Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bacon and the Iron Goddess of Mercy

I have got to tell you about this tea I heard Adagio has blended. It is bacon flavored! Amazing. I’m not sure I’m ready to try it, but maybe you would like it. I have had chocolate covered bacon and that is goo-ood, totally bad for you, I’m sure, but one piece a year can’t hurt, right? I was going to make some, but wisdom prevailed. I wonder if there is peanut butter tea, as I like peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. I think this better be a plain tea day.

By the time I felt like tea tasting I decided to try Ti Guan Yin for the last time. The previous 2 times I have had it, I thought it was pretty awful. Since then I have learned a little about Oolongs and brewing tea. I think the ones I had had too much tea, were brewed too long or just were poor teas. My latest has come from Dream About Tea, a shop I discussed before. I loved the last tea of theirs I tried. My only complaint about them is they send their tea in paper bags. Picky, Picky.
I have been fooling around with brewing Oolongs but decided to try the one I just read about – water just under the boil, 3 minutes. I rinsed it off first, though. The dry tea was loosely rolled, mostly green with some brown and blackish leaves. The dry scent was sweet, with a hint of green vegetable. The leaves very rapidly unfurled, giving off a nice floral scent. The taste was definitely floral with that underlying green to it. It also had a slight taste of wet wash. What can I say, when I was little I’d put anything in my mouth. The feel of the tea lasted and lasted, filling not only my mouth, but all the way to my stomach – very warming and comforting, somehow.
Perhaps the curse of the Oolongs has finally been broken and I can now go forward in enjoying this vast area of tea. At least I am beginning to not approach them with a shudder, but with anticipation. Also, so far I have discovered that if I dislike the smell of the dry tea, I probably will dislike the tea. That may not always be true.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some news, Hao Ya "B"


Yesterday's tea - Six Summits from Teavana, has me confused. I was wandering around Steepster and found a few people talking about this as if it had raspberries in it, which mine did not. Nor did I get a berry flavor from the tea. However, when I went to the website for Teavana, there it was, full of raspberries. When I got mine, there were none, nor did they say it was flavored. I have contacted them about this and am waiting for a reply.

By the way, if you are looking to try a new tea, go check out Steepster and see what others are saying about them.

Bits of News:

Twinings is introducing Green Mint Tea to India. In the past few years they have introduced several teas there, including a health and wellness line and Assam! What was the saying about "Coals to Newcastle"?
Chariteas is opening a new shop in Sandy, OR. Read about this interesting place on their blog The owner wants to use her shop to build community.
The weather in India has finally improved, and so has tea production - The autumnal pluck is up by about 9% over last year. We'll see how the flavor is after a year of odd weather.

Today's tea for tasting is Harney's Hao Ya "B". It is a China black from the spring, said to be stronger than English Breakfast, not as intense as the "A". The dry leaves are very small, very black with bits of brown to liven things. It smells smokey, winy, tobacco-y, with a hint of tanned leather. I brewed this at 3, 4, and 5 min at about 212. The tea smells incredibly fresh, and is a lovely dark amber when brewed. The leaves are tiny because they were chopped. The liquor itself tastes earthy, tannic, mushroomy at 3 minutes, with a hint of dark chocolate. As brew time goes up, so does the tannin and the mushrooms start to ferment - I don't like the later brews - my husband, of course, loves it. I like it better with milk in it and as it cools. I am undecided about it, on the whole. I think I will try it again with less leaf and see how it goes.

Six Summits Oolong

I guess I am a tea addict. If I don't have some every day, I feel deprived.
In fact, I get a "jones" for tea. Are addict and afficiando the same?
Building on my recent successes, I tried another Oolong today -
Six Summits from Teavana - part of the stash I won in a drawing. The leaves are a nice green with a bit of brown, some are crumpled, while others are almost balled. I brewed it at about 190 for 3 minutes and poured my first cup. The leaves had mostly unfurled to a range of 1/2 inch to about triple that. What a loverly scent - like Swiss flowers. It was a pale almost true lemon color. It was a very sweet floral tasting tea with a tiny bit of chalk which reminded me very much of something I have had and liked, but I don't know what - maybe Linden, maybe the nectar from sweet flowers? My second brew had almost a minty component to it. Altogether a delightful tea.
Is nothing sacred? For lunch I was making myself a nice pesto and tomato pizza when along comes the piglet - Ernie, begging, as usual. The little bugger like pesto! Something else to keep away from him. One of our big cats - all 20 lbs of him - is sitting on the porch railing, next to the bird feeder. He thinks the birds will come to eat and he can grab one - especially that annoying blue jay. Ha and Ha again. He should've learned from last year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A crooked door to the day

About how I feel after a very long busy day - old, patched, and crooked.

