The Best Teas: Is It Just About The Caffeine?
People who consider themselves tea connoisseurs, or perhaps even just tea enthusiasts, would usually like to believe that they have "discerning tastes", that they appreciate the "finer things in life", and specifically, the finer nuances of flavor and aroma when drinking a cup of tea.

Pictured here is some kukicha, one of my favorite styles of green tea, and one which demonstrates the spirit of this post: kukicha, tending to be low in caffeine, is not a usual focal point of connoisseurs:

This post is about a wrench thrown into the idea that we really have discerning tastes...the wrench is the observation that, at least to a large degree, people seem to seek out teas that are higher in caffeine. Not, mind you, teas they think are higher in caffeine, but teas that actually are higher in caffeine. (Which are two different things, unfortunately, due to the prevalance of misinformation in our society.)

But first I want to digress into the realm of beer and alcohol content, which offers a fascinating analogy of this same phenomenon:

Beer and Alcohol:

I was involved in rating and reviewing beer long before I got involved in rating and reviewing tea. In fact,, where you can find my profile if you're curious of my tastes in beer, was one of the major sources of inspiration for

When I first started using RateBeer, I was so excited about the concept. I loved craft brews, and unlike most people in my age bracket, I had little interest in getting drunk. I saw my use of RateBeer and my passion for craft beers produced by local microbreweries as a rebellion against the dominant drinking culture in our society, which ignores taste and focuses on getting drunk as quickly as possible.

Something raises an eyebrow: Alcohol content and ratings:

After having used RateBeer for years, and drinking, rating, and reviewing hundreds of beers, I started noticing something. Beers with a higher alcohol content invariably received a higher rating on the site. I also noticed this same trend off the site, among people who considered themselves beer enthusiasts or connoisseurs...a large number of them tended towards the Belgian ales and barley wines, with their very high alcohol contents. These brews struck me as more like wine than beer. Personally, I like beer better than wine, and I think this preference is in part because of the lower alcohol content of beer.

As an example, my favorite beer, the Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, with 5.8% ABV (Alcohol by volume) scores a 3.87 with 1223 ratings. The Great Lakes Blackout Stout, a beer that I think is good, but not anywhere near as good, but which has 9% ABV, gets 3.93 (this subtle distinction in score is actually bigger than you might think on the site). Another example, from my hometown, is how Lancaster Brewing Co's Amish Four Grain, with 5.6% ABV is rated much lower than the same brewery's Winter Warmer, 9% ABV. Personally, I think the four-grain is a much better beer.

Back to tea:

I've unfortunately noticed a similar trend among teas, albeit with caffeine in place of alcohol. For example, among white teas, silver needle has more caffeine than bai mu dan, which has more caffeine than shou mei. Guess which ones tend to be more expensive and are often written about by "connoisseurs" as being somehow "better"? Another example...sencha vs. bancha. Another example: tippy black teas (whether Assam, Yunnan, or whatever) vs. their non-tippy counterparts.

Although there's certainly a huge amount of variability, the teas with more caffeine tend to be more expensive, seem to be preferred by people "in the know", and receive better reviews.

Possible confounding factors:

There are other factors that could be contributing to these trends. Some confounding factors that I've thought of are that:

  • Tippy teas (more tips / young leaves, less mature leaves) contain more caffeine, and also have a more smooth or delicate flavor, and people may prefer the smoothness or other qualities, so the association with caffeine is accidental.

  • Tippy teas are more expensive, and people may be buying into the psychological fallacy that more expensive means better quality.

  • Because tippy teas are more expensive, they're more actively pushed by tea companies because of the higher profit margin, and we tea drinkers are simply fooled by their marketing into thinking they're really higher quality.

And of course, it also might be true that people don't actually prefer these teas, that there's just an illusion that they do, again, probably because of tea company marketing (unlike the world of beer, where there is hard data suggesting that people really do prefer the beers with a higher alcohol content).

What do you think?

Do you think that the caffeine content of a tea influences how much people like it, and that people tend to prefer teas with more caffeine because of the caffeine? Or do you think that it could be explained by confounding factors? Or do you think they really don't like these teas at all and it's just an impression caused by tea company marketing?
No Comments Posted in All, Tea
Tagged , ,
Revived from the dead

This little puppy is now fixed



All of a sudden it doesn’t look like the $30 pot that it was, but rather more like the silver vintage kyusu that it is. The handle is ivory, which made me apprehensive about sending it overseas to get it fixed by the very good Jeffrey Herman. I didn’t want the item get impounded or anything, since I have no proof that this was manufactured before the ivory ban, and nosy customs type can get into stuff when you don’t want to. Instead, I asked some antique dealers in the city for recommendations, and one, Helis & Tang, graciously answered my email with a name. The guy who fixed it is some old man who sells various kinds of metal awards and what not, but clearly loves dabbling in smithing. He was quite excited to see my piece and fix it up – had it done within 24 hours. The work is not quite as fine as Herman’s repair of my kettle, as you can see obvious repair marks and rougher edges, but I’ll take it.

