Welcome To The Mighty Leaf Blog

How to Taste Tea

October 1st, 2015 by Eliot Jordan


Tasting teas calls to mind a shift in mindset. There is a difference between sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea compared to tasting tea. To taste tea is to evaluate it critically. At work, I taste teas everyday whether sampling teas that are newly produced and blended or ingredients we’ve purchased to see how they taste as they’re aging. As I’m tasting, I’m judging whatever tea I’m sampling against my recollection of my gold standard, the best version of that tea I’ve tried. After 30 years of tasting teas, I’ve developed a flavor bank upon which I can compare teas. If you’re a tea drinker and want to conduct your own tastings at home, there are several things you will want to consider as you get started.

First, treat every tea exactly the same. To conduct a tea tasting at home of say, seven Earl Grey black teas, use seven identical cups so you will have the same thickness of ceramic, color, etc. Then, display the tea leaves in front of each cup if using loose tea, or if using tea bags, cut them open to display the leaves inside—this allows you to see the leaf cut size (whole leaves / broken / fannings / CTC / other ingredients) and begin comparing them. Brew each tea correctly using the same water, temperature and length of time. These consistencies cup-to-cup allow the differences in the teas themselves come through.

Next, balance between keeping an open mind and thinking critically about each cup of tea. It can be easy to select your favorite from the bunch, but just as important is to consider the choices each tea blender made in composing each blend. Using Earl Grey black tea as an example, the Russian-style is pungent with bergamot. The British-style, to my palate can taste medicinal.The Persian-style of Earl Grey tastes lighter, cleaner and more delicate—you don’t know it’s Earl Grey until you stop and think about it. The American-style tends to be light and more citrusy. When tasting teas at home with an open mind, questions might arise as to why these differences exist. Elements to consider include what culture the tea blend is coming from. Is it from a new tea brand or an old one? It might also trigger questions about what flavor profiles and aspects of flavor are most appealing in different cultures.

While learning how to taste tea years ago with my mentor, Jim Reynolds, he taught me a valuable lesson. Aside from qualifying if I liked a tea or not, he challenged me to ask of the tea we sampled, “is it a good representation of what this tea is supposed to be?” Tea is like wine. A California Chardonnay will taste different from a French Chardonnay.

When tasting teas, pay attention to the taste and the after-taste. Some teas can start out sharp and mellow over time in your mouth to something sweet and pleasant. Other times a sharp tea might stay sharp to the end. I also like to think about the long after-taste that happens 10-15 minutes after tasting a tea. What lingers on and does it make your mouth feel better? As you taste, it’s important to focus on the cup in front of you and not the last or next cup.

In the office, we conduct our tea tastings quietly. We don’t talk until everyone has a chance to taste. Part of the fascination in tasting teas is the associations that can leap into your mind as you taste tea. Tea flavors can be subtle and those associations are fleeting. Tasting tea might transport you to the living room of your grandmother’s house with memories of being eight years-old. Maybe you haven’t thought about your grandmother in weeks but the aroma or flavor takes you back. Our sense of smell is connected to our memories and it’s no accident. Every aroma and taste is composed of chemical compounds. Maybe it’s the lavender ingredient that brought you suddenly back to grandma’s house?  I call that the surprise in the cup. You never know when the associations will happen. So as you set out to start tasting teas at home, prepare yourself for fun. You never know where tasting teas will take you.

Made for Tea, Meet the Whole Leaf Tea Team: Eliot Jordan

September 29th, 2015 by Eliot Jordan


By 10:30 a.m. every morning I’ve tried at least 10 teas. That puts the morning cup of tea in perspective, doesn’t it? But as the VP of Tea at Mighty Leaf, my days are packed with whole leaf tea.  More than anything I’m diligent about tasting tea, lots of samples so as an example, when differences arise in say a black tea tasting, I’m able to stop and ask, “what’s different about this tea?” Tasting tea is like exercising a muscle, or maybe like studying a painting. The more it’s done, the better shape my palate is in to taste discrepancies or nuances. In addition to tasting tea, my day-to-day job involves communicating with our suppliers and cross-checking  with the people I work with to secure ingredients from around the world. What I love about tea is it’s the ultimate yin-yang; it’s both simple and complex. My days are full of work that I’m passionate about and I work closely with our tea team, Anni and Danielle to ensure the teas we blend and provide to our customers taste great with fantastic aroma.

