After almost a year away I am going to try to make a go at continuing to share my journey with tea. I haven’t stopped drinking tea and my passion is still there, it is just that after over 12 years my tastes have refined and I don’t do as much experimentation as I once did. I still dabble and will try something new and different but it has slowed down. Each Spring does bring excitement and subtle variation in old favorites but that doesn’t always translate to exciting writing. I’m going to try to cover exactly what I am drinking, both the high-end and the low-end even if it is something I may have covered in the past. We’ll see how it goes!
Ahh… finally back to tea. My shipment arrived after the normal struggles with the USPS and their inability to grasp the concept of accepting the signed form *they* provide and the fact that most normal people are not home at 11AM to personally accept packages. I wish I was however. Regardless, I am now the happy owner of some teas in a totally new direction for me… red/black tea. I also snagged some Rou Gui because it is a tea I have heard a lot about but have never tried. So, I started with it.
Rou Gui is often spoken about as having cassia/cinnamon-like qualities which intrigued me, however the nose of the freshly opened packet was more of red dates. I wasn’t getting anything resembling cinnamon at all, in fact I wasn’t getting a whole lot of anything from the dry leaf. In my gaiwan I began to brew the tea and the initial aromas from my notes went like this: Citrus. Chamomile. Nestea Instant Iced Tea w/ Lemon. The last one might seem strange but it was the perfect explanation of the scent, those pre-sweetened instant tea granules that come in the can have the exact aroma of what I was getting. As it brewed a bit longer the aroma changed abruptly to a green TGY and it lost those former notes completely.
The first sip was purely green oolong. Thin, watery, not very complex, not much of anything. Again, certainly no cinnamon. A bit of a letdown. I moved on to a second brewing to see if anything new might appear but unfortunately nothing did, more of the same. Pretty disappointing. It is a good tea for what it is but nowhere near what I had been expecting or hoping for, and since I’m not a big green oolong fan there was little for me to get excited about. I’ve not given up yet, though, and I will track down a more finely crafted version before giving up on it.
I just returned from my most recent vacation to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It’s a small island about 30 minutes by boat out from the Cancun area. Tea was actually not a big part of this journey since the weather was about the same as climbing into your oven on the plate warming setting. Caipirinhas were more my speed. Unexpectedly though I found two great tea-related drinks while I was there: Crystal Te and Nestea Limon.
Crystal was the prevalent bottled water on the island and was very good, along the lines of Aquafina in taste. They made a mineral water which was also very good and many of the small shops carried Crystal Te and Crystal Te Limon (lime). It might have been the delirious heat and zero breeze but it tasted great! Not overly sweet and all natural. A great black tea base with just enough lime in a perfect balance, if only American iced teas could get this right.
Nestea Limon (lime) was the local favorite and came in black and green tea versions. I stuck to the pre-bottled versions but they also sell a can of the powdered mix. The flavor was much different than the similar non-lime flavored American counterpart, again less sweet and with a nice balance of flavor. The green tea version was good but not as good as the regular black tea.
The best find of all, though, had nothing to do with tea but was called “New Mix”. El Jimador Tequila and Squirt pre-mixed in a can! No insipid malt beverage mix like in the U.S. but the real deal tequila and the actual Squirt soda in perfect harmony. Without a doubt the highlight beverage find and I think a 6-pack cost about $4 if that.
It happens generally once a year for me, I get into a set of 3-4 teas and I drink them almost exclusively. On one hand it is a good thing because it allows me to fully explore each one and get to know it intimately, but on the other it doesn’t make for very exciting posts or occurrences. As much as I love teasphere my love for tea has to come first and if it means a dry spell or two it just has to be that way. My most recent (and one of my longest) ruts has included: Huo Shan Huang Ya (yellow tea), Bi Lo Chun (green tea), Shui Xian (oolong tea), and Song Zhong Dan Cong (oolong tea). There have been a couple others tossed in here and there like an occasional Ceylon or Tai Ping Hou Kui but they are very rare additions. Most of them have been teaspring.com teas with the exception of one BLC and one Shui Xian being from Hou De Asian Art.
I’m not sure if it is the warming weather or just burnout but I am finally starting to crave some new adventures. My plan is to explore one of my lesser traveled paths, black/red teas. I really want to learn and explore what is out there in this area and I think it will help round out my development. I’m open to suggestions or comments on your favorites from this cross-section of tea and I look forward to covering it all as it develops. Stay Tuned!
Summer has been fighting to make an entrance and we’ve had a couple hot days that could qualify as summery, and every summer I turn to a single, ashamedly, favorite. Sunflower brand Jasmine Green Tea, iced. Yes, that is the cheap one in the yellow/gold tin sold in every Asian market known to man. I can’t help it. I have plenty of high-end jasmine greens, but none of them make the great iced tea I know and love.
Unlike most tea brewed to become iced, do not over brew it. It will get horribly bitter. It’s a delicate ballet and they key is to make it strong enough that it stands up to some dilution from ice, but not bitter. Sure, you can cheat and just brew it to the desired strength and then put it in the refrigerator to cool it down slowly… but I prefer the instant gratification iced method. I’d say just under boil water and like 3 minutes steep, if this is bitter try 2.
It wil be a delicate flowery treat. I drink it straight but to sweeten it only use a natural sugar (yellow lump, turbinado, or palm) as white sugar or honey don’t pair well.
Six months or so back I had my cholesterol checked and when the results came the nurse and doctor were discussing the results within earshot of me and in hushed tones… I figured something was wrong. They came in and asked me a bunch of questions about my diet (for those who don’t know I’m a pretty big guy about 6’3″ and 240lbs. but I’ve always been active outdoors and played sports) I’m also a “foodie” (I hate that term) and love to cook and eat adventurously and in decent quantity but for the most part I stick to reasonably healthy options (outside of the occasional Wellington, 2lb. steak, wings/pizza). I figured I was going to have to cut out all of the things I like to indulge with (triple bacon cheeseburgers)… instead they ended by telling me that my cholesterol levels were actually so low that I should probably eat some more things containing cholesterol! I was shocked. I really had no answers for them and really thought it may have been an error and came out pretty happy except for their great concern about my low numbers.
I was discussing this anomaly with my parents a couple weeks back and my mother said, “well, it’s probably all of the green tea you drink.” I am a total non-believer in miracle cure-all health claims so this never even entered my mind and I never even thought to bring it up to the doctor. It could all be coincidence, it could truly be my diet (although I highly doubt that one), genetics, it could be my love for laughter (hey, who knows), it could be Venus was aligned just so with my belt buckle that day… but it really could be the liters of tea I drink each day (almost exclusively Chinese or Japanese greens). I honestly don’t know and after her comment it sent my logical mind reeling.
I’m stumped, but after downing about 5lbs. (no lie) of meat the other night as we were out with friends at a Churrascaria (Brazilian BBQ) and a few porters I’m thinking there has to be some validity. Although I’m still overweight and balding so the magical, mystical, powers have some limitations if true.