An epic tea tasting with David Lee Hoffman

It’s a beautifully mild and sunny winter Saturday in San Francisco. My friend and fellow tea blogger Mike (The Tea Letter) and I are headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County, north of San Francisco. On the way, lush eucalyptus groves give way to towering redwoods. It’s a beautiful area and one that I often come to when I go hiking. Our destination is Lagunitas, where a very special tea tasting awaits.
 

What I “tea” in a day

The inspiration for this blog post comes from fellow tea blogger Lu Ann of The Cup of Life, who basically invented this. It’s about “keeping track” of tea, because - as someone once said - “tea is more than just a beverage, it’s about noticing your own habits.” 

My tasting notes: Da Hong Pao

No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, we’re still in the dead of winter. January has brought a lot of rain and grey, overcast skies to San Francisco and I cannot deny the intoxicating allure of bold, charcoal roasted teas. I let my imagination run wild and I picture myself in a forest of tall, majestic redwoods (that’s what we have around here), sitting by the fire and clutching a warm tea cup filled with fragrant Da Hong Pao.

Hojicha mochi muffins with hojicha tahini drizzle

Remember the mochi muffins? I while ago I had shared the recipe for matcha mochi muffins and - to date - it is still one of my most popular posts here on the blog. If you are not familiar with the mochi muffins (which I refuse to believe if you live in the Bay Area), let me tell you what the hype is about. This time around, I’m flavoring the mochi muffins with hojicha, roasted Japanese green tea, which I think pairs really well with the other ingredients.

Pairing Nepali white tea and cheese

It's no secret that I’m an epicurean tea drinker. I find pleasure and excitement in the taste of tea and in pairing it with fine foods. Indulgence, beauty and deliciousness are the principles I live by. I’ve paired tea and cheese many times before and it never ceases to amaze me how two things that are so different can go so well together. You guys love it when I put together a cheese board to pair with tea, so I’ve decided it was high time to do it again. 

The Tea Squirrel interviews tea blogger Georgia of Notes on Tea

Happy New Year, dear tea lovers! I wish you a wonderful 2018, filled with sips of delicious tea enjoyed together with friends and loved ones! To kick off the new year I have a very exciting interview for you! My tea friend and fellow tea blogger Georgia, author of the NYC based blog Notes on Tea, kindly agreed to answer my questions about her own tea journey. Last year, it was such an honor to be featured in her teaware series on her blog! Without further ado, let me introduce you to Georgia.

The most inspiring tea blog posts of 2017

2017 is almost over and I’m looking back and taking stock. It’s been a great year for The Tea Squirrel and I am truly honored to be part of such a lively, inclusive and positive community of tea bloggers and tea professionals. We inspire, support and motivate each other and I’d like to thank each and every one of you personally. Here's a roundup of the tea blog posts of 2017 that I found most inspiring.

Tea Reflections

Last week my friend and fellow tea blogger Mike (The Tea Letter) and I met for a gongfu tea session. Mike brought the tea, I brought the teaware and my camera. We had had tea together before at a tea house in San Francisco but this was the first time we got together with the intention to work on a “tandem” blog post. I’m glad to report that the input and inspiration I got from our tea session stretches far beyond that. This post has been particularly challenging to write, maybe because that input stirred inward reflection and assessment of my tea journey so far.
 

Holiday entertaining. Tea and food pairings to wow your guests

With the holiday season officially in full swing, I look forward to holiday parties! I will attend an Alice in Wonderland themed party in December and I hope there will be plenty of tea. I will very likely host some holiday dinner parties too and I’m making a point of introducing everybody to the magic of tea and food pairings. If you, like me, want tea to be the star of your holiday celebrations, I have tried and tested some combinations that will sweep everyone off their feet, from appetizer to dessert.

The San Francisco International Tea Festival 2017

It's 9:30 on a Sunday morning. On a regular Sunday, I would still be in bed, snoozing. But it’s not a regular Sunday. A line is forming in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building. I join it with a sigh of relief, virtually patting myself on the back for getting there early. Passers-by approach the volunteers who are managing the line, they want to know what event people are standing in line for (and what they are missing out on). They are stunned that tea is the reason drawing such crowds.

Pairing Italian marzipan with tea

Fall is an enchanted season and I was lucky enough to be in Europe for two weeks and got to experience it again after a long time. I was way less thrilled when I got home after my trip and had to edit the 877 pictures I took! As always, I was looking for tea, sometimes actively, sometimes less so and I did find it, in Germany and in Italy. Along the way, I found something I didn’t expect. Enchanted places, straight out of fairytales, so beautiful they were almost surreal.

A Tea Renaissance is Underway in the San Francisco Bay Area

San Francisco might be known for its vibrant craft coffee scene, but did you know that a tea renaissance is underway in the Bay Area?Forget unexciting, mass-produced tea bags. Tea is worth geeking out over - as a tea blogger, I’m guilty of that. Think high-quality loose-leaf tea, so good it doesn’t need milk, sugar or flavorings. That’s the beverage with a growing following, people who care about origin, tea leaves to water ratio, temperature and quality of water, steep time and traditional preparation methods, like gong fu cha, the Chinese way of brewing tea with skill. It’s a niche, but it has seen some exciting developments lately. What makes San Francisco and the Bay Area the place to be for tea lovers? Why is the tea scene here so unique? I gathered the thoughts and perspective of some local tea professionals to help me answer these questions.

My favorite smoky tea cocktail

Fall… the most nostalgic, sweet, smoky and luxurious of all seasons. The grape harvest, the weather turning chilly, we go back to craving hot tea, even though we never really abandoned it in the summer. When I was a child, fall meant collecting edible chestnuts with my dog, playing in the fallen leaves and trying to avoid the spiky chestnut pods (ouch, those spiky pods sting!). Chestnuts are delicious roasted on an open fire, they become soft, sweet, smoky and earthy. For me smoky and earthy flavors are the embodiment of fall, which is why I’ve created a tea based cocktail that brings all those notes together. 

My tasting notes: Tung Ting Mi Xiang oolong

How do you taste tea? I’ve realized that I need my “tasting environment” to be conducive and, most importantly, I need to be concentrated, especially when taking tasting notes. I’m very sensitive to sound and a quiet environment is essential for me. Also, a minimalistic and de-cluttered environment can help me focus on the task at hand. You want all your senses to be alert and not distracted by what’s around you. What do you think? What’s your experience?

The Tea Bloggers Roundtable Panel at the Northwest Tea Festival 2017

Last weekend I was in Seattle for one of the most anticipated events of the year, the Northwest Tea Festival. I will tell you more about my experience at the festival in a separate post, but now I want to focus on the Tea Bloggers Roundtable panel discussion I was invited to participate in. It was such an honor and a great experience to sit on the panel. Read on to discover more.