Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Houses in Durlach, Germany, following the curve of the medieval town fortress wall.

Thanks to the blog Lainie Sips, I have learned of a new tea company. New to me, certainly, and relatively new on the market. This is BourgeaTEA, which can be found at It was started in 2008 by Chris Bourgea to provide quality tea to students on his university campus in Indiana. The various people in charge of the different operations within the company are/were also students. He is going to send me some samples to try, so I'll be reviewing them soon. Chris is also the youngest master certified by the American Tea Masters. It is exciting to see someone who wants to help make tea appealing to younger people and help it slough off the “little old lady” image it sometimes has. I suppose by age I fit there, but not in my mind, there I am still 27.

I finally got most of my cookbooks unpacked today. Oh happy day, now I need to read through them and find some good stuff to do – haven't really been doing much that's creative lately. Although we did have fried green tomatoes with a lime/honey/cream dressing that was superb on them. I know it sounds weird, but it set them off perfectly.

Here's the recipe – Whisk together
about ¼ cup olive oil,
2Tbls. Honey
1Tbls. Vinegar – I used homemade Basil vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup half and half
Salt to taste and lots of pepper
This is all an approximation, as I did not measure anything. I basically played with it until I liked it. That is how I do most of my cooking. Not so much baking, as that is more a chemical process.

No tea reviews today, as I am in day 3 of a horrendous weather headache, and tea just aggravates it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The church in Germany where my 5 greats-grandfather was christened, in the baptismal font on the left. The cross was lost for many years, found in a barn and returned.

First of all, an announcement. The Chicago Tea Garden, co-owned by fellow blogger, Tony Gebley is now selling Zealong Tea, the only tea grown in New Zealand. It sounds like lovely stuff, but at $38 for a bit over 2 ounces, I really can't. If you would like to try this or any of his other offerings, go on over to I assure you, many are less costly, but very good.

Today is a really pleasant day, warm, but not hot, sunny with enough clouds to be pretty, and low humidity. Quite a contrast to the last few days when even the cats wouldn't go out, but slept the entire day. To celebrate, I am having one of the Golden Moon Tea samples I bought a while ago. It is Sinharaja, a Ceylon tea grown near the Sinharaja Rainforest. The dry leaves are fairly long and twisted, a dark rich brown, smelling somewhat of bubblegum, old wood and fine tobacco. I brewed it for 4 minutes and the resulting liquor is a lovely amber, with that great fresh wash on the line smell. There is also a hint of molasses or caramelized sugar. This continues in the taste, which is very fresh with a somewhat molasses, toasty taste, that finishes sweet. The addition of cream seems to bring out all the flavors and I imagine some sugar would also. I brewed it for 4 minutes, but I think it could easily go 5 and be quite good.

I have a recommendation for a spread for all you toast lovers. Nutella. This is a chocolate, hazelnut, milk spread dearly beloved by Europeans and my family. The first time my cousin had it, he ate the whole jar he thought it was so good. And it is. It might even go well on plain scones. It goes nicely with most black teas. It is not overly sweet, either. Most fairly large supermarkets carry it by the jellies and peanut butters.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


A brand new house in Switzerland. You can tell because the wood is so light.
By the end of yesterday, I really needed a cup of tea, so I brewed up some of Simpson and Vail's Bolivian Black, Large Leaf. I had forgotten how very nice it is, strong, floral, astringent. I was so glad I had it. And it makes a refreshing ice tea as well, which I had for lunch today. I reviewed this more fully on Nov 29, 2009.

Today I decided to try 2 teas using the cold brew method. The first is Teas Etc. Orange U Slim, a dark Chinese Oolong with pieces of orange and orange essence. The dark I assume refers to the Oolong being one that has oxidized quite a bit. Oolongs vary in oxidation from about 10% to 80%. This one definitely appears to be on the upper end of the scale. The two times I have tried it it has not been a winner, so this is absolutely it or into the mulch pile for sure.

The second is one of my favorites, Hu Kwa, a Lapsang Souchong from Mark T. Wendell. That means it is a smoked tea, getting much of its flavor from the smoke of smoldering pine branches. People either generally hate it or love it. I am in the latter category. To date, it is the best one I have had. I have not heard of anyone trying this as an ice tea, but I thought, why not? If you had this as ice tea, please tell me about it in the comments.