On the whole tea helps, but I didn't get much today. Some of the usual
Oolong at a Chinese restaurant and my afternoon brew from the Tea Table. This was "Earl Grey Russian". It has black tea, bergamot, lemon peel, clover, cornflowers, cinnamon and calendula flowers. The dry tea has a very intense scent that is heavily citrus, dark, mysterious. The brew smells very strongly of lemon. I brewed it in my usual black tea way. It was ok. Bergamot and lots of heavy lemon from the peel, but just ok. Not unusual, not all that good. Might be better iced with sugar, although milk helped round it out, just not enough for me to get any more.

With less color to look at, I have been noticing individual colors more and appreciating them - the gold of larches and tamarisk, the rust fading to tan of the oaks, the green of the pines, a few bold, red notes of the last of the sumacs, the amazing green of winter wheat. Then, there is the understory of bright yellow ferns. A lot to see when you look.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tea, beautiful tea, in all the stores

Oh happy day! I went to one of my favorite shops here in the village and what to my wondering eyes did appear? No, no, not reindeer, but Loose tea! Glass teapots! Flowering Teas! The Cheese Shop has always has a nice selection of quality herbal teas and excellent coffees, but now, they have the good stuff! She gets her teas from Teas etc., but it is packaged under her own label. Now, if I only had more money...
Well, I do need some Assam.
I went to another grocery store this weekend and, of course, checked out the tea aisle. It was huge! So many brands to choose from and so many kinds within brands. Even some loose leaf; four from the British Isles, Bewley's, Twinings, PG Tips and Typhoo. In the past 2 months that is three largish grocery stores in not very big cities - Binghamton [area], Albany and Cortland, NY. A year ago that was certainly not the case. I hope this does not go the way of many fads but that people can move from better grocery store tea to the even better world of good [quality, specialty, premier, rare, estate, pick your word] loose leaf tea.

Today's tea is not a tea, but is often classified with them. It is Yerba Mate, pronounce Yur-bah Mah-tay. Mine is Mate Decadence from the Good Leaf in Albany, NY. It has chocolate and caramel in it and is roasted, which I prefer - you can also get it green. You brew it as you do black tea, 1 teas. 212 for 5-10 minutes. It doesn't get bitter if you overbrew it. This one is particularly nice, with the chocolate in it. Just a warm cozy cup with a bit of caffeine - just enough to give you a boost. I have no idea how to describe the flavor of Mate. It is a little different but not something weird. Generally, if you like tea, you should like Mate and with some chocolate, definitely nothing to lose!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ali Shan from Adagio

After hours of downpour, the sun is out! I know I have said it is Fall because we had a hard frost, but I take it back, this is Indian Summer. Or something. The leaves are still on the magnolia so it isn't total autumn. Our magnolia leaves hang on and on and then suddenly, one sufficiently cold night they all fall off!
I think I may have to take back what I have said about Oolong teas. I have had a number of them lately that I have really liked, especially todays. It is Ali Shan, from Adagio, part of my summer fling of tea buying. I only got a sample, but when I order again I will get some more. This one of the floral oolongs from Taiwan/Formosa. The dry leaves are like tiny little packages, not balls. There is a very strong floral scent with an almost fermenting sort of understory. The instructions say to brew the tea at 212 degrees for 5 minutes. I reluctantly do so, checking all the time. Even with 5 minutes, some of these huge leaves and long stems are not totally unfurled, so I brew them again at 212 for 4 minutes. Unheard of! But what a tea! My mouth was full of sweet floral that was not at all overwhelming. It certainly was not oversweet or I wouldn't have liked it. It was almost a jasmine, almost a mock orange, with a little bit of greenness at the edges. The second cup was almost identical. I had some later that had completely cooled and it was still super! I used 9 little packages for my cup.
As I think about it, I believe that more of the Oolongs I have really liked have been Formosan. I really am loving this tea journey. I don't ever expect to be an expert, but I feel like my tea world is constantly opening up and broadening.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Palms and Bread

