Tea Masters Series II: Tasting Darjeeling

TeaSource is proud to sponsor the TEA MASTERS series. TeaSource will host world renowned tea growers, tea brokers, tea tasters, and tea authorities as part of this ongoing series. We will present forums/settings/workshops where our customers and the general public will have a chance to taste teas, learn from, ask questions, and in a loose sense just hang out for a few hours with TEA MASTERS from across the globe.

Family and friends of Rajiv Lochan plucking tea leaves


DSC_1322Experience a tea tasting tour of Darjeeling, India! Guided by a former Darjeeling tea estate manager, Rajiv Lochan, and myself, Bill Waddington, you’ll explore the flavor differences and quality characteristics of numerous north Indian teas. You’ll learn why Darjeelings are some of the most expensive teas in the world (justifiably so). And you’ll also learn why and how these sensory differences occur.

Rajiv Lochan has worked in the Darjeeling tea industry for almost 40 years, including many years in the tea gardens.  His resume includes time at: Longview, Seeyok, Phuguri, Avongrove, Jungpana, Ambootia and many other tea gardens. He has been an independent tea broker for the last 15 years.

Date: Sunday, May 10th, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
*Arrive at 6 p.m. for a tour of our new warehouse facility

Class cost: $15.00/person

TeaSource Main Office & Warehouse
2616 Cleveland Ave N
Roseville, MN 55113 (just south of the intersection of Cleveland Ave N & County Road C)

Registration: Call TeaSource to sign up: 651-788-9971
Space is limited so sign up quickly.

Sometimes I have the best job in the world…


Recently I had the privilege of hosting three guests from the Otsuka Green Tea Co. of Shizuoka, Japan. It was a very short, very fun visit.

The best part of my job is people. Make no mistake, I love tea. I’m obsessed with the leaf. I swoon over the liquor. But the best part of what I do is the people; our customers, our suppliers our fellow tea-travelers. The people are amazing, and sometimes I have a day where it feels like I’ve been wandering around the city of Oz.

Visiting at our Roseville, MN warehouse/office, was the wife of the Chairman of Otsuka, Mrs. Hiroto Otsuka (a Japanese tea ceremony expert), and 2 other Otsuka employees, Kokei Sugihara, export manager and Haruyuki Nagata, sales manager.

For context, TeaSource green tea Saemadori #50 won 2nd place at the 2014 North American Tea Championship, is from Otsuka Tea.  Our Sencha Homare and Sencha #20 are handmade teas from Otsuka Tea.

This visit was a chance to build a growing relationship, learn from folks who know more than I do, and party hearty with fellow tea geeks (this involved drinking a lot of tea, and four flights of Minnesota craft-brewed beers).

Otsuka Tea Co. was founded in 1869 in Shizuoka, Japan. It’s owned and run by the same family, for five generations now. I met these folks two years ago, when I was in Japan looking for tea growers. Their teas and their warmth bowled me over from the beginning.

We started off with an exchange of gifts, of course. From me to Mrs. Otsuka, a copy of The Book of Tea, Bruce Richardson’s edition with never before seen photos of early 20th century Japanese tea workers.


And I received one of the most beautiful ceramic pieces I have ever seen. A tea bowl, for use in the Japanese tea ceremony. Mrs. Otsuka apologized because it was not very traditional, but kind of modern and edgy. It has hand-made papers infused into the glaze.

tea bowl
Next a tour of our new warehouse- I was a little bit like a proud papa.



Pictured (right to left): me, Mrs. Otsuka, our own Queen of Wholesale Eri Abrams (who did an amazing job of translating for a day and a half), Mr. Sugihara, and Mr. Nagata. There was a lot of laughing throughout this visit.


Then it was time to taste teas.


Some amazing and sumptuous green teas from Otsuka. The color of these leaves takes my breath away.


Slurping sounds the same in any language.  I really do like their jackets.

Slurping sounds the same in any language. I really do like their jackets.


And then the most amazing part of the visit, Mrs. Otsuka serving tea –Japanese tea ceremony style – to myself, and a number of TeaSource employees.

