A User’s Guide to Tea That You Will Use

A User’s Guide to Tea That You Will Use

Tea: A User’s Guide
Purchase at World of Tea
Eggs and Toast Media

If you are one of those who load the software and ignore the user’s guide then regret never fully utilizing its features, you need to read this book. Tea is as complex as you make it—many dunk and run, but if you savor the nuances of specialty tea and want to really immerse yourself, this book contains the most thoughtful and detailed insights of any Western author. Eggs and Toast Media, 250 pages, $20 (PDF Download at World of Tea). Also available on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com. LEARN MORE

wtn161206_teausergguide_coverA User’s Guide to Tea You will Use

Reviewed by Dan Bolton

Start with a bountiful quantity of leaf, and a second steep reveals nuances that delight. And so it is with a second reading of Tony Gebely’s remarkable new book, Tea: A User’s Guide.

As Gebely, 33, explains it: “Multiple steeps allow us to achieve snapshots of the tea as dissolution begins, runs its course, and slowly putters out…. These snapshots accentuate nuances in the tea that may become muffled during longer infusions.”

His brilliant 250-page work distills and organizes hundreds of posts from the award-winning World of Tea blog that established Gebely’s reputation for clarity on a complex topic. The blog has twice been named best blog in the annual World Tea Awards.

Tea contains an estimated 30,000 polyphenolic compounds, writes Gebely in an opening chapter on tea chemistry that introduces the pigments, enzymes, amino acids, carbs, volatiles, and mineral building blocks that make tea such a remarkable beverage.

The body of the book describes 130 classic specialty teas with the precision of a high-level computer scientist. Gebely works as a chief technology and integration officer and has assisted several tea retailers configure web and in-store software. He applies rigorous conformity throughout the book; every tea is photographed (leaves and liquor) in a cup that holds precisely 20 cubic centimeters of water from Clairvic Spring in Volvic, France. The pH-neutral water contains 130 parts per million of total dissolved solids with a mineral content in mg/l of calcium (12), sulfates (9), potassium (6), silica (32), and chlorides (15).

Tony Gebeley

Tony Gebely

A second read prompted a dozen margin notes underscoring the points he makes about preparation and the insights he offers in the chapter on processing. In his introduction, he establishes that “this book isn’t about all tea. It’s about specialty tea. The goal of this book is to celebrate the diversity of fresh, complex loose-leaf specialty teas.”

Gebely provides the knowledge needed to develop a personal style of tea appreciation, particularly salient in the West, where brewing tea is mainly “dunk and run.” There are few mentions of tea culture in this reference: “Early on while writing this manuscript, I realized that by separating tea culture from objective tea study, we are left with a much better framework for tea education,” he writes.

What Western tea drinkers need is to hone their skills in selecting and preparing fine tea. Gebely’s simple steeping chart is a starting point. Instead of the typical manufacturer’s temp and timer icons, Gebely introduces a grid.

 

WTN161206_TeaUserGuide_GreenTea

Blocks represent a safe zone of both time and temperature given the recommended dosage.

“Your ideal parameters may vary, especially the steeping time,” he writes, explaining the relationship between dosages, time, and temperature.

This user’s guide is just that, explaining tea chemistry and processing and presenting historical background (without mythology) covering a most intriguing collection of teas. He offers a very useful explanation for establishing “altered tea” as the seventh main category.

The majority of teas sold in the United States are altered in some way, observes Gebely. Some of the most exquisite specialty teas (think jasmine scented) are altered. The category embraces flavored and scented teas, blends that feature inclusions such as fruit, nuts, and florals along with breakfast blends of pure teas that deliver consistency in flavor despite the annual variance of the harvest. Herein lies masala chai and Japanese genmaicha, a mix of sencha and roasted rice and beloved Earl Grey, a tea flavored with oil of bergamot that accounts for a quarter of U.S. tea consumed by volume.

Gebely’s diverse tea descriptions demonstrate the 35 nations that grow tea and offer a style for every taste. However, more critical, in his view, is giving readers the confidence to brew any tea they might want to try.

