Monday, October 23, 2017

Tea & Whisk

Tea & Whisk opened in September 2016 and is located a short drive from Las Vegas on South Eastern Avenue near Sienna Heights Drive in Henderson, Nevada.  

The interior of the tea shop is welcoming with walls painted in warm tea-like colors.  Seating includes a comfy sofa, a long table, and a beautiful brand new (as of June) tea bar where guests can participate in free tea tastings and tea education programs.

The tea shop offers over 130 loose leaf teas of multiple grades to fill your tea cabinet.  They also offer an extensive handcrafted beverage menu including hot teas, iced teas, tea lattes, nitro tea, and tea flights.

In addition to tea, Tea & Whisk also carries a broad range of teaware and food.

I couldn't resist trying Tea & Whisk's nitro tea which changes weekly.  The week's blend included lavender, rose, chamomile, and Irish black tea which was nice with milk and fantastic without.  I learned that nitro requires tannin to work properly, so the blend will always include a black tea base.

At the time of my visit, Tea & Whisk was hosting a gathering to celebrate the Southwest Tea Fest which takes place every February in Las Vegas.  Due to the hard work of everyone involved, the tea festival had a successful second year.

Thanks to Tea & Whisk owner Leo Lukidi for the warm welcome and for introducing me to this oasis of tea!

Follow Tea & Whisk on Facebook for the latest news, events, and promotions.

10271 S Eastern Ave #116, Henderson, NV 89052

Monday-Thursday 11:00 am to 8:00 pm
Friday-Saturday 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
Sunday 11:00 am to 6:00 pm

Friday, October 20, 2017

Upcoming Event: Rikyu-Enoura, a New Noh Play by Hiroshi Sugimoto

A new Noh play by Hiroshi Sugimoto will be performed November 3rd through 5th at Japan Society's cultural center in celebration of their 110th anniversary. The play centers on Sen no Rikyu, the famous tea master who had a profound influence on Japanese tea ceremony.  The play will open with tea ceremony performed by Rikyu's direct descendant, Sen So’oku.

For more information, visit the Japan Society event page.

Broadway World has an excellent in-depth write-up.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tea Review: Flowery Oolong (Chariteas)

Flowery Oolong
Type: Oolong
Origin: Vietnam
Product Description: A Vietnamese green oolong bursting with fragrance & floral notes.

Temperature: 195° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have a flowery and spring green aroma with a hint of honey.

The bright yellow-green infusion has a floral, buttery, and nutty aroma.  The taste is sweet and lightly savory with floral and sunflower seed notes and a sweet flowery finish.

Following the first infusion and after the leaves began to open up, the floral notes moved to the front and the liquor color became bright yellow.  While boldly floral teas are often at least moderately astringent, the astringency of this oolong remained pleasantly low.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Upcoming Event: Rare Teas of Japan (World of Tea Series)

I will present a tea tasting this Saturday, hosted by the Northwest Tea Festival as part of the World of Tea Series on Saturday, September 16th.  

Hosted by Heather Porter (Hanamichi)

Experience Japanese teas that are considered rare and unique, even within Japan. I will present a selection of teas produced using unusual methods and teas that are rarely seen outside their growing region. This tasting session will include dark teas, aged teas, and at least one tea that has almost ceased to exist.
Date: Saturday, September 16, 2017
Time: 10:00 am -12:00 pm
Location: Rainier Arts Center, 3515 South Alaska Street
Seattle, WA 98118
Price: $20

Thursday, August 31, 2017

World of Tea Series: Explore the Teas of Southern China

Northwest Tea Festival hosts the World of Tea Series one Saturday of each month. This series offers unique tea tastings and workshops presented by specialists in the industry.

On July 15th, Andrew Goodman (The Happy Tea Man) hosted an Exploration of the Teas of Southern China.

Since most of the teas we would be tasting were heicha (dark tea), Andrew explained the region-specific naming conventions.

Heicha from Yunnan is called puerh.
Heicha from Guangxi is called liu bao.
Heicha from Anhui is called Anhui heicha or fucha (fu tea).

We also had the opportunity to admire a 3-sided puerh knife from Crimson Lotus, hand-forged from damascus steel.

The first tea was a 2014 Jingmai Ancient Tree (Crimson Lotus Tea) sheng puerh cake.  The aroma was mossy while the taste had the barest hint of bitterness with a flowery finish.  

