Friday, July 30, 2010

From the Himilayas to Qiman

This is the exterior of the church with the mosaics and stone work.
Note how small the windows are and how the building conveys, at
least to me, great strength and solidity. Remember how old it is.

I finally am getting around to trying the tea I bought from SERRV a few months ago. This is billed as Himalayan Mountain tea or Ilam Black Tea with mint. I must say upon opening the package, I nearly threw it out. It did smell gently of mint, but it also smelled odd, sort of moldy, sort of something else I couldn't identify. The leaves were all chopped and varied from pale green to brown. As the tea brewed for 3 minutes, I thought it smelled more and more like a green tea – very vegetal. The liquor is a very light amber.

Well, I would hardly call this mint tea or black tea. What it is is either a very poorly processed tea or poorly stored tea. There is no mint flavor and the tea doesn't taste very good. I am sorry to give a really negative report, as SERRV helps many people to make a decent living. I buy many things from them, mostly as gifts, but it doesn't look like tea will be one of them.

On the other hand, I needed to fill out an order from Spices, Etc and so I bought a sample of their Keemun Tea. It came in a standard spice bottle! In the jar, the tea smelled fresh, but that was about it. The leaves were small and black. I brewed it for 3.5 minutes in boiling water, a heaping spoon of the measure that came with my teapot. The liquor is a very nice straightforward amber. The tea tastes fresh, with a very small hint of smoke, some licorice or sarsaparilla taste, and a kind of woodsiness; lots of flavor action. Lest you think this is surely awful, it isn't, it's good. It just has a lot of nuances to keep your mouth busy trying to figure them all out. They work well together and I would say Spices Etc. did a good job.

It is the most gorgeous day today; blue sky, sun, warm but not outrageous, no humidity, birds singing, cats purring and a new book to read with my new tea. Life is good.

A quick bit of info - the Tea Review Blog is back! I find the bulk of their tea reviews are thoughtful, well written and cover a wide range of teas. It is worth your checking out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Raspberries and Green Tea

I love stonework. It is amazing to me that 1,000 years ago this was
built and it is still standing, still in excellent shape.

I received a sample of Formosa Sanxia Longjing tea from Aura Teas. This is the Formosan [Taiwan] take on the familiar China green tea, Dragonwell. It is what is known as a “fried tea”. That means it is dry-
fried in a cylinder or wok to stop oxidation or to partially dehydrate the leaves. One can only imagine the skill it takes to get this right and not burn it!
The dry leaves are very long and a deep green. They have a sweet scent, mixed with something that says “Christmas tree” to me. I infused this 3 times at about 180 degrees, for 50, 60 and 70 seconds. The first left the leaves slightly unfurled and tasted a little sweet, a little vegetal. The second infusion the leaves were more open and the taste had shifted to a more vegetal side of the scale. The third seemed the most hearty of all. I poured the three infusions together and the result was an almost asparagus like taste, with a much heartier body. I didn't feel it delivered much on the sweet floral, fruity taste that Aura said it should have, so I was disappointed. It also seemed to be a much lighter version of Dragonwell than I've had before. I am no expert on green teas, so feel free to really disagree.

Speaking of green teas, while I was at one of our local stores I found some instant tea packets.. They were for iced green tea with lime. They are made by the Gourmet Village company, from Canada. All you do is mix them up and voila! Green tea with lime to pour over ice. So I did. Well... it took me right back to Daily Vacation Bible School, sitting on the church steps, singing “John Jacob Jinkleheimer Schmidt” and eating graham crackers and drinking Lime Koolaid. Which,as you have guessed, is just what it tasted like, only the Koolaid was prettier. At least I won't have to worry about buying any more.

Another ice tea I made recently was also a flop. I like hot Dammann Freres Framboise [raspberry] tea. As far as I am concerned, it's the only one that really tastes like raspberries. It is light and flavorful, and this highly rated French company does its usual good job. However, as an ice tea it seems very heavy and the black tea base seems to drag down the raspberry. All together it isn't very nice. On a positive note, it is time to pick raspberries, yummmmmmmm.

