So. Funny story about this tea:

At a staff party a while back, I asked my manager about the fact that there is a huge stash of tea stuck behind the water dispensers – some that appear to be those resealable bags from the gift sets, and a huge school-bus-yellorange Teaopia bag marked, “Blackberry Mojito.” She told me that it was all tea that the staff had been forced to damage out for some reason (the Blackberry Mojito having been dumped into the wrong tin, nothing else wrong with it), and that if I wanted some to take home to go hard. “TAKE IT! Get rid of it!” Well! Sweet.

So a few nights ago, the keyholder I was closing with and I went though them (there was at least two sets worth – what on earth happened to those gift sets? dropped in puddles of tea?) and took some bags, as well as measuring out bits of the Blackberry Mojito into smaller bags. We left the rest for others to ransack.

You know. Because I needed more tea.

Then we had a big staff meeting this week in which our regional manager asked us if any of us had taken damaged goods home, because that’s utterly Against Company Policy. (This wasn’t prompted by the water dispenser stash, incidentally – I don’t think she even knows it’s there.) Our AM jumped in to assure her that such a thing never, ever happens! No one has ever been allowed! Absolutely not!

…And we all kept up our best poker face. I’d be really, really surprised if there was someone there who didn’t have a chipped/scratched/slightly busted mug or pot at home that they got for free… But I guess we won’t be doing that anymore.

(And yes, “don’t take damaged stuff home,” has been the policy at every job I’ve ever had, but I also probably ended up at least a hundred bucks worth of free stuff from every job regardless, all okay-ed by management. I mean, waste not, right? And no, I’d NEVER sell it for a profit; I’m not that much of a dick.)

Hopefully she doesn’t find out about this tea, because I don’t want to get in any trouble for taking it. I was told it was okay to take…

Anyway! Tea! The brewing instructions are…baffling. Seventy-nine degrees, okay. One-and-a-half teaspoons per eight ounces, okay. Four to five minutes steeping time – HOLY BALLS WHAT. WHAT.

Who steeps a white tea for five minutes?! And of course it’s one of the tea types which is “highlighted,” meaning it will get bitter if steeped too long. Um.

Then again, “The Tea Companion” (a book we sell) which I just consulted says that Yin Zhen should steeped for 15 minutes(!). Hmm.

So I’m kind of experimenting with this one, eight ounces at a time. I’m starting off first with 1.5 teaspoons of leaf, steeped at two minutes, which I will try two infusions of. Then I will compare that to an infusion of new leaves steeped the recommended time.

The leaves smell very earthy, with a sweetness riding on top. I brewed my first spoonful in my TeaMaster to give the pearls lots of room to unfurl. They look super-cool unfurling…like little snails coming out of their shells at first, and by the end of the steep there’s a little garden growing on the bottom of my TeaMaster! …Although floating on top, there is a…I can’t even legitimately call it a “twig,” it’s like a damn tree branch. Admittedly, I didn’t even catch it in my spoon. How on this green earth did I miss that sitting in the spoon?!

First infusion: [Two minute steep.] Um. Well. First impression: tastes like water. Second impression as it cools as bit: tastes like liquid hay. (Hallo, China!) The second impression never fades. I feel like a horse. CHOMP. CHOMP. CHOMP.

Second infusion: [Two minute steep] …Okay, this is better. Gosh, maybe it should be infused longer! It’s a bit bitter, especially when hot, but that’s my fault. I was kind of lazy about waiting for the water to cool a bit, and I’m pretty certain it was too hot when I poured it over the leaves, so they took a beating. Slap my hand! (Oh variable temp kettle, wherefore art thou?) There’s more body. It’s still earthy and hay-like, but a bit sweeter. Admittedly I added two rock sugar crystals to try to bring out any sweetness, so it might just be that. (I know, I know, I’m such a lazy poop, I should have kept the variables the same, but I can’t be arsed to drink more than 3 cups of the same damn tea in one day!) The bitterness isn’t as bad when it cools.

Five minute steep: I was relatively precise (it’s not an oxymoron, shush) with this one, so I can’t be accused of mucking it up. I used a thermometer to get the temperature to 82 degrees (because I didn’t think to hot my TeaMaster before spooning the leaves in, so hopefully that evens out to around 79) and hit my timer at the moment the water touched the pearls. No sugar.