I'm not sure if these are palm trees, but they will have to do. Why palms?
Because my tea for today is the Palm Court Blend from Harney Teas.
The Palm Court is one of the places to have tea in NYC. It is at the Plaza Hotel and is, indeed, very ritzy. This tea was blended for them. Think of Cary Grant, Hugh Grant as a tea date.
When I opened the package the tea had a very pleasant winey tobaccoey scent. The leaves were, of course, mixed, from small to large. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes at 212. Sadly, the taste of the tea , while quite good, was not any sort of a stand out. Pleasant, but bland. The second cup was a bit more definitive, but still on the bland side. Somehow I can see it at a very snazzy place, where the emphasis is not on what you are drinking but on seeing and being seen, so a "background tea" would be just the thing.
I was reading the T Ching blog today and there was a nice article about pairing bread and tea. I am lucky enough to have friends from many parts of the world and it is always amazing to me how something as simple as water, flour and yeast can be so different in so many places. Just the simple addition of corn to the mix makes for an even headier variety. We had some friends from Guatemala staying with us and Maria tried to teach me to make corn tortillas. When we finished and had a stack for lunch, it was obvious whose was whose. Hers were all perfectly round and all the same size. Mine were the intermittent frills in the stack. But I could see that one could learn to do this and homemade tortillas are absolutely wonderful. I won't go into the many sorts of Indian bread there are, but they are all delicious, and good Italian bread.... And I am not even hungry!
The photo is of a very tiny round church in Forio, Ischia, Italy. If there were 50 people in it, it would feel very crowded.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bolivian tea with a good Aura

One of the things I like about tea is the constant surprise. 3 or 4 times a month - or more, a tea surprises me by it's smell or taste or something new and different about the leaves. Some of that is probably due to the fact that I am not very knowledgeable about tea. Some is that for us Westerners, quality tea is a new experience.

One recent surprise is that our local grocery store chain, Weis markets, carries loose leaf Lipton tea in a 1/2 lb. box, as well as Twinings loose leaf. Granted, the former didn't look too appetizing, but it was there.

Simpson and Vail is now carrying three types of Bolivian tea - two greens and a black. From what I have read, they may be the only ones. Bolivian tea has been given high marks by no less than Jane Pettigrew. Apparently the climate where the Andes meet the Amazon River basin is an ideal climate for tea growing. This is doubly interesting to me as a few months ago I had heard about Bolivian tea and Googled it, only to find that it usually referred to cocaine or substances that had been adulterated with the drug. It is also good to know that the tea produced is coming from a cooperative of small farmers who apparently control the tea from the field to the shipping containers.

My best surprise this week is an Oolong tea I really like. My experience of Oolong has been decidedly mixed, most heavily weighted on the awful, awful side. Some due to the tea preparation, some due to just not liking it.

I had been given a sample as a gift from another tea blogger, Organic Wuyi Oolong from Aura Teas, a Canadian company . It is one of their small sample sizes, but even so, came in a nice little tin. When I opened it I was surprised that it smelt strongly of chocolate! I brewed it about 180-190 for about a minute and then 2 more brewings for 30 seconds and then 50. It brews up to a very light color, with the first sample toasty, steamy with a bit of gentle fruit. The second infusion had a stronger toast taste, with a gentle hint of woodsiness. The third was another surprise, as it tasted of marshmallows, of all things with a hint of floral and candle wax. Amazing! I really, really liked this tea

I had read that often when one brews tea like this for a group, one combines the three infusions to insure everyone is treated the same, so I did. I felt that while it was good,too much was lost in the process and the combination meant that everyone suffered. So, tiny cups of each infusion so all can taste the nuances.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

All sorts of NEW stuff

It's really Wednesday
This handy little gadget on the right is the Eight Cranes Perfect Steeper.
I just received a press release from them and after reading it and viewing
the video at I think it looks good enough to chat about. Unlike many others, it is double-walled so you can handle it easily, without burning your fingers. It operates by placing the tea in the small strainered chamber, adding hot, but not boiling water to the large one, putting on the top and then turning it over to allow the tea to steep, turning it back to keep the leaves out of your tea. Nifty idea, certainly a good looker, and available at for 39.95 USD

I just received my Tea A Magazine in the mail and it is such a good issue. There's an excellent article by Jane Pettigrew about the Yagi family of Kyoto, Japan who have been making beautiful, simple tea caddies for over 100 years. There are the results and recipes from the 2009 New England Culinary Tea Competition - a few of which I may even make. Also included is a lengthy article about Yoga and tea by Cyndi Harron of Simpson and Vail , one of my favorite tea merchants. I have read Tea for a number of years and really feel it has grown over that time from a slick, but just OK magazine with too many ads to a still slick but much more informative and substantial publication.
I also just received - very quickly, I may add, some tea from a new company, Dream About Tea . I ordered some Ti Kuan Yin Oolong, Hairy Crab Oolong [love that name] and yet another Yunnan. What can I say, I love the stuff.
I am trying the Golden Silk Black [the Yunnan] first. It smells delightful, woodsy and mushroomy with that special scent only Yunnan has. The leaves are very long and twisted, dark brown to black with lots of gold. The tea brews up to a beautiful red-gold color with a definite mushroom, woodland scent. The liquor itself is wonderful, very smooth - definitely silky, it just glides over your tongue. There is a hint of smoke, with some lovely woodland edges, overlying a smooth Yunnan taste - altogether a delightful tea.

