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!

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Shincha and Erhus

March 30, 2011

Even with the terrible tragedies in Japan, I can’t help but think of Spring without dreaming of Shincha. It seems that the weather is shaping up for a late season but there are a few places taking orders. I have had a number of inquiries and questions on the safety of this year’s crop, and honestly while I am reasonably certain it will be fine, I have some reservations in definitively saying it is 100% safe. 99% I could do, maybe, but there are a lot of factors and issues at play. I’d love to hear other’s theories and thoughts.

Now for the Erhu bit. I own a number of instruments and play none of them well, but I love music and I do love experimenting and playing terribly. I also love music. I’m entranced by the Sitar and the Erhu both. A Sitar is a tad out of my price range and would require a lifetime devotion to be even bad at, same for the Erhu but it is at least affordable. :) So I finally dove in and purchased a decent beginner/intermediate Erhu. I honestly have no real idea what I’m in for and have not played a bowed instrument before, but I love classical Chinese music and know and recognize more of them than classical Western pieces. At the least I hope to be able to play a few basic melodies and maybe use it to sample for some digital creation, at the very least it will make a lovely piece of art!


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!


Recent Roundup

September 22, 2009

Things have been a bit quiet here lately mainly due to a lovely sickness that latched on and left me pretty miserable for far too long. So much for all that tea = health business. With dulled taste buds and little interest in anything but getting better, tea has taken a bit of a back seat as of late. Well not tea in general, just quality teas. Subtlety and nuance don’t quite jibe with antibiotics and a constant metallic taste. However, there has been tea, so this is a roundup of what’s been in the cup.

Ginger Dragon. This tisane was prepared at a Moroccan coffee shop where I went to hear some great music a few nights ago. It was essentially just pure ginger root steeped strongly with honey. It was a fiery, peppery, yellow brew which did wonders for my sore throat but wreaked havoc on my easily nauseated stomach. Just near the end of the generous glass the strength and flavor became a bit too much and too harsh, but I did finish it and it is always my mother’s go-to cure for sore throats so I couldn’t have passed it up.

Turkish Coffee. Not tea at all, but that same coffee shop offered great Turkish coffee hand prepared properly with the little copper Ibrik. It’s a sweet little coffee treat. A real coffee treat not the watered-down variety of national chains and syrups. Super-finely ground coffee is repeatedly boiled with sugar and water in the little vessel, allowed to settle, and then poured into a small demitasse cup for sheer joy. I’m not much of a coffee drinker and it is just sublime. My own Ibrik will be coming soon and I plan on enjoying more of this in the comfort of my own home.

Red Bamboo honey and Luzianne Tea. My personal sick-day standby. The tea is merely a vehicle for transporting the amazingly deep and complex red bamboo honey. I get this tea from a local beekeeper so I don’t know about the availability outside of PA/WV area, but if you can find some, try it. As for the Luzianne, I know it is meant for iced tea and I don’t care. I think it has the most flavor and character of all American teabags and pairs really well with honey of all types.

Matcha Kit-Kats. A Japanese friend recently brought back a box of these little delights. It could just be my dead palate but there isn’t much green tea present, it’s more like a green colored white chocolate kit-kat, which there’s nothing wrong with in my book. I had been hoping for a more bitter and vegetal experience but they are good enough that I went back for more and would probably devour the whole lot if it weren’t in bad taste.

So that’s the roundup, there will be some more coverage of my recent black/red tea foray soon.