Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gift Certificates

Just in time for the holidays, I now have online gift certificates available. They're a perfect last minute gift - email them at any time. You'll always find a link for gift certificates on this blog (just look to the right), or you can find them on my website

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad Weather

Just a heads up - with today's bad weather, we're closing early, but will be open every day from 12-7 tomorrow until Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where to find us this Holiday Season

For those of you afraid of the Lark, Joe will be representing The Good Leaf at a couple of different venues over the next week.

Tomorrow, he'll be at Joy's Deli and Cafe at 80 Wolf Road. It's in the back of an office building on Wolf Road. He'll have tins of some of our more popular teas, teaware, gift packages, and he'll be taking orders for holiday gifts. Any orders placed will be delivered to Joy's Cafe later on this week. We did this last year and it was very successful and very convenient for those who work in the Wolf Road area. He'll be there from about 8:30am through early afternoon.

Joe will also be At the Warehouse this coming weekend. He was there this past weekend and it was a great respite from our cold and dark house (our power was restored last night, thanks NIMO!). While we don't have our old teahouse available, we had a great spot near Bees on Earth and Sistah's. Don't know where we'll be set up this coming weekend, but wherever it is, we'll have our most popular teas and tea gifts. It was great to be back At the Warehouse, enjoying the creative energy and seeing how the market has evolved over time. It's filled to the brim with interesting salvage items, and if you want to shop local, unique and independent - At the Warehouse is local, unique, and independent up the wazoo.

On another note - for those afraid of the Lark (Lark Street, that is) - don't be. Lark Street is also bustling with creative energy, yummy goodies, and independently owned interesting shops. Finding parking is really not that difficult at all. During the day, there are almost always a couple of available spots right across the street from my shop, and although parking is more of a challenge later on, you can usually still find a spot within a block of The Good Leaf at any hour.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Hours and Holiday Break

While it's cold and dark, The Good Leaf will be open Tuesday - Sunday from noon to 7 and will be closed on Monday. Please join us for a relaxing Sunday sipping tea by the faux yet surprisingly cozy fire.
On First Friday's, I'll be open later, and when the days get longer again, I plan to begin staying open later again.
I'll also be closed from Christmas thru New Years, reopening January 6th (or maybe sooner).

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Apologies for the tea pun; they're so hard to resist and I must occasionally indulge.

The Good Leaf is offering gift packages this season at every price point. Our sample tins make great stocking stuffers for as low as $2 each. You can check out some gift ideas on our website, and even more options are available in the shop.

When you visit the shop, mention reading this blogpost and receive a free sample tin of one our our new blends with your $30 gift purchase. If I don't offer it to you, just remind me.

Tea makes a great holiday gift; it's practical, healthy, tasty, unique, consumable, and affordable. Consider gourmet tea for your family, friends, co-workers, teachers, employees, or that secret santa.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Shop Local Holiday Initiative

Capital District Local First and Metroland have teamed up to help support local shopping this holiday season. The idea is to pledge to spend at least $100 of your holiday budget at local, independently owned businesses. These businesses will offer you a pledge card, where you can log in your purchases. When you reach $100 - it happens pretty quickly, doesn't it? - send your pledge card into Metroland to become eligible for a drawing where you can win gift certificates to some of these local merchants. When you visit the Local First website,, you can find a listing of Local First members. The Good Leaf is a member and you can pick up your pledge card at our shop.

Local First recognizes that it may not be possible to do all your shopping locally, and I'm glad to hear that because I'm kind of really into Amazon, and would hate to feel like I should give it up. This is a guilt-free initiative.

Now I will proceed to my soapbox. If you can't stand that kind of stuff, stop reading now, and just drop by the shop and pick up your pledge card while you buy some really nice holiday tea gifts and warm up with a nice, smoky Lapsang Souchong. Click here to check out some of our gift package ideas.

Why shop local?

First, (I pulled this from the Local First website): One study showed that $68 out of every $100 dollars that is spent at a local business stays in the community versus $43 of every $100 spent at a chain. Any little part that we can play to help our economy is very important.

I think there are other reasons to shop locally as well. Local business owners are often willing to go the extra mile both to earn, and to keep your business. While you may find good customer service at your local box store, you're unlikely to find the dedication to exceptional service you'll experience at many independent businesses. It's nice to get to know your local merchants - there's a sense of community that you can feel a part of, and it's a powerful antidote to the anonymity that we experience sitting on the internet, closed off in our cubicles, texting and IMing, and being carried like cattle through the crowds at the mega-malls.

Sometimes it does cost more to shop local - not always, though. And in tough economic times like this, it can truly be a difficult choice. But I think we have to believe that the small choices we make each day will make a difference, and we all can't just continue to always take the easy way and wait for better times. Most of us are probably not part of the problem, but we can take small steps to be part of the solution. Change may be coming, but it's not coming without our help.

Finally, I've noticed that although I frequently struggle when faced with a choice between the "easier" path and the "better" path, I always feel pretty good about myself when I choose the "better" path. I can make the comparison because I haven't always taken the "better" path. It may not sound noble, but at the end of the day, it's all about feeling good about ourselves.

Oh, and one more thing - you can get really nice, interesting, unique and meaningful stuff from your local independent businesses, and that's just good clean fun.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Teas

The New Teas are Here!

I am so excited about the new additions to our tea list.