Isn't it amazing how different teas can be whether they are hot or iced? Part of the ongoing journey of discovery in tea land.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mock Orange Never Had It So Good

1,000 year old mosaic floor. I wish my floors would look this good for so long.

Oh my, I am drinking the nicest ice tea. It is Simpson & Vail's Rose Kissed Jasmine. It is one of my favorite hot teas and now it will be one of the all time favorite ice teas. I cold-brewed it overnight in the fridge. Before I even got it in there the water was turning a pretty green, with lots of pink rosebuds floating in it. It tastes exactly like what it says it is, jasmine green tea, with an overlay of rose. However, altogether, to me, it takes like the old-fashioned shrub, Philadelpheus, smells. A perfect summer drink. Since we are all sweltering from the extended heat, we need lots of really good ice teas. Next time I do this, I think I will cut down on the brew time - this went for about 12 hours and is a tiny bit tannic. I think doing it in the morning for the afternoon or evening would be better

One of the things I often mention is what a particular tea smells like, both dry leaves and as it is brewing. I find this adds more dimension to the tea, as a stand alone scent and as part of the taste. It's not enough to just pass the container under my nose, I really stick it in as far as I can can without inhaling the leaves. For one thing, it keeps out other scents and for another, my warm breath releases more of the tea scent. Try it the next time you have tea.
You lucky folks in the Chicago area will soon be able to buy Adagio Teas from an actual store. it is to be located at 27 West Jefferson Ave. in Napierville, IL One of their aims is to be able to interact more with customers and encourage experimentation, such as customers blending their own tea. That is something I would like to do. I tend to be too heavy-handed, so my home blends haven't been great successes. There is a book I have had my eye on however -Tea For You : Blending Custom Teas to Savor and Share by Tracy Sloan. I probably will get it and see what I come up with.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Your Basic Little Black Tea

More mosaic. The gold doesn't show up too well in the photos, but
in person, it just shines.

I was shelling peas I bought at the farmer's market today. I was struck by the uneven quality of them – some were far too old, some too undeveloped and not nearly enough were just right. I got thinking about the knowledge one needs to judge the readiness of garden produce and fruit and of course, segued into tea.

It requires not only a great deal of knowledge, but also experience to first grow the bushes and then to recognize the exact day to pluck the tea, and then to process it into a high quality brew. Knowing how long it took me to really know how to garden, pick and prepare my veggies and fruit, I am really in awe of the tea growers and processors. There are so many, many factors to take into account. And just when you may have figured something out, the weather throws you a huge curve ball and BLAM! all your hard work for nothing. But then, there are the good years, when everything works out and your garden, or your tea is the very best its ever been. As gardeners or tea drinkers, those are the years we wait for.

While I was writing that I was listening to the Gramercy Brass play “American Anthems”. Such familiar music. I kept waiting for the elephants to come parading in or to ride on the carousel. Good stuff, though, and my favorite instruments. Probably because all of my McDuffee cousins played a brass instrument and there was always someone tootling away when I visited them. I also like music in the lower keys. When my son was playing the flute we had to be in separate rooms for me to be able to listen, because the flute is pitched so high.

Okay that had nothing to do with tea, except we all have certain types of tea that are our favorites. If you've been reading this for a while, you know I love black tea above all. I am gaining a real appreciation for Oolong and green teas and a bit for Pu-erh. However, white tea will probably always remain too finely pitched for me. However, today's tea strikes a good base note.

It is the Assam Tea Company's Kama Black. With great long black leaves, smelling of old wood, wine barrels and perhaps a hint of vinegar. I brewed up about a teaspoon and a half, as the leaves were so large, with boiling water, about 3.5 minutes. There is that wonderful "clean laundry on a windy day" smell, coupled with almost a corn smell, and still some hints of old wood. It never stops interesting me that the tea will give off so many scents before you even get to taste it. There aren't a lot of nuances to this particular tea. It's a good straight forward tea for when you just need a "cuppa". I am finding it exactly what I need today.