My interest in tea started like perhaps many others. Growing up, my mom would throw tea parties and her interest in tea trickled down to me. After college, I took on a job at Peet’s Coffee & Tea. At the time, there were only 5 stores. As I worked at Peet’s I embraced tasting tea and coffee, which led me to conduct internal trainings. This started out as a part-time position that then grew into a full-time position. My interest in coffee waned and my desire to drink and understand tea grew. Jim Reynolds,  now roastmaster emeritus at Peet’s mentored me in tea as I learned on the job. Over time and after 5 years of working with Jim directly, I began purchasing the teas for Peet’s, which also provided hands-on experiences traveling to tea-growing regions to meet with our suppliers. In 1995, I visited India for the first time, then in 1999, I first visited China.  I draw inspiration from the care and diligence shown by the people who produce great teas, and I love traveling in countries where it’s consumed liberally. The business of tea is old-fashioned and relationship-driven—something I enjoy immensely. I worked at Peet’s for 30 years and am now thrilled to be a part of Mighty Leaf Tea.

Made for Tea, Meet the Whole Leaf Tea Team: Anni Pattee

September 22nd, 2015 by Anni Pattee

Anni - tea team

As the tea assistant at Mighty Leaf, I steep hundreds of teas a week for cuppings. Working with tea everyday creates awareness in the rest of my life. When I steep tea, my full attention is focused on ensuring the tea is steeped properly and my thoughts drift to the passion used to create these teas.

My mom brewed tea regularly when I was a child and I relished the opportunity to tear open a new tea box and discover which ceramic creatures were hidden inside. When I discovered Russian Caravan Black Tea years later, I knew tea had completely won me over. I still drink Russian Caravan and also enjoy Lapsang Souchong for the same reasons. I loved how it enveloped me in warmth and had a smooth richness I hadn’t found in coffee. Little did I know, it would become my livelihood years later.

While studying Industrial Design in college, I took a job at Market Hall in Oakland where I perfected my barista techniques and continued to develop my tea palate. I began picking up on the nuances of tea— its subtle flavors and complex layers. After 4 years there, I moved on to Peet’s as a trainer and shift lead, successfully competed in several rounds of a barista competition, and participated as a sensory judge for other barista competitions.

While I appreciate coffee, I always come back to tea. Tea is amazing! Its origins and how it’s grown influence the final cup. The flavor profiles and character of tea are so versatile. At Mighty Leaf, I spend every day focused on my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

Made for Tea, Meet the Tea Team: Danielle Hochstetter

September 17th, 2015 by Danielle Hochstetter

Danielle Hochstetter
At the age of six or seven, my Dad would sit me down regularly and say, “It’s time for a cup of tea.” He served black tea with honey. A few years later, he moved to South Africa and in high school, my brother and I flew out to see him. He took us to a fancy resort so we could have teatime. I still remember the taste of the Keemun tea from the resort fondly. So, the tea bug had bitten me early on, but it kept growing. During high school, I leaned heavily on tea to help me pull through all-nighters, trying as many teas as I could. In college, I began reading tea books from the library like “The New Tea Lover’s Treasury” by James Norwood Pratt and got it into my head that one day I wanted to meet him. I developed a preference for loose teas and visited an Asian grocery store in Charlotte, NC for loose leaf tea, which at the time was hard to find.

In college, I studied music business but worked at a tearoom where I continued my tea tasting studies and a co-worker opened my eyes to single origin black teas, gyokuro, and my fast favorite, green oolongs. After college, I moved to South Korea to pursue a Fulbright. While there, I taught English and studied the Korean tea ceremony and Korean drumming. In Asia, I realized people opened teahouses dedicated to loose leaf tea and made a living from it. With the encouragement of fellow Fulbrighters, my career path shifted to one steeped in tea.

Upon my return to the states, I moved to Savannah, Georgia and waitressed at a tea room—I wanted to see how they operate and save money so one day I could open my own. Over time, it became clear how difficult it would be to make a living in the US running a teahouse and that I needed to rethink my plan.  I decided to move to China. The manager at the tea room invited me to accompany her to the World Tea Expo where I finally met James Norwood Pratt. I asked him where I should move in China and he suggested either Hangzhou or Fujian. Before I moved to China, I worked for Devan Shah’s tea company for a year and a half. But China beckoned.