Apricot Pouchong
Delicate Pouchong tea leaves are fragranced with essence of crisp apricot and adorned with marigold flowers.

Lemon Flavored Black Tea
Nothing fancy - just quality black tea leaves and lots of tart and refreshing lemon. This intensely flavored tea is the perfect pick-me-up.

Santa Fe Bizcochito
Based on the state cookie of New Mexico (no kidding), this black tea blended with vanilla, star anise and cinnamon offers a soothing and satisfying brew.


Run, run, as fast as you can, you can only catch our Christmas tea for a limited time.

Candy Cane
Yep - it really tastes like a candy cane!

Chanukah Gelt
Only a shmendrick would pass on our chocolate Chanukah tea with golden flower petals. It was either that or potato latke tea. We think we made the right choice.

Pomegranate Crumb Pie
In honor of Kwanzaa, the festival of first fruit, we blended this sweet and scrumptious dessert tea. You've gotta try it.

All our new blends are now available in the shop and will soon be available for online ordering.

Thanksgiving Holiday Hours

Just a heads up: The Good Leaf will be closed for the Thanksiving Holiday on November 27th and 28th, and we'll be closing at 7pm on the 26th. We will be open for biz as usual on Saturday the 29th.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More than a cuppa tea

When I decided to go into the tea business, I wanted to offer more than just a cuppa tea (not that there's anything wrong with that). I was enthralled by the history of tea, as well as by the capacity of tea to offer unparalleled health and well-being benefits. Tea is associated with ceremony, spirituality and connection; and for centuries, tea has been the chosen beverage for meditators seeking insight and personal awakening. Tea's association with hospitality and ability to facilitate connection and transcendence is elegantly portrayed through the Japanese tea ceremony, chadao (chadao means the way of tea), which builds on four priniciples: harmony, respect, tranquility, and purity.

In designing The Good Leaf teahouse, I hoped that in addition to providing bubble tea to the tapioca deprived population of Albany, and premium loose leaf tea to our local aficioanados, I could also provide an oasis in the heart of urban Albany and an atmosphere conducive to experiencing "the way of tea".

Although I offer no formal tea ceremony, every once in a while I am delighted to get a hint that I achieved my goal. Most recently, Deb Cavanaugh was sitting in the teahouse and asked me for a piece of paper and pen. Later she offered me the following:

The Good Leaf

It's tea time on Lark Street,
The sound of inspiration floating through the air.
Apricot Oolong warms me from the inside out.
Pumpkin bread with orange glaze soothes my sweet tooth
and calms the growling beast in my belly.
I am at peace in this timeless place,
The big red Buddha laughing away my busy bustle,
a zen fountain washing away all anxiety.
I have found my muse.
I am at peace in this world.

I thank Deb for allowing me to share her prose.

Deb Cavanaugh is a poet and musician. She is a member of the musical duo Cavanaugh and Kavanaugh, and will be celebrating the release of their CD at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on November 29th.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


My neck hurts; is it possible to have meteorologic whiplash?

Just this weekend, customers were sitting outside enjoying our cafe tables, and today we're winterizing the place. Because it's Upstate New York and it's October and it's snowing. Big, giant snowflakes that delighted me as a child, but have lost their ability to enthuse.

So I was sitting here complaining and feeling annoyed and preparing to post a rant, and suddenly realized that I'm warm and safe and hanging out in a cozy setting that smells good, listening to relaxing music and surrounded by hot tea which, obviously, I love; I guess I have nothing to complain about.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some early closings

Just want to offer a little heads up - The Good Leaf will be closing at 8pm on Tuesday September 30th. We'll also be closing at 7pm on Monday, October 6th. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Inspirational Green Teas

Yesterday, 12 year-old Liliana spent some time in the teahouse with her brother and mom. They're home-schooled and working on a tea project this year. As part of their studies, they visit The Good Leaf from time to time and sample different teas. Yesterday, while comparing Japanese and Chinese green teas, Lily was inspired to poetry:

a light scent of grass

washes through boiling water

Japanese green tea

like dreamy summers

smoking on a charcoal grill

Chinese strong green tea

I think her impressions were spot on.

Yesterday Lily was inspired by green tea, and I was impressed and inspired by Lily.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Changes on the Horizon

As many of you know, The Good Leaf runs a small teashop at Albany's artisan market, "At the Warehouse". We were the first merchants to become involved with Fred and Camille's warehouse venture, and we've enjoyed being part of the evolution of such an eclectic and creative project. Since the Lark street teahouse has been open, Joe has been running the warehouse teabar and I'm so grateful for his enthusiasm and assistance. But with the opening of the new shop, along with the online business and other projects and accounts, we're finding ourselves spread a bit thin. So I've chosen to close the warehouse location at the end of September. We'll be there for the next two weeks - hot tea, iced tea, bubble tea, loose tea, teapots and all. Hope you'll stop by and visit, and if you haven't been to the new shop at 274 Lark St, we have everything we've had at the warehouse, and much more. I'd love to see you there.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Why I Love it Loose!

Why do I prefer loose tea to teabags? It could be because I'm very fancy, or because I like to complicate my life, but it's not. I love it loose because it's better that way.

