Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

On this New Year’s Eve, we want to thank all of you -- readers, customers and friends -- for your tremendous support and encouragement. We appreciate all of you and wish you a wonderful New Year!

Happy Sipping in 2009!

-Chai, Baby!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spice it up!

Want to spice up your holiday? Adding masala chai to your favorite holiday dishes will give them a wonderfully exciting layer of flavor.

1. Breads. Add one cup of prepared masala chai to pumpkin or cinnamon bread recipes for wonderfully varied and spicy flavor.

2. Veggies. Use prepared masala chai to steam vegetables and rice or soak lentils and beans.

3. Soups, sauces and marinades. Add prepared masala chai directly to these dishes.

4. For you gourmands: Spicy ice cream. Boil 4 cups of masala chai over medium heat until it becomes a syrupy reduction sauce. Mix into vanilla ice cream and re-freeze.

So, what are you waiting for? Get cooking, baby! And keep us posted on your tea-inspired culinary adventures.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks, baby!

Happy Thanksgiving and warm wishes to all of our customers! We are thankful for you and your business, and we always welcome and appreciate your input and suggestions.

-Chai, Baby!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Party girls

What would go through your mind if you received an invitation to a tea party? Chances are, your brain would conjure up traditional images of formal gatherings and silver tea sets – and possibly sandwiches on (ugh) doilies.

Well, no more, baby! Tea drinking demographics are changing rapidly. To wit, note an opening scene of a recent Gossip Girl episode – which I have now dubbed “Cool Guy Prepares Hot Tea.” And as tea drinking becomes more popular among a younger crowd (very likely due to the increased attention to tea’s health benefits), apparently tea parties are changing as well.

In a recent issue of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a college student advocated tea parties as a perfect get-together for friends. She suggested avoiding all the highbrow fuss. No tea kettle? Use the microwave, she says. No china teacups? Well, get out those coffee mugs!

Additional thoughts from our Wildcat tea-aficionado included buying at least 2-3 varieties of tea flavors to appeal to a range of palates, inviting both men and women, and including activities like strip poker (I’ll leave that one for you to decide).

My own suggestion is making sure you have beautiful teas on hand (in pyramid sachets, not drab paper bags) to enhance the experiential nature of tea drinking.

At any rate, as more youthful tea drinkers emerge, tea parties are becoming hip & stylish activities. So, when you get your invitation, go party, baby!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A non-negotiable ritual

We talked some time ago about the physical health benefits resulting from daily tea drinking. Regular doses of antioxidants, as well as increased hydration and alertness, are just a few of those benefits. But tea has an experiential component that benefits mental health as well. A few moments taken to sit, sip and contemplate will give your poor, overcrowded brain a rest!

Easier said than done, right? Well, here’s an idea from our fellow Chai Babies out there. Claim one ritual for yourself: an amazing cup of tea and a beautiful place to sit and sip. Whether you choose 5 am before anyone else is awake or at 2 am after everyone has irrevocably turned in (of course, we recommend herbal tea if you choose the latter!), you will find that your ritual quickly becomes non-negotiable.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ice, ice, baby!

Greetings, everyone, from the sultry Midwest. Out here, summer is hanging on tight, which probably explains our numerous customer questions about iced tea!

Iced tea is surprisingly simple to make. The key? Don’t get bitter, baby! Some people steep their tea too long in order to produce a tea liqueur that stands up to melting ice. However, over-steeping simply produces bitter tea.

We recommend different technique: the Decoction Method.

1. Bring two cups of water to a boil, and then turn off the heat.
2. Add three or four tea sachets to the boiled water and allow to steep for five minutes only!
3. After this decoction cools, pour the decoction into a large pitcher and add two quarts of water.
4. Refrigerate for two to three hours.

And that’s it! Ice up and cool down, baby!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Make the connection, baby!

As I wrote last time, my weekend at the World Tea Expo was incredibly exciting and informative. I had the privilege of listening to (and even speaking briefly with) Mark Blumenthal, the founder and Executive Director of the American Botanical Council. Mr. Blumenthal reviewed the recent clinical and epidemiological research regarding the health benefits of tea.

It is truly staggering, the increasing amount of research being devoted to the connection between tea drinking and good health. And it is difficult to ignore the daily reports about tea’s potential. Of course, as Mr. Blumenthal emphasized during his lecture, it is very important to draw conclusions conservatively and not to read too much into the results of small studies.

As an example of the incremental nature of research, a WebMD feature authored by Jeanie Lerche Davis cited a study in which tea-drinkers’ and coffee-drinkers’ immune cells were exposed to germs in a Petri dish. In the tea drinkers, the immune cells immediately activated. However, there was no such response in the coffee drinkers’ immune cells.

