April 29, 2009
OK, so I’m a man of my word and a guy by the name of Kevin Shin left a quasi-spam comment touting his Korean Goji Berry tea and I explained that if he wanted to send a small sample that I would be happy to fairly cover it. I was even willing to pay shipping to keep things fair and on the up and up completely.
I had previously tried a terrible raspberry/goji/green tea melange with hibiscus which was an abomination in a cup and covered it recently. It did include whole raspberries and goji berries though, that, while tart, made for a nice snack once I tossed out the liquor. Goji berries are supposed to have all kinds of magical powers and health benefits… by now you should know those types of things mean little to me so that won’t enter into my appraisal at all. Goji, or Wolf, berries are small oblong red berries that have a tart/acidic flavor.
This Goji tisane comes in individually wrapped teabags which contain a brown powder consisting of: (all natural) 90% Gojiberry, 1% Solomon’s seal, 8% Wild Rice, and 1% Cassia tore from the Korean packaging. The smell is of dried hay/grass/wheat initially. It can be brewed in hot or cold water as the powdered contents brew up fully and quickly no matter what. The brew retains the roasted grain notes almost entirely as does the flavor which has just a hint of tartness from the berries at the end. It reminds me of hojicha(Japanese green tea and toasted puffed rice) slightly. I have to say it isn’t really tea, and as such it isn’t a very deep or rewarding experience, but for what it is – it is an enjoyable drink actually. I find myself coming back to it for the unique flavor, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy hojicha. It’s better than I had expected and I could see how for someone interested in the medicinal aspects it would be a great option, as a daily drink in lieu of most other teas maybe not so much but on occasion it has it’s place.
April 28, 2009
One of my other passions is reading, in fact I generally set a goal of 52 books per year and chronicle them at my other blog: http://read52in52.blogspot.com/. I am currently reading “The Dragonhead” by John Sack which offers up the true story of the Chinese version of The Godfather… The Dragonhead. It’s a decent book, I’m about halfway through, and I came across a vivid account of tea peparation. I’m always excited to find these kinds of accounts because tea rarely makes more than a passing mention in most books. This one was particularly interesting because it was quite thorough and poetic but more importantly it mentioned a tea I have never heard of, and even after some research still do not have a full explanation of. Here is the excerpt:
“At midnight he’s sitting at a teak coffee table, a troop of monkeys carved into it, a sheet of glass over them, he’s eating the mangos and mongosteens (but not the maloderous durians) brought in a bamboo basket by Mrs. Old Fox. She then brings a tall and red-flowered can of chiu chao tea that Old Fox prepares like an alchemist concocting the secret elixer of life. The tea leaves, he first shakes into a ceramic pot engraved with a mountainside scene. The water (which started as rain, which fell on his roof, then went to a pipe, a ceramic barrel, a bottle, and an aluminum pot, then the old gangster boiled it over kerosene on his monkey-troop table)– the water he pours on the waiting leaves. At once he pours it off again, explaining to Johnny in Cantonese, “The first batch of water isn’t strong,” then he pours a second dose that, a while later, he pours with a flourish into Johnny’s pink-flowered cup. The tea’s almost black, like Turkish coffee.
“It’s wonderful tea,” says Johnny appropriately.”
The Dragonhead: The Godfather of Chinese Crime–His Rise and Fall
If anyone has any insight on “Chiu Chao” tea I’d love to know!
April 24, 2009
I’ve been an on-again-off-again user of various gaiwans and while I really enjoy them I go back to my Bodum Yo-Yo mug/infusers more often than I care to admit. Other times it is a Taiwanese tea tasting set, the three-piece ceramic infuser mug or good ‘ole Yixing. I have finally come to my own conclusion that nothing beats the gaiwan in almost every category. The flavor of almost any tea is (IMHO) enhanced greater by the gaiwan than any other. It pains me to say but even my beloved Yixing which tends to mute some flavors and create a smoother overall experience which isn’t always a good thing (actually I’ve found less times it is a positive than negative).
I have gone back and forth and make mental notes over and over again amongst them all and I can’t deny the results. Ease of use, flavor, aroma, pour, cleanup, handling, etc. they are just a perfect vessel. I will say that I do prefer glazed china/porcelain for the overall feel and the friction between the lid and cup which glass and some other materials lack. Keep in mind I tend to drink heavily roasted/fired oolongs (no TGY/green/floral oolongs), Chinese greens of all sorts, Japanese greens, yellow teas, and a few black/red/puerh so it may be that it just fits my teas better but overall and over quite a bit of time I can’t deny the clear winner for me. I mostly drink straight from it, with only a few teas requiring pouring off into a separate cup.
I’d be interested to hear of others favorite vessels and findings for their teas of choice.
April 17, 2009
Well, again on the design kick, I found some really innovative tea packaging by a company called WDARU. I’m not sure if it is just a design exercise or if they are really commercially available but the idea is pretty cool. Each tea bag is topped with a character that has it’s arms outstretched like reclining in a hot tub which makes for a neat look to your cuppa. They have packs like a schoolbus full of kids, or a swimming pool filled with people, and even a christmas tree themed pack. Great concept. Click the image to go to WDARU’s page for more.
WDARU Tea Packaging
April 6, 2009
I love unique and innovative design, but I am not one for design just for design’s sake. It has to be useful or meaningful. Vessel One is a cool product which adds a neat twist on the standard kettle. It is designed as an all white vase-like container with a bottom of enamel coated stainless steel and a neck of silicone with some structural support. You can place it directly on your stove to heat the water, and when the water is heated a pattern emerges in blue on the sides (There’s even a sweet Space Invaders option). You can grab the neck without any special holder due to the use of silicone and place it on a magnetic removable trivet for service. Simple, elegant, slightly contemporary, and very unique. I wouldn’t have a massive need for it but the thought and design struck a chord with me, so I thought I’d share. Click the image for a link to the product’s site.
Vessel One Teapot