I grew up in a tea drinking family. My mother kept a cabinet filled with teabags of all varieties and it was always a little exciting choosing which tea to drink. When I reached my mid-teens I turned to coffee and drank my share of Joe for many years. I would go through occasional tea phases where I would only drink tea. It was bagged tea and I enjoyed it, but my tea phases weren't long lasting. I would lose interest. In retrospect, this was probably because the tea was not that compelling.

I can't remember how I happened upon my first cup of loose leaf tea. It was an Earl Grey. I had been drinking bagged Earl Grey my entire life, and truthfully, never much cared for it. I found it to be dull and bland with a weak flavor that I had difficulty identifying. But when I first experienced the aroma and later the crisp, bergamot fruitiness of the loose Earl Grey tea, I was completely delighted. I realized that I never really tasted Earl Grey tea before. Then I tried an English Breakfast and had the same experience. Who knew that unflavored tea could have so much flavor! This was a profound experience for me because those first couple of cups of loose tea were so compelling that they set me on a life-altering path.

I soon discovered the reason loose tea tends to be better than bagged tea. When tea is manufactured, one of the final steps in the manufacture is sorting and grading of the tea. The tea leaves are passed through sieves in order to sort out the larger leaves from the smaller leaves. The larger leaves (sometimes graded as Orange Pekoe or Flowery Orange Pekoe) are higher grade teas than the smaller pieces (or Broken Orange Pekoe). The smallest pieces that pass through all the sieves are known as fannings or tea dust. These fannings are often reserved for the manufacture of bagged tea.

That already sounds kind of disgusting, but, the truth is - dust of fine quality tea will be fine quality tea, and flowery orange pekoe leaves of poor quality tea will still be poor quality tea. I believe the main problem with bagged tea arises because the small pieces of tea have more surface area. The greater surface area means that more of the flavor yielding essestial oils in the tea leaf are exposed to air. Any off flavors will be magnified. And another thing: once exposed to air, the staling process begins. The smaller the tea particle, the more quickly it will become stale and lose its inherent flavor characteristics. And for me, that's the biggest problem with bagged tea, especially supermarket varieties. There's no way to know when it was produced and how long it has been sitting on the supermarket shelf. Your brand new box of Earl Grey tea may be fresh and wonderfully satisfying or it may be years old and completely stale the day you open it.

And there's no reason to use bagged tea for convenience because it's really simple to brew loose tea nowadays. There are so many nifty brewing devices. Stop in the shop and I'll be happy to show you a variety of options. I really love the Smart TeaMaker, and other choices like pots with built in infusers, tea sacs, infuser mugs, and even teaballs (not my favorite - but I'll save that for a different post) also work really well. It's just as easy to infuse high quality, beautiful, aromatic and delicious loose tea as it is to use an old, stale, dust filled tea bag.

Oh, and loose tea is a better value too!

Gotta go, Earl's waiting.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Just a quickie today to let you know that we will be closed for summer vacation from August 17th through August 24th.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Revised Summer Hours

The last five weeks or so (since opening the new shop) have been a blur of excitement and busyness. We're enjoying lots of positive feedback from the neighborhood, and already have a bunch of regular customers. Bubble teas - especially the Almond Milk tea are ridiculously popular, and I was able to develop a recipe for a fresh taro/coconut milk bubble shake. Taro bubble tea is very popular in the bubble tea shops that use the powdered mixes, and several customers were asking for it. Since I'm unwilling to use pre-packaged mixes (they're usually loaded with chemicals), I was determined to develop a fresh taro drink. After some trial and error I think I came up with a good one; although it doesn't taste like the bright purple taro bubble teas from the powder. It's not always available, because I have to be able to score fresh taro, and it takes some work to make a refreshing summer beverage from pretty much a potato. We're also having a lot of fun with our other specialty drinks - the Soylent Green tea latte has been a hit - I don't know if it tastes better when you're familiar with the movie reference (it's people) or not.

After only a week in business I changed the store hours to stay open a bit later. I'm now
open until 9 during the week and evening business has been terrific. If I didn't have to ever rest, I'd stay open later. So during the week, I'm open from noon to 9, with a siesta from 2-3. I'm making another change for the remainder of the summer, and will be staying open later on Saturdays as well. I will probably modify again in the fall, but for the time being, The Good Leaf will be open from 12-6 on Saturday and will be closed on Sunday. I'll also be vacationing with the entire staff of son and Joe for the third week in August. I'll post the exact dates we'll be closed later on.

For those of you who are fans of At the Warehouse, EJ will be playing again tomorrow with Mark Davenport. Since I'm closed on Sunday now, I'll have the opportunity to see him play this time.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Get up and Boogie - At the Warehouse

Since I've opened the new shop I haven't had any chance to visit the warehouse, but it's really been heating up this summer; in a good way!

At the Warehouse always has live music on weekends from 11-2 and yesterday singer and guitarist Mark Davenport invited some young guitarists and friends to play a couple of sets with him. Mark is a great musician and he always creates a terrific energy when he's featured at the warehouse; but yesterday he took it to a new level. Among the guest musicians were Mark's daughter Mariah singing, the warehouse's Fred Shapiro on harp, guest guitarists Charlie Smith, 10 year old Zach Miller AND.... most awesome number one son EJ Abraham!

Check it out on youtube:


I'm a very proud mom! (The picture above, by the way, is an old one. EJ's guitar playing - and hair - have undergone considerable growth in the past few months).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Best Pizza in Albany - revisited

I am so excited to have finally found really good pizza in Albany!