I spent the whole time watching the pearls unfurl. Some of them sort of swam around like ships in space, which was fun. One sank, and then immediately bobbed back to the top and unfurled at the surface. The physics of that baffles me; but then, I’m working full time in retail right now because I flunked physics, so…

The smell of the liquor is really strong, very earthy. I’ve honestly not run across a white tea yet that smells like this. It’s a little odd to me. Is this odd? Is this just me being a newb?

The taste, again, is earthy and hay-like. There is definitely some sweetness to it, but I have to concentrate fully on the taste to find it. This isn’t one I’d drink while distracted, that’s for sure. To be honest, there’s startling little difference between this and the second infusion of the last set of leaves. It’s drinkable. I’m finding it better as it cools, actually, and although the liquor is earthy when it’s in my mouth, there is an aftertaste which is light and sweet that I’m actually getting to really like.

Unfortunately, I don’t see most of the bottled Arizona green tea lovers who come in to the store for the first time liking this one at all, and I’m distressed that I’m meant to push it hard. If I push any straight white, why the hell not the Silver Needle? I’m sure it would go over better. Teavana, why do you hate repeat customers?

Regarding that staff meeting, we are getting a bunch of new stuff soon. New stuff going on the wall, some of which I think will really take off… I don’t think I can get away with saying more than that (nothing’s on the web site yet), but we’re genuinely excited. We get to taste-test this week. And new merch soon, some of which looks really good. Mom already wants some, ha! We also discussed more about how the hierarchy of Teavana works, because it is different from Teaopia and we are getting new management. Then we had a fun time cleaning the store in preparation for rearranging the merch and hanging out.

We did, towards the end, role-play the selling process some more, and a bit of a fight broke out between the associates and the RM. We tried to explain that the selling process feels too American and aggressive to us, not in keeping with Canadian culture. We ended up having a long, loooong talk about how to meet the standards of the selling process without ever accidentally confusing or deceiving the customer. She told us that if anyone ever gets to the till and reels in shock when we announce the price, then, “You have not done your job communicating the price of what they’re buying to the customer in the first place. That’s completely your fault.” Which seems like a fair criticism to me. I don’t entirely know how to feel about what we discussed – the RM sells like she does it in her sleep, and never by confusing or pushing the customer, but she’s also one of the most persuasive people I’ve ever met. I think we all feel like we – as individuals – don’t have the skill or talent to pull it off the same way, but I guess I will try to copy her and see what happens.

Also, I told her I am looking to apply for Operations lead (e.g. keeping track of supplies) – she originally asked me to be Merch lead, but I don’t want that job so much. She seemed excited that she has someone outright asking for the more “boring” job, heh. I haven’t got the position yet, but I think I will start an Operations notebook to keep track of supplies, and maybe rearrange our (messy) storage after my shift tomorrow night. I think that will look good.

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I’ve always been a tea drinker – I grew up drinking Tetley’s Orange Pekoe and their Chai, and considered myself to really like tea.

I’ve been working various retail jobs to put myself through higher education. One day at my store, a customer left a newly purchased bag of loose-leaf behind. We waited for three days for said customer to return, but they (likely not realizing where they had left their bag) did not return to claim the would-be brew. Too bad for them; lucky for me! I claimed the bag, took it home, and awkwardly made my first cup of loose-leaf tea with the only strainer we owned which was small enough.

I haven’t bothered with Tetley since. For the most part (and due to convenience), my patronage is limited to David’s Tea and Teavana. I also order from 52teas and Verdant Tea.

My rating system – hah, I don’t have a rating system. I rate teas a lot like Ebert rates movies. Everything’s relative.

I may often forget to mention it, but you can safely assume everything I drink is sweetened in one way or another – most rock sugar, or honey for green and white teas. I have not yet achieved drinking most tea clear. The few teas I drink unsweetened include milk oolong and genmaicha so far.

The guy in my avatar can be bought at Teaopia or here:

I currently work for Teavana. But I just work there, and my opinions about any of their teas are entirely my own and not meant to be reflective of the views of the company.

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