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On the Fourth Day of Christmas 52Teas sent to me. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 00:00
On the 4th Day of Christmas, my true love (I mean…52 Teas!) gave to me Peach Blackberry Crumble Black Tea! There are two ingredients in this blend that are my favorite when combined: peach and cinnamon pieces! Of course, there are also whole blackberries in here which definitely adds a unique twist, but the cinnamon and peach together are one of my favorite combos. This is obviously the fourth tea in this box and right now they are 4/4…I’ve loved them all! Every morning I scratch off the stickers and I’ve been so excited to try each tea and I Read More

Cotton Candy from DAVIDsTEA. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 14:01
So I just have to say, when you’re sweet tooth is crying out for a treat…THIS. TEA. IS. AWESOME!! DAVIDsTEA offers plenty of dessert flavors from Red Velvet Cake to Birthday Cake to Lime Gelato to Banana Nut Bread and the list goes on and on. They all capture their namesakes to varying degrees though none quite mimic the flavor of their inspiration quite like Cotton Candy. This tea tastes as if someone just melted down cotton candy in my mug, which in theory should basically taste like someone tossed a bunch of sugar in the cup but this is Read More

On the Third Day of Christmas 52Teas sent to me. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 00:00
On the third day of Christmas 52 Teas gave to me….Chocolate Hazelnut Strawberry Honeybush tea! When I scratched the label off of this one and started to be able to make out the name, you should have seen my face! I didn’t get a chance to try this blend back whenever it was available at 52 Teas because I don’t believe I had heard of the company yet. The other day I saw someone mention it on Steepster and I was really interested in trying it and wondered if I would ever get the chance. Imagine my shock when I Read More

On the Second Day of Christmas, 52Teas gave to me. . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Sat, 12/16/2017 - 00:00
On the second day of Christmas, 52 Teas gave to me…. Holiday Marmalade Green Tea! I have been really excited to dig into these teas. With Day 1, I actually had opened it on the 1st of December, not realizing that we were starting these on December 12th! So, I kind of got a little “teaser” at the beginning of the month and have been counting down the days till I could officially start. One thing I really enjoy about 52 Teas as a company is that their blends are always so unique. I feel like a lot of tea Read More

Buddha’s Best – A Quarter to Tea . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 19:09
Hello, readers, I am here again to talk about yet another rose blended tea. Which if you are new to my reviews I will fill you in quickly, I adore rose in just about everything. So it is not surprising that I was ecstatic to try out this new blend. First and foremost, this tea is a simply made of a blend of black teas, rose petals, and tulsi leaf. Now I have had all three before in numerous cups but this cup was a bit different. First off, the smell is the rose tea smell I have become accustomed Read More

Friday Roundup: December 10th - December 16th

Tea For Me Please - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 17:00
Book Review: "The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane" by Lisa See

Maria of East Meets West Tea reviewed a novel that I really loved and often recommend to others. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane is definitely a must read if you haven't checked it out already, especially if you have an interest in puerh or Chinese culture.

Sweet and Rare, Unicorn Japanese Black Tea from World Tea House

Mel from Mel Had Tea always takes such lovely photographs of the tea she reviews. This week was no exception as she shares a bit about an unusual black tea. It definitely made me smile to see that she found it at my friend Phil's Canadian tea shop.

Send the Oolong Drunk to Houston!

Cody from The Oolong Drunk, a frequent fixture here on the Friday Roundup, has an amazing opportunity to speak at the Houston Tea Festival. He's going to need some help with travel expenses to make that happen. Please consider contributing to his fundraiser.

Tea Reflections

There are few things I enjoy more than having tea together with friends. That doesn't happen as often as I would like but I get to live vicariously through blog posts like this one. Anna from The Tea Squirrel and Mike from The Tea Letter each wrote about their experiences sharing what sounds like a very unique tea.

Puerh Rescue Dot Org

Cywn's signature wit and humor always make my day when a new post appears in my feed. I too would like to volunteer on behalf of all of the neglected and abused puerh out there. Remember, a puerh tea is a living thing and it has feelings. The adopt-a-pu illustration really puts this one over the top.

