Jan 1 2015

New Year and Tea


The first day of a new year is always full of such promise and anticipation. It makes so much sense to include tea in plans for the coming days and months. When thinking of starting the new year with a healthier regimen, you can’t get much healthier than tea. The second most consumed beverage in the world, after water, tea has been enjoyed for thousands of years for its medicinal and culinary properties. And now research is bearing out what tea drinkers have always known.

Perhaps you will pledge to learn more about tea: take one of our TEA 101 classes, go from tea bags to loose leaf, or switch from English style black tea with milk and sugar to a green tea or oolong tea.

Try enjoying tea in your culinary recipes. It is a great addition to so many dishes, either in its dry leaf form, used as you would an herb or spice, or in liquid form in place of water or other liquid.

Harney Tea Map 871


Mar 23 2014

Congratulations to John Harney & Sons!


John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons Fine Teas, started his tea company 30 years ago from a basement room in the White Hart Inn in Salisbury, CT where he was the owner/Inn Keeper. It was at the same inn 10 years ago that I first met him when I attended my first tea education event. A Tea Tutorial presented by Pearl Dexter, founder and Editor of TEA, A Magazine was an intensive long weekend course with 5 of us in attendance,  focused on how to go about having a tea related business. Mr. Harney was a guest presenter at the Seminar, charming us all with his Irish wit and friendliness. The following day we had a lovely tour of the Harney tea shop and the factory in the nearby town of Millerton, NY, all under the personal attention of John Harney. It was following that weekend that I returned home and took a leap forward in opening my very small business.

Celebrating 30 years of continued growth and achievement, it is easy to see why this company has been so successful. Through hard work, extraordinary vision, continuous development of new products, and outstanding customer relations, they have not lost sight of the most important ingredient ~ sourcing the finest teas, taking great pains in developing their specialty blends, and producing a consistent product every time.

So, 30 years later, not only are the Harney sons and daughter-in-law  involved in the business, but the young adult grandsons are as well, leading to their newest establishment in NYC where they opened a tea cafe and shop several years ago now.

I look forward to many years of continuing to see them grow and prosper, and I wish them a hearty congratulations on their first 30 years of success!


Jan 31 2014

Welcome Tea Across America Tea Plant


We recently received the newest member of our staff here at Nellie’s. CaMEllia TeaMEllia is a true tea plant (AKA Camellia Sinensis, Sinensis), the plant from which all true tea comes, whether it is green tea, oolong tea, black tea, Puehr tea, or white tea. As part of the Tea Across America Campaign, two tea producers, FiLoLi Tea Farm and Tealet, have supplied one tea plant to someone in each of the 50 states that make up the U.S.A.  to highlight that tea can be, and is being grown in the United States. Still in early stages of development, we think the potential is there to be able to receive high quality, domestically grown tea in the future here in the USA.

Meanwhile, here at Nellie’s we will be nurturing our newest addition to protect it from our frigid Maine winter, and will use CaMEllia to help us educate and spread the LOVE of  TEA! So stop in soon to enjoy a cup of tea and have a chat with CaMEllia TeaMEllia!


Nov 13 2013

Tea Primer, Part 2: Green Tea


Green teas are relatively new to the palate of the western world, but in most parts of Asia they are often the tea enjoyed daily. Much of the research done on human health benefits of tea has been done using green tea, therefore more Americans have begun trying to drink it because of the press regarding its health benefits.

The process of making green tea goes like this: The tea is plucked, withered for only a very short time, and then heated to put a halt to oxidation of its enzymes. Often during the heating period the leaf is also shaped by pressing it against the sides of a wok or box, twisted, or rolled. In China, green tea is usually heated by pan firing or in an oven, whereas in Japan the tea is usually heated by steaming. These differing methods are partially responsible for the differences in shades of green that the finished tea exhibits, as well as differences in flavor and aroma. Other countries producing green tea include Korea, Thailand, and more recently India and Kenya, as well as others where experimentation is taking place.