A couple of months ago we were talking in the tearoom about the best pizza in Albany. Well, I can confidently say that I found it. Soho Pizza on Lark Street, right across from my new shop has amazing pizza. Thin crunchy crust with a bit of chew so it's not a cracker, excellent sauce to cheese ratio, and true NYC flavor. I typically only go for regular cheese pizza, but their specialty slices are great too, especially the Chicken Parm pizza.

This shop being so close to me is proving to be a blessing to my palate and a curse to my thighs!

That's it for now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

New Location now open!

Yesterday we quietly opened the door at our new Lark Street location - that's 274 Lark Street in Albany (between Hudson and Hamilton). We have no sign yet and chose to open softly - with no promotion. Yet, the moment we unlocked the door, our first customer walked right in. His name is Mike, he bought some loose tea, an iced tea, and a chocolate truffle. And guess what? He came back again today for a bubble tea! We love Mike! Lots of people from the neighborhood stopped in to welcome and congratulate us, and even some regulars from the warehouse stopped by when they heard we were open.
I designed the space to offer a cozy urban oasis and hope that if you have the opportunity, you'll stop by and visit. Just like At the Warehouse, this is another small location (not quite as small - we have a couple of outdoor cafe tables and seating for about 10 inside).
If you've been to the warehouse location, you're familiar with our theme; we've taken our global bohemian approach a bit further in our new space and offer an expanded tea menu complete with globally inspired drinks like Tibetan butter tea and South American yerba mate served in the traditional gourd with bombilla. We're also offering some new creations like the mate dew (my take on the energy drink) and my new favorite, the Jasmine "Champagne". If you don't want tea, we'll brew you a good strong cup of coffee, or mix you up authentic Brooklyn egg cream.

Our business hours are Monday - Friday 11-2 and 3-8 (2-3 siesta); weekends 10:30-4. If hours change or I'll be closing early for some reason, I'll post it on this blog. The At the Warehouse shop will remain open on weekends from 10-3.
I want to take this opportunity to thank you so much for your support.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What happens in Vegas

Well, I just returned from sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. I mean I think it was sunny - it was really hard to figure out how to get out of the hotel.

Here's my hotel lobby on the evening I arrived:

And here's my hotel lobby at 7am the next morning:

While you can imagine how enticing this was, and I did notice a few empty seats in the casino and at the bars at 7am, I had to pass on the "What happens in Vegas" gig because I was there for the 2008 World Tea Expo; it was the largest tea converence ever and it was great!
Tea and Vegas - a perfect combination.
I'm sure there were thousands of attendees. I met people in the tea business from all over the world including Canada, the UK, South Africa, Bangladesh, China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, and even Florida!
While there I attended a bunch of really interesting educational seminars including the 2008 State of the Industry report. I learned that while sales of many other beverages including coffee, soft drinks and juices are declining, sales of tea in this country are continuing to grow at an accelerated pace. The industry pundits are predicting continued growth in the tea industry, in large part because of the the many documented health and well-being benefits of tea. I found out that even Oprah drinks tea! So tea has arrived.
I tasted many new teas and am sure I'll be expanding my product line in the near future. Probably, after I get the doors open on Lark Street.
While I was away, Joe managed the teashop At the Warehouse with ease and grace. At the Warehouse, by the way, is celebrating it's first anniversary this week. The salvage business and the weekend market are thriving, the dance studio continues to deliver yoga and latin dance classes, and a new cafe will be opening there shortly. I believe it's being run by a well-known local caterer (but I don't know who).
I'm glad to be home.

Monday, May 19, 2008


My son EJ just finished reading 1984 for his English class. It appears to be true that life imitates art.

I was sure the new shop would be open by now, but I've encountered some beaurocratic stumbling blocks.

The optimist in me is sure I'll be open very soon; the cynic - not so much. But I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Freudian Slip ....

..... is when you say one thing but mean your mother." - author unknown.

I hope you enjoyed a lovely mother's day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tea as a Weight Loss Aid

Customers often ask me which teas to drink to help them lose weight or if I carry slimming tea. It's been a while since I posted because I'm really busy working on the new shop (opening very soon; updates to follow) but I've been meaning to write a bit about how tea can be helpful when you're trying to manage your weight.

When you want to lose weight, all tea can be helpful, but my research and experience suggests that tea offers some specific weight control benefits:

  1. certain teas have scientific support as weight loss aids because they boost the metabolism
  2. teas can provide much needed hydration when you're trying to manage your weight
  3. dessert teas can satisfy cravings for unhealthy temptations.

Although all "true" tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, the way the plant is processed yields several broad varieties of tea (white, green, oolong, black and puerh) and thousands of more specific types of tea. Traditional Chinese medicine has long described the benefits of oolongs (aka wulongs), puerhs and green teas as being valuable for weight loss and over the past decade, there have been a few studies that have supported this ancient wisdom. The preliminary data suggest that these types of tea do increase energy expenditure (or metabolism) and fat burning more than other teas.

Unfortunately, these findings have been over-hyped. Teas touted as 'slimming wulong' or 'magic puerh' have been associated with endorsements by celebrities including Oprah, Rachael Ray and more recently Victoria Beckham. But let's get some perspective; oolong, puerh and green tea may boost metabolism and enhance fat burning but there is no tea (or for that matter, anything) that's going to magically result in seemingly impossible and non-sensical amounts of weight loss.