Blast From the Past: Best teas for joint pain relief

T Ching - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 13:00

Joint pain is quick to hinder our mobility as well as decrease our fervor in life. It manifests as inflammation, which is usually characterized by swollen joints, redness, loss of joint function and stiffness. Joint pain has many potential treatments. Some rely on conventional medicine, which can be found effective, but to some it may cause side effects due to over-dependence.

If you’ve found you’re not getting the relief you want through medications, you can substitute effective all-natural relief found in herbal remedies. Alternative herbs and spices, specifically various types of teas, have been associated with alleviating joint pain and inflammation that can cause rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis. Here are a few herbs that you can serve as a tea or mixed into teas to help get rid of inflammation as well as detoxify the body.

Nettle Tea

Stinging nettle is a prickly plant that has been found helpful in relieving discomfort, particularly in the joints. It contains active compounds that reduces inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines are the messengers between the cells that causes inflammation due to immune response. The compound found in nettle leaves inhibits the protein that activates cytokines in the tissues lining the joints. Nettle tea may not sound like the most inviting remedy, but its cost efficient, easy to access and simple to use. Tea can be made with fresh or dried leaves from the nettle plant, and you can add honey or cinnamon for a better taste.

Green Tea

Green tea is known as an herb with the highest amount of polyphenols, an antioxidant that has an anti-inflammatory effect, and would be a great food to incorporate into a rheumatoid arthritis diet. These anti-inflammatory chemicals can also be found in decaffeinated green tea, so it can be an option if you don’t want the stimulant effect of regular green tea. Green tea also comes in tasty blends with added flavors so it’s easy to find one to your liking. Based on several studies, you need to take at least four to six cups daily to achieve the pain-relieving effects.

Burdock root tea

Burdock root has been used in many herbal remedies because of its numerous medicinal qualities. It contains fatty oils that are known to help with inflammation. You can take this as a tea by chopping up the dried root and mixing it into the boiling water. Allow it to simmer for 10 minutes before straining. It is best to drink it while it’s still warm.

Echinacea tea

Echinacea plant is native to North America and was originally named as Snakeroot because of its restorative effects on snake bites. It is also known to be effective in easing arthritis and joint pain by activating chemicals in the body that decreases inflammation. An echinacea herbal tea consists of leaves, stems and flowers of Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea, including dried extract of its root.

Ginger Tea

Ginger has a stimulating pungent odor that makes into an excellent tea for warming the body as well as relieving fever. Ginger root also has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful in alleviating arthritis and joint pain. It is advisable to consult your doctor regarding taking ginger root since it can increase the risk of bleeding for those taking blood-thinning medications.

Celery Seed Tea

Celery seed has been widely used in India since ancient times. Many specialty tea producers mix celery seed in tea for arthritis treatment. Celery has been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and joint pain. It also eases joint discomfort and reduces body joint degeneration. For a good celery tea concoction, you could mix one teaspoon of crushed celery seeds in a cup and add boiling water. Allow it to steep for 10-20 minutes before straining the tea and serving.

Alfalfa Tea

Alfalfa is a flowery plant from the pea family, which has been used to treat arthritis and inflammation, as well as diabetes and allergies. It is recommended to drink alfalfa leaf tea rather than supplements because the leaves contain important minerals but lesser L-canavanine, which is an amino acid that can cause severe side effects if taken in large amounts. It is best to consult with your doctor before taking alfalfa since it also has immune-boosting properties that may cause problems for those with autoimmune diseases. You can serve alfalfa tea by mixing half to one teaspoon in boiling water, taken after each meal. It can also be taken before a meal to stimulate digestion.

This article was originally posted in December 2013.

Image source

The post Blast From the Past: Best teas for joint pain relief appeared first on T Ching.

