Saturday, August 29, 2015

Throwing a perfect Pu’erh party!

Last evening, I was invited over to a tea tasting at the home of our host, TJ. I’ve gone to all of TJ’s events, and they are just amazing! Not only do we taste an assortment of teas, but we also learn about the teas themselves in a casual setting. No taste or aroma is dismissed, because everyone is different. On this particular night, Pu’erh was on the agenda. Note: I’ve seen this tea spelled as Pu’er and Pu’erh and a few other ways. I’ll stick with one way in this post.

I'm a little teapot...

Pu’erh is a real mystery even to the most devout tea drinkers. I had never heard of it until a few years ago whilst taking my tea courses. It was just weird! The appearance, the aroma, the taste! It was not what I thought of as tea. TJ wanted to dispel the myths of this very misunderstood tea. To do this, we were first given a Pu’erh that was just bad! Someone described the aroma as that of an old house! It did have a musty smell. I thought it smelled like a mop from floor washing. Neither the smell nor taste were any good. Then, we dove into some really fine teas.

Pu'erh unveiled!

As we sipped the various Pu’erh teas being offered, discussions broke out into the history of brick-style teas, processing methods, how to prepare a proper cup, best ways to store this tea, and even its exuberant cost. Pu’erh is much like wine. Not only does the value increase over time, but the taste becomes better with age. There is also an art and science to manufacturing Pu’erh and that would require much more research and many more posts than this quick tasting overview. Definitely something for me to keep in mind.

In bit sizes too!

Some of the teas we tasted included:
  • Bulang Shan mixed with Earl Grey
  • Pang Xia Jiao or Crab Foot/Lobster Tea because of their appearance
  • Batabatacha 
  • Hei Cha
  • Lao Pa Ka

A favourite of mine was the Lao Pa Ka. Just to see it and hold it was incredible. A single, dark, giant tea leaf that looked like a quill. Both the taste and aroma were beautiful! Some described it as maple syrup, while others thought it was like a brown-sugar oatmeal. 

Lao Pa Ka.

I now have a whole new appreciation for Pu’erh after h
aving tried these teas. In the past, I just drank it for its health benefits even though the strong aroma of fish or seaweed was a bit of a turnoff.

A lovely gaiwan.

TJ is moving from his current digs and therefore did not wish to carry over so many of the teas he had. Poor guy! What to do? Give it away! He provided all of us with generous amounts of various teas. I now have many more teas to blog about. It’s nice to be rubbing elbows with people like TJ. Thanks so much!

Sorry about the mess!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Cuppa: A mystery in a mug!

More tea gifts! Woo-hoo! At a recent meetup with a friend, I was given a sample of green tea that was blended with lavender and pomegranate. Not sure what brand the tea was or even what type of tea. It was given to me in a little white paper bag. Something my friend picked-up in a shop in her part of the city. Hey, it’s a freebie! As long as it’s not one of those questionable type of “herbs”, I’ll try it. I trust her!

Upon careful inspection at home, the tea appeared to be Sencha, a tea I drink on a regular basis. It was pretty with the specs of lavender and pomegranate. Smelled good too. Fruity and flowery with just a hint of lavender.

Mystery tea!

I prepared the tea the usual way I make Sencha. However, I found that the 2 minute infusion time made for a very bland brew with no flavour at all, and so, added another 3 minutes on the clock. The result was far better. It provided me a golden cup of tea with a lovely light scent much like the dry leaves. The taste was not bitter at all and tasted just like it smelled. The liquor had good body too. It was mellow and nicely coated my mouth. 

Mystery brew!

Though it was not a bad drink, it’s definitely not something I would buy. I prefer Sencha on its own. Good that it didn’t cost me a cent!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tea Readings: I'd like another word with you!

I thought another cup of interesting tea quotes was in order.  Who knew there would be so many all dedicated to a beverage!  Enjoy and check out the first round on a previous post.

“Where there's tea there's hope.”

~ Arthur Wing Pinero

“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.”
~ T'ien Yi-heng

“I take pleasure in tea, appreciating it with my spirit and therefore cannot explain why.”
~ Sen Joo

“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.”
~ Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
~ Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

“Dad was at his desk when I opened the door, doing what all British people do when they're freaked out: drinking tea.”
~ Rachel Hawkins, Demonglass

“Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea!”
~ Agatha Christie

“A simple cup of tea is far from a simple matter.”
~ Mary Lou Heiss, The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide

“The most trying hours in life are between four o'clock and the evening meal. A cup of tea at this time adds a lot of comfort and happiness.”
~ Royal S. Copeland

“Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Letters and Social Aims

Saturday, August 8, 2015

It makes perfect sense!

I attended yet another awesome tea tasting event! This time, we gathered into a classroom, with conference tables and blackboards. I preferred this setting much better especially with a much smaller group. We really got to hear what each person said and watch what our host T.J. presented on the blackboard.

Yes, teacher!

The purpose of this event was to use all our senses, but more specifically taste, when consuming the various teas. It was very interesting. I had taken a sensory development class when I was enrolled in my tea courses, but as I said, a smaller group made for a better learning experience. 

The teas we enjoyed that would enable our 5 tastes included: 

  • Bitter: 2014 Assam FTGFOP1 from Mangalam Estate
  • Sour: Goishicha from Japan
  • Sweet: 2014 Bai Mu Dan, from Taimu City, China
  • Salty: Sakura Bancha & Umeboshi Bancha from Wazuka Town, Kyoto, Japan
  • Umami: 2014 Kirameki no Sencha from Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan

A little umami perhaps?

Or maybe something salty?

T.J. also brought a few food items to further explain some of the tastes, especially umami, and to educate us on the process of oxidation and how this helps give each tea its own unique characteristics. Umami is probably the most difficult taste to understand. I’ve always explained it as something that’s soupy, rich, or meaty. It would be something like soya sauce or the broth of chicken noodle soup or miso soup. Grape tomatoes were used to describe umami.

Umeboshi,  or pickled plums, were provided as an example to explain sourness. I’ve never had such a fruit, and wow was it ever a wakeup call! It was so sour that it had my face twisting upon first bite. I rather liked it especially for the aftertaste, though I would not be able to eat handfuls of it. Second time around was much better after knowing what to expect. So pretty in a bowl, I thought it would’ve been something sweet and delicate. 

They only look sweet!

Terroir also plays an important role in giving tea its unique flavour profile. The climate, soil, weather conditions, amount of rainfall and so on, encourage the tea plants in their own growth each season. You will be hard pressed to find the exact same tea every year! Also, much like for wine, there are good seasons and bad seasons for tea.

This tea event was very enjoyable for the amazing teas, the informative lessons, and the lively discussion. It’s unfortunate that with all the tea shops that keep popping-up, few or none at all, have these sort of educational lectures. Mixing a tea with fruit pieces, flowers, citrus rinds, vanilla and whatever else, does little for the tea. They're okay, but they mask the true taste of the tea. You really are missing out on something great!

A little sweetness!