A Farewell For Now

aroundtheworld

Dearies, Kat just gave me the most exciting news! We’re going on a trip around the world! Apparently she’s been planning this trip for quite some time, but kept it as a surprise. We’re going to see some amazing tea-growing regions! Isn’t it thrilling? We are going to tour though India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, and Japan! We may even get to Africa! Oh I’m so excited that I can hardly sit still in my saucer. I’m going to learn so much more about tea! How it’s grown, processed, and sold! It’s the trip of a lifetime.

If you’re wondering how a fragile tea cup will travel, don’t worry! Kat will wrap me up very well, and she even has a special velvet-lined box for me. I feel positively royal! Lately I’ve been longing for my travel days with dear old Char, and I’m so delighted that I’ll get to have all new adventures with her granddaughter Kat. I think this time around things will look quite different! It’s been a very long time since I’ve left the house, let alone travelled to a far-away place.

NYCtea

Of course, this means the blog may be quiet for a while. I won’t have access to our computer since we’ll be out and about. I am sad that the blog will go dark for a while. I’ll certainly miss all of you dear readers very much! I cherish our twitter conversations! But thank you so much for being loyal followers and reading all I have to say about tea. It’s been a pleasure to share with you. I do hope we can connect again soon. This is farewell for now, but I hope to see you all when we get back! Take care Dearies, and happy sipping.

Advertisements

Books About Tea

teabooks

Dearies it’s been so cold lately, all Kat wants to do is stay home, curl up and read a good book. Can you blame her? I certainly can’t. I always make sure to add a nice warm cup of tea to accompany her reading. The other day I noticed just how many tea books she has on her shelf! It made me wonder, do all of your lovely readers have favorite tea books too? If you are interested in starting a tea book collection, here are a few that Kat and I recommend:

The Art and Craft of Tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl: This is one of Kat’s newest favorites. The book has bold graphics, and gorgeous photos. It gives information on tea from all around the world and even has wonderful tea-centric recipes to make at home. This book has great information on tea growing, processing, and drinking all around the world.

The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt. Mr. Norwood Pratt is one of the most interesting and important living tea experts. This book combines beautiful prose, tea history, tea facts, and tea drinking culture from around the world. It’s a lovely book to pick up and read something new and interesting each time you open it.

Tea: History, Terroir, Varieties by Kevin Gascoyne, Francois Marchand, Jasmin Desharnais, and Hugo Americi- This has been Kat’s trusty tea handbook for years. This book has detailed explanations about all the tea growing regions. Learn all about how tea is cultivated, and processed. It gets into detail on the importance of terroir- the climate, soil, and unique characteristics of each tea growing region- and how this changes the taste of the tea. This is a perfect book for the tea lover that wants to deepen their knowledge.

teabooks1

There are also books that specialize in types of tea. For example if you’d like to learn more about Puer, you should try Puer Tea: Ancient Caravans and Urban Chic by Jinghong Zhang. Puer is a very different variety of tea, and this book will take you through how it’s processed, where it is grown, and give you lots of interesting historical facts. A must for anyone that wants to learn more about puer!

For something tea related but a fun fiction read, you can try the Tea Shop Mystery series by Laura Childs. This mystery series centers around a charming tea shop in Charleston, South Carolina and the vivacious owner.

Enjoy your book and tea reading, Dearies! It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up

Tippy’s Tea of the Month: Longjing

 longjing1

Dearies I know we’ve talked about Green Teas quite a bit, but there is one in particular that is a Chinese staple with an interesting story, Longjing. This tea’s name translates to ‘dragon well’, and is grown only in China’s Zhejiang province. Why is this well-loved tea called Dragon Well? It all goes back to the legend! There are actually a few different versions of the legend, but in my favorite version, a Taoist monk discovered a dragon hiding in an old well. The season had been in drought, and once the villagers learned of the Monk’s discovery they prayed to this dragon to bring the rain and fill the well to capacity. After the prayers, it started to rain! This water flowed from the well and nourished the surrounding tea is grown.

 The tea itself has a flat needle-like shape with a lovely jade green color. This tea is pan-fired which gives it a nutty taste (it often reminds me of chestnuts) with a fresh vegetal aroma. It also has a cooked veggie flavor which we often associate with green beans. The tea is nutty, vegetal and sweet.

longjing2

 The quality of longjing depends on when it was harvested. The earlier in the spring, the more expensive the tea will be. For the highest quality, one leaf and one bud is picked. These young leaves and buds create a very gentle, fresh and tender flavor for the tea.