In The Kinetics of Steeping section, some 182 pages in, Gebely announces “the most important part… the entire reason for your tea journey.

“Steeping is the final step in the lives of tea leaves. And in their final act, they slowly unfold and unravel, creating a beverage that tells the story of where they came from. Every time we drink liquor from the steeped leaves, it tell us what the weather was like before they were plucked and how they were handled, processed, and stored before they reached your cup,” writes Gebely.

It is these chapters on preparation, including tea evaluation, and storage that the margin notes in your edition will likely equal or even exceed the margin notes in mine.

wulong-tea-chart WTN161206_white-tea-chart WTN161206_TeaUsersGuide_YellowTea

Tea subscriptions (A-M) – Mother’s Day Tea Gift Solution

Mother’s Day is just a few days away and it is reasonable to assume that a fair number of people have not yet gotten around to figuring out the perfect gift. Instead of running to stores or getting a last minute something that she might not need, check out these “tea of the month” clubs and tea subscription programs that might offer a special gift that she will enjoy long after Sunday.

Tea of the Month Clubs – A-M

Adagio Tea – Tea of the Month Club
Join for the 6 month or 12 month option. Select your favorite tea type: flavored, decaf, herbal, black or green/oolong. Adagio will send two teas every other month. You can see the list of teas in the lineup here. The 6 month club costs $39-49. The 12 month club is $74-$94.

Art of Tea – Tea of the Month Club
Subscribers can choose a monthly option of $18/month, a 6 month subscription of $16.20/month, or a 12 month subscription of $12/month. Choices include caffeine-free, iced tea, premium single origin, pyramid teabags, signature tea and wellness tea.

Imperial Tea Court – Tea Club
The Four Season Club offers a tea selection every three months ($121). There is also a 6 month membership (3 shipments over the 6 month period for $176) and a 12 month (monthly delivery for $291). The tea types included are outlined on their page.

The Devotea USA – Tea of the Month Club
Each month subscribers receive a packaged assortment of four teas: The Devotea blends, single estate teas and some “club only” offerings. The club is a 12 month club with three different tiers available. “Taster’s Delight” provides an assortment of four teas that equal approximately 30 cups for $13.99/month. “Drinker’s Essentials” yields 100 cups for $27.99/month. “Addict’s Nirvana,” $40.99/month, yields 200 cups. Three-month gift subscriptions are available for $48. The May assortment included Champagne & Berries (a green tea blend from Teas Etc.), Mokabari East Assam (Lochan Teas), White Teas Concoction Liquorice (Devotea blend), and Spearmint Tisane (Devotea USA). Click here to see the March and April offerings.

Jing Tea – Tea of the Month
Each month you receive a shipment of two 50gram bags of tea. You can choose three month (£75 for U.S.), 6 month (£135) and 12 month (£260). May was a very jasmine month with jasmine pearls and jasmine silver needle. June will bring Iron Buddha and Yellow Gold.

Republic of Tea – Tea of the Month
The program offers four different monthly options ($90-$99 for 6 months) focused on their teabag selections: Citizens’ Favorites, green, caffeine-free/decaf, and wellness. There is also a loose tea option ($120 for 6 months). Six and twelve month options are available.

Tealet – Global Tea Tasters
Tealet is a company focused on linking customers directly to farmers. In this program you’ll receive four teas every two months (60 grams each shipment). An annual subscription of six shipments is $215.70. A six month subscription is $128.85 for 3 shipments. Along with the tea will come information about the growers as well as information to help you better understand tea.

Teance – Tea Subscriptions
Teance has two different tea subscription programs available. The 3 month or 6 month Tea Subscription ($73.95/$144) and the 3 month or 6 month Connoisseur Subscription ($145/$260). The Connoisseur Subscription offers teas they do not usually sell online.

Teavana – Tea of the Month Club

Teavana offers a 12 month subscription program for $250. Recipients receive two 2-oz. tins of tea each month. The idea is that the teas can be consumed individually or blended together for a unique taste. The 6 month club is $130. The May offerings were a Monkey Picked Oolong and a Citrus Lavender Sage. The tea list can be found by clicking the link in the Description section of the 12 month program.