Additionally, it's important not to believe that there is a specific "slimming wulong" or "magic puerh"; wulongs, puerhs and green teas each comprise a broad class of teas, and any will offer the same benefit as these 'magic teas'.

Here is where I think that tea (and gourmet tea in particular) offers greatest weight control value: We are so habit driven - and many of us have gotten in the habit of consuming unhealthy and fattening snacks for all the wrong reasons. We snack when we're bored, we snack when we're upset, when we're happy, when we're watching tv, pretty much all day long. We also often mistake thirst for hunger and try to satisfy our thirsts with these fattening snacks. What's worse, if you're thirsty and you keep trying to satisfy your thirst with cookies and candies, you'll stay thirsty and continue to snack and snack.

Although I can't cite a study, I'm pretty sure that if you consume few calories instead of many calories, you'll lose weight. So it follows that if you drink tea (which has no calories and results in hydration, health, energy and a sense of well-being) instead of eating fattening snacks (which result in guilt and bloat and no decrease in cravings), you will lose weight. Richly flavored dessert teas offer the dieter the hydration the body needs and the flavors of the snacks they crave - without the calories.

The Weightea Line

In response to customer requests for good tea choices for weight control, and in reaction to all the "magic slimming tea" hype, I carefully reviewed The Good Leaf's tea menu and created the weightea line of teas. The weightea introductory package includes three teas; an ancient Chinese secret, an African activity aid, and a temptation tamer. You can visit to learn more about how to use tea to lose weight. You can also customize a weightea introductory package.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Me" Tube

When the Capital Region Gourmet Meet-Ups group visited The Good Leaf a few weeks ago, Kathleen Lisson, the group organizer, was kind enough to tape part of my presentation and post it on You Tube. If you want to check it out, here's the link.

I shared a bit about the history and manufacture of tea, what distinguishes different types of tea, differences between true tea and other herbal or fruit infusions, and information about the health and well-being benefits of tea. Kathleen, the group organizer, is an oenophile and initiated an interesting discussion on tea and food pairings. When you think about it, tea and wine have many similarities including the many varieties that come from a single plant, the complexity of the product, and how well both pair with foods and socialization. And while I am a wine lover as well as a tea lover, I definitely prefer the tea hangover.

Anyway, we tasted about 6 teas and participants seemed to really enjoy my "tea sniffing station". All in all, it was a great time; I want to thank everyone who came out (or rather, came in) on that first beautiful evening of the spring season.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


The Good Leaf will be closed for vacation during the week of 4/14 - 4/21. We will not be shipping orders and the warehouse shop will be closed 4/19 and 4/20. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you soon.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A New Location

Hurray! The Good Leaf Gourmet Tea Company is now a chain; perhaps the world's smallest chain, but hurray anyway! Our second location will be at 274 Lark Street, between Hudson and Hamilton, in Albany. It's a great block, a terrific location, and a cute little shop. If you're familiar with the area, Lark Tatoo was there for many years before they moved a couple of storefronts down.

Here's a bit about what I have in mind: The Lark Street location will be open daily, and will build on our At the Warehouse concept. There'll be a tea bar serving all our traditional and trendy tea specialties, bubble teas of course, plus some new additions like Rooibocinno (more on that later). Our opening menu will include baked goods and chocolates and will likely expand once we settle in. We'll have about four tables in the shop and cafe seating out front. The interior of the space needs some work, but I'm optimistically and ambitiously hoping to be open in just a few weeks.

The royal we is very excited and I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Upcoming Tea Program

I am really excited that the Capital District Gourmet Meetups group will be holding its April meeting at The Good Leaf's warehouse location. I'll be offering a brief presentation about the origins and manufacture process of tea, how to differentiate different types of tea, and of course, how to brew a perfect cup of tea. There will be plenty of opportunity to sniff and taste the teas and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The meetup will be held on April 10th at 6pm.

If you're interested in attending, contact the gourmet meetup group by clicking the link above.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Sunday

I just want to let everyone know that At the Warehouse will be open Easter Sunday regular business hours, from 10-3.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Talking in the Tearoom - Tell me something good!

There's been a lot of bad stuff going on lately. I suppose that bad stuff goes on all the time, but recently, WOW! It can get kind of depressing to think about all the bads. So I decided it was time to do some "Gs". Years ago, when my son was about 8 years old and having some trouble falling asleep at night, we began an evening ritual that we called, "Gs". Right after I tucked him in, we would each share 5 "Gs". Gs were goods, gratefuls, giggles, or gifts. We enjoyed our Gs so much that we did them each night for years and years. I started it because I thought it would be good for him, and it was, but it turned out to be a transforming experience for me. I learned that even when things are really, really bad, there are always at least 5 good things to notice. My son is now 14 and would probably spontaneously combust if I were to try to tuck him in, but we still occasionally do Gs.

So with all the frightening and unsavory news we've been dealing with lately, today I decided that it was time to do Gs over teas. I asked visitors to tell me something good. And it didn't have to be something huge, for example, "I'm wearing comfortable shoes" is just as valuable a good thing as "I just won the lottery." I think that the little things might even be more important than the big things - they just don't happen everyday.