Some of the most famous green teas include China’s Lung Ching (aka Dragon Well) of the West Lake area in Zhejiang province. Here the two leaves and a bud plucked from the plants are flattened against the sides of heated woks by hand to give the tea its characteristic appearance of smooth, flat, spearlike leaf shape which brews to a pale yellow liquor with aromas and flavors of bok choy and toasted walnut.

Another China Green tea is Gunpowder Green, probably the first green tea exported to the colonies. A sturdy, heartier green tea, it held up well in its long sailboat journey from China to Great Britain, and then on to the colonies. This tea gets its name from the rolled shape of it and the dark grey/green color which resembles the pellets once used by soldiers as musket shots. With a liquor ranging in color from bright yellow to green, its flavor and aroma is slightly vegetal and charred, reminsicent perhaps  of grilled leeks.

A classic addition to green tea in China is the infusion of the scent of flowers into the tea leaves. For centuries the Chinese have scented teas with flowers such as rose petals, osmanthus flowers, and Jasmine flowers. In the highest quality of Jasmine Pearl tea, high quality green tea with many tips, or buds, is plucked, dried, and stored in early spring. When the Jasmine flowers bloom, around June, they are rushed to the tea factory. There, the tea leaves are humidified to make them pliable, allowing the factory workers to roll the leaves into small neat pearls. The pearled leaves are spread out on permeable trays which are slid into racks, alternating with trays of fresh jasmine blossoms. The racks are stored in a small enclosed space for several days, with fresh blossoms changed out each day, until the desired fragrance is achieved. Enjoying a cup of this high grade Jasmine tea is a heavenly experience, and quite different from more cheaply made Jasmine teas where artificial flavoring is used.


In contrast, Japanese green teas are grown almost exclusively from the same cultivar, and are steamed to stop oxidation of the leaves. The Japanese cultivar is known for its “umami”, or “mouth feel” which differs from Chinese greens. And the practice of shading the tea plants for a period of time prior to harvest accounts for the vivid, bright green color of Japanese teas such as Gyokuro and Matcha as well as a smoother, more mellow and less astringent flavor than say, the sun-grown Sencha green tea which is the Japanese daily green.

These are only a handful of the varieties of green tea available. The best way to explore the differing styles, tastes, and nuances, is to taste a series of green teas with the goal of comparing and contrasting.

Next time…we’ll look at Oolong teas.



Oct 16 2013

Tea Primer Revisited: Overview


I’m often asked how a particular tea is made; for instance does green tea come from a different plant than black tea? What makes one tea different from another? So it seemed time to review the basics of tea. For starters, all true tea comes from the same type of plant, Camellia Sinensis – Sinensis or Camellia Sinensis – Assamica. The Sinensis plant is native to China and the Assamica plant is larger leafed and native to India. Although there are thousands of cultivars of these species, in the same way there are thousands of rose cultivars, just as a rose is a rose is a rose, so is tea, a tea, a tea…

Anything infused from a different plant, such as mint, Rooibos, chamomile, or fruit, is technically not tea but rather is an herbal infusion or tisane.

So, back to tea. The tea plant is a distant relative of the Camellia which grows so prolifically in our Southern states and whose flowers have such a sweet scent. The specific cultivar used might make a better green, black, white or oolong tea, but in general, any of the cultivars could be used to make any type of tea. The difference is in the process the leaf undergoes after it is harvested. For instance, if the leaf is plucked and very shortly heated and dried, it will be green tea because the leaf has not undergone any oxidation. On the other hand, if the leaf is plucked, bruised a bit and allowed to sit and fully oxidize before it is heated and dried, it will become black tea.

Tea is native to China and was first discovered 5,000 years ago. Throughout history it has sometimes been used medicinally, sometimes eaten as a vegetable, and has been at the core of wars, mystery, and intrigue. And yet this humble leaf when infused and ingested promotes such clarity and peace of mind, that I am quite sure those who planned and waged wars over tea were imbibing in quite another beverage. Below you can see freshly plucked leaves in the first step of becoming a fine tea. Stay tuned for the next issue of a Tea Primer. We’d also love to have you join one of our classes.