Well, the great experiment was a total bomb. Orange U Slim was its usual tasteless self and the Hu Kwa was just plain awful. Mulch pile for the first and back to hot tea status for the second.

I am in no way connected with the PUR water filter people, but I have to say I like their newest on- faucet-filter. It goes on easily, although you may need to use 2 washers to make the connection solid, it swivels back under the faucet so it is out of the way and it makes a big difference in the taste of your water. I found that for my amount of use – two pots of tea a day, pot of coffee for Himself, a filter lasts about 4 months. They are available at most big box hardware stores, as are the filters. Go for the slightly more expensive ones – the cheapies are just that – cheap.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shaken, Not Stirred

Not much tea today. I am too lazy to make it. I thought about having some at the new Thai restaurant we went to, but at $4 a cup, I decided that was silly. It was $5.00 for Thai ice tea, which I really like!

A few days ago I had ice tea at a Barnes and Noble Bookstore, courtesy of Starbucks, and I who am not too fussy about my ice tea, thought the only thing that brew had going for it was it was cold and it was wet. Otherwise it really wasn't that good – too tannic for me, even with the fancy shaking it got before being poured into my glass.

We did discover something nice at the very local farmers' market – fresh ripe tomatoes. Unheard of here in the North before the end of July. These tomatoes are the result of grafting new tomato slips onto existing root stock and then putting them in bottom heated plastic tunnels, the tops of which are removed when it is warm enough. They are expensive - $4 a pound, so I bought just one. Gotta say it was delish! Like a summer tomato. But I don't think I'd better come home too often with them.We also got some blackberries for blackberry shortcake. Hmm, I do love summer berries.

We have had a string of small critters in the house, courtesy of the mighty hunters, aka Bert and Ernie. However, yesterday's offering was a very angry, very alive chipmunk, whom I finally rescued and put out. I see we need to have a lecture on “You are a pet. You do not have pets, you have toys.” They will probably listen as well as other cats I have known.

Have you seen the new shot glasses you make out of ice? Sounds cute until you think about it – cold wet hands. I suppose you could use them to sink something in your glass of ice tea or a tea cocktail, but still, wet, cold hands. Certain adolescent males could become a problem with these. Reminds me of the time I decided to put food coloring in the ice cubes. They were pretty, but no one wanted them in their glasses. For a more tea-related gathering of gadgets, hop on over to for a review of some new doodads.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oh Be Joyful!

A sign post in the town center of Darstetten, Switzerland, indicating it is a 30 minute walk to the hamlet of Nidfluh, where my great-grandfather lived. 30 Swiss minutes, maybe, we got a ride! The Swiss are great hikers and my great-grandfather' s house is part of an Historic House Walk. There was even a stamp with it's picture on it.

Hoo Whee, I'm rich today! Boston Tea Company asked if any of us who belong to the Association of Tea Bloggers would like to review their teas. Of course, says I, and today I received a total of ten, with some honey flavoring spoons. Nice big samples, too, so we can both try them.

Today's choice is Coconut Joy, Ceylon Black Tea with coconut pieces and coconut flavor. The leaves are small and dark, with the expected bits of coconut. What was not expected was the scent – just like fresh coconut or the best coconut milk. Not sweet or chemical tasting! I brewed 1 teaspoon per cup for 3.5 minutes. The directions said 4-6 minutes, but I can never bring myself to do that, especially with small leaves, which infuse faster.

The tea liquor is quite dark and smells very freshly of the tea with a pleasant overlay of the coconut. It is a sweet scent, but not sugary. The tea itself is really good. Exactly how I like my flavored teas – tea first, flavoring as second chair. On the tongue, it again has an elusive sweetness, without sugariness, hooray, and the coconut does tend to linger a bit, making me glad I tried this. With half and half, the coconut tends to come out more and it's delicious. I tried some lime juice with it and that was not a great success, as the lime was overwhelming. I didn't think a bit of sugar did anything for it either.