THE perfect addition to today is sun and warmth - all the way up to 60. Oh frabjous joy. Fortunately I had to go down to Binghamton, which has many hills enclosing the river and those hills still have their leaves, so I felt very well-treated today

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tea Finely Brewed

Over on the Tea Finely Brewed Blog , there are some photos of one of the most difficult to reach tea houses in Asia. You really should check it out. I don't believe I'll go, I would like the view too much.

On a milder note, theTea and Coffee World Cup will be in Vienna, Austria from April 25-27. There will be symposia, cuppings, tea auctions and workshops. And, if you are a cross-drinker, the same will be true for coffee. And after that, you can explore Vienna, one of the truly cool, beautiful, clean, interesting cities of the world.
This is a very small medieval church in the middle of no place in Germany. There are only 6 windows, the largest of which is perhaps 2' by 2'. The small annex on the right is sided with small flat stones.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, Harney's does it again

More sunshine - oh happy da-a-y!
Yesterday I received my first copy of my subscription to Tea & Coffee, the trade journal for the industry. I had been wanting to subscribe for quite a while and finally bit the bullet. It is much thinner than I expected, but you also get access to all the old issues on line, so it's not too bad in the long run. It has been very interesting to read about our suppliers and the things they go through to market our favorite beverage.
There were pictures of tea-processing machinery that looked like Rube Goldberg inventions.
The most interesting was a fairly lengthy article about the Vietnamese tea growers. A great deal of their tea is produced on tiny farms, with creative use of what is available, such as an old clothes dryer to dry the leaves. The industry there really is in a muddle with State-owned farms, middling sized farm/factories and the tiny producers. The association for these small growers is hoping to move toward the specialty market.
For me this is a good adjunct to some of the more "frou-frou" tea magazines out there. I wish there was a good somewhat educational magazine, other than on line.
I'm sorry, I really like paper to hold.
Today's tea is the "Queen Catherine Blend" from Harney's, in honor of said queen of England who introduced tea to the English. It is a blend of three Chinese black teas and has had the honor of being the only Western tea features in the Chinese museum of tea. The dry leaves are small and range from medium-dark brown to black, with some touches of gold. They have a deep, dark scent of tobacco and fermented earth, very heady. The brewing scent combines that with an over-scent of fresh windy air, in the country. The liquor brews up to a beautiful golden amber after 31/2 minutes at 212. The tea is very mellow, with a nutty [pecan I think] woodsy earthy taste, with no smokiness, for those of you who dislike that. The flavor is not heavy, but refreshing.
I have a bunch of Oolongs and Greens to try, but I am really into Black tea at the moment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Upton's Keemun and Harney's Golden Blend

I hope the blogger thingy doesn't screw up today - I lost the last half of yesterday three times before I just gave up.

Yesterday's Keemun was a sample I got from Upton's recently. I threw out my notes and I've had lots of tea since but it was their Keemun Mao Feng Superior. And that is just what it was. It was very slightly smokey, a beautiful red/amber with a very nice full taste that you could sense draining from your mouth. An odd sensation, but interesting. It was almost a light-bodied tea, but not quite. Definitely worth getting again.

Today I was trying a sample I just got from Harney's, another of my favorite suppliers. It is called Golden Blend and when it arrived last night, I just had to smell it. Such an enticing smell - like drying corn silk overlaying a bit of earth and floral. [Can you tell I grew up on a farm?] It is a blend of Fujian Province, China's Golden monkey and Assam, India FTGFOB. Very dark medium size leaves with longish golden buds. I brewed a teaspoon for 31/2 min at about 205. Next time I think I will try more tea, hotter water and maybe push it to 4 min. The brewing scent was nothing like the dry and was a disappointment as it merely smelled a bit vegetal and astringent with not much else. The tea wasn't that great either. It had about a medium body with a forward mouth feel that had a little spice, a little earth, some floral but nothing really great. I think the fault was mine and I should have brewed more leaf longer. There's always next time.
You're probably sick of our weather, but we have had a little late afternoon SUN. Yay, Yay

Friday, October 16, 2009

CTC and Keemun

Now just a darn minute here. It is only Oct 16. But... It snowed!

At least an inch! First there's not much of summer, now there's

not much of fall. Or sunshine. Grump, grump, grump. The people

of the Northeast are really good at grumping about the weather -

we get so much practise. However, it does make for good tea

drinking - we appreciate the warmth so much more.

This a.m. I am having some of my husband's tea. Lipton's green label CTC, from our favorite Indian grocer. It is, of course, Assam, Crushed, Torn, Cut. Little bitty bits of absolutely straightforward tea that never unfurl or seem to change shape but after a 2 minute infusion produce plain ordinary tea. Our grocer is amazed we would buy such expensive stuff - $8.00 a pound.

