ZENS Pi Travel Tea Set Review

I'm basically the curmudgeon of the tea world.

Whenever I see a Kickstarter for some overblown gadget that supposedly makes tea brewing easy, all it seems to do is over-mystify a hobby that is already associated with snobbery or complication. In my opinion all you need is a Finum tea basket,  a gaiwan (dude, it's just a bowl with a lid!), or a simple teapot. That's it. 

When I saw the ZENS Pi Travel Tea Brewer on Amazon I rolled my eyes and thought "here we go again." However, there was something simple and approachable that perfectly fit my need for an all-in-one brewer for work. At work I don't want to go all out with a tea table, or be sloshing water around with a gaiwan. I've been using my Libre infuser, but I've been finding it increasingly difficult to clean thoroughly due to the long brewing chamber and small crevices near the strainer.

The ZENS Pi Travel Tea Set

The ZENS Pi Travel Tea Set

When looking for a brewing vessel there's really just a few things I'm interested in:

  1. Large brewing chamber for expanding leaves
  2. Small/sleek design to keep desk clutter down
  3. No moving parts
  4. Easy to clean

I was extremely wary about item #3 since I have had bad luck with Adagio IngenuiTEA brewers leaking from not holding their seal and I don't really feel the need for them with gongfu preparation.

Already overwhelmed with the number of pieces that make up the ZENS Pi

Already overwhelmed with the number of pieces that make up the ZENS Pi

What pushed me over the edge in ordering the ZENS Pi, and breaking Rule #3, is that there is only one part - a button that moves a plastic widget to poke up a single ball bearing. I'm not stoked about the plastic widget but the single ball bearing seemed like a genius solution.

Widget that connects to the button and pushes up the ball bearing

Widget that connects to the button and pushes up the ball bearing

Ball bearing rests in the indentation made out of silicone

Ball bearing rests in the indentation made out of silicone

After doing some trial runs here's the TL;DR review:


  • Modern, all-in-one design
  • Large, easy to clean brewing chamber and filter
  • Clever ball-bearing device that does not leak
  • Double-walled cup portion


  • Plastic arm that connects to the button makes me nervous about longevity
  • The lip of the cup portion is slightly awkward to drink from
  • The lid of the brewing portion does not fit snugly

In conclusion, I think this is still an excellent solution for my work needs and I really love how it's easy to thoroughly clean it. 

Thank You for a Terrific Summer!

Thank you everyone for a busy summer! It was a pleasure sharing knowledge and tea with you all, and know that it's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world of tea.

First, I'd like to thank my friend Lydia for inviting me to present at The Glen Retirement community for their C.A.T.S. series, exploring the arts and culture. I made two pitchers of iced tea (jasmine/green and an assam black tea) to accommodate the 40 to 50 guests that came out to the lecture. With my Brittney Spears microphone on, we passed around five types of tea to experience and I fielded enough questions to cover everything! It was a great time.

The Summer Tea Series went well, with 22 guests coming to the three classes. I'd like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the host locations - Rhino Coffee (Highland), CoHabitat Foundation, and Well+Fed Louisiana. Each one was a pleasure to work with and I'd hope that everyone who attended the classes will support these local businesses in the future.


As a recap, during the events we learned about gongfu-stye brewing in your easy gaiwans, which you kept after the event. Please read this excellent article on World of Tea for a description of pretty much what we covered. The teas we had were:

If you need a tea recommendation, or want me to assemble a sampler set for you, just email me at shreveportteaseries@gmail.com and I'd be happy to help.


Last but not least I want to give a shout-out to the person who made this all possible - John Wagoner. Our collaboration to make terracotta easy gaiwans was the whole genesis of this summer's series, and I hope that you use it for future journeys into tea. John is a terrific guy who inspires me to dive more into tea, and he's been a constant cheerleader. I implore you to take an art class from him at Bossier Parish Community College if you're able, and more importantly see some of his amazing artwork (and purchase it!). Thanks John!

If you'd like me to host a lecture about tea for a group of your friends, your organization, or some other group, you can always contact me at shreveportteaseries@gmail.com or hit me up on Instagram/Facebook. Also tag me if you post pictures using your gaiwan!

