Over the Teacups

Giving Voice to the Tea Industry

Puer Tea – Tea Class

Posted on | January 24, 2014 | No Comments

Tea Class – Puer Tea

In San Francisco, Phil Parda is teaching the Specialty Tea Institute’s Level III, Pu-erh Tea class.  The class is precise, hands-on, and includes pu-erh tea tastings. Phil knows his tea stuff. The first time that I heard him speak about pu-erh was at the STI tea symposium in Seattle about ten years ago.

Classes with the Specialty Tea Institute, STI, are progressive with Levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and Electives. Registration and membership information can be found at TEA USA.

 Puer Tea, Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic

Pu-erh Tea Class San Francisco 2014

Puer Tea
Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic

Pu-erh? Pu-erh cha? By any spelling, its origins and processing are fascinating.  Thanks to a recommendation by Tony Gebely, I bought the new book, Puer Tea, Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic, by Jinghong Zhang. It’s a worthy addition to any tea library.

Published by the University of Washington Press in 2014, it contains excellent information about Puer Tea. How I judge a good book’s retention value: author credentials, content, references or bibliography. Puer Tea is excellent in every way.

Puer Tea – “This is an engrossing study of the Puer tea industry and the many cultural spheres that surround it.  It will be of keen interest to the Western tea trade as well as historians, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts.  Tea publications rarely, if ever, discuss the complex relationships that quite literally bring tea to the table.  Never has the anatomy of tea been dissected in such a wide ranging, thorough, and engaging way.” Steven D. Owyoung, co-translator of Korean Tea Classics. 

Pu-erh Tea Class

I skipped to Chapter 7, “Tea Tasting and Counter-Tea Tasting” to see what she had to say about tea tasting comparisons and methods. At a pu-erh tea tasting event where more than 50 people were attending, six kinds of Pu-erh tea, aged from six to nineteen years, were served.  Three were aged raw and three were artificially fermented.

The tea class and tea tastings at the STI class are similar but one-on-one due to a smaller class size. There is more trainer/student interaction.

Thanks, Tony!



Tea and Food Pairings

Posted on | January 21, 2014 | No Comments

Tea and Food Pairings

I’ve never really given much thought to tea and food pairings. Ti Kuan Yin, Matcha and a Ceylon/Assam blend seem to be the tea caddies that I refill most often. When in a wild mood, I’ll make a pot of Sencha Kyoto, Kenya CTC or Assam FTGFOP. And never, ever a cup of Earl Grey.

My rule of thumb has always been that lighter foods require a tea that doesn’t overwhelm nor create a food fight. If the food is spicy, smokey or otherwise hearty, Lapsang Souchong is incredible.

In summer, matcha lattes are amazing while in the winter, hot matcha with a slice of lemon is wonderful.

Over the last two years, I’ve discovered there is a science to tea and food pairing. Better yet, cooking with tea and tea infusions adds a whole new dimension to recipes.  My favorite tea recipes are Earl Grey Shortbread, Smoky Marbelized eggs, and tea syrups for marmalade recipes. Not much excitement there. And then I discovered Culinary Tea!

Adagio Teas - Tea and Food Pairings

Adagio Teas has a website page with tea and food pairings information. The Tching blog provides an introduction to tea and food pairing. Murchie’s has a good page, too.  There are many references to tea and food pairings on the Internet.

Tea In A Food Service Environment

Exploring and experimenting with tea recipes has been interesting but it is a pleasure to know there is an in-depth, full day class available from the Specialty Tea Institute.  If you’ve read my previous blog posts, you know how much I’ve enjoyed the recipes and tea ideas presented by Cynthia Gold in her book, Culinary Tea.

Cynthia Gold, Chef and Tea SommelierAt her class in San Francisco on February 6th, she will discuss the science of tea, tea and food pairings, methods of infusing, teapot variations and service within a food service environment. Students will taste tea and sample tea and food pairings.

Chefs, mixologists, culinary students and tea enthusiasts will go beyond tea basics and understand the benefits of having a creative tea menu that appeals to discriminating palates. Guests will return time after time to enjoy a specialty tea menu.

Class Registration is available online at the Specialty Tea Institute’s website.



Tea and Food Culinary Class – New!