Something is screwy with this blog today - I just lost half of it

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Farmer's daughter Yunnan

It's really Thursday.
Scientists have told us for a long time that smell is the primary sense to evoke memory. I'm sure we've all had the experience of catching a scent and instantly remembering something we may not have thought of for years. That happened to me today and you'll probably laugh about it.
The weather is still pretty grim, so I was again having black tea, Yunnan Jig from Adagio. The dry leaves are quite long and a bit twisted, mostly a greenish black, but with a good bit of nice gold tips. The dry tea didn't have much scent, but as it brewed, it released one of those instant smell-sense memories!
I grew up on a dairy farm before milking parlors got as mechanized as they are now and twice a day we would have to wash out all the milking machines, the cream separator, the funnels, the milk cans. This was done with the hottest possible water and a special soap that would break down the milk protein. The smell of the tea reminded me of that special smell, fresh, steamy, milky, all enveloping.
I loved that smell And I love this tea. It is not the very best I have ever had, as I really like more tips, but this is so fresh and tastes and smells so wonderfully of good clean earth and leather and spice. This really reaches its best in the back of your mouth and along the sides of your tongue. Definitely one to have on hand.
I have discovered a free kitty toy that keeps them amused for a good 20 minutes. It's called "The dripping water bowl filler" Clean out the water bowl, place it in the sink, set your faucet to drip and voila! they'll watch it or play with it until the bowl is full. A plastic bag full of crumpled paper, tied so they cannot choke on any of it also works for a while. A piece of aluminum foil crumpled and twisted and tied onto a chair will also amuse.
I think I need more to do if these are my creative thoughts for the day. But we have 2 overactive kittens and it's raining and they do not want to get rained on!

Melange Hediard

Another gray day! But we went out and planted a few more things, so that was ok. I think I only have 2 more plants to put in and a few to transplant for inside and then I'll be done - Oh happy day. My rosemary got quite large and I am hoping to not kill it this winter. I only manage about every other year to carry it over. I think I finally figured out the problem - over watering. I lost a few this summer because it rained so much.

Today I tried Hediard's Melange Hediard, French for Hediard blend. I bought it in the summer, on one of my tea splurges. I had been wanting to try a Hediard tea for a while. This contains bergamot, lemon and sweet orange oil. On opening the can it smells VERY strongly of bergamot and something a lot sharper, more in the grapefruit range. It is a black tea with a mixed lot of leaf size. As it brews the scent just about disappears. The bright red gold brew actually is very smooth with a light lemony flavor. Not much to get excited about, but pleasant. It did get better as it cooled, as more of the bergamot and sweet orange came out. It may need a bit of sugar. I think next time I will use more leaf and maybe brew it another 30 seconds.
I am always hesitant to go beyond 3 minutes, unless there are specific instructions to do so, as so often the tea will be overly tannic, at least to my taste.

I had tried this particular blend, as it was one of the few that wasn't one of "the usual suspects" of Darjeeling, Jasmine or Ceylon. There was Christmas blend, but that had cloves in it and I dislike cloves in my tea as they usually are too far forward. As it is, this may be the end of Hediard for me. Oh well, that is the road for learning about tea. Some you visit many times, others fade in the distance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A cold day not quite relieved by flowers

Aaargh, what an ugly day, cold, rainy, grey. Where are the crisp sunny days of Autumn - we've really only had one or two of them - not nearly enough to face all those months of grey winter. Perhaps some flowery tea will do the trick.
I have a sample of Simpson and Vail's [ ] Violet Rose. I guess I'll try that. It is a black tea with rose and violet petals in it. It smells very very strongly of violets, with only a hint of rose. That is, it smells of the violet toilet water my great-grandmother used, I've not really ever thought violets had much scent. It brews up to an attractive red gold liquor, violet smelling all the way. And that is the taste - violet. There is a very small hint of rose, but not nearly enough. I don't care for it, I would prefer the rose to be far more forward and I would also like to be able to taste the tea, with the scent/flavorings as an addition.
For those of you who care about such things, The Two, kitties that is, are no longer really kitties, seeing as they now weigh over 9 pounds apiece. They are only 6 months old, what will they be like at a year? They are very pretty with dark orange coats and add a bright note to the landscape.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Good Leaf yields to Tippy Yunnan

A follow-up visit to the eye doctor, another 4 hr round trip through beautiful hills alive with color - much prettier than last week as I could actually see them clearly. I saw my regular doctor's new partner and he seemed at least unbelieving and then almost disgruntled that I could see so well. Called it miraculous. Well, yes. So there. My regular doctor would've been pleased. I certainly was.
In honor of that visit I had some Japanese Cherry Green Tea from the Good Leaf Tea Company in Albany. I bought this a while ago and they don't carry it anymore, But it was excellent, smooth and full of flavor, without any of that fishy or seaweed taste that I really, really hate in green teas. More than that I won't say, as it's no longer available.

