A three-fer today. I started off with some Dragon tears (AKA dragon pearls, jasmine pearls) that I bought in NYC during a recent trip, but I’ve been under the weather lately so it wasn’t doing it for me. I switched over to some pretty good Assam by Numi with honey and a cup with yellow lump sugar (the only sugar I ever even consider in tea). Now I’m feeling like punishing myself and the cold I have so I’m going to throw down some Kudingcha. Kudingcha is not truly tea, but long “needles” or spikes consisting of one really big Holly (Ilex) leaf rolled up. It is bitter as hell, but also has naturally sweet sensation and aftertaste. It took a good bit of resolve to try brewing it enough times to get it right… but I finally got it down. I use just one spike in a 6oz. gaiwan steeped in boiling water for about 30-45 seconds. The second, third, and fourth steeps are the best once the edge is knocked off the bitterness.
While I’m already “slumming it” right off the bat with my “in cup” entries, why stop now? The truth is this tea was my start to loose tea 10-11 years back, and while many write it off I still enjoy it to this day. Everyone has seen it, the three sizes of yellow and gold tins that say “Jasmine Tea” in four languages around it, most everyone says it is bitter and terrible. However, when brewed properly I can make this tea stand right up there with top grade expensive Jasmine greens, no foolin’.
Part of the secret is to only buy the 1/2 lb. tin (a whole $3.99 :), they are filled with nice full jasmine blossoms whereas the small tins have only a few petals. Also don’t try to brew it as a green tea. Use higher heat water and medium steeping times (about 1.5-2 minutes) . It is better than the top and second grade Jasmine green that I bough for a decent penny at Ten Ren. And while I’m baring it all, I often brew this in a Yixing teapot *gasp* (It is not “correct” to brew a green in Yixing, but since this one likes higher water temps. I break the law). Have been for 10 years or so, and the teapot has the most beautiful scent to it and the tea that comes out of it has impressed and amazed many a seasoned tea drinker that it came from that little yellow and gold tin with the “junky” tea inside.
This months lineup:
Endymion Spring – Sure, it’s a kids book but so is Harry Potter and nothing is stopping me from enjoying that series as well. I think kids books and young adult stories are more enjoyable and captivating because they are much more free and flowing. They make a great break from books that take themselves too seriously, and Endymion Spring is fitting that bill quite well right now for me. It’s a bit like the DaVinci Code for younger readers with a blend of real people and places and fantastical tales. However, the DaVinci Code always seemed lacking and read more like a movie than a novel and Endymion Spring has similar tendencies. I like it though and am currently about half-way through… my feelings could change.
Magical Thinking and Running With Scissors – Both great quick reads from Augusten Burroughs. Running w/Scissors is a true story of the author’s life growing up in one of the most dysfunctional situations imaginable. You’ll laugh, cry, and be disgusted for the most part but it’s one of those books you can’t stop reading. I hear it is set to be turned into a movie, I have no idea how that can be but we’ll see. Magical Thinking is more of a bunch of short stories again mostly true accounts, but is one of those rare books to make me laugh out loud multiple times.
The Book of Tea – I love this book, I’m not sure why but I do. It gives a nice glimpse into the past and of the whole culture and story surrounding tea. It’s available to read for free online at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext97/tboft11.txt
Building My Zen Garden – I read this about 7 years back online at: http://www.educ.sfu.ca/kegan/Japangardenhome.html and I just re-read it due to my own garden building project. The writing and humor is top notch, and there is actually a healthy dose of insight and information inside too… just don’t expect a how-to manual… more like a how-not-to.
While this site is intended for real tea discussion, and not to sound too tea snobbish, but I am regretfully starting off with a teabag. I can’t help it, I like it. I also have had no luck in finding a loose version of higher quality ingredients.
This tea was originally bought on a whim because it came in a tiny little box with 5 bright red foil teabags with little monks in yellow robes on the front. Hey, how can you go wrong? :)
The flavor was excellent, but I never could put my finger on it. After some hunting, I found out it is vanilla and grenadine (pomegranate) with a Ceylon tea. The aroma is very nice and soft and comforting, as is the tea. The flavoring does not overpower the tea and it is actually a great balance, if only I could find this loose with a top quality tea as the base and possibly real vanilla and pomegranate. I just recently picked up a bunch of boxes on a recent trip after running out a few months back, and it is now happily in my cup.
A small spot of tea. Daily talk about tea and related topics, or whatever else sparks my fancy. Welcome, and enjoy!