Getting ready.

Getting ready.

All of us taking some of the traditional sweets that accompany a Japanese tea ceremony

All of us taking some of the traditional sweets that accompany a Japanese tea ceremony.

A little like Necco wafers, but a lot better.

A little like Necco wafers, but a lot better.

Mrs. Otsuka, ready to begin.

Mrs. Otsuka, ready to begin.

Ready to make tea.

Ready to make tea.

Measuring the matcha.

Measuring the matcha.

A demonstration of grace and focus, whisking the tea.

A demonstration of grace and focus, whisking the tea.

Keeping her arm very straight, without touching the bottom of the bowl.

Keeping her arm very straight, without touching the bottom of the bowl.

Artisan vs. truck driver.

Artisan vs. truck driver.

Me, desperately trying to not spill all over myself.

Me, desperately trying to not spill all over myself.

One of the things I most love about tea; it gives you pause.

One of the things I most love about tea; it gives you pause.

Then Mrs. Otsuka passed out wondrous origami figures that she had made for all of us.  It was like opening Christmas presents.

Then Mrs. Otsuka passed out wondrous origami figures that she had made for all of us. It was like opening Christmas presents.

Origami fighting sumo wrestlers.

Origami fighting sumo wrestlers.


Then it was everyone else’s turn to be served tea.

Sarah, learning to turn the bowl.

Sarah, learning to turn the bowl.

Elliot (our senior tea blender), learning to “sit like a samurai.”

Elliot (our senior tea blender) learning to “sit like a samurai.”

Whew, we didn’t embarrass ourselves.

Whew, we didn’t embarrass ourselves.


Then I took our guests to visit our stores.

DSC03457We finished a long day, with some sight-seeing of the Twin Cities, they LOVED St Paul’s Cathedral, and then steaks at Jax (they also loved that).

The whole visit was just a great time, strengthening an already healthy relationship.

Wonderful people who make amazing tea. And if you haven’t tried their teas, do yourself a favor.

We will follow up this post with another about this Otsuka visit: How to be the recipient of a tea at a Japanese tea ceremony (who knew this was a thing?). Stay tuned!

Thanks for reading. Comments are very welcome.

Bill Waddington
TeaSource, Owner


Steeped in Generations: The Doke Tea Estate

The Doke Tea Estate

The Doke Tea Estate

The tea plant is native to India, but the Indian tea industry began when thousands of tea seeds were smuggled out of China in the 1840’s. Today, India is the second largest tea producer in the world (still trailing China). There are four officially-designated “traditional” tea growing regions in India – Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgri, Kangra, and one officially-designated “non-traditional” tea growing region – Bihar.

Doke Estate

Last spring I spent three weeks wandering around northern and eastern India, searching for great teas. This is the fun part of my job.

Firing ovens at the Doke Tea Estate

Firing ovens at the Doke Tea Estate

I had the honor of visiting one of the smallest tea gardens in India: the Doke Tea Estate in Bihar.  There I was able to taste hand-made teas which were just a couple of days off the bush.

Family and friends of Rajiv Lochan plucking tea leaves

Family and friends of Rajiv Lochan plucking tea leaves

The Doke Tea Estate is one of the newest and smallest tea gardens in India.  Begun 26 years ago by Rajiv Lochan (a life-long tea expert, who managed many of Darjeeling’s most famous tea estates), Doke began with just 25 acres on the banks of the Doke River in the state of Bihar.  All the teas are hand-processed in very small batches, supervised by Rajiv’s daughter, Dolly Lochan, using family and local villagers to help.

Dolly Lochan (right) processing tea leaves with fellow family members

Dolly Lochan (right) processing tea leaves with fellow family members

TeaSource is proud to offer the hand processed Black Fusion and Green Diamond from the Doke Tea Estate in our stores and on our website.  Driven by passion and a generation-spanning love of tea, this tea estate is producing some of the most unique and special teas coming out of India.  We look forward to welcoming more of these teas at TeaSource!

