Algazaleen Tea – Middle Eastern Ceylon Black Tea

April 23, 2013

Ten years ago I was gifted a small purple box of Dimbula Ceylon black tea it was brought back from the region and was quite unremarkable in every way except that it offered a flavor that I still have not found again in a black tea. Any time I see a new/different brand or type of Ceylon tea I try it just in the off chance that it may be similar. I was at a small Middle Eastern market and saw this bright yellow box of Ceylon tea bags and decided to give it a shot since I tend to focus only on the teas of China, Japan, and India and in hopes that it might have that elusive quality from a decade ago. It didn’t.

The first brewing was extremely strong, heavy, and bitter with even just a 2 minute infusion. I realized this was meant to be high-powered and strong either to stand up to milk and sugar or other similar preparations. This would be a tea to rival a morning cup of coffee, certainly not a light and subtle drink. I then scaled way back to a 30 second infusion, this was still quite strong but more palatable. It had more of the taste of an American Lipton or Tetley tea bag. There were some malty notes peeking through as well. I backed off even more and went with a 15-20 second brew and this, for me, was the balance point. It yielded a lighter cup, but still medium to dark, and it was nicely malty and less heavy and almost no bitterness could be detected.

This is not an expensive or nuanced tea, it is a strong basic tea and it presents itself well enough in that regard. I can see how this lends itself to the more Middle Eastern style of brewing and enjoying tea and for that it definitely fits the bill.


Hiatus Over!

April 21, 2013

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!


Instant Miso Soup and Tea on the Way

December 18, 2009

I apologize for the short hiatus, I’ve had some family medical issues and a couple tea shipping snafus. But now I’m sitting on about 3 kilos of various Indian Darjeelings and Assams, and an awesome shipment of Japanese Matcha and Sencha. All of that will be coming in the near future. Today, however, I figured I’d cover what’s been in my cup here at work for the past week or so: Kikoman’s Instant Tofu Miso Soup.

Kikoman Tofu Miso Soup

Unlike many instant miso soups this one eschews the small packet of actual miso paste for a powdered soup base with dehydrated green onion, wakame seaweed, and small tofu squares. I was not expecting much since this kind of seemed like the low-rent way of making an already pretty simple instant soup, surprisingly I was completely wrong. Outside of the tofu never quite achieving a proper texture (but it comes out acceptably) it rivals a very good hand-prepared soup. 2/3 cup of hot water, empty the packet, stir a bit, and done. Easy and quick, and perfect for a quick lunch that is actually very satisfying. A small bowl of rice alongside becomes a great simple meal in the Oryoki tradition.


Lochan Tea Tasting – #1 Doke 2009 Silver Needle

November 2, 2009

Tea #1 Doke 2009 Silver Needle:Dry leaf: Nice full leaf, many downy, some green some woodier, scent reminiscent of raspberry

Wet Leaf: Raspberry continues with possibly a little citrus/tang and herbal/woody notes

Brewed: Woody up front with a finish of faint raspberry, a small amount of astringency and a bit of malt/hops… can be detected along lines of the finish of a good Belgian beer.

A very nice white tea with a very good balance and complexity as well as a more well-rounded and developed overall flavor than many silver needles which can be overpowering in one aspect or another. Not bitter or harsh, this tea has all it’s corners rounded off even with a fair amount of leaf and steep time. Not flowery or perfumy either.


Lochan Tea Tasting

October 28, 2009

I will be participating in Lochan Tea’s upcoming tasting of an array of their teas. One tasting a day starting on Monday 2nd of November. I will be posting the results from each day here as well as submitting my notes for them. It covers a range of Indian teas with a concentration on Darjeelings. I’m particularly happy because one of the teas in the tasting just won the gold medal at the 2009 Chinese Tea Expo for the Black Tea category.


10 Teas to Start With

October 22, 2009

Now that we have covered some basics of brewing, we need to lay some ground work on determining just what teas to brew. There are thousands of types of tea and even within a specific type of tea there can be hundreds of variations, it can be daunting. Today we’ll try to compile a list of 10 teas that cover a wide enough spectrum that will quickly show you what types and characteristics of tea you, personally, enjoy and which you do not. This will allow you to explore with some confidence from that point without simply relying on luck. So let’s get to it:

1.) Ceylon – Smooth and generally mellow, this tea is probably the closest  to the standard teabag many are familiar with but a nice upgrade in flavor and quality. It is a fairly rich taste with a very slight bit of astringency and bitterness.

2.) Sencha – A Japanese green tea that is very light, bright, and refreshing. This is a true green tea in every sense of the word and miles apart from what is often sold as “green tea” in most stores.

3.) Long Jing – A very popular Chinese green tea with a bright and almost “nutty” flavor. This is a nice contrast to Sencha and showcases a different side of green tea. Also known as Dragonwell.

4.) Shui Xian – This oolong tea is often associated with tea served in Chinese restaurants. It is a nice basic introduction to oolongs and isn’t that radical a departure from many of the flavors of standard teabags, but the medium fermentation and roasting adds complexity. Also known as Shui Hsien, or water sprite.

5.) Tie Guan Yin – A greener oolong with a slightly floral aroma and flavor. The split in oolongs generally runs along the more roasted/fermented/fruity lines such as Shui Xian and the greener/floral ones like this tea. Again comparing this to the Shui Xian should yield a personal affinity towards one or the other, many enjoy both. Also known as Tie Kuan Yin, or Iron Goddess of Mercy.

6.) Silver Needles – White tea is often shrouded in mystery and mystique, but it is really just minimally processed tea leaf that isn’t roasted or fermented, just dried. It is delicate and often has a sweetness. Also known as Bai Hao Yinzhen, or Yin Zhen.

7.) Keemun – A black tea in the Chinese style which is rich, sweet, and full-bodied. This would be a great introduction tea for coffee lovers since it is not as subtle as many of the others. Some keemuns exhibit a smokey flavor which some may find desirable.

8.) Darjeeling – Sometimes referred to as “The Champagne of Teas” this Indian tea exhibits a wonderful array of flavors from sweet to nutty to grape-ish muscatel notes. Within this one category almost anyone can find at least one or two specific teas that matches their preferences. This type alone could be an entire lifelong pursuit, so try a few different ones in this category before making an assessment.

9.) Jasmine Green – I’ve included this option in the list to offer an idea of what flavored tea is really about. Almost all low-end tea and widely available tea is so heavily flavored and imbalanced that many have lost sight of the fact that the tea itself is the star. A delicate jasmine scent added to a quality green tea is a nice balance and gateway between the overpowered offerings in most cafes and the ultimate goal of the unadorned beauty of the leaf itself. Jasmine pearls are often the best choice in this type of tea.

10.) Puer – This is the single-malt Scotch and cigar of tea. It is highly prized and often aged for many years, and has a dedicated following of devotees. If you like earthy, smoky, and oaky flavors in your wines or enjoy the aforementioned Scotch and cigar, this may be a tea for you. If this doesn’t sound like your style you can skip this one altogether or at least try one to say you experienced it. Again, this is a complex group and requires quite a bit of initiative to dig into properly, there are a number of great resources on the web for those interested however. Sometimes spelled puerh or pu-erh.

These 10 teas certainly won’t show you everything tea has to offer, but it will cover a very wide breadth of styles and flavors that will act as a springboard to further exploration and enjoyment. Feel free to ask questions and post comments and most importantly, Have Fun!