There is an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, that says the British medical system has identified a new mental disorder, Nervous Healthy Eating Disorder. If you care about the amount of chemicals and junk food that goes into your system you have an eating disorder. I assume they mean people who are severely troubled by this and not us ordinary (if that exists) folk. So all you people who drink tea at least partly for its health benefits had better stop or we'll all be taken away, ho ho, and be forced to drink milkshakes while eating our bacon and sausages, (not that we all don't have our indulgences). I certainly know that anything carried to extreme can be unhealthy, but can't we just be a little neurotic and insist on good tea?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Breakfast Tea in the Afternoon

The Bishop's throne in Ravenna. I hope he had a cushion! All those designs you see, everything except the glass, is inlaid marble, 1,000 years old and still in good shape.

Today cannot make up its mind to be cloudy or sunny or both at once. A nice day, however, with big puffy clouds and not too hot or humid, so I can dare to have hot tea.

Thanks to the good folks at the Boston Tea Company (from New Jersey!) I have lots more samples to try. Today's is their English Breakfast, a mix of Indian and China teas. The dry leaves are long and skinny and mostly quite black, although there is some brown in there. Altogether they almost look midnight blue. The aroma is winey and dark smelling - a sure sign of some Keemun in there. As it was brewing, it smelled so fresh, with the addition of a corn silk scent.

The tea brews up after 3.5 minutes, with boiling water, into a fairly light amber, almost a pumpkin color. The tea tastes as good as it smells. There is the deep winey taste of the Keemun and the lighter notes of either a late Darjeeling or a Nilgiri. To me, it seems somewhat light for an English Breakfast, but that's ok. The directions say to brew it 4-5 minutes, but I chickened out. It is a tasty tea and would suit for either breakfast or afternoon. i had it both with cream and without and I don't think it makes much difference.

Check out these two items currently on the Sereni(tea) and Puri(tea) blog from June 25, 2010 They have just got to be seen, so hop on over there. I think the hangers are cute, but I am also not enamored of the cigarettea.

I don't know if any of you are rhubarb fans, but I am. Sometimes when I am making a sauce on top of the stove, it sticks and burns way too soon and I have to pitch it. I have discovered that it cooks beautifully in the micro! With minimum amounts of water, too. On a similar note, if you like to make applebutter or thick applesauce, do it in the oven just before you clean it. Almost no stirring and you can basically just forget about it for long periods.
Oh, woe is I!!! I have no more PG Tips tea bags. Whatever shall I do on brain dead mornings?

Two Teas on a Summer's Day

Still in Ravenna, the other side of the altar from yesterday's mosaic.

We just had one of the quickest thunderstorms on record - about 3 minutes of downpour, enough to make it muggy. Phoo. We need about 2 days worth of a gentle soaking.

Today I am doing a tea from an old friend - Uptons. It is part of a lot I bought a while ago -Organic China Keemun Heng Ru. Supposedly an old Chinese black tea - they started making it in the 1860's. I'm not sure it's the oldest, as I don't know when China started making black teas. The leaves are very small, very black and smell a bit smokey and somewhat like a hay barn in the early summer, before the new hay is in. There is also a bit of cork and resin, like you might find on a boat. I brewed it up with boiling water for 4 minutes and the result is a nice red-brown liquor. The Chinese call this red tea and it is easy to see why. The pleasant hay smell is continuing, but the smokiness has lessened considerably.

Oh, this tea is so fresh tasting. Those sample packets from Uptons really do the job. There is almost no smoke, but a touch of astringency and some of the resin, which balances out the hints of fruitiness and sweetness; not sugary or cloying, but sweet nevertheless. This is a complex tea and one I think would make a very nice afternoon tea, with some sturdy sweets, as it is a sturdy tea. I wouldn't recommend it for ice tea, however.