Thank you all for the support. 

Guest Tea Review: Great Mississippi Tea Company Black Tea

I was overwhelmed from a text my Dad sent me recently showing two bags of black tea from the Great Mississippi Tea Company. I was shocked because 1) I've been following their progress closely and am very excited of the potential of tea production in the South, 2) they're doing whole leaf teas, making them worlds apart from the Charleston Tea Plantation, and 3) I had no idea their plants were mature enough for production.

The Great Mississippi Tea Company started in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed Jason McDonald's timber crop and was looking for a new crop to replace it. After visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation, he began an interest in planting tea. Through a partnership with Mississippi State University Extension Service office, they embarked on planting their now four acres of tea plants. What will low elevation, high humidity tea taste like? What natural mutations and characteristics will it have? #MadeInAmerica tea is something that I am completely supportive of and I followed Tealet's Tea Across America campaign years ago.

Unbeknownst to me, my father participated in the Adopt a Tea Plant campaign with the GMTC giving him access to the first teas produced by the plantation. Without waiting until the next time he visits me (expect lots of 'grams) I eagerly asked him to review the tea. Enjoy the sneak peek (and only review that I've found?):

There are currently 17 states here in the US that have some amount of tea production – not all of them sell commercially.  Most of the domestic tea production comes from the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina and the various farms in Hawaii.   The Great Mississippi Tea Company is an up and coming tea plantation started in 2012 in Brookhaven, MS.  They plan to expand to 150 acres by 2020 which would surpass the Charleston Tea Plantation’s 127 acres.  As a participant in their “adopt a tea plant” promotion, I received the first fruits of their initial harvest processed as black tea.

I didn’t have a very high expectation for this tea because of the infancy of the tea plants and processing, and because my experience with Charleston Tea years ago was quite underwhelming.  Well, I was surprised!   The small, dry leaves were wiry and not very tippy with buds – mostly with one or two leaves on the stem.   The aroma out of the bag was immediately familiar to me.  It was very reminiscent of China black teas from Fujian Province like Golden Monkey (Fuding), Shan Xiao Zhong (Wu Yi), or Bailin Gongfu (Fuding).  Perhaps a similar plant varietal is used in Mississippi.  A medium red/brown liquor is produced and the aroma is even more pronounced.  The flavor reminds me of dried fruit with a very smooth taste and lingering aftertaste.

I really like this distinctive flavor profile and was pleasantly surprised to find it growing in Mississippi.  The folks at The Great Mississippi Tea Company are still experimenting with their processing technique and also have plans to produce green, and then oolong teas in the near future.  Based on their early black tea production which I heartily recommend, I will eagerly anticipate their future offerings.  Their aim is to boldly build from scratch a sustainable, organic tea plantation to produce high quality teas in the US and they seem to be off to a great start.

Summer Tea Series Announced

Learn all about tea and how to brew your own "gongfu" style! Walk away from this event having sampled two unique teas in your own "easy gaiwan" brewing pot that you get to take home, as well as a double-walled glass tasting cup. Garrett will give you a crash course in the science and history behind the tea plant - camellia sinensis - and how to brew a great up. This is a laid back event, perfect for beginners.

No fancy plates - no pinkies up - no scones - no pan flutes. Just tea.


Easy gaiwans handmade by John C. Wagoner

Tea Review: Cats & Dogs by White2Tea & Crimson Lotus

Are they reading my diary? Did Crimson Lotus & White2Tea really need more of my money? Plausible, I'd say. When this collaboration was announced, I knew I was down. I love experimenting with tea and this is the perfect opportunity to do it. I'll let them tell you about it:

We knew we wanted to do something that would be unique and also had a concept of unity. We tea-drunkenly brainstormed a ton of bad ideas before we came up with the notion of each creating a unique blend of sheng puerh tea that would be able to stand alone but was intended to be blended with the others tea. Once we had that idea in place actually executing it was quite difficult. We tried tons of iterations of each of our blends this Spring until we found the blends that really hummed together.

Dog from White2Tea (aka 2Dog) and Cat from Crimson Lotus were a great idea, and a great marketing scheme to get me to place two orders - because of course I'd be adding more stuff to them! Solid packaging and design, a calling card of both companies, also helped push me over the edge.









Of course I took their advice and tried both teas on their own, then together. I measured out 4grams of each and 2 of each to put together in the center gaiwan. I steeped them for 1 minute (#teamnorinse) at 200F.

Cat, Together, Dog

Cat, Together, Dog

Perhaps in an effort to subvert expectations, the Dog was subtle and smooth. A well balanced tea that stood on its own quite well, albeit a very light tea.

Perhaps in an effort to subvert expectations, the Dog was subtle and smooth. A well balanced tea that stood on its own quite well, albeit a very light tea.

The Cat was heavier and spicier, with a full body.

The Cat was heavier and spicier, with a full body.

Together they really were better. I really hate to give into the hype. I feel like deep inside I wanted to form a contrary opinion on this series, perhaps favoring one more than the other and together. I didn't.

Together they really were better. I really hate to give into the hype. I feel like deep inside I wanted to form a contrary opinion on this series, perhaps favoring one more than the other and together. I didn't.

They were right on the money with this one. White2Tea & Crimson Lotus really are on the forefront of the "new school puer" movement (I'd throw Bitter Leaf Teas and Tea Urchin in that category too).

The hype is real, y'all.

Tea Review: Tie Guan Yin by Origins Tea

Time to rock the boat, you ready??

I'm not a big Tie Guan Yin fan. There I said it. Whether it's a roasted Chinese yancha style or lightly oxidized Taiwanese-style, I just prefer other similar teas. Then again, I've only had samples from vendors that are on my unpublished shit-list, so that may be a factor.

At any rate, I was looking for Origins Tea to change my mind on the matter. Their version is a lightly oxidized tea from Ali Shan region in Taiwan. At 1,200 meters it certainly is a high mountain tea, and with that the expectation for a floral, butter-bomb is high.

The tea is not as dark or charred as it appears in the photos. It really has a full mouthfeel that is floral. I have to say that it's my favorite Tie Guan Yin to date, even though the bar is low, and I would certainly add it to a future order from them.

Tea Review: Yu Chi Red Jade by Origins Tea

A few months ago I was contacted by a new tea outfit Origins Tea (Facebook & Instagram) about receiving some samples of their tea and letting you good people know what I thought of them. I've received this offer in the past and because I'm a cruel sonofabitch, some don't make it on the site. Since this is a hobby and not a business, I don't feel obligated to get behind a tea that I don't really like.

Fortunately for Origins Tea (and You!) I really have enjoyed all the their teas immensely. I'll let James Chang, the owner introduce himself:

A year ago, my father introduced me to some high mountain oolong, and like everyone else, my tea experience went from bagged teas at Tim Hortons to delicious loose leaf tea! My world changed, and I tried to get my hands on the best teas as I could.

Origins Tea is focusing on Taiwanese oolongs, and sent me several varieties including Tie Guan Yin, Shui Xian, Oriental Beauty, and the Yu Chi Red Jade featured here. The Red Jade is a "Ruby #18" cultivar also known as Brandy Oolong for its dark color and sweet yet spicy liquor.

What gets me on this tea, and really all of Origins Tea samples, is the leaves. For this tea, the brewed leaves and wonderfully uniform and have a sheen on them like a wet seal. Leathery, velvety, and give every indication that they'll last forever - which they do.



Man, just looking at the last photo of the brewed leaves gives me fond memories of that session. I guess that's a good sign ;). PLEASE give Origins Tea a like on Facebook and a follow on Instagram (he's a new company that needs some exposure) and consider them when you're thinking about ordering some oolong.

Tea Review: Brown Sugar by White2Tea

SHIT, DAMN, MOTHERFUCKER. That's what one is supposed to exclaim while drinking Brown Sugar from White2Tea. I know what you're thinking "enough of the White2Tea already!" but no, I won't stop. I can't because it's too good.

Shu puer by definition receives a binary reaction tea drinkers - love it or hate it. I've really been gravitating to the darker sheng puerhs from W2T like Old Bear. I've had shu before several times, but I've never gone off the deep end by investing in a high quality one.

