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Steeped Book

Tastemaker Tea Podcast: Episode 3

tea with tastemakers tea podcast

People who work tradeshows have a certain unspoken camaraderie. There is a worn look about the sparkling eyes that says, I too will talk to 500 people today. The moments leading up to a tradeshow tend to be squirreled away and regarded as precious time of quiet before the floodgates of the convention doors are opened wide. It is with this in mind that I started my morning several years ago at Blue Bottle Coffee, waiting in an absurdly long line for a short cup of caffeine and a bowl of oats to tuck down before making the short trek to the Moscone Center. Sometimes, I can’t help my curiosity or my need to say hello to strangers wearing badges that look just like the one stashed in my cross-body bag. At the time, I was working at a food company in another vein than tea, but found that morning that kismet or providence had seated tea kitty-corner to me. And that is how I first met Eric Ring, the tea buyer for CHOICE Organic Teas. Later during that show, I would meet Anne-Marie Phillips and even later, Valerie. But on this particular morning, licking the foam from the inside rim of my paper cup, Eric reminded me that working in tea is like being part of a coterie that you never really leave.

tea podcast - choice organic teas- anneliesz_

When I started working on the book, I knew deep down I wanted to provide a tea bag alternative to loose leaf tea for recipes where it made sense to steep by the bag instead of by the measuring cup. I set up guardrails for what teas might make it into the resource section tucked in the back of the book. Questions like: can readers easily find these teas? Does the quality of the tea make for a tasty addition to the dish? I tasted a lot of teas. You might roll your eyes or nod your head in agreement if you threw open the tea pantry in my front room (or the zippered bag in the back room or the cloth bag filled to the brim with tins, boxes, and silver bags). I could easily find the flavors of teas used in the book packaged up in CHOICE organic tea bags down at Whole Foods, Sprouts, or Berkeley Bowl. They didn’t blend in any inclusions to the teas and they were offered at a reasonable price for organic, fairtrade, non-GMO tea. Their tea bags became a workhorse ingredient so when they approached me last summer to write the descriptions on their Gourmet Tea Boxes, I happily accepted the project.  

tea podcast - choice organic teas- anneliesz_

Last fall when I visited Seattle for the book tour, they welcomed me to their headquarters for a cupping and conversation. Eric led us in the cupping and we got into a spirited discussion of how mood and taste affect one another. Anne-Marie led me on a tour of their facility (all of their tea bags are filled and packaged in tea boxes on-site!) and I left vaguely caffeinated from all the sips and slurps excited to share this interview with you.

tea podcast - choice organic teas- anneliesz_

When I embarked on the tea podcast journey, it stemmed from the simple idea of sharing the stories of the people behind the packaged tea in grocery stores and boutiques who are so deeply steeped in bringing you and I the teas we treasure. While finishing up the editing and packaging it into a snackable soundbite has been several months in the making, if we learn anything from tea, it’s that patience in waiting is rewarded by a full cup. Stay tuned for future episodes–I’ve got a few queued up, waiting just off-stage that promise to keep your cup full.

Categories
Steeped Book

Tea with Tastemakers Podcast: Episode 2

tea with tastemakers tea podcast

Do you have a car ride ahead of you for a certain holiday of thankfulness this week? To sweeten the miles, our newest episode of Teatime with Tastemakers tea podcast is up! And, good news—we are in the process of getting the podcast up on the iTunes store. Stay tuned for that update.

Expo West 2015

But, first, I felt it fitting to invite you to a conversation with another local tea maker, this time we ventured past San Rafael, California and our first podcast episode with Silk Road Teas to Novato, California and a tea company where each employee is designated as a minister.

Rose and Cabernet Iced Teas

When I think of Republic of Tea, my mind jets through the flavor rolodex of taste memories to the Bazaar Café in San Francisco. It’s not a flavor from their line of Grateful Dead teas or even from the newer line of Downton Abbey teas that comes to mind.

Chardonnay Tea

Instead, Blackberry Sage black tea, Ginger Peach black tea or Wild Blueberry black tea bloom into focus. (Do you sense a trend? Republic of Tea boasts 300 teas / blends.)