This study of course suggests that tea drinking may boost the body’s immune function. However, it’s important not to extrapolate too much from individual studies such as this one. Though research like this is very, very promising, it will take years and perhaps decades of research to verify all the potential connections.

Nevertheless, there are certain things that we tea drinkers can take to the bank. Even if you put aside the proliferating studies showing that tea can boost metabolism, block allergic response, slow tumor growth, protect bones, improve skin, etc., etc., it is nonetheless clear that a connection between tea and good health exists. The WebMD feature mentioned above also quoted John Weisberger, Ph.D., the senior researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention in Valhalla, N.Y. Dr. Weisberger found that both green and black tea are rich in polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that seek out free radicals that can damage normal cells. Dr. Weisberger further estimated that green and black teas have 10 times the antioxidants that fruits and vegetables have.

Whatever research uncovers and verifies in the future, we know for sure that antioxidants are helpful to the body, and that tea contains antioxidants. You can rest assured that your tea is a wholesome drink!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's cooking, baby!

Hello, everyone! I just spent an amazing weekend at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. Judging from what I saw and heard, the tea industry is not only booming, but also unfurling in many different directions. One of the most exciting of these directions is, of course, FOOD. A few months ago, I discussed pairing food with tea, but now there is a proliferation of efforts to actually cook with tea. Presumably, one benefit is the addition of tea’s antioxidant benefits to food. More importantly, though, tea truly enhances taste and flavor.

As I walked among the hundreds of booths and presenters, I saw a large variety of chocolates and candies and cookies with tea mixed directly into the recipe. And it wasn’t a gimmick – I could distinctly taste the tea, and the fusion of flavors was interesting and delicious. (I’ll tell you about the green tea liqueurs later!)

The World Tea Expo also featured a series of “Cooking with Tea” demonstrations, featuring some of the top chefs in the country. Many of the chefs incorporated masala chai into their dessert recipes. This is not entirely surprising -- after all, masala chai is usually recommended as a dessert tea pairing based upon its distinctive spiciness. A suggested technique of Michael Minor, Executive Chef of the Border Grill Las Vegas was creating a reduction from masala chai. He boiled about four cups of masala chai over medium heat until it became a syrupy one-cup reduction sauce. Thereafter, he mixed the sauce into vanilla ice cream and re-froze it. This fusion of vanilla ice cream and masala chai was then added to an amazing bread pudding. I can definitely vouch for this dish!

Michael Minor also used the same technique to create a lemon myrtle tea reduction to pour over Hawaiian Opah Ceviche. For us vegetarians, the appropriate substitute for ceviche is tofu. Another interesting tea concoction was a strawberry soup created by Claude Cevasco, Chef Instructor at Le Cordon Bleu.

Now, this was all very fun and interesting to watch, but in the end, I’m no gourmet chef. This prompted me, when I returned home, to look for recipes and tips on cooking with tea for mere mortals like me. I did find a useful article written by Caroline Bloomfield that suggested that tea can be substituted for water during the cooking process. For example, tea can be boiled and used to steam vegetables and rice. It can be used to soak lentils and beans. Or, it can be added directly to soups and sauces and marinades. Ms. Bloomfield also suggested substituting tea (particularly chamomile or mint tea) for water in baked goods to produce a subtle and delicate layer of flavor. Obviously, the endless variations of tea flavors will allow a tea lover/cook to experiment and play forever.

Intrigued? Good. Let’s get cooking, baby! And let me know how it turns out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's come a long way, baby!

With the advent of pyramid tea sachets, it’s become quick and convenient to enjoy high quality, whole leaf tea. Just pour hot water over your sachet, and you’re on your way.

Tea has become so easy to make that it’s equally easy to forget the very, very long journey your tea has taken to travel to your teacup. In fact, many consider tea to be one of the most labor-intensive agricultural products in the entire world.

High quality tea from reputable tea estates is carefully -- even lovingly – cultivated, plucked and sorted by hand. Thereafter, the tea leaves undergo a “withering” process that rids them of moisture.

The “rolling” process then bruises the leaf cells, thereby exposing the sap of the leaves to oxygen. Oxidation (sometimes called fermentation) times vary, depending on the type of tea being produced. Oolong teas are oxidized for 3-5 hours, whereas black teas can be oxidized for a full day.

After oxidation, the tea leaves are “fired,” i.e., heated to arrest the oxidation process. Note that green teas are fired immediately after plucking, thereby bypassing the oxidation process completely. For this reason, green teas preserve a certain vegetal quality. Finally, the tea leaves are sorted again, packed and shipped.

The most flavorful and aromatic teas come from producers who follow each of the traditional steps meticulously.