On the First Day of Christmas, 52Teas sent to me. . . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 00:00
Every December we happily look forward to the Christmas teas that 52Teas puts together for their Christmas box. Our Sister will be giving us the daily low down on which teas made their way into the box this year .  . . . . The First Day of Christmas Coconut French Toast with Cardamom Maple Syrup Black Tea For the First Day of Christmas, 52 Teas gave to me….coconut crusted French toast with cardamom syrup! This was the tea of the week for June 15, 2015 and at that time I had not yet heard of 52 Teas, so I Read More

WuyiOrigin Mi Lan Xiang

Tea For Me Please - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 20:56
Country of Origin: China
Leaf Appearance: dark, long and slightly twisted
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Liquor: deep gold

There are some pretty cool things about being a tea blogger. Finding random boxes of mystery tea on my doorstep definitely takes the cake. I was lucky enough to have such a box arrive from WuyiOrigin, operated by the well-known tea producer Cindy Chen. I first made the acquaintance of Cindy when tea friend Eric Scott from Tea Geek mentioned how much he enjoyed the beautiful photos she shared of the Wuyi mountains. She and her husband Mr. Zhou both come from tea families and they only sell teas that their family processes.

I'm sure it has been mentioned before but I have a major soft spot for dancong, aka phoenix, oolongs. Huang Zhi Xiang was the first tea that I really fell in love with. It led me down a rabbit hole that I am incredibly happy to still be diving deep into. There are hundreds of different aromas assigned to this type of tea but the most commonly available one is probably Mi Lan Xiang. I often recommend it to beginners as a starting point to educating their palate and discovering what the tea world has to offer.

Even before taking my first sip of this tea I found myself inhaling deeply from both from the bag the tea came in and my gaiwan after the liquor had been poured out. The same sweet, floral aroma that drew me in was reflected in the cup. Mi Lan Xiang means honey orchid fragrance and I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better descriptor. I've had other examples with a more dominant honey note but this one was very well balanced, exactly how I prefer it. There was a strong feeling of hui gan, or returning sweetness, in the back of my throat after each sip.

Be prepared for a long session because these leaves keep giving. I honestly have no idea how many infusions I drank of this tea. They were all delicious though. If you've never tried phoenix oolongs, I highly recommend checking out what WuyiOrigin has to offer. You simply cannot do better than going directly the source.

Mi Lan Xiang sample provided by WuYi Origin.

10 years, 2 weeks and 10 days to make one teacup

T Ching - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 13:00

I’m sure you would agree that a drink tastes better when it’s served in an appropriate cup or glass. Would you even think of drinking Dom Perignon from a plastic cup?!

Japanese tea in particular seems to come alive with taste and depth of character when it nestles up to Mother Earth in the form of clay that has been moulded by hand and fired in a kiln – and the Japanese have almost made pottery a religion.

Like their cuisine, a sushi chef doesn’t cook ramen, nor does a potter from Bizen craft a white pot with glaze. Bizen pottery is unique and not a single piece is the same nor can it ever be. Once you know how it is made, chances are that you too will join the vast number of devout worshippers.

Bizen is the oldest of the “Six Famous Kiln Towns” in Japan. It’s located on Honshu in the Okayama Prefecture. The other five famous areas are Tokoname, Tanba, Echizen, Shigaraki, and Seto. You will also hear about places like Arita, Mino, Hagi, Mashiko and others but they are not the famous “Six”.

Bizen pottery evolved from the ancient unglazed earthenware called Sueyaki and the same techniques have been preserved generation to generation, continuing without a break for over 1000 years.

The key word here is unglazed. It’s almost hard to imagine that a coating of some kind isn’t applied prior to the piece being put into to the kiln. The mysterious power of fire and clay work together to create these incredible pieces of art that are as utilitarian as they are beautiful. By the time you get to the end of this article, you will understand why the pieces are so revered!

Now the fun part…let’s go through the entire process!!

The clay comes from the Bizen area and is dug up from two meters below the rice fields in wintertime. Fresh clay is susceptible to cracking during the firing process so once it’s dug up, it has to mature for several years, with a maximum of 10 years, before being used to make pottery. After the clay has matured, it’s then pounded, dried, “washed” a few times, leached and then the good stuff is reserved for later use, and stored.

The longer the clay is stored, the better it is for making pottery. It’s cut into seat cushion-sized pieces and kneaded rigorously by hand or foot. The clay is then cut into smaller pieces, stones removed, and formed into a chrysanthemum shape. Finally, after long last, it’s now ready to form and fire!