The highest grade leaves are pan fried in small batches in a wok. They  needed to be heated as soon as possible to prevent oxidation. The pan-firing technique creates the lovely nutty flavor you taste in the tea. The leaves are pressed to the sides of the wok to make sure they are properly dried. This also creates the flat needle-like shape of the finished leaves. If your tea leaves have an even color to them, you know they were dried very well, to make sure the heat was even for the whole batch. Lower grades of longjing are also pan heated but usually in large revolving drums. The teas that are machine roasted are still quite delicious and more affordable.

longjing3

As with many coveted teas, longjing can be ‘faked’. You may not be getting spring harvested tea, or tea grown in Zhejiang. The best way to tell is use your eyes and mouth. Does it look like a vibrant green tea? Does it smell and taste like early spring? Veggies and chestnut? It is smooth and gentle or is it bitter? If you taste enough good quality longjing you will know what to look for. As always dearies, it’s about tasting, tasting, tasting!

To brew your longjing you can use a gaiwan, or a small teapot. My favorite way is to just add the leaves right in the water using either a bowl style cup or tall glass. Just keep filling up your vessel with hot water as you finish it, re-steeping those beautiful leaves. This is the way it’s commonly consumed in China.  Dearies no matter how you steep it, it’s a beautiful tea. If you try it you’ll understand why it’s so revered in China. Happy Steeping!

Behind The Leaf: Matcha

matchabtl1

We all love matcha, don’t we? It tastes delicious and is quite energizing. It has a natural sweetness and is balanced out by slightly bitter and vegetal notes. You can make it the authentic way or just shake and go. You can even cook and bake with it. It’s quite the versatile tea! No wonder it’s so popular. But do you know really what matcha is, and why it’s powdered? I’m happy to tell you a little bit more about this elusive tea.

As you probably know, matcha is ground green tea. You may also know it’s used in the Japanese tea ceremony called chanoyu. But Japan wasn’t the first to use powdered tea. It was actually brought to Japan in the 12th century by Buddhist monks. Grinding tea to a powder actually began in China and it was consumed this way before it became popular in Japan. Whisking powdered tea in a bowl eventually went out of fashion in China, but Japan has kept this traditional alive.

matchabtl2

Before you purchase that magical ground green tea powder, much needs to happen. Leaves are picked by machine, then withered and steamed. Steaming the leaves is unique to Japanese tea which gives it that vibrant green hue. The teas are then dried and rolled. After this process the leaves are carefully sorted, and the tough veins are removed. The processed (but not yet ground) leaves are called Tencha. The tencha is ground to create the fine matcha powder.

The highest quality matcha can be found in the Uji region, using leaves that have been shaded before plucking. The shading causes an increase in chlorophyll and creates a more intense, sweet vegetal flavor. Higher quality matcha will have a smooth, sweet taste with just a touch of bitterness. Lower quality tea will be more bitter and won’t have that lovely smooth texture. When you’re buying matcha you should look for a bright dark green vibrant powder, not a light green or pale green powder. The shade grown leaves are darker and vivid green, and will have more sweetness and flavor. But if you are on a tight budget please select the matcha that’s best for you! It’s still a lovely tea experience, no matter what grade you choose.

Behind The Leaf: Indian Black Teas

indianblack1

India is known for some of the most delicious black teas. I’m sure you’ve had many of them in blends and didn’t even know it! They can be bold and brisk, or delicate and nuanced. India is also starting to produce white, green, and oolong teas, but for today we’re going to stick with the black teas that grow all throughout the country.

There are three main growing regions in India: Assam, Nilgiri Hills, and Darjeeling. These three areas make delicious black teas that taste very different from one another. That’s due to terroir. The climate, altitude and soil all have an effect on the flavors. Also the plant cultivars used also change the flavor.

First up, let’s discuss Assam- This region is in Northeast India near Burma. It is a tropical region that has about 900 gardens! The elevation is about sea level, and the weather is mild and can get very hot during monsoon season. Much of the tea grown in this region is processed as CTC (cut, tear, curl) tea. Small cut leaves that create an even stronger brew that steeps up quite quickly. The cultivar that grows here is camellia sinensis var. assamica and was of course named after the region. The tea is brisk and malty. It can commonly be found in English Breakfast and English Afternoon blends. It’s made to steep up strong, as the Brits like to add milk and sweetener to their cups. This is also a tea commonly used for Masala chai.

