Friday, January 30, 2009

Cup 4--Moroccan Mint

No, that is not shredded spinach, that is Moroccan Mint tea. This blend of gunpowder green and spearmint teas is light and refreshing. A good pick-me-up any time of the day, it's low in caffeine and leaves you with a minty aftertaste.

While my Moroccan Mint came from Teavana, Argo teas has a very similar Moroccan Mist. While i don't have any Mist to compare to the Mint, i believe that i like the Mist better. Adagio has some blends that may stack up to this as well.

Mint tea is actually served in Morocco fairly commonly. Although they tend to add a lot of sugar to theirs, i'm rather partial to it un-adultered. Morocco is one of the biggest importers of tea, and the first importer of green tea from China. Tea was first introduced in Morocco in the 18th century, and it has served as a meal time beverage ever since. They have an entire tea-culture that has been built up over the past couple hundred years that focuses entirely on the making and serving of green tea with mint and sugar.

After rinsing the tea twice, they combine the tea and water and let it steep before adding in the mint and sugar. They mix the steeped tea, mint and sugar in a large teapot that has a rather long spout. They then pour the tea from great heights into small glasses to create a foam on the top of the tea. They then pour the tea back into the pot, and pour again. They may repeat this process of pouring and returning around 4-7 more times before serving up the tea. This pouring from heights helps to mix the sugar and the tea together.

Looking over some videos and recipes it seems like when served up traditionally this tea is very sweet. In the video the host puts in 3.5 'bricks' of sugar, the recipes that i looked up called for anywhere from 2 tablespoons of sugar to a 1/4 of a cup of sugar!! for a single pot of tea! That seems rather outrageous to me, however i'm not a big sweet tea fan.

No matter if you make this tea traditionally or your own way, it's a good way to start the day, quench your midday thirst, or even wash down dinner.

Kind-Green Tea
Brew Time-1 minute
Water Temp-175*
Color-pale yellow to honey
Fragrance- minty
Taste-minty and slightly bitter
Best during- Anytime!
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $2.25
Place bought- Teavana
Overall- refreshing

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cup 3--Jasmine #12

I received my order from Adagio Monday and one of the first teas that i tried was their Jasmine #12. This incredibly fragrant tea is really relaxing.

As you can (hopefully) see from the picture, this tea is similar to the Black Dragon Pearls with it's ball shape, but these are much smaller than the BDP. They unfurl while brewing and release a great aroma and show off the three individual leaves and stems that make up the balls. The yellow liquor that this tea produces smells like jasmine, and has a faint flowery taste. This is the perfect tea to chillax with. Curl up with a movie or a good book, have a few cups of tea and slowly drift off to sleep. I steeped mine 3 times, the first time for the 5 minutes suggested, the second for a few minutes, and then the third for about 5 minutes. I was mostly watching for color more than time.I've found that with this tea you can expect 2 or 3 good infusions with the same leaves, pretty good staying power for a Oolong.

"WAIT!!!" you say, "STOP EVERYTHING! what in the world is this Oolong?!"

Oolong is a traditionally Chinese tea that is a 'tweener. It's not a black, but it's not a green either. Oolong typically has multiple steps for it's production. First they wilt the leaves to partly remove the moisture. To do this they either sun or air dry the leaves. After this they cool the leaves down before they gently toss the leaves so that the edges of the leaves bruise. When the leaf edges are bruised it creates more surface contact for oxidation. This cooling and then tossing will usually be repeated multiple times. After this they stir-fry the leaves in a large pan over high heat in order to stop the oxidation. Then they roll the leaves into strands or nuggets before they dehydrate the leaves by roasting them over low heat. This roasting can be repeated at varying temperatures to produce different flavors. After the leaves have been roasted then all there is left to do is grade them and then package them up.

Jasmine #12 might look like mottled rodent droppings, but it tastes great, smells amazing, and is a perfect way to de-stress after a long day of class or work.

Kind-Oolong Tea
Brew Time-4 minutes
Water Temp-185*
Color-Light Yellow to Honey
Fragrance- Sweet, flowery
Taste-Floral, slightly sweet
Best during- Late Afternoon and Evening
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $5.00
Place bought- Adaigo
Overall- it's like eating flowers, in a good way!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Celebration 1-- Happy (Chinese) New Year!!!