This is a young company, started about 4 years ago as a home-based business, which grew into a tiny shop in one of the indoor farmer's markets and then to a small full-sized shop on Lark St.. which is the center of the arts and entertainment community in the city. I have had several of Michelle's teas and they have all been excellent. I will review some others that I know she carries later. One of her most popular blends was put together by her then 13 yr old son. I really like it, even though I am not much of a fruit tea person.

I have never received any freebies or payment from Michelle, I just want to say "well done" to someone who cares a great deal about tea and was able to grow a business without losing quality.

My real tea of the day was the end of a tea I purchased last year from Upton's. It is their Tippy Yunnan. I decided to have that today, both because I love it and so I could compare it with the Imperial Yunnan of a few days ago. They are clearly related, smell about the same, look a great deal alike, although this Yunnan has smaller leaves, and is a somewhat darker brown with a few more tips. I brewed it the same - 1 tsp, 212, 3 min. It is, surprisingly, a deeper richer, heftier brew, but not overwhelming. I am sad to see this go, as I have loved it, but I still have almost a whole can of the Imperial, so I won't cry yet.

I guess this is a day of "followups" as the picture is of the lock to the gate of yesterday's hinges.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keemun Ji Hong

Today is a gorgeous fall day, sunny and clear. This is a lovely autumn. Unlike last year, when the trees never really had much color and it certainly wasn't a concerted effort, this year it is quite colorful and all at once so that we have lovely vistas with all our hills and valleys. It seemed a perfect day for trying a new tea.
I bought a bunch of samples from Upton's and decided to try again with Keemuns. In the past, I have not liked them, but I was hoping that I had grown enough to appreciate them.
Today's sample is from Hubei Province, a Keemun Ji Hong. The dry leaves are quite small and very dark, really black with an occasional gold or brown to enliven them. They smell something like a very mild Lapsang - a bit smokey. More, they just smell like fresh tea. The wet leaves have a wonderful smell - very fresh and clean, like laundry blowing in the wind, coupled with a good slightly toasty, earthy scent. The tea is also wonderful, dark red, rich, mysterious. Definitely a back of the mouth taste with some earth and the barest hint of smoke, which doesn't really come out until the second infusion, which I brewed as I had the first - 3 min at 210. This time around was on the weak side but still good and I combined the 2 for an excellent cup.
This tea could easily take milk and sugar, but why ruin a good thing?
We will probably have frost tonight so we need to hurry out and get the last of the garden. It's just beets and cabbage and maybe some last New Zealand spinach. I hope next year is better.
The picture is part of the hinge apparatus for the gates to the summer palace in Vienna.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ordinary tea and a book

No brain at all for tea tasting. I continue my dearly beloved Imperial Yunnan. This after a pancake breakfast at the fire hall. This is a very supportive town - everybody comes out to whatever dinner or breakfast or auction or fundraiser is being held. They even talk of going to new restaurants to support them. We are really into local. It doesn't stop us from hitting the Super-Duper, Gigantic, ever-so special Wegman's, however. Local is good, but then there's Brie and, of course, tea.

I have tried valiantly to read a scholarly book about the lives of women tea workers in India. I actually got this book by mistake and was too lazy to send it back when I discovered what it is. It is A Time For Tea by Piya Chatterjee, subtitled Women, labor and post Colonial politics on an Indian plantation. If I had known the subtitle I probably wouldn't have purchased it. It is much too scholarly for me, really for those who are doing gender studies at the doctoral level. Some of it I appreciated, as it juxtaposes an Indian play with the information about tea workers. I skimmed through what I didn't read and did learn quite a bit about the life of these women. Generally a lot of hard work in poor conditions for not much money. Sadly, the fate of many women worldwide. I do try to appreciate my tea.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Simpson and Vail inspires Upton's Yunnan