-Bill Waddington
Owner, TeaSource

Hand-processed leaves of Black Fusion
Hand-processed leaves of Black Fusion


Deliciously Dairy-Free

Our homemade chai is one of my favorite beverages.  Ever.  Since we make two gallons of it at each store every day, it seems to be one of yours too. It’s the perfect cold weather drink — sweet and spicy with a thick creaminess.  Delish.  However, many customers can’t have dairy — therefore, no TeaSource Chai (so sad).  Recently we received an email requesting a non-dairy chai solution.   So I’ve come up with some possible solutions for those chai-deprived souls.

It would be great if it was as easy as using your favorite non-dairy milk, but the consistency of the milk is so important.  First of all, it gives the final cup a creamy thickness.  Secondly, it helps evenly disperse the spices.  We can’t mix the spices straight into milk because they would sink to the bottom.  So, I needed to thicken some non-dairy milk.


Bill Waddington, owner of TeaSource (and lactose intolerant) suggested using almond milk. I made a sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below) by adding sugar and reducing it on the stove.  After it cooled, I added a tablespoon of spices and stored it in the fridge overnight.

Another popular non-dairy substitution for sweetened condensed milk is Cream of Coconut, which is usually used in alcoholic drinks like Pina Coladas; it’s naturally very thick and sweet.   I added a tablespoon of spice mix to 1 cup of cream of coconut and refrigerated it overnight.

You can also use coconut milk.  It’s already pretty thick, so I sweetened it up with ¼ cup of honey and reduced it to 1 cup.   Then, I added 1 tablespoon of chai spice followed by a night in the refrigerator.


Chillin’ in the fridge

The next morning, I took my mason jars of chai goop into our St. Anthony store and steeped up some Breakfast Assam as the base for my chai experiments.

Let me pause for just a minute and say this: none of these non-dairy solutions will have the same taste and feel as the original dairy TeaSource Chai.  It can’t be the same because we can’t use the same ingredients.  So, from here on, let’s try not to compare it to the original.

chai samplesHere were my results:

1) Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (made with honey) – I had the most hope for this since it was a naturally thicker milk while still tasting and looking creamy.  The reduced milk also had the closest consistency to the dairy sweetened condensed milk.  It was creamy and sweet, but the least spicy of them all.

2) Sweetened Condensed Almond Milk (made with sugar) – This one was the first one I tried, and at first it felt thin.  But after sampling it and the others multiple times, it grew on me.  It was the spiciest and the creamiest of the three.

3) Cream of Coconut – I was so nervous about this one because of the strong coconut smell.  However, I was really surprised with how well it cupped.  It was creamy and spicy.  This one had the closest mouthfeel to the original chai (oops, we’re trying not to compare to the original).  Of the three, this one was the sweetest with a fun tropical hint that didn’t annoy me.

In the end, my favorite of these non-dairy chai mixes was the almond milk.  Now this is only my opinion and I recognize that we all have different preferences and tastes — I tend to prefer less sweet and more savory things.  However, if I wanted to go with the easiest solution (because let’s face it…I am a working mom of young children and have little time) I would make the cream of coconut and save myself from standing over a stove for 45 minutes constantly stirring milk while it reduced.


I would be curious to hear about what you think of these suggestions.  Have you tried any other techniques for adding some sort of non-dairy milk or cream to your tea?  What’s your favorite way to make Chai?  Tell us in the comments below!

**Something else to note: Because of space and health code restrictions, TeaSource is unable to offer these non-dairy options in our stores.  Bummer, I know. 

-Sarah Walker
TeaSource “Tech Guru”


Non-Dairy Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 3 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
  • ½ cup of sugar (or try your favorite sweetener)
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Mix in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook (don’t forget to stir the pot occasionally!) until the milk has reduced to 1 cup.  Remove from heat and let cool.

To make Chai “Goop”: Add 1 tablespoon of TeaSource Chai Spice Mix to 1 cup of non-dairy sweetened condensed milk.  Refrigerate overnight (or 8 hours).  Add “goop” (to taste) to a cup of strong black tea – we suggest Breakfast Assam.  Cheers!