Most of the ceramists fire in a “climbing kiln” (as in up a hill) that uses red pine for the firing process. Around 4000 pieces of firewood help maintain a temperature between 1200 – 1300 degrees. Next, during the reduction process, about 150 bags of charcoal are used and it’s here where embers fall onto the wares and a chemical reaction takes place between the iron in the clay and the carbon from the embers. When the firing is finished, the kiln is cooled down for 10 days and the pieces are removed.

The remarkable beauty that Bizen pottery is famous for comes from the firing process where natural ash and heat transform and adhere to the clay. The artists don’t know what the pieces will look like until they are removed from the kiln. Bizen pottery is so distinctive in color compared to other unglazed pottery like Tokoname for instance.

The pottery has 5 color classifications:

San-giri: (gunmetal grey, dark gray, blue, white). This is caused by the aforementioned reaction between iron in the clay and carbon in the embers.

Goma: (brown with black specs) This is caused by red pine ash sticking to the clay and melting

Hidasuki: (sienna, brown and red) This is caused by rice straw that has been pounded until soft and wrapped onto the piece before being placed into a saggar (special clay box) and put in the kiln. Here the alkali in the rice straw has a reaction with the iron in the clay. The final appearance resembles the flames in the kiln.

Ao-Bizen: (“Bizen” blue, either light or dark) This is similar in process to Hidasuki above but in the final stages, charcoal is placed on top of the saggar, completely covering it. The charcoal consumes the oxygen in the kiln and this is what turns it blue as opposed to red in Hidasuki. It’s challenging to get this blue hue and is a trophy for the connoisseur.

Hai Kaburi: while not so much a color, this is known for the dynamic appearance that develops. This is the most rare of all Bizen ware. It is only from pieces placed at the fire mouth and from being struck by firewood and buried in embers. The ash melts and creates striking marks but this melting ash often causes the pieces to stick to the kiln so only a very few are in perfect condition.

Now you know the process and how the colors came to be, but the real magic happens when you use it! The colors and gloss deepen just like leather does when used over the years through making contact with the oils from your hands. The taste of your beverage, however, you will notice right away!

Through the unglazed surface, the iron in the clay makes water and spirits taste at their finest, flowers in a vase stay fresher, and bubbles in your beer last longer.  I picked up a few “Bizen Balls” to put in my water bottle to give it that sweeeeet “Bizen taste”…but I’ll be drinking my tea from a Bizen cup, that’s for sure…

On my last drive-by, I scooped up 8 incredible cups, made by three Bizen master potters, and they are available on the chikitea.com website. First come, first served as they say!

Images provided by author.

The post 10 years, 2 weeks and 10 days to make one teacup appeared first on T Ching.

Apricot Vanilla Creme from Tazo Tea. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 12:00
Apricot Vanilla Creme, a white tea by Tazo, one that I had never seen prior to the arrival of a traveling teabox. My past experiences with Tazo have been nothing special but this particular teabag has me intrigued. I blame the “creme” since that’s one of those trigger words that catches my eye. “Vanilla” is another. So when I saw this, I knew it was a tea I wanted to try.’ I opened the teabag and the smell of stone fruit and vanilla filled the air. As per the recommended steeping parameters on the teabag, I steeped this for 3 Read More

Holiday Splendor Tea: A Splendid Tea with Friends!

Barb's Tea Shop - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 01:04

Sharing a cup of tea with old and new friends for a good cause (both Barbs wearing red hats)
Tasty tea, delicious food, scenic views. giveaways, festive decor and  a good cause - could a Holiday Splendor  tea get any better?  Well, yes - if you add sharing the whole event with "old" and new friends and I was fortunate to do just that!
Last week, I was a patron of the Holiday Splendor Tea, a fundraiser for Farmington's Warner Mansion, held at Pine Lake Country Club in West Bloomfield. My friend, Barb Tabb told me about the event back in the summer and invited me to join her table. Lucky for me, she stays on top of things and sent me follow-up texts to make sure I got my ticket when I got back from vacation in October.
With Phyllis B. and Linda Pudlik, Tea Lady Extraordinaire
The tea event was hosted by "Tea Lady Extraordinaire", Linda Pudlik. (I must say, she, too, had sent me an email notification back in early Fall). 
Grand staircase at Pine Lake Country Club greets guests with the holiday spirit
The venue was spectacular. The grand staircase in the Country Club's lobby was festooned with fresh green garland, ornaments and red ribbons and welcomed guests with the holiday spirit right from the front door.

