Review: Newby Teas (and their Christmas pop-up shop)

Update: I also have a very cool interview with the Newby Teas founder on T Ching! Do check that out as well :)

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Courtesy of Newby of London (Featured tea: Oriental Sencha)

I’m really happy to hear that another premium tea brand has made its way to this small, caffeinated island. We could always do with more  good tea – and Newby of London has the track record of serving up many delightful cuppas. It was established in 2000 and has loyal customers that include the three Royal Castles in Stockholm, 7-star Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the offices for the President and Prime Minister in Poland. It has also won around 85 awards from the North America Tea Championship and the British Great Taste Awards.

But that aside, Newby’s founder, Mr. Nirmal Sethia has a genuine love of tea (he even has an extensive collection of tea antiques and is a tea history buff). You can get a sense of his passion for tea in these interviews here:

Mr. Sethia sharing his tea journey with a TV channel in Kazakhstan

Mr. Sethia showing his antiques at Channel New Asia’s AM LIVE! show

(I love how he says, “Good tea is like a beautiful woman who is not to be judged by her appearance.”)

The new Singapore team from Newby of London kindly sent over some samples for me to try. I tried their Hunan Green Tea and the Kan-Junga Tea with the ladies from Pekoe & Imp, so there’s a bit of input from them as well (including ripping the pyramid bags to drink the tea loose leaf heh).

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Hunan Green, Kan-Junga

Hunan Green Tea (Ling Luo Chun): According to Jacq, this type of tea is all the rage in London now. We all agreed that this was a decent Chinese green tea with strong grassy notes. However, the amount was on the scarce side (to brew it Chinese tea ceremony style at least) so we only got a few sips of it between the three of us.

Kan-Junga: A sweet, muscatel black tea from Himalaya that we unanimously took a strong liking to. In fact, HY loved it so much she ordered Jacq to brew her a huge mug of it after the tasting. Jacq said it was “comparable to a Margaret’s Hope 2nd Flush Darjeeling” (I think that’s a good thing). I dig it too so I’m including a close-up shot of it here – please try it someday!

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Courtesy of Newby of London

Here are the other teas I tried from Newby on my own:

Darjeeling: I also really liked this! It had the typical muscatel notes, but also had this subtle woodiness that gave it a bit of a kick. There was this faint clove-like fragrance emanating from the steeped leaves which I found fascinating.

Jasmine Blossom: I think I’ve kind of “gotten over” Jasmine teas in general, so for me, I felt I would rather want to taste the actual tea as opposed to the strong floral aftertaste. However, for Jasmine tea fans, this would really make a lovely brew (it had these beautiful whole white Jasmine blossoms sprinkled in it too, so very pretty).

Peppermint: I’ve tried a lot of peppermint teas, and this has become one of my favourites. I’m seeing how I can arrange to buy a large supply of this! There was this natural sweetness to it, and had a stronger minty aroma compared to other mint teas I’ve tried, which absolutely goes down in my books!

Rooibos Tiramisu: Yep, I think I’m definitely off flavoured blends (and also am not a Tiramisu person). Generally, I prefer rooibos just with good ol’ honey and a squeeze of lemon. But I appreciate  the creativity of this blend with bits of barley malt, cocoa beans, roasted chicory root and white chocolate – the Tiramisu flavour was nailed down perfectly and also had all these textured bits to make it a fun drink. I’d say this would go really well with Christmas pudding or fruitcake.

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Courtesy of Newby of London

Speaking of Christmas, if you’d like a chance to sample Newby Teas, do drop by their Christmas pop-up store at the British Club this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are the details:

Dates: 26 and 27 November 2013 (Tues & Wed)

Time: 10am – 5pm

Venue: The Elizabeth Suite at the British Club, 73 Bukit Tinggi Road, Singapore 289761

Contact marketing@newbyteas.sg if you would like more information. 

Tea Time in Taiwan (at Taka)

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As some of you might know, my fascination for Taiwanese tea has grown after attending the Pekoe & Imp workshop and my recent trip to Taiwan. As such, I’m pretty excited to let you guys know that there’s a Taiwan Fair coming to Takashimaya Singapore in a few days’ time with a whole bunch of tea goodies!

The fair is called “Tea Time in Taiwan”, and around 13 leading Taiwanese confectioners and tea merchants will be setting up stalls to promote Taiwanese tea culture as part of Taiwan’s Small and Medium Enterprise Administration (SMEA) One Town One Product programme. I dropped by the press conference earlier today and was especially intrigued by this teaware company called Hakka Blue.

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I couldn’t stop perving at their Pear Pot Set (above) …but I later found out from their representative Mr. Zhou that it costs $810.80 (ouch). He told me their most popular teaware is the Dumpling Set (see below) which I also find incredibly irresistible. Can anything be cuter than that?