Sep 8 2012

The Land of Oz and Pu-ehr


Pu-what? you say! If you follow Dr. Oz at all, you may have heard of this mysterious tea which he touts for help with weight loss and general good health. As with all types of tea in recent years, there are many health claims being made as to the benefits of drinking tea. Now, all of us who have enjoyed tea for years would tell you anecdotally that tea is good for us. But does the research really support those claims? The answers are long and complicated; the short answer is that well done studies are very promising in supporting those claims, but the hard evidence is still at bay in most areas. Within the next  few weeks, the Fifth International Symposium on Tea and Human Health will be held in Washington, D.C. The most current research on the topic will be presented and those of us in the tea industry look forward to hopefully having more information from the numerous studies which have been ongoing.

But, to go back to Pu’ehr, this is an aged tea whose popularity dates to ancient times when it was “discovered” accidentally that tea which was exposed to certain conditions in its long journey from tea growing areas of China to its destination in far away mountainous regions of Asia developed characteristics which were extremely appealing in flavor and complexities. In subsequent centuries, tea producers began purposefully recreating those conditions to create Pu’ehr for its followers. In recent years it has become a popular and valuable commodity among collectors in China and to some status concious and wealthier citizens of the Western World. Prices of high quality Pu’ehr teas aged from 5 to 30 years or more have sky rocketed, and to keep up with demand producers have developed processes to stimulate conditions which will develop some of the characteristics of aged tea at a much faster pace right in the factories. The availability of these teas has made it affordable for the every day consumer who wants to have it. Thus, Dr. Oz’s followers have begun requesting it.

We’ll soon be offering a class on Pu-ehr teas; stay tuned for the date and cost. It will be interesting, I promise you.


Jan 15 2011



Please note our newest Winter Hours below:

Wednesdays: 1-5 pm

Thursdays: 10 am-5 pm

Fridays: 10 am-5 pm

Saturdays: 10 am-3 pm

As always, other times by appointment.

Be sure to join me for my newest class at OOB/Saco Community Education,


Wednesday February 9th

6-8 pm

Old Orchard Beach High School

For details or to register visit www.oobsaco.maineadulted.org


Sep 3 2010



Our next Tea 101 class has been scheduled for Saturday September 25th from 1 to 3:00 pm. It will be held here at Nellie’s shop. For a descrition visit our Classes and Events page.

Cost : $15.00 per person                                                       Harney Tea Map 871

Contact us to reserve your space.


Stay tuned for other fun events we’re planning…

Like, A class on Pu’erh Teas,

 and a Japanese Tea Ceremony…

We look forward to welcoming you to the Wonderful World of Tea!


Jul 1 2010

TEA 101 Class; Register Now!


puehr-_3.JPGWhat: Explore the history and origin of tea, types of tea, and how it gets    from field to cup. Taste at least 2 samples of the three basic types of tea, learning the professional cupping and tasting methods. Enjoy pots of teas of your choice from our large selection along with light accompaniments.

When: Thursday, July 8th

              11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Where: Nellie’s Tea and Gifts

                5 Industry Rd. Suite 2 C

                 South Portland, Maine 04106

Cost: $15.00 per person

Call ( 207.761.8041 ) or e-mail ( nellie@maine.rr.com )now to reserve your spot. Space is limited.


Jan 16 2010

Green Teas Class!


Please join me for our class on Green Teas. If you have tried to like green tea because it is supposed to be so good for you, but…it just tastes like grass, this is the class for you! Believe it or not, all green teas are not created equally. The varieties are so numerous and varied. This class will introduce you to the cultivation, geography, and processing of green teas and the opportunity to taste 4-6 different teas of China and Japan, the primary countries of green tea production. Following the class, we will enjoy simple snacks with pots of tea of your choosing.

When: Sunday January 24th, 1 to 3 pm

Where: at Nellie’s Tea and Gifts

                    5 Industry Rd.

                    South Portland, Maine 04106

Cost: $5.00 per person (fee waived with purchase of $10.00 or more on day of class.

(Visit “Contact Us” page for directions to the shop.)

To reserve your spot, call 761-8041, or e-mail nellie@maine.rr.com. Please leave your name and a phone number where you can be reached in case of any changes. I’ll look forward to seeing you!