This is very good tea and will probably make it onto my favorites list. Which, incidentally, is huge. There is the inviolate all time favorites black tea, plain, list. Then there are black flavored, which I thought was quite small, until I started to think about all the ones I like. Never mind, I am embarrassed to say how many teas are my favorites. I do have one that is the king, however, Yunnan Gold. I just plain love the stuff. The recent crops are not as good as they were a few years ago, but I hope for the future! I haven't had any of this year's, so I am eagerly awaiting it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Duet of Tea

Yesterday I put some Anji Duet from Adagio Tea in the fridge to brew. This is a very mild green Chinese tea with some white tea characteristics. If I brewed this hot, the directions say to do it for 3 minutes at 180 degrees. Since my pitcher holds 10 cups, I used 10 very large clumps, gave it a stir and set it aside for seven hours. I looked on the Adagio website and saw it was an extremely mild tea, so I quick went and added another 5 clumps. In just 5 minutes the water was already a pale green. The dry leaves are very attractive, tightly rolled lengthwise into long, thin needles, in a pleasing mix of greens. The dry tea gives off a scent of grass, with a hint of fruit, something in the peach/apricot line, but it is not specific to them – that sweet scent with a hit of astringency around the edges. The leaves did not unfurl much, remaining long thin needles.

The brewed tea was quite pleasant, with just hints of floral and fruit. There was perhaps a bit of grass/vegetable. All in all, very delicate and would go with some mild foods. I think this is not really a tea for ice tea, as it doesn't stand up to the cold because of it's delicacy. However, if you are looking for a delicate ice tea, this could fill the bill, rather, glass, nicely.

I will be trying more cold brew teas as the summer unfolds. Hot tea doesn't appeal to me very much, except as a morning wake-up.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Music and Tea

This is an example of scherenschnitte, or scissor cutting, which is a craft indigenous to Switzerland and Germany. Beautiful, no?

Last night we had a real treat. One of my cousins was in town to participate in the 1st Ithaca College Alumni Band Reunion Concert - 187 musicians. IC is highly regarded for its music programs and this concert was proof of it. 7 conductors, 8 pieces and it was spectacular. I especially love to watch conductors and this was such a treat to compare their different styles, from almost flamboyant to barely moving. Just wonderful, wonderful music and only 3 rehearsals. His sister and I were thrilled to be able to be a part of it.

With the hot weather, I have been making pitcher after pitcher of ice tea. I generally use Lipton's Cold Brew as I am really unfussy about my ice tea. I think it makes perfectly good ice tea, especially if I add a bit of lime or lemon juice. However, I have also been making pitchers with my loose leaf teas, also using a cold brew method.

The most recent loose leaf was Adagio's Apricot Green Tea, which was a gift from them, and I have to say I was really pleased. I used ¼ cup of tea in a pitcher that holds almost 2 quarts and “brewed” it for about 4 hours. The resulting tea was a lovely lime green and tasted wonderful. It had a very full apricot taste with a pleasant green under pinning that was very satisfying. We had it with a Chinese stir-fry with an orange/kumquat sauce and it was all delicious. I want to try some Lapsang Souchong and see how it works. That would really be good with Chinese food.

For those of you who care about using Fair Trade tea or coffee, especially if you are part of a church, group or small business, I just found this website you might want to check out . There may be something there you can use. I have only had the coffee and it is quite good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Samples and Surprises

Two items that may be of interest to you:

The first is that Tea Chat is sponsoring some sample tastings and discussions on it's forum. You might want to go on over to scroll down to Tea and Teaware and click on New! OTTI. It's too late to sign up for the first 3 rounds, but you can join Tea Chat - it's free and no one contacts you - so you can sign up for future samplings.

Samples abound at many tea merchants. The latest one I heard of seems to be a really good deal. It is at In the search box put in tea sampler. You will want English favorites. You get 5 teabags of 5-6 different teas for $5.79. They have others. Aura Teas also has several sample packages. These are a great way to see what you like, without a large outlay of funds.

Round Three of the Castleton Estate Tea from Silver Leaf Tea. I made really strong ice tea with it and lo and behold! I found some flavor. It is very nice this way. I used about 1/2 cup to my 1.5 quart pitcher and put it in the frig for about 6 hours. It came out a very pretty pale pumpkin, with a pleasant floral/slightly grape, slightly smokey taste. I am glad I found a use for it other than mulch.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Very Good Day

Another Swiss view!

