Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tea Readings: The Colour of Tea

Reading is another one of my favourite pastimes. To me, tea and a good book are perfect partners in crime! I just finished off a book called The Colour of Tea by Hannah Tunnicliffe. I decided to read this book not just because of the title, but because of the cover art of yummy looking macarons. I love macarons!

This book was something I really related to, and I was not expecting that at all. The thought of opening up a little café in small town Canada serving up pots of tea and tiny treats like macarons is something that has crossed my mind many times. I've mentioned in previous posts that I not only have a Tea Sommelier Certificate, but I also have a Baking Arts Certificate. As well, I have a lengthy list of credits for courses in cake-decorating, marzipan sculpting, and other sugar arts. Hmmmm………I'm thinking...I'm thinking...

Tea and macarons, oh my!

The book centres around the main character, Grace, who opens up a café called “Lillian’s”, because of her love for baking, and for a sense of fulfillment. It really becomes a means of occupying her mind from some issues she is dealing with in life. Issues I’m very well familiar with too. Over time, the café becomes a place for women to get together and share their struggles and joys, ups and downs, and even some dark moments in their lives, all the while enjoying an endless supply of marcarons and cups of tea. They listen, teach, and learn from one another and help guide each other down the right path.

This is the author’s first novel. It wasn't a bad book. Definitely an easy read. I thought the cast of characters were interesting but a little cliché, with story-lines that were a little predictable. It’s a good summer book when you’re looking to read something light and fluffy. The title is a bit inaccurate. The macarons took centre stage in various descriptions concerning food, whereas the tea was just an afterthought. I suspect a book entitled "The Colour of Macarons" would be a bit of a mouthful though, so this is okay!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A dandy green tea candy!

During my lunch breaks at work, I sometimes spend my time doing a little window shopping and browsing in the various shops nearby. On one such day, I spotted packages of candies infused with either tea or coffee. Naturally, I had to take a closer look at the tea flavoured candies. They are produced by a company called Fusion Gourmet. Each package came in a different flavour such as “Citrus Green Tea”, “Green Tea Latte”, and “Classic Iced Tea”. The packages indicated that the candies were infused with tea extract. 

Candied Green Tea Latte!

I purchased the “Green Tea Latte” to check try out and write about. The ingredients included:
  • Glucose Syrup (Tapioca) 
  • Cane Sugar 
  • Milk Powder 
  • Tea Extract 
  • Natural Green Tea Flavour 
  • Salt 
Each individually-wrapped candy looked like a precious stone in a lovely jade colour. They reminded me of Werther's Original candies. The texture was smooth and silky. They tasted creamy with a hint of green tea, like Matcha.  Not overly sweet. 

A drop of tea!

I’m not a big purchaser of candies as I'm more of a Junior Mints kinda girl!  However, I usually do keep a few of these types of drops in my purse when the need for something sugary hits me. These are perfect, and Fusion Gourmet looks like a great company to support. Do check out their website, they have other tasty goodies!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Cuppa: Oh My Darjeeling!

One of the finest teas in the world is Darjeeling. I absolutely love it! Darjeeling was one of the first black teas I enjoyed all on its own. I thought this would be the perfect tea to put in the spotlight on this day of love!

Darjeeling uses the Chinese sinensis variety of the Camellia sinensis plant as opposed to the assamica variety used for other Indian teas. It is grown in the northern region of India and is named after this area. The gardens sit at the foothills of the Himalayan Range, about 300 – 2600 metres above sea level. The climate here is cool, averaging 12°C, with an annual rainfall of 250 – 350 cm. These conditions provide rich, nutrient soil that is ideal for achieving the unique flavour of Darjeeling just as any other tea.

Darjeeling tea leaves.

Highly-prized first flush Darjeeling is harvested in early Spring. The flavour of this tea is mild, with a light colour and aroma. The second flush is harvested in early Summer. The colour is a darker amber with a more muscatel flavour. A third flush is harvested in late Summer which provides a much fuller flavour with spicy notes. A late harvest occurs in early Fall after the monsoon season. This particular tea is much darker, fuller bodied, and not as valuable as the first flush.

Manufacturing, of course, also plays an important role in making Darjeeling. The process of plucking, withering, rolling, oxidizing, drying, and sorting, occurs in producing Darjeeling. However, it is not fully oxidized. Though it is classified as a black tea, oxidation is below 90%, which makes it more of an oolong. Some even consider Darjeeling a blend of green, oolong and black teas.

I made a first flush, FTGFOP-1 Darjeeling tea from the Makaibari Estate. The dry leaves are a charcoal colour with specks of green and gold. They smell flowery and a little fruity. To make this tea, use these steps as a guideline:

1.   Bring some water to a full boil in a kettle.
2.   Measure out 1 – 1 ½ teaspoons of tea leaves for every 1 cup of water.
3.   You may pour water onto the leaves straight off the boil, but I like to wait 3 minutes.
4.   Steep for 3 – 4 minutes. Not too long as the liquor will become bitter.
5.   Enjoy your Darjeeling!

The Champagne of teas!

With a floral aroma, the liquor is a beautiful golden colour, almost like a white a wine. The flavour is a bit nutty and reminded me of yams or some cooked fruit. It really does have that grape-like flavour Darjeeling is famous for. There was a slight astringency near the end of each sip. 

Darjeeling is one of the most famous teas in the world. It’s regarded as the “Champagne of Teas”. What could be better than to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your sweetie along with chocolate-covered strawberries and glasses of Darjeeling? ;)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Teaology 101: The basics of blending!

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. It’s all about getting together, mixing and mingling. What’s this got to do with tea you may ask? Ever thought about making your very own tea? Something completely new and unique? Well, it's really not that hard.

I've posted quite a few articles about blended teas whether they were pre-made and purchased from a tea shop, or something I tried making on my own. These type of beverages use loose leaf tea mixed with other ingredients in order to create a unique taste and aroma, and even something beneficial to your health and well-being. Please check out these articles: Masala Chai, Elaichi Chai, Apple Cinnamon Yogurt Rooibos, and Herbed Green Tea. These are different from blended teas like English Breakfast which combines different teas, perhaps even from different regions, in order to create that familiar flavour and fragrance of English Breakfast. 

Many mixtures!

How do you start? Think about the flavour you want: bold, fruity, spicy, floral etc... Do you want a green tea or a white tea? Maybe a tisane or a mixture of both? A subtle liquor with a kick near the end? A strong, bold tea with a hint of something unusual? Start in small quantities so there is no waste and stick with flavours you already like before moving on to more unusual items. The greatest amount will be your base which is usually the tea. From here, begin adding other items which are your secondary and perhaps even tertiary ingredients, in smaller quantities. Then, you may add a tiny bit of a final element called a catalyst that will give your blend a kick or hint of something. The supporting and catalyst items can be anything and may interchange.

A selection of spices!

Still confused? Here’s an example: For the herbed green tea I made, the base was the green tea. The thyme and rosemary were the supporting ingredients. I could easily have added a tiny piece of ginger acting as the catalyst.

Here are some other suggestions you can try:

  • Assam with cloves and the zest of an orange. 
  • Rooibos with peppermint leaves and dark chocolate.
  • Silver Needle with a touch of rosewater.
  • Longjing with a lemon tisane and pieces of ginger.

The possibilities are endless. It just takes a little time and patience. With some trial and error, you'll eventually get what you desire. Perhaps you could even sell you special blend to a tea shop. Just give it a funky name and you’re all set! Have fun with the blending and don’t over think the process. It will all come together in the end.