Beautiful views of tablescapes and Pine Lake

The dining area was filled with scenic views as well, from the tables donning white linen tablecloths accented with bright red napkins to the panoramic views of  Pine Lake visible from the walls of windows that line the room.

Festive tea courtesy Mary Jones (seated at the far right)

The yummy menu items included butternut squash soup, Asiago chicken and (what I live for!) dessert surprise. It was a mini chocolate bombe, beautifully decorated and absolutely scrumptious. All of this was accompanied by bottomless cups of "Christmas Sparrow Tea", a delicious black tea spice blend courtesy Mary Jones (also in attendance).

Menu and Agenda for the Holiday Splendor Tea

We started with butternut squash soup. . .
. . . and ended with dessert surprise!
In a gathering of friends, brought together through shared passions, Linda Pudlik's opening remarks rang true. She reminded us  how we have all come together through our common bond of tea.  I looked to my own table and around the room, and in this wonderful  world of tea enthusiasts, I have, indeed,  met some of the most amazing women.

Despite a chilly Michigan mid-week afternoon, when holiday obligations have us pulled in all directions, (not to mention all the work piling up at the office and home), we came together to share a cup of hot tea and to support not only a good cause, but each other.  

Linda Shewbridge won two gift baskets!
As if that wasn't enough, there were raffles and a Silent Auction with incredible items. Several guests won gift baskets and Barb T. hit the jackpot with an Amish-made quilt.

Barb T. shows off her silent auction win.
All guests received a party favor courtesy the Left/Right game, so everyone went home a winner. But, we all knew that when we arrived. To take time out, in the busiest month of the year, to share a cup of tea with old and new friends - well, it just doesn't get any better than that.

The Lucky Snitch from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe and Curiosities. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:00
Riddle’s Tea Shoppe and Curiosities is an awesome Etsy store that sells many fandom-inspired goods. There is a big focus on Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts and Lord of the Rings/the Hobbit inspired teas, post cards, buttons, and other trinkets, though she explores other fandoms as well. Each item displayed beautifully in the images on her site. In fact, that is how I found this company, through the beautiful images strewn throughout Instagram advertising her products. For weeks I tried to buy her many tea samples but each Wednesday when she restocked, everything sold out so fast that I was unable to Read More

Bourbon Smoked White Tea – Embrew Teas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 20:07
I am not going to lie but I was very wary of this tea for one of my first teas by Embrew, Creamy Honey Oolong, was one of my first negative reviews. But then again I chock that up to not liking honey. This tea surprised me, to say the least. For I haven’t had a close relationship with white teas but I did know that white tea leaves were the ones that lacked the most flavor. But not this tea blend, this tea had a depth and a smokiness that left me wanting cup after cup. Now as the Read More

Totem Tea Golden Hand Taiwan Black

Notes on Tea - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 16:01

I must admit that when I think of the name "Golden Hand" I also think of "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey. Totem Tea named this Taiwanese tea for the "golden tips of the leaves" and because the tea is "completely handmade". Indeed, the dry leaves are dark with golden highlights. The single note of chocolate from the dry leaves is not indicative of the many notes of the liquor.

The recommended steeping parameters are 150 mL, 195F, 30s. I steeped the entire 5+ gram sample in approximately 150mL of 205F water for 30 second infusions.

The first infusion was robust. The liquor was medium to full bodied. There was no doubt that this tea was a hong cha. It was malty, sweet, and fruity. The second infusion revealed dry, fruity chocolate notes with a tart red fruit tail note. I detected a creamy texture on the middle to the back of my tongue. There was a lingering woody taste which I identified as cedar but I think this is my default woody note in the same way that rose is my default floral note when it comes to tea tasting. The flavors did not stop there. The cooling spice effect of Ruby 18 was also present as well as a warm, wet soil taste, though clean, not funky.