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Anyway, back to the reportage. Here are the other tea-related merchants that will be present at the fair:

Yoshan Tea - Specialising in Dong Ding oolong

Eilong – Selling contemporary teaware

Eastern Tea - Here’s an example of their packaging:

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The rest are all the confectioners offering pineapple tarts, sun cakes, moon cakes, taro cakes, nougat etc. – sweets that are the perfect accompaniment to tea! The brands represented are OnePro Cake, Sugar & Spice, Kuo Yuan Ye, Pao Chuan, Shan Mai Taro Cake, Joy Well Cake Shop, Takao Cake Store, ROOROO, and Ivy House.

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The image above features an Eilong tea set with pastries from Ivy House – such a perfect pairing!.  I’m already looking forward to some tea shopping at Taka!

TEA TIME IN TAIWAN

Taiwan Fair at Takashimaya Singapore Basement 2
October 28 – November 10 from 10am – 9.30pm daily 

Jap Tea Brand Lupicia in Singapore

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Image courtesy of Sarafine Concepts Asia

It has been a hard week for all of us here in Singapore with the haze situation. On a personal front, my childhood asthma sneakily returned with the surge of air pollutants, and my baby boy is down with a fever that we’re hoping very hard is not dengue (there’s a dengue epidemic happening concurrently, and at this point, we’re just waiting it out before tests can be done).

However, the one pleasant reprieve I did get this week was checking out the new LUPICIA store in Singapore. I first got to know about this Japanese tea brand when I went for the World O-Cha Festival three years ago, and I remember its pretty booth filled with pretty metal tea canisters.

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Image courtesy of Sarafine Concepts Asia

I later found out that LUPICIA is not just about its charming packaging, but also emphasises on fresh, high-quality teas that are processed and packaged in Japan. It is an immensely successful tea retail brand with over 100 stores in Japan, U.S.A, Taiwan, Australia and now Singapore (its first outlet in Southeast Asia).

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During the media launch, I got an intimate preview of the LUPICIA experience, which is all about the discovering new ways to prepare and enjoy tea. There were different stations with themes such as Japanese, Picnic, English Tea and Chai that presented a wide spectrum of tea types, cultures, preparation methods and pairings. In general, I prefer their unflavoured teas such as Darjeeling The First Flush and the Sencha “Chiran”, but I must say that their fruity teas are quite lovely such as Grapefruit Green and Momo Ooolong Super Grade. They also sell related tea products such as chai spices and tea-flavoured honey.

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But I guess what really got me excited was the affordable teaware that LUPICIA is retailing. I already know what I’ll be shopping for in the future – their adorable tea tasting ceramic cups and matcha accessories! I also really dig their “Original Handy Cooler” (above image, bottom left) – which I used today to cold brew some Sencha “Matsuri” for my husband after reading about how green tea might help alleviate the effects of haze (he finds it “too troublesome” to drink hot tea :P). Disclaimer: Green tea is not a cure-all. But psychologically, I just feel better giving loved ones something green-looking to drink during these smoggy days. Just blame the haze for this hazy rationale.

I’m really glad a tea brand such as LUPICIA has decided to set up a store here in Singapore – it fills in the gap for “mid-range tea drinkers”  (prices start from S$8 for a bag of 50g loose leaf tea or packet of 10 teabags) who might not be willing to part with hundreds of dollars for tea leaves or teaware, but want to take their tea journey to the next level. At the same time, there’s also plenty for the “fun tea drinker” who loves fruity and herbal blends (they even have a barley range that I want to try soon) and exclusive seasonal, single estate offerings for “serious tea drinkers”.

So no matter what kind of tea drinker you are, I reckon you’ll enjoy exploring the LUPICIA store – and there couldn’t be a better time to stock up on tea than now, when we’re all encouraged to stay home as much as possible.

In the meantime, keep healthy and happy fellow peeps in Singapore!

LUPICIA Singapore
#B1-12 Great World City
1 Kim Seng Promenade
Singapore 237994
Tel: 6737 0334

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LUPICIASG

Open daily from 10am- 10pm

Tea Loves: Liz Steel

I love how the Internet connects me with fellow tea lovers whose paths I may never have crossed in my everyday life. Today, I’d like you to meet Liz Steel, an architect from Sydney who is an awesome sketcher and of course, loves tea!

Here’s just a sampling of some of her lovely tea sketches – she says she likes to drink tea and sketch at the same time – I think that is a great combination! There’s just something about her sketches that make me very happy when I see them, and don’t you think her love for tea just radiates in these drawings? It makes for such a lovely record too….*suddenly wishes Harry Potter could wave a wand and give me a dose of artsiness*

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Liz also shared with me some of her favourite teas and tea haunts:

What are your favourite teas at the moment?

Well, I have to say Earl Grey. This is my long time favourite tea. I have tried well over 50 varieties of it, but the brand I buy by the kilo bag is Taylors of Harrogate’s Earl Grey.

I drink all kinds of tea – white, green, oolong, pu-erh, herbals…you name it, I will try it. But my other big favourite tea is a green oolong – I am particularly partial to those from Taiwan. I have a Da Yu Mountain tea at the moment which I love. So I have a very varied tea drinking taste and mix both western and eastern tea cultures. In fact I don’t think that there is a tea culture that I would not enjoy.