The other tea for today is just old Cold Brew Lipton's, but I added several packets of Raspberry Lemonade from True Lemon. Very nice, the lemon and berry add some accent and sweetness, as does the Truvia the packets are sweetened with. It is a very refreshing drink. In my ice teas, I allow some sweetener, but if it is too much, I just pretend it is soda or I don't drink it. I really am bad about sweet tea.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Their Forte is Tea

Ravenna, Italy, some of the jaw-droppingly gorgeous mosaics. By
the time we arrived here, we had had a surfeit of Italian churches, but these mosaics were beyond spectacular. Our whole experience in this ancient port was wonderful: the churches, the food, our total marble room [even the closet doors were marble] and the crazy way people parked.

Today I am exploring the rich gift from my neighbor, Carol - Tea Forte. I noticed my sampler had Black Currant tea, so I decided to try that first. I used to love it, but in the past few years, it has all smelled like cat spray, which, of course, affects how I would approach the taste. Woo Hoo, it smells fruity and rich and NOT nasty. This is a definitely cute tea - a nice stiff pyramid, holding a goodly amount of tea with a neat little tea leaf on a stem to rescue it from your cup.

I brewed it for about 3 minutes with boiling water and it smelled wonderful all the time. This has a black tea base and the liquor is a nice deep reddish brown. Lovely taste, rich and fruity and dare I say it, like black currants! Woo Hoo indeed. I couldn't find any info on the black tea base, but it is good and in addition to the black currant, there are blackberry leaves. The flavor comes from natural flavoring and there is NO chemical after taste. Well done, Tea Forte. On the website it can be purchased as a loose tea, so I may just get some, as I have missed having this old favorite.

This is a very attractive tea, with an attractive presentation, sure to wow almost anyone. However, I have to give them low marks for using so much stuff to package it with, layer upon layer. Life is full of compromises. As a gift, this is a star, as eco-consciousness, it isn't. The loose tea would definitely get higher marks in the latter category.

All the kitties have gone to the vet and I seem to be forgiven for such incredible meanness. Everyone is out from under the bed, so all is well for another 6 months, when we can do this all over again. Ernie - the one in the bed springs, slept in the carrying cage the night after he did that. Cats!!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hello All -
I have what appears to be galloping consumption or some mythic form of cold/cough/bronchitis and everything tastes awful. Therefore, I am not tasting teas. Be back when I can.
Chokingly yours,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tea With the Queen

This is about the clearest picture I got of Vesuvius. This is taken
from the southern side of Naples Bay, in Sorrento, close to the Isle of Capri. The island my husband's grandfather came from is Ischia, to the west of the peninsula above.

I am really feeling rich today. One of my new neighbors brought me a welcome present of a sampler box of Tea Forte, plus 2 of their handy little square ceramic teabag holders. As you know this tea comes in very stiff pyramids, with a small leaf attached, so you can pull it out when it's done brewing. I've only tried one of them before and it was pretty good, so you will soon be hearing about them. They get an A+ for pretty packaging.

My tea today is again iced, Culinary Teas Buckingham Palace Tea. Supposedly, this is the blend the Queen serves at her mammoth garden parties. I can't say, as I have never been invited. This is one of my favorite teas and I made a pot of it yesterday, but we only each had a cup, so I put the rest in the fridge. I have to say, it is every bit as good iced as it is hot. It is a blend of teas, with hints of Earl Gray and jasmine to lighten it. More of the bergamot than the jasmine comes out in the cold, but they both make it very refreshing on a hot afternoon, after a rigerous morning of taking a hissing, spitting, scratching cat to the vet for her annual shots and exam. Tomorrow it is the 3 boys' turn, but they are much nicer about it all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Up A Tree With Darjeeling

That's Vesuvius in the distance, dribbling a bit of smoke and haze.

We had our share of excitement this morning. A very nice beagle came visiting. Sadly, he thought our 2 youngest kitties were game and proceeded to tree them. As you can imagine, this was not appreciated by us and we chased him away. The kits didn't much like it either. However, they quickly came down and inside, please, please!