So, the next time you watch your lovely tea leaves unfurling in water, you’ll fully appreciate the journey they’ve made for your pleasure and enjoyment! Remember – it’s come a long way, baby!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Make it a habit, baby!

I don’t know about you, but I have to struggle to make healthier choices. I force myself to exercise. I make myself reach for an apple. (“Step away from the chips.”) I place Take your Vitamins post-it notes in strategic locations in my home. Sometimes I’m successful, and other times, well . . . .

Clearly, it’s harder for some of us (i.e., me).

One -- and only one -- lifestyle change was actually easy for me. You guessed it -- drinking tea! Years ago I began to learn about tea’s potential health benefits – its antioxidant content, its potential link to heart health, bone health, cancer prevention and more. Every day seemed to bring more information about this wonderful beverage.

So (ahem), I virtuously incorporated tea drinking into my routine, solely for those health benefits.

OK, OK, I admit it. It was really the taste that got me on board. Because I enjoyed drinking tea so much, it was a surprisingly simple matter to make it a regular part of my day. I loved the endless varieties and the complex flavors. I loved that it made me take a pause in my day. I loved that it was as hydrating as water but so much more interesting and delicious!

You know, they say it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, why not give the tea habit a try? Once you enjoy high quality tea in convenient sachets on a daily basis, you may find that it becomes a part of your life easily and naturally. It did for me!

Copyright 2008 East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 31, 2008

Be specific, baby!

Despite the challenges of entrepreneurship, many people dream daily about owning their own businesses. They have interesting ideas, exciting dreams and great energy. Nevertheless, they find it difficult to take the first steps and get started. For some, it’s downright daunting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Indianapolis business coach Dawn Shea. I asked her how budding entrepreneurs with big dreams can start turning their business visions and inspiration into reality.

Whew. Easy question, right?

But Dawn quickly provided excellent advice. “Believe that success can be yours,” she said. “But then, be specific. Make sure that you work toward the things you desire with force and intention.”

“First, you should actually picture your future business,” said Dawn. She suggests writing down your dream in detail. What type of business do you want? What will you sell? Where will it be located? She also suggests keeping reminders of your dream all around you, for example, pictures of similar products or potential storefronts.

“Then,” she said, “be more than a go-getter – be a goal-getter.” According to Dawn, amazing ideas materialize only when very specific goals are set and met. She recommends writing down three tasks per week that will move you closer to launching your new business. Then, design a timeline detailing what you hope to accomplish by the end of a month, three months, six months, nine months, and one year.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick up that pen, baby!

If you would like to learn more about Dawn Shea, Results Coach and Success Trainer, visit

Copyright 2008 East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Let's get together, baby!

I'm all in favor of sipping tea alone and contemplating my navel.  However, tea also lends itself beautifully to a communal experience.  All over the world, people get together routinely over tea.  

Though tea gatherings do occur worldwide, we Americans tend to associate them with England.  We think of a sophisticated "high tea" in a British parlor with tiny crustless sandwiches and clotted cream (what is that, anyway?).  In actuality, "high tea" was the heavy evening meal eaten by working class families at the end of the day.   A few sources state that tea was deliberately brought into this evening meal in order to steer workers away from alcohol -- certainly an optimistic diversionary tactic.  

Actually, the word "high" referred to the height of the dinner table rather than the sophistication of the gathering or the company.  Tables in parlors and sitting rooms were, by contrast, lower to the ground.  So, "low tea" now often called "afternoon tea," is the true parlor gathering of guests for gentle conversation -- not to mention tea, snacks, sweets and ostensibly, that clotted cream.

Of course, the most ritualized tea gathering is usually thought to be the Japanese tea ceremony.  This ceremony, based on  Taoism and influenced by Zen Buddhism, is performed by an expert practitioner and served to a small group of guests.  The practitioner is extensively trained in tea preparation and a wide variety of ceremonial procedures related to tea, calligraphy, flower arranging, kimono wrapping and more.  Interestingly, not only the practitioner, but also the guests are expected to have mastery of the tea ceremony, down to the last gesture, phrase and rule of deportment.

Well, to each her own, I say.  I myself favor tea gatherings as informal breaks in our increasingly rushed daily routines.  (Masala chai & samosas this afternoon, anyone?)

This approach seems to be catching on here in the U.S., as evidenced by the recent proliferation of tea salons and tea houses, particularly on the coasts and in larger cities.  Tea salon owners often say that they expect their clientele to settle in and spend the afternoon talking.  I love this trend!  As we become even busier and every minute seems to be spoken for, we must make the conscious effort to pause and come together, to connect and share our lives.  What better way than over tea?  

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Get organized, baby!

Welcome to my office! Every important paper on my desk has its own designated place! All of my documents are neatly labeled in alphabetized files! My to-do list is not only prioritized, but also color-coded! You believe me, don’t you?

