Steven Smith – Teamaker

Steven Smith is an iconic figure in the American tea industry. In 1972 he co-founded Stash Tea Company, nurturing it into becoming one of America’s most recognized tea brands. After selling the company over 20 years later, he moved on to form Tazo Tea. Within a few years, Tazo was acquired by Starbucks and became the premium brand of teas available in Starbucks stores worldwide. Smith continued to develop the Tazo Tea brand and line of teas until 2006.

Now, after a few years living in Avignon, France, Mr. Smith is back in America blending teas under his own name. Bringing with him over 35 years of expert tea-blending experience. The Steven Smith Teamaker brand represents the culmination of decades of blending and creating teas for American tea drinkers

Smith’s teas are exceptional, every ingredient in the tea can be traced back to the source by the consumer. Each box is printed with a unique code, which can be entered at Smith’s website to learn the origin of each of his special and high-quality ingredients.

Smith’s skill at creating excellent teas and premium brands is unmatched in the American tea industry.

James Norwood Pratt on tea

In this video, released on in 2009, tea author James Norwood Pratt muses about tea. He comes across as a kind old gentleman in a brown leather chair, and has some cleverly quotable moments:

On learning about tea:
“The same way I would tell someone to start learning about lovemaking…”

On tea bags:
“Of course I use tea bags…it is the first line of self-defense…”

Is Fair Trade tea really fair?

What if you discovered that the Fair Trade tea in your cupboard really wasn’t fair? How would you feel? If you found out that the extra money you paid for your tea because of the Fair Trade label never really made it to the workers, would you still feel that your conscience was satisfied? Worldwide, millions of consumers, purchase Fair Trade product with a belief that the Fair Trade system works– that the extra money paid goes to fight poverty, end hunger and ensure that workers in Third World countries are getting a fair wage for their labors. Fair Trade has become a 21st-century buzzword filled with progressive promises of increased labor standards and higher levels of employee welfare. Consumers contribute to Fair Trade as a means of satisfying a desire to, “do the right thing”; “do something good.” Some even consider that buying Fair Trade products is a charitable act of duty. What if that was all wrong?

In 2008, a pair of Danish documentary filmmakers produced The Bitter Taste of Tea. It was aired on Danish television and highlighted issues and concerns that are currently ongoing in the Fair Trade tea industry. The filmmakers travelled to tea producing countries, visited tea plantations, both traditional and Fair Trade. There they uncovered some truths and realities of Fair Trade. They shake the tree and produce an image of Fair Trade that is unsettling, disturbing and even somewhat shocking.

The film made headlines throughout 2009 and is now finally available to the English-speaking world. A screening was held in January 2010 at the University of California, Los Angeles. The screening was followed by a forum discussion moderated by acclaimed tea author, Beatrice Hohenegger. We’ve reviewed the film, listened to the discussion and were surprised to learn that Fair Trade is not what we thought it was.

Click through to see images from the film to read more about issues with Fair Trade

Tie Guan Yin from Chicago Tea Garden

Coming soon, in the first few weeks of March, Tony Gebley and his partner, Erin Murphy will be opening the doors online to Chicago’s latest tea merchant – Chicago Tea Garden (you can also keep track of Tony’s progress with his business on twitter, @worldoftea). To celebrate this, we’ve received a sampling from them of a Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea. This tea is a competition-grade Oolong from Anxi County, China. According to Tony, this tea was sourced by the infamous American tea guru, David Lee Hoffman from one of the organizers of the Chinese National Tea Competition. This particular tea is part of Mr Hoffman’s prized Phoenix Collection. Chicago Tea Garden is making this special tea available to American tea drinkers where it will retail at $14.99 for 50 grams and will be available online. Newer tea drinkers may feel this is expensive, but it’s really an excellent example of the accessibility that comes with fine, upper-level teas.

This particular Oolong is very much considered a fine tea, and those 50 grams will easily give you upwards to 50 cups of tea or more with resteepings. A typical teaspoon measurement holds about 3 grams of tea so you’ll get about 16 initial cups, but due to the hardiness and quality of the leaves, this tea can be resteeped 3-4 times. We found that one measurement of this tea resteeped well enough to keep our cups full for an entire afternoon.

Tie Guan Yin is a historical tea and was used as a tribute tea to the Royal Court. It is often translated as, “Iron Goddess of Mercy” and is a reference to the Buddhist goddess of love which is associated with the legend behind this tea’s birth. Click through to read what we thought

Two reasons why tea is for busy people

Tea is for work. Forget all the people who say tea is just for relaxing and only there to help clear your mind. To define tea that way, and to limit tea like that is nonsense. Far more people probably drink tea in the middle of their work day, or while doing household chores. A lot of people don’t even take a tea break to do it. They boil up some water, toss in some leaves and pour. Then, of course they hope to make it back to the pot in time to retrieve them – assuming they even remember.

How many pots or cups of tea have been ruined by hard-working folks deep in the middle of cleaning, writing, fixing, making, or just doing?

There is a lot of marketing hype out there about the relaxing nature of tea drinking. Though tea drinking certainly can be calming, the truth is, few people have time to sit back with their cuppa and put their feet up while listening to soft tunes on their iPod. Yes, it’s awesome to do that, but how often does that happen? And are those the only times you really drink tea?

Like so many others, you probably work hard every day – maybe even on weekends. Bosses, families, friends, everyone has things to do for somebody, and not enough time to get it done. Relaxation is often the last thing people ever get to do. More often than not, you are tired, but keep working, or you’re distracted and you keep going. You may even be thirsty and force yourself to wait for a chance to drink. For many hard-working people, tea really has less to do with taking a break, and more to do with staying hydrated so you can just keep getting things done. Keep reading to learn why tea keeps you going

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