In Hangzhou, I applied and studied at Zhejiang University (浙江大学), recognized as the third best college in China (with the first two being in Beijing where no tea grows). For two years, I studied Mandarin and later worked part time as a teacher, pursuing my passion of tea in my off-hours. I led tea tours and traveled to points of tea origin. A teacher of mine encouraged me to apply to the tea science program at Zhejiang, so I applied and was accepted to study for a master’s in tea science.  During my studies, I attended the World Tea Expo in the United States and met Eliot Jordan. He had been looking to hire a tea assistant immediately; while the job sounded tempting, I needed to finish my studies. He hired Anni Pattee during that interim period. He offered me a job in September and I started in January – I’ve been surrounded by tea ever since :).

Since I’ve been tea buyer at Mighty Leaf Tea, my job consists of juggling what we need to cup for QA or purchasing decisions with correspondence to our vendors. It’s clear how each step of my path led me deeper into tea and my job keeps me rooted in my passion for tea with people equally invested in the pursuit of great tea.

Meet the Tea Team Behind Our Whole Leaf Tea

September 15th, 2015 by Anni Pattee

At Mighty Leaf Tea, our whole leaf tea goes through rigorous tastings to ensure they are ready for you to buy and brew at home. Take a sneak peek of one of our tea cuppings by clicking here or on the photo below to meet the tea team of Eliot Jordan, Danielle Hochstetter, and Anni Pattee. We will be bringing you freshly brewed ideas and talking about our favorite two leaves and a bud. Join us!

whole leaf tea cupping video

Chill Out on National Iced Tea Day!

Mighty LeafJune 10th, 2014 by Mighty Leaf
National Iced Tea Day

With summer right around the corner it’s perfect timing for National Iced Tea Day. Start developing your daily chill out routine by choosing fresh-brewed, all natural and zero calorie iced tea that delivers ultimate refreshment. Go one step further and experiment with mixing up delicious and unique iced tea based beverages like an Earl Grey Arnold Palmer. Check out our simple recipe and enjoy! Read More…

Jessie Et Laurent – Sustenance, Tailored and Delivered

May 2nd, 2014 by Dustin Staples

Who has time to cook during the work week?

jessie et laurent


Bay Area fans, have you tried Jessie et Laurent in San Rafael, CA? We’re big fans! “Thoughtfully prepared meals delivered right to your door.”

We had a lunch to remember!
Read More…

Enter to Win The Ultimate Artisan Tea and Taste Experience Getaway!

March 20th, 2014 by Dustin Staples
spaweek sweepstakes contest mighty leaf tea

We’re excited to announce the Ultimate Artisan Tea and Taste Experience Getaway Sweepstakes in connection with our sponsorship of Spa Week and partnership with the Hotel Vitale of the Joie de Vivre group.

Enter here for the chance to win and sip away to your city oasis! Read More…

Visit us at Expo West for a Chance to Win!

Mighty LeafMarch 5th, 2014 by Mighty Leaf
Expo West

Are you headed to the Natural Product Expo West show? Come mix it up with us at booth 2975 as we serve up hot tea samples and unique iced tea beverages using our whole leaf iced tea pouch. We’re also excited to show you our new trade show booth that highlights the whole leaf goodness and artisan crafted natures of our products.

We’re also running a contest with prizes that include an Ipad 2, Year’s Worth of Tea and more.  Read More…

Orange Dulce Marteani

December 14th, 2013 by admin

Our latest Mighty Leaf recipe is for a delectable Orange Dulce Marteani. After one of our office parties a few of us stumbled upon this simple infusion of herbs, leaf tea, and vodka. Surprise friends and family with our unique twist on a classic cocktail.

All you need is your favorite vodka and a Mighty Leaf Orange Dulce tea pouch. Simply pour the vodka, steep your tea pouch for around 15 minutes or so and enjoy! Make in a batch to serve in bulk for a holiday party or have partygoers steep their own.

Pick up the ingredients here.

Teas The Season – New Holiday Arrivals

November 21st, 2013 by admin
Holiday Tea Chest Collection

Teas the season for sharing the ritual and warmth of drinking tea. We’re excited about the launch of new signature Mighty Leaf products for the holiday. Whether you’re looking for a tea pouch, loose leaf gift or teaware, our new holiday lineup makes gifting easy. Everyone’s a fan of tea, they just might not know it yet.



Click an item to start your holiday shopping today!


Signature Selection


Loose Tea Chest

Holiday Tea Chet Collection

Holiday Tea Chest Collection


Tea Top Brew Mug


Holiday Blend