Here were some of the good things that were shared at The Good Leaf today:

"Spring is on the way - it's almost here. Yeah!"
"I won the 50-50."
"My cats"
"Bubble tea"
"Dogs bring happiness"
"It's light outside when I leave work"
"It's Palm Sunday and Easter is next week"
"Laurel is a nice lady."
"Eating really good food after sleeping for a long time. After brushing, of course."
"Little Buzz banging the gong and laughing."
"A kiss from my daughter after I shave."
"One thing I really like is my bed. I often think how comfortable I am in it, as opposed to sleeping in a cold damp cave. We've come a long way with mattress design."

One teenage boy summed it up with his response, "Life is Good." That's kind of catchy; he should consider putting that on a t-shirt.

And this might be obvious, but I think that tea is a good thing, and I'm going to have some really good tea right now. The kid was right. Life is good.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Best Tea in Albany!

You like me! You really like me!

Thank you so much Metroland readers for voting The Good Leaf the best tea in Albany!
It was a write in category, so thanks even more; your effort really means a lot. The Good Leaf's weekend home base, At the Warehouse also received several nods in this week's Metroland Readers Picks including best kept secret in the Capital District and best in-store pet (that would be our very good boy, Dutch). And it seems that Metroland readers agree with teabar visitors - I Love New York Pizza in Troy was voted best pizza.

As for me, I'm going to work toward getting better and better, starting this week as I debut my signature morning blend, Rise. I prefer to ease into my day rather than to be jolted and designed Rise to offer a really smooth start to the day. I am also offering two new herbal tisanes, Chamomile Sonata, a chamomile-citrus blend, and Inspire, a lavender-lemongrass blend with a hint of sage. And with spring upon us, Sakura - Japanese cherry green tea is back.

Thanks again!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tea and Caffeine

Aside from questions about bubble tea, I would say that people most frequently ask me about tea and caffeine. Everyone wants to know how much caffeine is in tea, which tea has more caffeine, and whether it's true that you can decaffeinate tea by giving it a quick rinse in hot water (unfortunately, it's not true). Rather than answering these questions myself, I'm giving credit to Nigel Melican, one of the world's most renowned and knowledgeable tea experts. He recently posted on another wonderful tea blog, chadao, about tea and caffeine. I invite you to learn from the master.

This is a brilliant post, and the commentary that follows is also pretty interesting. For those who want a quick summary, the bottom line is that you can't rinse the caffeine from tea, chemical decaffeination methods do remove some of the health benefits along with the caffeine, and it is almost impossible to estimate the caffeine content in a cup of tea just by knowing if it's black, green, oolong or white. There are too many variables that impact the caffeine content to provide an accurate assessment. Nigel shares that contrary to what many people believe, black tea does not necessarily have more caffeine than green tea, and white tea may have the most caffeine of all.

Nigel's post doesn't discuss what I find to be the most fascinating tea and caffeine topic; the way l-theanine mediates the affect of caffeine on the body. Here's the quick version - l-theanine is an amino acid that is found in tea (I don't think it's found in high concentrations in anything else). l-theanine offers health benefits as well as relaxation benefits in that it promotes alpha waves in the brain. Alpha waves are associated with meditative and relaxed states. The combination of l-theanine and caffeine in tea result in tea promoting a calm yet alert state of being - really an optimal state of being for health, well-being, and peak performance. The caffeine is released in a slower and steadier manner and the l-theanine mediates the caffeine jolt - so tea doesn't hit people the way coffee and other highly caffeinated energy drinks do. You never hear of people getting wired and then crashing after drinking tea! And although I don't necessarily recommend this, I know of people who believe they are caffeine sensitive (not for medical reasons) who report that they can drink a cup of tea in the evening with no caffeine related problems.

So next time you need to focus on a project, find yourself facing what might be an all-nighter, or have to give an anxiety provoking performance, grab a cup of tea and experience the benefits.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Talking in the Tearoom - Bubble Tea

Each weekend, several people stop in the shop and ask me "What's Bubble Tea?". Each weekend, I also have regulars who travel to the warehouse for their weekly bubble tea, and also new people who find The Good Leaf because they are searching for bubble tea. The bottom line is that there is always lots of talking in the tearoom about bubble tea. Today, I'll do the talking and answer the question, "What is Bubble Tea?". I'll also describe my approach to a healthier, and I believe, tastier bubble tea.

To keep it brief, bubble tea is a frothy, sweetened iced tea drink with chewy tapioca balls or fruit jellys at the bottom of the cup. Many people think that it's called bubble tea because the tapioca pearls are shaped like bubbles, but actually the bubbles refer to the generally "bubbliness" of the shaken drink. I admit, it sounds strange, but it's really delicious. Bubble tea originated in Taiwan in the 1980s, and bubble tea shops began popping up in the USA (at first in Chinatown areas) in the late 1990s. Today, in major cities, especially in California, bubble tea shops are common.

Traditionally, bubble tea is made with tea, fruit juice or other sweetener, sometimes creamer, and of course, texture. Large black tapioca pearls known as boba (I'll tell you the origin of that term if you ask) are most often the textural component of bubble tea, but many shops offer alternatives including lichee or coconut jelly. At The Good Leaf, we use coconut jelly cubes for texture in our bubble teas and they are really tasty.