Jingmai is located in the southernmost region of Yunnan with an elevation of around 1600 meters.  It is home to some of the oldest tea trees in the world, including an almost 3,000 year old tree with its own guard.  For this reason, Jingmai is currently a UNESCO World Heritage nominee.  The 300-year-old gushu (ancient tree) leaves are sun-dried, lightly fermented through decomposition and composting, and heated (shaqing, kill-green) to deactivate enzymes and reduce moisture. 

Our next tea was a 2015 Bulang Mountain sheng maocha (crude tea) (Global Tea Hut) with vegetal notes.

Moving on to ripened puerh, we tasted 2015 That's No Moon (Crimson Lotus) shou puerh cake with a marine and mushroom aroma and wood-like taste with notes of something that reminded me of prunes.

The final Yunnan tea was 2002 Purple Label (Phoenix Tea), a shou puerh with a woody and savory aroma that reminded me of soy sauce.

Our last dark tea was a 2003 Liu Bao from Wuzhou Tea Factory in Guangxi. Liu bao are almost all post-fermented and most are packed into bamboo baskets while some are pressed into cakes. The aroma was woody and the taste was smooth.

The finale to our tea tasting adventure was Eight Immortals Oolong from Wudong Mountain in the Phoenix Mountain range in Guangdong. This comes from (is cloned from) a single tea tree (Eight Immortals) that was struck by lightning almost a century ago and since then has produced tea with a unique flavor and aroma. The aroma and flavor were smoky and savory.

Thanks to Northwest Tea Festival and to Andrew Goodman for another great tea tasting experience!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Ri Ra Irish Pub

Ri Ra Irish Pub has been a successful venue in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip since 2011.  Last year, they launched an afternoon tea service which takes inspiration from the traditional tea you would find in pubs around Ireland 50 years ago.  Later this year, they plan to add a modern afternoon tea service to the menu.  

To locate the pub, take the escalator or stairs from the main casino floor up to The Shoppes at Mandalay Place and Ri Ra will be down the hall and on the left.

Upon checking in, I was guided through the pub to a separate room with a cozy den-like feel.  The lighting is intimate with seating at tables, at the bar, in lounge chairs, and on a sofa by the fireplace.  The room is filled with interesting memorabilia, including vintage television sets playing clips of classic Irish TV shows without sound.  Music ranging from classic to modern played in the background.

At the time of my visit meal options included Afternoon Tea, Cream Tea and Champagne (or Mimosa) Tea.

The tea menu includes loose leaf black, green, and herbal.  My tea selection was Barry's Gold Blend.  The teapot and teacups were very generously sized and refills were complimentary.

The 3-tier service included freshly baked scones with cream and Irish preserves, finger sandwiches including Irish Cheddar with Ballymaloe Relish, and a selection of sweets.

Service was friendly, attentive, and informative.  I even received a good tip on an upcoming live performance at the pub later in the week.  

Walk-ins are welcome, allowing for 20 minutes to set up.  I would recommend calling ahead to ensure they can accommodate your party size.  Dietary restrictions including gluten-free can be accommodated with 48 hours notice. 

The Shoppes at Mandalay Place, 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89119

11:00am to 4:00pm

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tea Review: Kesennuma Kuwacha (Kesennuma Kuwacha Eitoku)

Kesennuma Kuwacha (Mulberry Leaf Tea Powder)
Kesennuma Kuwacha
Type: Tisane
Origin: Japan, Miyagi Prefecture, Kesennuma
Product Description: The leaves of mulberry that are used for Kesennuma Kuwa Cha are ones that are grown, chemical-free, by contracted farmers in the Shishiori area in the city of Kesennuma, and in the town of Minamisanriku.

The tea leaves are plucked in the morning and refined, avoiding nutrient loss. The end product features a delicate sweetness and is deep green in color.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 1 teaspoon
Water Volume: 6 ounces

The dry power has a bright green, herbaceous aroma.

Prepared Hot: The infusion is opaque and bold avocado green in color. The aroma is sweet and reminds me slightly of freshly piled tree leaves. The taste is mild and sweet with green vegetal notes.

Prepared Cold: Made with ice cold water, the infusion looks the same as when it's prepared hot. The aroma is sweeter and less herbaceous, reminding me slightly of matcha. The taste reminded me of green veggie juice.

