Samhain, Tasseography + Botanomancy

Samhain-pronunciation
The origin of Halloween

Huh?

Samhain (pronounced: sow-in)
We have the Celts to thank for the ancient festival of Samhain – which dates back 2,000 years in the region of the world currently known as the UK (Ireland and Scotland) and northern part of France. Nov 1 officially marked the beginning of their new year, the end of summer and the beginning of winter, which was associated with (human) death. On the night before (Oct 31), they believed that the veil between the living and spirit world was blurred, and that ghosts and the dead returned to earth.  They also believed that the presence of spirits helped enhance predictions for the future by Druids and Celtic priests. They built sacred bonfires, wore animal heads and skins as costumes to ward off ghosts and told fortunes.

Fast forward to modern times (The eighth century), when Pope Gregory III declared November 1 All Saints Day (and incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain) known then as All Hallows Eve, and now as Halloween. Over time, it evolved into activities like pumpkin carving and eating mounds of candy collected from tick-or-treating (which probably thrills the makers of Metformin.)

 

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Botanomancy in action

Tasseography / Tasseology
Means divination, or reading tea leaves which is derived from the French word tasse (cup), which in turn comes from the Arabic word tassa; And the Greek suffix (graph/ology) which means writing/study of.

Fortune telling is as old as the hills and reading tea leaves can be traced to seventeenth century Western medieval Europe after Dutch merchants returned from China and introduced tea to Europe.

Botanomancy (+ Witches)
Means herb divination. And, according to the Pagan Library, a Witch (derived from the Old English word wicca) “…was a seer, a knower, an averter of evil. The word only took on a negative meaning with the coming of Christianity, which taught that all the gods of the heathen were devils. So anyone who clung to the old ways and the Old Religion was a devil worshipper.”

Witches were/are particularly skilled at both Tasseography and Botanomancy (herb divination). Most will tell you they have and cultivate herb gardens (which inspires them to make magic), and certainly to practice the ancient art of tea leaf reading.

Here are some simple steps to take should you want to try tea leaf reading:

  1. The right teapot is important. Choose one that calls to you and designate that your magical pot. Intention is everything.
  2. Next, choose loose-leaf tea leaves (any!) and put them into the pot, add hot water (at the right temperature).
  3. Turn the teapot once to the right and then twice to the left.
  4. Steep to the appropriate time, then pour the tea into a teacup. Sip and enjoy.
  5. Once finished, swirl the cup clockwise, then turn the teacup upside down on the saucer.
  6. Examine the leaves and the shapes it has created.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reading tea leaves there are many books, and really cool images on Pinterest about Tasseography, but here is a quick glance at some of the meanings:

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French Witches enjoying a cuppa

• Heart shape: romance
• Two hearts:
marriage
• Sword or dagger shape:
take care of your health
• Moon shape:
change is coming
Snake shape: deception/a strong warning to be careful of someone around you
• Bird: a journey is on the horizon
• Cat:
someone who is not being honest with you
• Dog:
spending time with close friend
Dot shapes: money is coming
• Star (or horseshoe):
  great luck
• Triangle:
extremely fortuitous/expect great success

Spilled tea is good luck
Very strong tea suggests that a new friend is on the horizon
Top is left off the teapot accidentally it suggests a stranger around you
It’s Bad luck for more than one person to pour from a pot of tea
Bubbles on top of teacup – financial luck
Bubbles near the side of teacup – expect romance
Sprinkle tea leaves around the house for luck and protection!
• Never throw tea leaves away, always share them with your garden: especially roses!

Last but not least: just enjoy that pot of tea!

Happy Samhain!
Happy Hallows Eve!
Happy Halloween!
Happy All Saints Day!

Happy Sipping!

 

~The Chief Leaf

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Samhain, Tasseography + Botanomancy

10 Years of Tea! (It’s our Anniversary!)

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It’s our Anniversary today!

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!

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The famous TeaTent at markets

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!

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Cupping green teas at STI

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.

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Making Oolong in Taiwan

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:

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Cover of TEA. A Magazine and our Obama Blend

• Speaker on Tea at the Metro Cooking year for 3 years.

• Traveled to Taiwan twice, Japan, and Sri Lanka to make and purchase tea.

• First certified Tea Professional in Washington DC through STI

• First to tweet about the Obama/McCain election, asking on Twitter if either candidate was a tea what would they be. A photo of the winning blend made the cover of TEA. A Magazine.

• Survived a fire and lost all inventory; rebuilt, and opened a pop-up tea shop in Union Market (DC) that turned into 18 months.

Pearl Fine Teas has gotten Runner-Up for Best Tea Shop 3 times! (We only have a tent and online shopping)

• 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.

 

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Tea garden in Japan

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.

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District Blend 01: Georgetown Grey

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:

Georgetown Grey
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.

Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

10 Years of Tea! (It’s our Anniversary!)

Iced… Iced… Baby

 

 

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World’s Fair Poster

• 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.)

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Mrs. Tyree’s recipe for iced tea

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.

 

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Classic Iced Tea

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!

 

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Ice cubes changed everything

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:

Black Currant
Calypso (summer only)
Lovely Lauren – Apricot
Pirate’s Nest
Ginger Peach (Summer only)
Moroccan Mint Green

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: ICE15 at 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!

Happy Sipping!
~ The Chief Leaf

Iced… Iced… Baby

Don’t throw out those tea leaves!

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Sadly, these went straight to compost

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 website to 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 STI class 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.

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Giant tea leaf pyramid ready for compost

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!

 

 

Don’t throw out those tea leaves!

Day 26: Boxing Day (Give Back Sale!)