Today marks the opening of the new year for the Chinese. This year is the year of the Ox!

How, Ox-citing! ;D

It marks the beginning of the year 4707 (or 4706, or 4646 depending on when you think Emperor Huangdi reigned). The calendar that this is based off of was originally created by Emperor Huangdi. A combined lunar and solar calendar, it requires precise astronomical calculations to be taken in order for the calendar to be created.

While I won't get into the calculations that are rather confusing, I will take this chance to explain Chinese New Years a bit.

The New Years is originally a festival for the spring. It takes place after the harvest has been taking in and before the farmers plant in the spring. New Years for them is actually called "Spring Festival" people outside of China refer to it as the "Lunar New Year" or "Chinese New Year".

Emperor Huangdi is considered to be the ancestor of the Han Chinese. Huangdi is actually one of the "5 emperors" who were around before the Xia Dynasty, the first dynasty of China to be recorded historically. Yet, there is not much evidence that the Xia dynasty actually existed. Ignoring the whole historical debate, Huangdi is seen as a morally perfect emperor. Also known as the Yellow Emperor, the Chinese have historically pointed to him and his sons as the forebearers of the noble families of the first three dynasties (Xia, Sheng, & Zhou) as well as the progenitors of all Han.

Needless to say Huangdi is a rather important person in Chinese history. Other than his bringing together of tribes to form China, He also is a deity of Taoists, and is credited with not only inventing the calendar as well as ordering the creation of Chinese characters, thus the language being called 'hanyu' or Han-language while the characters are called 'hanzi' or han-characters.

The Spring Festival is a major event, it brings families and friends together. People gather to celebrate, to eat, to dance, and to remember their history and heritage. A fifteen day long celebration after the new year consists of many visits to friends and neighbors, much eating of symbolic dishes and overall jubilation.

But where does tea fit in...

In some regions of China Tea is the first thing to be consumed in the new year. After you take a drink you should say "life will be happy". Traditionally the Tea is also served with Lotus seeds, to signify "you will give birth to a boy", Sticky rice flour cakes, to signify "you will be promoted to a high position", and/or Filled sticky rice balls, to signify that all the family members will live in harmony and be reunited.

So have a cup of tea today, preferably some red tea (that's black tea to us British-tea minded folk) , hopefully the color red will scare away the 'Nian'. Who knows, maybe having a glass will help fulfill what the Ox stands for and this year will be prosperous for you, through fortitude and hard work!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Boil 1-- Tea Eggs

Ooo, pretty! (i do have my artsy-fartsy moments!) As you can see above Tea also goes well with eggs!

Tea Eggs are an Asian treat, sold by vendors in the streets in certain parts of China and Taiwan. They are relatively easy to make, taste better (i think at least) than regular eggs, and are aesthetically pleasing (whipping out that GRE studying ;D).

To make a tea eggs all you have to do is make hard boiled eggs, then crack the shells, try not to tear the membrane that separates the shell from the egg itself though. If you break the membrane then more liquid will seep in staining whole areas instead of just where the crack is, still tasty, not as pretty.

After you've given each egg a good whack or two, boil it a second time in salty tea. put in a few dashes of salt and some black tea. Other people like to add in soy sauce, spices, etc but these things are optional. I let mine simmer for an hour or so, but depending on how dark your tea is for these, and how long you let them sit in the tea mixture will determine how dark your eggs become.

I wouldn't use super-high quality tea for this, simply because the tea is undrinkable when you're done cooking the eggs (unless you LIKE salty tea...). But instead i would suggest using tea-bags, it's a good use for all those packages of tea that have been liberated from their hotels. I haven't tried using any other tea other than black tea, but i don't see why you couldn't use other kinds. But since other teas are lighter in color you might have to let them sit in the tea longer to get a dark enough pattern.

It's not essential that you keep them in hot water, other people seem to have done the same with regular boiled eggs and then let them sit in the mixture while in the refrigerator. whatever floats you boat! and if it doesn't work, well it's still a tasty snack :3

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Step 2:Embracing your problem

So i've admitted i have a problem.

That problem being, i have too much tea. Yet at the same time it's nice to have a good selection! It's not that i've wasted money buying this tea, instead i've invested in a multi-beverage choice.