What are you favourite tea spots in Sydney?

For me, the most important ingredient of a tea spot is not only good tea but its variety! As it is all about the whole experience, I like variety in the selection of tea, the teaware, the food to eat alongside the tea and the views/ variety of sitting positions. All these things are highly sketchable and keep me inspired on repeat visits.

Well, the best teahouse I have ever been to (and I have created my own rating system to compare them) is actually my local one- how special is that? It is the T2 teahouse at Macquarie Centre in North Ryde Sydney. They have an enormous selection of tea – over 150 – and I am working my way through them all…down to the last 50 now! Each time I visit I have a different teacup, saucer, and pot. The staff are amazing, as are the raspberry scones and the interior is so interesting and sketchable! The full selection of my sketches in this tearoom is here.

Another favourite tearoom, is The Tea Cosy by The Rocks (near Harbour Bridge). They have a smaller range of tea but a neverending supply of hand-knitted tea cosies and amazing scones as well…as you can see, it is not just about the tea for me!

There are many teahouses in Sydney that I haven’t explored – I don’t seem to have the time at home to get out and about exploring them as much as when I am travelling…but in terms of quality tea, Dragon Well Chinese Teahouse in Pyrmont is great. Only a small selection of tea, but Lisa, the owner goes to China each season to choose the best tea (that is where I got my Da Yu, which I am now drinking)!

Right now, I am in Port Macquarie having a holiday by the beach. However, just nearby is another tearoom called Tea and Treasures and it has the most amazing selection of china. It is a teacup museum! I get so excited on every visit as the staff and owners choose something special to serve my tea in and then bring me other cups to draw! The cakes are great as well.

Thanks so much for these recommendations, Liz! Will be sure to check them out when it’s my turn to visit your hometown :) 

Images courtesy of Liz Steel 

Christmas at the House of Twinings

Twinings Christmas pop-up store outside Mandarin Gallery.

As mentioned before, I’m a bit of a Christmas Grinch. However, I’m always excited about new tea spaces (even if temporary), so when a long lost friend whom I haven’t spoken to for 15 years contacted me out of the blue to tell me that he was helping Twinings put together a pop-up Christmas store in Singapore, I was more than happy to check it out.

During its launch, a Twinings’ Tea Master from Thailand conducted a cosy tasting session of its classic and specialty Christmas blends. His name is Khun Theerasak Phangmuangdee (or Dew for short). He is gentle, friendly and very professional and I learned quite a bit about tea cupping from him. For example, do you know that when it comes to tasting the tea, you only add 2.5g/cup for consumers but 5g/cup for the suppliers/distributors so they can truly get the flavours of the tea?

Here are the loose teas I sampled:
Gunpowder Green Tea: I’d say that this is a pretty good tea (sweet and grassy), even for “Chinese Chinatown tea standards”. I’ll keep you posted as to what my tea teacher says about this ;)
Vintage Darjeeling: Lovely muscat notes and a gorgeous golden colour.
Prince of Whales: A velvety blend of Chinese black teas including Keemun – for me, I needed the 5g version of the tea to really get its earthy, smoky notes.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Blend: A cross-cultural blend of 2nd flush Assam and Yunnan black tea. I am absolutely in love with its pastel tin packaging.
Lady Grey: I really love this – it’s a lighter, more citrusy version of Early Grey. What’s really interesting is that the black tea base is from Anhui Province (as opposed to the stronger Assam black tea); making this a perfect drink for afternoon tea.
Christmas Tea:  Malty Assam with cinnamon and clove – spicy punch! I’d think it’d go well with some condensed milk.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – limited edition Twinings gift sets and a reunion with an old friend!

This specialty store is the perfect place to pop by after frantic Christmas shopping at Orchard Road. Trained Twinings Tea Ambassadors will be more than happy to let you sample their blends and you could pick up some gifts at the same time. Also, for those of you who have been hunting high and low for quaint tea boxes (I’ve had a few queries on this of late), you’ll find that some of their gift sets come in these gorgeous wooden boxes with a soft velvet inner lining.

Twinings is also organising a Facebook photo contest for visitors to this festive pop-up tea store – just snap some pictures at the House of Twinings and upload your photos here and you stand to win a trip to Bangkok for two and have tea at the new Twinings Tea Boutique there (where apparently, Dew and his other tea master colleague will even be able to make bespoke tea blends for you)!

House of Twinings Tea Parlour
Just in front of Mandarin Gallery (333A Orchard Road)
Opening hours: 12pm – 8pm (till 26 Dec 2012)

5 best Chinese teahouses in the city

Something I wrote for inSing.com. I felt a little sad that I struggled to find five teahouses to feature…there needs to be more tea spots in Singapore!

You can read the full article here.

Tea Pairing on Yahoo Singapore

Another tea-related article that I did for Makansutra/Yahoo Singapore.

I’m so happy to have found a Chinese restaurant that respects tea as much as their food in Singapore (see Tian Fu Tea Room)!

The full article can be found here.

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