Aside from a sweet and tasty drink, the fun of bubble tea comes from the "big straw". In order to suck up the chewy treats at the bottom of the cup, you need a wide mouthed straw. When people take their first sip of bubble tea, they often look surprised, then curious. Then they smile.

In my travels, I have noticed that many bubble tea cafes use powdered mixes to make their bubble teas. I have to admit, they do taste pretty good. When I was preparing to open the tea bar, I ordered some of these mixes and was really unhappy to find a long list of chemicals including loads of high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats. We are not supposed to eat that! A bubble tea made with these mixes is awfully bad for you, and very fattening too. What's more, the bubble tea recipes that accompanied the mixes often noted that tea is an optional ingredient in bubble tea.

I couldn't deal with it. I'm went into the tea business to offer health and well-being to my customers and deliver it deliciously. Even if the powdered bubble tea mixes taste good, how could I sell a drink I wouldn't be willing to drink myself. I solved this problem by developing my own bubble tea recipes. I don't use any mixes, and all of my bubble teas actually include TEA! They're much lower calorie, free of trans-fats and high fructose corn syrup, don't taste like chemicals (something I've occasionally noticed in bubble teas from mixes), and they're really good.
I don't offer some of the flavors often available in Chinatown shops like Taro (it's purple and I don't know why that is), but I do offer some traditional flavors such as Almond Milk Bubble Tea, as well as new combinations I'm constantly creating, such as Caramel Cream, Cherry Vanilla and Berry White. I also encourage my customers to design their own bubble tea combos if they want to.

I invite you to stop by and try a bubble tea at The Good Leaf.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Talking in the Tearoom - Box 'o' Chocolates

The Chocolate event At the Warehouse was a huge success and we were glad to feature Red Thread Confections and the volunteer group SCRUFF (Spaying Capital Region's Unknown Feral Felines). I did my part by serving sipping chocolate, triple chocolate scones, and red velvet cupcakes with peppermint frosting along with all my teas, lattes and coconut jelly bubble teas.

Since it was the weekend before Valentine's Day, we clearly had chocolate on our minds. My question this weekend was, "When you get a box of chocolates, do you bite into each piece looking for the good ones like the raspberry creams and the nutty ones, or do you eat them like a civilized human being?"

A little disclaimer first; I understand that this questions suggests that a civilized human will eat up an entire box of chocolates whether they like them or not. Although I composed the question because it amused me, I don't really think that eating an entire box of chocolates is a measure of civilization, or even a good idea.

The question did inpsire some serious (or maybe not so serious) discussion about what it means to be civilized and even the nature of civilization. Bubble tea brings that kind of stuff out in people.

Philosophical musings aside, I quickly found out that not everyone likes raspberry creams, or even nuts. And not a single person who responded was willing to commit to a chocolate without a sneak preview. Most people openly admitted to biting and and throwing away the "losers" - coconut was cited repeatedly. A few visitors shared my semi-civilized approach of tearing rather than biting.

We had a couple of very considerate visitors; one with my favorite approach and another with a strategy that I frankly find gross. My favorite box o' chocolate strategy all weekend was poking each piece with a toothpick to try to dig out a bit of filling before biting. That way, the chocolate is not defaced in any measurable way when it is returned to the box if it turns out to be a reject. That is very a considerate, civilized and economical, if not sanitary, approach. The other "considerate" approach I heard was to bite into each piece and return the undesirable ones to the box "in case someone else wants them". I wonder how many times someone actually selected one of the half eaten chocs?

I also learned that if you have gone through enough boxes of chocolates in your life, you don't have to bite or tear or poke, you can just tell by looking at the chocolate.

In between the silliness and to infuse some health into a day of rich decadence, it was a great opportunity for me to showcase some of my chocolate teas. When I first got into tea, I couldn't even imagine the combination of chocolate and tea, but I have learned that given the right combination, it can work out beautifully. I was featuring a chocolate raspberry flavored tea that offers a subtle richness and fruitiness and also had a chance to share my chocolate chai and mint chocolate chip teas, both of which have real chocolate chunks in them!

If you're around on Valentine's Day, I'll be at Larry Schepici's Le Marche Vert in Troy offering a tasting of some of my chocolate and floral teas from 11-2 or so. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Love & Chocolate At the Warehouse

This Saturday, At the Warehouse will be all about Love & Chocolate. It's the perfect opportunity to shop for unique Valentine's Day gifts. I'm grateful to Laura from Bluebird Books for taking the lead on this event; it promises to be very special. Many of the merchants will be offering Valentine's gift packages, and we'll be having special guests too. At The Good Leaf, I'll be serving wonderful hot chocolates as well as featuring a variety of chocolate infused and floral teas including Chocolate Raspberry and our very popular Sweetheart Red Rooibos. Our Valentine's gift packages are the perfect choice for those looking for healthier induldgences this Valentine's Day.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Talking in the Tearoom - Best Pizza in Town

This week in the tearoom we were talking about where to find good pizza in the Capital Region. When I say good pizza, I mean something quite specific. I would love to find some good Brooklyn/Bronx style pizza. I'm going to call it "neighborhood pizza" because that's what we had in my neighborhood when I was growing up. Neighborhood pizza has a thin crust, not too thin like a cracker, but thin enough to fold easily. It has cornmeal or semolina generously dusted over the bottom of the crust. What's most important is that the sauce and cheese blend together to create a gooey orange delicious mess. If the slice is red and white it means the flavors haven't combined and it's not from my neighborhood. You might put some mushrooms or pepperoni on a neighborhood slice but it's not about extra cheese or toppings. And the ultimate sign that you're about to bite into a slice of good neighborhood pizza is a drip of orange oil that slips off the back of the crust where the slice is folded. Never blot that oil; it's like manna from Brooklyn heaven. In my old neighborhood, the best pizza places (that's what we called them - pizza places) also carried Italian Ice in a paper cup (lemon was my favorite) and these purple and orange drinks that I haven't seen in about 25 years.