While researching (or procrastinating) i tripped upon Adagio Teas. At Adagio they not only sell tea and tea accessories but you can also create your own blends of tea for yourself and others to purchase. In addition they also sport their very own tea community! You can chat it up, look up tea parlors near where you live (and they're ranked!) members are also able to post up their blogs, and read a monthly newsletter from tea experts and aficionados.

Of course this discovery prompted me to buy more tea.


Through teachat i've also located some other online tea retailers (some even have real brick and mortar building in states surrounding me!) who i've started to eyeball. It's interesting to note the price difference in Adagio and Teavana. At Adagio you're able to buy a 'sample' size with is about 1oz of tea, this translates into about 10 servings of tea. these one oz samples are really very affordable and offer a very easy way to try a tea to know if you will like it or not. It's a nice change from teavana where you're discouraged from buying a cup of tea, and instead urged to buy a 2oz "sample" of loose tea, which, in the case of the black dragon pearls, can cost you $15. Ouch.

Price seems to not always reflect on the quality of tea that you'll recieve. While I have not yet recieved shipment from Adagio (it's supposed to come tomorrow though :3) from the online community i beleive that i can expect some rather good teas! and since none of the samples that i bought were over $5/oz, and it looks like very few actually are on adagio, the price seems to be right. While i do enjoy going into a store, smelling the tea, watching them measure it out, and even chatting up other shoppers, i think that i might have to stay away from teavana in the future, if only because their teas are a bit overpriced. "how unfair!" you might say, but let us look at the price differences using a common Gunpowder Green Tea.

At Teavana Gunpowder Green Tea is $2.25/oz no matter how much you buy. At Adagio it's $2.00/oz, but when you buy more it also becomes cheaper per oz, eventually reaching $1.00/oz if you buy an entire pound. That can become a large difference. An especially nice extra is that Adagio also packages their samples, 4oz, 6oz, and 12oz measures in TINS, the price of which isn't in addition to your price. They also have a nice promotion where older members can send $5 gift certs to people that have not yet shopped with Adagio, and who doesn't like free stuff? (this is also in addition to the free tin of the zodiac blend i received and the free tin of the tea of the month. lots of goodies! let me know if you want one!)

Tins are important for tea storage for many reasons. Air and Light both can affect tea. Since most tea is best when consumed within a year of it's production, airtight, opaque containers are important to keep tea at it's best quality for the longest amount of time. while bags can do the job, tins are preferable, especially when you take into account the fact that you can reuse them over and over.

an enlightening tea-escapade if you ask me :3

in other news, according to a British newspaper 3 cups of tea a day can cut breast cancer risk by 1/3, all this according to a survey done in a cancer center in FL. Although this only applies to women under 50, it's an interesting statement, especially given that the health benefits, or detriments, of tea has yet to be fully explored.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cup 2--Black Dragon Pearl

When i first bought this tea i thought that instead of "black dragon pearl" the name should be "black dragon turds". These rolled tea leaves truly look like large rabbit droppings. Needless to say i didn't have many good thoughts towards it. Teavana advertises this tea as fragrant and the taste to be smooth-bodied with sweet, chocolaty, and malty undertones. It is a rare hand-rolled tippy black tea from the Yunnan province and is good for multiple infusions.

Now if any of ya'll are like me, you're probably wondering about the term 'tippy', it refers to the fine tips of a tea leaf bud, which are supposedly used mostly in quality teas. Which is fitting since Yunnan, China is 'the birthplace of tea'. that is, 'the first area where humans figured out that eating tea leaves or brewing a cup could be pleasant'. It has even been rumoured that in Lincang City area of Yunnan Province, is home to the world's oldest cultivated tea tree--a shocking 3,200 years old. It is this area's pride to be famous producers of the 'tippy' or fine leaf buds, which translates into fine teas.

Black teas are supposed aids in lowering cholesterol as well as being good for the heart. It has been said that black tea has the ability to gently stimulate the circulatory system to strengthen it. It is also known to promote healthy skin, teeth and bones. Black tea is fully fermented, so it has approximately 20% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee, the only other tea that has more caffiene that black tea is Mate tea. Black tea is said to help prevent the absorption of cholesterol into the blood stream, which helps to prevent heart disease, as well as preventing gingivitis, tooth decay, and it helping regulate blood sugar level and blood pressure.