Posted on | January 21, 2014 | No Comments

Tea and Food Culinary Class

Tea In a Food Service Environment

Savvy chefs and restaurateurs are including specialty tea in their menus  – both culinary and beverage menus. Consumer interest and specialty tea sales have trended an upward surge over the last five years – okay, I’ll write it.  Tea sales are HOT.

Tea’s upward trends is somewhat comparative to specialty coffee. Guests expect a special experience when tea or coffee is served and the choices are reflections upon the restaurant as well as the chef.

To better understand tea and food pairing, STI, the Specialty Tea Institute, is offering a new tea class elective, Tea In a Food Service Environment.

The new tea and culinary class is designed and taught by Cynthia Gold, chef and tea sommelier, L’Espalier, Boston Park Hotel.  Co-instructor is Kyle Stewart, The Cultured Cup in Dallas, Texas.

About the Instructors

Cynthia Gold

Cynthia Gold

Cynthia Gold, Tea Sommelier at L’Espalier.  Over a decade ago, Cynthia left the corporate world to pursue a career in the culinary arts. She began her education at Johnson & Wales University, where she graduated summa cum laude. She later attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and Napa Valley, California for advanced classes in pastry, chocolate and baking. With this culinary training, Cynthia has cooked at a multitude of Boston’s finest restaurants including Marais, Biba, Pignoli, Rocco’s and the Back Bay Brewing Company. Additionally, she has first-hand experience as the former owner of Tea Tray in the Sky and Elements Restaurants which received numerous accolades including “Boston’s Best.”

Culinary Tea, by Cynthia Gold and Lise Stern, is available on Amazon.


Kyle_Phil_InsideCupKyle Stewart, The Cultured Cup, Dallas, Texas, is a beverage and food product development and marketing specialist.

A pioneer tea retailer passionate about finding and sharing the world’s best teas, coffees, chocolates and other gourmet food products, Kyle and partner, Phil Krampetz, are well The Cultured Cup – Kyle Stewart – Dallas Texasregarded in business.  The Cultured Cup was recently honored with a Zagat 2014 review of 30.

Tea Class Registration

Tea In A Food Service Environment, Professional Tea and Culinary Class
San Francisco, California, Holiday Inn, Fisherman’s Wharf

Thursday, February 6, 2014    Full Day Class

Course Fee:
STI Members: Reg. $ 450 50% Off =  Introductory:  $225
Non Members: Reg. $ 550 50% Off Introductory: $275

Registration for Tea Classes in San Francisco

Foundations of Tea Levels I & II

To begin the STI Certified Tea Specialist classes, certification begins with Foundations of Tea, Levels I & II which are also offered in San Francisco on February 5 & 6.  The registration form is the same as the tea and culinary class. Registration for Tea Classes in San Francisco



5 Inexpensive Ways to Boost Your Restaurant Revenue

Posted on | January 15, 2014 | No Comments

Five Inexpensive Ways to Improve Your Restaurant Revenue

Five Inexpensive Ways to Improve Your RestaurantEveryone in the restaurant business is constantly looking for ways to improve their restaurant revenue and make more net profit. Everybody knows the expensive ways, like relocating or remodeling, but what about the inexpensive ways to improve your restaurant revenue? Here are five ideas worth considering.

Revise Your Menu

Some items may sell too little to deserve a place on your menu at all. Without sacrificing your restaurant’s theme or quality, it is possible to identify under-performing items and replace them with more profitable ones. After all, what is the advantage of getting more customers through the door if you can’t offer them what they really want to buy? Also, check each item to make sure you are getting the maximum profit margin out of each dish.

More Hours

Are you available to your customers at the times they want to stop by? Adding hours or days can be expensive in labor and other overhead costs but not if you are drawing enough additional customers each day to cover it. Do you serve an extended lunch or by reservation only? Breakfast, dinner? Catering? Don’t be afraid to experiment, you may be surprised to find a whole new range of profit-making opportunities arising from expanding your hours of operation.

Focus on Repeat Customers

Getting new customers to come through the door is a major challenge for every restaurant. Yet, many owners don’t fully appreciate the customers they already have thereby missing out on growth potential. A customer who usually comes to buy loose leaf tea may become a lunch customer if you give them a bag stuffer/menu replica or a promotional discount certificate. You can also encourage people to spend more while there by adding a cream tea or dessert tea to your menu. If you don’t already have one, consider getting a liquor license. You may be surprised at the number of people who enjoy wine and champagne with their tea meals.