This week, visitors to The Good Leaf Tea Bar told me where they find the best pizza in the Capital Region.

Kevin said that I Love NY Pizza on Hoosick St in Troy is the best pizza in the area. He liked the variety of pizzas available, and commented on the Chicken Marsala pizza. That doesn't sound like my kind of pizza, but Kevin wasn't the only fan of the Troy spot. Jamie also chose I Love NY in Troy. She told me that even though they have a lot of specialty pizzas, they have the best cheese pizza she has ever tried in Upstate NY. I Love NY in Menands also received a vote.

EJ said the best pizza in the Capital Region can be found in his mom's kitchen. "It's delish. Even my friends like it" he said. (I have the best son!)

Several people loved Andrianos in Delmar. Carol told me it's right near the four corners.

And some were loyal to home cooked pizza. Michelle said, "You can't come to my mother's house to try it, but she makes the best pizza around."

Suzanne put in a plug for Lou-Beas on Delaware Avenue, and told me that she liked it because it's not too thick, folds easily and has a nice orange sauce/cheese blend. Sounds like my kind of slice.

We also received an accolade for Jonathans on Pearl Street. Jacque told me she likes it because it's the most like what she remembers from Brooklyn, thin crusted with the perfect "modeling" of sauce and cheese.

A few of our friends from out West (I mean Guilderland, Voorheesville and Altamont) liked Smitty's. Las told me the owner is a good guy. Thanks, Las.

Mike, who is originally from Long Island also knew about authentic NY pizza, and actually had a card from his fave pizza joint in his wallet. He enthusiastically recommended La Bella Pizza in Clifton Park and told me it bears close resemblance to NY pizza. He told me La Bella is off Exit 8A and across the street from the side of Salty's.

So, that's what we were talking about in the tearoom this week when we weren't talking about tea and football. Thanks, everyone. I have found true NY pizza to be quite elusive in the Capital Region but you've inspired me to try again.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Talking in the Tearoom

Starting this coming week, I'll be posting a weekly "Talking in the Tearoom" entry (maybe weekly - let's see how it goes). This entry will include answers to questions I ask visitors to my teabar At the Warehouse. Each weekend I'll ask a question; each week I'll post your responses. Some questions will be serious, some will be silly, and some will be about what makes life good -right here in the Capital Region. After all, this blog is about The Good Life. So let's find out what people are saying when they're talking in the tearoom. Maybe someone will tell me where I can really get an authentic Brooklyn style slice of pizza around here. I think that'll be my first question. Visit this blog next week and hear what people had to tell me - and comments are cool; feel free to share your thoughts.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Tea Primer

Organic Paimutan from The Good Leaf Gourmet Tea Company

I think I'll open this blog with a little info about tea. Here goes:

Legend has it that tea was first discovered almost 5000 years when a tea leaf fell into a Chinese emperors water and he decided to drink the brew. Today, tea is the second most popular beverage in the world; right after water, and in the USA, where coffee and soft drinks have ruled the non-alcoholic beverage market, enthusiasm about tea is on the rise. Experts in the industry attribute this renewed interest to the wide variety of flavorful and high quality teas now available to the sophisticated and health conscious consumer.

Many people are surprised to learn that all true tea comes from one plant, the Camellia Sinensis, and that not everything that is commonly referred to as tea is really tea. Black tea, green tea, oolong, and white tea are all correctly referred to as tea, but herbal tea and red tea are actually herbal infusions or tisanes.

The difference between black, green, oolong and white tea is the way it’s processed. In general, white tea is completely unprocessed and yields a delicate and subtle cup, green tea is minimally processed and often has a vegetal flavor, and black tea is purposefully exposed to air (oxidized) during processing, which allows the leaves to darken and take on different flavor characteristics. Oolong teas are partially oxidized, yielding teas with characteristics in common with both green and black teas.

In addition to differences in processing, teas also have different tastes because of where they were grown, the size of the leaf, and other factors. For example, green tea from Japan will taste different than green tea from China and black tea from the Assam region of India will taste different from black tea from the Darjeeling region. Some teas are sold as a single variety, which means that they come from a single tea garden or region; some, such as English Breakfast, are blends of different teas, and other teas are flavored with fruit, nuts or spices. Chai is a popular flavored tea typically made from black tea blended with a variety of spices and served sweetened and with milk.

Popular tisanes include chamomile, mint, hibiscus, rose hips, lavender, ginger, and rooibos, which is commonly called red tea. While all teas contain caffeine, most herbal infusions are naturally caffeine free. An exception to this is Yerba Maté, a popular herbal beverage that does contain caffeine.

New posts coming soon will cover tea and health, loose vs bagged tea, how to brew a good cuppa tea, cooking with tea, and using tea to lose weight.