Black teas are most likely the tea that American's think about when someone asks them about tea. It is black tea that we consume when we order iced tea from restaurants and buy our regular store brand tea bags. For example, regular Lipton tea is a black tea blend, and Assam is a black tea from India that is frequently sold for use in restaurants, others know it for it's use in teas such as , English and Irish breakfast teas. Way back in ancient times black tea was also pressed into bricks and used as currencey during long travels. Tea as a currency was valuable since it could be sold, eaten, used as dye for fabrics, or brewed for health benefits. Black Tea was used more than Green Tea for these bricks because it retained its flavor longer. It wasn't until the 1950's that tea was finally given up as a currency in some areas.

That said, i won't be trading off this tea any time soon. It has quickly become one of my favorites. It lends itself well to be drunk at ant time of the day and several cups at a time. I like mine "black" as in no cream, sugar, or any thing else.

Kind-Black Tea
Brew Time-3 minutes
Water Temp-195*
Color-Dark Honey to Dark auburn
Fragrance- Hearty and malty
Taste-Sweet, something else indescribeable
Best during- Afternoon
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $7.50
Place bought- Teavana
Overall- leaves me wanting more!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cup 1--Lady Grey

Lady Grey Tea (a registered trademark of Twinings apparently) is a variation of the Earl Grey Blend. A Black tea, it is scented with bergamot oil, as well as lemon and orange peel. To this Twinings also adds cornflower. What is a 'Bergamot' you might ask. Well it is a citrus fruit that is a cross between an orange and lemon. An 'Aromatic' tea, it is light in flavor, and easily enjoyed at breakfast, tea, high tea, or even as part of a midnight snack. While i do not enjoy this tea with milk, sugar, and/or lemon, is it rather good as an Iced Tea.

Lady Grey Tea was named after Mary Elizabeth Grey, the wife of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, for whom Earl Grey tea is named. Appropriate for each of them to have their own tea i think. The Earl and Lady Grey lived in Howick, Northumberland, England in the late 1700's and the early 1800's. They were married in 1794 and had at least 15 children during their marriage. Despite this, proliferation of children, Earl Grey had several affairs with different ladies. These dalliances however didn't seem to get in the way of his leadership of the Whig party. While he was the leader of the Whigs, and eventually Prime Minister, several important acts passed, including the abolition of slavery in Britain and The reformation of the House of Commons.

One story about the creation of the Earl Grey Blend was that the Earl Grey received a gift, perhaps a diplomatic present, of tea that was flavored with bergamot oil. It became so popular that the Earl asked British tea merchants to recreate it. Another is that the original Earl Grey tea was specially blended by a Chinese mandarin to suit the water at Howick Hall, and was later marketed by Twinings. Any way it came about, it came, and it stayed.

Kind-Black Tea Blend
Brew Time-3 minutes
Water Temp-195*
Color-Dark Honey to Dark brown
Taste-light with some orange
Best during- Late morning, Afternoon
Style- Bagged
Price per oz- abt $2.70
Place bought-Grocery store
Overall-Refreshing, light, and very drinkable.

Step 1: Admitting you have a problem...

After a rather normal winter break, i returned to college, unpacked, re-organized my belongings and stared in wonder.

I had entirely too much tea.

Boxes, bags, envelopes, and canisters of tea. While most was old, leftovers that i dug out of my desk and brought back to my room after work last semester, much of it was also new. Over the break i had found a chain loose-tea store called Teavana. I then proceeded to blow a sizable amount on loose tea (their prices are for each 2oz, which is the smallest amount you can buy)

While i was sure at the time of purchase that i would positively be able to use everything that i bought (a full pound of tea combined) after looking over what i already i had i was a bit worried. So I decided that each day i would strive to have at least one cup of tea each day. While doing so i figured why not post up some info about the teas i have, tea in general, and maybe even how i deal with my addiction to buying, and drinking tea.

Spurred on by a good friend's blog about cheese, i hope that we can encourage each other on to post at least once a week :) While i am no expert tea taster, i will do my best to fully explain each tea. Hopefully it will help me to keep better track of my tea, tea purchases, and tea intake.