 

Teavana Update

Hard numbers are hard to find but a year after it was sold to Starbucks Teavana appears to be on a roll.

At the company’s annual meeting in March CEO Howard Schultz introduced Oprah Chai Tea in a surprise announcement that brought the celebrity on stage to discuss her love for tea.

TEABIZ_OprahChaiTeaThe audience was treated to samples and Schultz said $1 from every 2 ounce package would support Oprah’s favorite charities. He announced the construction of 20 new Teavana tea bars in 2014 with major cities including Chicago and Los Angeles. The tea goes on sale Apr. 29.

Schultz reasserted that “a year after the acquisition of Teavana, we are more convinced than ever that we have the opportunities to transform the tea category in the way we have transformed coffee all around the world.”

Earlier in the year, during the company’s quarterly earnings report, Shultz said that Teavana’s two flagship stores in New York and Seattle are demonstrating that Starbucks’ single largest investment to date is beginning to pay off.

TEABIZ-TeavanaFineTeas+TeaBar_Howard_Schultz_340px“Recent research confirms that Teavana now enjoys the highest level of awareness of any super premium tea brand and like Starbucks, Teavana had a solid Q1,” Schultz told analysts.

Starbucks reported a record $4.2 billion in revenue during the quarter including $159.2 million in the segment that includes Teavana. Overall the company grew revenues 12% with comparable store sales rising 5% in the Americas where store traffic increased 4%.

Financial record footnotes* state that an increase of 174% over Q1 FY13, “is primarily due to the addition of Teavana retail store revenues beginning in Q2 of FY13.” The $159.2 million combines revenue from Seattle’s Best, Evolution Fresh, Digital Ventures and Teavana. The first quarter includes holiday spending and is always strong but revenue in the segment is on track to post $630 in combined sales, most than half of which will be from Teavana.

TEABIZ-TeavanaFinancials2013_Consolidated RevenueIn the company’s annual report, released in September, the financial segment that includes Teavana grossed $393.7 million for the year which was up 88.7% compared to the previous year largely due to the contribution from Teavana, but the exact amount Teavana contributed was not stated. Net revenue for the segment increased $185 million during the year, “driven by incremental revenues from the acquisition of Teavana in the second quarter of fiscal 2013 (approximately $156 million),” according to the financial filings.

Prior to the Starbucks acquisition Teavana reported quarterly earnings of $43 million and estimated annual sales of approximately $250 million. The company operated 284 stores at that time so a useful guesstimate is annual sales of at least $350 million. The final number will depend on how many stores are built. Teavana’s mall venues typically gross $850,000 to $1 million in sales. Going forward analysts will be able to compare year-over-year results.

Schultz said that “one year into the integration of Teavana, we are poised to begin the roll out of additional stores on the heels of the successful opening of our first two Teavana tea bars in New York City and Seattle.” The company, which currently operates 366 stores, intends to open 1000 more in the next five years. This averages 4 to 5 stores per week, a threshold easily met by a company that currently opens 1,500 coffee shops a year.

TEABIZ-TeavanaTeaBar_Exterior_320pxAs it did with coffee, Starbucks is building gorgeous Tea Bars to showcase the brand in highly visible locations like New York City’s Central Park and Seattle. It will then roll out smaller venues in major cities around the country. These stores are cost-efficient and designed to drive profitability.

“These two beautiful new stores are already providing us the key insights that will help us achieve our goal of combining and leveraging Teavana’s strength and authority around loose-leaf tea and tea merchandising,” according to Schultz.  Starbucks understands consumers and what it takes to profit from innovative, handcrafted beverages and a retail store development to create a new retail platform and a unique international premium tea house experience.

Reading consumer response online offers a glimpse of these insights:

On Yelp! Jackie F. from Miami writes: I had heard about this store opening and made sure that I visited on my weekend trip to NYC… love the environment, service and choices that were available.  I have purchased my first three loose teas and sugar and looking forward to buying more in the future.  Emily was extremely attentive and helpful during my selection process… she wasn’t pushy or overbearing.  Can’t wait to get home and make it on my own.”