 

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25 Days of Tea

If you followed along over the last month during the 25 Days of Tea, you may have read all 25 posts and maybe even took advantage of the sale that was offered each day. Maybe you wanted a tea but missed the time to grab it. Or maybe, you are just now finding the TeaLove Blog. Well, here is a second chance for some tea savings while giving back a little.

Boxing Day is a tradition that started about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages in the UK. A box was placed in churches so they could collect alms for the poor and then distribute what was collected to those in need. What a lovely way to give back after receiving the day before. So, in honor of that unknown holiday that no one here in the U.S. celebrates we’re offering:

boxingdaysale226% OFF all teas on the Pearl Fine Teas website if you spend a minimum of $26.00. We’ll give 10% of sales to our favorite local charity: The Humane Rescue Alliance

Just enter Code: BOX26 at checkout and enjoy the savings. Offer valid Dec 26 – Dec 30th. If you’d rather skip the tea and donate directly, you can click here.

Happy Boxing Day!
Happy Sipping!

-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#boxingday
#teasale
#washingtonrescueleague
#giveback

 

Day 26: Boxing Day (Give Back Sale!)

25 Days of Tea: Day 13 (Full Moon Water)

fullmoonteapot2As I was thinking about what tea to discuss for today, it occurred to me that talking about rituals around tea seemed timely. So, I’m detouring during our 25 Days of Tea adventure to talk about a ritual of making Full Moon Water during this full moon phase which is today, December 13, 2016. It’s the last Super Moon of the year called the Full Cold Moon, and right before the Winter Solstice. Seems like perfect timing.

Websters definition of ritual is:
1 : of or relating to rites or a ritual :  ceremonial <a ritual dance>
2 :  according to religious law <ritual purity>
3 :  done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol <ritual handshakes> <ritual background checks>

But I like this one: “a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and performed according to set sequence.”

Rituals often bring a sense of comfort, serenity and peace. (Who doesn’t want that). And as we know, rituals and tea go hand in hand. It dates back thousands of years in almost every tea culture. The Japanese tea ceremony, the Gong Fu Chinese tea ceremony, Korean tea ceremony, even the British “ceremony” of teatime affords us the gift of being present and connecting to those we are sharing tea with, our surroundings, nature and most importantly: ourselves. You can read a very interesting article by Richard Carrico in Cultural Anthropology that outlines the concept of ritual. He writes that “Ritual is in fact an inevitable component of culture, extending from the largest-scale social and political processes to the most intimate aspects of our self-experience.”

One ritual that may not be widely known is that of charging water. And since water is as important as tea, this seemed very interesting to me. I’m not sure where it originated (it may be Shaman) and it may sound bit hocus pocus but what the heck. Things thrive under the warmth and light of the sun, so why not the moon? Let’s give it a shot tonight during this last Supermoon and see if we can infuse some good positive vibes into our cuppa and ourselves.

Here’s how it works:

The idea is to take fresh water (without any chemicals) and place it in a glass or crystal bowl and set it either on your window sill to catch the moon rays, or outside (covered with a light plastic wrap to keep out bugs and debris). You leave it there all night. The water is said to be charged in the morning with positive energy having collected the light from the full moon. Some say it even tastes different. Let’s find out by making Full Moon Water tonight and then making our tea in it tomorrow.  Perhaps we’ll feel energized. Perhaps calm and serene. Or maybe we won’t feel anything, but we will have tried something different that involves tea, and that in itself could turn into a ritual: always trying something new.

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Recovery Herbal Blend

Though I already wrote a post about our Recovery Blend in November and the components of the blend, I’m going to offer it up for today’s special since an herbal remedy seems to be right on target for our full moon water experiment.

If you are interested in giving it a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS13 at checkout to get 25% off our Recovery Blend – today only!

If you have a particular tea ritual, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#fullmoon
#supermoon
#recoveryblend
#herbal
#tisane

#pearlfineteas

 

 

 

25 Days of Tea: Day 13 (Full Moon Water)

25 Days of Tea: Day 10 (New England)

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New England Seasonal Blend

New England isn’t what you would normally expect for a tea blend, but boy is it good. The black tea base is complimented by bits of cacao, red and black peppercorn and dried maple bits. Sounds like a cavity in the making, however, even though the aroma is strongly sweet maple, the brew is not. The maple mixes with the cacao and pepper and it all comes together for a balanced cup of tea that is seriously rich and as comforting as a big bear hug. We have found that many people interested in transitioning over to tea from coffee, find this blend a good first cuppa. I believe its because its similar to the “weight” that coffee seems to offer. It is also caffeinated (as all black teas are), but does not give the caffeine rush that most people seem to experience with coffee.

We unleash this rich, satisfying and warming blend each fall and winter. It’s got a cult following by some of our beloved tea customers and there’s typically a line waiting for it’s re-entry. Here are some notes on this limited edition/seasonal blend:

• Overview:   A very rich, weighty cup of tea that pays respect to the beautiful New England region of the United States.
• Dry Leaf:    Small twisted leaves and stems, peppercorn, maple, cacao nibs
• Liquor (liquid):    Dark reddish-brown
• Aroma:   Strong sweet maple
• Flavor notes:    Balanced, rich and full of flavor. Maple upfront but not overly sweet. Cacao sits in the background as does the pepper and it all comes together on the palate. Long finish.
• Brewing recommendation:     212° Fº / 2-5 minutes.
• Caffeine: Yes

If you are interested in giving this Seasonal a try, please visit the Pearl Fine Teas tea shop today and use code: 25TEAS10 at checkout to get 25% of New England Blend – today only!

Happy Sipping!
-The Chief Leaf

#tealove
#teaunites
#teasaveslives
#sipteafeelhappy
#TeaTent
#teainDC
#teainVA
#teainMD
#25Teas
#newengland
#blacktea

25 Days of Tea: Day 10 (New England)