The Best of 2014

As everyone tends to do this time of year, we are reflecting back on the past twelve months.  We have seen many teas come and go, but these teas, were voted your favorites of 2014.  We can’t wait to see what 2015 will bring!2000-Breakfast Assam-lg

Breakfast Assam – This is a great everyday Assam, very hearty and malty, but with a nice clean taste. This tea is our first choice for using as a base tea for Chai.


roasted chestnut_4_webRoasted Chestnut -This is a deep, dark, rich black tea blend with a delicious aroma. It has a roasty nut flavor with a little sweet silkiness. This is a perfect cooler weather black tea blend. Contains: China black tea, roasted mate, Houjicha, flavor, and sliced almonds.


dark tea-13_webDark Rose – This dark tea from Hunan province of China, is medium to full-bodied, very smooth, with a delicious dusty rose flavor and aroma. Contains dark tea and rose petals.


blue beauty_1Blue Beauty Oolong – This greener oolong from the Fujian province is a regional specialty tea rarely seen outside of China. It brews up very aromatic, sweet, floral, and slightly spicy with a pronounced silky texture. The leaf is sprinkled with ginseng and licorice root, and then folded many times so you will get many steepings from the same leaf.


gyokuro_1Gyokuro – Japan’s finest green tea. Also known as “Precious Dew.” This Japanese tea produces an incredibly luminescent tea with a very intense, complex aroma and taste, with traces of sweetness, a slight bitterness, and the taste of the sea.


green mango_3_webGreen Tea with Mango – Sweet, smooth, and summery. Those are your first impressions when you sip this sencha based green tea. The aroma of fresh mangos rises from the steeped cup, and the tea itself is smooth, sweet, and silky and brings to mind tropical breezes on desert islands. This tea is wonderful when made hot, and incredible when made iced.


machu peachu_2Machu Peach-u – This white tea from China has a prominent peach aroma and a flavor that is very smooth, very very peachy, with lots of body for a white tea. If you’re looking for a white tea that is a little silky, a little sweet, and has a little something extra — this is the tea.

Thanks for a great year!

-Bill Waddington
Owner, TeaSource

Give the Gift of Tea

It’s the season to introduce friends and family to the wonders of tea!

Don’t miss the Chai Spice Meringue recipe at the bottom of this post. Crafted by Georgia at our Eden Prairie location- they’re amazing!

‘Teas the season- All year long!

sampler box_web1. Tea of the Month Club  It’s like an advent calendar of tea that keeps coming all year! Every month a 4 oz pouch of tea arrives on your doorstep. Is someone you know new to tea? Tea of the Month Club is the perfect gift for newbie and expert.

Great Gifts under $20

roasted chestnut_4_web2. You, and a mug of Roasted Chestnut  Roasted Chestnut is our own black tea blend and was voted best flavored black tea of 2014. Only $6.59 for four ounces! Try it with a swirl of honey and a dollop of milk (or with a splash of Irish Cream!).

 brew in mug_web3. Basic Brew in Mug and 4 oz. of Fireside Spice  Everything the tea novice needs.. The 11 oz. stoneware mug comes with a built-in stainless steel tea strainer and coaster lid for just $10.99. Fireside Spice is on sale: $7.18/four oz. through December.

731-Gaiwan, Seascape-lg4. New Seascape Gaiwan  Gaiwans are the traditional Chinese way to prepare tea. It’s the perfect vessel for teas that re-steep and the ideal gift for the burgeoning tea geek. $13.99

 img_31245. TeaSource Chai Tin  Minnesotans survive our frigid winters because we drink a lot of TeaSource House Chai. Share this decadent treat over the holidays with our TeaSource Chai Tin. Comes with 2 oz. of spice blend and black Assam tea $10.99


Great Gifts under $50

Sampler Packaging-10_web6. TeaSource Winter Sampler Box  Not sure what to buy? This gift contains 1 ounce each of our five best- selling seasonal blends in a gorgeous botanical Camilla Sinensis gift box. Inner lid has basic brewing instructions. $24.99