Nathali Z. from Brooklyn writes: I came here led by my cousin who is a Teavana aficionado. I was excited to be in this new space and have my first Teavana Tea. The place was busy with people being helped by sales associates. When we ordered our tea the staff was very friendly, cheerful and attentive. There is an area to sit down and have our “bites”. My cousin got a chocolate brioche and I had a croissant. They were yummy but not spectacular. The tea on the other hand delicious! It was very calm and my cousin and I were excited to be one of the first people here. Definitely coming back!”

Katie R. in New York writes: I LOVE THIS PLACE! I’m so glad that Starbucks has finally opened up its first tea location… Long overdue… I’d visit this over a Starbucks coffee shop any day. I’m tea obsessed and Teavana has the best teas, hands down. The chai latte was incredible. The food selection looked great, too! I just hope they expand to other locations in Manhattan, so I don’t have to make the trek to the Upper East Side.”

This is Yelp! after all, so there were also complaints: “Plenty of cash registers, not enough tables and chairs… “NO where to sit…. and “I really wanted to like this place, but my gut is that it is a concept that won’t work… and “Because there is no coffee, it is not a place to be patronized by groups of people together, because some will inevitably prefer coffee…” comments overall were were positive or benign: “Pretty spot! I got the coco caramel sea salt latte, which ended up being too sugary and sweet for me, even after they remade it without putting any syrup in it!! The jasmine silver needle in a pot was good, though!”

Marketing is much stronger under mighty Starbucks and the public relations team that handles the account at Edelman is first-rate. In January the timely introduction of a limited edition Golden Dragon Yellow tea drew media attention and the Chinese New Year loyalty card and teaware are further evidence of integration of the brand. Customers loaded $1.4 billion onto Starbucks cards last quarter, up $260 million from the previous year. Teavana branded cards are interchangeable with the familiar mermaid which means that 40 million cardholders can conveniently charge a drink. Customers activated more than 2 million new cards a day in the week before Christmas.

Premium single cup is the fastest growing segment in at home coffee and Starbucks has grown its share to 18% of the segment over the last two years, said Schultz. The company has now sold 2 billion K-Cups. Last spring the company introduced Teavana flavors in K-Cups™ and this fall Teavana chai launched in Starbucks’ Verismo single-cup format.

TEABIZ-TeavanaTeawaresUpgrade

Upgraded Teaware

The website has not undergone a lot of visible changes, but a close look shows an upgrade in teaware including an expanded number of exclusives. Porcelain and bone china are featured along with a packaging refresh with a QR Code and new graphics. The Teavana smartphone app has been updated to make it easier to locate stores. Teavana has 328,000 Facebook likes (Starbucks has 36 million and 5.6 million Twitter followers).

Mall-based stores as a whole were hard hit by a 15% slowdown in retail foot traffic and since the majority of Teavana stores are located in malls that had to hurt. Most of Teavana’s 366 stores in the U.S. and 62 shops in Canada are company owned. It also has 28 franchised stores in Mexico.

The tea market is a huge opportunity for the company. Globally tea is estimated at $90 billion with only a fraction of the tea sold as “value-added.” In fact, the majority is not even packaged. The success of the flagship stores means the company will expand more quickly now.

Two developments hint at the future for Teavana. During a major reorganization of the senior management last week it was announced Schultz “will expand his focus on innovation in coffee, tea and the Starbucks Experience as well as next generation retailing and payments initiatives in the areas of digital, mobile, card, loyalty and e-commerce.”

In his remarks Schultz promisedto bring breakthrough innovation to the tea category in the U.S. and Canada this spring and summer and to the international markets in the years ahead.”

A second clue is that Teavana founder Andrew Mack has retired from Starbucks. Teavana named Starbucks Vice President Annie Young-Scrivner the new President of Teavana and placed Teavana under the direction of Cliff Burrows, who is group president, U.S., Americas and Teavana. Young-Scrivner previously led the Tazo Tea division and was in charge of Starbucks Canada. Burrows, 54, joined the company in 2001 and previously worked as managing director of the U.K. division where franchising is common.