Belt Tightening

Every business owner can find ways to streamline their operation and reduce costs if they will only look for them. How efficiently are you scheduling your help? When was the last time you price checked your suppliers with their competitors? Is there energy saving technology you are not using but could be? There is always money to be saved by those who will take the time to search for them.

Go Take Out

A lot of tea restaurants could expand their business and improve restaurant revenue simply by offering take out service.  All you need are some nice take-out containers and suddenly you have a whole new customer base. It may be stretching your employees a bit more, but if you have enough demand, the cost will be worth the effort.

Not all these tips will work for everyone, but most restaurants will benefit by considering adapting at least a few of them. Try it and see.


Congratulations! Gourmet Tea Leaders

Posted on | January 14, 2014 | No Comments

Gourmet Tea and Fancy Food

Winter Fancy Food Show 2014The Specialty Food Association announced the winners of its second annual Leadership Awards honoring influential and innovative entrepreneurs who are transforming the way the $86 billion specialty food industry does business.

The winners by category are: Citizenship: Tyler Gage, co-founder and co-CEO, Runa Tea, Brooklyn, N.Y. (shown here); Business Leadership: Ron Rubin, minister of tea and CEO, The Republic of Tea, Novato, Calif.; and Vision: Caryl Levine, co-founder and co-owner, Lotus Foods, Richmond, Calif.

Tyler Gage, Dan MacCombie
Forbes’ 30 Under 30

The efforts of these leaders span the globe, from supporting indigenous tribes in Ecuador and establishing a progressive work environment in Northern California to initiating sustainable farming practices in Southeast Asia.

Ron Rubin, The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur

Ron Rubin
The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur

“These leaders are taking their passion for food far beyond the production of great products to improve communities, develop innovative practices and pioneer new food business models,” said Ann Daw, president of the Specialty Food Association.

Caryl Levine and Ken Lee - Lotus Foods

Caryl Levine and Ken Lee
Lotus Foods

Specialty Food Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions went to leaders of three specialty food companies:

Citizenship: Sam Mogannam, owner, Bi-Rite Market, San Francisco; Business Leadership: Greg Steltenpohl, CEO, Califia Farms, Bakersfield, Calif.; and Vision: Justin Gold, CEO/founder, Justin’s, Boulder, Colo.

Winter Fancy Food Show – Awards

The awards will be presented at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on Jan. 19, following the keynote address by Neil Grimmer, co-founder of Plum Organics. The keynote address is from 5 to 6 p.m. at Moscone Center.

Nominations for the awards were made by members of the Specialty Food Association and others in the specialty food industry. A panel of specialty food professionals and industry influencers selected the honorees from 66 nominations.

Winter Fancy Food Show – Judges

The judges included Hanna Bree, Blue Hill Market, Pocantico Hills, N.Y.; Donna Daniels, Social Venture Network, San Francisco; David Gagnon, Organic Trade Association, Brattleboro, Vt.; Nicole Kagan, City Harvest, New York; Tim Metzger, Tillen Farms, New York; John Raiche, United Natural Foods Inc., Providence, R.I.; and Errol Schweizer, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas.

Source: Specialty Food Association

5 Things You Can’t Skimp On In Your New Tea Shop

Posted on | January 2, 2014 | No Comments

Restaurant or Tea Shop Must-Haves

While there are many factors that are important in the success of any restaurant, five factors are essential. Not only do these guidelines assure success, failure to meet any one of them may be fatal to your fledgling enterprise.

Tea by Julia Faye

Tea Shop: Tea by Julia Faye

Customer Service

Prompt, friendly interaction with customers establishes the foundation of an enjoyable experience for your customers. Train staff to remember “ABC” in any situation: Always Be Courteous. Regard problems as a challenge to meet, not as a disruption to routine. Take complaints seriously, and address problems as soon as they are discovered.

Kitchen Staff

One of the most disruptive conditions in the restaurant business is high turnover among kitchen staff. There is a learning curve in both preparation, and presentation of your menu items. Hire good people; train them well; let them know how important they are. While adequate pay is important, intangibles such as expressing appreciation for a job well done, and making sure that unpleasant tasks are assigned fairly will inspire loyalty and minimize costly turnover.

Food Quality

There are many factors to consider in menu planning: freshness, flavor, current food fashion, and attractive presentation. On the practical side, you also need to consider cost, preparation time, and potential waste. Developing a few unique items can help set your restaurant apart from competitors. A favorite family dessert, or Aunt Gertrude’s Secret Recipe Salad Dressing can have customers coming back for more.

