Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cups, Mugs, and Drinking Vessels

I got a new mug today :3

typically i'm not the type of person to buy red things. the amount of things that are red that i own can be counted on one hand. But this mug caught my eye. i don't know if it's because the nifty glazing that is around the rim that i can't seem to get a good picture of, or the fact that the mug is stamped with ginkgo leaf patterns. It could even be it's adorable size and the fact that the thumb-hold is half way down so it makes wrapping the rest of the hand under the mug so easy. But i think this mug will become one of my favorites rather fast.

I have a variety of drinking vessels as it is. they range from the typical coffee mug with pictures or phrases on them, to the normal English tea-cup. I have fancy double-walled mugs and low, almost matcha-bowl-esque mugs. But i haven't really picked them because i felt inexplicably drawn to them. Maybe it's because they weren't hand made... hmm.

There are many vessel types that tea can be enjoyed in. They might vary in name from place to place but their purpose remains constant. They exist to transfer the delicious experience of tea from the pot to our mouths. While the people that speak English might refer to these vessels as mugs, cups, or glasses those that speak Japanese would differentiate the vessels by their size and use.

Matcha bowls, or chawan are short, squat, bowl-ish drinking vessels. They are always wider than they are tall, allowing for easier whisking of the matcha into a delicious froth. Yunomi on the other hand, are similar to the chawan since they do not have handles, but are taller than they are wide. Both can vary in size from small to larger.

Chinese teacups seem to typically be much smaller in size. I've read that originally the Chinese did not use cups, and instead poured the tea straight from the pot into their mouths. it was only when the English came that they started to use cups. I'm not sure about how true this is, but it still does not change the fact that most Chinese teacups are small, holding usually somewhere around 30ml. They are typically only used with yixing pots or gaiwan.

Most other Asian countries seem to follow china and japan in relation to what their tea-drinking-vessels look like. This is most likely because of their involvement in the spreading of tea and tea-drinking. There is even a Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong.

I've yet to decide what i should 'christen' my new mug with. I've got a lot of oolongs yet to review, but the days are becoming hotter, leading me to ice down more of what I'm drinking. Do any of you have a favorite mug/cup/glass? why is it your favorite? does it hold a special memory? I'm curious to know!

I have to give props to Scott Frankenberger who made my lovely mug, and to Artist's Own, for having such a neat store. Bottoms up to ya'll!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cup--14 Barley Tea

Sadly there are no pictures today, as i enjoyed this tea while out dining in my area.

Barley tea is a tea that is served cold in Japan as a cooling summer drink, and served hot and cold in Korea. While this is not a true tea, since it contains no tea leaf, it is still quite delicious. Since it is a Tizane, it is also non-caffienated.

Barley Tea is made by roasting barley and then brewing the roasted barley. While many places use ground roasted barley tea-bags today, there are still some places that sell whole roasted barley. Barley tea is called Mugicha in Japan and Boricha in Korea. Other places around the globe also enjoy their barley-tea, in Britain it is known simply as Barley Water, while the Mexican population enjoys aguas frescas.

Some claimed health benefits of barley tea include improved blood fluidity due to cleansing the blood of impurities, and reduced stress.

For me this tea was very enjoyable, it was light, warm, and delicious even when tepid. It went really well with our pickled veggies and sushi and it peaked my interest enough to go try and find a place to order it from. While a co-drinker found it slightly bitter, i thought that it was a nice cleansing taste. It was perfect to have on such a rainy day and really made the meal i think!

Color- light brown
Fragrance- earthy
Best during- i could drink this all day
Overall- delicious! i'll have to find a place to order some

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cup--13 Sun Tea/ Iced Tea

It's Spring! ... well... it was before they started to predict snow the early part of this week. That's why it looks so gray outside for 'spring'.

My favorite thing to have in the spring and summer is a nice glass of iced tea. It's refreshing and tasty! However my iced tea isn't that sugary mess that most people think of when they think iced tea. no no. Indeed, i often wonder why you'd want to pollute a perfectly good tea with loads of sugar?! Of course i guess i'm not in the majority of people dislike the sometimes sharp taste that iced tea can have, for me that can be especially refreshing on a hot day, it's cleansing and doesn't drag me down like some carbonated drinks can.

I still remember the Sun-tea pitcher and glass set that my parents had (and still have parts of) when i was growing up.

Sun-Tea is what is sounds like. Tea made using the heat of the sun. It was a big deal when i was growing up because it was just so darn cool to watch. However many people do not condone this method since it can lead to bacteria in your tea. very yucky. However sun-tea can still be enjoyed if you take the necessary precautions and keep your eyes open.

--First you need to wash the jar that you'll be making it in.
--Then you need to use actual tea, not an herbal tizane. The caffeine in real tea will keep the bacteria from growing for a few hours.
--Fill your jar with water and your tea, close the jar and let it sit in the sun.
--3 to 4 hours is the max that you should let your tea 'steep' depending on how hot it is you probably will not need even this long.
--Remove teabag/leaves and refrigerate tea
--Never make more tea than you will consume that day. do not save the tea. if it starts to develop ropey strands in it or appears to be thick/syrupy DO NOT DRINK IT.

Sun tea is fun to watch and fun to drink (provided it is not bacteria laden) i think it's something that every kid should do at least once growing up. It doesn't need any sort of heat source so it's pretty safe. The water inside the jar won't get up past 130* so there's no worrying about burns or anything else.

My glass of choice for iced tea is an old jam/jelly jar, as you can see from the pictures. To make my tea, I used Keemun Rhapsody, a tea that I've yet to review (it's coming! i swear!) But you can use any type of tea. I prefer my iced teas made out of blacks or greens, although I've had some fruit herbals that are just as delicious.

Bottoms up for Spring!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cup--12 Spring Mint

Wow. That's a word that i continually used throughout tasting this tea. It brews up a very interesting Green color and gives off an very interestingly minty aroma. While the tea was not labeled i'm suspecting this is a green tea, only because of the color.

Spring Mint originated from Vi-jon a place that i know nothing about. But then is apparently marketed by Wal du Marte, perhaps some sort of titled family? they seem to have made their money in trades and bargaining, appeasing the masses with their lower priced items.

While the leaves are really only good for one infusion, for me one infusion was all that i could take. One glass of this will leave your mouth tingling and your breath minty! Perhaps because it's a green tea this also seemed to help freshen my breath in the morning! While the green color can be quite the turnoff it does seem to have some redeeming qualities. It can be enjoyed hot or cold and throughout the year. It also seems to be widely available as well!

Kind-Green Tea
Brew Time-40 sec
Water Temp-175* or there abouts
Color- medium to dark green
Fragrance- minty!
Best during-mornings
Style- Loose
Price per oz- $0.12 what a steal!
Place bought-Wal-mart
Overall- refreshing, but can't drink too much!