Our Sexy Red Wall

Can you see our gorgeous red wall peeking thru this bouquet of flowers? It is the [perfect color for surroundings consisting of tea, tea, and more tea.



Tea Trekker is Re-locating

After 22 years in our King street location, we are re-locating to greener pastures in downtown Northampton. Anyone who has moved from a house to an apartment understands the daunting task of downsizing, which is much worse than moving what remains.

Over the past two months we have cleared out a lot of  ‘ stuff ‘ to the local library,  food pantry, hospice shop, the free pile in the parking lot, and our best new friend, the dumpster. We can say for sure that the more space one has to fill, the more filled it becomes.

Our new store is smaller, bright and modern – not slick, but sharp. We will be lean and mean and as shiny as a new dime.

Our new neighborhood is busier, with more foot-traffic and less car/truck traffic. A lovely patio in front of our new store has trees and benches for ‘settin and the NOHO bike path scoots by right by the front door. An oasis in the heart of a thriving small city. Parking is easy in the city parking lot across the way.

And, we are only a straight-down-the road 3-minute walk from our former location.

We have many exciting new 2012 teas which are not yet available in the store or on our website. And new posts to write. As soon as we are settled and up and running you will be hearing a lot from us.

Come visit us in our new location as of June 5th. Classes will begin again later in the summer – check http://www.teatrekker.com for announcements and dates. And if you are just finding our about our move here and now, you had better sign up for our monthly newsletter, too!

As of June 5th:

Tea Trekker
2 Gleason Plaza ( Railroad Avenue )
Northampton, MA 01060

413-584-5116 (same phone number)

We’re just a quick walk from the Main /King / Pleasant Streets intersection in the heart of downtown Northampton. Remember to walk or drive south on Pleasant St instead of north on King St at the intersection.Tea Trekker is now conveniently located on the south-side of the large brick building that houses Don Gleason’s Campers‘ Supply, Deals & Steals and the District Attorney’s Office. We face Yes Computers across the parking lot.

Basil Magazine.com features Tea Trekker

We want to give a shout-out to Basil Magazine ( http://basilmagazine.com/) for featuring a story about Tea Trekker on their website. Stacy Cox got right to the heart of our approach to seasonal teas, and does a great job illustrating which teas come to market during what season of the year.

Read her article bellow:

Tea Trekker

by Stacey Cox

For most of us, tea is something that sits on a cupboard shelf. It’s there year-round. Tea may be iced in the summer and hot in the winter, but other than that it doesn’t change much with the seasons.

Robert and Mary Lou Heiss, the duo the New York Times called “The Professors of Tea” are committed to changing all that by bringing seasonal teas to America.

The Heisses , co-authors of The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide ( Ten Speed Press, 2007 ) and The Tea Enthusiasts Handbook: A Guide to Enjoying the World’s Best Teas ( Ten Speed Press, 2010 ), frequently travel to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan to source premium, seasonal, artisan-made teas for their shop Tea Trekker

Teas of this distinction are prized by tea aficionados, and should be thought of in the same manner as fine wines, aged cognacs, hand-rolled cigars, and craft cheeses. As with wine, tea is influenced by terroir and weather. The weather patterns of each season contribute flavor and aroma characteristics to the tea that cannot be duplicated other times of the year.

Seasonality in tea refers not just to the particulars of the four seasons, but to a more precise timeframe of days and weeks within each season.  In essence, all tea has a time at which its flavor and aroma is best, and many of the most distinctive teas are made just once a year.

Premium, seasonal, artisan-made teas such as those selected by Tea Trekker are highly anticipated by tea connoisseurs worldwide for the tea drinking pleasure they provide. Thanks to the Heisses, tea enthusiasts here in the United States can now enjoy tea of the same high quality that tea connoisseurs in Berlin, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Paris, and Singapore are drinking.

High-quality teas such as these provide an important, viable economic resource for the experienced tea artisans who produce them, while supplying a delicious, culturally-rich beverage of modest cost for the consumer. On a cup-by-cup basis, premium tea can be enjoyed for less than 75 cents per cup.

Here is a listing of some of the seasonal teas you will find offered at Tea Trekker:

Summer Tea – not the season for premium tea!

Fall Tea:

China: Autumnal Oolong and Yunnan Black Teas

  • Oolong plucking begins anew, with fall crops that deliver teas with breathtaking and complex floral aromas: Fenghuang Dan Cong; Tieguanyin; Wu Yi Shan Rock Oolongs ( yan cha )
  • Buttery smooth Yunnan black teas (Golden Needles, Golden Tips) that deliver stunning flavor and aroma.


Winter Tea:

Taiwan: High Mountain Oolong (gao shan )

  • These are the teas of primary significance during this season in East Asia. Tea gardens that produce gao shan oolongs are located at altitudes of 6,000 feet or higher, and produce just two tea harvests each year: one in the winter (the most prized) and one in the spring. Gao shan is very difficult to obtain outside of Taiwan.
  • The cold, thin air of this high-altitude environment produces teas that are chewy, juicy and that are a delicious combination of sweetness and slight astringency. Gao shan oolongs are intensely floral and mouth-filling, yet they have an austere, slightly ‘chilled’ aspect to their flavor.