Nilgiri is a mountainous region of southeast India and the 3rd largest tea growing area. Growing here started in the mid-19th century. The teas are well balanced and quite dark with a bit of fruit and spice. The climate is tropical and ideal for year-round growing. Many of the plants here are of the Assamica variety, and most of the teas are processed using the CTC method. Can you believe there are more than 30,000 gardens in this area?? That’s an immense amount of tea!

Finally the area most tea lovers know, Darjeeling. Teas here are grown in the Indian Himalayas. The first plantation in Darjeeling was started in 1856, and today there are about 86 tea gardens. The gardens are planted on the slopes of the Himalayan foothills, which help the plants drain well from the heavy rains that pass through the region.  There is just the right amount of cloud cover high at this altitude to give the plants the perfect amount of sunlight. The frequently foggy atmosphere creates a beautiful mist that hydrates and protects the plants while keeping them at an ideal temperature. The plant variety here is different from Nilgiri and Assam. It’s mostly comprised of camellia sinensis var sinensis, which is a smaller leaf than Assamica and actually is native to China. The British brought seeds of the plant to the region in 1841 and realized it was a perfect climate for growing. To learn a little more about the picking seasons and flavors of Darjeeling teas, you can check out my previous post here. To really appreciate the beauty of Darjeeling tea, it’s best to find teas grown and processed from just one estate.

Dearies, next time you drink a black tea blend, you can think about all of the beautiful areas of India where your tea is grown. I hope you try as many varieties as you can to learn how they differ.

Behind the Leaf: Yellow Tea

 

yellowtea.jpg

Dearies we’ve discussed all kinds of white tea, oolong tea, and black teas. But did you know we missed a category from the camellia sinensis plant? Yellow teas are harder to find, but they are a tea type that you all must try.

Yellow tea is more time consuming to process, than other teas which makes it less available. There are only three regions in China that process it, Hunan, Sichuan and Anhui provinces. It is processed like a Chinese green tea, but then after firing they go through a controlled oxidation. The leaves are steamed under wet cloth or thick paper, and often the process is repeated. This process can take a few days, and creates a mellow yet aromatic cup of tea. It also has a nice bit of sweetness.

Because this tea is given a heated fermentation, it’s type is a mix between a green tea and a puerh. Yellow teas were originally considered tribute teas, which means they were exclusively grown and picked for the Emperor! How very special.

Because it is similar to a green tea, you can brew this the same way you would your Chinese greens. I recommend using a gaiwan, going grandpa style, or using a small teapot with multiple short infusions. Yellow tea isn’t as prone to bitterness as greens are, so you can use a water temperature a bit higher, from 160-175° F.

The most famous yellow tea is Junshan Yinzhen, from Hunan province. This tea can also be called Mount Jun Silver Needle tea, as the leaves resemble the white tea called silver needles. This tea is picked only from late march to early April, a very short window of time. This tea consists of tender, fuzzy buds, similar to white silver needles. This is actually was a favorite of Mao Zedong which is why it is so well known.

Two other yellow teas you may come across are Meng Ding Huangya from Sichuan province, and Mo Gan Huang Ya from Zhejiang. Be sure to purchase your yellow teas from a reputable source that is knowledgeable in these leaves. As I mentioned, these teas are hard to find, but worth the effort.

As a teacup I’m of course going to promote any and every tea I can. But I must say Dearies, yellow tea is really special. If you come across it, do give it a try. You’ll be quite pleased!

 

Tea Perfumes

perfume1.jpg

Close your eyes and imagine the scent of your favorite tea. How does it make you feel? Can you ever get enough of it? Inhaling the aroma of your tea is part of the joy of the tea-drinking experience. In order to recreate this feeling and get as much tea-goodness as she can on a daily basis, Kat incorporates tea into her bath and beauty routine. She often likes to create her own tea-infused beauty products and I’ve even shared some recipes with you. But there is one product she has recently discovered that she hasn’t figured out how to replicate yet. Tea perfume!

 Dearies, wouldn’t it be so comforting to keep the scent of your favorite tea with you all the time? Kat was recently shopping in a large department store and while walking through the cosmetics and beauty area she almost fell over because she stopped so quickly. She found a perfume brand that had a whole line of tea scents! She proceeded to test each and every one of them, perhaps more than once. She had never thought about tea in a perfume before, and ever since then she’s started collecting them.