What can I say? It's thick, bitter, and kicks like a mule. The fermentation for this tea is only at 65%, so it does make it more approachable than other shu that isn't controlled as skillfully. If you're looking to take a walk on the shu side, I'd suggest this tea. Maybe just because of the great packaging.

2016 The Treachery of Storytelling Pt.2 by White2Tea

I'm not going to mark this a 'Tea Review' as it is more of a tea session between friends.

I was recently contacted by a fellow Louisiananian, Louisianan, Louisian-ian,....Louisiana Resident, who is also interested in tea. Unlike me, who discovered tea by thumbing through the pages of the Upton quarterly catalogue, @cavemanking knew right from the get go that curated, "new age puer" vendors were selling what he was interested in buying. Living in Monroe, he was on his way to Dallas and wanted to stop by Shreveport before carrying on. We met up at Rhino Coffee with another friend who I met through my tea classes.

The tea that @cavemanking aka Jeff ended up bringing was White2Tea's 2016 The Treachery of Storytelling Pt.2. This was by far the most expensive tea that I've had. Typically, every season I purchase a number of samples from different vendors, doubling down with a puer cake order only when I think it's a good deal or something that I don't want to miss. At $369.00/200grams or $1.85 per gram, this takes a hobby that is usually quite cost effective compared to other ones, into new territory.

What makes Storytelling Pt.2 so intriguing for the tea community is that rather than go though a flowery description, touting 1,000 year old tea treas, or creating a mythos; W2T simply describes this tea as "A blend of raw Puer material."

Jaw drop. Gasp.

You're looking at $10 worth of tea

You're looking at $10 worth of tea

We sat down for a marathon session in the muggy Louisiana summer, getting tea drunk and enjoying each others company. You can read Jeff's intriguing review on Steepster here. I think we all agreed that the tea was too young, but we don't want to wait damnit!

I believe Jeff has retired this tea into storage for the next several years. I do hope that he gives me a call when he busts it out again.

Tea Review: Mengsong Black Tea vs. Mengson Puerh Tea by White2Tea

Right off the bat let me say that White2Tea's subscription is totally worth it. The quality and quantity of the teas you receive really do meet or exceed the monthly price. For teanerds like me, this June 2016 tea subscription represents EXACTLY why I signed up. Let's let 2Dog explain:

I happened upon a tea producer in Mengson who was using their spring production to make both a raw Puer tea and black tea. The material is from the same farmer, same location, but different processing was used to make the finished tea. I thought it would be a fun educational opportunity to do some comparisons of the same leaf made into different teas, so I had them both pressed into 50 gram mini-cakes for the tea club.

For me, this is what makes tea so endlessly interesting. The same leaves, processed differently, resulting in wildly different flavors with nothing added in. Just the skill of the hands that made it.

I had to whip out two glass gaiwans to do a side by side comparison, even though there is technically nothing to compare since they are two different styles of tea. I still thought it would be interesting to see if I could detect any nuanced simlarity between the two.

This was a fun tea experience, but there weren't any detectable similarities between the teas. I think they make handy education tools when explaining to people new to tea how one tea plant can create vastly different flavors just from processing.

If you're truly interested in getting a curated and high-quality tea delivered to your door every month, I can't recommend White2Tea's service enough.

Tea Review: Jin Xuan Oolong by Beautiful Taiwan Tea Co.

Man, I can't get enough of Jin Xuan, or "Milk Oolong" these days. I love the bright and smooth flavor of these teas. They're like the IPAs of the tea world - often scorned for being "nuclear green" and overrated, but if they're done right and balanced they are phenomenal.

I really wanted to try out Beautiful Taiwan Tea Co. as I have heard nothing but praise from those who are also seeking fresh high-elevation oolong. Their Alishan Roasted Jin Xuan exceeded my expectations, mainly due to the monster leaves and consistent quality throughout the samples I received. Oh yeah, and I got a sticker.

I think the photos really speak for themselves. This was everything I was looking for in a high quality oolong: uniform, intact leaves; buttery sweet and smooth taste; and the fun of watching the tightly rolled tea unravel into brilliant leaves.