Look for Teavana to expand overseas via traditional franchising. The EMEA region now has 2,033 stores of which 1,177 are franchised. Starbucks has very strong franchise relationships in both Europe and the Middle East. Sales growth in the region was 11% last quarter with revenues of $339 million. A turn-around in the EMEA results, which were previously slack, suggests an opportunity for expansion that would include Teavana.

TEABIZ-TeavanaFinancials2013_ValuationFinancial Footnotes:
The Teavana sale closed Dec. 31, 2012. The final accounting states that Starbucks paid $615.8 million in cash. At closing the company repaid $35.2 million in long term debt. Intangible assets such as the Teavana name were valued at $105.5 million. Teavana’s proprietary tea blends were valued at $13 million. An astounding $467.5 million of goodwill represents the intangible assets that do not qualify for separate recognition, such as established global store presence in high traffic malls and high-sales-volume retail venues, Teavana’s global customer base, and Teavana’s “Heaven of tea” retail experience in which store employees engage and educate customers about the ritual and enjoyment of tea.

Oprah Chai Tea

SLIDES-INNO-Oprah-Schultz
By Peggy Watt

Starbucks has underscored Teavana’s role in the company by teaming with chai-loving icon Oprah Winfrey, who arrived to cheers at Starbucks’ annual shareholders meeting in Seattle March 19 to introduce Teavana Oprah Chai, a custom blend arriving in Teavana and Starbucks stores next month.

A year and a half after Starbucks bought Teavana, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is still touting the company’s commitment to tea – “the $90 billion global tea market,” as he told the shareholders several times.

“We’re going to do in the long term for tea what we have done for coffee,” Schultz said, noting that he sought a like-minded partner to promote Starbucks’ refocus on tea.

Starbucks StageThe introduction of Oprah Chai is not only promoting a love of tea, but also reinforces Starbucks’ charitable efforts. (At its annual meeting Schultz emphasized its recent support for veterans’ groups and hiring veterans and veterans’ families.) Because Winfrey is also known for her charitable work, sales of Teavana Oprah Chai will benefit the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation, which supports education programs for youth. For every two ounces sold, $1 goes to the charity.

The blend goes on sale April 29 in Teavana and Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada. It is described as an infusion of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. Winfrey developed the blend with Teavana teaologist Naoko Tsunoda.

Baristas at the meeting offered samples of sweetened and unsweetened varieties to good reception, even for this generally coffee-focused crowd. (Starbucks annual meetings are appreciated for their generous spread of coffees and bakery items – which this year were all from La Boulange, which Starbucks acquired a year ago).
Winfrey and Schultz settled into overstuffed chairs on stage to discuss their deal.

Schultz related that he had observed Winfrey drinking tea at a wedding they both attended. “You didn’t think much of the brand,” she reminded him wryly. He didn’t, and so he sent a sampling of Teavana Chai to her hotel room, which began a conversation that led to her designing Teavana Oprah Chai with the Teavana development team.

“Starbucks is not just a coffee company. It’s about nurturing the human spirit,” Winfrey said. “And that has been my goal in life. This felt like something I really loved and I really cared about and that would be fun to do.” She said she is a longtime chai drinker and welcomed the opportunity to develop her own blend. Teavana Oprah Chai will be served to guests on “Steep your Soul,” a new segment on the OWN Super Soul Sunday show, when guests share their recharge rituals. “I offer them my chai, and they take it whether they like it or not,” Winfrey declared.

Schultz referenced both the common ground of commitments to social causes and having gone through difficult times as businesses. Headlines flashed on the display at the shareholders meeting referenced both lucrative times for Starbucks and the rocky start of the OWN cable network. He said he sought a partner who “loves tea” and “is committed to giving back.”

Oprah ChaiThe packaging is distinctive, too: the canister is an attractive light olive tone with copper lid. The clever box design has an orange base but that same olive-green lid, short enough to show the orange base.