I steeped this tea two more times both of which were increasingly less robust than the previous one. The third infusion retained the creamy textured tail note. The liquor tasted of a chalky, unsweetened chocolate and produced a lingering drying effect. The fourth and final infusion was floral with a rough bark taste, and a chocolate tail note.

The best of the session was the second infusion. If I steeped this tea Western style if I could extract an entire cup of second-infusion flavors?! The multi-dimensional quality of the second infusion can be explained by the fact that this tea is a new cultivar derived from Ruby 20, Ruby 12, Jin Xuan, and Is Jun Chun.

Golden Hand Taiwan Black and other samples were provided by Totem Tea.

P.S. I received several sticks of incense with my tea samples from Totem Tea. I never thought it was appropriate to be in a scented environment when drinking tea. Therefore I have been reluctant to burn the incense. However, I did pair the young sandalwood incense with the Old World Qing Xin Oolong, a tea review I will post soon.

Christmas Tea Blend 2017

T Ching - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 13:00

I’ve been meaning to get back to making a masala chai and a Christmas tea blend, so to clear through both I combined the themes.  This also contains a touch of bitter orange marmalade to fill in the spice range with a little fruit but the title seemed wordy adding it.

I’ve done Christmas tea blends before, and talked through what that’s all about quite a bit.  Two years ago I did a fruit and spice blend, and last year’s version went a bit further from the basics (black tea, orange citrus, and cinnamon) to include vanilla, cacao nibs, and black cherry jam, so based on chocolate covered cherries.  It was nice, just a bit removed from a typical dry tea and spice blend.  

This year I didn’t put the advance thought in and prep was mostly limited to what I had around.  That actually came up as both a positive and negative factor in the outcome.

-Thai organic CTC black tea
-ginger, clove, cardamom, touch of salt and black pepper
-bitter orange marmalade
-white chocolate
-palm sugar, milk

I did have to buy the black tea for this; funny there was no CTC tea in the house.  I think my wife picked up a couple of free tea bags in a hotel stay once but I went ahead and bought some loose black tea anyway.

I used all dry spices; spice-rack versions.  If the spices are relatively fresh that’s fine (not on the old side, I mean, anything in jars isn’t fresh in the other sense), since spices have a pretty good life-span.  Flavor dropping off is one thing but after a couple of years they really can pick up a mustiness.  Ginger is typically easy to use fresh, since we cook with the root here, and it’s even easy to find back in the US, but we seemed to be out.  I think the powdered ginger was the oldest of the spices and did contribute a slight mustiness.  Luckily the proportion of ginger was quite low in this version, something I’ll get into more in the next section.

I would expect that black cherry would be nice for the fruit balance, or orange peel for citrus, but bitter orange marmalade was the closest thing on hand.  I considered squeezing in a bit of fresh pomelo juice (Asian grapefruit), since that was on hand around, but didn’t expect it to work as well.

White chocolate was sort of a gamble.  I wasn’t sure the texture would work, but then using real vanilla bean (in the past) does contribute a really thick, creamy texture to spice and tea blends, which is still ok.  Adding a touch of salt gives blends balance.  I’m not sure it changed much but I went with a dash of black pepper for this version, which isn’t atypical for masala chai, I just don’t like peppery chai.  Palm sugar isn’t that different than a natural brown sugar; it was really just what was around.

Proportions, process

The blend was mostly black tea.  Clove was heaviest after that, with this version light on ginger.  There was a good bit of chocolate, nearly as much as in a Hershey bar, but not enough to make the drink into a tea flavored hot chocolate instead of a chocolate flavored tea.  I didn’t measure those, which leads into an aside I’ve been meaning to mention, and probably have already covered, about not sticking to well-determined proportions or parameters.

It comes from an approach to cooking.  I taught myself to cook in my 20s, based on my mother’s cooking (which is quite good, mainly traditional foods back in Pennyslvania), and on a partial study in making dorm food in college.  Part of my approach was to never, ever use recipes, except maybe for something like chocolate chip cookies–those are touchy.  It was about the process as much as the outcome.  Funny that just came up in talking about making tea; you can probably imagine why.  People get into the ceremonial aspects of that, or see it as some sort of Zen practice, with the Japanese tea ceremony based on that sort of thinking.  I could be more careful about using ideal parameters (I am an engineer too; I get it), but then it becomes about optimization, not the experience.  For me winging it is part of an organic process, and experience limited natural variation is too. 

So back to that blend.  I mixed the ingredients and simmered for around 15 minutes.  For more whole spices I’d probably go with at least 20 minutes, but that’s fine for finer processed versions.  Whenever you taste such a mix without milk it seems like you’ve completely ruined it, but adding the milk swings it all into a reasonable balance.  It’s probably more typical to simmer along with the milk, and it’s my impression that the milk does actually cook a little, changing the flavor, but this time I didn’t.

Images provided by author

The post Christmas Tea Blend 2017 appeared first on T Ching.

1st Place Tea: Snowflake from Aromatica Fine Teas

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 19:23
Depending on where you live, you may have seen some snowflakes flying on the air this time of year, which would be the perfect time to brew up a cup of Snowflake tea from Aromatica Fine Teas. This is an award-winning blend, taking 1st place in the North American Tea Championships in 2011.  Thinking about tea championships puts some silly images in my head, like some kind of tea Olympics, with little packs of tea on a snowy downhill ski slope.  Anyway, the story is getting away from me. Like beautiful, white, creamy snowdrifts, this black tea is blanketed with Read More

Holiday Cooking with Tea: Scallops in Keemun

T Ching - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 13:00

Are you ready to add a new cooking with tea tradition to the holiday table this year? Here’s an idea for a delicious and festive use of Chinese black tea which features fresh scallops, seasonal citrus juice and the elusive subtle flavor of a favorite tea from Anhui province, mainland China, with their characteristic thin tightly rolled leaves. With a quick flash in a hot pan, the delicate marine morsels add gloss and intrigue to any menu. Sweet tasting, scallops absorb flavors from the liquids surrounding them. Here’s how to get the most out of a short list of ingredients:

The down and dirty:

Brew up some of your favorite Keemun to normal drinking strength (3 grams per 8 ounces of 212° F. water) and set aside. Squeeze a few tangerines and sieve the juice. Finely mince a medium sized garlic clove. Lightly coat the bottom of a heavy skillet. If you like, you can add finely minced fresh ginger to add a little zing and heat to the dish.  

The Recipe:

To serve 4-6  as a festive appetizer

1 lb. fresh medium-sized scallops, well dried on absorbent paper towels
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Oil to sauté the scallops (canola, grapeseed or light olive would work here)
1 medium-sized garlic clove, smashed and then finely minced
1 piece measuring about 1” in length of fresh gingerroot, peeled and finely minced
¼ c. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 c. freshly squeezed sweet citrus juice of your choice (orange, tangerine, clementine, pomelo)
1 c. brewed Keemun tea
1 T. sweet butter
Garnish: Scallion greens, finely sliced

Ingredients may be gathered and measured out early in the day when you are serving the dish. Refrigerator and cover.

When ready to prepare the dish, which should be just before serving, heat the skillet with a film of oil in it. Carefully place the scallops in the pan and over high heat, sear both sides. Quickly remove them from the pan and place on a plate, covered to keep warm. With the heat turned down to medium, add the garlic (and ginger, if using) and sauté until fragrant. Do not brown. Add the soy, citrus juice, and tea and bring to a boil to reduce by half. When reduced, return the scallops and any juices that have collected in the plate where you stored the scallops and cook for another minute or so to reduce the pan sauce to coating consistency. Off heat, add butter and stir to melt and blend. Serve immediately on warmed plates over Chinese egg noodles or other pasta. Shower the dish with thinly sliced bits of scallion greens.

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Objectively good tea

A Tea Addict's Journal - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:55

A friend of mine had a grandma who loved drinking wine. However, she didn’t drink wine the normal way. She had nice red wines with ice. Yes, literal ice cubes inside the glass. That’s how she liked her wine, even if it’s some nice vintage first growth Bordeaux. You can imagine the horror, of course, of those serving the wine, but when an old lady wanted her wine that way and doesn’t give a damn about what you think (and she’s paying)… well, you give it to her that way.

I think in general we can agree that this is probably a sub-optimal way of serving wine. Nobody worth their salt in the wine industry would tell you to serve wines with ice cubes, unless it’s the crappiest box wines that are basically glorified fruit juice with alcohol. You also aren’t likely to go around asking for wines like that – because you know this would sound silly. Most of us, whether you think it or not, care at least somewhat about what other people around you think – and if you ask for wines with ice cubes when it comes to fine wines, it can make you look rather silly.

I am writing about this because a somewhat recent discussion in a facebook tea group talked about brewing oolongs with cooler water. My general stance on this is quite simple – brewing oolongs with water that isn’t very close to boiling is a waste of tea – sort of like having wine with ice cubes that end up diluting the wine. It doesn’t bring out the best in the tea, especially among higher end teas. If you’re paying good money for the leaves, then brewing the leaves with, say, 85C water, you’re basically throwing money away.

The argument I hear sometimes is that brewing at lower temperatures would help alleviate problems – bitterness, sourness, astringency, etc. Yes, that’s true, brewing at lower temperatures does reduce those things, but it also reduces the amount of flavour you’re getting out of the tea. Especially in the case of the more tightly rolled oolongs these days, if you use water that isn’t boiling it takes 2-3 infusions to even get the leaves to open up. Everything is on a reduced extraction schedule. You end up prolonging infusions or you end up with a weaker, flatter, less interesting brew. It’s like putting ice cubes in wine.

This is not to say you can’t have it that way – sure, if you really prefer it that way, go for it. It’s your money and your tea, after all, so drink however you’d like. That isn’t to say there is no absolute best way to brew it, and no objective way to judge a tea. The thing is, if you are skillful in brewing, none of those problems – bitterness, sourness, astringency – are actually problems. You can manage them away with the right ratio of leaves to water, with the right time for infusions, and having an instinct to switch it up as you go along depending on how the last cup went. You, as the person brewing the tea, are in full control. Using cooler water would help avoid you running into problems, but it also handicaps you in the maximum amount you can get out of the leaves – so it cuts both ways.  The real way to avoid them is to “git gud” – improve your skills and do it so you don’t run into problems with bitterness or unpleasant tastes, instead of handicapping the tea with warm water.

This also brings me to another factor that is rarely mentioned in online English language discussion on tea drinking – what you’re looking for is different. To many Chinese anyway, drinking a tea is not just about the flavour in your mouth the moment you swallow. How you judge a tea is as much about the tea’s lasting fragrance, instead of the ephemeral and momentary floral effervescence  that you get in your mouth. When I drink tea at the office, I particularly enjoy the fact that, half an hour after my last cup as I’m driving home from work, I can still taste the cup of tea I just had – its aftertaste glows in my mouth. With poor quality tea or weakly brewed tea, you can’t get that. Yes, the moment you get with a nice floral taste might be somewhat enjoyable, but the real difference marker between a good and a great tea is how long it stays with you. That sort of effect and experience you can only get if you brew your tea somewhat strong. It is only then that  you can relish it.

This is also why competition or commercial grading of tea happen in standard brews with boiling water – because once you’ve had enough teas, you quickly know what’s better, and what’s not. One of the key markers is how much stuff there is for the tea to give up – the more it has and the deeper the taste, the better the tea is. If you try a sip of the competition-brewed tea, they’re all really bitter, kinda nasty, and not very pleasant, but the good ones will show you a kinder, gentler side that will stay with you for a long time, whereas a bad tea is just bitter and thin. Taste matters on an individual level – some people will always prefer X over Y, even if by objective measures Y is better than X (the analogy I gave in the facebook thread was that some people will always like Big Mac over a nicely made gourmet burger with great ingredients). Just because some people are contrary doesn’t exclude the possibility that there’s an objective way to measure something we consume.

The Unicorn! from 52Teas. . . .

SororiTEA Sisters - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:00
For my 25th birthday, my family surprised me with a sweet table. An entire sweet table! Not just any sweet table though. It was a unicorn themed sweet table and it was amazing. So, you can be sure that when 52 Teas came out with a unicorn tea, I would be all over it. Lucky for me, I didn’t even need to place an order because I won a contest and this arrived at my door. I would say it was meant to be. This tea was inspired by the limited time frappucino from a certain coffee shop. It is Read More
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