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!
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.
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.
Dry Leaf: Upon opening the packet, I was blown away. The real, discernible spices were extraordinary. The scent was amazing, and the next thoughts were “can I climb in that small packet and live for eternity?” followed by “I need more, much more, of this.” I believe there is bay leaf in the mix as well which adds a great cassia/bay scent.
Wet Leaf: The aromatics sing with cardamom (my personal favorite) edging out the cinnamon for top billing.
Brewed: This is as good as it gets in my estimation. I opted out of milk or sweetener because I wanted to experience it as it is even though the brewing directions stated to use milk and water. I will enjoy it that way next, and post the results, I just had to have this straight up. I have not strayed from the brewing guide once, but I just couldn’t help myself once I saw how amazing the spices were. Hopefully I can be forgiven :) Cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf, ginger, and I’m sure more that I am missing form a symphony here that doesn’t just present a note of this or that but an entire performance with an encore. not overly spicy in a heat sort of way but very assertive and easily will stand up to milk and sweetener without losing anything.
Chai in America is generally some poorly (sadly even artificially) flavored low-grade tea buried under milk/cream and tons of sugar. Occasionally a decent cup can be had with tiny bits of actual spices mixed in. Sometimes the balance is way off and skewed too far to the spice notes and the tea is merely a vehicle to darken the water or milk. This is both Yin and Yang in perfect harmony. I have fallen in love twice in one week, first the Jungpana Imperial Muscatel and now with the Masala Chai. This will be forever stocked in my tea cupboard so long as I can obtain it in this form. Again, about as full an endorsement as I could offer any tea. This is a mood lifter, one simply could not be anything but in sheer rapture with this in their cup. Flavored tea often takes a back seat with “serious” tea drinkers, and this would be one that breaks down that wall entirely. I am a truly happy man.
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.