Teavana Oprah Chai will also be featured in a new store design, Teavana Fine Tea + Tea Bars, open now in Seattle and New York and scheduled to open 20 additional locations in the coming year including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.

View the Starbucks product release press announcement here.

For past Tea Biz reports on Teavana/Starbucks, see Oct. 2013 First Look at Teavana Fine Tea Bar (Oct. 2013), Teavana Update (Feb. 2014), and Teavana Founder Andy Mack Leaves Starbucks (Feb. 2014)

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Where the world’s biggest tea drinkers are

Nifty chart from Quartz showing per capita tea consumption by country. The U.S. at half a pound is well down the list but much of the tea sold here is blended with heavy ingredients, making the actual volume much higher.

Bitcoin Update

Tea Biz

Last week trading was halted on three crypto currency exchanges after it was revealed hackers stole 4,474 Bitcoins from the Silk Road 2.0 website.  Silk Road is a drug-selling black market whose technical staff blamed the loss on a “transaction malleability” bug in the Bitcoin software. The loss was valued at $2.6 million, according to an article in  Forbes.

Bitcoin developer Greg Maxell responded to concerns about Bitcoin security in a Q&A with Coin Desk News. He said coding done by the exchange is to blame. He admitted there is a known bug in early versions of the Bitcoin software, first identified in 2011. The bug has been fixed and old versions previously installed on servers are gradually being replaced but “this wouldn’t make the top ten list of dangers in the Bitcoin technology.”

Experts advise against keeping digital coins in an exchange or other online wallet services…

View original post 1,132 more words

Immerset

Immerset Kickstarter Image

Brewing methods continue to evolve at both extremes.

Last month I wrote about semi-automated $6,000 brewers ideally suited to coffee shop drive-thrus that can make multiple cups of tea in less than 90 seconds.

TEABIZ-Immerset_CupImmerset is at the other extreme, a simple invention that combines the gentle immersion of a French press with the control of pour over.

Inventor Chic Kelty enjoys both coffee and tea. He has several award-winning designs for products from portafilters and espresso machines to tampers. I still use his nifty magnetized silicone basket to catch the coffee grounds in my French press.

“Instead of specialized brewers for each beverage, why not a single brewer with maximum versatility?” he asked.

The quantity of water and immersion time for brewing ground coffee and tea leaves are similar but hardly the same. The secret to the Immerset is a valve Kelty built into the base to properly control the flow of liquid for either beverage.

Kelty told me that the patented helical valve design allows for intuitive and simple refinement of cold brew coffee and consistency in pour-over technique. Kelty’s design is also perfect for loose-leaf tea as it allows the water to drain completely between cups to avoid bitterness.

The Immerset debuted on Kickstarter last week and is already partly funded by more than 205 enthusiasts and $10,000 in funding with a month until the funding deadline. The first production run is this spring with delivery beginning in May 2014.

Unlike many coffee brewing devices, hidden surfaces and niches have been eliminated to ensure the most hygienic function possible, said Kelty. “The entire water chamber and passage is sheathed in food-grade stainless steel so there is no hot-water-on-plastic contamination,” he said.

When brewing coffee controlling the grind density, flow rate and immersion time can be difficult and all three are essential to a great cup.

As Kelty explains, “with French press brewing, the barista is able to control the steeping duration but the system is intolerant of variability in grind density which limits the brew options and results in less dynamic flavor. “ In addition, prolonged immersion of the coffee between cups can result in bitterness and degradation of flavor.

“In contrast, pour-overs and cold brew methods allow for finer grind which can achieve a more refined taste however it can be a complicated and time consuming task to finely tune the immersion time and consistently produce the desired outcome,” he said.

Other features include:

  • Integrated insulating design that keeps the brew hot between servings
  • Food-safe, impact resistant ABS for strength and insulation
  • Tool-free assembly
  • Silicon seals for leak-proof assembly

Click to view a break-away diagram.

In short, the Immerset is intuitive to use, offers maximum versatility and consistency in brewing by addressing several variables collectively with one device.

Learn more: Immerset or visit Kickstarter