 303MT - Square Beehouse Mint4-lg7. New! Square Beehouse Teapot  Think inside the box with our new square Beehouse teapots. The square teapot comes in three colors with a built in steeping basket, metal lid, and no drip spout. $26.99-$28.99


Memorable Gifts for Tea Geeks

Eilong Porcelain Set - Black and White_web8. Eilong Taiwanese Porcelain  Stunning, heirloom quality, and exquisitely functional; we love these Taiwanese tea sets. Take one home. You’ll fall in love with them too! $49.99-$79.99

Darjeeling Flush Comparison_web9. Fabulous Indian Teas  TeaSource will be featuring the best teas of India throughout 2015 with teas you can’t find at just any tea shop. Green Darjeelings, exotic estates, and awesome Assams! Try my personal favorite: Darjeeling, Giddapahar Estate 2nd flush, Musk. $23.97/four oz.


A Perfect Holiday Tea Party

tea party 7_web10. Jasmine Champagne cocktails                

  • 1 part cold brewed Jasmine, chilled
  • 1 part Champagne, chilled

Fill a champagne flute halfway with Jasmine, then top off the glass with champagne.  Adjust to your personal taste. Cheers!

Cold brew iced tea instructions here.


11. Fireside Toddy    Santa does not want milk and cookies. He wants a Fireside Toddy and Chai Spice Meringues!   4308-Fireside Spice-lg

Hot Toddies were traditionally made with black tea, but this ingredient is often left out of modern recipes. For shame! We are bringing it back with our Fireside Toddy!

  • 1.5 oz. your favorite Whiskey (substitute Brandy for a sweeter variation)
  • 1 Tbs. Honey
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Bitters
  • Fireside Spice Tea concentrate. To prepare: use I heaping teaspoon (3-4 grams) Fireside Spice tea. Steep in 4-6 oz. boiling water for 4 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a tea cup, stir, and garnish with lemon peel.

12. Georgia’s Amazing Chai Spice Meringues

Makes Approximately 30 meringues
Takes 30 minutes to prep. (45 if you are distracted singing along with Christmas music).

  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup White Sugar
  • ½ tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ tsp. Salt
  • ½-1 tsp. TeaSource Chai Spice Blend (Half a teaspoon makes regular spiced meringues, a whole teaspoon makes them extra zippy!)Chai-Spiced-Meringues_web
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Separate the eggs so you just have the egg whites in your mixing bowl. In a smaller dish stir together your sugar, spices, and salt
  3. Add the vanilla to your egg whites and start mixing. Put your electric mixer on the highest setting.
  4. When the egg whites and vanilla have reached the stiff peak stage, (aprox. 5 min.) keep the mixer going and slowly add in the sugar, spice, and salt blend. Turn the mixer off when everything is fully incorporated.
  5. Using 2 small spoons, (one to scoop and one to help pry the meringue off the first spoon) spoon bite sixed mounds of meringue onto a well-greased baking sheet. They can be placed close together because they don’t expand or flatten much.

Put your baking sheet(s) in the oven and as soon as you close the door turn the oven OFF. Let meringues sit undisturbed for 6 hours/ overnight. (Save the peaks by taking no sneak peaks!)

Milk Tea: New to Me

“I’ve never heard of that kind of tea before.”

It’s not very often that I say those words. But it happened while I was in India last spring. Almost every tea place I stopped in – street stalls, tea broker’s offices, tea gardens – I would be asked if I wanted tea. Of course I would say “yes.”   I would be asked if I wanted “black tea” or “milk tea.”

At first I thought they just meant a black tea served with milk on the side. But it became clear this was not what they meant.

So of course I asked for it. Then asked for it at the next place, and the next place …   It’s reaalllly good.   It is strong, sweet, smooth, milky (duh), and the method of preparation totally took me by surprise.   In the interest of full disclosure, my wife did not like it but EVERYONE at TeaSource did.