Kitchen Cleanliness

While most customers don’t see behind the scenes to know whether or not your kitchen harbors dirty little secrets, a dirty kitchen poses health and safety hazards, and can negatively impact employee morale. Most Health Department violations are a matter of public record, and can be a source of bad publicity for months after violations have been corrected. The only thing worse than a Health Department violation, is the potential financial liability for a food-borne illness affecting one or more customers.


Finally, the overall appearance of public areas are vital to success. Plumbing leaks in bathrooms, or cracks on the dining room walls creates a bad impression. Fresh, clean decor affirms the impression of fresh, clean food. Attention to detail in maintaining the overall appearance of your restaurant indicates that you pay attention to detail with the menu as well.

Opening a new tea shop restaurant can be an exciting experience. By paying close attention to these basic success factors, you can overcome the many challenges that often follow.

Tea Shop! Secrets to Create the Perfect Ambiance

Posted on | December 31, 2013 | No Comments

Starting a Tea Shop

If you’re starting your own tea shop, you’re probably already aware that the success of any cafe or restaurant depends on its atmosphere, as much as its menu. Even if you have the best Ceylon, Darjeeling and Earl Grey this side of the Atlantic, no one will want to sit and sip in a crowded, stuffy, or unpleasant venue! To build the best possible ambiance for your tea shop, here are a few tips.

Tea Time! Secrets to Create the Perfect Ambiance

Appropriate Tea Shop Music

There’s a time and a place for heavy metal music, and it isn’t in a tea bar or dainty tea shop. On the other hand, generic instrumentals won’t stand out any more than silence. Find a happy medium by establishing your tea shop’s theme and working outwards from there. For example, if you cater to a hip, casual crowd, they’ll expect to hear the latest Billboard pop; if you’re an Asian-inspired business, zithers will add a twang, and a touch of otherworldly mystery to your tea shop.

Beautiful Tea Shop Lighting

Florescent lights are for the bathroom. For the main floor, splurge on something beautiful and unique, like a grand chandelier in the center of the room, or a collection of tiny tea lights on every table. Don’t settle for standard-issue lighting fixtures, either; look for glass, crystal, or gold materials that will catch the light and sparkle over your guests.

Decorations For Your Tea Shop

What’s on your walls? What covers your windows? Colors are secondary to style in this regard, so worry less about paint, and more about what photos or prints you’ll be hanging later. In an ideal shop, your tea-drinkers will have plenty to occupy their attention while waiting in line, or working on their novels, so don’t skimp on the accents and accessories.

Coordinating Furniture

You’ll want to buy furniture in bulk to establish a soothing, flowing ambiance, where most everything matches, and nothing detaches the eye from the overall atmosphere. They don’t have to be identical pieces as long as they all contribute to the same picture, like chairs interwoven with the same designs,  wood and plastic restaurant tables made out of the same wood, et cetera. Of course, you can buy identical furniture too, especially for a romantic theme; nothing is cuter than a his-and-hers set!

These are just a few industry and tea school secrets for creating a mood in your cafe, restaurant, or tea shop. At the end of the day, it’s only one aspect of your success, with customer service, and drink quality being the facets of the big three. Keep all of them in mind to build your perfect tea shop!

Merry Christmas Cheer to You!

Posted on | December 10, 2013 | No Comments

Merry Christmas

It’s a wonderful time of year with peace, love and unity are in our hearts. The video, “Say Merry Christmas” is a good reminder that Christmas is not about shopping or the gifts or a holiday.

Lyrics to “Say Merry Christmas” are available for free download.

Merry Christmas

Need to Recapture Lost Tea Photos?

Posted on | December 2, 2013 | No Comments

Have You Lost Your Tea Photos?

Sometimes it seems that gremlins find their way into my Drop Box folder’s tea photos or the backup files.  I’m sharing my tip with you in case you have experienced the same issues.

If you’ve loaded your tea photos onto your web server, or not, but can see the photo on your screen, it’s easy to take a screen shot and resave to your tea photos file.

Snap-A-Shot Pro by Nice Kit

I use Snap-A-Shot Pro for screen capture, save as .jpg or .png and then edit with Adobe Fireworks or Photoshop.