Rose Tea

At the 2014 San Francisco Tea Festival, I chatted with one of their ministers of trade about working in the tea industry. Another time, I sat next to the minister of innovation  who has overseen product development for many years–her sources of inspiration on new flavors fascinated.

Chardonnay Tea

Their new releases of teas and tea lines remind me of fashion collections (which might make sense given they were originally started in 1992 by former Banana Republic co-founders, Mel and Patricia Ziegler {along with Bill Rosenzweig}, though the Rubin family has been at the helm of ROT since 1994, under the leadership of Ron Rubin until recently in May when son, Todd succeeded him).

Sonoma Tea Tasting

Earlier this year at the San Francisco Fancy Food show and then at the Natural Products Expo West show, I had a chance to visit their booth and see their flavor innovation at work. Their expansive line of flavors has included recently Matchia or Chia Chai which are both fun to say and to sip / chew.

Hot Mulled Tea

This spring, they introduced a Sonoma Tea line… made of spent wine grape skins that really surprised me with the clever approach and collaboration with wine country company, WholeVine. I had a chance to try the sangria teas at their Expo West booth in Anaheim and then later received an invitation from them to attend a luncheon to taste the teas in action, paired with cuisine concocted by the chef at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco which was a fun way to experience the tea flavors in context.

Sonoma Teas_anneliesz

A vegetable-centric amuse bouche came out as another server poured Chardonnay iced tea. Salad with a citrusy yogurt smear paired with Rose Tea. Seared duck breast was served with Cabernet tea. And a decadent chocolate dessert introduced the hot mulled Zin tea.

Sonoma Teas

After the luncheon, I caught a few minutes with Kristina Richens, the minister of englightenment to talk a bit about Republic of Tea, the Sonoma teas, and their philosophy on cooking with tea.

Tune in below:

Categories
Steeped Book

Tea with Tastemakers Podcast

tea with tastemakers podcast

In college, I worked at the campus newspaper and moonlighted down the hall at the radio station, KPNI. It was there I learned the value of not popping my P’s or T’s and developed an appreciation for techno music from the station manager. My show lasted for an hour during which I would read PSA’s as breaks and attempted to ad-lib throughout the hour. I worked on fading in songs and how to select them by length and sonic resonance with the preceding song. When I look back on that time, it feels almost mythical. Our station team consisted of a spirited crew. We were a band of misfits and I loved every minute of my time in the studio—even the mandatory rotation shows each of us got assigned, playing songs from a limited selection of CDs. In the studio, I set aside my shyness of being in front of crowds, channeling my energy into the music and weaving songs together to tell a larger story. I considered the small space private and the microphone as a rhetorical question issued into the silence.

silk road teas

When Steeped began its locomotive journey out of me, into the kitchen, and onto the page, I knew that I wanted not just to include my story of how I got steeped, but those of friends and tastemakers in the tea world. A cup of oolong tea offered along with an engagement ring at a jewelry shop prompted my former bosses to completely shift direction from their current careers into one deeply steeped in tea. The tea world is full of people whose passion for the leaf transforms their lives. Those stories fascinate me and need to be told. They are the focus behind my new podcast.

silk road teas

You heard that right: I have been working behind the scenes to bring all the pieces together to create a podcast for tea lovers. Expect episodes highlighting conversations over tea with some of the people behind specialty tea companies who are informing and shaping the direction of tea in the U.S.

silk road teas

Living in the Bay area, there is a proliferation of specialty tea companies headquartered within close proximity of each other. Tell me in the comments if there is a tea company you would like to see featured. The first Tea with Tastemakers podcast episode is up!

silk road teas

Silk Road Teas offers exquisite rare artisan teas and has quite a storied past. Based in San Rafael, their focus on quality and reputation in the industry make Silk Road a sought after purveyor of teas. I sat down with president, Ned Heagerty to hear how he got steeped. He and his wife Catherine source and procure stunning teas that are starting to become more available in specialty markets as well as online. Tune in and join us for tea by clicking below to listen.