Trying New Teas for the New Year

Photo Nov 27, 3 33 19 PM.jpg

Dearies, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Kat’s always making a few, and to be honest, she only ends up following through on a few of them. But this year I’ve decided to help her with one of her resolutions: Keeping an open mind to new teas! I think I could be quite helpful with this, especially since I’m the official tea steeper! Are there teas you haven’t tried, or perhaps teas you’ve been hesitant to try? Here are a few that may be new to you, or at least teas that are on your radar, but you haven’t actually tasted:

Gyokuro- Ok dearies, as far as Japanese teas go, I’m sure most of you have tried Sencha, matcha, and possibly genmaicha. But have you tried gyokuro? This tea is a little more expensive than the others, but it has a wonderful flavor that many call ‘umami’. A good gyokuro almost tastes like broth and has a pleasing sweetness. The tea is different from other Japanese greens because it is shaded before harvest. The shading causes the tea plants to reduce their rate of photosynthesis and the result is that special umami taste. Dearies, I’d love to know who discovered this method of cultivating tea, wouldn’t you? If you are interested, you can learn a little more about Japanese green teas in my post here.

White Tea- White teas are very versatile. Young tea buds and leaves are plucked in spring, then withered and dried. They are just barely oxidized as well. White teas have a range in quality, so it’s important to try a few different varities. The various types of white tea have different flavor profiles but they all have a nice freshness since the leaves are so young and fresh. Look for Silver Needles and White Peony white teas. They definitely are unlike any other kids of tea. Learn more about white teas and their flavors in my previous post here.

Puerh- If you’ve had a puerh, you’ll definitely remember it. This is a fermented type of tea from Yunnan that comes in two main categories: ‘sheng’ which is the raw puerh that ages slowly over time, and ‘shou’ which is aged through a more rapid human-controlled process. Since Puerh is an aged tea, you can keep it for years and if stored correctly it should get even better with age. In fact, Kat has a shou puerh that dear Char brought back from Yunnan many years ago. High quality sheng puerh can be very expensive, especially when it’s an older vintage. This is because the aging process is controlled, and requires a skilled artisan to get it just right. A good sheng can be sweet and grassy,if young, and woodsy and slightly leathery if older, and also a bit bitter. Shou puerh is created with just the right conditions of moisture and heat to rapidly ferment the tea. Because it is produced more quickly, it is more affordable. It has a much more pungent flavor with a dark, thick brew. Puerh can be a bit of an acquired taste, but Dearies there are many people that go crazy for it! They collect it, trade it, and drink it daily. Why not give it a try?

Finally, there are so many herbal blends out there that are far different from things like mint and chamomile. Try turmeric, lemon verbena, basil, and tulsi! Herbal teas are all very different, and can even be fun to blend. You can even try them iced, they are quite refreshing any time of year.

Dearies, this is a New Year’s resolution you can stick to! Just pick a few teas and get tasting. How simple is that? Happy steeping!

Ask Tippy: What is Genmaicha?

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Dearies, it’s time for our next installment of ‘Ask Tippy’! This is where you the readers get to ask me anything you like about tea! Our latest question comes from a reader named Betty.

Q. Tippy, what is genmaicha? I was in a Japanese restaurant over the weekend, and it was on the menu. Is it a green tea?

A. Very good question, Betty! Genmaicha is in fact a Japanese tea blend that includes green tea. The tea is usually bancha or sencha, with roasted and popped brown rice added in. This is a common tea to find in Japanese restaurants, as it’s a mellow, every day drinking tea.

The quality of the genmaicha depends on the green tea used. As I mentioned it is commonly found with bancha or Sencha. Sencha is the most popular Japanese green tea and varies in quality based on the season it is picked. The tea is steamed rather than pan fired, and produces a lovely green hue and deeply vegetal flavor when steeped. Bancha is quite similar but produced from both leaves and stems of the tea plant so the quality is a little lower than Sencha. But both are lovely when blended with the roasted rice. To create the rice for the tea, the rice is soaked, steamed, and then dried and roasted. The rice used can be white or brown, but usually white rice is used. It looks brown from the roasting process.

In Japanese, genmai means roasted rice. Cha means tea. When you first open a bag of genmaicha you may be surprised by the nutty aroma. The roasted rice gives the blend a deliciously earthy, nutty scent that pairs very nicely with the vegetal green tea. The other thing that you may notice is something a bit unique for tea- popcorn? It’s actually popped rice! On occasion the rice will pop while it’s roasted, which makes it look like popcorn!

In some cases it can also have some matcha mixed in. This blend will usually be a bit more expensive than typical genmaicha. If you’re not sure if there is matcha in your genmaicha, you’ll be able to easily tell once you open the bag. The roasted rice will have a greenish hue from the matcha, just like in my above picture.

If this tea sounds interesting to you, definitely seek it out! It’s widely available and is often offered in Japanese restaurants. Enjoy!