Tea Review: 2016 A&P Black Tea from White2Tea

This black tea from white2tea was from their monthly tea club in July 2016. The 100g cake of A&P came with three 2013 Fengqing black tea "orbs". I love having rolled balls of tea that I can plop into my Libre tea container and bring to work. According to 2Dog:

We commissioned this tea in early Spring from Lincang area Puer material. The tea is just starting to settle down. It was traditionally processed and sun dried, leaving it slightly raw, and should improve with age for several years. It is chocolatey and deep, with a smooth mouthfeel.
This tea is HARD. Super tough to break apart. The smell is oddly sweet despite being a very arid and hardy looking black tea.

This tea is HARD. Super tough to break apart. The smell is oddly sweet despite being a very arid and hardy looking black tea.

This tea is nothing truly spectacular, however it is a hardy, bitter chocolate tasting tea that is sure to live up to the coldest winter nights.

This tea is nothing truly spectacular, however it is a hardy, bitter chocolate tasting tea that is sure to live up to the coldest winter nights.

Oh course I'm a dum dum and don't have any pics of actually infusing and drinking the tea. Mainly because I've been drinking it at work and the pictures of my Libre thermos aren't very sexy. I still have a ton of this tea left as of writing this (Jan. 2017) so I'm sure there will be more photos, probably on instagram.

Summer Gongfu Tea Series Concludes!

There you have it! I want to personally thank everyone who came to the 10 tea events that took place this summer at Rhino Coffee. Not only did all of the classes sell out before the first one was even hosted, but I was overwhelmed with the response by people who didn't make the sign up cut. All in all, 40 people attended 10 classes to learn about the basics of tea.

I had the opportunity to meet new people, find fellow tea fanatics in Shreveport, and learn new things about the teas that were served. Speaking of which, as an FYI the teas we had were:

Note: I always try to change up tea vendors and tea types. I am not beholden to any vendor nor do I profit from any sales.

So what's next? As I await the opening of the NEW Rhino Coffee location downtown to open, I have already stated plotting new classes. It really depends on several factors, but I am hoping to do several repeated classes in the late fall/early winter. Per usual, the best way to know about upcoming events is to follow Shreveport Tea on Facebook & Instagram.

Again, thank you all for coming. As they say - Shreveport shows up.

Shreveport Tea featured on Louisiana Eats!

Thanks to Chris Jay at the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourism Bureau, Poppy Tooker from Louisiana Eats came over to my house to share some teas (Milk, Cream & Alcohol by White2Tea and a Dong Ding oolong from Mountain Tea Co.). It was fun being mic'ed up and everything I said is eerily familiar to those who have been attending the Gongfu Tea Series this summer.

Take a listen, my portion starts at the 26 minute mark: http://www.itsneworleans.com/popout.php?eID=1175&t=0

English Tea: Downton Abbey Style

Today I did something I never thought would happen - I presented on English tea. Specifically English tea etiquette.

What's worse is that I had a lot of fun doing it.

English tea culture centers around the destruction of everything I hold dear - it celebrates inferior tea, it was born out of a naive understanding of other country's culture, it places an unsettling amount of respect on the upper class aristocracy, and the worst part is it's so boring. As a fan of Downton Abbey, that portion of the event did capture my attention.

I was asked by Jerred Hamilton, the new owner of Glenwood Tearoom, to pinch-hit for him at a ladies' tea event. Though we have yet to officially meet, I took the opportunity as a challenge. He linked me to a website that gave an overview of English tea etiquette and everything else was pretty wide-open.

The ladies were dressed in terrific 1920s-style dress, and the tables were beautifully spread. I had fun meeting the hostess and Phylis Caskey a local author. The small audience was warm and genuinely interested, asking some great questions that made me want to be there for an hour. I look forward to working with Glenwood Tearoom again, and though this experience didn't give me a newfound appreciation for English tea blends over traditional teas, I enjoyed researching the subject and tailoring the experience to Downton Abbey.