Yesterday I had a hard time picking an ice tea, but I read on another tea blog that Darjeeling is good iced. So I picked Arya Estate Second Flush Darjeeling from Thunderbolt, which I had purchased earlier this year. I reviewed this Mar. 28 and when I brewed it carefully, it was a delightful tea. I used about 9 teaspoons in about 1 1/2 quarts of water. I was going to brew it for about 5 hours, but it stretched into 7.

When I filtered out the leaves and tried it, I was quite pleased. It was a touch floral, with some astringency, and I could swear there was a tiny bit of smokiness, with some citrus notes. There was no bitterness nor too much tannin, just an all around good tea. My husband would consider it weak, but I, who like my tea strong, did not find that to be true.

I tried it with a bit of lemon juice and later, with a bit of orange and I must say, it was very tasty all three ways. You're on your own with sugar, I just can't stand sugar in my tea.

We are all waiting on tippy-toes for rain. The weatherman keeps promising, but there hasn't been more than a little action. I am hoping we'll get one of those really active thundershowers. I love to watch the lightening.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Summer Paradise

More old stone work. All of my pictures are from a trip we took to see
the places our grandparents and more remote ancestors had come from.
We went to Switzerland, Germany and Italy and then spent a week in Vienna with a friend of ours.

Boston Tea Company graced me with a number of samples, as you know and yesterday's was no winner. Today's is one I reviewed as a hot tea. It is called Pineapple Paradise and this time I made it as an ice tea by the cold brew method. I used about 5 teaspoons to about a quart of water and let it sit in the fridge for about 5 hours. It is so good. Pineapple and berry and a hint of lemon. It really hits the spot on another hot day.

The base tea is a Japanese green Sencha and it is a very pretty mix, with bits of pineapple and attractive blue and pink flowers. Next time I may make it in a big glass pitcher and leave the leaves and fruit in until I pour each glass, as it maintains its good looks. It is a very nice pale green. I may also try adding a bit of fresh pineapple if I can find a nice ripe one. Doing ice tea in the fridge is a real cinch and the tea is clearer, plus it is easier to control how strong you might want it. My whole perspective on ice tea is undergoing a radical shift from just Lipton's Cold Brew, because "it's just ice tea", to discovering a whole 'nother world of really good stuff. Of course there have been some that were awful, like iced Lapsang Souchong, but I wouldn't have known if I didn't try, right?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cherries and Strawberries

Moving on to Ravenna, Italy. I really loved all the
old stone work.

It is almost too hot to be borne again today. It's very dry and we have no shade. In the house it is almost ok, but who wants to be inside forever. I know I am not alone in this, my cousin said it is 102 degrees just north of Washington, DC. If it weren't for flowers and veggies, I would really rather just skip summer, at least the heat part.

In spite of that, I am tasting tea today. It is another sample given to me by the Boston Tea Company, Strawberry Fields. It seems like an appropriately summer drink. This tea is made from Premium Ceylon tea, “with the succulent taste of sweet strawberries.” The leaves are pretty small and very dark, with pieces of dried strawberries. The dry scent has a berry smell, but to me it is the scent of my dad's cherry tobacco. As it brews, however, that disappears and the scent of strawberries comes out somewhat. For once, I brewed it the recommended 4 minutes. Although the leaves are chopped, they are in quite large pieces, which gives me hope for the taste, even though I worry about how long I brewed it. I used boiling water and the standard 1 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water.

Well, I wish I could be more positive, but I can't. It really doesn't taste like sweet strawberries. The taste is very muddled and really reminds me far more of sweet tobacco. I am going to do another cup at 3 minutes and see if it helps. This time I also used less tea, about 1 ½ teaspoons for about 16 ounces of water for about 3 minutes. There are a couple of differences – it smelled better, but still not strawberry; it tasted better, but not enough to make me want to buy it.

Having said that I will shock you all and say I think this would've been better with some sort of natural strawberry flavoring, in spite of the fact I usually turn my nose up at them. I think the real problem with this tea is the dried strawberries, which simply haven't the same taste as fresh ones. And I confess that I have never had a dried strawberry that I liked. Those of you who do like them may like this tea, also.