-Bill Waddington
Owner, TeaSource

Watch and learn how this traditional Indian tea is made…

We’re Drowning in New Teas

This is the time of year when our big shipments of teas arrive by sea from China, India, and Sri Lanka. Remember, tea is an agricultural crop and, for the most part, follows the seasons. With some exceptions, most tea production areas have wound down production for the year.

We have made many of our buying decisions from this year’s offerings.   And we have a whole bunch of wonderful new teas to entice. We have some teas from one of the smallest family tea farms in India, also unheard of teas from Taiwan, and a new Sencha from Japan, and much more.

We’re excited to offer two exotic teas from the Doke Estate, the Black Fusion and the Green Diamond.  The Doke Tea Estate is one of the newest and smallest tea gardens in India.  I had the pleasure of visiting this tea estate and its founder, Rajiv Lochan (a life-long tea expert, who managed many of Darjeeling’s most famous tea estates).  This estate, as it was made clear to me during my travels to India, is driven by passion and a generation-spanning love of tea.  They are producing some of the most unique and special teas coming out of India.

All the teas are hand-processed in very small batches at the Doke Estate, supervised by Rajiv's daughter Dolly Lochan (on the right), using family and local villagers to help.

All the teas are hand-processed in very small batches at the Doke Estate, supervised by Rajiv’s daughter Dolly Lochan (on the right), using family and local villagers to help.

Doomini Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFOP1

Doomini Estate, 2nd Flush, TGFOP1

Also hailing from India, we have welcomed a handful of new Assams.  The tea growing region of Assam, in the far east of India, is known for producing heavy, thick, hearty black teas with a distinctive malty note to the flavor.  While in India this spring, I was able to observe a tea auction in Assam.  This tradition is over 100 years old, but has morphed into the digital/virtual age.  If Assams are your “cup of tea”, you must check these out!


One of the more unique teas on this recent shipment of teas: the Makaibari Estate, Silver Tips.  I like to say that this tea is “historic.”  This was the last tea produced at the Makaibari estate by the Bannerjee family; who founded this garden in 1859 and sold Makaibari in the summer of 2014.  I was so fortunate to meet with the owner before the sale of the estate.  And TeaSource is so fortunate to have such a remarkable tea available to its customers.

Listening to the vast knowledge of the (at the time) owner of the Makaibari Estate. There is always more to learn when it comes tea.

Listening to the vast knowledge of the (at the time) owner of the Makaibari Estate. There is always more to learn when it comes to tea.

What other new teas are here?  (For a complete list, visit TeaSource’s website.)

One more thing: we are expecting a shipment of eight pallets of tea from China.  A handful of new teas will be arriving any day!  Of course, we will let you know as soon as they are released.  What’s the best way to keep in touch with our retail/online store happenings?  Follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

I hope you enjoy these new teas!  I know I am.

–Bill Waddington
Owner, TeaSource


Photo Contest Winner

Congratulations to our photo contest winner, René V. Rosengren!

photo contest winner

We had a lot of fun seeing all the entries that used “I know what you steep at night…” as inspiration!  René will be receiving an Herbal Sampler – a beautiful box with five of our favorite herbal teas, a perfect selection for winding down at the end of an evening.  Thanks for playing along with us and Happy Halloween!

happy halloween2

Runner-up photo by R.J. Rugroden

Tea Nomination Finalists

Alright, here it is, folks! We spent the last couple of weeks collecting your nominations for the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and we now have our finalists!

Straight Black Tea: Breakfast Assam
Flavored Black Tea: Roasted Chestnut
Dark Tea: Dark Rose
Oolong Tea: Blue Beauty Oolong
Straight Green Tea: Gyokuro
Flavored Green Tea: Green Tea with Mango
White Tea: Machu Peach-u


So, now what? LOTS!

Saturday, September 27th:

– Join us in our stores to sample all seven teas
– Purchase any of the above teas for 50% off in store or online (maximum purchase: 1 lb)
– Submit a final ballot of the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and receive $5.00 off your next order (vote in store or online).

Wednesday, October 1st: We will announce the 2014 TeaSource Customer Favorite Tea and feature it for one week at 20% off!


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