Friday, Oct 9
I just received the new catalog from Simpson and Vail. Their web address is http://www.svtea,com/ They have some very nice teapots, some beautiful tea canisters and one of the most interesting tea scoop/infusers I've seen. It looks just like one of those ice cream scoops that has a liquid inside it that warms with your hand heat, so the scooping is easier. You scoop up your dry tea in the scoopy part and let it drain into the handle part, which is perforated, which you then pour boiling water over to steep in your cup. Definitely cute, but I don't know if it works, not having purchased one. And not likely to, as I would rather spend my money on tea. Anyway, S&V is a good source for Devonshire cream and clotted cream and other nifty tea stuff. They also carry a good selection of teas and coffees, including teas from the new farms in Bolivia and what looks like a complete line of Yoga teas, as well as herbal teas and tisanes. I really like their elderflower and tilleul, [aka linden flowers] both quite delicate and which make me think of either Paris or the Swiss alps.
I was reading about Mimi Sheridan's travels in China and the food she ate and was reminded of my Uncle Bud's trip to Korea. Uncle Bud was a man who grew up on a farm in Upstate NY and whose food tastes never left - not an experimental eater. He was thrilled to see oatmeal on the menu for breakfast at his hotel - At last! something familiar. He ordered it at once but was considerably dismayed to find it came topped with a raw egg! My aunt loved to tell that story!
This morning I am drinking some fine Imperial Yunnan from Upton's. I do love Yunnan and this is a particularly nice one. I have no words to describe the taste. To me, "a really good Yunnan" suits it, as Yunnan is so distinctive. I think it must be one of those teas, like some particular wines, that so very clearly reflect the particular soil on which they grow.
This afternoon I was going to try at least one and maybe more of the Keemun samples I bought. I haven't particularly cared for them in the past, but I like to go back to such teas and see if I can appreciate them more. However, my husband is canning beets and their wonderful scent is so pervasive there is no hope of an honest tasting of anything. Better luck tomorrow!
Isn't that a wonderful door?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tea fix, Pear and Yunnan

Okay, I've had about 6 cups of tea and I am no longer cranky. See,it's the simple things that keep us going. Even when we have to deal with bureaucracy. I spent 2 hrs today trying to get social security to accept my ID, password, spell my name right and get my address right. Result - I finally told the on line guy that since we were back at the beginning with nothing accomplished I was hanging up. Then he asked if he could help with anything else! I'm old enough, they really don't have to make it worse. However, due to my tea fix I was still polite; ready to chew nails, but polite.

I tried Simpson and Vail's Pear Tea today. This is a bit unusual in that it is a quality black tea. It smells very pear-y, really too much so for my taste - more like pear nectar than fresh pears. The tea leaves are really black and mostly of a good size. I brewed it about 205 for 3 minutes and it still smelled very strongly of pear. The sad news is I didn't care for it. The pear flavor was much too strong and not the nicest. I like to taste my tea and if there are additions, I want them to be a hint, a lure, a siren, not a call girl. Simpson and Vail do a lot of very nice subtle teas, but sometimes they just go a little nuts.

Later on I had some of my favorite - Yunnan Gold. I could drink this stuff forever, I am that fond of it. The label says Imperial Golden Black Tea [Imperial Gold Dianhong]. I have no idea what company it is from. I compared the label to all the others I have and it didn't match any of them. Anyway, the dry leaves were a good mix of golden buds and very large dark brown twisted leaves. Less gold than I would have expected in an Imperial designation. It had that characteristic Yunnan scent and brewed up into a beautiful dark brown cup that was quite satisfying. Not the best I've had, but quite good. If it had been the most superb I would've been really unhappy to not know where it came from.

The photo above is another Swiss watering trough, this one beside my great-granfather's house. The water in it continuously runs from a spring higher up the mountain and it tasted like liquid heaven. Wish I had some to do my best teas in!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not much

I have had 2 days without a decent cup of tea and I am getting
cranky. It's my own fault, but...
I have been trying to get the last of the plants in before it's too late, but I am not having much luck there, either.
This week is kind of a wash-out as I am having an eye operation, which involves being away for 2 nights and driving home with a patch on my eye. I'll be staying with my cousin, so I'll at least get tea bag tea. Maybe I'll take my own. My eye doctor keeps telling me I am just unlucky - great diagnosis. This is my third cataract, plus scar tissue from my last "unlucky" visit to Dr. Stern, whom I think is absolutely one of the best. So I am cranky and tomorrow, by gorry I will have an entire day of tea and planting. So there, universe. We'll see!

Which is also one way of saying I probably won't be doing a lot of posts this week.

The photo is of a watering trough made from a tree trunk in the Swiss outdoor museum. It is one of the best things we did while we were there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A book and a center