No? Well, you’re as smart as you look, baby.

Recently I attended a networking meeting and had the opportunity to hear Chris Frazier, a professional organizer and lawyer. Her company Focus Forward specializes in assisting small businesses. Chris impressed me because she approaches organization as a mindset, not just as a calendar/paper collection system. Also, her advice always takes into consideration the realities of the current working world, with its proliferating paperwork and relentless emails and text messages.

After listening to Chris, I realized that I needed to change the way I work. Without such changes, the most elaborate set of tiered trays or color-coded labels from the office supply store wasn’t going to help me increase my effectiveness.

My favorite of Chris’s suggestions: “Resist the urge to check email or voicemail.” Instead, she recommends setting a few designated times each day for such checking. This advice alone now saves hours of my time. A former email addict, I spent all day reading and responding to email. Once I recognized the artificial urgency that incoming emails evoke and the inefficiency of constantly stopping and starting in the middle of work, I was better able to prioritize my time and complete my tasks.

Another favorite of mine: “Create an effective filing system, and then use it every day!” She recommends setting aside 10-30 minutes at the end of each work day for paper management. Now, instead of weeping over my enormous stacks of paper, I feel that my paper is under control. According to Chris, this habit has the added advantage of providing closure at the end of the day and preparation for the next.

I asked Chris to allow me to share with you some of her other excellent recommendations:

1. Make a to-do list the evening before each new work day and actually schedule the block of time in which you will do each task. Schedule the most important tasks first.

2. Complete similar types of work at the same time, for example, returning calls, writing, and scheduling meetings. This grouping of activities will better focus your energy.

3. Delegate! Stop thinking you have to do everything yourself.

4. Divide your office into activity zones. Have a main work zone, but also a reference zone, creative zone, and calling zone.

5. Get all that stuff off your desk! Use your desk surface for working, not storage. Instead, creatively use all the areas around your desk for storage -- on walls, behind doors, etc.

6. Consider hiring a professional organizer to help you set up an effective system for you. The National Association of Professional Organizers has a list of organizers in your area.

Visit Chris Frazier’s website at

Visit our online store at

Copyright 2008 East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Look inside, baby!

Meet Tara. She’s looking for a wholesome, refreshing drink. She wants something delicious to sip while quietly contemplating life. And she’s been hearing about the health benefits of tea for years.

So, what’s stopping her from drinking specialty tea? Time! Tara wants to drink high quality, whole leaf tea, but she doesn’t want to manage all of those loose leaves. And she really doesn’t want to deal with steeped ingredients and messy teapots. So, what’s this girl to do?

Enter the pyramid sachet!

No, it’s not an Eygptian handbag. Rather, it’s a clear, silky-looking pod made from food-grade nylon that holds your specialty tea. The sachet leaves plenty of space for your tea leaves to steep and release their full flavor. And, baby, look inside! You will see all of your tea’s ingredients unfurling elegantly before you.

Not only do you preserve the flavor of your whole leaf tea, but you do so with the ultimate convenience of a tea bag. Plus, looking into the beautiful pods of natural, blooming ingredients truly upgrades your specialty tea experience!

So, no need to worry about the hassle. Drink up, baby! (You, too, Tara.)

Visit our online store at

Copyright 2008 East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Taste, baby! (revisited)

Happy New Year to all of you! I’m back from a whirlwind trip through South India – 14 days, 2 plane rides, 4 train rides, 9 cities, and various minibus, automobile, and auto-rickshaw adventures. 100 family members (really), 10 colorful shops, 4 amazing tours, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Sorry, baby, couldn’t resist.)

In the middle of my amazing race around the country, I had a genuine tea cupping encounter. Picture this . . . I am in the home of a tea merchant, asking him about his experiences in the industry. Suddenly, he tells me that I must take his tea cupping test, to identify the special blend that he has created for his own business.


We go out onto his house balcony, where his charming daughter-in-law, also a tea aficionado, has set up a line of identical white tea cups and tiny tasting pots. When the correct amount of time passes, she moves swiftly from cup to cup, stopping the steeping process and pouring the tea liquors.

The merchant talks me through each taste. Remember, tea tasting involves a good long look at the liquid as well as a few minutes spent absorbing its aroma. It also requires one noisy slurp from a spoon that allows the tea liquor to cover all parts of the mouth for the most complete taste possible.

This was a true high point in my trip – an authentic and unexpected tasting experience in the middle of the land where tea is actually grown and produced. And to do this with an expert, a person whose life is tea, was just amazing.

And, in case you were wondering, based upon his discussion of what is important to him for his tea blends, I was able to identify his special blend (phew)!

Copyright 2008, East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved