Tea For Me Please

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Want to learn more about tea? Come follow my journey with the leaf. Fun and informative posts, tea reviews and more.Nicole Martinhttps://plus.google.com/103097147251455801975noreply@blogger.comBlogger1652125
Updated: 5 days 23 hours ago

Tea & Fromage with The French Cheese Board and Royal Tea NY

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 16:00

Tea blogging isn't the most glamorous of niches but every once in a while I get invited to something that makes all of my friends jealous. Last week I attended a fantastic tea and cheese pairing event put together by The French Cheese Board and Royal Tea NY. I have no idea how I have gone this long without knowing about this studio devoted to all things French cheese. They had me at brie! I was the first guest to arrive which gave me a chance to talk shop with Ravi from Royal Tea NY. It was also a perfect time to indulge in some deliciously cheesy appetizers (along with a glass of white wine).

I was pleasantly surprised when fellow tea bloggers +sara shacket and +Natasha N walked in. They both have fantastic palates so I really appreciated being able to compare notes with them as we went through each of the pairings.

The first pairing of the night was Époisses and sencha. Our hosts explained that this cheese is from the Burgundy region of France. The rind is washed with Marc de Bourgogne, giving it a distinctive reddish color. I had never heard of this liquor before but it is a type of brandy that is made out of pomace, the waste materials that are left over after making wine. Japanese green tea can be a bit tricky to pair foods with but this combination worked amazingly well. The sencha was an asamushi style from Chiran in Kagoshima Prefecture. Although light bodied, it packed a lot of umami. The creamy notes of the tea matched the silky texture of the Époisses.

Next up was Mimolette paired with a Phoenix oolong. This is a hard cheese that is produced in Pas-de-Calais. Not only was this combination delicious but it also gave us a bit of a history lesson as well. This cheese was originally invented at the request of King Louis XIV in order to replicate a popular Dutch cheese called Edam. The rind is full of pockmarks that are created by cheese mites. It was a bit sharper than I was expecting but it also had a natural sweetness that I really enjoyed. The tea selected was an aromatic and enjoyable Mi Lan Xiang, or honey orchid fragrance. Dancong oolongs can be very tricky to brew but this one had been prepared perfectly. The charcoal roasting of the tea along with its fruity and floral aromas matched well with the nutty and fruity notes of the Mimolette.

The next selection paired an organic 2nd flush Darjeeling with Bûche de Chèvre from the Loir Valley. This was our only goat cheese of the night and it came in a large log. The taste was creamy yet pungent and was balanced well by the fruity character of Darjeeling. I'm usually not a fan of goat cheese but this one wasn't overly gamey as they sometimes tend to be. The tea was lightly astringent with a brisk and refreshing finish. I have not tried anything from the Phuguri Estate but I definitely want to explore their offerings a bit more now.

The final pairing of the night was a Brillat-Savarin and Golden Yunnan black tea. It is a very soft triple-cream cheese. It garnered oohs and ahs from everyone at the event even before we took a bite. It was so creamy that it looked like almost like a smear of Irish butter. Holy cow was this stuff good! The Golden Yunnan was super chocolaty, so much so that it felt like I was eating chocolate cheesecake. It also had all of the caramel and yam-like notes that I look for in a Dian Hong.
I'd like to thank The French Cheese Board and Royal Tea NY for a wonderful evening. They sent us home with goody bags which included a ton of information about cheese as well as a bag of that delicious Golden Yunnan. I went home inspired to try to put together my own pairing event.

Friday Round Up: April 16th - April 22nd

Fri, 04/21/2017 - 16:00
A Short Tea Adventure in Vancouver
+Payton Swick visited Vancouver last week and shared a bit on his blog about o5 Tea. This spot has been on my wish list for a long time.

How Much Tea is in a Teaspoon?
I've been an advocate of weighing tea leaves for a long time now. +Georgia SS did an awesome comparison that shows exactly why this is important.

2016 Cream Shou Puer from White2Tea
+Charissa Gascho reviewed a shou puerh from White2Tea that definitely piqued my interest. I love her trial by fire bombproof test.

A rare tea and artisan chocolate soiree curated by The Tea Squirrel
+Anna Mariani hosted an amazing chocolate and tea pairing event in San Francisco. The pictures are beautiful and I can't wait to try some of these combinations myself.

Remembering Mary Lou-Heiss
The tea industry lost an important pioneer recently. +Jo J's tribute to Mary Lou-Heiss of Tea Trekker was both personal and touching.

What is Puerh Tea?

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 22:09

We've arrived at the final installment of introductory guides to each type of tea. I was worried that these posts might be too "old hat" for seasoned tea drinkers but also felt that they were important to have here for newbies. Thanks for hanging in there folks!

Puerh is a fermented tea, part of a larger category known as Hei Cha (dark tea), that is produced only in the Yunnan Province of China. Most of the tea trees used are of the larger leafed variety, Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica. Tea production in this region dates back as early as the Han Dynasty. Puerh is unique in that the leaves are often compressed into flat cakes called bings as well as other shapes like mushrooms, bricks, and birds nests.
Puerh can be divided into two distinct types. Sheng, or raw, puerh has a greener appearance because the leaves are allowed to retain some of the natural enzymes, allowing them to ferment and age over time. This process can be sped up by storing the tea in a carefully controlled, humid environment. Shou, ripe or cooked, puerh has a very dark appearance because the leaves are artificially fermented prior to being pressed into cakes. This process also dramatically affects the taste, making it dark and earthy.
A typical sheng cake, silvery buds mixed with darker greens and browns
A typical shou puerh cake, dark with more broken leaves
Sheng and shou are handled similarly in the initial stages of processing. After harvesting the leaves are withered and pan-fired. The heat level is high enough to bring oxidation to a near halt but it isn't stopped completely. They are then rolled, by hand or machine, and then dried in the sun. The finished leaves are referred to as mao cha, or rough tea. Raw mao cha can be sold and consumed as is but it is most oftenly lightly steamed and compressed into a cake.

Shou puerh then undergoes an additional step of wet piling known as wo dui. The leaves are then sprayed with water and covered in order to maintain a moist environment, effectively creating a tea compost. Beneficial bacteria such as Aspergillus spp. and Penicillium spp. play a role in this process as do yeasts and other microflora. This artificial fermentation process was invented in 1973 as a way to quickly replicate the aging process that can occur in very old raw puerh.
The two varieties are very different from each other in taste and I find that most people will have a strong preference for one or the other. Sheng is bright and astringent with complex vegetal and floral notes. It can be quite bitter but is also known for hui gan, a comeback sweetness that most people will feel in their throat. I often describe raw puerh as a green tea that punches you in the face, but in a really nice way.

Shou puerh can be described as extremely dark and earthy (think forest floor after it rains) but it will usually have a natural sweetness with very little astringency. Notes of dark cocoa and even dried fruits can pop up if you find a really good quality one. Poorly processed tea can be so unpleasant that it borders on fishy so be wary of buying from unknown sources.
How to Brew It
When using a western method water temperatures are usually around boiling point, 212° Fahrenheit. If you are finding a young puerh to be too bitter, try dialing it back to 175° Fahrenheit. Steep times can vary between 3 and 5 minutes depending on the tea. Puerh can be really hard to measure, especially if it is compressed, but weighing your leaves will help make sure that you are using the right amount. Most teas will call for 2 to 2.5 grams of leaf per 8oz cup of water. 
Gongfu is my go-to way to prepare puerh because I really like the way it concentrates the flavors. Gaiwans are a handy tool with any tea, particularly with puerh because you have more control over the heat level and pouring speed. Yixing or Jianshui clay vessels are also very popular. Water temperature will usually be from around 212° Fahrenheit with steep times will usually be about 30 seconds.
Pro Tip: If your shou puerh is too earthy, try giving the leaves a short hot water rinse (10-20 seconds) before making your first cup.
What is your favorite region for puerh? Let me know about it in the comments!

Friday Round Up: April 9th - April 15th

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 16:00
DIY Tea Dyed Easter Eggs
Easter is right around the corner and +Lu Ann Pannunzio has the perfect way for tea drinkers to celebrate. I'll definitely be trying my hand at using tea to dye eggs this year.

Tea Experience: Cha Le Te
Michelle at One More Steep wrote about her experience at a new-to-me tea shop in Vancouver. Even though I'm close to NYC, I definitely have some serious tea envy when it comes to Canada.

Tasting: Tea Dealers Thurbo 2nd Flush Darjeeling
It's been far too long since I had a really good Darjeeling. +sara shacket's post this week reminded me that I need to change that immediately.

We May Have to Slap Some People
There are few who hate teabags more than +Robert Godden.  I had a feeling this rant was coming after I saw a recent news article.

Gingham Sencha Tea Cakes
+Bonnie Eng has done it again, this time with sencha infused cakes that are almost too cute to eat. The sweet gingham pattern is super fun!