What a super-duper day! Not one but 5 really good things – perfect weather, warm and sunny but NOT hot and muggy; honoring a beloved friend; fresh local peas!; fresh local strawberries!! and someone else to cook supper. Oops, no 6 things. I got some samples from Aura Teas yesterday and one is on tap for today [as soon as I convert ccs to ounces and centigrade to Fahrenheit].

The second is really the best. Our friend Richard is a poet and a good one. He has been trying to get published, with no success. Another friend arranged for Richard's wife to spirit out her favorite poems and had them edited into a book, complete with preface, bio and ISBN number. Our group read his poems aloud and wished him very well on his birthday. He was speechless and very nearly in tears with JOY.

There are roadside markers, monuments and parks dedicated to war, but now there is a whole book born out of love. Truly a cause for celebration.

I am a big fan of buying as much stuff as locally as possible, so I frequent the local farmer's market. It is such a real treat to have good veggies and fruit. It tastes better, too. Today I taste tested 2 strawberries – one from California and one locally. The local one was softer, sweeter, richer. California wasn't bad, but it was nowhere near as good. An added bonus was the berries came from a farm that was wiped out in the big flood 4 years ago. I am glad they are back in business.

On to the tea, the reason for all this! I really earned it as I made muffins and bread and shelled a “mess of peas” for supper. This lovely Aura Tea is Formosa, Hsinchu, Baihao Oolong, Choice. I used 2 teaspoons to ¼ cup water – 120 cc, as the leaves were quite big, at 185 degrees for about 2 minutes. The loose leaves are quite dark and long, thin from being rolled, with a few more almost ball shaped. The first cup had a floral scent, with a very noticeable sharpness and almost a black currant smell. It brewed up a pleasant yellow tan. The taste was floral, but also nutty. It was very rounded but with some piquancy. The aftertaste was fruity. It was a real treat.

The second cup was about the same color, but the scent was much softer with almost a hazelnut edge, without the black currant. Unusually for an oolong, the second cup didn't strike me as being better than the first. It was much plainer, without many nuances. However, the aftertaste seemed to linger more and was, if anything, more pleasant. Aura Tea does it again! I really am a big fan of them, as I have not yet had any poor tea. Some I didn't care for, but that is just taste, not quality.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Manly Teas for Manly Men

Mountains again.

Did you know that Souvia Tea has a complete line of Manly Teas? Yup, teas geared especially for men. They even have a special gift set for Father's Day, consisting of Lapsang Souchong, Kukicha, Genmaicha, Gunpowder, China Breakfast and (ta da!) Tiramisu Mascarpone for dessert! I didn't know that you guys needed "manly" teas. My impression is that the guys in the tea world were doing just fine. In fact, it seems that once men got interested in tea they really got into it and rapidly became connoisseurs.

The World Tea Expo is in full swing and I can't wait until people start reporting back about it. I wish it were closer because I would surely like to go to it. All those vendors and seminars and tea samples! Yum.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tea and Critters

Sorry about the run-on paragraphs, the blogger thingy is misbe-
having again.

Check out the Swiss flag!
Finally, I have had some time to retry the Silver Leaf Tea Company's Castleton Estate First Flush. This time I used water that was about 175 and brewed it for about 3.5 minutes. Aha, this time there is a nice fruity taste, with some muscatel [grape to us] along with it. However, the taste really is very faint. I am going to try again with more tea and see, but I am about ready to give up on it and perhaps just use it to cut some overly strong Lapsang Souchong I have.
Speaking of which I am remembering that Lapsang was one of the first "real" teas I ever had and immediately fell in love with it. When we were first married, it was our common winter tea. That's amazing to me, as it is such a strong tea that it really falls into the love it or hate it category, few people seem to be wishy washy about it. Hu Kwa is my favorite, but I appreciate some of Upton's as well. I find that as long as it is sealed well, it keeps for quite a while, too. I have some I have had for 2 1/2 years that is still lovely.
Well, I must say we have wildlife. Our doe with the week-old fawn just crossed the road in front of our house, there are owls hooting in the woods and I think I have heard a ruffed grouse drumming. Best of all, I have seen Baltimore Orioles in two different areas near us, yet far enough apart that I don't think it's the same one. It has been years since I have seen them and I am really excited to hope they may be making a comeback in this area. Our old neighbors in Greene have a nesting pair in their yard this year! Taking time to have tea on the back porch enables me to really appreciate these wonderful creatures around us.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Lazy Tea Day

