounts of tea samples, the used leaves go into a giant bowl and then are transferred to my compost bin. I always say I have the best smelling compost bin in DC! So please, don’t just throw your used tea leaves into your trash bin. Collect them and give them back to the earth. It will make your plants happy and it keeps the circle of life flowing. If you happen to prefer to use teabags, you can open the bag, discard the nylon into the trash, and put the tea leaves into your compost or garden. I love being able to give back to the earth, especially since it gave us the tea bush. I know you will too!
Happy Sipping! ~The Chief Leaf
P.S. – If you haven’t voted for us yet, we kindly ask that you vote for Pearl Fine Teas as best Tea Shop in Washington DC. Thank you much! Vote here!
This is where locals get to vote for what they consider the best in everything from: best place to nap to best hangover cure to best…tea shop!
I was pleasantly surprised in 2016 when we made it as Runner-Up in Best Tea Shop category. I couldn’t have been happier, especially considering there is no actual bricks & mortar. Just a 10 x 10 tent that’s stuffed into my SUV TeaMobile, and lugged around every weekend to area Farmers Markets in the DC-MD-VA Metro Area. Through rain, sleet, snow, wind, heat, clouds and sunshine, you’ll find the #TeaTentpropped up and filled with avid Tea Lovers picking up orders or just chit chatting about current events, dogs, politics, telling secrets, picking teas, buy gifts and making me laugh.
2017 is officially my 10th year as a tea professional. July 17th to be exact! Sometimes it’s hard to believe I’ve just spent an entire decade in this kooky business. Aside from the amazing tea I get to drink every day of my life, it’s taken me all over the world and given me a profound sense of community and connection.
Over these last 10 years, I have made such lovely friends out of customers and I’m always delighted and grateful when they choose my micro tea company to spend their money. I’ve said it for years, and it’s still true today: I have the absolute best tea customers on the planet. Passionate, loyal and down right funny! Thank you to all the TeaNerds near and far who have supported Pearl Fine Teas from 2007 to 2017.