Tea Etiquette - During Tea
● Hold: The correct way to hold your handle is by making your thumb and index finger meet in the handle. The cup is supported by the handle resting on your middle finger. Never hook your finger through.
● Pinky: The biggest misconception of British tea culture is the pinky. Do not stick your pinky straight out, but keep it casually wrapped with the rest of your fingers.
● Milk: Milk is to be added after the tea, as you would coffee. The myth of adding milk first stems from the servants of a large house who used to drink from unrefined clay mugs which could crack when hot tea was poured, so they popped a bit of milk in, before, to act as a coolant.The upstairs of the house drank from fine bone china or porcelain so did not need to.
● Sugar: Sugar or lemon juice are perfectly acceptable to add to your tea.
● Folding: After brewing, remove the tea bag from the cup and place it on a side saucer or in a slop bowl. Do not use the string to wrap around or squeeze the tea bag.
● Spoon: When stirring your tea after adding milk, sugar, or lemon, place your spoon the center of the cup and stir in a back-and-forth motion between 6 o'clock and 12 o’clock. Do not let your spoon clink against the tea cup. When finished, retire the spoon on the saucer behind the tea cup with the handle of the spoon in the same direction as the tea cup’s handle.
● Napkin: Napkins are unfolded and placed in your lap throughout the meal. If you are excused, place the napkin in your seat until you return. The host or hostess marks the end of tea by placing her napkin on the table, allowing the other guests to join, concluding the meal.

● During the era of Downton Abbey, the ladies would have done something called ‘Turning the table’ to ensure that everyone had someone to chat to during the duration of the gathering. The seating arrangement would be boy-girl-boy-girl, and for the first course the women would have spoken to the guest on their left, then they would turn to talk to the guest on their right for the second course. You would not have spoken across the table, as the tables were fairly wide and it isn't very proper.
● Married couples would have traditionally been seated separately, as they are grateful for the time apart from each other. Whereas unmarried or engaged couples would have been seated together – much like Matthew and Mary before they tied the knot – because they would have not been allowed to spend time together unchaperoned.

● skon: Pronounced “skon”, these afternoon tea staples are to broken apart with one’s hands. After they are broken apart you may add butter, cream or jam to each piece individually.
● Similar to the skon, finger sandwiches are to be eaten with your hands. Deserts require a dessert fork.

Tea Times
● Afternoon Tea: The traditional tea time, typically at 3:00pm but may land anywhere between 2:00pm and 5:00pm. Light pastries and sandwiches are served. Cucumber, egg and cress, fish paste, ham, and smoked salmon were typical ingredients in high society finger sandwiches.
● High Tea: Though a confusing name, High Tea refers to tea served later in the day, rather than by high society. Working class families would eat this meal consisting of tea and heartier foods such as hot casseroles and meats. This confusion was perpetuated by Australians who consider tea time to be a brief break, such as the American coffee break, rather than a “high” affair.
● Royal Tea: For Queen Elizabeth II, afternoon tea takes place at 4:00pm with the company of her corgis. Her favorite teas are Earl Grey and Darjeeling.

Tea Lecture - After Tea
What is tea?
● Camellia sinensis
● caffeine & L-theanine

Where does it come from?
● Originally only in southern China
● An English scientist and explorer, Robert Fortune, brought tea to India in 1848.
● During the early 1900s, only 10% of tea was imported from China, with the colonies of India and Ceylon dominating the market.

English Tea
● The Dutch were the first to bring tea to Europe in 1610 AD
● Due to the preference of the Europeans, “black tea” as a tea style was invented in the 1650s for export
● Tea comes to London in 1657 and was originally marketed as a medicinal drink
● It was due to the 1662 marriage of King Charles II to Queen Catherine, who was a heavy tea drinker, that tea started to become synonymous with the sophisticated upper class.
● Jumping ahead to 1840, the Dutchess of Bedford creates the tradition of “afternoon tea”

Downton Abbey
● In the context of Downton Abbey, which beings in 1912, the invention of the “tea bag” was only 4 years old and Thomas Lipton had started his chain of tea shops earlier in 1880.
● During the first World War, the British government made it a priority to maintain the import of tea, however many of their ships were sunk resulting in rationing.
● During the conclusion of the show, in 1925, the author P. G. Wodehouse popularizes and possibly coins the phrase “cuppa”

What styles of tea were popular at the time?
● Blended tea was an invention of Europe, mainly used to create a packaged product that always tastes the same, preserve tea during shipping, and to disguise the use of lower grade tea.