And not just for lost tea photo recovery: today, I needed to capture part of Chariteas’ photos but they are coded for no right-click, save.

With Snap-A-Shot, screen capture was easy, the edit very simple, then an insert into an STI podcast discussing tea tutorials at Chariteas. (Reminder: always have photo credit permission before infringing upon intellectual property rights).

Chariteas sign3

Before: Chariteas’ Screen Capture Photo

After: Chariteas' Screen Capture

After: Chariteas’ Screen Capture

Chariteas sign

After: Chariteas’ Screen Capture and Adobe edit

Chariteas' STI Podcast

Chariteas’ STI Members’ Podcast

Capturing from the OLD Days

For updating materials from a James Barber website in the 1990’s, I wanted James to illustrate a new website whose archive is long gone thanks to a crashed computer.  Using the Way Back Machine, the entire website can be captured via screen shot.  Pretty nifty, hmm?

Leadership Skills' Global Protocol Page

Leadership Skills’ Global Protocol Page

Be Creative with Snap A Shot Pro

Whether you need to capture tea photos or archives from days gone by or for a new project, I highly recommend screen capture techniques. Transparency: I have an older version of SnapAShot Pro. If you want the sparkly new version, it’s free with blog post.

And if any of this just doesn’t make sense, feel free to leave a question!

How To Make The Christmas Spirit Last Past Christmas

Posted on | December 2, 2013 | No Comments

When you were younger, you probably found yourself wishing occasionally that Christmas would last all year. What would be not to like about getting to open presents every day and eat huge amounts of food? When you get older though of course your views on this matter tend to change a little. For the adults in the family Christmas can be stressful and expensive – and eating that much every day would no doubt kill you within the year.

Still though, even as you gradually begin to turn into that jaded Scrooge you will still find yourself wishing that certain elements of Christmas could last all year. Maybe that would be the good will, the attractive decorations, the music or the closeness of your family. Christmas brings out our stressed side but it also brings out the best in us. So how can you make sure that those good elements last as long as possible?

Keep the House Decorated

Of course it’s bad luck to leave your decorations up past the first of January, but if you’re not the superstitious type then you shouldn’t let that scare you. If you’re a fan of Christmas decorations then there’s absolutely no reason not to keep them up where everyone can see them and keep your home looking glitzy and glamorous as a result.

And if that’s a little too odd for you, then how about you just keep it decorated in other ways? They don’t have to be Christmas decorations – you can make the house look just as nice with some nice flowers and ornaments and it will still keep the Christmas spirit alive.

Make Time

One of the other great things about Christmas is sitting on the carpet with your family and playing board games, or just all having a good chat and a laugh over dinner. It’s a great feeling to get everyone together and Christmas is a great time to do that. But the point you need to remember is that you don’t need an excuse. Just suggesting to your family that you sit down and play a board game together, or encourage everyone to eat together at the table and you can enjoy the very same feeling of family and fun. And why not invite Grandpa round at other times during the year too? He might be grumpy, but it wouldn’t be Christmas without him…

Keep up the Goodwill

One of my favourite parts of Christmas is when you walk down the road and a stranger smiles at you and says hello. It sounds like a small thing, but that kind of cheer and good will is something that can really bring a smile to your face and put you in a cheery state of mind.

But do you know what? If you were the one to smile first and say hello, then most people would return the gesture no matter what time of year it was. The thing is, that deep down, a lot of us wish that it was still Christmas.

The Taste of Christmas

Our memories are tied closely to our senses, and particularly taste and smell. That’s why sipping mulled wine or biting into some Christmas cake can make those warm Christmassy feelings come flooding back. And many of the tastes we associate with Christmas can be just as enjoyable the rest of the year. If you want to relive Christmas for just a moment then indulge in one of these Christmas flavours and you’ll find you can almost close your eyes and hear the carols…

Have a Mini Christmas

If you find that all this isn’t quite cutting it and it still doesn’t genuinely feel like Christmas, then there’s nothing to stop you creating a ‘fake’ Christmas at another point during the year. Wait until the middle of summer and throw your mini Christmas with a fake tree, a small number of presents, a turkey dinner and some Christmassy music and for one day you can imagine it’s Christmas – and you’ll find it’s a great fun novelty to enjoy for a day too. Most of all though, if you have a mini Christmas in the middle of the year, then it will mean you only have to wait six months between Christmases…

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