Okay, those are not autumn flowers, but they're still pretty. Today was a glorious day! Warm, sunny, a perfect day for a drive through the hills of the Southern Tier of NYS. That's a little east and south of the Finger Lakes. Our two biggest crops are hills and valleys and water. Rills, streams, creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, we've got them. You can certainly tell the glaciers came through here and gouged out the land. Every now and then I remember that the glaciers were 1 to 2 miles thick and I am amazed the land was able to withstand it. Actually it kinda freaks me out that there was once so much stuff over my head!
No tea review today, but I do have a short book review, The Book of Green Tea by Christine Dattner published in 2002. I think it is most probably a French book, certainly European, but in English. It has gorgeous photos, which makes it expensive - $35. I think I received it as a gift. I had hopes of it really giving me the low-down on green tea, but I was disappointed. The first 60+ pages were a history of tea and a description of the manufacturing of tea. Not just green tea, but all kinds of tea. It was adequate, but I was eager to get to the meat of the book. It covered tea ceremonies and a section of tea recipes, tea pots, beauty secrets, etc and finally, on page147 there was a 4 page section on different kinds of green teas. Then it was over! I felt quite cheated, as I really wanted to learn about green tea. Guess I'll just have to start drinking!
Let us move to a cheerier topic. I was reading through some of the tea archive articles in the NY Times and found one about Yamada Hisashe Sensei, a Japanese master of the art of the Chanoyu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony. He founded the Urasenke Chanoyu Center in NYC and taught there for many years until his recent death. The website is It is well worth going to, to learn about both the ceremony and the center.
Japan has a wonderful system of Living National Treasures. These are people who are masters/mistresses of ancient arts, such as music, pottery, tea ceremony, sword making, dance, etc. They are set up in schools and supported by the government as long as they are practising and teaching their art to others. There was a program on TV awhile ago about them - really fascinating. I wish we did that here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Apples and Chai

The sun is shining in the picture but it isn't shining here. In fact, I think it
may be nastier than yesterday. We went to the farmers market and they had Northern Spy apples! These are my all time favorites. Very crisp, tart, a little spicy. Apple pie here we come, maybe an apple dumpling. Not found in grocery stores. This find makes up for the Ginger Gold crop which is my favorite summer apple. This year they were not gingery nor were they crisp and juicy.

It was so raw today that I thought a nice chai would be very warming. Part of my birthday gift was some Special Teas Masala Chai no. 920. There wasn't a lot of what I identify as chai smell when I opened the package, It almost smelled more lemony in the Russian style and like those fennel seed mixes you find at the exits to Indian restaurants. Some of the lemony was from the cardamom, as that does have a subtle sweet lemon scent. I really could not identify any smell of ginger or cinnamon, nothing stood out. The tea itself was very small, very black leaves, probably an Assam.
As it brewed it didn't give off much scent. It brewed up into a very dark brown. The directions said to add lots of sugar and milk, which I did, but it wasn't until I had added 31/2 teaspoons of sugar that the taste of the spice cam through and then it was still muddled. My very personal opinion is they used cheap spices, not enough of them and in the wrong proportions. Even my sweet tea loving husband thought it was too much sweet for what it was. I wound up adding candied ginger, cinnamon and some cardamom pods to make it better.
I think the powdered Masala Chai I tried a while ago was a lot tastier and I didn't need so much sugar.

The photo is of a German coat of arms from 1741.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Breakfat in Bed with Darjeeling

Another cold, nasty day. Nasty means the sun is not shining and the
damp goes right through your body to your bones. I really am not
ready for this. We get little enough sun in the winter, we'd at least like it in the fall.

Yesterday I tried Liberteas "Breakfast in Bed" blend. A combination of black tea, vanilla, rose petals, and cinnamon. Especially cinnamon. That was definitely the scent upon opening the container. I didn't catch any of the rose or vanilla, except for a somewhat sweet scent that just teased around the edges. The brew was also heavily cinnamon scented, again with an elusive sweet wafting through. The tea itself didn't taste like much of anything. I threw it out and brewed another pot and while there was a more strong taste of cinnamon, there wasn't much else. I have to confess I really didn't like it and didn't finish it. This was a real disappointment, as the other Liberteas I have tried I have been very impressed with.

Today's trial was Adagio's Darjeeling #2. I usually buy single garden Darjeelings, but I thought I would give it a try as it had very high ratings. I am glad I did. The dry leaves were huge - I had trouble getting them out of the can. They were a lovely dark twisted brown with some white tips. I actually followed directions and brewed it for 5 min at 212. The leaves were so big I didn't think that any less would allow them to unfurl. They smelled almost perfumed - not exactly floral, but I am not sure just what. There was a definite hint of lime and then some floral overlaying a very clean earth/woods smell. The taste didn't disappoint, either. My first sip filled my mouth with a lovely floral taste, with the lime and woods following after. As it cooled, more of the depth of earth came out, still with the overlay of perhaps lime flowers. At the end there was just a touch of astringency to add some piquancy. A very nice tea and one worth getting again.

The photo above is the Meiringen Church, which has perfect acoustics - something to do with the length of the church in relationship to the height and angle of the barrel vaulting and the number and circumference of the support pillars. One of these days I will show you the interior. There has been a church on this spot from before 800 AD.