 A few of Kat’s favorites are from perfumer Jo Malone. The brand has a ‘rare tea’ collection that includes scents of Darjeeling, silver needle, and oolong just to name a few. Kat loves to choose one of these for an evening out. She always gets compliments on her scent, and she loves getting a hint of tea fragrance throughout the evening.

 For another black tea choice, try Bulgari’s Eau Parfumee au Thé Rouge (red tea). As you may know, Chinese black teas are referred to as red tea. This perfume is spicy, citrusy, and sweet. It evokes delicious black tea blends and Kat loves to wear it on warm summer evenings.

 If you’re looking for a green tea scent, Bulgari also makes Eau Parfumee au Thé Vert (green tea perfume) one of her favorites. It’s lush, green, and a little sweet. It’s perfect for anyone just getting into tea scented perfumes. It can also be easier to find thank some of the other tea perfumes out there.

 For something a bit different and absolutely gorgeous, Kat enjoys L’Ile au Thé (island tea) by Annick Goutal. This tea takes its inspiration from the Korean island of Jeju where green tea is grown along with mandarin trees. This tea smells lush, green, sweet, and citrusy. It’s a beautiful choice for a luxurious gift.

 A scent that’s appropriate for daily wear is Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea Scent Spray. This is an affordable spray that is light and fresh. It’s subtle enough for Kat to wear every day, no matter what the occasion. You could say this is her ‘signature scent’.

 Do you have a favorite tea perfume? Have you ever even tried one? Kat loves wearing her tea perfumes, they are subtle yet quite interesting. She gets compliments on her fragrance almost every time she wears one of them. They are unique yet quite comforting to the tea lover.

How To: Have Fresh Tea on an Airplane

teatravel1

Dearies I’m a jet-setting teacup! Traveling by plane is such a fun adventure, I love the feeling of excitement and anticipation as we fly towards our destination. But it also has a few annoyances. Kat is always complaining about one thing in particular- Finding a way to have a good cup of tea on the airplane. Both Char and now Kat have gone through countless ideas and different ways to get around a paper cup with lukewarm liquid and a stale teabag handed over by the flight attendant.

Char often just asked for hot water and used her own tea bags, but it can be difficult to get water refills, and the water often tasted quite strange. These days Kat has come up with a foolproof method, after much trial and error. She has one important trick that makes a world of difference! The trick for fresh tea on her flight is to bring an empty thermos in her carry-on. Why does she do this? Well, you can’t bring a full thermos through airport security, and you don’t want to risk having your thermos taken away!

Once through security, it’s time to fill up. But not with tea! Just hot water. Just about any of the airport cafes will be happy to fill you up with hot water while you are waiting for your flight. Kat brings a few tea bags in her purse which are ready to use as soon as she gets a cup from the flight attendant. This way she’ll have tea for the entire flight. The hot water on the airplane doesn’t make great tea, it’s not as hot as it should be, and you’d need to charm a flight attendant to fill up your thermos anyway. You are much better off trying to get hot water before you board.

Kat likes to take a variety of teabags with her on the flight. She takes a couple of caffeinated teas to perk her up when close to her destination. But for the most part she uses decaf and herbal teas throughout the flight. It’s important to stay well hydrated while in the air. The air in those planes is so dehydrating! She simply puts a teabag in her cup, and pours water from her thermos. Problem solved.

privateselection

One of her current favorite teas to travel with is Cinnamon Hibiscus Herbal Tea by Private Selection. This tea is naturally sweet, comforting, and quite soothing. Kat first encountered this tea while shopping for a girls’ tea party she was preparing for her little niece Camille. She was looking for herbal teas, and something a little bit sweet. She found this tea in Kroger, and knew it would be a great choice. Camille loves cinnamon, as it reminds her of Christmas. The addition of hibiscus, chamomile, and orange peel sealed the deal. Both Kat and Camille instantly loved this tasty cinnamon blend. It is strong on cinnamon, but the hibiscus, chamomile and citrus flavors tame the spice and give it a mellow finish. Camille requests this tea every time she comes to visit! It’s a warming cup, perfect for relaxing on a long flight. If you can get a bit of honey during your flight, it will further enhance the comfort factor in this tea. Kat always looks forward to relaxing in her seat with this soothing cup.

So my tea-loving friends, what do you think of our little trick? When you are getting ready for your next flight, remember your thermos and tea bags! You’ll be so happy you did. Bon Voyage!