Too bad though that now I have very little time to drink tea seriously on a daily basis, and am reduced to drinking bad tea in the office, grandpa-style. At the moment, this little kyusu will have to sit there on the shelf and look pretty.  Oh well.


No Comments Posted in All
Tagged , ,
Cheap Tea: Loose-leaf Teas Offering Outstanding Value
I'm a bargain shopper, and a highly cost-conscious person in nearly all aspects of my life. I believe in spending money wisely. This post is about loose-leaf teas that are really cheap. This is not the first time I've written on this topic: back in April of 2010 I wrote about three unusually good inexpensive teas...but that was a long time ago, and I've discovered more deals since then.

The word "cheap" often has a negative connotation..."cheaply made", or "cheap quality". That's not what I'm getting at. By cheap, I mean that the price is really low, lower than you can typically get in tea bags. The teas in this post are not just inexpensive, they're outright cheap, bargain buys. But they're also remarkably high-quality. They offer, in my opinion, outstanding value...the best you can get for your money.

Ahmad Tea's Kalami Assam:

Pictured here is the loose-leaf of Ahmad Tea's Kalami Assam:

Price: $6.15 a pound. Wow, just wow.
Summary: A strong Assam black tea with remarkable complexity.
My full review.

Tradition's Oolongs: A-Li-Son (Alishan) and Dong Ding:

Picture here is a tin of Tradition's A-Li-Son (Alishan) oolong, with the loose-leaf brewing in a glass mug. This tea is a little pricier relative to the others, but it is a whole-leaf green oolong tea, with mostly unbroken leaves, and it's still really cheap:

Price: $7.95 for 100 grams.
Summary: Two offerings: A-Li-Son (pictured), and Dong Ding. Both are intensely aromatic, greener, high-mountain oolong from Taiwan. Unparalleled quality for this price.
My review of Tradition's A-Li-Son Oolong, and My review of Tradition's Dong Ding Oolong.

Starway's Green Teas: Huangshan Mao Feng and Bilouchun (Bi Luo Chun):

This brand is a relative newcomer (at least to my eye) in Asian markets, but is now widely available. I'm less impressed with their oolongs, but these two green teas offer amazing deals:

Price: $2.95 and $3.95 for 6 ounces (170 grams).
Summary: Two single-region Chinese green teas of unparalleled quality for this price. The cheaper of the two is in the mao feng style, the other is a surprisingly passable bi luo chun.

My review of the bi luo chun, and My review of the huangshan mao feng.

Have you tried any of these teas? And have you found any deals lately?

Let me know! Share your insights into teas that are both cheap and good!
No Comments Posted in All, Tea
Tagged ,
Green tea may help treat fatal disease –

Green tea may help treat fatal disease
Getting funding to develop the green tea compounds into a safe, effective drug is difficult because hyperinsulinism/hyperammonemia syndrome — or HHS — is considered an orphan disease. So Smith has pinned his hopes on studies at Harvard University and ...

No Comments Posted in All, Health, Research
Combat cancer with ‘superfoods’ rich with nutrition –

Combat cancer with 'superfoods' rich with nutrition
Green tea is full of antioxidants, and lab studies have shown that green tea prevents cancer development in colon, breast and prostate. "Do not drink more than three cups a day," Held says. "People buy green tea supplements, but too much green tea can ...

and more »
No Comments Posted in All, Health, Research
Nancy Cook-Monroe: Garden reopens with celebration – San Antonio Express

Nancy Cook-Monroe: Garden reopens with celebration
San Antonio Express
... the authentic sushi and green-tea drinks by Fresh Horizons Creative Catering. Fresh Horizons will open the Tea Garden Café in the Jingu House in the near future. Nancy Cook-Monroe's Social Studies column appears Thursdays and Sundays in SA Life. ...

and more »
No Comments Posted in All, Health, Research
Green tea eases mental distress, others – Nigerian Tribune

Green tea eases mental distress, others
Nigerian Tribune
For example, cancer rates tend to be low in countries such as Japan where people regularly consume green tea. However, it is not possible to determine from these population-based studies whether green tea actually prevents cancer in people. ...

No Comments Posted in All, Health, Research
New Homepage for
Some of you have likely already seen this, but in case you haven't, or in case you want to learn more, on Monday, we launched a new homepage for Here is a screenshot:

Why did we redesign the homepage? While the old page was functional, we were getting the message from a lot of people that they were surprised when they learned the full extent of our site. Our site now has hundreds of researched articles on different styles, regions, and brands of tea. We wanted to better communicate at a glance how extensive the site is.

