Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Visit To Darjeeling

These beautiful windows were buried and hidden during WWII.  I am glad, as they are very beautiful in all their 90 foot tall splendor.

Yesterday we had a huge platter of corn for lunch, with the first of our own tomatoes.  The platter reminded me of summer meals at my grandmother's when my cousins were home and there would be 10-15 people for lunch or dinner, with big platters of corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and what ever else was on the menu that day.  Such good times.  Lots of political and religious discussions.  Never sex, not in that WASP household!  The discussions were often loud, someone was always "dead wrong", but respectfully so.  You learned to stick up for yourself.  Today we had fried green tomatoes and corn pudding.  I do love summer food, that sense of great abundance, made better when it comes from your own garden, or the famers' market.

It is warm and quite humid today, as we await Hurricane Irene, reminding me of the weather in India.  So, I thought it very appropriate to have an Indian tea today.  This is from the Silver Tips Tea Company,  in Tarrytown, NY.  It comes from the new Steepster Select program.  It is Makaibari First Flush Darjeeling and indeed, is loaded with silver tips amongst the black and brown, smallish leaves.  In the packet, they smell quite peppery.  I follow directions and brew them with boiling water for three minutes, hoping they are right.  I have often found that first flush teas do better with shorter time and cooler water.  For those of you new to tea, first flush refers to the first new growth of leaves after the winter hiatus.  Akin to new dandelion greens, the first radish, the first baby lettuces. It is often the most highly prized of all the teas.

A lot of the pepper dissipated with the brewing, but it is there with a faint vegetal aroma and something like roasted tomatoes.  The liquor is a pleasant golden amber, just a few shades darker than our Bertie, the long-hair.  Ooh, good tea, a taste of citrus, some pepper, definite green.  An excellent first flush. Often firsts are too astringent or too lacking in body for me, but this has only the slightest astringency, which is the citrus, and the body of the tea is full and round.  However, as it cools, it does develop a bit more astringency, so I would either make this one cup at a time or fiddle with the time and water temp, so it is good to the last drop.

Tea is a very individual drink and we all have to play with it a bit to find what we consider the optimum.  We should use the company's guidelines first, and then adjust them to suit ourselves, as we gain experience.

If you are new to tea and want to expand your horizons, drink a lot of tea.  Experiment, see what you really like.  Fool around with your teas until you know what you like.  I have found keeping a notebook helps and then I can go back and get more of what I really like.  Trade tea with your friends.  I have found that good companies like Simpson and Vail, Harney and Sons, Tea Trekker, Life in Teacup, Upton's and others have samples or sell by the ounce, so that for not too much money, you can try a wide variety of teas.  Buy a good filter for your water or use something like Poland Spring bottled water to make your tea, it makes a difference.

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