Tea Scene: Portland

portland1

It seems like all of Kat’s friends are visiting Portland, Oregon these days. It’s a mecca for cool young folk looking for delicious food and artisanal goods. Kat is planning a trip there and has discovered there are quite a few interesting tea destinations in Portland. We discovered an amazingly long list of place to visit. Here are some of the highlights that we found:

Smith Tea You may have seen Smith Teas in specialty shops around the country. They have their home base in Portland, with two beautiful tasting rooms. The shops are sleek and industrial. You can try a flight of teas to really get to know a particular type, or just a relaxing pot of tea. They also get experimental with interesting blends that they create themselves. If they happen to be offering a tea on nitro, go for it! It sounds mysterious, but trust me you won’t be disappointed.

The Jasmine Pearl Tea Company– This is the perfect place to get loose tea, sparkling teas, and tea lattes. They serve sweet and savory food, and have fun pieces of teaware for sale. Teas can be served in the gong-fu style in traditional and modern vessels, and you can taste teas from all around the world.

Behind The Museum Cafe– This place is just what the name says- behind the Portland art museum cafe, there is a beautiful little Japanese tea shop. Beautiful Japanese tea and teaware line the walls, such a pretty sight! They even have a gallery space for Japanese art and culture. The cafe serves homemade Japanese sweets, sandwiches and savory dishes. You can get matcha and beautiful wagashi while relaxing after an afternoon at the museum.

Tea Bar– This is a light and airy place, comfortable and relaxing to enjoy a well-sourced cup of pure tea, tea latte, matcha, iced tea and kombucha. They also make their own bubble teas! Kat had a few friends visiting Portland that went back to Tea Bar a few times to try all of their different iced selections.

Townshend’s Tea House– This mini chain of tea houses is a lovely place to pop in for a reliable cup with 100 different kinds of loose tea, and kombucha on tap. It’s a good place to keep in mind if you are running about the city.

Red Robe Tea House & Cafe– This is a Chinese tea shop in the heart of Portland’s Chinatown. They have a large selection of Chinese teas with a focus on oolongs. The serve the teas in elegant gong-fu vessels such as gaiwans. They also have a lovely menu of delicious food items to pair with your tea.

Dearies these are just a few of the many exciting tea places Portland has to offer. I can’t wait to visit with Kat. This little teacup wants to hang out with the cool kids! If we’ve left out your favorite Portland tea shop, please let me know.

Thai Iced Tea!

thaitea2

The weather is warming up nicely, and it’s time to start thinking about iced teas! My tea lovelies, we’ve talked quite a bit about iced tea on this blog, but there are so many delicious ways to enjoy it. Have you ever had Thai iced tea? Oh Dearies, it is so delicious! It’s creamy, sweet, with interesting spice notes. Whenever Kat goes to her favorite Thai restaurant, it’s the first thing she orders. She’s admitted to me that she often suggests eating at Thai restaurants just so she can get the delicious iced tea!

Since Kat loves this drink so much, I decided find recipes to make at home. The tea ingredients will vary based on taste and authenticity. Some have sweetened condensed milk added (Kat’s favorite), some have star anise and other spices. I’ve come across recipes that also use coconut milk or evaporated milk. The tea is usually black tea, often strong a strong Ceylon tea. I do like using Ceylon in this drink, as the strength and brightness of the tea holds up to all the other ingredients. It’s important to use a bold tea, so the flavor shines through the milk and sweetness.

I love the idea of making Thai tea at home, because many of the versions found in restaurants contain food coloring. You can find pre-mixed Thai tea blends in many Asian grocery stores, but most of those also contain dyes. Besides the coloring, it’s just such a fun and easy drink to make at home. Here are a few of my favorite Thai tea recipe finds:

Here is a basic and simple recipe to prepare. It gets the flavors just right. The perfect balance of sweet, milky, and a bit of zingy spices.

I found this delicious vegan version. It uses coconut milk, vanilla extract, and black tea. yum! It has a more tropical flavor that is perfect for sitting outside during those warm spring and summer days. I’m thinking a little dash of rum wouldn’t hurt, either!

I like the use of both star anise and vanilla in this recipe. The spices give it an authentic flavor, yet keeps things well balanced. I like the the recipe also makes a large batch for a crowd. Perfect for those spring BBQ gatherings! This would even make a nice frozen treat- try pouring the mixture into ice pop molds! I think I need to have Kat start experimenting with this…

Thai Iced Tea is perfect for company, or just when you want a creamy, delicious glass to brighten up your day. Dearies do you share Kat’s love of Thai Iced Tea? Do you have your own favorite recipe? You know I want to hear about it!