Now that I’ve fully emerged from the post-travel haze of World Tea Expo, I wanted to share some of the products and people that caught my eye out in Long Beach.
Tea-Ceré by Sharp
Named to reference Japanese tea ceremony, Tea-Ceré was released under the name Healsio Ocha Presso in Japan a year ago. They were expecting to produce and sell 50,000 units in the first release. Instead, they sold 150,000. It’s described as an “espresso maker” for tea, but that just doesn’t do it justice in my opinion. Over and over I watched tea fans give a half-hearted shrug when they were told to visit the booth, but then they found themselves won over instantly.
This is no simple tea brewer. The front cylinder can be filled with a favorite tea – green, black, oolong. The cylinder is fitted with a ceramic grinder that acts like a mortar and pestle. The grinding is done slowly to ensure there is no heat degradation in the process. The tea emerges as a powder, the same consistency as matcha. The user then adds the powder into the brewer and it is whisked to a perfect foamy beverage. The entire process takes less than 3 minutes. Both grind quality and water temperature can be adjusted.
I loved the idea that you could use a good tencha and fresh grind matcha or you could put in a black or oolong and grind it to a texture that I could use in cooking. I also admired the way the whisking mechanism attempted to replicate traditional whisking.
The new machine will hit the market in July at a retail price of $299.99. It is available in red and green. (In Japan there is a gorgeous white and black version. I hope this one makes its way here too.)
Herb and Flower Crystals by Fresh Origins
I must confess that the appearance of this product is what got me to stop and take a harder look. It didn’t take long for me to be convinced that this was a product with real potential. Fresh Origins grows its own edible flowers and fresh herbs and then combines them with cane sugar for a crunchy and sweet crystal with vibrant (natural) color and a powerful flavor. They promote them for use in desserts and to rim glasses on cocktails. While my mind ran through some interesting pastry and sweets options, I couldn’t help but think how magnificent some would be in iced teas. I don’t usually put sweeteners in my hot tea, but then again, I could see the mint or fennel showing up in a chai. The flavors available include mint, cilantro, fennel, rose, basil, hibiscus, basil, pumpkin and cranberry.
Mama-Kii of Mamaki of Hawaii
I am not by nature a great lover of herbals. I can enjoy the occasional rooibos or chamomile, but my one true love will always be Camellia sinensis. Mama-Kii still stood out for me as something a little different. This herbal is from the plant Pipturus albidus, which is in the nettle family. I was curious about it as a friend had just been extolling the virtues of stinging nettle as a medicinal. While mamaki has grown and been used for wellness purposes on Hawaii for generations but Mamaki of Hawaii boasts the first certified mamaki plantation. The liquor is a soft berry color and the flavor was smooth. Now it’s time to dig through my samples and see if the flavor holds up for me or if the promise of mamaki was more appetizing.
Tea Soda from Brew Lab Tea
Well this was a surprise. I stopped by this table because I noticed Owl’s Brew on display. Owl’s Brew makes really interesting tea concentrates (in slick black bottles with chalkboard-style labels) that are primarily for use in cocktails. While I definitely enjoyed trying those (what’s not to love?), I found myself veering over to look at the blends they promoted as tea sodas. These blends were actually from their other company, Brew Lab Tea. Brew Lab has been developing custom blends for the past four years. I hadn’t yet experienced their teas, but found myself struggling to decide which to try first. They all sounded great. They steeped each tea and then carbonated them for a unique and yummy beverage. While the Lemon Ginger White was refreshing and the Hibiscus Bubbler sounded great, I was enamored with the Sasparilla Soda. Now I just have to figure out where to get it up here near Boston!
Arum Tea Organic
This is the first Indonesian tea I’ve had the chance to try. The company promotes the volcanic soil and tropical climate of Indonesia as the secret to its successful tea growing. If these examples are representative, then I think they’re right. (And the spectacular Arum offered a beautiful black tea and green tea, but what I actually loved most were the oolongs. They have both a dark and a light. I was very impressed with the complexity I found in these and I look forward to spending some more time steeping them at home. (My second try with Indonesian tea, an Indonesian White Tea Bud, from Chariteas was equally lovely with some of the most gorgeous buds I’ve seen in awhile. Interesting to see such diversity of styles.)
This is another origin story, and one you will hear about again. You all know that I love to tell stories, especially the stories of tea people. I can guarantee that I’ll be spending more time finding out about the people behind Bitaco Tea. Have you ever had tea from Colombia? Neither had I. This company began producing loose leaf tea in 2013 in the Andes Mountains, in land with volcanic soil and basalt, and on a plantation that pays significant attention to sustainability. I got to try Cacao Kisses – a black tea with cacao nibs and cocoa husks. I think the addition of the cacao was a nice tribute to its South American heritage. It was a really decadent, rich tea and the blend was nicely balanced. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other blends that came home with me.