3 Types of Blended Tea

  1. Breakfast teas - hearty black teas such as English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, and Scottish Breakfast
  2. Afternoon teas - Lighter than the Breakfast blends, such as Earl Grey and Prince of Wales
  3. Russian Caravan - A smokey tea, whose name originates from the camel caravans that brought tea from China to Russia  

Tea Review: Big Leaf Bamboo by White2Tea

When asked by my wife what I'd like for Christmas, my response was immediate:

Anything by White2Tea

I have already owned up to my fanboy-ism over the curator of puerh and other Chinese teas, White2Tea. I absolutely believe that the hype is real. 2Dog consistently provides new and interesting teas, intriguing and beautiful packaging & marketing, and objectively well received tea. The tea community, as I see it, loves what 2Dog creates and it is representative of "new school puerh" by paying homage to traditional processing, while putting a modern spin through making creative blends and catchy marketing.

Never has this been more true than for Big Leaf Bamboo. This is a traditional bamboo-pressed tea, packaged in a highly intriguing design.

Before we go any further - READ THIS POST.

Seeing this tea be made before my very eyes on their Instagram, this became my white whale (no pun intended). After running out of Old Bear I also thought this would be a terrific replacement.

Tea Review: 2015 Yunnan Sourcing "Ying Shan Hong" Purple Black Tea and Snow Chrysanthemum

It happened. I broke by cha hai. The one that I've been using for years, beautiful with its tea stained glass.

Oh well, time to order another one and get some tea while I'm at it! For teaware, I looked around at other vendors but ultimately reverted back to Yunnan Sourcing. Keep in mind that's yunnansourcing.us not yunnansourcing.com. That's a mistake that will cost you a hefty shipping fee and a long wait.

After purchasing a new cha hai, I looked around to see what I could add to my order to justify the shipping price. I tossed in some featured 2014/2015 sheng puerh touchas, but I was really after another purple puerh cake to replace a 2012 purple Yi Wu cake that I really enjoyed. While searching, I stumbled across the Ying Shan Hong, a purple black tea with snow chrysanthemum for only $9 per 100g cake! Why not give it a chance? Per YS:

The taste is floral and sweet with a thick burgundy red tea soup that soothes the mouth and throat with a layer of tea and flower oils and tannins.

Strong cha qi!

Now, I normally would not order a tisane tea (purely my preference), but for $9, some marketing cha qi speak, and some intriguing photos, I went ahead and ordered it.

Bai ying shan "Hidden Song" Sheng Puerh

I have really, really enjoyed the wealth of information and engaging (online) personality that Crimson Lotus Tea has given to the tea world. I have been meaning to purchase tea from this husband and wife team, based out of Washington, and I finally had the chance to a few months ago.

In addition to a tea pet (much needed), what drew me to finally getting an order together was the awesome puerh education bundles that they have put together. I got the "What is Puerh?" set which includes a young raw/sheng puerh, an aged raw/sheng puerh, and a shou puerh sample, mainly to use them as demonstration tools. I also purchased the "Sheng Leaf Grade" set, which provides samples 1-4 of sheng puerh leaf grades.

The final item I purchased was the Baiying "Hidden Song" 2015 sheng puerh cake. I had seen this cake featured on TeaDB, in a video guest staring Glen and Dawa. The price point was right, and I have been drinking a lot of young sheng, mainly from White2Tea. According to Crimson Lotus:

Bai Ying Shan, or White Warbler Mountain, is a remote high altitude tea growing region in Lincang Prefecture. This mountain has more than 10 unique varietals of camellia sinensis. This puerh is a special blend we perfected while we were living with the farmers this year. We blended from a few different varietals with the goal of maximizing flavor, aroma, aftertaste, and energy. We worked with them ourselves to pick and process this puerh. The picking and processing is 100% done by hand. This puerh has been direct sun dried for 2 days.

We chose to call this puerh “Hidden Song”. The mountain is named for the white warbler songbird common to the area. The bird is often heard, but rarely seen. This hidden song was the inspiration for the name of this puerh.