On a somewhat different track, I had some Lindt Excellence Dark Chocolate, with a touch of sea salt, as a treat today. It really is done very well and the small amount of sea salt really off sets the chocolate. Yum. As I had some of the tea left, I tried them together – very nice! Tasted like really good chocolate covered cherries. Oops, maybe I shouldn't have said that. I first learned about having sweet and salt together when we lived in York County, PA. You always got pretzels with your ice cream and I found the two really brought out each others taste. Try it and see.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tea with Monsieur Hediard

Way back in October I reviewed Hediard's Hediard Blend as a hot tea and found it to be pleasant, but not great. Today I made it as an ice tea – 8 teaspoons to almost 2 quarts of water. This is definitely where it shines. All the citrus, bergamot and orange, come out and it is a very nice, refreshing ice tea. I personally like it plain, but that's me. If you have tried it hot and weren't impressed, I urge you to make it iced, I think you'll like it a lot more.

I did try blending tea with the cat litter and I found it did not do much for odor. The company I mentioned that sells green tea cat litter must do more processing beyond stirring, as I did. The cats looked at me as if I were nuts, but then, catly disdain is not uncommon.

I just got an issue of the magazine “Tea in Texas”. I thought I ought to keep up with our Southern tea people. In the magazine, I found 2 items of note. The first is that the combined Tea Associations of Canada and the US are sponsoring the 1st Annual North American Tea Conference in Niagara Falls, Canada. It will be held in September and delegates from all over the world are expected to attend. The emphasis will be on the Specialty Tea market. It sounded like it is aimed at everyone in the tea business, not just tea drinkers.

The second piece of news is that Rishi Tea is launching a new tea concentrate, Masala Chai, in partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute. If you remember, Dr. Goodall has done extensive work with African gorillas, as well as other animals, and sponsors an environmental and humanitarian youth program. The tea, and all its ingredients are organic and Fair Trade. The base tea comes from ancient tree forests in Yunnan, China. I've not had any Rishi Tea, but I know they generally have a good reputation. If you buy the tea, a portion of the profits will go to the Institute.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Christmas in July

A pretty corner garden.

Open the door and let the cool wind in, it's Christmas in July! No, I am not going against all my principles and starting the Christmas season early. But I want to talk about some Christmas teas I purchased from Adagio so you won't do what I did – purchase them so late in the season, they are only good for Valentine's Day. If you get samples, get them early, so you can order what you like in larger sizes.

Here, then, the ones I've been sampling. The first is Gingerbread and that is exactly what it is. From the first whiff out of the tin to the last bit from the pot, it is gingerbread. A very mild and not too sweet confection, with pieces of what looks like dried ginger in it. I brewed it at 1 teaspoon for 3.5 minutes in almost boiling water. I think maybe an added half teaspoon would've been more to my taste. I also thought a bit of cream and sugar made it better and I also liked it with a bit of honey. A nice tea for an afternoon with cookies, either making or eating them.

However that was not the case with Candy Cane. Upon opening the can there was a faint whiff of something like a candy store – a generic kind of sweet. Oh well, said I, must be they got the peppermint tamed. I brewed it as they said – for 5 minutes with boiling water. Surprisingly it was quite mild – not what I expected from black tea. Sadly, the flavor was also mild – so mild I wasn't sure what it was. It did taste vaguely of candy with the merest hint of peppermint, but that's it. Much too undefined for my taste.

Pumpkin Spice is another one that is definitely what it says. The dry tea smells pretty vaguely of it, the brewing tea, very strongly spicy, with perhaps too much clove. I only brewed it for 4.5 minutes, but that was too long. I would drop back to 3.5 next time. The taste of the tea is nowhere near as strong as the smell, but to my mind, the spice overwhelms the pumpkin. It is also not at all sweet. Cream enhanced this tea immeasurably, as did sugar and I would recommend it if you add them. If not, it's not that good.

