Sunday, May 29, 2016

My Cuppa: If it looks like a duck!

I was hoping to end the month off with a phenomenal tea review. Instead, I’m closing it off with a tasting of something less extraordinary. The tea itself was fine, but, I wanted something different and interesting. I sort of realized what I was getting into upon reading the very familiar list of ingredients on the package. How does black tea leaves, bergamot flavour, marigold petals, and cornflower petals sound? Yup. It’s another round of Earl Grey

This Earl Grey was part of the gift I had received last Christmas. The package doesn’t indicate “Earl Grey” on it. However, with the classic combination of black tea and bergamot, it was undeniably said tea. 

Look familiar?

It was surprisingly good. Usually gift packaged items as such non-descript, no-name brand type of teas are not the greatest. The dry leaves of this tea resembled the dry leaves of the Cream Earl Grey I had from Pippins. The taste did not equate Pippins, but it did hit the spot, leaving me satisfied and finishing off my sample package instead of trashing it. 

With or without milk?

What can I say really? This was a quickie post with a rather ho-hum way to end off the month. I’ve got some more exciting things coming up in June. Grab another cup of your favourite tea, and try to stay awake!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Tasting teas, take 2!

Back by popular demand, last night was another evening of tea consumption with an emphasis on taste. There were a few members who had missed this very educational session the first time around, so, our host decided another take was in order after many requests. To better understand taste, please do read my previous post about it.

This tasting session wasn’t as lengthy as the last one, but it was just as good. Plus, because we hold our meetings at Infuse CafĂ©, we sometimes get a chance to try two tastings. One infusion is made using the traditional method of steeping tea leaves via a teapot and filter. The other method is using the shop’s BKON system. It’s always interesting to see how much different or similar the very same tea can taste.

We reviewed the following teas:

Bitter: A black tea from Ceylon Estates. This tea had a pleasant scent of caramelized yams. What was interesting, is that we all found the BKON brew less bitter than the traditional brew. We figured, perhaps the traditional brew might have been infused a little too long. 

Something bitter.

Salty: Genmaicha mixed with Sakura. I quite liked this one, maybe because I just really like Genmaicha. Sakura cannot be drunk on its own. It is very salty. However, mixed with another tea, it adds a nice saltiness. The combination of the toasted rice and salt really went well together. I liked both the traditional and BKON brews.

Something salty.

Sour: Goishicha from Japan. This is a tea we had in the first tasting session, and it is an acquired taste. It’s quite sour with a very unusual flavour. I was thinking a mixture of lemon rinds and pieces of tamarind provides the best description. For me at least.

Sweet: Shoumei, a white tea, was a big hit. The BKON brew was slightly more astringent than the traditional brew, but still enjoyable.

Umami: Matcha Super Green is a Sencha dusted with Matcha. It’s a tea we’ve had previously, and it is on the bitter side with the traditional method less so than the BKON brew. If you really take a moment to taste this tea and understand what to look for, you will detect the umami. Allow it to sit on your tongue before gulping it down. The umami is there!

Have you had umami?

A little surprise our host brought to share with us, were treats called Nerikiri. Basically, they are navy beans made into a paste, mixed with Matcha, and formed into balls. These delights are normally served during a Japanese Tea Ceremony

A little treat!

It was a wonderful tea event with some interesting teas to test. I do believe another session on tasting with a whole new set of teas would be great. They’re always informative and really open up dialogue and discussion.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Teaology 101: Today’s post is brought to you by the letter 'A'!

There is so much to say about tea, whether it’s about the processing methods, the characteristics of the dry and wet leaves, as well as the liquor, and even geography. Some words are pretty self-explanatory, others not so much. I thought it would be a good idea to create a dictionary dedicated to tea. There are many words, so this will be a continuous task until I’ve covered everything from A−Z as best I can! Hopefully, these lists can provide some clarity to anyone interested in tea. Soon, you’ll be on your way to becoming a tea snob yourself and correcting others when they say something erroneous about tea! I’m kicking this project off with the letter 'A'.

Afternoon Tea: A light British meal normally eaten around 4 or 5 pm. It consists of the consumption of finger sandwiches, scones with jams and clotted-cream, and tiny desserts.  All of this is enjoyed along with pots of tea.

Agony of the leaves: This is when tightly coiled tea leaves reveal themselves by slowly unfurling during the steeping process.

Anhui: A province in China that produces tea such as Keemun.

Antioxidant: A compound which slows the oxidation process.

Aroma: This is the smell given off by the infused tea leaves and the resulting liquor. Also called the “nose”.

Assam: A strong, full-bodied tea with a rich flavour named after the growing region in India. Quite often used in blends such as English Breakfast.

Assamica: A variety of Camellia sinensis. Referred to as Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

Astringent: Describing a sharp, dry taste in the mouth from the liquor. This is caused by unoxidized polyphenols.

Autumnal: Describes teas harvested in cooler weather during the late season. This is often associated to teas from India.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Tea Readings: Good luck drinking that brew!

Tea has a very fascinating history. It’s been around for thousands of years, so there are bound to be many stories surrounding my beloved beverage! Tea is deeply seeded within religion, conflict, and even politics. Many facts, legends, and myths, are associated to tea. The many rituals and protocols in both the Afternoon Tea and Japanese Tea Ceremony alone account for a variety of tales. 

I thought it was so fitting on this day of Friday the 13th to share some superstitions involving tea. Some are strange, some will make you smile. Still, there are some that will have you thinking. I know I’ve been re-thinking the way I make my tea! Have a good chuckle, and, may a cup of tea bring you an abundance of success!

  • Consider it good luck if you’ve spilled some tea while making it.
  • A stranger may bring you some bad news if you’ve forgotten to place the lid on the teapot. 
  • You may remain single if you put the milk in your tea before the sugar.
  • Two teaspoons, accidentally placed together on the same saucer, may indicate an upcoming wedding or even a pregnancy with the possibility of having twins.
  • If two women pour tea from the same teapot, one of them may have a baby within the year.
  • If a man and a woman take turns pouring tea, they may have a child born to them.
  • If a female visitor pours tea from another woman's teapot in her house, both women may experience bad luck or one of them may have a baby within the year.
  • A secret may be revealed if some tea spills from the spout of the teapot while it’s being carried.
  • Someone may be sweet on you if some sugar remains undissolved at the bottom of your cup.
  • Stirring the pot counter-clockwise may stir up some trouble with a friend.
  • You may have an argument with someone if you stir the pot before pouring from it. 
  • It is considered unlucky to stir tea with anything other than a spoon.
  • If you brew a stronger tea than usual, you may form a new friendship.
  • If you brew a weaker tea than usual, you may end a friendship.
  • It’s a bad omen to forget to put the tea leaves into the pot before pouring boiling water in it.
  • Bubbles stuck to the side of the cup may indicate a developing romance. Each bubble represents a kiss.
  • Floating bubbles that can be slurped without touching the sides of the cup, indicate that you may receive a letter in the mail.
  • Floating bubbles in the middle suggests you may become rich. The more the bubbles, the greater the wealth.
  • Small particles of tea leaves that float to the top may indicate a visit from a stranger or a lover.
  • The more tea leaves you have in your teacup, a much fuller life you will have.
  • Accidentally dropping some loose leaf tea in your home may bring good luck.
  • If you accidentally dropped a teaspoon on the floor, a child will visit your home.
  • You may lose something within a week if the tag on a teabag falls off while it’s in your cup.