The Aar valley in Kanton Berne, Switzerland

I know I said I was going to fiddle with the Silver Leaf Tea from a few days ago, but the weather has turned cold and nasty and I really, really want some Yunnan Gold from Adagio.

When I am tasting tea, I feel I have to work at catching all the nuances of color, flavor, appearence, and brew parameters to give an adequate review and today I just don't have it. We have been seriously unpacking all morning, which means many decisions about where to put things and my brain is yelling "No more, I'll burst", so I am turning to an old friend.

I may even do as all the cats are doing - take a nap. They of course, had to run out first thing theis morning to see if there was possibly any vole they hadn't caught yet, when they , in turn, got caught in the down pour. Such cries of distress and abandonment! Such bedragglement! But after much drying and licking, they are all tightly curled in warm mounds - on MY bed. Maybe I'll just use the recliner. Cats!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My grandfather's hometown in Switzerland.

We had the most amazing rainstorm this morning - it rained one way, then the other , then both at once, then straight down. Everything on the porch is soaked and it is about 20 degrees cooler than it was at the start of the day. A good day for tea. And I just happen to have some to try.

Silver Leaf Tea, had a nice special on, so I bought some. Today's is Castlton Estate First Flush Darjeeling. The dry leaves are an attractive mix of brown, tan, black and green and smell like drying hay with a hint of wine in the background.

I brewed it with almost boiling water for 2 minutes and it smelled very light, very fresh, almost an Oolong scent. The liquor was a pretty pale orange. I think I must have underbrewed it because it seems to have little taste. I had a cracker to see if perhaps I had some leftover taste from lunch that was interfering, but that didn't help. As it cooled, it got fairly tannic, but still with no real discernible taste.

This will just be a partial review since it seems I goofed on the brewing - I will do it again tomorrow for 3 minutes at a lower temp and see if that helps - often Darjeeling first flushes have to be treated like green tea and that may be the case here - I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lemony Good Tea

A tiny cheese hut high in the misty mountains of Switzerland.

Today seems very hot and humid, even though the weather mavens say it isn't. Luckily I had made some ice tea yesterday for just such an occasion. I call it "tag tea"– the tag ends of samples or boxes. They were all in the Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling range, so I figured I was safe. And I was and it is very refreshing. Since I have not yet found the ice cube trays, I make it on the weak side.

However, earlier today I made a pot of Lemongreen from Tavalon Tea, which I got in a swap. Dry it had such a nice smell, sweet and grassy and fresh. I brewed it at about 180 for 2 minutes. The instant the water hit the tea, the liquid turned a lovely shade of lemon yellow. As it brewed there was a faint whiff of lemon and again, that illusive sweet scent. This is a very nice tea for a summer afternoon. There is the citrus and sweet and the under girding of the green tea, which seems to be of good quality. I would imagine this would be quite good cold or iced, as Tavalon recommends. It is also low in caffeine, which extends the time you can drink it, if that is an issue for you.

The lemon/citrus comes from lemongrass, a tropical plant you can find in Asian markets. It is easy to grow, if you find some with a bit of root attached. Any good soil, lots of sun and good watering will do it. It is frost tender for those of us in the North. I have been trying to grow some for a while, as I like to make Thai food, but Bert the Brat likes it, too and is constantly chewing on it. No tuna breath for him!

If you follow this blog, you'll notice i am not posting as often. I am finding that with the moving and unpacking and getting settled in a new community, life is hectic! So, for a while, I am going to officially drop back to posting about 3 times a week. Thanks for being understanding.

Yesterday I was at one of our great cafes in Owego, NY, the River Rose, and had a peachy green tea slushy. Couldn't taste the tea, but the slushy peaches were very nice. They have other tea drinks that I am looking forward to sampling, but this looked too good to pass up!