Another great holiday flavor is Cranberry, often canned as sauce, sometimes made fresh to go with our baked meats, or veggies, if that is your preference. Dried, the tea had a sweet berry smell that came out even more as it brewed. After 4.5 minutes with boiling water, there was a cranberry taste, somewhat sweet, with the characteristic dryness that is part of it. Milk made it taste awful! I am not sure the base tea was the best either for the blend or on its own.

The last one I tried is Chestnut and I have to say, if you like graham crackers, you will probably like this. It really smells just like them and the taste is close to those childhood favorites as well. I have not had too many tastings of the chestnut – roasted at Christmas and as a sweet puree in crepes, so I'm not sure I can really judge this, but it did not remind me of either of those . Again, I did it for 4.5 minutes with boiling water. Surprisingly, the addition of milk made this taste much more like chestnuts. So much so that it no longer reminded me of graham crackers.

So there you have it, one prejudiced woman's take on one company's Christmas offerings. I think Adagio has another holiday tea, but I forget which it is, as I only bought the ones I thought I might like. I think it had clove as the prominent spice, which is not my favorite in tea. I tried all these in the late winter/early spring, so they didn't hang around and get stale. I've been waiting and waiting for July to finally arrive so I could blog them for you.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Here Kitty, Kitty, Come Get Your Tea

Just a peaceful river in a small town.

I think this falls in the category of “now I've heard everything”, but I am not sure. There is a company selling cat litter made from wood shavings and, are you ready?, Green tea. In a way, it makes sense, as tea is very odor absorbent. I think I may try it, with the litter I do have and some tea that is too old. Check it out at

One of the things I love about summer is the farmers market. It is really wonderful to be able to buy good local produce in the morning and go home and make something with it, Yesterday I made a sour cherry pie. I love sour cherries! Lots of work, but oh, the taste. And chard to make a veggie tart, fresh green beans, sweet little beets, yum. Almost as good as your own garden, which we didn't plant due to the move.

Today's tea is an old favorite, iced. Queen Catherine's Blend, from Harney's. I've reviewed it before as a hot tea, and I have to say it makes a very nice ice tea, with a little bit of True Orange in it. It is named in honor of Queen Catherine of Barganza who is credited with popularizing tea in England.

We went to a new Japanese Buffet in Binghamton today, as a reward for finally! Cleaning out everything from our old house. Ick! It was a great reward, as the food was quite good and they had an excellent Oolong for tea. A very dark roast, it almost looked like a black tea in the cup. It was a good sturdy tea, well able to stand up to the deeper and spicier foods of the buffet. Much of the food was Chinese, rather than Japanese, but it was good anyway. Next time we go, if it is less busy, I am going to try and find out what kind of tea we were served. I might even remember the actual name of the place!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blackcaps and green tea

A tiny church in the German hinterlands - snazzy pulpit, though.

We were at our old house today and picked the black raspberries we planted last year - so tasty. I hated leaving them behind. We have started so many gardens over the year and seen few of them come to any sort of maturity. I don't know if I have the heart to do much here.

Aura Tea sent me some samples a bit ago and I am trying another one today. It is a green tea from Formosa – much more well known for its Oolongs. It is called Sanxia Biluchun, the last part of which I think means Green Snail Spring. The instructions say to use 2 teaspoons to ¼ cup water at 175degrees. I know that sounds odd – it did to me also, but the leaves are huge; long, twisted, dark green. I brewed it for about 2 minutes the first time. The dry tea has a slight vegetal scent. As the tea brews, the aroma is almost overpoweringly cooked beet greens mixed with asparagus, not pleasant and I wondered if I would have to hold my nose to drink it! However, the tea with the leaves removed was much more pleasant to the nose and the taste was ok, too. It really did not appeal to me, as there was too much of the cooked veggie taste, the first time around. The second time, it was somewhat bitter to add to the fun and I liked it even less.

I am not much of a green tea drinker and those I do like tend to be floral or only somewhat vegetal, so I cannot tell if this just wasn't a top-notch tea or if I brewed it incorrectly or just plain ole me.