A lot of new visitors to the site also seemed to be misunderstanding what our site was about...thinking that the site sells tea (we do not) or not realizing that the site was open to the public. People also seemed to be missing the connection to the philosophy of slow food, as well as the emphasis on sustainability and environmental issues.

Some of our goals for this new homepage are to:

  • Make it easier to navigate: there are now more pages accessible in one click from the homepage.

  • Make it look sleeker and more professional, more pleasing to the eye.

  • Clearly communicate the full extent of the site, as well as the spirit, philosophy, and purpose of the site.

  • Encourage more active participation: there is a prominent sign-up box rather than just a discrete link, and the sign up process has been made simpler.

The following screenshot shows a new line of links that reflects the site's growing base of tea-related articles. We have now added a tagging system, classifying articles by subject (tea and health, tea and sustainability, brewing tea, and two categories we hope to expand more in the future: tea business and industry and buying tea).

What we removed:

If you miss the old "Styles of tea" box, you will be pleased to find that most of these same options are still available in one-click. Scroll down to "Updates to Styles & Varieties of Tea" and you'll see the little line "More:" (also highlighted above) which lists the major styles of tea. Or, for a more comprehensive listing, just visit the Styles page by clicking the tab at the top.

We also removed the drop-down box with the listing of brands of tea, because it had become redundant. We have since improved the searching and browsing features on the site. You can still look up teas by brand by going to the "Brand" page, or you can search by typing the name of the brand, or name of the tea, into the search box at the top.

There are a few small features, such as the news box and the twitter / facebook icons that we will probably add back soon. We just wanted to get the page out there because it had been in development for some time and we felt it was much better as-is than the old page.

Let us know what you think!

Let me know by posting a comment here, or for private remarks, contact us through the contact form. Do you think this new page more thoroughly communicates the depth and richness of topics covered by the site? Does it look more inviting ? Any suggestions for further tweaks that could move us farther in this direction?

Thanks in advance, and also, thank you for the numerous people who have already given us feedback!
No Comments Posted in All
Tagged ,
Snacks and sweets for green tea

Do you know what kinds of food go withgreen tea?  What do you usually enjoywith Japanese tea?

It is generally said that sweet or saltynon-fat foods go with Japanese tea.  Ifeel the same from my experience.  So, itis pretty make sense that Japanese cakes and rice cracker are popular for teatime.  But, it is difficult to have themoverseas and I always wonder what I can recommend for those people.  

Konnichiwa, it’s Kohei?(^?^)?  Ihad an excellent opportunity to solve my wonder.   I joined a gathering to look for greatsnacks and sweets for green tea.  What welooked for is not just great, but a perfect mariage!  The six attendees were related to food or teain their business.  We tasted two kindsof sencha with following foods.  They are not only Japanese food but alsofoods that you can find overseas (red font). 

- Tea -

Mellow senchawith umami from Kyoto

Bitter refreshing sencha from Gifu

- Sweet -

Sweet bean paste

Japanese pancake with sweet bean (dorayaki)

White sugar

Brown sugar




Dried raisin

- Salty -

Rice cracker (soy flavor)

Japanese pickles

Dried kelp (konbu seaweed)


Potato chips

- Sour -

Umeboshi(pickled plums)

Mandarin orange

- Others -



Smoked cheese



Dried tomato and olive

What do you think?  Is there any food that you are curiousabout?  Well, the result is veryinteresting.  Some of the attendees havetried the same kind of test with coffee. They say the result with coffee was prettymuch similar for all attendees.  But, atthis test with green tea, the results were different in some part.  Example, some people don’t like orange butsome liked, and same for blue cheese.  Wethink that personal taste affects pretty much to the result.  

Even though we had differences, we foundsome in common.  The aforementionedtheory was quite correct; we liked the sweet or salty foods (sweet bean, brown sugar,rice cracker and dried seaweed) but didn’t like fat contenting foods.  So, we thought that many foods that you can findoverseas, such as cake, cookie, chocolate, dried raisin, peanut or potato chipsare not that good for green tea, unfortunately. 

So, now what?  Some of you might think “Only Japanese foodgo with Japanese tea??”  Don’tworry!  We found another wonderfultheory!!  It’s amazing.  I’ll introduce it on the next post.  Jah! 

No Comments Posted in All
Tagged ,
Point Park summit reflects Asian culture – The Globe

Point Park summit reflects Asian culture
The Globe
Choosing between the options of black tea, white tea and green tea, guests could fill as many tea bags as they wished in any kind of blend. History facts were presented on the table about the origins of the tea leaves. Tables of food were the cause of ...

No Comments Posted in All, Health, Research