Spring Tea:

  • India: 1st flush Darjeeling Teas
  • These teas are from the first spring plucking, the most anticipated ( but smallest ) harvest of the year.
  • 1st flush Darjeeling is highly prized for its clarity in the cup, outstanding crisp flavor, and distinctive spicy aromas.
  • China:  1st Spring Teas
    • Mid-March ( Pre-Qing Ming): the arrival of early spring weather in mid-March begins the plucking season for several premium green, white, and yellow teas such as Longjing, Tianmu Shan Snow Sprouts,  Mengding Mt. Huang Ya, and Yin Zhen.
  • China: 2nd Spring Tea
    • Early to Mid- April to Mid-May ( Before the Rains tea): green tea production continues for teas such as Lu Shan andTai Ping Hou Kui; black teas such as Bai Lin, Golden Monkey, Keemun Congou, and Yunnan Curly Golden Buds.  This is the season for distinctive Puerh tea, as well as oolong tea ( the single malt scotches of the tea world ) that are celebrated for having the finest flavors: Fenghuang Dan Cong, Tieguanyin, and Wu Yi Shan Rock teas.
  • Japan: Shincha
    • Shincha is plucked in May and is the first tea of the new tea season in Japan.  Shincha is vivid green in color, intensely vegetal in aroma, and pleasantly balanced between sweetness and astringency in taste. The Shincha plucking season is short, approximately 10 days, so tea lovers who await the production of this tea each spring must act quickly!

Tea Trekker was the first tea vendor in the US in 2011 to announce the arrival of Indian and Chinese spring teas. In some instances these teas were only several weeks old when they arrived at the Tea Trekker tea shop.

About Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss:

Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss are adventurous tea trekkers, tea educators and retailers of premium artisan tea.  They are the co-authors of: The Tea Enthusiast Handbook: A Guide to the World’s Best Teas ( 2010, Ten Speed Press); The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide ( 2007, Ten Speed Press ) which was nominated for a 2008 James Beard Foundation Book Award and a 2008 IACP Cookbook Award; and HOT DRINKS ( 2007, Ten Speed Press).  When they are not traveling the world sourcing tea, Mary Lou and Bob are often found teaching tea classes in various locations, or at work in their premium tea shop Tea Trekker in Northampton, MA.

For more information, visit Tea Trekker (www.teatrekker.com)

For more in-depth information on Tea Trekker’s blog about seasonal teas, please click here.

My ‘New’ Green Tea Book

Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers & Sweet & Savory Treats

A lovely woman who produces a food radio program telephoned me recently to set up an interview about my ‘new’ book on cooking with green tea. She caught me off guard because I don’t have a new book on cooking with green tea. Then I realized she was referring to a book that I wrote in 2006 titled: Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats ( Harvard Common Press, 2006).

We got it straightened out, had a laugh, and fortunately she still wanted to have the interview.

After this, I started to think about my book and the idea of cooking with tea. Back in 2006, cooking with tea or using tea as in ingredient in cooking and baking was an unfamiliar concept here in the US, and it did not resonate with most. Its not that it wasn’t a good idea – it was and still is a great idea – but only a few short years ago the conversation about tea was vastly different than it is today.

Back then, tea drinking had not yet reached the widespread popularity that it has now, and education about premium tea from traditional places of origin was still in its infancy. Spreading the word about the different classes of tea (green, white, yellow, oolong, black and Pu-erh) was challenging for those of us in the tea business as black tea was the most commonly drunk tea at that time, and the only tea that many people were familiar with.

Fortunately, my book sold well and is still in print –yea!- but I have come to realize that the subject of cooking with tea ( and my book ) was ahead of its time. For Green Tea I developed original recipes in these categories: hot and iced green teas, smoothies, green tea cocktails, savory dishes and sweet endings, and often when I would describe to someone back then what my book was about they would look at me as if I had holes in my head.

In fact, even in Taiwan, where I gave a presentation at an annual tea meeting to a room full of tea growers on the idea of cooking with tea, and where there are dishes that utilize oolong tea in the preparation, many there looked at me as if I had holes in my head, too.

But today, just five years later, the idea of cooking with tea, or using tea as a culinary ingredient, has caught on. Not like wildfire, but with enough traction to be included in various tea conversations and for others to pursue the topic.

Cynthia Gold, the Tea Sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel, has co-authored a book with Lise Stern titled: Culinary Tea: More Than 150 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World ( Running Press, 2010). This delightful book explores the concept in depth, and provides much guidance for those looking to experiment with all classes of tea in their cooking.

Some restaurants, too, feature tea as an ingredient in various savory dishes and cocktails. Green tea in particular is showing up pretty regularly in sweets and desserts. But I fear such desserts will suffer from over-exposure and incompetent hands, and become culinary outcasts in the same vein as tiramisu, molten chocolate cake, and anything kiwi.

I am reprinting (with permission of my publisher) one of my favorite cocktail recipes from Green Tea: 50 Hot Drinks, Cool Quenchers and Sweet and Savory Treats.

Tropical Sky
( serves 2 )

  • 12 ice cubes
  • 3 ounces chilled green tea
  • 1 cup chilled pomegranate juice
  • 3 ounces gin
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto
  • Maraschino cherries, lemon wedges and orange wedges for garnish

1. Put 4 ice cubes, the green tea, pomegranate juice, gin, and amaretto into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 1 minute.

2. Divide the remaining 8 ice cubes between 2 old-fashioned glasses. Make a skewer for each glass by threading 1 cherry, 1 lemon wedge, and 1 orange wedge onto a decorative cocktail pick. Strain the cocktail into the glasses and drape a fruit skewer across the top of each glass. Serve immediately.