This tisane has an enjoyable mild flavor and aroma when served hot or cold.  If you find that the flavor is bit too strong, reduce the powder to half a teaspoon. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017


During the World Tea Expo, Tealet hosted a tea community gathering at their Las Vegas studio and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make a long overdue visit. Thanks to Rie and Michael for letting me drop in early and unannounced!

Tealet is an award-winning grower network, founded in 2012 by Elyse Petersen.  Their focus is on supporting small growers and co-ops in eight countries, helping them to become independent and confident in sharing their high-grade teas.  They facilitate wholesale direct trade from tea farm to buyer and encourage buyers to speak directly with the tea growers and even visit their farms.  On the Tealet website, buyers and consumers can trace their tea from field to cup through detailed updates and videos in the grower's profile.  Visitors to the Tealet studio can enjoy a casual and informative tasting session while learning about the teas and growers they support.

Shortly after my arrival, a few more people arrived early for the event, so we gathered around the tea table where Rie began preparing and serving a broad range of delicious and intriguing teas.  

Some of the teas we tasted include:

Amber Red (2016 harvest) made by Sarad Subba of Hariyali Cooperative in Ilam, Nepal.

Moonshine, a hybrid white/green tea also made by Sarad Subba of Hariyali Cooperative.

Heritage Firewood Green made by Ishan Baruah of Heritage Tea Assam in Assam, India.  Rie presented this as a mystery tea and everyone is stumped.  Green tea from Assam is already incredibly rare and firewood smoked green Assam tea is one-of-a-kind.

18 Ruby, made by Alfredo Lin, is a cross with a native wild mountain Taiwanese cultivar and Assam.  Alfredo is a student of Master Aones, the tea master who made Taiwan's famous Ruby 18 black tea so popular.

Early into the evening, a New Mexico ceramicist dropped off some of his handmade teaware to try out.  He's still experimenting with shapes and styles and there were some definite winners like this yellow glaze teacup and a large gaiwan that was immediately put to use at the tea table.

The evening progressed and cups on the table multiplied as we were joined by artisans, bloggers, tea growers, authors, tea festival organizers, and more.  It was a wonderful feeling to be in this space, surrounded by people who share a love for the labor and artistry behind the tea leaf.  

Thanks to Elyse Petersen, Rie Tulali, and Michael Petersen for the great experience!

Tealet is currently moving from their Russell Road location to a new space in Chinatown. Their location and business hours will be updated when they're available.  Until then, be sure to visit their official website and follow them on Facebook.

Address:  Pending

Hours (prior to move): 
10:00am to 6:00pm 

Tea Review: Black Tea (Zealong)

Black Tea
Type: Flavored Black
Origin: New Zealand
Product Description: Zealong Organic Black tea is a full-bodied, deep-amber liquor with a sweet, honeyed undertone and smooth, silky finish.

Temperature: 208° F
Amount: 3 grams
Steeping Time: 3 minutes

The dry leaves have an aroma of fragrant wood and brown bread.

The infusion is red-orange with an aroma that is floral and spicy with notes of baked fruit and freshly baked brown bread.  The taste is rich, floral, and mildly savory with a long, sweet, floral finish.

This tea is almost fool-proof.  If you forget and leave it steeping, you'll still have a delicious cup of tea.  Two steepings produced full flavor and aroma while a third infusion mellowed noticeably.  

World Tea Expo 2017 Day Three

Day Three at the World Tea Expo wrapped up with a brief yet rewarding visit to the Exhibit Hall. 

Sugimoto America has created an intriguing series of flavored tea blends intended for use in the food industry.  It would surprise no one that I dropped by when they were serving their ceremonial-grade matcha.  It was great seeing Kyohei, Noli and Sara again!

JADE:LEE has been hand-making teas and tisanes since 2010.  It was a pleasure to meet the owner and to taste samples of his delicious teas.  Even the pumpkin tisane was unexpectedly tasty.

Boseong Jeda processes their teas using a combination of steam and pan-firing.

Boseong Woohae Tea Plantation produces some of the first teas of the season due to their misty seaside location.

Before I left the Exhibit Hall for the final time, I was given a paper crane by the daughter of a tea vendor.  This gift brought my time at World Tea Expo 2017 to a heartwarming conclusion.

Onward to World Tea Expo 2018!